Posts Tagged ‘Dingo Farms’

Outstanding In The Field, Out Sitting Under Stars

Before Sunset

It was a night to remember, as close to 100 guests descended on Dennis and Denise Harrison’s Dingo Farms in Bradford West Gwillimbury yesterday evening.

Though the rain initially sought to dampen the spirits of all those who’d come together, after a short burst of showers it was smooth sailing ahead, for what promised to be one magical night.

Pretty Roosters

Under the shade and shelter of a stand of trees overlooking the family’s garden, sparkling wine from Fielding Estates was passed around, a bubbly accompaniment to chef Cutrara’s beef and beet salami, mortadella, chorizo, farinata triangles and pates topped with cornichons and radishes, respectively.  After an hour of dribbles and passed hor d’oeuvres, the farm tour ensued, including a trip to see cows (a personal highlight and favourite of mine) a massive 3 year old Berkshire pig, some very contented and beautiful roosters, concluded with a horse-drawn cart ride around the perimeter of the farm with one of Dennis’ sons and his mother. After the sights were seen and the stories told, it was time to head out to the middle of the field so that everyone might begin the journey towards dinner.

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Going To The Country, Gonna Eat Me A Lot Of Peaches

Today the Everyman and I are heading to the country, West Gwillimbury to be exact.

Our purpose is simple; we are travelling to Ontario’s first Outstanding In The Field affair.

OITF is hosting a farm dinner in conjunction with Mark Cutrara of Cowbell restaurant, and a farm he works quite extensively with, Dingo Farms.

For some reason there’s been quite a bit of derision directed towards this event by the media, from sneers about its elitist nature, to referring to it as nothing more than a glorified art installation, to complaining about the high cost of admission when there is no indoor plumbing (it’s a farm, people!), there has been no shortage of opinions levied on the matter.

I, for one, prefer to think of it as a movable feast.  I have no personal opinion of founder Jim Denevan, and at the end of the day am just attending for the love of good food.  I see this as an extension of the farm dinners that Mark Cutrara already puts on regularly at Cowbell, it’s just that this time you’re actually viewing and interacting with the source.

To counter the concerns about the high cost per plate, the tickets may be $200 per, but that includes a multi-course meal complete with wine pairings.  None of the money is going to charity, but I don’t see how this is any different than tasting menus at other high end restaurants.  We went to a tasting at The Millcroft Inn in Elora once, and the bill was around $200 apiece once you added in the wine pairings, too.  It’s just the cost of business.  Even Charlie’s Burgers, whose initial mandate was to keep ticket prices in the $60-$80 per person range has seen the last few events more than double that figure.  Let’s face it, good food isn’t cheap, and while it may be a little ostentatious to flaunt such extravagance in this economy, this is not an everyday occurrence for me, but a special occasion that I’ve been looking forward to for months.

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Tee Hee Hee Oops!

I must admit, I’ve been somewhat lax in updating our web content this week.  Work has been busy, which tends to leave me drained, and unfortunately I’m not at the point in my life where I can afford to blog full time either.  Perhaps someday…

I will be honest though, I’ve spent a great deal of my free time over the last few days on the Foodgawker website.  I think this little break has been for the best too.  It’s given me a chance to recharge my culinary batteries per se, and gotten me intrigued about joining a group called the Daring Bakers who participate in monthly baking challenges and then post pictures and descriptions of their results.

One thing I have been meaning to get around to blogging about is my wrap-up from our dinner at Cowbell last week.  For the better part of this week I was debating whether or not I wanted to write about it, but have since decided that if I start censoring the content of my experiences, I’m no longer running an objective website.  And that would be wrong.  So in the spirit of that, let’s dig right in!

Anyone my age or older probably remembers Kevin, the annoying mascot for Rainbow Chips Ahoy! who permanently etched those 4 words into our collective consciousness.  Our dinner at Cowbell last week contained several rather distinct tee hee hee oops moments.  I must preface my account by saying that I do still love this restaurant and do not fault them in the slightest; if anything, the experience reminded me that they’re human after all :)

To wit, the decision to visit Cowbell came about rather quickly during a wildly spiraling bad day at the office.  When I called to see about a reservation at 2pm on a Thursday, I was not overly hopeful that we would be accommodated.  I felt it a stroke of good luck when I was advised that not only were there seatings free, but the only thing the reservationist wanted to know was whether I thought we’d be longer than 2 hours with our dinner.  I hung up the phone happy and excited for nibbles, but also mildly confused – isn’t the time required controlled by the speed at which the kitchen can provide my food?

When we arrived, we were greeted by a server who remembered us as semi-regulars; always a nice feeling.  We were given a four-top, even though it was just the two of us, and there were other 2 seaters available.  When the server mentioned that the menu might contain other items not listed on the chalkboard the Everyman’s imagination went off on a tangent that a private party was happening at 10 (hence the 2 hour question) and perhaps there was a secret menu.  After a subsequent probing of our waitress, we learned that there was only the one menu, it just happened that they were already sold out of one of the options.  Dang, no secret food for me tonight!  I guess I’ll have to get my fix at Charlie Burger instead.

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Bits And Pieces, Odds And Ends

I’ve got a lot of concurrent projects on the go right now, so instead of wracking my brain to come up with enough time and material to write 5 or 6 posts, I’ve decided to aggregate my updates into one smaller post.

Firstly, I finally managed to get my shit together garden-wise and inventory what’s growing in the basement.  I was able to determine what I needed to replant, and what had not been planted at all.  By the time I went to bed last night, all tomatoes had been started or were already sprouted (with the exception of the Sungolds) and the artichokes, celery root and chili peppers were planted too.  Hopefully I still have enough time to get them to seedling stage before it’s time to go outside.  I even managed to give West Coast Seeds a call to find out what was going on with my Sungold tomatoes and Ambition shallots; it’s been almost a month and a half since I ordered my seeds from them.  Turns out that my back order was just shipped on Tuesday (finally), so any day now I should be able to plant the rest.  I definitely feel like a weight has been lifted now that the majority of it is done.  All I have to do now is wait for warmer weather and pick up my kiddie pool, hanger bags and strawberry vines and let the nature handle the rest.

On the baking front, I’ve been nurturing the Bride of Frankenstein for several weeks now, and her progress has been quite promising.  Now that I only need to feed her once or twice a week it’s been much easier to manage.  I imagine she must’ve attained some depth during that time, so I am eagerly awaiting this weekend for another chance to make bread.  I also broke one of my ironclad kitchen rules and am anticipating the results of that decision.  Recently while reading Local Breads, I came across a list of somewhat essential tools for successful bread-making.  Typically I shun single-use kitchen gadgets because I hate clutter and have already completely filled our decently-sized kitchen with stuff.  Yesterday I caved and ordered myself a baguette pan and bench scraper from Golda’s Kitchen.  I can make a case for the many uses of a bench scraper, but the baguette pan as far as I can tell has one purpose only; alleviating my laziness.  You see, one of the techniques that my book recommends is “couching” your loaves while they proof and bake in order to obtain the correct size and structure.  The manual way to do this is to create an accordion out of parchment paper and then slip it between the loaves so that they are supported on each side.  While it rises, you slip a few kitchen towels under the folds to further support the dough.  This is not only time-consuming but annoying, so I bought a pan shaped for the purpose instead.  I intend to make lots of baguettes from now on, so rationalizing the cost/benefit was slightly easier.  I just don’t know where I’m going to be able to store it since I’m completely out of room.  I made myself feel better by not also purchasing a banneton and proofing box; two other things I wanted but don’t have room for.  D’oh!

Project guanciale has been coming along nicely too.  Every time I peek in, they’re slightly smaller than the time before.  I am continually amazed by how much of the marinade coating  has adhered during the curing phase.  The only things I’m not quite sure about is whether I’m supposed to rinse it off before serving and if I should’ve removed the “rind” before marinating.  Until this past weekend all the guanciale I purchased came pre-sliced.  While we were at the Cheese Boutique obtaining cottage provisions, we managed to score a hunk of guanciale; it just had to be sliced at home.  Whenever we go there I leave the meat to the Everyman and I tackle the cheeses, so he bought the chunk (which I later realized was a bad idea considering how much I have hanging at home).  Ah well.  They’ll be plenty of meat at our house!

The majority of our food comes from an organic grocery delivery service called The Clean Food Connection.  In the summertime they provide us with a fresh, local farmshare from Zephyr Organics and in the winter we leave most things to chance with something they call a vegpak.  A vegpak is a bundled order of fruits and vegetables that comes in several different sizes, and is assembled based on what’s in stock at the store that week and a list of our preferences.  Year-round our grocery deliveries are a sort of culinary roulette; you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.  Our vegpak last night included a handful of lemons, which were hastily thrown in my chalice (current housing for a glut of multicoloured citrus).  Staring at the lemons and lamenting how to use them, the Everyman came up with the perfect solution; lemon curd!  I still have half a jar left from the last time I made my version of the lemon/lavender/white chocolate Black Hoof dessert, but I really don’t think you can ever have too much.  Kudos to the Everyman for a brilliant suggestion!  I’ll be curding it up while the bread bakes this weekend.

Making it two for two, the Everyman also had another fantastic idea that I can’t believe he heard about before I did.  While perusing Cowbell’s website, he noticed that they will be participating in Ontario’s first Outstanding In The Field dinner.  If you’re not familiar with Outstanding In The Field, I suggest you check it out.  It’s a roving, open-air dining experience that pairs farmers, chefs and the dining public for a not-to-be-missed culinary adventure.  I purchased their cookbook last year and was captivated by it, but never realized that they organized dinners in Canada as well.  Apparently they’ve done some in BC to great success, but this will be the first Ontario event.  It’s sort of Stadtlander-esque, but on a grander scale, as dinners can include as many as 200 guests.  The Everyman and I have decided that we’re going to go, so I now have something else that’s fun to look forward to this summer (aside from his birthday).  Plus, it’s being held at Dingo Farms so I bet there’ll be cows to hug too!  If you couldn’t tell, I’m very excited.  Now I just have to find somewhere to stay in Bradford that isn’t a B&B.

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