I (Missy) was recently afforded an opportunity to take part in a unique dining experience in these WV hills. Chef Dale Hawkins http://www.statejournal.com/story/18940739/chef-dale-hawkins is offering farm dinners at Fish Hawk Acres, his family’s farm in Rock Cave, WV. This was one of the best meals I’ve ever experienced. Looking back on memorable meals of late, I realize the farm to table connection is almost always there. There is so much more flavor in the food, and the passion of the folks involved in making possible these meals is evident.
This May dinner I enjoyed took place outdoors in a lovely little shelter on the farm. The set-up was rustic, yet elegant.
We began the evening with a farm fresh Ginger Rhubarb Mojito. Not too sweet and refreshingly cool on this humid day.
Next up, we were served an appetizer of toasted bread, made by a local baker, with goat cheese, from the Chef’s brother’s goat farm, fresh fava beans (this was the first time I’ve had fava beans … and of course I thought of Dr. Lecter. Thanks, Thomas Harris) and chive blossoms (I think). The goat cheese was the best I’ve ever tasted, fluffy and full of flavor (fluffiful).
We then got a chance to tour a bit of the farm with the Chef. He explained his operation and that he is able to irrigate the entire farm with water from a pond behind his home.
He also discussed the way in which he assists other small farmers – like a nearby woman who grows Shitake mushrooms (this sounds fascinating and I don’t even like mushrooms) – by taking their products to places he goes so they can concentrate on the growing.
There were several greenhouses nearby, as well as others in the distance, and the buzzing from the bees inside these structures could make a girl go crazy. Though, many thanks to the bees for the work they do.
They grow flowers as well as veggies on the farm. I have no idea what these are, except pretty. Such color! Nice work, nature.
Chef explained that the weather had been very friendly to the growth of the garden. As evidenced by the giant lettuce and other plants (that I identify as lettuces). Take that GMOs!
As a light rain started to fall, we returned to the shelter to watch Chef prepare our salad of microgreens, with WEE LITTLE CUCUMBERS!! (I love meat, but these were my favorite part of the meal because they were adorable and delicious.)
I’m not a huge fan of fancy lettuces (letti?) and prefer all the other stuff that goes in salad (particularly cheese), but these microgreens were delicious and their texture was not off putting (like frisee … wth?).
(Notice the Fiestaware. Made in WV.)
As Harmony assisted the Chef in plating the salads, he brought out a lamb leg from a farm near Parkersburg, WV. I could tell you what he did to the lamb before grilling it but I’d have to kill you, or I’ve forgotten. More likely the latter.
(Quick aside – this WordPress thing is easy to use.)
We were invited to be seated and enjoy our salads and then more food began appearing as if by magic. The magic of Chef Hawkins. We enjoyed a risotto with peas, and a separate dish of fresh asparagus (one of my favorite veggies), served family style.
Everyone at the table – delightful company, by the way – stopped talking to savor the great food. The lamb was soon served with local chorizo. I believe I heard this is made by the Chef’s dad and he calls it “ground hog meat” (get it?).
There was more fresh bread, delicious wine, and great conversation, as well as some locally caught fish (which I could not eat due to my food allergies – speaking of which, I mentioned this in an email beforehand to the Chef and that I I typically avoid these dishes but everything on the menu looked “Missy-safe” except the fish – and Chef was kind enough to substitute sunflower seeds for nuts in the pesto that accompanied the fish and beautifully complemented the lamb).
We ended sorta where we began with a Ginger Rhubarb Tart.
Because of my food allergies (fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and I avoid peanuts) I never eat dessert, but Chef assured me it was safe and I put my life in his hands and am glad I did as this tart was sublime (I’ve always wanted to say that about food). It was not too sweet, or too incredibly tart, and the whipped topping and crust offset the flavor perfectly. I’m a huge fan of ginger (though on Gilligan’s Island, I prefer Mary Ann), but neither it nor the rhubarb overpowered the dish. Everything blended deliciously, in the dessert as well as the entire evening.
Should you wish to enjoy a dinner like this, visit http://www.wvfishhawkacres.com/ and request to be added to their email list. You will also be provided information on their visits to WV outdoor markets at which you may purchase their products as well as other services they provide in keeping it local.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities like this from other providers. I recently read Swift Level Farm was doing something similar.
Out of focus BABY CUCUMBER! I forgot to mention the blossom which is also edible, and tastes a lot like cucumber.