Forage Dinner: Whimsical Picnic & Preserves

by Sarah on September 26, 2012 · 11 comments

OK. I admit it.

Sometimes, secretly, I wish I were cool.

In-the-know, owning my look, ’emphasis on hip and less on ster’ cool.

So when I found out about a new supper club in Charlottesville that all of my friends* had somehow been invited to over the course of the past few months, I was jealous. I was VERY jealous.

*Yes, I intended to say this as though I were a tween, akin to  “everyone in the whole world except me gets to do it because my life is so hard and I never get to do anything” [foot stomp. fist clench. huff.]

Five courses? One-of-a-kind, local, AND seasonal menu? Invite only?

I wanted in.

Luckily, I’m not ashamed to admit my aspirations for cool, and so last Sunday I found myself–after sending an e-mail to the organizers along the lines of “I don’t care which day. I don’t care how much it costs. Please let me come.”–at the Whimsical Picnic + Preserves dinner, under the ‘supper club’ moniker Forage.*

*Food literally ‘foraged’ and/or otherwise found locally for the most part. Including persimmons. From a nearby tree. That I am tempted to stalk and steal from. You know the night is going to go well when it begins with a custom apertif.[You also know you are in the company of cool when you are with people who throw around the word apertif without any sort of pretension or airs.]This one began with brandied cherries and orange liquor. It finished with locally brewed (and personally beloved) Potter’s Cider and a splash of brandy. As an alcoholic drink served as an appetizer,* this was astoundingly delicious.

*Just to be sure, I googled a dictionary definition of apertif…There was a much-raved-about (but not tried on my vegan with benefits diet) Free Union chicken liver pate, paired with brioche toast and grainy mustard, chillin’ out on a suitcase, with a clock, under a tree. [Um. Cooooool.]Herbed gougeres (which I translate as ‘cheese puffs’) with bacon and pickled onions…that I asked a friend to eat the bacon from first. :)

A light and flaky poof of heaven. And I’m not even that into cheese. Or pastry.

I was WAY too into the homemade persimmon toast. I scrapped the triple creme Brillat Savarin cheese and went straight for the nutty, slightly sweet bite of something that must be illegal because I swore I wanted to wake up and eat that bread every day for the rest of my life.*

*And it wasn’t just a 10-mile run induced carb craving talking…

As the night fell, and the lamps were lit—-or the lights turned on, as the case may be––we gathered at the table for the main event.I could have eaten buckets of this pomodoro-style tomato soup, poured tableside over a piece of pickled okra. Thick, with a homestyle texture, there was enough richness to make you feel as though you could just as easily be consuming a bowl of decadent tomato sauce. (Which is something I have been known to do…)It was time to put some benefits in my veganism, and every bite of this cured Rag Mountain trout was worth it. The foraged sorrel provided a light hint of lemon, and an almost dill-like flavor to the fish. Creme fraiche potatoes are probably not the best plan for someone with a lactose-averse stomach…but oh my goll, y’all, were these cold, tender, tart, and creamy bites good.The entree was seared duck breast in plum sauce with an arugula salad featuring roasted butternut squash, dried cherries, and duck confit.While I ate plenty of duck juice, on the delicious salad and in the delicious plum sauce, I chose to avoid getting too crazy with the duck. My much-cooler-than-I friend Kristen was happy to take some of it off of my hands plate. :)

If I were making a vegan meal, I can tell you that this perfectly roasted butternut squash covered in plum sauce would have been a mighty fine substitution.I was actually pleased as (rum?) punch that I chose not to indulge too much in the duck, because it meant I had enough room to savor what might just have been the best bites of my evening. (Well, except for the persimmon toast…and the tomato soup….oh, and that trout was really pretty phenomenal…)Now, those brioche doughnuts with berry filling were light, fluffy, and lightly covered in sugar–probably everything a doughnut should be–but we need to just focus on the words lemon curd cake with blackberry preserves for a second.

I mean….really.*

*First words upon entering my house post-meal? “Rach, you need to learn how to make lemon curd cake.”And then there were the chocolate cookies that tasted like fudge covered chocolate chips. (Sigh) I’m not what one might call a ‘chocolate person,’ but even I couldn’t resist seconds.They also tasted ridiculous when dipped in coffee. And of course, being surrounded by cool foodies, that was brought to the table in French presses.I, of course, being a rather geeky foodie, asked for decaf. And drank almost the whole thing by myself. With the stevia packet I pulled out of my purse.

You can lead a nerd to the kingdom of cool…but you can’t make her a convert.

Thank you SO much to Megan and Justin for allowing me to participate in such a fabulous Forage meal. I will be begging to come back to the next one.  Even if you are WAY too cool for me. :)

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Maria September 26, 2012 at 5:12 pm

This meal reminds me of the Mission District in SF – way too cool for me, a bit ouf of my comfort zone, but totally worth the trip and $20 parking.

LEMON CURD CAKE. It has been stuck in my head since you Instagrammed this place.

and p.s you’ve always been cool in my book.

Shannon September 26, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Just the table set up looks cooler than any dinner I have ever been to. Every dish looks incredible! I am very jealous.

Fran@ Broken Cookies Don't Count September 27, 2012 at 6:52 am

That sounds like SO much fun! Nothing like that ever happens in my area. MAYBE if you become really good friends with the organizers, you can ask them to make it more veg-friendly…they could tap into a whole new range of customers!

master chef September 27, 2012 at 8:39 am

WOW, looks amazing :)

Heather @ Better With Veggies September 27, 2012 at 12:58 pm

The food sounds very creative and I love anyone who uses the word aperativ. But really, the setting (table, etc) is what I’m most impressed with – gorgeous!

Brittany @ Delights and Delectables September 27, 2012 at 1:38 pm

This sounds really amazing… So.. my vocabulary is not that good… I had to look up what aperativ was! I’m so sad…

Liz @ IHeartVegetables September 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Wow that place looks like it’s worth throwing a tantrum over 😉

But seriously, I want to go there!!!! Can I come visit, and we can go?! (Date night!!!!)

Forage October 3, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Next time Sarah, I will absolutely make you vegan alternatives for anything you don’t want to eat. I had no idea you were giving away so much food! I’m so glad that you came, and thank you for this very generous review. Hope I’ll see you at the next one.

jenny gardiner January 22, 2013 at 11:30 am

I am so jealous that you got in on this action. I have been wondering about Forage! It sounds so amazing…

Sarah January 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm

It was amazing! I hope I get to go again. I would love to participate in the spring or summer. I can only imagine what type of feast they would put on. :)

jenny gardiner January 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

oh yeah, summertime with the incredible local harvest…I befriended a American food blogger in Italy a few months back (she’s a food writer for a lot of American publications) and happened upon an entry on a field party hosted by a quirky chef who tended to fail in running amazing restaurants and end up in financial disrepair. But he chose to host this incredible party in a pasture, all locally-sourced products, with his favorite foody-types. The pictures were incredible, I can’t even imagine how fabulous the food was…The tomatoes alone…

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