Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dinner at the Dairy


(Photos, from top: Steve explains sustainable agriculture and cheesemaking; Ginnie the Goat Lady entertaining guests with a baby goat in her arms; Samantha and Chris in the kitchen; Greens ready for the saucepan. )

Controlled chaos. Little Carrie is back in time to help on the busiest day of the week. They wrapped smoked chevre rounds while I turned all of the ripening cheese in the aging coolers. I also loaded fresh batches of cheese into the 57-degree aging "cave."

Sammy shows up with a 100-plus gallons of milk. We pour most of it into the pasteurizer, and the rest goes into the bulk tank for more cheesemaking magic on Sunday. Steve walks me through the pasteurization process, showing me how to operate the new equipment. He seems to like my enthusiasm and wants to teach me all that he can while I'm here. I welcome this chance. But today is very stressful. Lots to do before dinner.

Next, we all get together to make the place spotless for guests. We clean the cheese room to prepare for the big event: Dinner at the Dairy.

This is a very special meal for many people. Reservations are taken in January for the entire year. This year all seats for the every seating were reserved within fifteen minutes. These dinners are highly sought after.

Here is Nate Tate ready to serve the eager guests.

45 people pay $55 each to come to the farm for a meal featuring pasture-raised beef, farm-fresh eggs, salad greens harvested a couple of hours before serving, and of course, Goat Lady Dairy cheese. The guests also get a farm tour and a lesson in sustainable agriculture and sustainable living. Steve plays host while Nathan runs the front of house in the "restaurant." Lee used to prepare the meals, but she has handed the torch over to Chris, a chef from Durham, and his girlfriend Samantha. Samantha use to be a goat intern, and she now works at another cheesemaker, Chapel Hill Creamery. One weekend a month, they come to Goat Lady Dairy and prepare elaborate meals.

The atmosphere is relaxed and jovial. Randolph County is a dry county, so wine is not served, but guests are welcome to bring their own. People don’t leave hungry. The first course is a cheese plate. I had the honor of preparing it tonight. I had fun cutting cheese for 45 plates. I plated up a scoop of Goat Lady Dairy's Boursin, as well as slices of goat-milk camembert, Providence, and Jersey Girl. Chris made some candied pecans to add to the plate. I finished it with an edible flower and declared the plate ready to serve. Forty-four plates later, they all get set on the tables in the dining room.

The salad course had beef carpaccio with a bone marrow and parsley salad on top. Next to it was a warm goat cheese medallion rolled in breadcrumbs. The plate was finished with freshly harvested salad greens with citrus vinaigrette. I grabbed a plate and had some, too. It is superbly executed. I felt like I was in a Parisian bistro. Yum!

Next there was a lemon-mint sorbet served in a martini glass. The main course was braised beef over risotto, served with red Russian kale made with house-cured bacon. The meat just melted in your mouth.

Dessert featured a panecotta. It was a light custard with a blueberry sauce. Shortbread cookies finished the plate. I hope our guests left happy--I know I am. It was a very intense four hour whirlwind of activity. I'm tired and must get up early to accompany Steve at the Triad Farmers Market.

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