Harvest often concludes with a social celebration of the season. It’s a time to remember the energy and hard work that has been poured into the fields, while recognizing that success is based on the whim of Mother Nature. Growers gratefully honor the harvest of the season by sharing their food with others. Growers, like the Inn at Black Star Farms.
Their Harvest Dinner essentially began eight years ago with the introduction of the annual “Morels in May” event. Over the last few years, farmers in our region have continued to make strides in extending their season and providing us with local harvests year-round. In an effort to educate the public and raise awareness of our northern Michigan agricultural community, the Black Star Farms Harvest Dinner became a monthly series in March 2013. Each Harvest Dinner focuses on one or two items that are truly distinctive to that particular month. Those items are highlighted along with the chef’s creativity in each course that’s prepared.
I attended the February Harvest Dinner, which featured local lamb and parsnips. Stephanie Lee Wiitala, the Inn’s event planner and pastry chef, walked us through each course and wine pairing, while Executive Chef Jonathan Dayton worked in an open kitchen adjoining the dining room. Our candlelit table was filled with conversation between guests and the elegant atmosphere was both comfortable and warm alongside the Inn’s wood-burning stove.
Black Star Farms is known for its award-winning wines, and they are a big part of the Harvest Dinner experience. Each dish Jonathan prepares has a specific flavor profile that is carefully reviewed and considered before determining each pairing. Stephanie explained to the guests that a good pairing would not only complement but enhance the dish as well. From sparkling wine and Rosé to an incredible vintage of Pinot Noir shared from the cellar, the wines were paired perfectly with the unique flavors of every dish.
When Jonathan develops the menu for each Harvest Dinner, he strives to provide an accurate representation of what our region’s agricultural community has to offer. Selecting a product or variety of produce to highlight is the first task. During the summer months, the variety seems endless. In the winter, though, it’s a bigger challenge, but one that Jonathan welcomes and takes very seriously. Even in our cold winter, hearty greens are sprouting inside greenhouses and root vegetables are pulled from storage, providing us with the fresh produce we crave.
The five-course February Harvest Menu was creative and unique, ranging from Smoked Lamb Pancetta with parsnip gnocchi and lion’s mane mushroom to a Moroccan-inspired merguez sausage ragout with parsnip cous cous and a poached egg. The lamb was raised within a few feet of Black Star Farms’ kitchen and Sweeter Song Farm nearby in Cedar supplied the parsnips.
Harvest is a cause for celebration and a reason to gather together around the table. Black Star Farms hosts their Harvest Dinner Series on the second Wednesday of every month. Please call ahead to make reservations and join in on an incredible celebration of the season—whichever one it may be. Find out more about Black Star Farms’ harvest dinners on their website. Or Call them directly: Phone: 231-944-1251