It’s not every day that you get to sit down for dinner with the farmer who supplied the ingredients you are about to enjoy. Last week growers and producers who are members of the Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour were invited to a longtable dinner at Tanglebank Gardens to dine with local media. This unique ‘meet and greet’ was catered by Chef Sarah Kruk of Brambles Bistro (at Tanglebank) and a memorable six course meal was served up, putting passion on the plate and respecting the local ingredients.
Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour Dinner
I sat across from the charming husband and wife team, Tim and Flo Rempel, that lead Rockweld Farm. This dynamic duo can be found selling their SPCA certified, organic-fed chicken and eggs at up to 16 farmers markets in the Greater Vancouver area.
The first course was served as guests mingled about Tanglebank’s covered garden entrance with glasses of Maan Farms Blackberry Wine in hand. Name tags identified members of the media and farm participants as introductions were made and directions to farms were given.
Course: Mini bacon confit duck cabbage roll with ginger-bramble berry wine reduction
Producer/Farmer: One Love Farm cabbage, Maan Farms blackberry wine, Campbell’s ginger honey
“Did you see the blue fence when you drove in?” asked Arina Onnick from Onnick’s Blueberry Farm who wore a beautiful lavender cape and custom jewelry she designed herself. She took over the farm from her father a few years ago and continues to produce high quality, plump, juicy blueberries along with creative treats, like the thoughtfully decorated bonbons we enjoyed at the end of the night.
Once the first rich spoonful of the sweet cabbage rolls made it to everyone’s lips seats were taken and the next six courses began.
Course: Chicken velouté with early harvest vegetables
Producer/Farmer: Rockweld Farm chicken, Lepp Farm Market corn, Brambles carrots and turnips
The savoury, silky soup was paired with a 2012 Symmetry by Mt Lehman Winery. The blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Ehrefelser, Riesling and Oraniensteiner brought out sweeter notes from the corn in the velouté.
As I chatted with Tim and Flo of Rockweld we realized their chicken was the star attraction of the dish. They were asked to stand up and tell the group a bit more about their family business, and this introduction continued throughout the rest of the courses as each farmer stood to tell their story and share how their product came to be on our plates.
There’s really nothing like a good meal and a great story, and I could have listened to Tim and Flo talk about raising their chicken until the proverbial cows came home. Stories about their community, their family, and how Tim discovered that his baby chicks like country music. We were only one course down and I had already got so much out of this dinner.
Course: Tomme goat cheese and duo of beets
Producer/Farmer: Mt Lehman Goat Cheese, Brambles beets, honey and micro-greens, Taves Apple Barn Elstar apples
Course: Cider-braised pork with caramelized Russian garlic jus, blue capri and hazelnut twice-baked soufflé, honey-roasted pumpkin and harvest vegetable purée
Producer/Farmer: Lepp Farm Market pork shoulder, One Love Russian garlic and winter luxury pumpkin, Mt Lehman goat cheese, Taves Apple Barn cider and cinderella pumpkin, Campbell’s squash honey and honeycomb
If you could put autumn on a plate, this main dish (pictured above) would be it. Apples, pumpkin, pork, cider, honey, oh my! I didn’t know where to start. The pork shoulder was succulent and my fork slid through picking up tender morsels that I smothered in garlic and honey. The soufflé cut through all of the sweetness on the plate, adding a dry and savoury balance the soft and sticky components.
I don’t think Charlotte Lepp finished her story about how their market grew from humble beginnings as a corn stand on the side of the highway before we were all scooping up the last bites on our plates, getting very close to licking them clean.
Course: Mead poached pear and brown butter shortbread tart with Concord coulis and pecan praline ice cream.
Producer/Farmer: Campbell’s mead, Lepp pears, Birchwood ice cream
Moving onto dessert, we finally heard from Judy and Mike Campbell who could teach you everything there is to know about honey and mead. Health benefits, recipes, how to make award-winning mead, how to get honey flavoured by flourishing crops from local farms, and more.
I first met the Campbells last year during an Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour and this charming couple is a wealth of information about all things bees. Their honey and honeycomb added a unique touch to many of the dishes at this event.
Course: Blueberry bonbon
Producer/Farmer: Onnick’s Blueberry Farm
Arina Onnick was the last farmer to speak as she told of her blueberry ventures into iced teas, bonbons, coffee, and other tempting creations with her six different varieties grown sustainably, food-safe, cannon-free, and using ethical agricultural practices. Arina’s creative and lovingly crafted chocolates were the perfect way to end the meal with those last sips of Mt Lehman Winery’s late harvest Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc.
More information about the Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour — a self-guided tour that takes you around farm-gate shops and markets in the area — is available online and via Tourism Abbotsford. Our hosts at Tanglebank will offer longtable dinners with Circle Farm Tour members in 2015 so be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news.