Magic at the Farm: My First Dinner with Chef Schu
Hi everybody, I'm Sarah, retail and food prep helper at Heirloom Cookshop and the lucky snagger of the last two tickets to Chef Schu's dinner at Carnation Farm this weekend. I wanted to share with you how amazing this dinner was, from the setting to the food to the company.
The evening started out with a little unplanned adventure -- we followed some questionable directions from a maps app that will not be named (because my husband works there…) and ended up driving for several miles on gravel and grass roads through farmland in Carnation, only to end up maybe 100 feet from where we needed to be but behind a locked gate. All I can say is thank goodness for all-wheel-drive cars. We finally made it to the venue just in time to sample Chef's bacon jam-stuffed vol-au-vents, basically puff pastry filled with the most amazing savory jam, and crostini with blue cheese and nectarine and elderflower jam and drink a much needed glass of Baer's Shard chardonnay (okay, maybe two glasses). Then we got a quick tour of the farm from Rosy Smit, Director of Education, who showed us cool stuff like apples growing on a trellis, how to cut the tops off of your Brussels sprouts plants to make them produce more, and peppers and melons growing inside a greenhouse that can be built in a couple of hours. So cool!
By this point, the weather was getting a little crazy -- lots of heavy rain and spectacular lightning -- so we headed to the covered dining area to sit down with the 38 other guests at two long tables. We were seated near some lovely people -- a fascinating family with two charming middle-schoolers who had spent a bunch of time in Finland and now live in Fall City, two women from Seattle, and a couple of recent transplants from Washington, DC, who actually live not too far from us on Snoqualmie Ridge. (Hi guys, if you're reading! You were delightful dinner company.) The atmosphere was just amazing -- we were so cozy in the covered space with heat lamps and the rain falling outside. I turned to my husband and told him that I needed a pause button; the moment was just too perfect. And then the food started coming, and it got even better.
We got to listen to Les Baer, proprietor of Baer Winery, tell us about all of the wine pairings for the evening (all delicious!), and then the first course arrived. It was a red kuri -- looks like a funky red pumpkin -- and butternut squash soup with some crumbled spicy Italian sausage from Skagit River Ranch and topped with Chef's famous fennel-salt croutons (available for purchase at the Cookshop) and pickled kohlrabi slaw. The combination of creamy, spicy, and tangy was perfect. The soup was paired with more Baer Shard, which melded perfectly with the strong flavors of the soup.
Next up was the most beautiful salad of French sorrel (tastes like lemon-flavored lettuce -- it's amazing), thinly sliced radishes, ground cherries (like a cross between a cherry and a tomato), edible flowers, and burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made of mozzarella and cream), all very lightly dressed with an orange-fennel vinaigrette. My husband said it was the most amazing salad he's ever had, and I have to concur. The flavors were so fresh and distinctive -- the epitome of farm-to-table dining. And I got to show off and tell everybody what the ground cherries were (Chef Schu had let us taste them at the Cookshop a few days earlier), which was fun. The salad was paired with Baer's Ursa, a red blend that's basically half Merlot and half Cab Franc, with some Cab Sauv and a little bit of Petit Verdot thrown in. It was light and fruity and delicious.
The main course -- and my favorite of the evening -- was Skagit River Ranch porchetta, a pork roast, served over hominy grits, kale and Swiss chard ragout, and fried sage leaves. So rich and delicious and yet still filled with delicate flavors straight from the farm. The porchetta was paired with Baer's Arctos, another red blend that's heavy on the Cab Sauv -- a powerful wine that complemented the richness of the main course perfectly.
Dessert was a slice of dense polenta cake topped with cinnamon crème fraiche, hazelnut brittle, and this INSANE sauce called cajeta, a Mexican caramel sauce made with goat's milk. Chef told us "no judgment" if we wanted to lick our plates clean, and no joke, people actually did. Dessert was served with Stumptown Coffee, which is my favorite and also available at the Cookshop by the cup and in bean form.
Such a dinner! I couldn't imagine a more perfect evening, except maybe the off-roading part. I can't wait to experience Chef Schu's next epic menu. I am now on a mission to make a monthly Chef's dinner happen at the Cookshop very soon. Stay tuned for ticket info! You definitely have to experience one of Chef Schu's mind-blowing four-course dinners yourself.