It seems like a big claim that nobody had ever served dinner on a bridge in almost 200 years, but none of the 100 guests downing glasses of Veuve Clicquot as sunlight glistened off the Housatonic river seemed interested in arguing the point during the dinner hosted on Sunday by Chef Joel Viehland of Community Table in West Cornwall, Conn., on its 173 year-old covered bridge.
The 242-foot, two-span Town Lattice and Queenpost Truss built in 1841 was temporarily closed by local volunteers for a seven-course dinner serenaded by banjo players, and set up with a tables inside for guests who could feel gentle reverberations as servers zipped over food from the prep kitchen Chef Viehland set up in The Wandering Moose Café.
“I was hanging out with a group of food writers and chefs about a year ago discussing interesting ways to work together,” explained chef Viehland. “Someone suggested doing a dinner inside the covered bridge and we all agreed that it had never been done before.” For the menu, chef Viehland wanted to serve dishes commonly available at Community Table, but he also wanted to take a farm-focused approach. “There are so many farms in the area, I felt like I had to take advantage,” he added, also pointing to the fact that a portion of the proceeds from the dinner benefitted the West Cornwall Fire Department & Ambulance Services.“Connecticut's food scene has been easily dismissed in the past,” said chef Viehland. “A few hopefuls have emerged on the scene: Tyler Anderson of Millwright's in Simsbury, Matt Stanczak of Stanziato's Pizza in Danbury, Bill Taibe of the Welk in Westport, Caseus in New Haven, and On20 in Hartford. I think it's on the rise and starting to getting some attention.”
Sounds similar to the approach that the chef (who worked with Katy Sparks and spent time at Stella and Herbsaint in New Orleans) takes all of the time at his restaurant Community Table, which the chef noted was started to support the local food movement and promote sustainable cooking practices. “At Community Table, 90 percent of the food we use comes from local farms.”
Local farms and businesses participated in as many aspects of the event as possible, from tablescaping by Michael Trapp to milk and produce from Stone Wall Dairy, Long Meadow, Waldingfield, and Thorncrest farms served in dishes created by Todd Piker of Cornwall Bridge Pottery.
The menu featured gorgeous heirloom tomatoes that seemed to taste as warm and delicious as the last rays of the late summer sun, Connecticut royal red shrimp (sweet, ruby red shrimp fished in deep waters), and a tender lamb asada with mint, aji, and black garlic; it was a stellar afternoon for the Connecticut dining scene, one that, the chef noted, more people should be pursuing at this point.
“Connecticut's food scene has been easily dismissed in the past,” said chef Viehland. “A few hopefuls have emerged on the scene: Tyler Anderson of Millwright's in Simsbury, Matt Stanczak of Stanziato's Pizza in Danbury, Bill Taibe of The Welk in Westport, Caseus in New Haven, and ON20 in Hartford. I think it's on the rise and starting to getting some attention.”
Covered Bridge Dinner, September 15th 2014
Chilled Cucumber and Champagne Soup
Krug Grande Cuvée NV
Connecticut Royal Red Shrimp, White currants, Fresh Milk, Dill, and Tarragon
Krug Grande Cuvée NV
Heirloom Tomatoes, Burrata, Aged Apple Vinegar, Olive Oil, Basil, Onion
Clos Dubreuil, St-Emilion Grand Cru 2010
Lamb Asada, Aji, Mint, Black Garlic, Smoked potatoes, Caper Anchovy Aioli, Kale, Peaches, and Grilled Red Onion
Clos DuBreuil, St-Emilion Grand Cru 2010
Buttermilk Custard, Concord Grape, Yuzu, Buckwheat, St. George Gin Ice Cream
“Cannoli” Hazelnut, Ricotta Gelato, Rye, Nutella
Champagne Chocolate Mignardises
Haut Charmes, Sauternes 2009