A year of pescetarian parenting and related discoveries.

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Monday, September 20

Heirloom Harvest Barn Dinner

     Last night I had one of the most memorable meals I have ever had the pleasure of partaking in. I was one of the lucky souls seated at the table seen above for the second annual Heirloom Harvest Barn Dinner at Berry Hill Farm in  quintessentially scenic Stratham, New Hampshire. The dinner was the inspired dream of chef, restaurateur and organic farmer Evan Mallet, who shoulders a deep personal and professional commitment to the noble idea of renewing America's food traditions. He is very active in RAFT New England Grow-Out, The Slow Food movement, and the Chef's Collaborative (see www.chefscollaborative.org). He is in the center of his team in the barn's prep area in the picture below;

     This year the grow-out vegetables, which are all heirloom (meaning they are both indigenous and endangered) were an interesting variety of eleven fruits, vegetables, and beans most of which have never graced the lips of this life-long veggie lovin' native. We were reminded that there was a time not long ago when the people of this region ate only what was fresh, local and organic. Most of the groceries came from the yard. And we were reminded in dish after creative dish, that they ate well. It is sad to realize, but I am thankful for the lesson, that these heirloom foods, and many others, will be lost to all of us forever, if we don't start growing, eating, and ordering them with some serious frequency. Chef Evan shared this years featured heirlooms with a team of gifted cooks to create a menu fit for a kingdom. (When I mention one of them I will highlight it.)

      Upon arrival we had drinks (all relatively local) and hors d'oeuvres on the lawn. There were three kinds of treats being passed by pretty people; truffled Maine lobster and red fife wheat tabbouleh, slow-roasted pork and forellenschuss (an heirloom lettuce) galantine with heirloom beans and oka pico de gallo, and duck confit on RAFT rosti with Wethersfield onion marmalade. The last one, I must confess, was my runaway favorite. Rosti, the national dish of Switzerland, is pan fried grated potato. With the delightful duck confit and slightly sweet marmalade on top, it melted in my mouth like a classic comfort food cloud. I had two!

      The first course was my least favorite, but only because I am not a fan of ceviche. It was sea scallop ceviche with Jimmy Nardello "Caviar", trophy tomato - lemon verbana whip and an oka muskmelon and nasturtium salad. Ceviche is a raw dish of ancient origin using primarily citrus marinades to prepare the fish. One must enjoy the texture and temperature. I didn't, but all of my neighboring diners did. Side dishes, as shown, are used to complement. The clever "caviar" was actually created from the heirloom sweet Italian frying pepper, and played tasty tricks on the eye and tongue. The muskmelon, originally bred by Quebecian monks, was sweet and satisfying, my highlight. This dish was paired with a micro-brewed pale ale, and as you can see was plated in the most pleasing way.

     The second course was simply superb, both in taste and in presentation. We were served lobster two ways; claw en brioche with roasted Jimmy Nardello pepper aioli,  and ginger and scallion tail with spiced long pie pumpkin puree, with an heirloom Boston marrow turnip, squash, and bean hash between them. Both were so satisfying but the claw, which tasted like a little lobster BLT, was outstanding to me. The tail went surprisingly well with pumpkin puree, and it all paired perfectly with a smooth sauvignon blanc.

      The third course was prepared by top-gun Chef Evan, and consisted of a generous portion of Moroccan-spiced braised lamb (two different cuts) in grilled long pie pumpkin rings with Gilfeather turnip greens, with curried trophy tomato chutney and a dried bean cracker bread. The meat was lovingly prepared, so moist and tender no knife was needed. The veggies were intriguing, but the chutney was a show stealer. I kept dipping my cracker bread into it. All went well with my favorite beverage; (excepting the robust porter I had sampled earlier) a light zinfandel.

      Though I was pretty full by the fouth course and generally don't indulge in dessert, there was no way I was passing on the final course; long pie pumpkin panna cotta with maple bourbon creme anglaise, topped with a brown sugar shortbread and spiced pumpkin seeds. Panna cotta, which means cooked cream in Italian, seemed to me, the perfect way to use a pumpkin, and a perfectly heavenly way to end such a paradisiacal  meal.


  1. Thank you for this beautiful description of the dinner on Sunday. It is so fun to help organize it but even more rewarding to hear people's feedback like this. It makes it all worthwhile! Thanks for posting the lovely photo of Eleanor (my daughter). Both our kids continue to be honored to be a part of the event.
    Denise Mallett (Evan's wife)

  2. What a wonderful description of the Heirloom Harvest Barn Dinner. Evan is my absolute favorite chef. I hope he will continue this tradition long enough for me to make it there one year. The menu sounded spectacular. What is truly amazing is how gracefully the dinner was presented - and in a barn!

    Thank you,

    South Carolina

  3. Thank you, Tammi, for the wonderful photos and commentary! And from the Gilfeather and Boothby's photos, I know you must've been sitting near the front of the barn. ;-) Glad you had such an enjoyable experience!

  4. Oh my goodness, I love that barn and property! How I wish I could have photographed the dinner. It looks lovely.

    Btw, do you know anything about the building out in back that looks like an old school house?