PLEIN AIR DINING
Sierra Valley events are charming farm experiences like no other.
WRITTEN BY LAUREL WINTERBOURNE
PHOTOS BY SHEA EVANS
Late afternoon sunlight trickles in through cracks of the barn, revealing a long table set for 40 diners. The setting sun dips behind the Sierra Nevada, illuminating fields colored with summer's harvest. A musician in the corner plays soft melodies, creating the backdrop to interesting conversations. Complete strangers less than a few hours ago, guests now laugh and clink glasses, thankful for the fresh bounty being served. The intimate gathering feels authentic, familiar, engaging.
Hosted by Sierra Valley Farms and Season'd Catering, the Dinner in the Barn event is a food feat. Upon arrival, a local vintner pours wines for tasting as guests enjoy the scenery of the farm and surrounding mountains. Sierra Valley Farms owner/farmer Gary Romano welcomes guests to his certified-organic farm with a tour, during which he explains the history of the family's farm and their dedication and processes for growing organically. It is clear that his passion resides in the fields he tends and the people who eat his produce.
"Part of my vision and goal was really to bring people back to the farm, for people to see where their food is coming from, so we developed this farm-to-fork dinner," Romano says. "Dinners in the barn originated with the desire to have regular dinners where we could provide fresh produce and source all local meats and wild fish to bring awareness back to family style — where you get together not knowing everyone, but it turns into a really nice function and we can all sit around and drink wine and eat good food."
Farm Fresh Delights
The farm, located just outside of Beckwourth, Calif., hosts the dinners in the summer months, and they usually sell out quickly. The menu changes based on what is in season. The four-course meal is freshly prepared outdoors by chef/owner Tom Marrin of Season'd Catering, with help from co-owners Tom Farina and Eric Barton.
With a menu that follows the harvest, it's impossible to say what will be served, but it is sure to be a delicious occasion. Family-sized portions are passed around the table and there always is plenty to go around.
Inevitably, a variety of salads and vegetable dishes fresh from the earth will be featured. Ancient grain-stuffed quail in a habañero madeira glaze and bistro filet in a morel mushroom cream sauce served with apple thyme bread pudding are a few of the main courses that have been served. Make sure to save room for dessert. A Nicaraguan coffee bean panna cotta topped with honey cinnamon syrup and served with fresh strawberries from the farm's greenhouse is an example of what is not to be missed.
It's hard to say whether the food tastes so good because it was picked just hours before being served, the intricate details in preparation and presentation, or the novelty of eating dinner in a barn looking out at a field of greens with a group of new friends. Nonetheless, it is an escapade that will be remembered for a lifetime.
It takes a lot to impress freelance food writer and avid diner Laurel Winterbourne. Dinner in the Barn did just that, and she looks forward to this summer's series.
Dinner in a Barn Dates for 2014
June 28 – 29
July 12 – 13
Aug. 23 – 24
Sept. 13 – 14
For reservations, call Season'd Catering
Sierra Valley Farms
1329 County Road A23, Beckwourth, Calif.