So...on to Part II and the pretty details of the Tour de Farm/Celebrity Chef Tour dinner. Despite the bumps in the evening (see Part I), it really was an amazing night. In fact, the whole weekend was a blast, starting on Friday night, when Joy Summers, Molly McNeil, and I stopped by Birchwood Cafe to chat with proprietress Tracy Singleton and to meet National Geographic fellow, sustainable seafood advocate, and chef Barton Seaver. I bought Seaver's book For Cod and Country and had the chance to talk with him for a few minutes about his work and mission. As I left I told him I'd see him not just at Sunday's event, but also for dinner Saturday night at Corner Table, where he and Tour de Farm founder/chef Scott Pampuch were cooking together, featuring a menu of sustainable fish as well as CT's signature local fare.
Debbie and Stu Williams, as well as Rudy Maxa, Ana Scofield, and Ana's daughter Natalie, joined John and me for dinner. We chatted with Seaver and Pampuch, decided to let them choose dishes for us (very wise decision), and had the best meal of the summer: Tomato salad with trout roe. Pickled herring, smoked clams, and basil pesto. Trout cakes with sweet corn. Pork belly with scrambled duck egg. Braised rabbit. Slow roasted salmon with goat cheese butter, baby Brussels, and walnut pesto.
And oh, lovely sweet corn panna cotta for dessert, mmm. Although I didn't realize it at the time, it turns out those creamy dreamy bites were the first of many I'd be maniacally inhaling over the next couple of weeks...but more on that in a bit.
After precious little sleep on either Friday or Saturday night, I picked up my friends Joy Summers, Shaina Olmanson, and Molly McNeil and we were off for Star Prairie Trout Farm in Star Prairie, Wisconsin, for Sunday's Tour de Farm dinner. I think it's fair to say that Star Prairie is the Lothlorien of Wisconsin farms, watery and elvish and a little bit magical. The sight of the long, communal dinner table - always impressive - was particularly delightful as it twisted and turned amongst crystal clear trout springs.
Did I mention that the weather was perfect? Dry, sunny, warm, clear. No frizz. Even though I stayed for far too long, I didn't score even one mosquito bite. I'm telling you...Lothlorien, for real.
As a Celebrity Chef Tour/James Beard Foundation event, the guest chefs included Seaver, of course, as well as chefs Tim McKee and Andrew Zimmern, with Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl as the evening's sommelier. Yes, I write for Dara, and think she's just the bees knees in every possible way, but those are not the reasons that the highlight of the evening, for me, was the marvel of the wine pairings with the food.
The reason is...the wine pairings were delightful. Interesting, approachable, and just really...fun. Wine fun! Food fun! So good.
Also fun? Sitting next to and chatting with Kris Hase, Tour de Farm organizer (along with Pampuch), as well as TDF website designer, blogger, and photographer. All the stunning Tour de Farm photos that have made you so eager to attend one of these dinners? She took them.
When the lovely sweet corn panna cotta I'd had for dessert the night before at Corner Table showed up alongside skirt steak at this dinner, it kicked off a whole rave about the beauty of panna cotta, both sweet and savory, and how rather easy it is to make, and how it should be invited onto more plates.
And see below for the Sweet Corn Panna Cotta I had on Saturday and Sunday, a recipe that Thomas in the kitchen at Corner Table came up with for the event. I photographed - and let's be honest, quickly devoured - it with fried sage (up top) as well as a with a sexy strawberry-balsamic-black pepper jam (below) I was lucky to possess, one of the amazing Serious Jams by Heidi Skoog that you will soon be hearing much about...killer stuff.
In case you're counting, that's three versions of panna cotta I've made in the last couple of weeks. A couple of them I made twice. That's a lotta panna cotta friends, and I've loved every spoonful.
Your turn now...hit it.
Sweet Corn Panna Cotta
Via Tour de Farm/Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner
Makes six 4-oz. servings
1 c. whole milk, divided
2 tsp. powdered gelatin
2 tsp. butter
3 ears corn, husked, kernels sliced off cob
1 c. heavy cream
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Pour 1/2 c. of whole milk in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin evenly over the top to soften it. Set the bowl aside.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the corn and heat, stirring a few times, for 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 c. of milk and the heavy cream. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove pan from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Whisk the milk/gelatin into the warm mixture.
In a blender, puree the corn and liquid together on highest setting to a very smooth puree. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, using a ladle to press out as much liquid as possible. Season mixture to taste with salt & pepper. Ladle into six 4-oz. ramekins. Chill until set, 6-8 hours.
Serve cold in ramekins, or turn out onto plates by warming the bottoms of the ramekins on a plate of hot water for 2-3 minutes and then running a knife around the edges before inverting.