Chickens squawking, turkeys gobbling, pigs squealing (flies swarming). The setting was certainly pastoral for the Lowcountry Field Feast at Keegan-Filion Farms in Walterboro on Sunday. The star of the afternoon was Chef Mike Lata of FIG who, despite his makeshift kitchen at the edge of a barn, made a stellar meal out of the Lowcountry's bounty, including pigs raised by Marc and Annie Filion on their well-respected farm. Hayride tours took guests across the grounds to see the animals and learn about how they are kept and raised. Inside one of the buildings, adorable baby chicks were being warmed under hot lights. Daisy the farm dog lolled around, looking for head scratches. Jazz tunes by Quentin Baxter and his group floated in the background as appetites were teased with nibbles of chicken liver bruschetta, butter bean crostini, and turnips dabbed with butter and salt.
The Lowcountry Field Feast was organized by a committee headed up by Annie Byrd of Byrdhouse PR, who was inspired by an Outstanding in the Field dinner a year ago. The feast benefitted Lowcountry Local First, and executive director Jamee Haley said some words before Lynne Tolley — Jack Daniels' grand niece — stood up and led a toast as diners tossed back a small sample of one-year barrel-aged JD — neat. The tent, set in the fields of Keegan-Filion, made for some pretty pictures with the late evening light and the rustic yet modern decor. The bags of water hung around the tent to attract the flies were doing no such thing, as the guests were subject to swarms of the vile bugs. But you can't go to a farm and not expect to have flies, so diners gamely fanned them away and were relieved as the night fell to see them gather at the top of the tentpole for the rest of the evening.
As Harry Root from Grassroots Wine passed out hand selected bottles, platters of food started coming out of the barn and were placed on the tables, family-style. First up was a colorful salad plate with roasted beets, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, and greens drizzled with a farm egg vinaigrette that tasted a little bit like deviled eggs. I could have eaten the whole platter of veggies myself — but didn't, saving room for the trio of pork that was promised to arrive in round three. In the meantime, the second course —a half moon ravioli stuffed with squash and sprinkled with crispy pancetta — dazzled us with its sweet and salty flavors. But about that pork. A rig borrowed from Jimmy Hagood was chock full of beautiful pork roasts, and Lata and his team set to work carving the meat up. The first platters arrived with beautiful slices of perfectly-roasted ham alongside a pile of greens topped with chopped pork. The next presentation was a braised pork agrodolce over heirloom polenta. The sweet and sour sauce mixed beautifully with the rich and creamy Anson Mills polenta. Lata's dessert got raves from our group — sticky sorghum pudding with creme fraiche. Its description wasn't nearly as exciting as its taste, which was an amazingly rich combination of spicy sweetness. As we licked our dessert plates clean, the sky darkened into night and the tent glowed like a magical little oasis in the middle of the field. A night to remember.