With so many urban farms popping up in the city, and more chefs stepping out from their commercial kitchens to participate in this dining movement, it’s no wonder that farm-to-table events are becoming increasingly popular too. You may have heard of Araxi’s Longtable Series, an al fresco dining experience that gets sold out each year in Whistler and Pemberton. This is certainly not new to a lot of people who may already be growing their own produce, but for many who can’t or don’t do so, they can expect to see a lot more farm-to-table events and establishments around the city.
Last week, we attended our first farm-to-table dinner at UBC Farm. It was hosted by Urban Zucchini, with some proceeds benefiting Backpack Buddies, a local non-profit organization that facilitates charitable giving, specifically targeting households experiencing ‘food insecurity.’ They provide children with a backpack full of nutritious food for the weekend. Founded only a year ago, they’ve since teamed up with several Vancouver inner city schools and are currently handing out 170 bags per week to children in need. To make this fundraiser even sweeter, our home-style meal was prepared by Trevor Bird from Fable Kitchen, who was also on Top Chef Canada, Season 2 on Food Network.
We made sure to dress warm, as the dinner was to be held at the farm, rain or shine. We ended up inside their Children’s Greenhouse to enjoy a warm and dry dinner. Three long tables were set up and decorated with green centrepieces that were donated by Urban Zucchini. The greenhouse allowed lots of natural daylight in, and ambient indoor lighting helped to set the cozy and intimate mood for the communal dinner. Blasted Church was the winery sponsor for the event (Click here to see our coverage of their 10 year anniversary celebration).
Despite the wet weather, we also toured the 25-hectare farm in our wellies and rain coats. We stopped at the Children’s Farm, which serves to educate children about agriculture and how their food is sourced. We then saw the Aboriginal Garden, where they grow and harvest various medicinal plants. Over at the mushroom farm, shiitake mushrooms are grown inside aged logs, with each log capable of yielding 2-3 pounds each. This practice was adopted from Japanese farmers, and is a great way for farmers to supplement their income during low season.
We passed by the honey bee farm, and learned how bees and their vital roles in our ecosystem and environment. We passed by a chicken farm and a large vegetable patch, complete with beets, swiss chard, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, and potatoes. The last stop of the tour was at the apple orchard, where a variety of different apples grow.
Most of the ingredients from the dinner were harvested from this very farm the day before. Once we returned, we were seated and the dinner service began. As an appetizer, we enjoyed delicious pulled pork lettuce wraps, with fresh lettuce and pickled red onions and carrots. Beets with goat cheese and candied walnuts were served with kale caesar. You could really taste the freshness of the beets and organic kale.
The winning dish of the night was the Lois Lake trout topped with ginger and garlic sauce and pea shoots, on a bed of tri-potatoes, roasted carrots, delicata squash, and green peppers. The trout was grilled but was still flaky and moist, and the sweet sauce was the perfect flavour pairing for it. It was a such a masterpiece that even those seated at our table who don’t normally take pictures of their food had their phones and cameras out.
Last but certainly not least was the dessert, which was a pumpkin tart topped with whipped cream. A perfect way to end an evening filled with great food.
It was great to be supporting a good cause and learning more about the UBC Farm and Backpack Buddies. Find out more about how you can help Backpack Buddies reach their goals of feeding hungry children in our city by checking out their website. They are expected to host more field dinners all over BC in the next year, so make sure you keep your eyes open!