Despite setbacks including intermittent rain and no power to the building for at least an hour mid-day, our James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef dinner called “Starry Starry Night” came off in style this past Tuesday evening August 13, 2013.
We started the night before, renting a truck and emptying the restaurant of all it’s furniture to make room for the chefs to work. Early in the morning, our parking lot was emptied of cars, the dramatic Sperry Tent raised, True North’s gorgeous farm tables assembled, glassware and plates and table dressing delicately placed with guidance from Susan Ryan Ackell and Jen Chagnon of the Pink Polka Dot.
With celebrity chef Cal Peternell of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA and Anna Kovel former food editor of Martha Stewart Living at the helm, the kitchen was an incredible thing to witness. Cal held a meeting of staff at 9 am and the Quicks Hole crew led by our executive chef Stephanie Mikolazyk jumped into action prepping lobster, roast fennel, fish stock, fresh mozzarella and much much more. All day was spent bustling, chopping and prepping but the tone of the kitchen was calm, relaxed, jovial even.
All key ingredients for the meal were sourced from local farms, fisheries and the Falmouth Farmers Market. Running short on fish bones, I dashed to the Clam Man early in the morning where our friends there had saved this key ingredient for excellent stock, the critical base of the fish and lobster bouillabaisse.
One hundred lucky guests gathered on the deck of the inn with Woods Hole harbor twinkling beyond to enjoy bellini’s while noshing on passed appetizers like Washburn Island and Island Creek oysters with mignonette, smoked bluefish toasts with roasted fennel, fried panisses and summer vegetable fritters. Moving to the tent below, we were seated at farm style tables and the courses started arriving, first a salad of heirloom tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella, then this incredibly light saffron and tomato bouillabaisse with scallops, lobster, mussels, cod and a Maison Villatte grilled bread topped with rouille.
Nectarine galettes (along with all the delicious breads) were provided by chef Boris Villatte of Maison Villatte an authentic french bakery here in Falmouth and dressed up by Chef Peternell with creme fraiche. Lavender chocolates from Sirenetta Seaside Chocolatier were passed with gooseberries.
Oooh La La!
We gathered to support both the James Beard Foundation and our local Falmouth Hospital which is in the process of raising money to expand it’s emergency room. Representatives from both organizations attended the dinner, and I spoke briefly about how important that emergency room is to the community, and how lucky we are to have such a good one. Jeff Black spoke on behalf of the James Beard Foundation.
Our celebrity guests included captains of industry from Boston, Providence, Newport, Falmouth and Woods Hole. Artists in the crowd were directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, singer China Forbes of Pink Martini and actor James Waterston, all dear friends of mine who made the evening special.
As guests trickled from the tent at the end of the night, I enjoyed the gushing about this unique venue and Cal’s amazing food. After months of planning and the gauntlet of the day, it was really satisfying to have made people happy. I am also so grateful to the event sponsors including Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Bank of Woods Hole, Robert Paul Properties and the Sea Crest Beach Hotel and hope they will join us next year as we build on the success of this evening.
James Beard Foundation rep Jeff Black told me that despite seven years of circling America hosting 20+ dinners like this one per year, he had never hosted a celebrity chef dinner with anyone from Chez Panisse as the restaurant tends to stay focused on it’s roots. We are so grateful to Chef Cal Peternell for coming and falling in love with Woods Hole!
I am deeply grateful to the farms and vendors who supported this event, plus our volunteer staff who served so beautifully and made the night incredibly special: Allen Farm, Cabo Cado, Cape Cod Beer, Cape Cod Saltworks, Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards, Carpet Barn, Clam Man, Courtney’s Floral Creations, Edible Cape Cod, ElizaJ, Eva’s Garden, Fishmonger Cafe, Half Shell Co, Island Creek Oysters, Jacquelines Catering, Kayak Cookies, LKnife, Mac’s Seafood, Wellfleet Fish Co, Mahoney’s Garden Centers, Maison Vilatte, Mionetta Prosecco, Moonlight Rose, MS Walker, Narragansett Creamery, Newport Winery, Peachtree Circle Farm, The Pink Polka Dot, Pocasset Pretzel Co, Polar Beverage, Rentals Unlimited, Running Brook Vineyard, Shy Brothers Farm, Sid Wainer and Sons, Silverbrook Farm, Sironetta Chocolatier, Sperry Tents, Stella Artois Beer, Travessia Urban Winery, True North Event Rentals, Vermont Creamery, and Washburn Island Oyster Farm.
Finally, it must be noted that it takes a village to put something like this on, and the village of Woods Hole rallied to make this possible. Every business in the village helped out in some important way — offering sandwiches to feed our staff, extra parking places to wash dishes and clear up, walk in cooler space when we ran out, cocktail napkins that we forgot to buy and so much more. We are so lucky to work next door to places like the Landfall, Pie in the Sky, Jimmy’s, Coffee Obsession, Fishmonger, Phusion, Captain Kidd, Woods Hole Market, and Shuckers — could not make it through the summer without the support of our terrific peers. When you come to the food mecca of Woods Hole, you must try all these special spots. Thank you all!
Here are a few more photos of the evening for you to enjoy.
At the Woods Hole Inn, we often spend a lot of time on the “table” part of farm-to-table but today I got to head out into the field and see one of the farms that we source food from in the summer.
Coonamessett Farm was founded over 30 years ago by Ron Smolovitz, who along with his wife had a passion to save a piece of open land slated for development. On their 2o plus acres, Ron farms everything from lettuce to turkey. His rolling meadows with their vineyards and neat rows of lettuce, tomato, zucchini and summer squash are quite the summer destination for everything from weddings to the passionate members of his CSA.
Spring is the time to visit if you want to see where all that bounty comes from, so I headed over there yesterday in the pouring rain with a list of the produce we consume weekly to supply our breakfast kitchen and Quicks Hole — for example, 50 lbs of fresh tomatoes a week to make our signature pico de gallo fresh daily! Try over 20 dozen eggs a week for the Woods Hole Inn’s fresh baked breakfasts? Yeah, it all adds up.
It was pouring anew when Ron and I zipped into his rain covered golf cart and sped across the meadow to the growing cluster of greenhouses. Ron put in a windmill a few years back and he explained that running the farm vehicles on electricity rather than gas helps keep down the price of vegetables.
We met with Stan Ingram, field boss at Coonamessett, who was literally ankle deep in mud transplanting rows of baby plants to larger containers (those are his amazing hands in the photo above). The long low plastic roof of the greenhouse cast the most gorgeous diffused light and the drum of rain on the roof was soporific. A lovely tiger cat leapt to greet me with a deep purr. What a peaceful place, I thought. “Earlier today when it was really coming down, we could not have held a conversation in here,” Stan remarked with a wry smile.
We talked about when they expect certain crops to come in, why they can’t grow tomatoes earlier (heating the greenhouses to 55 degrees costs too much money) and the logistics of getting relatively small batches of produce down to Woods Hole two or three times per week. Their crispy arugula is essential for our “Wicked Fresh” salad — a best seller at Quicks Hole — but at the end of the day, it’s all about logistics. Stan offered to plant more basil and cilantro to meet our weekly demand. He also cautioned me against holding him to any dates. I guess the plants mature when they feel like it, not just for our Quicks Hole opening day (which is May 6th this year, by the way).
Another exciting development is the local cultivation of oysters which Ron is going to distribute. I signed Quicks Hole up for weekly delivery of the new “Sippewissett” which is out in Buzzards Bay fattening up right now from the cold winter. Ron says the first of them will be ready by mid May. Yum.
I left with a list of wholesale prices, an order form… and a greater sense of purpose. It’s not easier to source this way, actually it’s much, much harder. But the sense of satisfaction in knowing my little business can be a part of keeping this meadow open for Ron and his golf cart? Yeah, that feels good.
Hopefully it tastes good too. Come check it out this summer at Quicks Hole, 6 Luscombe Ave in Woods Hole. More info and our menu at www.quicksholewickedfresh.com.