Since you’ve all been loyal followers from day one, you know that the Plated Landscapes from Spice of Life Catering have become an annual tradition for us. In what we hope becomes another annual tradition, we enjoyed the evening with four other couples who share our love of good food, good company, and meeting farmers (but probably more the food and wine than the farmers :)), so this time around, S and I were joined by T, P, A, L, and K4.
S and I started a couple years ago with the dinner at Squire Valleevue Farm, then moved on to New Creation last year, and this year, we headed down south to Killbuck Valley mushroom farm, where Tom and Wendy (and their two kids) played gracious host to a horde of about 50 that descended upon them for the evening, educating and entertaining us for a good five hours.
This is the most popular Plated Landscape, and for good reason, because where else can you forage for chanterelles before dinner? It’s easy to find a place that grows squash and tomatoes, but this is about the only mushroom farm in the area, so it was a pretty neat experience. One of the things that we really enjoy about these events is the fact that they’re interactive, and you get to see some of what goes on behind the scenes in order to get that tomato or bacon or shiitake mushroom to market.
As in years past, the party started with some cocktails and hors d’oeuvres (we’ve learned from experience to eat first so there’s something in your belly before the alcohol hits; it’s a lot harder to walk up a hill when you’re dizzy). We were the first to arrive, so we had some time to chat with Tom, and he impressed with his familiarity with the local flora. I’ve been trying to expand my knowledge base of wild edibles, and it’s always fun to talk with someone who knows so much.
After the rest of the guests had arrived and mingled for a bit, things started to get fun, as we took off on our foraging hike. It was a short jaunt down the road, then we got off the beaten path (literally), hiking across a field to reach the wooded hills where the chanterelles lay. Not a steep hill, but a good climb nonetheless, with a ravine to one side that made the girls nervous. It was rather productive, and we found a fair amount of mushrooms, large patches of wild ginger, and even some old remains that may or may not have belonged to Jimmy Hoffa.
Following the hike, we headed back down to the buildings where the main mushroom crop is grown. I won’t get into all the nitty-gritty, but Tom walked us through the methodology, from sterilizing the sawdust and straw, to inoculation and incubation, to harvesting, and finally, compost. It’s really a cool process – part art, part science, and part crazy. Definitely worth a trip if you ever have the opportunity.
And finally, the food. As usual Ben and his awesome team did a fabulous job of incorporating the local goods into a five-course dinner worthy of the fanciest restaurant. And we got to eat it all inside a barn.
I’ve mentioned before that the Plated Landscape is a bit of a splurge (and that’s why they’re annual, and not monthly :)), but it’s entirely worth it.