A balmy summer evening and a shady pine grove provided the perfect backdrop to the July 9 kickoff of Smolak Farms’ annual Whim “garden to gourmet” dinner series. Chef Danny Azzarello of Burtons Grill in North Andover took inspiration—and ingredients—from Smolak Farms, incorporating tender baby greens, sweet red raspberries, and even homemade cider donuts into the fantastic, four-course meal.
Each Wednesday evening through August 20, chefs from around the region, including Chef Mark Sapienza of The Langham Hotel and Chef Mary Dumont of Harvest, will use the farm’s fresh produce to create farm-to-fork dinners in the rough under a tent at Smolak Farms. The chefs’ recipes are created on a “whim” based on what’s available from the farm.
A pretty, torch-lit path leads to the large tented dining area, which is strung with delicate white lights and decorated with fresh flowers and bales of hay. Diners sit at long, white-linen covered tables—perfect for chatting and making new friends—and dinner is served on charmingly mismatched vintage china.
Chef Azzarello’s enthusiasm and energy was evident as he introduced each of his masterful courses, which got stronger throughout the evening. Each course in the sold-out dinner was also paired with a different wine.
Dinner began with a lovely, light salad of baby greens, avocado, pistachio, raspberries, and locally made feta, and dressed with a tangy poppy seed vinaigrette. It was paired with a crisp, not-too-sweet Joel Gott Riesling, which gave a refreshing pop to the warm summer night.
Next up was the second course of diver scallops—which get their name from the scuba divers who hand-harvest them from the ocean—along with red and golden roasted beets, arugula, and the surprising addition of blueberries. The sweetness of the scallops and blueberries was both balanced and echoed by the earthy-sweet beets. The dish paired beautifully with Montevina Chardonnay.
The standout third course got the most raves from Whim diners, thanks to the impossibly tender pork tenderloin and a stuffing made from Smolak’s apple cider donuts. Chef Azzarello said he loves the donuts so much, he had to figure out a way to use them in his Whim creation. The result was a sweet-spicy stuffing for the pork, which was topped with a slaw of shaved apples for an excellent reinterpretation of the classic pork and applesauce flavors. A complex Dona Paula “Black Label” Malbec blend was offered as a pairing.
The evening closed with a silky-smooth Panna Cotta that Chef Azzarello said was “straight from Sicily,” as he reminisced about his mother making the dessert when he was child. The chef’s version was light and sweet, topped with raspberry coulis and a hint of white chocolate, and adorned with twist of pistachio brittle. The Terra ‘Oro Zinfandel Port gave the meal one last kiss of sweet indulgence.
For more information about Smolak Farms’ Whim pop-up dining series, including participating chefs and upcoming menus, visit smolakfarms.com/whim.