A few weeks ago Katie Kleyla, Director of Development at Eat Drink RI, put a out a call out to her friends to see who would be interested in volunteering at the Eat Drink RI Land & Sea Summer Farm Culinary Series at Blackbird Farm. I jumped to the occasion and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Doing my stint in the restaurant industry in both front and back of the house I had some experience, but I don’t remember ever having so much fun and the food being so good.
I arrived on Friday night eager to help in my flannel shirt and backwards Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle trucker hat. What else would you wear on the best cattle and pig farm in Rhode Island? Seriously, Blackbird Farm is not only the producer of the tastiest, local and organic beef and pork but its absolutely gorgeous. The rolling hills, the view, the sunset and the deer playing in the meadows just made the next four nights of my life absolutely unforgettable.
Chef Ashley Vanasse and her crew from Easy Entertaining were furiously prepping away when I arrived. I got the low down on the evening’s logistics and time line from Ms. Kleyla, including a quick run down of the evening’s adult beverages. Jonathan Edwards Winery provided a variety of wines including their Gewurztraminer, a white wine with hints of lychee fruit and a Dark Petite Sirah that was quite enjoyable. That’s a big deal because I traditionally do not care for ports, but this port style wine was just unique enough to please this steadfast critic. Jonathan Edwards is a pretty awesome place just across the border in Connecticut which is open to the public for tours and tastings! The evening’s beer selections were provided by Revival Brewing Company, a local favorite, located in Cranston, Rhode Island. The selection included Night Swim’ah Belgian Wheat Ale and Burnsider Pale Ale. They pulled out all the stops on the last night with a pretty pink surprise of Pinky Swear!
I jumped into action and ran down to the farm house where I got to meet some of the chickens and fill up the cooler with artisan well water. It was cool crisp and straight from the earth.
The first night’s meal consisted of crostini with garlic, mustard butter and a melt-in-your-mouth roasted bone marrow. Oh I almost died, it was so good. There was also skewered pork ribs and pickled radish and potato chips with rare beef. It was so amazing and there is a clear difference in the taste between grass-fed beef and factory-farmed beef. Serving it rare and pairing it with the pickled radish really brought out the distinct difference in the more sustainable way of farming.
The evening continued with a porchetta that was out of this world, a porterhouse steak and for dessert a lemon curd tart with fresh berries.
Night two of the Land & Sea Series featured Chefs Eli Dunn & Jordan Goldsmith of Eli’s Kitchen and Moonrose Farm respectively. Their starters consisted of shoyu glazed pork, wood-grilled oyster mushrooms with herb butter on a crostini and a Stonington shrimp po’ boy.
For their entrees they selected Bomster Scallop Crudo, Wood-Grilled Blackbird London Broil and for dessert the most amazing thing I have ever put in my mouth, Moonrose Cornflour Beignets served with Thai basil cream, strawberry jam and powdered sugar. As a volunteer I got handed a large metal bowl and I felt like I was eating from a trough and I didn’t care because they were so good.
Night three was Chef Nick Rabar of Avenue N American Kitchen. They served honey Harissa beef tartare, Smoked Pork Cheek & Pimento Cheese Pierogis, “Bacon & Sausage” with candied maple and my personal favorite of the night, Grilled Hot Dog Sliders served with mole baked beans, havana street corn, cotija, lime and a smoked paprika aioli! It was like a tiny bite of gourmet summer backyard barbecue heaven!
The evening’s entrees were Apple Cider & Beer Braised Pork Shank, Carved Blackbird Farm Steak and for dessert Warm Chocolate & Brown Sugar Cupcakes filled and topped with bacon fat buttercream & bacon butterscotch brittle. This was unlike anything I have ever tasted and I could have eaten a dozen of them in one sitting. Never, have I ever tasted a frosting so amazing.
The final night featured Chef Maria Meza and her son Joaquin of El Rancho Grande. Guests were greeted by a third choice of beverage, Revival’s Pinky Swear mixed with a spicy green lime chili beverage. The combo was spicy and refreshing!
For starters there were Quesadillas with squash blossom & queso, Taco with carnitas super crispy chicharrones – oh they are so good!
Entrees included Spare Ribs and Pork Loin & Sirloin a la parilla served with scallions, cactus. Dessert was a handmade mamey sorbet. I had a chance to help make this. Everyone took turns spinning the mamey over the ice until it has a frozen yogurt consistency. It was an amazing finish to an amazing four days.
If you have an opportunity to take part as a guest at one of the Eat Drink RI dinners – DO IT! You will not be disappointed. If you’d like to learn more about Blackbird Farm visit one their Farm Stand farmers markets and visit them online at facebook.com/blackbirdfarm/
See you there!