The partnership between Pineland Farms and The Black Tie Company began in June 2013 when the two hosted their first Graze dinner. Called “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the event featured all manner of delicious dishes paired with the summer’s first berries. Now in their fifth year, “Graze at Pineland Farms” kicked off the 2017 farm-to-table dinner series in June with a sold-out hungry crowd of 90.
Parking is always plentiful at Pineland Farms and the weather was perfect for dining al fresco. Diners made their way down the cobblestone path to the event tent and checked in with Kelsey Simpson, a Black Tie Company’s event planner.
The festivities began with a “cocktail social” featuring complimentary beverage samples mixed up with Freeport’s Cold River vodka. Portland’s Urban Farm Fermentory offered three of their kombucha (fermented tea) drinks, or as foodies call it, “the good booch.” There was ginger root, wild blueberry and even turmeric kombucha, made with the trendy bright-yellow spice.
A farmer’s table in the center of the tent was heavy with samples of Pineland Farm cheeses, a spicy beer fondue with fresh bread, and a beet hummus dip among other nibbles. Black Tie staff passed hors d‘oeuvres including paprika parsnip fries with sea salt aioli, spring radish with ginger honey butter on brioche toast, and bacon, egg and Pineland cheese sliders with tomato jam on a biscuit.
The tent buzzed with conversation while bluegrass band the Gather Rounders tuned up.
John and Sue Ham, of Scarborough, said they attended every Graze dinner in 2016. Introduced to the event by their friends Scott and Barbara Seaver of New Gloucester, the Hams raved about the food, the atmosphere and the camaraderie. John Ham’s advice to those who have never been to a farm-to-table dinner? “Come hungry and bring friends.”
Barbara Seaver agreed and said what she likes best about the event is the “opportunity to try new things.” She started to explain a kale dish she sampled last year when a server passed with parsnip fries in paper cones and she excused herself to grab some before they were gone.
Following the social hour, grazing got serious. The five-course dinner began with a plated salad course of minted spring peas topped with toasted pistachios, shaved radishes and Pineland feta, served on greens, with a lemon lavender honey vinaigrette drizzled on top.
Next up was pasta with dill, peas, asparagus and tomatoes, dressed in a creamy peppercorn, and served family style. Then it was on to mussels steamed in Baxter Brewing Co. beer, served with sauteed tomatoes, fennel and tarragon.
The main course was a mustard-crusted roasted rack of lamb served with mint pesto and a yogurt tzatziki, and roasted asparagus with a smoked romesco sauce.
Not to be forgotten, Baxter Brewing Co. provided taste-appropriate beers for each course, including Coastal Haze Imperial Hefeweizen, Boot Leg Fireworks Double IPA (7 ounces of hops per can), Tarnation Maine Lager and Wicked Dark Imperial Stout.
Some say Pineland Farms, located in the rolling New Gloucester Hills with a westerly view toward the White Mountains, has its own unique micro-climate. As the sun set on the first day of summer and the rhubarb tart with pistachio and strawberry powder was passed with glasses of “Summer Swelter Ale,” diners sat back for a minute and looked at the fading orange summery sunset.
If you’ve never been to a “Graze at Pineland Farms,” there will be five more this year. Your next opportunity for fresh food, tasty beverages and kick-up-your-heels music is on Wednesday, July 26. Whether you’re a closet foodie, a drive-through secret eater or a stay-at-home gourmand, Graze is an experience. If you plan a trip to the farm, take John Ham’s advice. “Come hungry and bring friends.”
Black Tie beet hummus
3 pounds roasted beets
4 cups garbanzo beans
1 cup tahini
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 cup roasted garlic
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (rinsed)
1 teaspoon cumin
1. Puree beets after roasting at 425 degrees for 1.5 hours and peeling skin off.
2. Combine all ingredients into blender.
3. Gradually add beet puree until desired taste.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Plating and garnishing suggestions: Top with olive oil and toasted pistachios.