Last evening Claude and I went to an event with Carol Chamberlain (our Director of On-Line Learning. The event was a farm-to-table dinner at Snow Creek Ranch in Larkspur, Colorado. The chef was an old friend of ours who we have done many, many wine and food pairing dinners over the years. Chef Michael Long is now the new chef at a long established french restaurant in Denver called Le Central.
Snow Creek Ranch is known for raising exceptional beef. Like a lot of rancher’s in the US who are small family owned operations, the folks at Snow Creek take pride in raising cattle that are free of hormones, antibiotics and are primarily pastured then finished on a little grain (non-gmo) and flax seed. This was pretty tasty beef!
The skies looked really threatening from Denver to Larkspur and only one of the three of us had an umbrella! The closer we got to Larkspur the darker the skies became and we were wondering if we were in for a sloppy, muddy, wet, experience. The lightening wasn’t terrible like it has been all spring. But there wasn’t one patch of blue sky to be seen anywhere on the horizon.
The invitation to the dinner said “rain or shine”! That would leave one to believe that we were going to have this dinner in a barn regardless of the weather. So we kept heading toward the ranch which is only about 20 miles outside the Denver-metro area.
By the time we got through rush hour traffic and turned off the highway toward Larkspur and the ranch the skies began to clear up and it looked like we were going to dodge the weather bullet we had been worried about.
It was just a few miles down the road to the ranch and we began looking for the “farm dinner” signs that would lead us to the property. In a few minutes we arrived and were directed to park at the entrance to the ranch. When we got out we were told that the ranch’s antique hay wagon would be picking us up from the parking area and giving us a ride to the dinner.
I love being in the country and had been looking forward to this dinner for over a month. Nothing was going to stop me from having a great time and pretending to be a “country girl”. Well at least for an evening!
The hay wagon arrived and I have to admit that for a girl with pretty short legs it was a little challenging, and less than lady like or graceful, getting on the hay wagon! I watched everyone else’s attempt at that and decided that only one person who had really long legs attempted that challenge with ease.
After a short ride we arrived at the barn! I love barns and have dreamed of owning one for more than 3 decades now. So I was as happy as a pig in mud when they announced that dinner was going to be in the barn. I simply could not wait! To keep us occupied for the hour before dinner we got a walking tour of the farm. There were chickens to feed, baby kittens to watch, samples of delicious grilled meats to taste, a craft beer to try, horses to give carrots to, and passed appetizers to feed our growling stomachs.
The ranch has bees (which were not quite into producing honey just yet) and a straw bale garden. If you don’t know what straw bale gardening is it is where you dig a hole in a bale of hay, put in a little dirt and the plants you want to grow, water it and you have an instant above ground garden that requires no weeding and bending over to tend! There is some preparation that has to happen before you actually plant in a straw bale but basically it is almost as simple as I just described.
Two summers ago I tried straw bale gardening in a community garden with decent results. I planted the big space hogs like squash and melons in the bales. They did pretty well.
One of the kids kept bees as a business. He sold the honey as a way to make money. The older boys helped at the farmer’s markets sampling beef and being the next generation of “grill masters”. Other’s tend the horses, cows and chickens.
The menu for the dinner was down-home-food from the appetizer’s to the dessert. Something came off the farm in each course. The rest course was a salad in a mason jar. It had heirloom tomatoes, fresh arugula, homemade ricotta cheese and a poached egg on top. It hit the spot!
While I did not shoot photos of each course (I was too busy answering questions about being a chef and blogger) I though you would enjoy seeing the photo’s I took of the property. It was well manicured, had interesting architecture, and we all felt really welcome and at home.
There were 40 of us “city folks” at this wonderful experience and we had a hard time “skedattling” back to the city!
The menu for the evening was as follows:
Smoked Trout Cucumber Canapes
Sweet Dates with Goat Cheese
Grilled Chicken with Green Tomatoes
Tuscan Salad in a Jar
Grilled Snow Creek Tri-Tip Sirloin
Beer Braised Beets
Roasted New Potatoes with Spring Onions and Garlic
“Bee-Stung” Honey Cake with Whipped Cream and Stone Fruit
Agri-tourism is on the rise. More and more farms and ranchers are offering unique events as part of their attempt to help all of us get educated about where our food comes from. Think of the wine country. They have done a really great job of Agri-tourism. Now the vegetable growers and livestock ranchers are beginning to create events that bring us out to the farm. It can be dinner’s like the one we went to last night, a pumpkin patch, corn maze, pick you own vegetable farm or variety of other types of events. It is so fun, relaxing, and educational. If you have the opportunity to do a little Agri-tourism event in your area I highly recommend it.