[RECYCLED] A Pictorial: Onesixtyblue’s Farm Dinner With Dietzler Farms
Editor’s Note: Farm dinners are bigger than ever! Now that the season is in full swing, we thought that we’d recycle an old piece showing how fun these dinners can be, and hopefully inspire you to attend one if you can. If you’ve been to any great farm dinners lately, please feel free to post here. -WAA
Although best described in pictures, it’s worth prefacing that, in hindsight, the Dietzler Farms dinner with onesixtyblue last weekend was one of the high points of my brief endeavor in eating local. If you have a chance to attend a farm dinner this summer or fall — do it — especially if it’s one with Dietzler Farms in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. The Dietzlers, suppliers of beef at many Chicagoland restaurants and Green City Market fixtures, are local producers of pasture-raised, grain-finished, all-natural beef made from Hereford & Angus cows. A “farm dinner,” an event held on a specific farm and featuring that farm’s food, is not only an excuse to spend an idyllic day in the country, eating outside (in this case, under pear trees so lavishly fruiting that some became dessert as well as part of the tablescape), but an opportunity to learn a great deal about the farm that’s providing your food. In other words, it’s a locavore’s dream.
A group of about 40 of us boarded a bus with the crew from onesixtyblue, and traveled up to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, sampling house-made paté and Goose Island beer en route. Upon arrival at Dietzler Farms, we were given a tour of the farm, which is Norman Rockwellian with its vintage, Midwestern farmhouse and rolling pastures. We met Dan Dietzler and his daughter, Michelle Dietzler, and were shown where the beef is raised (in a pasture, though the cows went out to far, shady pasture that day), and learned about the cows’ diet (initially and mostly grass, but later, hay, alfalfa, and non-genetically modified corn & soybeans). Perhaps best of all — we’re first hearing of it at the Beet — we were told about a new, as-yet-unlaunched project that Dietzler is embarking on with Goose Island Brewery. Under this partnership/experiment, sweet, fermented, spent grain from Goose Island’s beer-making operations will be fed to some Dietzler cows as a means not only to impart more flavor to the meat, but as an eco-friendly way of using Goose Island’s waste that would otherwise go into a landfill. (Beer-fed cow, anyone?)
Chris Roelli, of Roelli Cheese Company, also attended the dinner, and discussed his Dunbarton blue cheese (which was served that day) and contributed an impromptu history lesson on old milking barns, like the red one at Dietzler Farms (shown below). He also passionately talked about the risks and hard work inherent in the transition of some Wisconsin Dairy farmers and cheesemakers from making low-cost, high-quantity production cheese to higher-cost, small-batch production, like the cheese produced by Roelli.
Onesixtyblue did a seemingly effortless job of putting on this 5-course event, from the delicious, abundant, seasonal dishes (even integrating, on-the-fly, pears from the Dietzler Farm into their Michigan peach cobbler), to the sommelier’s perfect pairing of Goose Island beer or global wine with each course. (Though I’d have liked it if some local wine could have been worked in as well.) Of course, Dietzler Farm’s beef — a short rib and ribeye — was featured, along with food from other local producers, such as Becker Lane pork, nearby Rushing Waters trout, and Roelli’s Dunbarton cheddar blue cheese. The night ended with (more) sparkling wine and cordials along with a s’mores-making summit around a bonfire, albeit with decidedly un-local, but nostalgically perfect, Nabisco graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate, and Jet-Puffed marshmallows. The well-fed and boozed group of city slickers rolled, literally and figuratively, into Chicago at about 11 pm, content after an uncharacteristic day on a farm.