Dinner Service: Madison Meets Portland on the Farm
By Shannon Henry Kleiber | Photos By Jim Klousia 0
A true fall Wisconsin evening, sunny with a hint of crispness to the air, provided the radiant backdrop to the first Edible Madison Dinner Service event, held at Primrose Valley Farm in Belleville on October 19.
About 150 people came to eat, drink, hear music and stroll around the rolling green hills of the 83-acre farm just as the leaves began to change to red and yellow. The dinner chefs of the night were Tory Miller of Madison’s L’Etoile, Graze and Sujeo and Naomi Pomeroy of Beast in Portland, Oregon. Miller, sporting a Green Bay Packers jersey as he grilled pork outside and Pomeroy, tasting along the way as she created an heirloom apple chutney, represented their regions that night in the manner that led to their respective James Beard awards. Pomeroy won for Best Chef Pacific Northwest in 2014 and Miller, Best Chef Midwest in 2012. The feeling of the night was that of a fun, convivial dinner party, where the creators and appreciators of the food were grateful for each other.
Speaking to the dinner crowd, after succinctly complimenting the cocktails as “dope,” Miller gestured to the community of chefs and food-lovers gathered, saying, “It’s really about this, right here.”
The idea for Dinner Service came from Edible Madison’s publisher and editor-in-chief, Jamie Lamonde, and Erika Baer, the magazine’s development director. They wanted to launch an event that would showcase Wisconsin’s distinct food culture, while bringing in a chef from another city—a kind of culinary exchange night—and raise money for a local non-profit. This year’s inaugural event was a benefit for the Madison Parks Foundation. Like others in Wisconsin, Edible Madison would like to see an educational garden spot in Madison’s Central Park.
Pomeroy and Miller knew each other and had cooked together before as part of a James Beard boot camp. The two planned the menu over the phone, focusing on local and seasonal ingredients in order to create a dinner both native and inventive.
It was Pomeroy’s first visit to Wisconsin. But she did have a connection. Her husband, Kyle Linden Webster, who runs Portland cocktail lounge Expatriate and who served as guest mixologist at Dinner Service, had grown up in Monroe, Wisconsin. The couple took a drive before the event to visit his childhood home.
Madison reminded Pomeroy of her own hometown, Corvallis, Oregon, she said, because they are both college towns surrounded by farmland. Pomeroy said she has so far observed that people are particularly, and genuinely, nice in Wisconsin. “I’m familiar with this brand of friendliness,” she laughed.
Guests began the evening outside on a grassy field set up with rustic tables staffed by members of the Madison Area Chefs Network, who had each made a signature canapé, many applying their own interpretation to the traditional definition of a cracker or piece of bread topped with meat, fish, cheese or other foods. To name a few, Dan Fox of Heritage Tavern offered spicy tuna chiccarones (a homemade pork rind), Dan Bonnano of A Pig in a Fur Coat had smoked trout with a bit of ground cherry jam topped with amaranth leaves, and Casey Trumble from Brasserie V served roasted beets with goat cheese and fennel flower from an Asian-style soup spoon.
An outdoor bar under a wood pergola had long line that kept Thor Messer of Merchant in Madison and Kyle Linden Webster of Expatriate hopping throughout the cocktail hour. Their unique creations—Messer’s named “Girls from Brooklyn,” Linden Webster’s named “No. 8,” and a Civil-War-era-recipe punch—were such a hit, they ran out of ingredients just as guests were called to dinner.
Primrose Valley Farm is a working community supported agriculture (CSA) farm run by Jamie and David Baker, who ingeniously modified their packing shed to include an elegant event space with full kitchen and a porch boasting gorgeous views of the colorful valley.
Sitting down to tables filled with wine glasses for each course pairing and sweet gift bags of heirloom beans from A.P. Whaley Seed Company, guests were soon also treated to a show. As chefs created and plated at a long prep space in view of the room, their work was also projected from overhead onto a large screen on the wall. Cheeses from Sartori, Carr Valley, Hook’s, and Roelli were passed as the lovely voice of singer-songwriter Whitney Mann resonated through the room.
Dressed in white shirts with black ties, the Viroqua High School Harvest Challenge Team, led by chef Luke Zahm of Driftless Café in Viroqua, provided “front-of-house” service with enthusiasm and professionalism. The Harvest Challenge is an annual student cooking competition, and Chef Tory took some time with the team to share some kitchen wisdom and laughs.
The four-course dinner filled with incredible flavors from Wisconsin and Oregon and wine pairings selected in partnership by L’Etoile and Merchant was beyond description—see the menu below!—culminating with a delightful dessert created by Pastry Chef Melinda Dorn of L’Etoile and Graze that was equal parts artistic and delicious.
As the evening wound down and the air turned cool, hands and stomachs were warmed by a harvest blend coffee by Kickapoo Coffee. A jolly wine- and coffee-fueled atmosphere filled the room as guests took pictures with tablemates, gathered coats, gave final hugs, and departed into the night already talking about next year.
This year’s Dinner Service was generously supported by the following Presenting Sponsors:
For more wonderful photos from the event, check out our album on Facebook.