Last summer, I experienced my first dinner on a farm. A cadre of chefs fretted over steaming grills, while guests reclined in chairs set up along a winding row of white tablecloth-covered tables. A nearby brook babbled, as they’re want to do. The sommelier filled our glasses as she explained why she’d selected each variety. It was positively Gatsby-esque. An opulent table was set with glittering plates as guests, gorgeous in their fluttering summer wear, soaked in the late season sun. Not only was I lucky enough to be served by such talented chefs, but also, the flavors were so much more immediate because of the nearness of the sources.
When each ingredient is plucked from the land at the peak of ripeness and delivered to a waiting plate, there’s no need to worry about bruising, travel time, or shelf life. Most of the variables that can ruin flavor are taken out of the equation.
In addition to the taste benefits, there’s also the fun of dining in the middle of the country and getting to enjoy the food with the people who raised it. Now that the fields are beginning to swing into high production, the table is set for some of our favorite yearly summer feats.
Wise Acres Eatery’s food is largely sourced from their nearby Tangletown Garden. They invite their guests out to the farm just 40 miles southwest of the Cities on Sunday, August 26. Wise Acres’ Chef Beth Fisher and her kitchen crew will be preparing the food, and wine pairings will be done by Caroline Glawe. Tickets are $165. Call 612.822.4769 for reservations.
Open Arms, the nonprofit we’re all big fans of here at Lavender HQ, is also getting in on the harvest dining. On Sunday, August 19, they are hosting dinner at their three-acre farm in Belle Plaine. Tickets are $150, and the price includes a free shuttle from Open Arms in South Minneapolis out to the farm. Farm Director Ben Penner will also lead guests on a tour and explain a little bit about the importance of Open Arms being able to feed sustainably raised food to those in need of their services. They are doing so much more than just filling empty stomachs—they’re nourishing our neighbors—and at this dinner, you’ll have the chance to experience just a little bit of that goodness. RSVP to [email protected]
Dinner on the Farm gathers some of the Cities’ best chefs and takes them out to area producers to dine al fresco. There are a few dinners for the rest of the season that still have availability, but the dinner I’d most like to attend is that of Birchwood Café’s chef Marshall Paulsen on September 23. The dinner will be held at River’s Bend farm on Crow River. Paulsen is a master when it comes to cooking seasonally (with Birchwood being one of the best Farm to Table restaurants around). Tickets are $75 and include the meal and locally brewed beer. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Seward’s Children’s Peace Garden. Tickets available at www.Dinneronthefarm.com
Outstanding in the Field is a national farm tour. It’s making a stop in Minneapolis/St. Paul for a meal with farm dinner advocate Chef Scott Pampuch. He teams up with his cohort in pig fandom Mike Phillips, operating his Three Sons Meat Company. Last minute tickets might still be available for August 9 for $200. The farm they’re working with is Little Foot Farm in Afton, MN.
Slow Food, MN is partnering with Erik Sather, chef at the celebrated Bar La Grassa and Garden Farme (who supplies BLG) for Basil Snail. Slow Food is a non-profit that educates the public about the benefits of local, seasonal food. The day will include a pesto demo, a garden walk, and a talk about the connection between farmers and consumers. This is a family friendly event and more modestly priced at $45 for non-members, but kids 12 and under get in free. Buy tickets at slowfoodmn.org
Crave’s Kaskaid Hospitality corporation continues their bid for world domination: First it was Figlio 2.0. Their Soprano’s restaurant, in the Shops at West End, will be reborn keeping Chef JP Samuelson. Next it was revealed that they are opening Union (just a block from Crave) featuring a dramatic year-round patio. A giant, glass, retractable ceiling will allow guests to eat under the Minnesota sky no matter the temperature. The kitchen will be run by former Il Gatto chef (which used to be Figlio) Jim Christiansen. It’s like the restaurant news equivalent of a Christopher Nolan movie—lots of unraveling.
Foxy Falafel is open for business! The restaurant that moved into the former Caribe space (before that Chet’s Taverna) is now serving their world-class falafel. So far I’m enamored with the curry, full of flavor, but easy on heat. The free seasonal pickle bar is also irresistible.
More new food trucks are on the streets. I was happy to check out Awesome Eats, Sayo, and MidNord. Awesome Eats has sandwiches that he’s not afraid to top with french fries. It’s the right kind of wrong. Sayo is serving Filipino foods, and every dish I tried was a great balance of sweet, salty, spicy, and savory. MidNord is serving all manner of empanadas—my favorite was the Argentinean beef with the puckery-perfect mojo sauce. Next I’ll have to get that Minnesota apple pie dessert.
Minneapolis got some national love from Food & Wine, declaring us the best “on the rise food city” and one of the best priced. Pssh, we already knew that.