September 4th, 2017 12:00 PM
Marty Travis talks at the last farm dinner at The Heritage/Photo: David Hammond
The Heritage in Forest Park has kicked off a series of farm dinners that build on the harvest bounty of local farms and feature guest appearances by the farmers who grow the food that guests enjoy.
"One of our biggest goals and inspirations for opening The Heritage," explains owner Mischa DeHart, "was to create a seasonal dining experience with a menu that's constantly changing. We've found that the best ways to achieve that is to talk directly to our farmers and purveyors and find out not only what products they have available but what products they're excited about."
One of the ways that The Heritage communicates that excitement is by having farmers like Marty Travis of Spence Farm come in to have dinner with the rest of guests and talk about the grains and vegetables they grew and that The Heritage serves.
It's not easy coordinating a menu using fruits and vegetables that the farmer might be harvesting the day of the dinner. Agriculture is a notoriously uncertain business: you never know how the weather or other environmental factors may affect the harvest.
Chef/partner Sieger Bayer says that the seasonality of the product is foremost, though using products at the peak of ripeness can be challenging. "Do we rewrite a menu numerous times? YES! Does it come down to the eleventh hour sometimes? YES again. This is what makes doing seasonal-focused dinners so much fun for us and enjoyable for our guests. A great example is the first dish we served: a green salad composed of everything Marty brought in that day. Salad greens, kale, arugula, squash blossoms, borage flowers, nasturtium flowers, fennel flowers, dill and mint all came in minutes before guests sat down."
"We'd love," says Chef/partner Michael Spiewak, "to make our guests more aware of what the farms are doing and that with every meal they have here, they're supporting over 60 farms in the group. It's less about us and more about what the farms are bringing to the table."
When we were at The Heritage for a recent farm dinner, the restaurant was packed, and that's probably because, as DeHart explains, "people genuinely care about where their food comes from and how it's grown. Any restaurant can claim that they are 'farm to table,' but that doesn't tell the whole story. Having Marty sit down with you for a meal cooked with produce that he picked from the ground the day before is truly a special, memorable experience."
According to General Manager/partner Jeff Wilson, "the next Spence Farm Dinner is coming up on Wednesday, September 20th, and we have one planned for October as well. In speaking to Marty during his last delivery, we decided that we will continue to do the dinner once a month, provided there is enough seasonal product available from the farms."
And that's the challenge and the beauty of farm dinners: the seasons of the natural world determine what you'll be served on any given day and it's up to chefs like Bayer and Spiewak to come up with winning preparations, sometimes on-the-spot. This gives the dinners an immediacy that makes the attending a farm dinner an exciting – and delicious – way to spend the evening.
7403 W. Madison
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