There’s not a more beautiful spot on Earth than the Hudson Valley, and there’s no place in the Hudson Valley more bucolic than Cabbage Hill Farm. The Flying Pig restaurant in Mt. Kisco is a pioneer in the Farm-to-Table movement in Westchester County; the restaurant has a symbiotic relationship with the farm. True Foodies want to know as much as possible about what we’re eating. So Chef Lesley Sutter had a brainstorm.
Several times during the summer, a few lucky Foodies get taken on a Hay Ride around Cabbage Hill Farm, and are educated as to what’s going on by Chef Lesley. Afterward, everyone sits down to a truly delicious al fresco gourmet dinner. Maybe it was the free flowing wine, or the incomparable surroundings, or the dining on one perfect dish after another, but I don’t remember when I’ve had a better time.
This native of Northern California has a wealth of information on nutrition, farming practices, and everything that’s involved in providing healthy and superb food to her diners. What’s a delightful surprise is how much Chef Lesley enjoys sharing her knowledge, and how articulate she is.
She invited us to ask whatever we wished; she got peppered with questions from the obviously sophisticated event guests, and she answered them all unflinchingly and with humor.
Does she agree with Chef Chris Cosentino’s Nose-to-Tail philosophy of using the entire animal in restaurant cooking? Absolutely, but she also acknowledges that this would probably not go over so well with her clients at this time. Can pigs be raised to be too lean? Yes; the meat then becomes hard to cook properly. Why are there llamas on the farm? They protect the sheep.
I learned so much. Who knew that grass fed beef actually has less fat than chicken? Who would have imagined that there’s a two hundred plus acre farm in suburban Mount Kisco, or that harness racing once took place there? Or that the wool from these local sheep is used in spinning and weaving?
After a visit to the somewhat futuristic aquaponics greenhouse, our little band of food adventurers happily rolled off to our much anticipated dinner. We were greeted with a mouthwatering selection of hors d’oeuvres, including Fennel Soup Shooters, Vietnamese Summer Rolls, and Rainbow Ridge Goat Cheese with Mostarda (opening photo). A guitar duo serenaded us.
On the table were heaping bowls of Herbed Current & Pine Nut Blooming Hill Popcorn. There was also a bottomless pitcher of Blueberry Cobbler Refresher available. Even though we knew we had an exceptional repast and superb wine parings ahead, these were almost irresistible.
The first course consisted of Cabbage Hill Farm Beets with Citrus Vinaigrette; Lentils and Local Goat Cheese with Cumin Vinaigrette; Moroccan Carrot Salad; and Cabbage Hill Farm Leeks Romesco. The wine was a Millbrook 2010 Tocai Friulano.
The fish course was composed of Rhode Island Black Sea Bass, Misticanza Salad, cherry tomatoes, and shallots, The wine was an Auratus 2010 Sustainable Alvarhino-Trajadura.
Next, Cabbage Hill Farm Heritage Lamb Kebab with Couscous, currants, pine nuts, and Tzatziki Sauce. The wine was a Les Pensees des Pallus 2008 Biodynamic Chinon.
Following this, we feasted on Rosemary and Mustard Encrusted Prime Rib of Beef with frisee, Anchovy Vinaigrette, and Blooming Hill potatoes. The wine was a Felsina 2008 Biodynamic Chianti Classico.
Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, we found ourselves savoring Pastry Chef Shelley Smedberg’s sublime Blooming Hill Blueberry Turnover with Cabbage Hill Farm Basil Syrup and Lemon Cream. A glass of Albet i Noya Organic Cava, and the feast was complete.
As anyone who watches the Food Network knows, it takes more than being a great cook to be an Executive Chef. You must also be a good manager and an exceptional leader; Chef Lesley was quick to acknowledge the contributions of the members of her team, and introduced them one by one at the end of the meal to hearty applause.
She also introduced us to Nancy Kohlberg, the owner of the farm. Their mutual respect and affection for each other was obvious. “Mrs. K has been doing this for 25 years, long before most people had even heard of Farm-to-Table,” Chef Leslie told us. “At one time, there was a slaughterhouse on the property; Mrs. K hired Temple Grandin to design it. She’s been a champion of sustainable agriculture, and the preservation of historic farm animals.” I was chagrined that I’d not known of this Westchester County visionary before my blissful visit to her property.
I met interesting people from very different backgrounds that day. There were elegant ladies from Scarsdale, a dedicated teacher who’d been treated by a grateful student, and a woman who has found a significant connection between children with autism and the food they consume. Everybody bonded, and as the sun set, I think we all hated to leave Cabbage Hill Farm.
The next Flying Pig Restaurant/Cabbage Hill Farm tour and dinner will be held on Sunday, August 21st. The all-inclusive price for this event is $150. More dinners are planned for September and October. For further information, contact The Flying Pig, 914-666-7445.
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist, and an unrepentant Foodie. She writes extensively about restaurants and food, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary.
Photo credit: Kat McKee
Additional photos by Michall Jeffers