I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Life’s short; eat dessert first,” so I start this post with a picture of the scrumtious dessert from a recent RAFT Heirloom Harvest Dinner sponsored by Slow Food Boston. If you’ve never heard of RAFT, it’s my pleasure to share it with you. Here’s the official description:
Managed by Slow Food USA, RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) is an alliance of food, farming, environmental and culinary advocates who have joined together to identify, restore and celebrate America’s biologically and culturally diverse food traditions through conservation, education, promotion and regional networking.
What that means, is that some of our traditional heirloom foods are in danger of going extinct, and the RAFT initiative’s objective is to save these foods. This amazing three-hour, four course dinner (not counting appetizers) was a tremendous experience for me. As a recent escapee from the prison of junk and fast food, I was delighted with every morsel from Tastings’ Chef Matt Maue’s kitchen. I had eaten at Tastings for the first time the night before, and was so taken with the fresh, local, uniquely-prepared food that I had to eat there again … and pronto. Here’s what I had the first night:
Native Rhode Island Popcorn with duck fat and lemon thyme;
Spinach Salad with a free-range fried egg and house-cured bacon;
Black Truffle Macaroni and Cheese;
Bombster Scallops on a bed of creamed corn, garnished with arugula
The next night was the Farm-to-Fork RAFT Harvest Dinner for nine guests, mostly from around Boston and Providence. The evening started with passed hors d’oeuvres, which included a large piece of slate covered with salami, cheeses, olives, pickles and caperberries. There were also some pork meatballs in a tomato/pepper sauce and the popcorn with duck fat and lemon thyme. I was so taken with that popcorn that I made it at home a few days later – yum! I’m so glad that Nina Planck taught me to appreciate good traditional fats as a healthy part of my diet. Here are the courses, with links to the farms and links to the descriptions of the veggies whose existence is in the hands of a small few (order some seeds to grow in your garden!).
Whitebarn Farm Speckled Trout Lettuce Salad
with green beans, roasted garlic ranch dressing and Benton’s Country Ham
Note: a fellow diner said that Whitebarn has the best garlic. And I loved Benton’s Country Ham; I will definitely be ordering some.
Brambly Farms Pork Croquette
with Jimmy Nardello Pepper Romesco Sauce
Note: Chef Matt said that Brambly Farms raises “amazing pigs.”
Braised Blackbird Farm Short Ribs
with maple yogurt, gilfeather turnips, glazed wethersfield red onions and arugula
Note: Ann Marie (left, with Chef Matt) from Blackbird Farm attended the dinner. I enjoyed hearing about her Angus cattle: the way they’re bred, raised, harvested, aged and brought to market. The calves nurse until they’re about eight months old; news to me. These braised short ribs were some of the best food I’ve ever eaten!
Boston Marrow Squash Mousse
with cranberrry compote, candied squash, shortbread cookie crumble and coffee braised whole hazelnuts
This dinner was very special, and I’m so thankful that my trip to the Boston area coincided with this Slow Food Boston event. The conversation over dinner was lively and uplifting, and mostly about real food. I was inspired by it, and reminded of a time that I visited a church in which a baby was baptised during the service. The priest held up the child and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Church has a future.” With young chefs like Matt Maue, and family farms like Blackbird, real food has a future. And that is worth rejoicing!
If you’re interested in joining the Slow Food movement, they have a memberhip drive special right now for $25/year. Slow Food started in Italy in the late ’80s to “counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.” Be well.