Due to the weather, all I wanted to do on Sunday night was burrow into my couch and avoid the world. Instead, I had dinner in a pole barn.
The first Tour de Farm was held last Sunday night, and it was heartening to see all the city folk who dragged themselves down to Elgin for a pork feast. Just 90 miles south of the city is the Klein's Hidden Streams Farm, the inaugural site for TDF.
As we rolled in and parked next to the chicken coop, we knew we had planned correctly by wearing our wellies. I was actually psyched that I wouldn't be shunned for wearing a scarf and fleece at a fine meal. There were a few ladies who probably regretted their clothing/shoe choice but not many.
The Furthermore Beer boys graciously poured us some Fatty Boom-ba-latty, a good slap at a Belgian for some Wisconsin boys, and we snacked on some pork terrine before heading out for the tour. Farmer Klein took us around the farm and discussed how his animals were raised. For all intents and purposes, they're an organic farm, minus the costly certification. We saw the pigs in their buildings, cows in the fields, piglets running amok everywhere, chickens and goats and kittens, oh my! There were some people who were amazed by the cows—that they were watching us and following us as we walked along the pasture. People, these aren't wild animals, I think they knew the guy in the hat who was leading the tour.
Although one of the ideas of TDF is to have dinner in the fields, ours was muddy, and it wasn't getting any prettier. I don't know if I've ever felt so much gratitude for a pole barn, but there it is. We sat down among the hay bales at three long communal tables. It was nice that we had just met the pigs, but it was nicer that we could now smell the pork. Our tablemates (J. Derusha and his lovely wife, Bob and Rachel from S. Mpls., and the gang of rollerblading ladies who like to eat well) were just as food-geeked out as we were. If we had forgotten that Mike Phillips was cooking this meal, we were reminded when the first course arrived. A gorgeous selection of cured meats and charcuterie was set on a humble wooden plank down the middle of the table. Yes there was head cheese, and yes it was good. I had to fight Derusha for every last piece of sopprasata-style salami on the board.
What followed can only be described as pork madness: a salad with lardons and crunchy pigs' ears, a fat sausage sitting on a schmear of polenta, crispy-skinned and fattyliscious pork belly, soft and tender braised ham hocks, and of course, chocolate with bacon for dessert. All the while, volunteers refilled wine and beer, Scott Pampuch and Mike introduced each course and recounted the fun they'd been having, and the Klein children watched us all, giggling and eating hot dogs from the top of the hay bales. Not a bad night.
By the end, I felt sure that I had consumed a whole pig myself. It was a wonderful meal, made even better by the pole barn ambiance, the camaraderie of strangers at a communal table, and hosts who seemed more grateful than we. Steph and I looked forward to the long drive home, if only for the reclining seats and cruise control, and wondered how we could stop ourselves for buying tickets to the event in Duluth, the only one left available.
If you're smart, you'll make a weekend of it.