Getting Personal with Farm-to-Table Cooking
I saw the Farmer’s Market through new eyes on a recent visit with cookbook author Jill Dahan. Through a class at the Kitchen at Little Pond Farm in Valle Crucis, we started our Saturday with a morning trip to the Watauga County Farmer’s Market in Boone.
Once there, Jill introduced us to farmers, bakers and vendors of all sorts. We tasted goat cheeses, honey, breads, and organic chicken. An egg purveyor told us that if you bake with duck eggs you don’t need to adjust ingredients for altitude (I’ll have to try out that one).
Local farmers have had a very tough year with the excessive rains ruining many crops, diminishing their usually abundant offerings. Thankfully, Jill had gone to the Market when the doors opened at 8AM to reserve some of the best produce for our luncheon class. We added tomatoes, cheeses, breads, micro greens, garlic, and onions to Jill’s reserve of kale, basil and beets.
Once back at Little Pond Farm, the festivities got underway. Under the guidance of innkeepers Gaye and Frank Luaces, Jill got to work in the Inn’s fabulous state-of-the-art kitchen. Jill is all about healthy eating with fresh, wholesome food. Her easy-going style and no-nonsense manner kept the class as interesting as it was educational. Classes at Little Pond Farm are as interactive as you want them. In the past I’ve helped chop and stir, but today the group of 12 enjoyed watching Jill’s prep work as we tasted each delicious course.
While we watched and chatted with Jill about her recipes, techniques and recipe substitutions, we enjoyed a light Rioja rosé wine along with some of the breads and goats cheeses we had selected at the Market. For lunch we had Tomato Pesto Tart (using kale instead of spinach in the pesto); roasted beets and onions served over delicious beet greens (I never thought of using beet greens for a salad); followed by a dessert of cheesecake with a crust made of almonds and macadamia nuts and topped with fresh-from-market raspberries.
Along the way, we learned about cooking with coconut oil and coconut sugar, some tasty new products and how to adapt recipes for fresh items found in the market on any given day.
Best cooking class ever.
A note about the Inn at Little Pond Farm: I have known owner/innkeeper Gaye for more than 20 years, from our days in Coral Gables, Florida. In those days she worked in interior design (specializing in old houses, of course) and jewelry design. I was delighted when a mutual friend told me Gaye had moved up to NC with her husband Frank and were going to open a very special inn.
The couple spent six years, planning, restoring and adding to the circa 1900 farmhouse that is now the serenely enchanting Inn at Little Farm Pond. I already knew Gaye was a perfectionist-extraordinaire and learned Frank was also a master carpenter. Their attention to detail permeates every corner of the Inn from the gleaming gourmet kitchen/class area, sophisticated décor, and peaceful five-acre grounds, to each of the six luxurious guest rooms.
With their talents and personalities, Gaye and Frank are a magical team. When you visit the Inn, I challenge anyone to find a speck of dust; and just open any cabinet to see the extent of the beautiful craftsmanship at Frank’s hand. The gorgeous floors were brought over from Provence and the entire Inn reflects a charming palate of soft grays and soothing shades of white. Those who stay at the Inn, or visit for the regular cooking classes, provide all the other color needed.
A few tips:
Watauga County Farmers Market is located at Horn in the West in Boone, 8AM – noon, Saturdays from May – November 828-355-4918
For a peek at the interiors of this beautiful Inn and a full listings of available cooking classes, check out: The Inn at Little Pond Farm, Valle Crucis, NC 828-297-1011
For info about Jill Dahan and some of her delicious recipes, visit: http://jilldahan.com/ Jill’s cookbook Starting Fresh, Recipes for Life is available through her website or on Amazon and will soon be at Earth Fare natural supermarkets.