By Analiese Paik
The kids are back in school and the weather has cooled off a bit, but summer isn’t over yet. Capturing the fleeting days, and tastes, of summer is easy to do in Fairfield County. We are lucky to have abundant farms, farm stands, farmers’ markets and restaurants working hard to make sure that the best of what they have to offer makes its way to our lips. Here’s my “don’t miss” list of things to do before summer’s nothing but a distant, sweet memory.
- Have an Heirloom Tomato Salad
Heirloom vegetables are prized for their unique flavors and the spectacular tomatoes, which come in every shape, size and color combination imaginable (my son asked for neon orange and yellow and we got close), are the stars of the show. When you slice into a ripe heirloom tomato, take note of the aromas that escape. Then cut yourself a small piece and taste it, plain. Isn’t it incredible? Nobody should let the summer go by without a slice of heirloom tomato on their burger or BLT. But the purest way to enjoy an heirloom tomato is to serve it sliced or in wedges sprinkled with a good sprinkling of sea salt and healthy drizzle of the best extra virgin olive oil and vinegar you can get. Try Olivette’s Chilean Hojiblanca extra virgin olive oil – it tastes like tomatoes! Add some sliced mozzarella and fresh basil and you’ve got a more substantial Insalata Caprese.
- Dine at King’s Kitchen at Southport Beach
Dinner at the beach usually means preparing and packing up a feast. Not so at Southport Beach. Since Three Kings took over the food concession at the beach this summer, it’s become a mecca for beach goers in search of real food. “We’re really about the farm to table concept and want to change the way people think about concession food” said founder and head chef Hunter King the night we had dinner at King’s Kitchen. The menu was full of fresh and exciting, seasonal dishes that won a thumbs up from all 11 of us. Burgers made from Ox Hollow Farm’s grass-fed beef, lobster rolls, fish tacos (they filet their own wild-caught fish), salads featuring greens from 2 Guys from Woodbridge and other organic farms vending at the Westport and New Canaan Farmers’ Markets and corn on the cob. Expect chairside service when they’re not slammed. Even when they are servicing a long line of customers, they all seem to be enjoying themselves and their popularity. Go, relax, and enjoy. Just bring mosquito repellant at night and mind the parking restrictions for non-residents.
- Meet a Friend for Lunch at the Westport Farmers’ Market
Vegans, vegetarians, raw foodies and carnivores alike will find a lunch vendor to suit their tastes at the Westport Farmers’ Market. Shop and have lunch outdoors at the market with a friend while enjoying the last glorious days of summer. If it’s a particularly hot day, start with a maple lemon shave ice from Doc’s Maple Syrup. It’s the most unique and delicious heat buster of the summer. Boxcar Cantina serves sustainable Southwestern style food including tamales and tacos, Skinny Pines bakes artisan pizzas topped with local-in-season ingredients in their mobile brick oven, Kaia Cafe vends organic juices, salads and wraps, Sugar & Olives offers cold composed salads and delicious sweets, and Du Soleil Fine Foods sells a variety of prepared foods. Rotating vendors include Cabbage & Kings Catering, a 28-year-old catering business featuring “locally sourced and grounded in organic” prepared foods and Sixpence Pie Company which specializes in empanadas and quiches made with ingredients sourced from local farms. The market runs on Thursdays from 10-2 (get there early for the best selection) through November at the Imperial Avenue Municipal Lot in Westport (the market moves to Gilbertie’s of Westport for the winter where you can still have lunch indoors!).
- Attend Schoolhouse at Cannondale’s Farm-to-Fork Dinner at Millstone Farm
Don’t feel bad if you’re missed all the on-farm dinner events this summer. You have another chance to get to know and enjoy a local farm and dine on food prepared by a top farm-to-table chef. Chef/Owner Tim LaBant of the Schoolhouse at Cannondale will prepare a Farm to Fork Dinner at Millstone Farm in Wilton on Wednesday, September 19 featuring local vegetables and wines (BYOB welcome). The evening begins with a farm tour at 6:00 pm and dinner at 7:00. Please email your request for seats to email@example.com and they will contact you to make final arrangements. Dinner is $100 per person plus 20% gratuity and tax for a total of $126.35.
- Learn to Put up Summer Fruit or Produce
You want to make tomato sauce and can it for the winter months, but the process seems daunting. Maybe even scary. You’re in good company. Canning workshops are one of the best way to overcome your fears because they offer hands-on learning. On Saturday, September 8, from 9 am-12 noon, Wakeman Town Farm is offering the public a chance to learn the basics of canning and how to make both delicious jam and tomato sauce. You’ll even be able to take a few jars home to stock the pantry! The cost is $35 if pre-registered, $40 at the door. Wakeman Town Farm is located at 134 Cross Highway in Westport. Space is limited; please register early. Click here to register: http://www.westportct.gov/index.aspx?page=697 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot.
- Learn to Save Your Favorite Seeds
Did you grow outstanding fruit or produce in your garden this year and wish you could duplicate it next year by saving your own seeds? Millstone Farm in Wilton is hosting a seed saving workshop on Saturday, September 8, from 1pm – 4pm with Marta McDowell, a lecturer/gardener at the New York Botanical Gardens and Drew University. Guests will learn how to save seeds from their prized vegetables, grains and flowers in order to propagate plants with those same healthy genes year after year. This workshop covers how to collect seeds, store them, and then start them when the time is right next year. RSVP to email@example.com or call (203) 834-2605. Cost: $30 per person.
- Visit a Farm Stand or Farmers’ Market
“Epic fail” is what my kids would say to someone who hasn’t been to a farm stand or farmers’ market this summer. Why? Because you’re missing out. Nothing, except what you grow in your own backyard, compares to the flavor of locally grown produce and fruit. The corn is spectacular, eggplant sublime roasted or grilled, tomatoes bursting with tomato-ness, and cucumbers just asking to be pickled. Chances are you’ll find something you’ve never had before and will really enjoy it. And if you don’t know how to prepare it, just ask a farmer. Use our guides to Organic Farm Stands and Farmers’ Markets to find the perfect place for you.
- Try out the Barcelona/Farmigo CSA
Perhaps you missed joining a CSA this summer and are wondering whether to do so in the fall. Now, thanks to an innovative, multi-farm CSA program being hosted by Barcelona Fairfield, you can easily test the waters. Farmigo’s online program allows subscribers to the Barcelona-hosted CSA to order online from a list of local farms and pick up their orders each week at the restaurant. You order week to week, or leave a standing order, depending on your needs. Current offerings include organic produce from Sport Hill Farm and Cote’s Naturals (organic practices), eggs from Sport Hill Farm, bread from Wave Hill Bread and maple syrup from Doc’s (USDA Certified Organic). Orders placed by Sunday are ready for pick up each Tuesday between 3 and 8 pm at Barcelona Fairfield. Read our feature article about Barcelona’s Farmigo CSA to learn more.
- Visit Jones Winery in Shelton
Yes, Virginia, there are wineries in Fairfield County, but not many. Say goodbye to summer with a glass of wine in your hand at Jones Winery’s tasting room, Each Friday through Sunday, $7 buys you a tasting of their current selections and a logo wine glass. Jones Winery’s Pinot Gris Vintner’s Selection 2010 and Black Currant Bouquet received first place awards in the recent CT Specialty Food Awards Competition‘s dry white and fruit categories, respectively. To learn more about Jones Winery, please read our feature story. The Tasting Room is open Friday through Sunday from 11 am-5 pm and is located at 606 Walnut Tree Hill Road, Shelton, CT, at their Homestead Farm.
- Attend the Live Green CT! Festival – We’re Going Live!
Haven’t been yet? It’s a great place to learn how to live a more sustainable lifestyle with the whole family while enjoying the sunshine. Please join me for a special Fairfield Green Food Guide LIVE! event in the speaker’s tent on Sunday from 1-2 pm where I’ll honor a few of the pioneers in the local-sustainable restaurant movement. Visit the free festival on Saturday and Sunday, September 15 and 16, at Taylor Farm Park in Norwalk. Come hungry and participate in the Food Incentive Program courtesy of Ford. Ford will offer festival attendees a meal voucher worth up to $15 for test driving their Focus Electric or C-MAX Hybrid. The meal vouchers can be used at any of the food vendors, including Skinny Pines and The Stand. More food vendors TBA.