What do you do when you’re hosting an outdoor dinner party for 200 discerning South Florida foodies and the forecast calls for rain…and lots of it? If you’re Darrin and Jodi Swank, you don’t panic…you simply move everything under a rustic, beautifully appointed pole barn and proceed to serve your guests a mouth watering, multi-course meal paired with delicious wine and prepared by some of South Florida’s most acclaimed Chefs.
Such are the occasional travails of South Florida farming’s most dynamic duo, Darrin and Jodi Swank, owners and proprietors of Loxahatchee’s Swank Farms. In addition to providing some of the finest produce to many of our favorite local restaurants, their perpetually sold out “Swank Table” dinner series is back for another season. These special dinners feature some of South Florida’s finest Chefs and Sommeliers and are definitely one of the hottest tickets in town. Culinary icons ranging from Chef Michael Schwartz of Miami’s Michael’s Genuine to Chef Nick Morfogen of Delray Beach’s 32East have braved the bucolic splendor to prepare delicious, farm-inspired, family-style meals for appreciative foodies who have remained steadfastly loyal to the couple’s culinary endeavors.
I’ve had the pleasure of participating as a featured Sommelier for Swank Table since 2013 and this season I’m honored to be slated for two dinners. The first, featuring a “Farm Stand” theme, was held on Sunday, January 10th and benefited the wonderful local charity, Season to Share, the Palm Beach Post’s annual holiday campaign. For those who attended this magical evening, it was certainly a feast for the senses! Guests were greeted with a welcome drink prepared by Chris Martin, Mixologist of West Palm Beach’s popular Avocado Grill. Martin crafted his concoction using Tito’s specialty vodka and sweet green tea, garnished with lemon and mint. He had infused the vodka prior to the event and the fragrant, sweet aroma alone was intoxicating! Guests sipped and strolled the farm, cocktails in hand as the delightful strains of the superb featured band, the SOSOS got everyone in the mood to feast.
Diners were then treated to an assortment of eye-catching hors d’oeuvres which utilized the Swank’s farm-fresh ingredients in the most creative and delicious ways. Chef Nicole Votano of Miami Beach’s Dirt restaurant served a gorgeous Lemon Balm Ricotta and Strawberry Crostini with Cracked Black Pepper, Fennel Confit, Micro Basil and L’Estronell Olive Oil; Chef Tory Martindale of the Four Seasons in Palm Beach prepared “Atomic Turtle Eggs” which consisted of lobster and cheese stuffed spicy peppers wrapped in bacon and BBQ smoked; Chef Simon Stojanovic, Swank’s Culinary Chef Liaison, created a delicious Spring Roll with Sriracha Sauce; and Michael Reidt, Chef/Owner of Miami’s Pilgrim did a lovely, earthy Red and Golden Beet Carpaccio. Plated together, the four hors d’oeuvres created a stunning culinary mosaic! To pair with the diverse flavors and textures of the starters, I chose a delicious Italian rosé, the 2014 Leone de Castris “Five Roses” Rosato from Puglia. This wine is a blend of 90% Negroamaro and 10% Malvasia Nera with notes of ripe cherry, strawberry and raspberry and a delightfully crisp acidity.
Following the hors d’oeuvres, tours of the farm’s growing operations and produce shopping from the event’s featured vendors, guests were seated for dinner. The first course, prepared by Nicole Votano was Dirt’s “Florida in Winter” Salad featuring Swank spicy greens, crisp broccolini, roasted curried cauliflower, sweet pickled cherry bomb peppers, coffee-rubbed cheddar and roasted shallot vinaigrette served alongside butternut squash and wild mushroom farro risotto. The dish paired marvelously with the 2014 Mastroberardino Mastro Greco di Tufo, a crisp, lean white wine from Italy’s Campania region. The wine’s naturally high acidity handled the variety of flavors perfectly.
Next up was Chef Michael Reidt’s Grilled Tilefish with Caramelized Carrot Brandade and Jerk-spiced Crab Vinaigrette. This creative dish was accompanied by charred broccoli with blood orange gastrique and toasted ham crumbs and paired equally well with either our featured white or red wine. Yes, you heard me, I said fish and RED wine! I love to dispel the myth that white wine is the only proper pairing for fish and on this particular evening I poured the 2014 Mastroberardino Mastro Aglianico, a medium-bodied red wine made from the Aglianico grape. The wine’s bright fruit and food-friendly acidity paired remarkably well with the grilled fish and its accoutrements.
For the final savory course, Chef Tory Martindale dished up an Espresso-rubbed NY Strip with Chili Seared Tuscan Kale. which was served alongside merguez cassoulet, mint chimmi, toasted pine nuts and cafe au lait sauce. With the variety of flavors in this dish, the Aglianico was a wonderful choice with its mild tannins and friendly fruit. Dessert was artfully created by Chef Arielle Curasi from Jereve @ EmKo in West Palm Beach consisting of Earl Grey Valrhona Milk Chocolate Mousse as well as a Port wine and chamomile poached pear. One thing is for sure, no one EVER leaves a Swank dinner hungry!
A special thank you to my Dream Team who came to help me pour wine again this year, Wayne Pasik, Eric Price and, of course, my husband Steve and if you like the sound of this magical meal, I really hope you can join us on Sunday, February 28th for “The Envelope Please…” dinner which will benefit the Palm Beach International Film Festival. This dinner is the same night as The Oscars so come have some fun with us before you go home and watch the awards. For more information on the event and/or to purchase tickets. please click here. I promise to be pouring some delicious wines…rain OR shine!