Update on 10/22/10: The original post incorrectly credited the blueberry-apple cobbler. That tasty creation was made by Cassie’s mom, Esther. My sincere apologies!
Last Saturday night, Charlotte Fresh and Hubby had a treat – we attended the 4th annual on-farm dinner at Grateful Growers Farm. Grateful Growers, Harvest Moon Grille, their guest chefs, local farmers, over 25 volunteers and the team at Shade of Green Events did a fantastic job, creating a beautiful setting with a delicious family-style meal for over 140 guests.
Before dinner, Natalie Veres took us on a tour of the farm because everyone should know where their good food comes from. Three rules when visiting the farm: watch your step, don’t touch the fence and don’t touch the animals. We saw the cute piglets, a large sow, a few turkeys, the vermiculture (worm composting) bin and the mushroom logs. The lucky pigs get a proprietary feed that Natalie has milled just for them, plus vegetable remainders from the garden and an organic produce seller. Scraps from the Harvest Moon Grille go into the vermiculture bin to be be broken down into more black gold for the veggie garden.
We were so engrossed in what Natalie was saying that Cassie Parsons had to call us in from the tour because dinner was ready. We had some fabulous chefs cooking that evening, many of them from GG’s own Harvest Moon Grille: Chris Coleman (McNinch House Restaurant), Sibyl Durant (Friendship Trays), Benjamin Frye (HMG), Elizabeth Hales (Compass Group USA), Reg Ham, Jonathan Papkin (HMG), John Parham (HMG), Cassie Parsons (HMG) and Chuck Satterfield (HMG). All of the chefs did a fantastic job, taking care and showcasing the beautiful food that Natalie grows, but I’ll call out some of my favorite dishes of the evening:
- Hmong shitake griddle cake – Chef Benjamin Frye
- Tender braised pork shoulder with amazing corn bread – Chef Elizabeth Hales
- Lemon-brined gluten-free fried chicken with rice flour – Chef Jonathan Papkin
- Wash day apple stack cake – Chef Chuck Satterfield
- Bacon praline favors – who made these nummy things???
As you can probably guess, this was a very, very local meal. We were served pork, chicken, duck, mushrooms and sweet potatoes (all raised or grown on Grateful Growers Farm) family-style until we were literally stuffed to the gills. The remaining fresh produce came from farms within 50 miles of them: Wade Farm, Mulberry Farm, Lloyd Lewis Farm, Bost Grist Mill, Freedom Farm, Davis & Son Orchard, and Delwood Acres. I believe the rice was grown by the United Hmong Association of Catawba County. Ice cream was made by Tony’s Ice Cream, a family-run restaurant in Gastonia. Beverages provided by GG were all from North Carolina.
This year’s dinner was also a benefit for Friendship Trays, an organization relying on 100 amazing volunteers per day to deliver 700 meals per day (along 87 routes!) to the elderly, handicapped, and convalescing people in our area who are unable to prepare or to secure their own meals. Friendship Trays is Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s own “meals-on-wheels program” operating since 1976. Everyone participated in a “pass-the-hat” that raised a bunch of money for the organization. Yay!
Altogether it was a wonderful evening – great company, a beautiful setting – highlighting my favorite thing: fresh, local food. If you local foodies missed it this time around, you definitely want to put it on your calendar for next year. Oh, and one bonus green fact: only 16% of the waste generated from the event went to the landfill; the rest was reused, recycled or composted. Great job, guys!
For more pics from this event, see my album on Facebook.