One of my favorite ways to build community is to share a table and some food. And what could be better than bonding over a locally grown meal cooked by a local chef? How about volunteering BEHIND the scenes at a farm dinner?
Imagine getting up close and personal with the chef as she/he prepares a delicious multi-course meal for enthusiastic guests. And getting to taste everything to boot!
I’ve had several opportunities to volunteer at farm-to-table events at Love Apple Farm in Santa Cruz – http://events.loveapplefarms.com/ – and in my mind, the two standouts were the ‘tomato mania’ and ‘forest to fork fungal dinner’ events held this fall.
The September tomato mania dinner, created by Chef Breana Greene (http://www.organicfoodspersonalchef.com), was a ‘love apple’ extravaganza featuring a few of my new favorite dishes: tomato bread pudding with basil cream sauce and rosemary panna cotta (outrageously good!). In the above photo, my husband, Paul, is holding another standout: sauteed Padron peppers with tomato salt (photo courtesy of Kelly Vaillancourt).
We had a great time balancing bottles of wine and water, setting out charming tomato-themed centerpieces by ultra-talented Mee Young (farm apprentice) and fetching the family style platters from the creative hands of Breana and her team. At the end of the night, they sent us home with enough leftovers to have a full lunch with our sons the next day!
This past weekend’s ‘forest to fork’ dinner featured mushrooms from amuse bouche to dessert (yes, even a mushroom ice cream!). Chef Neil Marquis created so many over-the-top combinations of butter, cream, wine and mushrooms, I mentally gained a few pounds! More than anything though, it was such fun to re-bond with the farm apprentices and volunteers who come again and again.
That, in a nutshell, is what it’s all about for me: connecting with other Bay Area residents over our mutual love of gardening, food, wine and conversation. As guest, a`server or even a dishwasher, you will appreciate the effort it takes to put on such a fabulous, community-building event. I highly encourage you to check out opportunities like this or better yet, find a way to create your own!
To my friends at Love Apple Farm: I will definitely sign up for future volunteer opportunities. (they say thank you in the nicest way, too – a $50 gift certificate towards a future class or farm dinner). And best of all, Chef Greene is cooking a private dinner for us this Friday night (she’s for hire, if you live in the Bay Area)!!