Rogowski Farm Supper Club

Diners at the monthly Rogowski Farm suppers have no problem staying “down on the farm”

Valley diners have long been acquainted with the farm-to-table movement. While everyone and their mother (hell, even their grandmother) is now buzzing about “sustainable this” and “local that,” many of our best chefs have been boasting for years that they grow their own veggies in their backyards. Fanatic foodies know they can get their hands on locally produced cheese, beef, and everything in between. So what’s next?

How about sitting down to dine with an honest-to-goodness farmer on a real working farm?

The Rogowski Farm Supper Club in Pine Island has taken sustainable dining to the next level. The club features $65, six-course meals served monthly in the farm’s kitchen (during the winter) or in the former onion-drying barn (in warmer months). The club is the brainchild of farm owner Cheryl Rogowski and chef Heather Kurosz (who previously worked in Philadelphia and Westchester County). After starting a weekend farm breakfast about three years ago, the duo knew by customer interest that they were on to something. “It’s a very fun, laid-back, cozy atmosphere,” Kurosz says of these rustic morning meals. “To be able to eat good food while you relax and enjoy yourself, I think is very important.”

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chef heather kuroszChef Heather Kurosz chats with guests about the menu

The successful breakfasts led to the idea of a supper club that would showcase the farm’s vegetables. About 40 diners attended the inaugural June supper, but Rogowski and Kurosz have tried to keep the groups to a more intimate size since then. In October, they sold out for the first time — and now routinely do so. “This is the closest many of these folks get to actually touching the soil their food comes from and seeing the stove it was cooked on,” Rogowski says. The meals’ ingredients depend on what’s in season or — during the winter months — stored root vegetables, and greens and herbs raised in the farm’s greenhouse.

In order to make complete meals, Rogowski and Kurosz also bring in locally sourced meats and fruits, as well as bread and cheese from nearby artisans. July’s dinner, for example, included dishes like sweet-and-sour leeks, English pea soup, mint and pea shoot salad, roasted cherry tomatoes, and roasted beets with spinach. “Cheryl tells me what we’re going to have available produce-wise, and then I make my menu,” says Kurosz.

rogowski farm supper club
farm style seating

The Rogowski Farm is a second-generation family business that successfully made the transition from an onion farm to a more diverse operation: it now grows more than 250 varieties of produce. The farm is well-known for its ecologically friendly practices. (In 2004, Cheryl Rogowski won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for her pioneering solutions to problems afflicting family farms.)

Event coordinator Jeanne Fox acknowledges that the farm-fresh trend is everywhere. But for Supper Club guests, “the table’s at the farm. You have dinner with your farmer, and the food’s all prepared right here.” The dinners are a mix of the formal and the rustic. Below exposed ceiling beams, one lengthy table is covered with an elegant tablecloth and cloth napkins. Fresh herbs and flowers scent the air. “In the summer, it’s beautiful. You can actually watch the sunset over the fields through the barn’s French doors,” Kurosz says. Local musicians play during the 45-minute cocktail hour, and then partake of the feast. Kurosz introduces each course, explaining where the ingredients are from and how they were raised and prepared.

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Rogowski joins in the meal and conversation, which can often be lively. “The conversations pretty much run the gamut,” she says. “The diners want to know about the soil, where it came from, what it’s like, what I do on my farm, questions about organic growing, about farmers markets.” The group dynamic affects the length of meals, which last from two to three-and-a-half hours, according to Kurosz. Meals run extra long when there are mostly couples because “they just keep talking the whole night,” she says. The sudden unavailability of sweetbreads for one meal, for example, “sparked this whole conversation about rules and laws and the FDA,” she remembers. “It was very political and interesting, but well-mannered.”

Fox says that they’d expected most of the diners would be people who support the farm through participation in its CSA program. “But the people who are coming to the supper club are foodies,” she says. “These are people who want to eat high-end meals. They want to eat locally and organic. They want to have a unique dining experience. This is it.”

english pea soupEnglish pea soup topped with pea shoot salad and mint oil

Supper Club menu for March and April:

Menu for March 2011 “Mardi Gras Inspiration”

1st course: Seasonal Appetizer and Herbal Beverage, Chef’s Choice
2nd course: Root Vegetable Gumbo
3rd course: Braised Winter Greens, Bacon, Creole Vinaigrette
4th course: Mussels, Andouille Sausage, Leek & Red Pepper Reduction
5th course: Green Garlic & Herb Crab Cake, Cayenne Hollandaise, Wilted Spinach
6th course: King Cake, Bananas Foster Gelato

seared watermelonSeared watermelon with arugula and sunflower seed tuile

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Menu for April 2011

1st course: Seasonal Appetizer and Herbal Beverage, Chef’s Choice
2nd course: Potato & Goat Cheese Soufflé, Leeks Vinaigrette, Watercress Sauce
3rd course: First Spring Lettuces, Morels, Roasted Baby Beets, Mint Vinaigrette
4th course: Fresh Hand-rolled Pasta, Green Garlic & Nettle Pesto, Aged Cheese
5th course: Pan Roasted Lamb, Ramps, Fiddlehead Ferns, Wild Mustard Flower Infusion
6th course: Bittersweet Chocolate Tart, White Chocolate Lavender sauce

For more information on the Supper Club, call the farm at 845-544-5379.

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