Last weekend, I did something I didn’t think I could do. I cooked a five-course dinner at Dog Mountain Farm.
I didn’t think I could do it because Danny wasn’t there. (He had to work, since it was Strawberry Festival, the busiest weekend of the year on Vashon.) He’s the chef. I’ve always been his assistant at cooking classes and dinners. Suddenly, left without him, and the friend who volunteered to fill in for him? I was in a bit of a panic in the days leading up to this.
Luckily, I had great help on that day. (I’ll tell you about them in a minute.) And that farm? Oh, that farm is magic. It’s hard to be frantic on a farm this beautiful. And all I had to remember is this: it’s about the gathering, the food, the people eating in that gorgeous orchard.
I just cooked.
We made crostini bites with garlic scape pesto and fennel fronds.
These are deviled eggs (some of them were duck eggs) with a fresh basil aoili (made with shallots, so I guess it’s not technically an aoili. shaoili?), capers, and smoked paprika.
These, along with the crostini, were passed around to the folks gathered around the patio with grills where we were cooking.
We pickled shallots in red wine vinegar, then used them to make a vinaigrette for this red mustard/mizuna salad with goat cheese. All the greens and the cheese came from the farm.
(So did the eggs, the garlic scape, and the basil in the dishes above. The idea of the dinner is to use the bounty of the farm, after all.)
We cooked black rice and chickpeas, then combined them with grilled baby bok choy, and topped them with ling cod glazed in a tamari-ginger-mirin sauce.
(Everything was served family style in platters. Ling cod doesn’t stand up so well to grilling on a sporadic heat, but Pat made it work.)
We paired the quinoa tabouleh with lamb kebabs that had been marinated in yogurt dukkah sauce overnight.
(There was a bit of a theme here. The first course was influenced by Italy, the second by France, the third was vaguely Asian, and this one was Mediterranean.)
These are rhubarb-cherry shortcakes with an anise hyssop whipped cream.
(I have to say, making 40 shortcakes, on an open patio, one after the other, in rustic conditions? It made me happy. I do know how to make these now.)
As I wrote, I didn’t have to do this alone. Without these two men, there would have been scraps on the tables.
Patrick Frank runs Cochon Catering in Seattle. He’s also an old friend of Danny’s since the days they cooked together in Denver. When we found out that our friend Kelly couldn’t make the dinner at the last moment, due to a medical issue, Danny called Pat right away. Oh, I’m so glad he did. Pat really knows his food and he cooked and prepped with wonderful grace. Also, this past year, he found he’s gluten intolerant, so the meal was especially intriguing to him. (If you need any gluten-free catering in Seattle? Pat’s your man.)
Greg Johnson is a talented private chef. However, it’s clear to me that his greatest passion is cooking with his daughters and sharing that experience with the world through his Chef and Father dvds. In them, he shows people how he cooks with his kids and tricks for enjoying time in the kitchen with little ones. He’s a great guy.
Working with these two was a joy. We talked and we chopped in silence. We were comfortable in the kitchen together.
My dear friend Dorothy, who is a little camera shy, also arrived at the farm to help. She not only helped cut up tomatoes for the tabouleh, but she brought her daughter to play with Lu. As she kept saying, “This is just an incredible place.”
The farm employs young folks who work for the summer. They pitched in and cut up rhubarb and ran the pans of shortcakes to the farmers’ home kitchen, since there was no stove or oven where we were cooking.
I also had this little helper, who kept making me giggle in moments when I started to feel a little press of stress upon my forehead.
Lu also grabbed giant carrots from the walk-in refrigerator — with the permission of David and Cindy, our farmers — to feed the white horses. About 10 times.
She’s still talking about this.
All of this — the days of prep, the friends volunteering to help at the last moment, the rhubarb stewing on a gas grill, the lamb slowly charring, the good folks at the farm making it happen — all of this was for these moments.
Good people eating.
There were 36 people in the middle of a green field, sitting at long tables with white tablecloths, passing platters of food around the table, and smiling.
Everyone at this dinner was gluten-free, or the friend or partner of someone gluten-free. From what they said, they all enjoyed their meal.
That might be my favorite work in the world: making food for people happy to be eating it.
If you are interested in a Dog Mountain farm dinner, there are a few left for this season. Next summer, we’ll be there again, both of us.