This past weekend the wife and I went to the 8th annual Slow Food Farm Dinner at Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm, in Ashburn, VA.
Willow Creek Farms is a property owned by the Clyde’s restaurant group, and it is an absolutely beautiful venue. The main building is a large restaurant with many different rooms, all very beautifully decorated with an antique style. The structures themselves are not historic, however, they were built using antique timber and historic pieces that Clyde’s had purchased from various sources in the area back in the 1980’s.
Tickets for this event went on sale way back in April, and apparently sold out within 72 hours. Naturally, we had been looking forward to the dinner for some time at this point. I have to say a word of thanks and congratulations to Slow Food DC for making this both such a wonderful and affordable event.
There was a beautiful outdoor patio which had been reserved for the Slow Food event, and with the fantastic weather that we had last Saturday walking out onto the area made a great impression on us. I had Amanda pose for a quick shot.
First order of business: locate the bar and secure some seats. They were pouring a pinot grigio and a sauvignon blanc, both from Barboursville Vineyards in Charlottesville, VA. We had a glass of the sauvignon blanc and ambled about a bit.
One of the cool things about this spot is that a lot of the food that is served here is actually grown right on the premises, so you’re getting produce from mere yards away. Doesn’t get much more local than that. The farm was open for tour during our event, so with glasses in hand we took a short stroll down the path and through the woods.
There was a beekeeper set up with a beekeeping station explaining his process for producing honey, and the head gardener was there to show people around his vegetable garden and explain what he had going on.
It was actually still kind of hot and sunny at this point (we had arrived to the event at 5pm), so we walked around the garden a bit but quickly moved back to our table on the main patio. When we got there, a few others had joined our table and it had been set with a very cute centerpiece. And a tasty and refreshing peach sangria was being poured. Perfect.
It’s amazing how a mason jar can make just about anything adorable.
We shared our table with four others and really enjoyed their company. As it turned out, the beekeeper was amongst them, so that made for some interesting conversation.
In addition, there was a mic and PA set up and as each course was served the purveyor/farmer/grower/provider who was responsible for it stood up and spoke to the group about their product and what they had done to bring it to our plates. It was, in a word, pretty fascinating.
Really, it was just all about the food. So let’s get into it.
When we returned from the garden, a buffet table had been set up with some classic garde manger options: rabbit terrine from Tower Oaks Lodge, pork terrine with pistachio from Willow Creek Farm, and pickled vegetables (chard, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers) – also from Willow Creek.
Shortly thereafter, the first course was served. Now, I’m not really big on taking pictures at a meal – particularly at a table with other people – BUT, in this case, the topic had already come up in conversation and been joked about thoroughly, and other people at the table had cameras too, so we all decided as a group that none of us would consider it rude and gave ourselves carte blanche with the photos for the evening. Regardless, lighting conditions in such a situation are never ideal, and wine pairings were served with every course, so of course these are not the best pictures I’ve ever taken. I’m sure you understand.
First course was chilled corn soup with Chesapeake Bay blue crab and mini herb salad from Arnold Farms (Chestertown, MD) and Willow Creek. I have to say, this first course was very possibly the best thing served the whole night. The soup had a deliciously silky texture, the crab nearly melted in your mouth, and the flavors all performed in total perfect unison. This one was really amazing.
This course was paired with a vintage rosé from Barboursville Vineyards, 2009.
Next course was cherry wood smoked Pennsylvania duck breast with cherries and escarole. The cherries made this dish for me – they were delicious and a flavor I’d never experienced paired with a savory duck breast. The cherries were from Toigo Orchards, Shippensburg, PA, and the escarole grown at Willow Creek.
The duck was paired with a Barbera Reserve from Barboursville, 2007. I love a good barbera.
Following up after that was an amazing dish of local Chesapeake Rockfish. The rockfish was whole roasted on giant bbq slabs that they paraded around the tables (sadly I couldn’t snap a good pic), and was wonderfully tender. The fish was served with garden herbs, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and new rose-gold potatoes. This dish was provided by Lois’s Produce (Leedstown, VA), Potomac Vegetable Farms, VA, Tuscarora Organic Growers (South Central, PA) and Willow Creek Farm.
The rockfish was paired with a wonderful Viognier Reserve, again from Barboursville (2008). Seeing a pattern yet?
After the rockfish we had a cheese course provided by Cowgirl Creamery. Cowgirl Creamery is actually located in California, but they have recently opened an outpost in DC. They don’t yet actually produce any of their cheeses here on the east coast, but are planning to soon in the future. The cheeses offered were Mt. Tam, a firm buttery cheese with a mellow mushroom flavor, St. Pat, a mellow soft cheese wrapped in nettle leaves to impart a smoky flavor (the nettle has been frozen to remove any sting), Old Kentucky Tomme, a deliciously tangy goat cheese from Capriole Dairy, Sally Jackson Sheep, a smooth and silky sheep’s cheese, and Bohemian Blue from Hidden Springs Dairy. It was all quite tasty, though try as I might, I can never really go for the taste of blue cheese.
The cheese course was served with a Cabernet Franc Reserve, from Barboursville, 2007.
After the cheese course, we were served a Pennsylvania Peach Foster with brown butter pound cake, homemade vanilla ice cream and a small glass of philéo (a dessert wine). By this point it was really too dark to get any good photographs, so I leave this one up to the imagination. Whatever you’re imagining – yes, it was that good.
We finished the night off with a final glass of the Barboursville Cab Franc, and a stroll around the grounds under the moonlight. It was one of those magical nights.
The Slow Food Annual Farm Dinner was amazing. This is absolutely something I see ourselves coming back to year after year. Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm restaurant is such a beautiful setting, and I’m sure it’s quite wonderful on any given summer night – not just for a Slow Food event.
Curious about getting tickets for the 9th annual dinner? Well, the best way to be sure you’ll hear about it would be to join Slow Food DC. But, I’ll make a promise here that I will be sure to relay the information through my facebook page and through twitter when the tickets are going on sale (sometime around next April or so).
After I’ve bought mine, of course.