Locavores around Oregon can enjoy Farm to Fork dinners since Matthew Domingo took his supper-club series on the road last year.
But Farm to Fork was born in Southern Oregon, a fitting locale for the last, on-farm feast of the 2012 season. Organizers and participants couldn’t have asked for a better day, either: one of those warm, dry afternoons of falling leaves under clear skies that newcomers to the region rave about.
Indeed, I met a duo in the parking lot who said they drove all the way from Salem and Depoe Bay for this event. Also arriving late — and missing the amuse-bouche reception — I felt a bit less bumbling after hearing that these ladies also had taken the wrong Applegate Road (Upper) all the way to Applegate Lake, no less, before finding their way to North Applegate Road and Barking Moon Farm. Although Farm to Fork invitations link to a Google map, the Applegate in general has no cell service, so noting some landmarks (pass Applegate school) for the guests’ benefit seems in order.
We arrived just in time to join the tour that farm co-owner Josh Cohen was leading through fields of collards and kale for the winter community-supported agriculture program that he and his wife, Melissa Matthewson, operate for some 80 local families. The couple also sell organic produce at farmers markets, including the Web-based Rogue Valley Local Foods. Our dinner featured Barking Moon fruits and vegetables, including green beans, tomatoes, chard, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, apples and pears.
Chef Courtney Sproule of Din Din Supper Club in Portland masterminded the menu. Whereas Domingo, a former Portland chef, used to prepare the meal, Farm to Fork now contracts with chefs around the state, so he can concentrate on the business of designing, marketing and orchestrating this bash.
Hosting more than 160 people Saturday at Barking Moon, Domingo set up a communal table that Cohen estimated (based on the spacing of his irrigation sprinklers) to measure about 300 feet long. Every group of eight seats centered around flowers arranged in a Mason jar and an old-fashioned, glass-chimneyed oil lamp amid shabby-chic, mismatched china, flatware and glassware.
“This is the biggest table I’ve ever sat at,” Cohen told the crowd via loudspeaker. “I’m getting tipsy with joy.”
Guests likely felt the same under the influence of Folin Cellars 2011 Viognier, Grenache Rose, Tempranillo and Estate Syrah. I’ve been meaning to stop in at this Sams Valley winery, basically in my neck of the woods, and only have good things to report about the wine. The viognier was crisp and not overly fruity compared with others of this varietal while the syrah packed a scrumptious fruit punch with flavors of berries and cherries. The rose was the nicest for warm-weather drinking, a round wine that could be enjoyed by the bottle.
Sproule’s menu, likewise, couldn’t have gotten much better: green beans with an impeccably cooked egg, anchovy-pernod aioli and sweet-as-candy tomatoes. The pheasant pate with wilted chard was an unusual dish, courtesy of Rogue Valley Brambles, a Talent farm that raised the birds just for Farm to Fork, which also utilized its free-range chickens and organic eggs. Just as she braised and poached almost all the chickens’ parts for her third course (as well as their livers for the amuse), Sproule didn’t discard the second course’s chard stems but quick-pickled them for a classic accent to charcuterie.
Courses come family-style to be split between four people. Our seatmates were gracious, and judging from reactions, everyone felt fully satisfied by the spread, culminating in hazelnut panna cotta with pear coulis and Noble Coffee’s new Panamanian roast. Noble beans traveled from Ashland around the state this year with Farm to Fork.
While Domingo takes a well-deserved break from a hectic summer, now is the time to think about getting your seat at Farm to Fork next year. While dinners don’t start until July, they sell out very quickly, even for the per-ticket price of $80 (includes three glasses of wine).
Or get on the guest list for Farm to Fork’s Underground series. Covered in a June story for A la Carte, the series starts up again in November and (surprise!) also will hit the road for Portland, according to Domingo. While Farm to Fork is all about sharing the bounty, the Underground is Domingo’s attempt at merging art and artisan spirits with local foods in a speakeasy-type setting.
While Portland’s an ideal landscape for Farm to Fork’s Underground, it speaks well of Southern Oregon food producers and culture that Domingo chose to debut it here.