Many of us may not have grown up on a farm, but somewhere back in our childhood, there is a memory or two of being on one. Along the way, we get lost as adults in urban culture and some of those innocent moments filled with peace and tranquility are forgotten.
Something along the way seems to bring us back to the basics of enjoying wholesome food that is grown and hand-picked right on the farm and passed down the table in the company of family or close friends. With spring right around the corner, believe it or not, why not plan a party or gathering to celebrate the melting of the snow and the blooming of the flowers outdoors. The location? A farm.
The concept itself, farm-to-table, is nothing new because farming is not new and has been going on for centuries. What is new is the glamorization of cooking using local ingredients from farms right in your backyard. Farmers’ markets are all the craze these days so chances are, there is one that takes place in your city or one very close by.
In addition, many are reconnecting with their roots and trading city life for the country or just choosing to escape the day-to-day grind. Farm life may not be for everyone, but it can be a retreat even if just for one afternoon.
Over the years, farms have become popular venues for weddings, concerts and a host of other events normally celebrated in a traditional brick and mortar venue. Why? Because there is something special about sharing nature and food together amidst the elements that make it all happen.
If you’re thinking of planning or have an upcoming event already planned that involves a farm-to-table theme, here are a few tips that we have gathered from the experts.
If you want to take the theme all the way, look up farm venues near you that can be rented. A simple Google search for “farm venues” in your city and a couple of locations are sure to pop up.
The fun part is that you can also plan your event at a vineyard or in the comfort of a backyard. The goal and focus is to connect to what is local and in season, so as long as there is ample room outside for everyone to breathe in and breathe out, you’ll be fine.
This is the fun part! Stores such as Cost Plus World Market, Sur La Table and Tuesday Morning have great finds to make your gathering look and feel as if you are down on the farm. A few tips include:
1. Go for a rustic look from the table and chairs to the invitations. We love the long communal table that seats 10 to 20 people or more. When picking your setting, this element is the most important. With the right wood treatment, no tablecloth will be necessary.
For the invitation, go to a paper store and select a style that has a woodsy look and can easily incorporate a splash color that tells others spring is here.
2. For our centerpieces, use herb plants such as basil or chives or fresh flowers picked from a farmer’s market the morning of the gathering. Think bright and lots of colors which will surely put a smile on our guests' face.
3. Place forks, knives and spoons in tin planters that are placed in the center of the table for every fifth guest or so. In addition, use decanters to other glass bottles for water that is infused with fruit such as oranges and strawberries. Serve in 8 oz. Ball ® glasses that you can pick up just about anywhere.
4. Take a trip to your local Home Depot or Lowe’s and head to the garden department. Get inspired by the various accessories that can be incorporated into your overall theme.
5. Using burlap for placemats or chair coverings or other parts of the overall décor is a great way to fold in the farm-to-table theme.
Farm-to-Table Food Menu
Now, this is getting to the best part of all. The key is to select dishes that use foods in season, are fresh and really take no time at all to prepare. If anything, your meat should be the other thing that takes the longest.
With a few ideas in your head, once at the farmer's market, let your creative juice flow after seeing what the farmers have available. A mesclun salad is always a given, but what you put in it may be the game changer. From the citrus to the tomatoes and root vegetables, be sure to take your time to explore before settling on a menu.
A 4-course menu is always a great way to go. This can include an appetizer, salad, main entrée and dessert. Keep each meal light so that guests can enjoy without feeling weighted down. A sample menu could look like:
Appetizer – Roasted tomatoes served with capers and an herb aioli.
Salad – A mesclun greens or arugula salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions, toasted walnuts and served with a Meyer lemon vinaigrette.
Entrée – Roasted rosemary lamb chops marinated overnight and cooked fresh right on the grill. Serve this with grilled vegetables such as asparagus, Brussel sprouts or corn on the cob.
Dessert – A yogurt parfait topped with oranges, pecans and a hint of mint and swirl of honey.
Farm-to-table in our eyes is synonymous with family-style dining when you look at the full picture. Most likely, like you we envision large white pretty platters and bowls passed down the table. Take a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond as well as Target, Home Goods and Cost Plus that all have some great serving pieces that will be perfect for each dish you create.
Lastly, tell your guests to dress in comfy clothes and this includes no heels. Just like you may set the dress code for an afternoon tea, have fun and let guests show up in their interpretation of a farm-to-table gathering attire.