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A Very Berkshires Spring Awakening

Updated: Mar 26

The off-seasons are designed for time in the lab to create magical dinners. This past weekend, we had the pleasure of collaborating once again with Dare Bottle Shop, this time at The Berkshire Botanical Gardens. Fueled by a new story concept, an unfamiliar kitchen, and a barren spring landscape, we eagerly embarked on our culinary adventure.

The inspiration for this dinner stemmed from real life. During the late winter months, we begin to contemplate the upcoming season and all the logistical aspects it entails, such as seed selection, harvesting overwintered roots, checking in with our livestock farmers, observing winter growth in the woods, and preparing my own home farm for the new season.

Using this as a foundation, I envisioned a first course that would encapsulate a few components dear to me when planning the garden and considering what the vegetable farmers intend to grow. I often find myself with seeds spread across the kitchen table, a hot pot of tea at hand, planning the garden layout. Alternatively, I might spend a cold night on my couch, reviewing growing lists from farmers while enjoying hot soup and grilled cheese. Botanical Interests, a well-known seed company, served as my muse for this course, along with the quintessential mood board of spring - the color green. I decided on a powdered, instant creamy pea soup contained in a seed packet that guests would open and pour into a mug. My team would then pour boiling water tableside, and with a few stirs, the powder would transform into soup. Accompanying the mug was a mini finger grilled "ham and cheese" made with our cured Lomo and Gruyere cheese on brioche.

The next course featured a variety of vegetables that could be overwintered by a farmer. I aimed to allow guests to unearth the vegetables in a refined manner, avoiding dirt under their nails. Gardening requires tremendous effort, including weeding, watering, ensuring adequate sunlight, and harvesting. I devised a contraption where guests on either side of a garden box used hand pumps in tandem to unearth the "overwintered" vegetables. The garden was topped with an edible soil made from hummus colored with vegetable ash charcoal. The vegetables included dill and carrot juice-glazed carrots, confit baby potatoes filled with Maggie's round cheese and caramelized apples, Jerusalem artichokes slow-cooked in brown butter topped with a sunchoke chip, and slow-roasted onions filled with caramelized onion jam and cultured cream.

Next, we visited one of our livestock farmers – Busy Corner Farm, typically bustling with lamb during spring. I focused on preparing the lamb with its seasonal diet, slowly smoke-roasting it over hay, supplemented with mixed grain. To accompany the lean lamb, I chose a hearty "feed porridge" made by slowly cooking barley, wheat berries, and whole dried corn kernels in risotto style, finished with a bright green purée of newly sprouted stinging nettles. Alongside, we made an onion cotton candy to resemble lambswool, which melted into sweetness when sauce was poured over it tableside. Lastly, I created a lamb perfume to spray on the linen napkins, infusing alcohol with raw lamb wool and a hint of lanolin oil for fragrance.

Considering the heavier courses, an intermezzo was necessary to cleanse the palate. We foraged Norway spruce branches to make a spruce sorbet, using the branches as sticks, displayed in a large tree format.

For dessert, we ventured to my home farm to introduce my chickens, integral to our summer dishes at Heirloom Fire. We made chocolate nests containing ice cream flavored with sage from around the chicken coop, and eggs cured in spicy honey.

Finally, acknowledging the unpredictability of the growing season, we placed our faith in our honeybees. We crafted a box from old beehives that opened to reveal Petit fours, including salted honey caramels, bee pollen and honey marshmallows, and honeycomb crunch.

This dinner was a joy to prepare, allowing us to develop experiences beyond fire use. Theatricality is in our DNA, and we relish the opportunity to share it in diverse ways.

We have a few dinners up our sleeves this year and will be announcing them very soon, so make sure you are on our mailing list if you are not already!

See you soon!

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