What better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than a glorious, sunny aftenoon spent outdoors surrounded by fabulous food, wine and yes, a farm! I was honored to be selected as the featured Sommelier for “Wearin’ O’ the Green Salad,” a St. Patty’s themed luncheon on the grass at Swank Farms, hosted by proprietors Jodi and Darrin Swank. Swank Farms is located in Loxahatchee, Florida and their coveted produce is prominently featured on many of the best menus in South Florida. This unique event was part of their Swank Table series which debuted in January and has featured prominent Chefs and Sommeliers from Palm Beach to Miami who create a delightful day of food and wine highlighting the bounty of the farm and benefiting an array of very worthy causes. Proceeds of “Wearin’ O’ the Green Salad” benefited The Red Cross and the event was sponsored by Whole Foods.
The fabulous lineup of Chefs at Sunday’s event included Resident Chef for Swank Table, the fabulous Lindsay Autry, who is also of the Executive Chef at the Sundy House in Delray Beach, along with Jim Leiken, Chef de Cuisine of Café Boulud Palm Beach and his Executive Pastry Chef Arnaud Chavigny; Clay Conley Chef/Owner of Buccan and Imoto in Palm Beach; and Michael Wurster, Executive Chef of Malcolm’s at The Omphoy Resort and Spa in Palm Beach.
As guests arrived bedecked in festive shades of St. Patty’s Day green, they were greeted with our signature cocktail, a Sparkling Green Apple & Pear Cider with Swank Farms Micro Mint. This drink was so light and refreshing I thought it was perfect for the occasion and it also featured lovely shades of green from the sliced limes, pears, apples and mint. As promised, I have included the recipe below! During the reception, guests leisurely strolled the gardens and shade house while Jodi and Darrin gave tours recounting their history in this very special part of Florida and their unique approach to farming.
The next culinary station involved a selection of mouth watering hors d’oeurves and to pair with them I selected a 2011 Domaine Laroche Petit Chablis from France’s Burgundy wine region.
The Laroche family has been dedicated to producing top quality wines from the Chablis region for more than 160 years. It is interesting to note that in 2001, as part of Michel Laroche’s goal to retain purity and minerality in his finished wines, he was the first Burgundian producer to switch entirely to screwcap closures, even for his Grand Cru wines. Petit Chablis is a small appellation comprised of about 650 planted hectares (1,606 acres) in the Chablis region. It is situated on Portlandian soil which is limestone-based and similar in structure to the Grand Cru and Premier Cru Kimmeridgean layers, although younger geologically. This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes from 25 year old wines and was fermented entirely in stainless steel resulting in a crisp, refreshing wine whose acidity was perfect for priming everyone’s palate for the meal ahead.
The next stop was the five course Irish-inspired lunch served al fresco under a white billowing tent. Guests were seated at long tables and were able to observe the Chefs in action as they prepared their dishes. The musical stylings of the delightful Hilary O’Leary were the perfect accompaniment to the menu, especially as she led us in The Colcannon Song written about the traditional Irish dish made of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage.
The first course was prepared by Swank Table Resident Chef Lindsay Autry and was a “Platin’ O’ the Green Salad” featuring cauliflower, lardoons and devilish eggs atop a mound of beautifully brilliant greens. At this point I introduced our first wine of the lunch, a 2011 Ponzi Pinot Gris from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The Ponzi family has been making wine in the Willamette Valley for 40 years, beginning their journey with a handful of vintners forging a new start in Oregon’s fledgling wine country. They’ve done much in that time to foster the region and further its development including establishing some of the strictest labeling requirements in the country and creating organizations in the region that provide valuable research and promotion. The 100% Pinot Gris was crisp and fresh with a lovely food friendly acidity and viscosity making it an ideal choice that “played nicely” with the wide variety of flavors and textures of the meal.
Chef Michael Wurster was up next with his interpretation of “Fish & Chips” featuring a 104 degree wild salmon boxty, watercress fluid gel and 48-hour corned beef cheeks and cabbage. Each dish was more beautiful than the next! Chef Wurster’s was followed by Chef Clay Conley’s “Palmetto Creek Pork Head to Tail” with turnips and whole mustard glaze. This dish was the perfect opportunity to introduce the red wine for the lunch, the 2010 RouteStock Cellars Pinot Noir also from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. RouteStock Cellars has a unique approach to winemaking, crafting wines from the classic grape varieties grown along the renowned routes traveled in the world’s most celebrated wine regions. These varieties are best suited to their respective wine-growing regions and sourced from family-owned vineyards. This particular wine, made from 95% Pinot Noir grapes, was made for RouteStock by Ponzi Vineyards. It was fruity and fresh with a hint of earth that echoed similar elements in the next two dishes. It’s acidity also cut through the richness of the food, offsetting the inevitable palate fatigue commonly found when consuming large quantities of Irish cuisine.
Chef Jim Leiken provided the last savory dish of the day, a mouth wateringly delicious Saddle of Lamb ‘Farcie’ stuffed with chard, roasted pine nut puree and Swank Farms eggplant. The succulent lamb was cooked to perfection and was the perfect ending to the best St. Patrick’s day fare I’ve ever had!
And what meal would be complete without something sweet? Chef Arnaud Chavigny served up a deliciously sinful dessert consisting of Strawberry Consomme with Donegal Oatmeal Cream and Baileys Ice Cream – yes, you heard me, Baileys Ice Cream! The flavors and textures were simply divine and it really was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
Big thanks to the Swanks for inviting me to participate in such a special event. The next installment of Swank Table will take place Sunday, April 7th and the theme is “Genuinely Swank” featuring Chef Michael Schwartz and the incredible team from Michael’s Genuine in Miami, FL. This event will benefit the James Beard Scholarship Foundation and will also be the last installment of the season. For more information, please click here – hope to see you there!
Sparkling Green Apple & Pear Cider with Swank Farms Micro Mint
1 750 ml bottle of Prosecco or other sparkling white wine
12 ounce can pear nectar
1/2 cup green apple vodka
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup simple syrup*
1-2 Bartlett pears, sliced
2 limes, sliced
1-2 green apples, sliced
Mint sprigs for garnish
Combine all of the ingredients except the mint in a large pitcher and stir well. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to to chill the Sangria. When ready to drink, pour over ice into individual glasses and garnish each with a sprig of mint.
*To make the simple syrup: in a saucepan combine equal parts water and sugar, bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is no longer cloudy. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.