On Wednesday we said good bye to our CSA members for 2017. It’s a time of year that always comes with intense mixed emotions. And this year it was even more bittersweet because holy cats did that season go fast.
It was a beautiful season filled with wonderful new friends, a hilarious and kind farm team, a lot of love, a lot of new opportunities and so much personal growth, but it was also a season that really wore us down. We grew our business by 65% and learned some hard realities about growth and farming (like the fact that investing in yourself and your infrastructure is a key component to not getting overworked).
So though I really can’t believe we’re nearing Halloween, I am so ready to be in this blissful state of rest and recovery. My mind is racing as my hubby and I discuss ways to do better next year. Ways to be smarter, more balanced, stronger, and more strategic. We’ll be having our first ever founders’ retreat this winter (yes, that does mean a retreat with just the two of us) and I can’t wait to actually take time away to set future goals and benchmarks with my life/business partner.
But first, rest. This past week has been marked with a lot of things essential to my well-being that were neglected over the past five months while the CSA was our top priority: hikes, books, dates with my Carrot, finally taking time to refresh my wardrobe, season after season of Gilmore Girls, and lots of baking. I found a real gem with this Carrot Cake with Cider and Olive Oil recipe from Smitten Kitchen (and not only because we pressed four gallons of apple cider ourselves!). I’m about to make it for the third time tonight and top it with loads of maple cream cheese frosting.
I’ve also finally begun to experiment with recipes inspired by quite possibly the best meal of my lives: dinner at The Dabney in Washington D.C. with our friends Kaitlin and Mike a month ago. Every morsel we consumed at this three-hour dinner was absolute heaven. The kitchen at The Dabney cooks exclusively over fire and embers with a wood-fired hearth designed by the owner himself. All of their plates are inspired by what one local farm has available. And each of the seven plates of food we shared between the four of us was better than the one prior. My favorite was a delicata and chard dish with brown butter, walnuts and feta that seemed like something I would make at home but tasted so much more elevated.
Here’s my best attempt at a recreation. I added some lightly sauteed leeks and a drizzle of maple syrup because I just can’t live without these flavors in the fall, but otherwise largely played with the flavors of the original dish. It turned out perfectly though missing the smokiness that only a wood-fired hearth can create. Turning the oven up to 450 degrees and using cast-iron where you can certainly helps. I hope you enjoy the flavors of fall as much as we have been.
Yours, always and forever,
P.S. Here are all our other recommendations for a whirlwind weekend in D.C.:
Ted’s Bulletin // This place is cheesy and a bit touristy, but the brunch we had was damn tasty. It’s silly and fun and serves breakfast all day. When we went there was also Popeye playing on a projector at the back of the restaurant, so in my opinion, that makes it worth the trip. I highly recommend the Crab Cake Benedict and High Mark Breakfast, but definitely don’t suggest you drink the coffee here. Grab a milkshake instead.
The Dabney // This place is fabulous in every possible way. It’s hard to get a table but we put our name on the list for a spot at the bar and then lingered at the Columbia Room (see below) until they were ready for us. It was the perfect way to spend an evening with good friends. We enjoyed fried chicken skins, tomatoes with grilled bread and butter, scallop crudo, lobster risotto, the delicata dish I babbled about above, two desserts (an apple crisp and a peach dessert with homemade lemon verbena sorbet) and some seriously tasty cocktails. They change their menu daily so who knows what the heck they will have when you visit, but I promise it will be perfect.
Columbia Room // This is the cutest little rooftop bar you are ever going to find. There are rustic wood floors, exposed bricks, string lights and plants hanging everywhere. The atmosphere is everything you’ve ever wanted a bar to be, and the cocktails are amazing (though expensive). Apparently the indoor space is also classy AF. We didn’t know it when we went, but apparently they were just ranked the best American cocktail bar so that explains why the guy at the door mentioned something about reservations. We didn’t have one and got a seat, but may have gotten lucky.
Busboys and Poets // I love a good bookstore. I like it even more when it has a bar, a restaurant, open mic night and cozy couches. I recommend this place for the ambiance and lingering with a good cup of coffee. I definitely don’t recommend the food. (Sorry guys).
Grandale Vitner’s Table at 868 Estate Vineyard // These are the places that inspire me most. The beautiful little farmsteads that take lovely old barns and sprawling landscapes and turn them into something truly magical. My college roommate and dear, dear friend Jess had her rehearsal dinner here and every moment from the corn hole game to my Carrot peeking inside the farm’s greenhouse to the round after round of appetizers (and wine) and elegant dinner was just perfect. If you find yourself in D.C., be sure to take the gorgeous one-hour drive to this place and be sure to prioritize a time when they are serving food.
Balaji Cafe // An impulse stop after dropping a friend off at the airport, this Indian restaurant tucked inside a totally ugly strip mall was some of the best food I ate in D.C. (obviously coming in second to The Dabney). This casual joint has many South Indian delights that can be hard to find in even the most ethnically diverse city. You’d be silly not to try the Onion & Green Chilly Uttapam and the Mysore Masala Dosa. Shout out to Michele for recognizing these specialties on the menu and not even asking what I wanted before ordering.
Panda Gourmet // This unassuming Szechuan-style restaurant is tucked alongside a cheap hotel in a totally ugly part of the city, but you know what, their food is stellar. Thanks Kittles for the recommendation. I’m still dreaming of their Spicy Double Cooked Pork Belly with Vegetables.
Other Non-Food D.C. Highlights:
- Library of Congress
- U.S. Capitol
- White House (viewed at both day and night)
- National Mall (viewed at both day and night)
- Air & Space Museum
- Department of Ag Farmer’s Market
- Smithsonian Institution Building
- Rock Creek Parkway
- Billy Goat Trail (along the Potomac!)
DELICATA, LEEK & CHARD WITH BROWN BUTTER
The delicata and leeks reheat well in the oven or toaster oven if you are making more than you plan to eat at one time or want to make part of this dish ahead of time. The chard doesn’t reheat as well. I recommend, quickly sauteing just the amount you plan to eat. I also add the walnuts and feta just before serving. If you want to make this a heartier meal for 4-6 people, it’s amazing with wild rice.
Can’t find delicata? Feel free to sub peeled butternut squash– just cut it in half and slice it thinly (1/4-inch thick).
Takes 1 hour
Serves 2 as a meal or 4-6 as a salad alongside a main
6 tablespoons butter
3 large delicata squash (see note above), unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices and seeds removed with a spoon
1-1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 bunch chard, stems removed, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider
1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more for drizzling on final dish
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
4 ounces crumbled feta
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Melt your butter in a cast-iron skillet or other large saute pan over medium. Once its melted, keep the heat on. It will begin to foam, then turn clear and finally begin to brown. Small flecks will start to form on the bottom of the pan and it will smell nutty. Remove it from the heat and pour into a small bowl as soon as it smells nutty so that the butter does not burn. Whip out the pan with a paper towel.
- On two baking sheets, combine delicata with two tablespoons brown butter, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn each delicata ring over and roast 10 minutes longer. They should be well-browned on both sides.
- Meanwhile, pour 1 tablespoon butter back into skillet you used to make brown butter. Turn heat up to medium low. Add leeks and a pinch of salt. Saute for 5-10 minutes until tender but not browned. Add a little more butter if the pan gets dry. Remove to a large bowl.
- Add another tablespoon butter to the pan and let warm to medium. Add chard and a pinch of salt. Cook until just wilted then add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Saute one minutes longer then add to bowl with leeks.
- In a small bowl, combine remaining brown butter (will be about 2 tablespoons, maybe a little less if you used extra for your leeks) with olive oil, apple cider, maple syrup, mustard, red pepper flakes and remaining apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons) salt (1/2 teaspoon) and pepper (1/4 teaspoon). Whisk until smooth. It will get thick and almost creamy in appearance. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Remove delicata rings from the oven once cooked and add to bowl with leeks and chard. Toss to combine.
- Serve vegetables with toasted walnuts, feta and as much brown butter sauce as you want to use. We used most of it.