It’s “Grown in Massachusetts” week here on Travel, Wine, and Dine! Posts will be all about some of the great local eating and drinking experiences I have been lucky to have this past week. Slow work schedule in the summer? I can get used to this! (Not really, I can’t wait to be busy again!)
Last Thursday evening we had the great opportunity to attend a Dinner in the Field as guests of Volante Farms in Needham (home of Olympian Aly Raisman!), a place we fell in love with on a visit to their local food festival.
Things I loved about our first Dinner in the Field experience at Volante Farms? Where do I even begin?
Let’s start with the setting. The Dinner in the Field is literally on the farm, surrounded by all of the delicious things the Volantes have growing.
Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe it. Needham is a very short drive from Boston, but I felt like I was way out in the country sitting at our table on the farm.
The staff at Volante Farms paid so much attention to detail when setting up the tables for the dinner. I loved all of the little touches, from the homegrown flowers to the table numbers in jars of sand and the candles that lined the entire space.
And our proximity to all of the plants meant lots of butterflies and dragonflies. This one stopped by and sat with us for a few minutes.
The staff at Volante Farms didn’t just do a great job decorating; they were amazing throughout the evening from the time we checked in until we said goodbye. All of the servers work in some capacity at the farm or store, and they weren’t only attentive, they seemed to be genuinely happy to be serving. There were lots of smiles, and it made for a lovely, warm atmosphere.
Chef Todd Heberlein, Volante Farms chef, was responsible for the amazing meal that followed, much of it plucked right out of the ground around us. He had been at the farm since 2:30 am getting ready for the event. I wish they would do these dinners weekly, but I guess that would be asking a lot of him. . .
Chef Heberlein introduced each course, which was paired with wine from one of my favorites, The Urban Grape (The Urban Grape South End is opening soon!).
We kicked the evening off with an amuse, a bacon, corn, and okra fritter with smoked tomato sauce. This is when talk of licking our plates began, and it didn’t stop the whole night. Smoky bacon, smoky tomatoes, sweet corn, and okra made for a flavorful fritter. Okra, which can tend to be slimy in some dishes, in a fritter, adds a nice bite and flavor. It was a beautiful combination.
Our appetizer was a summer lobster stew over buttery, flaky corn and scallion biscuits. Summer on a plate, paired with Chateau Routas Rosé from Provence, summer in a glass. Lobster and corn are two of my favorite parts of a New England summer, and the combination of them in this dish was outstanding.
My obsession with heirloom tomatoes makes our salad course one of my favorites. Volante Farms grows over 20 varieties of heirlooms, and our salads contained three. The salad was anchored by a genius move on Chef Heberlein’s part, a goat cheesecake with herbs and a bread crumb crust.
The Urban Grape chose a Gruner Veltliner, Winzer Krems “Ried Sangrube” to go with the salad. The Gruner’s freshness and acidity was a beautiful choice for the tomatoes.
More farm-fresh vegetables arrived in the form of creative, bright side dishes for our main courses. August harvest vegetable curry and a bean salad with beets, olives, and preserved lemons showcased some more of the farm’s offerings. The curry was mild but packed with flavor and was simply divine. The beans had a nice crunch to them, a sweetness from the beets, and then a saltiness from the olives.
The veggie sides were served up with two main courses, a super tender spiced yogurt chicken with kale slaw and tomato chutney heaven. . .
And adorable stuffed summer vegetables with a simple tomato sauce. The stuffed vegetables included Turkish eggplant stuffed with lamb. I don’t normally eat lamb, but I was so glad I tried this. I now want to go buy lots of little vegetables to stuff. Stay tuned. . .
For our main course wine, The Urban Grape went to a light red, Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir, which had flavors of cherries with a peppery finish.
By the time we had eaten all of those gorgeous courses, I thought that there would be no way I could eat dessert, but dessert was a special surprise which I imagine took a lot of time, and I know took a lot of love and creativity, so we persevered. Glasses of Chauteau Tour Grise “Zero Pointe” Ze Bulle Blanc NV sparkled in the twilight as we awaited the dessert surprise.
It turns out that another Chef Heberlein was in charge of dessert. Chef Todd’s wife Jennifer recently joined the Volante Farms team as their pastry chef, and she did an amazing job with Chef Todd’s challenge of including vegetables in all of the desserts.
Zucchini bread pudding, carrot cake whoopie pies, and beet and potato chocolate cake all came out in miniature form, absolutely perfect sizes for tasting and savoring the different flavors of each. None of these desserts were too sweet; instead they offered more of that seasonal, quality freshness from the farm. The whoopie pie was my favorite, but all three were exceptional.
Sundown and the candle-lined pathway made for an enchanting end to the evening. We left, talking nonstop about the food and the hospitality that welcomed us at Volante Farms, hoping that these events will become a regular occurrence.
Thank you to Volante Farms and Chef Heberlein for hosting us; we will be back!
This dinner was complimentary, but, as always, my opinions are my own.