A Rare Farm-To-Table Dinner

What if you and a few friends planned a dinner party which would take farm-to-table cuisine to a personal level and away from its normal restaurant setting? For example, one Saturday morning, each couple sets out to gather one locally produced item, such as wine, vegetables and fruits, cheeses, meats and chocolates, and then everyone assembles that evening at someone's home to prepare dinner from the day's bounty?

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Recently, I found myself at Lieb Cellars in Mattituck on Long Island's North Fork helping prepare for such an event. But our meal will be an even more-special farm-to-table dinner because all the participants are also the people who grew and produced the food. Our dinner planner is Russell Hearn, who began his winemaking career in Australia and who worked elsewhere on the East Coast before settling on North Fork. Providing the oysters is Josh Clauss, a member of Cornell University's bay scallop restoration project, but who also keeps his hands wet by growing commercial oysters. Dr. Michael Catapano and his wife, nurse and fitness teacher Karen Catapano, raise goats whose milk is turned into prize-winning cheeses. Accountant Tom Geppell, his wife Carol Festa, and their two children raise chickens and sheep and will provide lamb shanks for tonight's affair. Finally, our fresh produce has been grown by Eberhard Muller and Paulette Satur, known to New Yorkers in the 1990s as star chef and super wine broker respectively. In recent years, their neighbors know them as superb vegetable farmers who supply both local markets and Whole Foods.

With our cast in place, I jump into Hearn's Audi SUV —sorry, no dilapidated pickup truck here on North Fork — to begin our afternoon food-foraging tour among Hearn's friends and neighbors.

Goat Milk?    

(Credit: Roger Morris)
Our first stop is Catapano Dairy Farm, where Karen and Michael Catapano raise over 100 goats, each mature female capable of producing about a gallon of milk daily. This milk is mostly turned into cheese by Michael, but also into cosmetics by Karen.

Chèvre Talking

(Credit: Roger Morris)
Hearn is shopping for cheeses that Eberhard Muller will turn into a dressing for a grilled romaine salad. Karen Catapano runs down the list of possibilities — standard soft chèvre, feta, a Romano-style blend of goat and sheep milk, perhaps even yogurt.

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Looking for the recipes from A Rare Farm-to-Table Dinner?
Click here for the Grilled Mini Romaine Heads with Goat Cheese Caesar Dressing Recipe, the Citrus Relish Reduction for Fresh Oysters Recipe, the Farro and Grilled Corn Summer Salad Recipe, and the Braised Lamb Shanks with Summer Gremolata Recipe.