Any chef will tell you that a really great meal begins with locally-grown, fresh ingredients. Living along the shoreline, finding items such as organic heirloom tomatoes, fresh peaches, local honey, and homemade goat cheese is the easy part. Cooking it, well, that's a bit trickier.
At East Lyme's White Gate Farm, people can buy fresh-picked organic produce, hand-crafted raw milk cheeses, fresh baked bread, newly-laid eggs, and organic chicken. And now, to help people turn these lovingly-raised raw ingredients into a dish that will truly do them justice, White Gate Farm is offering cooking classes taught by some of the best chefs in Connecticut.
This is something new for White Gate Farm and, like all good things, it grew organically. It started with an idea to convert the farmhouse's old milk room into a commercial kitchen, so the farm would have a designated space to make the fresh sauces it sells.
What began as a fairly modest proposal morphed into a full-scale commercial kitchen that now fills one wing of the old farmhouse. "We got a bit carried away," said Pauline Lord, who runs the farm with her husband, David. "This kitchen was the next phase in our evolution."
Once the kitchen renovation was complete, the finished result was so spectacular that Lord thought there was perhaps an even better way to use it. After hearing so many people who come in to buy items such as kale and eggplant ask about the best ways to prepare their produce, cooking classes seemed a logical next step. The whole concept just mushroomed from there.
The first in a series of five classes begins this week with Anne Gallagher of From Plough To Plate, whose September 15 "cocktail class" will show people how to turn farm fresh ingredients into delicious hors d'oeuvres. As a number of these were sampled at the grand unveiling of the new kitchen last month, it's perhaps no surprise that the first class is full.
However, there is still room at the table in classes scheduled for later this month and in October, and there's always the possibility of a spot opening up at the last-minute.
All classes will be held at White Gate Farm's new commercial farmhouse kitchen at 83 Upper Pattagansett Road in East Lyme. And at the end of each cooking class, you get to eat what you've made!
If you're interested in learning how to make a meal out of amazing local produce, call (860) 739-9585 or email email@example.com
Here's the fall schedule:
September 20, 2-4:30 p.m. White Gate Farm's Susan Mitchell, the farm manager, will teach a preserving and canning class to show you how to enjoy those lovely heirloom tomatoes all year long. "It's a way to be able to eat locally in the wintertime," Mitchell said. $40.
October 17, 3-9 p.m. Jonathan Rapp of the River Tavern in Chester will give a long class covering everything from how to harvest fresh produce to how to prepare a full dinner using only locally-produced ingredients. He probably won't have to teach you how to eat it but you'll get to do that too! $100.
October 25, 4-7 p.m. Bun Lai of Miya's Sushi in New Haven, who Pauline Ford describes as something of a "rock star" in the world of sushi in Connecticut, will be teaming up Emrys Tetu, vegan chef and wellness consultant of Chester, for a lesson in raw food and the fine art of sushi. $125.
October 27, 4-7 p.m. Eddy Farm Manager Haley Fox offers a lesson in farmhouse cooking (and how to make your own cheese!). It's a hearty fall menu of pickled fennel and onion salad, roasted tomato soup, hand-made gnocchi with sage brown butter sauce, roasted winter squash, and farmer cheese with honey and herbs. $75.