Last night's Simple, Good, and Tasty local food event at Lucia's was truly amazing. Sure, there was the menu, created by Lucia Watson herself and perfectly executed in every way. And there was the great service, attentive and generous. There was the opportunity to meet and mingle with an astounding collection of people, just over 60 of us in total. There was the beautiful setting, the terrific organic wine, and the t-shirts that Lucia sent us all home with that said, "We know our Farmers better than we know our Doctors." But what really made the night so especially fulfilling wasn't any of that.
It was the farmers.
Our farmers were the rockstars at Lucia's last night. Besides creating a menu consisting almost entirely of foods produced by local farmers (mostly those in the room), Lucia made sure that there was at least one farmer sitting at every table. I was glad to talk with Lonny and Sandy Dietz from Whitewater Gardens, who explained that they were literally "betting the farm" on their new greenhouse so they could grow produce year round. Then I got to discuss the challenges of cooking from a CSA box with Jack Hedin from Featherstone Farm. Then I spoke with Joni Cash and Don Roberts about trying to connect with the local food scene while busily running Otter Creek Growers. And on, and on, and on. Lucia even had our farmers switch tables before dessert, giving guests the opportunity to meet more of them and to ask more questions.
It was amazing to walk around the room and eavesdrop, because here was entire room full of smart, fun, distinguished, normal people - all talking about good, real food. I overheard conversations about sustainability, conversations about apple orchards (and the SweeTango), conversations about organic berries and Minnesota wines. I heard about Poulet Rouge chickens, cheese made from sheep's mik, and Peace Coffee - and at least a hundred other things that I wanted to dig into more deeply.
The food - of course - was amazing, from the cauliflower soup and mushroom duxelles to the local greens and spinach salad with Big Woods blue cheese to the Poulet Rouge chicken stuffed with chicken apple sausage to the prime rib with Yorkshire pudding to the raspberry and wild blueberry cobbler and all sorts of tasty breads and chocolates before and after (if you haven't eaten at Lucia's you must). But I left Lucia's last night with much more than a full belly, a new t-shirt, and a gift bag full of local foods. I left with a renewed appreciation for our food and our farmers, inspired and full of hope for the future.