by Alison Sher
Friday, Wine + Fooders literally took a ride on the local farm movement bandwagon. The W+F Farm to Table Excursion was an all day event, and began at 9:30 a.m. when the tour bus left the Visitor Center bus shed.
First stop on the trip was Burden Creek Dairy, where Kipp Valentine gave us a tour of the farm where he and his wife Katherine produce their highly sought after goat's milk and Chevre goat cheese (found at Oak Steakhouse and Newton Farms).
After Burden Creek, we met up with Helen and Joseph Fields at Fields Farm. Joseph carted us away in the back of his tractor/tourist herding device, and showed us around the Johns Island property. We got dirt on our shoes navigating the rows and rows of organic greens he's about to reap for the CSA season. Joseph plucked a beet from the ground and let us nibble on edible weeds.
Joseph has a passion for farming, his wife Helen said. And the couple (who is as sweet as next month's strawberry harvest) have certainly become prominent names in the Charleston ag scene.
We had lunch at the Wild Olive, where Chef Jacques Larson, a proponent of farm-to-table cooking, prepared us a four course meal highlighting local produce.
The Antipasto, an Insalata Locali, had Fields Farm lettuce, watermelon radishes, rainbow carrots, Moncks Corner tomatoes, and Burden Creek goat cheese, tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. The Insalata was topped with arugula flowers, which felt like a touch too much on an already colorful plate, but still tasted fresh and delicious.
For the Primo, Larson cooked a dish from his regular menu, Orecchiette con Rapini.
And for the second course, he served pan seared local golden tilefish paired with barley "risotto," Ambrose Farm's broccoli, and Georgetown shrimp.
Dessert, perhaps, was the biggest treat of all. And before leaving, we were awarded gift boxes filled with an Ambrose Farm carrot cake cupcake, citrus shortbread made from Thackeray Farms butter, and two uber-tasty Espresso Chocolate Chip Meringues featuring eggs from The Green Grocer. Recipes for each dessert were given along with the gift box. But we, um, ate the sweets before taking any pictures.
And then off we went to the Charleston Tea Plantation. Of all the Farm to Table Excursion stops, I could have lived without this one. After eating a plethora of local cuisine at Wild Olive, and visiting two small, and very personable family farms, the tea at the tea plantation felt like a corporate commodity and not so local, even though America's only tea garden is right in Rockville.
But the trip was soon redeemed at Irvin House Vineyards in Wadmalaw Island, where we sampled glasses of sweet and earthy wine, made from Muscadine grapes grown right in South Carolina.