When Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley on August 28, 1971, no one would have predicted how much she’d change our understanding of natural ingredients, how we grow them, and how we cook them. The proliferation of America’s local-seasonal-organic foods and the farm-to-table movement grew out of this new approach to eating.
Flash forward to summer 2019. There is no better place to experience ultra-local cuisine than the small–farm-filled epicurean paradise of Vashon Island. This is a big part of the reason Leslie chose to host Les Dames D’Escoffier’s 7th annual Summer Supper and Farm Tour at her Vashon Island Farm.
Thirty guests were treated to an exclusive tour of local farms, followed by a four-course al fresco meal on the patio surrounded by hazelnut trees and roaming chickens. Naturally, the dinner featured Vashon Island ingredients. Each course was paired with wines from Palouse Winery and Maury Island Winery.
The farm tour started at Nashi Orchards, a premium producer of handcrafted perry and hard cider. They grow Asian and European pears and heirloom apples on 27 beautiful acres, using sustainable practices. Cheryl and Jim Gerlach, the owners and cider masters, talked the group through a history of the industry. “We work very hard to manage our soil and the condition of our trees to ensure the flavor from our fruit is in every bottle,” Jim said. They helped guests distinguish the subtle differences in the varieties of fruit and took guests on a tour of their new tasting room in the town of Vashon.
The next stop was to Old Chaser Farm, where Matt Dillon, the award-winning chef behind Sitka & Spruce, Bar Ferdinand and The London Plane, led tours of the 20-acre organic farm where he raises vegetables and meat, including cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens. While walking through the fields of ripe vegetables, Matt talked about Seattle’s current restaurant scene and the importance of sustainability in farming.
Back at Leslie’s for a cocktail hour, guests snacked on appetizers, including a favorite made with local figs and mascarpone, and enjoyed a signature cocktail made from a local red currant syrup, ginger beer, BSB bourbon, apricot puree and soda water. A naturalist, Greg Rabourn, led guests around Leslie’s farm pointing out wild edible plants we might not recognize.
Before the meal, everyone gathered for a few words about Green Table Grants. Then guests took their seats, and several long-time Les Dames members began serving food that would have made Alice Waters proud.