On this year’s summer solstice, I attended a “farm-to-table dinner” at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. Apparently, “farm-to-table” is a “movement” that began somewhere in California in the early days of the 21st century.
A June, 2015, Vanity Fair article by Corby Kummer suggested the “movement” was poisoned and it was time to end it.
I don’t pay much attention to waxing and waning food trends. I feel sorry for men and women whose finicky palates are so jaded they cannot briefly enjoy the beauty and delight of a plate of fresh peas served al fresco summer after summer.
With such an attitude, I may never win a James Beard Journalism Award.
Nevertheless, Graze at Pineland Farms, now in its fifth summer, was lovely and delicious. I covered it for the Sun Journal and my article will run in this Sunday’s “B” section. I managed to interview a number of interesting food lovers during the social hour and sat at a table of delightful men and women, some of whom did consider themselves “foodies” upon questioning. Due to the space limitations of the paper, some of these interviews ended up on the cutting room floor.
I enjoyed meeting the Black Tie Company’s owner, Christine Weber. Black Tie has been in the catering business for 30 years and Weber said putting on a five-course dinner under a tent was not a difficult task for her chef and staff. She said “in 30 years, we’ve seen everything.” She said the task of cooking outside was like going camping and forgetting a can opener. Weber says the average camper asks themselves “how can we open this can” while the Black Tie team are “the ones who can figure out how to do it.”
Naturally, I asked Weber about my own entertaining nemesis, Martha Stewart. Weber said Stewart’s 1982 book Entertaining was the first book she read on the topic. She said it was a helpful volume as she launched her business and described Stewart as a consummate expert across all areas of entertaining.
What most impressed me about Weber was her passion for her business. She described how she’d diversified into different catering areas over the years to grow the business and move it beyond the seasonal, weekend driven model. She saw this as a way to hire people who could work for her year-round and by doing so, she could have a loyal and passionate staff. She is relentless about attention to fine details and wants her customers to have a memorable experience.
My interactions with a number of Black Tie staff during the writing of my article confirmed Weber’s focus was successful. My e-mails received a same-day response. The staff I met at the event were helpful and pleasant and more importantly, extremely polite and professional.
One of the guests at my table, an admitted foodie who had recently eaten at Erin French’s exclusive and forever-booked Lost Kitchen in Freedom, missed one of the passed hors d’oeuvres. A bacon, egg, and cheese slider on a biscuit with tomato jam. She motioned for a server and asked if there were any left. In less than three minutes, everyone at my table was enjoying this breakfast-like conglomeration, elevated to cocktail party darling by its diminutive size and a bit of jam.
And yes, if you were wondering, the food was very good. Executive Chef Avery Richter, with Black Tie since 2013, dished up heaping plates full of delicious, course after course. Hot food was hot, cold food was cold.
The next Graze at Pineland dinner is on Wednesday, July 26. There will be three additional dinners on various Wednesdays through October 4. Each dinner also features libations from a local brewery and live, farm-to-table appropriate music.