By Elizabeth Keyser
It’s a triumvirate. Farmers, artisans and chefs. A holy trinity, like onions, celery and carrots. They, and those who worship them, came together at Laurel Ridge Farm Sunday, Sept. 12, for the 10th Annual Celebration of Connecticut Farms. The fundraiser for CT Farmland Trust, which works to protect the state’s diminishing farmland, brought out two giant tents full of restaurateurs and artisan food producers offering tastes of their goods — grass fed beef, sustainably caught seafood, local organic vegetables, raw milk cheeses, wines, spirits, and ales.
“This is the foodie event of the year,” said someone I never expected to run into. Musician Tim Stone was playing keyboards with the band. “I hope [the band] invites me back every year,” he said between bites.
Jacque Pépin , honorary chairman, summed it up in his short speech, “When I came to this country, a chef was very low on the social scale,” he said. He applauded the spotlight on the people who farm and those who “make the cheese, make the wine. We are nothing without the artisan.”
The event was held at Laurel Ridge Farm in Litchfield. I spoke to John Morosani, who left a career on Wall Street to raise grass-fed beef and pigs. (I bought pork belly from John last year and had my first run-in with boar bristles that weren’t on a hairbrush.)
I was trying the Caseus Cheese Truck’s grilled cheese sandwich (made with Cato Corner Bridgid’s Abbey cheese and sourdough bread), when Jaques Pépin enthusiastically reached in and grabbed a sandwich. I asked if I could get a picture. “Oh, with this guy?” Jacques said, pointing to Jason Sobocinski, Caseus’s owner. Jason picked up a grilled sandwich with a pair of tongs and Jacques mimicked diving into the sandwich teeth first, growling greedily. The delay in my camera resulted in a shot showing Jacques ‘s immediate devilish, “how’d you like that?” smile. Like Julia Child, Jacques is a ham.
Connecticut Public Radio’s Faith Middleton said in her speech, “I love this man for his humility, his intelligence and his humor.” Faith also spoke of her pleasure in taking around honorary chair and Tony-award winning actress Christine Baranski, and telling her “This is the best this and this is the best this.”
Who else was there? Who wasn’t? Tyler Anderson, who will be filming an episode of Chopped Champions Oct. 25, told me that the Copper Beech Inn and Brasserie Pip in Ivoryton are being recreated as one restaurant. He said it will have a modern flair, but still use French technique. Think snails gratin. And Duck Rossini. “But with a lower price point,” he said.
The folks at The Mill at 2T were offering their take on the BLT – roasted pork belly on ripe heirloom tomato dressed with 25 year-old-balsamic, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and radish sprouts from Keeds Farm in Woodbury.
The best thing I tried all day (and I went back and ate a second one), was Le Farm’s caramelized Stonington scallops, barely cooked inside, and resting on summer squash salad with pine nuts, and topped with marinated beets. Every flavor component was spot on.
Peter Gorman, the chef at The Unquowa School, was offering a taste of gazpacho made from Sport Hill Farm tomatoes. He pointed out the quart of tomato sauce he’s made, one of the many jars he’s canned — 25 gallons so far made from “seconds.” He hopes to put up 80 gallons, enough to get Unquowa through the whole school year.
The best way to end the day’s indulgences was at the booth of Westford Hill Distillers, where Margaret Chatey offered tastes of Eau-de-Vies – brandies made from Connecticut stone fruit. The flavor of the pears from Lyman’s Orchard came through in the fiery Pear Williams. And hearing about the five varieties of apples that go into their 12-year aged apple brandy, distilled in a still designed and built by Holstein of Bavaria, made me put their Oct. 2 open house and tour on my calendar.
Elizabeth Keyser is an award-winning freelance writer based in Fairfield, CT whose work has been published in GQ, American Photo, The New York Times, The New York Post, Connecticut Magazine, Edible Nutmeg, the Yankee Brew News and newspapers in Connecticut and Massachusetts.