Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Farming a Wedding part 4: The Chefs

On a cool and sunny saturday morning in February, Karina and I drove up the Taconic to the little town of Clinton Corners, NY.  We were on the way to visit with Don Lewis at the Wild Hive Bakery.  We hoped don could provide us with milled grains, such as corn, wheat, lentils, and the like.  We also wanted to try his cheesecake, and other deserts he has been tinkering with.  

Clinton Corners is really just one corner, with a general store and then the Wild Hive Bakery just down the road.  There are signs for several farms near by.  The town has a very front-porch rural feel to it.
Don's large store/bakery/restaurant is very pleasant, with tables scattered around for in house diners, a large display of grains, and a few refrigerators with food wares from other local producers.  
We found out fairly quickly that Don is a very able and active business man, miller, food producer, but perhaps less accomplished a baker.  His cheesecake was sour and somewhat bland, with a nice texture, but little else to recommend it.  The fruit preserve (made by another local producer) on top was the saving grace of the desert.  But his grains and milled flours were beautiful.  We took a few different kinds home to try.  The cornmeal for polenta was especially good.  
This was a useful visit, as we discovered fairly quickly two important menu factors:  1.  we want his grains!  2.  we don't want his deserts!  All this became academic later on in the afternoon when we began our second meeting of the day, this with Jim and Anthony, our Mohonk chefs.  

The evening before we sat in the living room of Karina's parents house, drinking wine and talking about the wedding.  Her parents suggested we tell the wedding planner that we want to have the most expensive package (complete with Ice Sculpture).  Their thinking was that if we chose the expensive grand buffet then the planners would be more amenable to our (wild and unreasonable) demands for local and beyond organic foods.  
Karina and I, as we have become quite used to doing, took all suggestions in stride and found ways to stick to the original plan.  But a seed was planted in our minds, that maybe the Mohonk people would not be willing to do what we asked for.  Maybe they would not want to work outside of their normal distribution channels.  Perhaps they don't care about local ingredients, but want to work with all the exotic foods available to the modern chef.

With these doubts in mind, we drove up the cliff-clinging road to the Mohonk mountain house. 
Our meeting with the Chefs and mohonk's planner began promptly.  Jim and Anthony came in and almost immediately set our minds at ease.  They were well prepared, having contacted most of our farmers and producers in the week leading up to the meeting.  They knew our plan and were very excited about it.  
Jim said they had never created a menu that was geographically this narrowly guided, and was obviously on board with the concept of paying homage to the land of Mohonk, so to speak.  
Anthony tried to ingratiate himself with suggestions that were quite good for small dishes and some great sounding dessert ideas.  Christina seemed a bit confused by it all, as she tried several times to get us to say exactly which items in the sample menu we wanted to use.  She didn't quite understand that we didn't really want anything from the sample.  Our chefs were with us, talking about creating a menu that tied together the elements of the local foods that were most important, and presenting it in a way that cries out to the glorious bounty of the land.  

Chefs love this shit.  Who knew?  They want to be challenged and excited by food, and too often in a place like mohonk, they are asked just to do the same old thing.  These guys are as enthusiastic as we are.  I was sitting there thinking how stupid we would have been to ask for the big buffet, trying to make allies of those that had already joined our side.  Karina and I left mohonk tired and very happy.  

Though that could all change when we find out just how much extra they want to charge us!

2 comments:

Sarah said...

Sweet--no ice sculpture!

cqmurphy said...

not too worry. *I* will be providing the ice sculpture.