5 of the Hudson Valley's Best Chefs Collaborated at This Dinner Event
Five courses, five wines, one great time.
That was the atmosphere at the Hudson Valley Chef's Collaboration Dinner at Blooming Hill Farm on Saturday, March 31.
While the Monroe farm now serves dinner every Friday and Saturday, this special event brought together five chefs from around the region to cook a five-course meal. Unsurprisingly, the event quickly sold out.
Despite supplying produce to restaurants like Becco, Union Square Café, and more locally, The Cookery, Blooming Hill Farm remains modest; those unaware of its existence might easily whiz past it on Route 208. But in the short time the farm has been serving dinner regularly, they have developed quite a fan base. Many guests are regulars, some from just down the road, others traveling from New Jersey or Manhattan.
Once the sun dipped below the tree line, the crowd shuffled from the farmhouse where hors d’œuvres and cocktails had been served into the enormous dining room. As farm owner Guy Jones formally welcomed his guests, five chefs stood next to him like Yankees during the national anthem. One by one they stepped forward to introduce themselves, their restaurant(s), and their course for the evening.
Batting first was Chris Vergara of Harper’s in Dobbs Ferry, who prepared Long Island Scallops — partially cooked and perfectly tender — atop a spicy sofrito and fresh sprouts from the farm.
Next came Mike Cutney of The Twisted Oak, who was unabashedly excited to be cooking with spring ingredients after a particularly grueling winter. “There’s only so many ways you can cook a root vegetable before you want to blow your brains out,” he joked. Cutney prepared a sunflower risotto, in which toasted sunflower seeds replaced rice, and sunflower butter and crème fraiche lent a nutty smoothness to the dish.
Michael Knipp of Domaine Select Wine and Spirits chose the wine pairings for each course, and darted from table to table throughout the meal, providing additional pours to lucky diners with “holes in their glasses,” and rhapsodizing over each wine with fellow fans.
The star of the night was arguably Scott Fratangelo of L’Inizio, whose potato gnocchi with spring garlic puree, fresh ramps, and braised veal had been blanched previously to make the dumplings more suitable for travel. Fratangelo recounted his thought process when considering how to reheat the gnocchi, asking, “Why not blast them under the wood fire oven?” The crowd’s answer was raucous applause.
Batting cleanup was the farm’s own Matt Casino, formally of Restaurant North, who brought to the table veal two ways: the first cooked sous-vide until it was pull apart tender, the second fried until crisp. Served with ramp aioli and black garlic (a type of dry, fermented garlic with herbaceous notes) the plate came together in a vivid presentation.
For dessert, Chef Joyan Stroh of Back 40 Kitchen in Greenwich, Connecticut brought the freshness. Although an “out-of-towner,” Stroh delivered with her whipped carrot panna cotta, a brilliant bowl of golden goodness atop a crunchy almond financier.
Granted, three of the chef’s at the Hudson Valley Chef’s Collaboration Dinner cook in Westchester, the fourth in Connecticut; however, the collaboration for which the event took its name showcased the craftsmanship required to pull off an event like this in the first place. It requires effort and dedication from the farmers pulling the food out of the ground at Blooming Hill, from the chefs at each restaurant who create the dishes and prepare them, even down to the beautiful dishware, custom-made for the event by Connor McGinn.
The undertaking to produce an event like the Chef’s Collaboration Dinner is a bit self-referential, but it highlights a process otherwise be invisible to diners. And it’s always humbling to be reminded of the labor behind the question, “What’s for dinner?”
Keep an eye out Blooming Hill’s next event in May: a wine dinner with Hanzell Vineyard.