The 11th Annual Celebration of Connecticut Farms hosted by Jones Family Farm in Shelton on September 11 was a spectacular day – both in terms of the weather and the event itself. Two immense tents shaded an impressive lineup of 24 restaurants, 10 wineries, breweries, a distillery, artisan food producers and specialty retailers as they prepared and served their best seasonal food and beverages made with CT Grown ingredients from more than 50 farms.
Fine farm-to-table restaurants including the Dressing Room in Westport and Heirloom in New Haven, plus more casual eateries including Boxcar Cantina in Greenwich and Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro in New Haven, served tantalizing mini versions of menu favorites. Celebrity cheesemonger Jason Sobocinski of Caseus, aka “The Big Cheese” on the Cooking Channel, served wedges of perfectly toasted grilled cheese sandwiches made from both cow and goat’s milk cheeses from Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm and Whole G’s Bread. “Every cheese has a story” said Sobocinski. He should know. Caseus Fromagerie sells more than 175 cheeses, 70% of which are from the US. He recently visited and made cheese with small and large producers alike in Utah, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, California, and of course Connecticut with the Cooking Channel for a series that aims to educate the public about cheese. The Cheese Truck is a mobile offshoot of Caseus Bistro which sells grilled cheese sandwiches, soups and salads in the city of New Haven. In fine food truck tradition, you can follow the The Cheese Truck @caseusgrilled on Twitter to find the day’s location and what’s being featured on the menu.
Micro distilled spirits are all the rage and we’re lucky to have a top notch distiller that crafts European-style spirits using local ingredients in Ashford, CT. The impressive and ever-growing line of artisan distilled spirits from Westford Hill Distillers belong in every household and restaurant bar. We sampled their aged apple brandy (Calvados) made from a custom blend of three different varieties of CT Grown apples, organic vodka made from corn, and fruit eau-de-vies (clear brandies) made from local orchard fruit. If you’re ever in need of a gift to impress the impossible foodie, reach straight for the Poire Prisionniere (imprisoned pear) version of their Poire William. The whole Bartlett pear literally grows inside the heart-shaped bottle in the orchard. Pear eau die vie is added after the pear, and bottle, are harvested in unison.
After guests were sated from several hours of tasting, the stage switched from live music to an address from honorary event co-chairs Jacques Pepin, Faith Middleton and Christine Baranski. Jacques Pepin gave a touching tribute to his fellow food professionals who lost their lives in the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11. Farmer Terry Jones’ address snapped us all to attention. You can’t ignore a “Call to Farms” that includes a homework assignment to grow healthy food, serve it to every citizen in our state, and harvest health and jobs. It was “Farm to Kids” that clinched it for me. Jones said that he’d been invited by Governor Malloy to serve on the State Board of Education and was working with “fierce cooperation and determination to have every kid in our state have access to CT Grown food in their schools.” He asked every eater to think with intention, each time we eat and drink, about where it comes from and how our future depends on choosing local food.
The Annual Celebration of Connecticut Farms is an important fundraiser for Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT), the only private organization dedicated solely to preserving working farmland in the state of Connecticut. Since its founding in 2002, CFT has worked to preserve over 2,000 acres of farmland on 26 farms throughout the state and worked with partners to preserve an additional 600. For more information about how CFT works to preserve our precious working farmland, or to volunteer or make a donation, please visit them online at www.CTFarmland.org or call 860-247-0202.