Yes, there’s something arguably quirky about spending a hefty amount of money to sit at a long table in a field and eat food. Yet again, Chris and I and our foodie friend Julie shelled out our shekels for a farm dinner. As our table compatriot Allison put it (who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley), “My folks would be immensely amused to see 100 people walking around a farm, be enthralled by a coop of chickens, and then sit at a long table in a field eating grilled pig’s liver.” More on the pig’s liver in a moment.
The lovely fall evening and golden glow of the setting sun across Arcadia’s hilltop farm was enchanting. Billed as a beer dinner and sponsored by Outstanding in the Field, the cuisine was prepared by the rocking husband and wife chef team of Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac, of Birch & Barley and Buzz fame.
The pièce de résistance, however, was getting a preview of the brew created by Greg Engert, the beer director of the soon-to-open Bluejacket. As a foodie, getting the privilege of tasting something before anyone else does just makes my day. Julie, a beer aficionada, was ecstatic.
Appetizers – sunchoke soup, steak & kidney terrine and fennel & onion flatbread with roasted pears – were paired with Bluejacket Batch #5: Galaxy Kölsch. Be still my beating heart! The clear, bright, straw-yellow hue and crisp but low-key hoppiness paired wonderfully.
Chef Bailey’s menu was definitely farmy. Next up was a wheatberry salad with roasted squash, kale & pumpkin seeds; a peach, grilled cukes, sage, ginger & ricotta salad; and then (yes, here it comes!), a deviled & grilled pig’s liver with a mixture of roasted cipolline, torpedo and red zeppelin onions with mustard greens. Paired with Bluejacket Batch #12: Black Lager, the brew was a welcome palate cleanser after the distinctive strong flavor of the liver. (Can you tell I’m not a fan of liver? I’m trying to be diplomatic here).
Continuing on the theme of unusual farm ingredients, a creste de gallo pasta with confit of chicken thigh, cockscomb (yes, you read that right), corn, lemon and thyme was next. Aside from the visual of a cockscomb jiggling happily on top of a live chicken’s head, and now on my plate, the taste was merely fatty. An OK dish, but nothing I would run out and order.
Next, a pompano escabeche with crispy okra, roasted sweet potatoes and sweet potato greens was served. This was my favorite dish. The pompano was perfectly grilled and the accompanying vegetables were a lovely sweet and salty foil to the delicate fish.
Served with these two dishes was Bluejacket & De Struise Batch #8: Belgian Blond. Oh my. They could have left the whole pitcher just for me and I would have been thoroughly content. Lightly hazy golden color with a fruity creamy quality, the brew went perfectly with the fish.
I’m not going to dwell on the next course – a grilled goatchetta with curry, tarragon yogurt & eggplant and then a roasted culatello with braised turnip greens. Just way too earthy (thinking haggis here!) for my palate, especially after the delicacy of the pompano. Served with a Bluejacket Batch #19: Dunkelweizen, again the beer was the shining star of the course.
That said, next came dessert. Sorry Kyle, but your wife Tiffany kicked your creste de gallo!
Cardamom infused homemade graham crackers, some dipped in dark chocolate, some in white chocolate, were served with homemade vanilla bean marshmallows. Little sternos were lit and shared 4 per person. You guessed it – we made our own s’mores. Served with Bluejacket Batch #17: Imperial Stout, that has a lovely deep chocolate and coffee mouth, the dessert was ethereal.
All in all, this farm dinner ranks far behind the Arcadia Farm Dinner this spring. While previewing the Bluejacket brews was amazing, the food was just too gamey for my palate. Can’t wait to try Bluejacket when it opens to taste other cuisine with the artisanal beer that Greg is producing.