I was lucky enough to host a dinner series at Wakeman Town Farm in Westport this July. The dinners were served under the trees with twinkling lights and lots of laughter. I created the menu based on seasonal, local produce and seafood and tried to weave the feeling of the coast into the meal.
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Summer Farm Dinner at Wakeman Town Farm

Every summer Wakeman Town Farm offers a dinner series with a rotating group of chefs from the Southern Connecticut area. When Christy Colasurdo, Wakeman’s event coordinator, asked me if I would be one of their guest chefs I jumped at the chance. I haven’t worked in a restaurant kitchen in a long time, but I loved the idea of putting a bespoke dinner menu together to showcase our local summer bounty. So, I did! We chose the date of July 20th and hoped to sell 30 tickets. When the dinner sold out quickly, we added a second date of July 27th, and so I was lucky enough to serve the menu twice.

Farmers Market Crudités

We started the meal with platters of local, seasonal veggies and Italian cacio e pepe taralli, served along side Arethusa Dairy cultured butter from Litchfield, CT sprinkled with sea salt, and a carrot top pesto that I made with the tops of the little carrots that were served on the platters. Nothing went to waste!

Pan Seared Scallops over English Pea Purée with Sea Beans & North Fork Bacon Breadcrumbs

My husband and I found the shells I used for this dish on the beach at Point O’ Woods on Fire Island earlier in the summer. The pan seared scallops were served in the shells, sitting on a bed of seaweed (the seaweed looked really cool and added stability), and they were beautiful. It was my favorite presentation of the night. Sea beans are an edible seaweed that is harvested in shallow water. It’s often called sea asparagus too, and it has a briny, crunchy bite. I love serving seafood with sea beans because it adds color, interest and texture, and a little bit of the sea.

Sweet Corn Soup with New England Lobster, Crème Fraîche, Tarragon Oil & Farm Flowers

I’ve been making this corn soup for years. It’s been a staple cooking class recipe whenever I teach summer menus and clients have always loved it. So when I was designing this menu I really wanted to include it. Especially with a topping of New England lobster, fresh corn, creme fraiche and tarragon oil. At the end of both dinners, guests came to me to tell me it was their favorite dish of the night.

Pepper Crusted New York Strip Steak with Heirloom Tomato, Farro & Summer Squash Salad, Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese, Pine Nuts & Balsamic Pearls

I love cutting NY strip steaks into huge, 4-inch thick steaks. Once crusted in kosher salt and pepper, they’re pan seared in a cast iron pan and then finished in the oven. The thick crust gives the meat awesome flavor and each guest gets 3 or 4 nice pieces each. I served the steak over a warm farro salad with heirloom tomatoes, baby paddy pan squash, zucchini and local Bayley Hazen blue cheese from Jasper Hill. The dill we added to the farro salad, and garnished the plate with was harvested from Wakeman’s gardens.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta Tart with Graham Cracker Crust, Summer Berry-Basil Salsa, Raspberry Sorbet & Elderflower Seashells

I wanted a dessert that felt like summer and looked pretty on a plate. These buttermilk panna cotta tartlets came to mind, made with buttermilk from Ronnybrook Farm. They’re beautiful; the graham cracker crust is delicate and the filling is cool, creamy, and slightly tart. I served them with a summer berry salsa, raspberry sorbet from our local Cold Fusion ice gelato shop and elderflower-rosé seashells that I made in silicone molds. The seashells were like a mini, elegant jello shot. I wanted to start and end the dinner with seashells to remind guests of our costal surroundings and to bring the meal into a full circle.

I had a blast cooking these two dinners. It felt really good to be creative and serve people again. I am incredibly grateful to my amazing team, who I could never have done this without. And I’m honored that so many people showed up to eat my food! I’m excited about my future in Westport, I’m working my tail off and I’m hopeful that great things will happen. Lastly, I’d like to give a shout out to Dave Dellinger, the incredibly talented photographer who shot these images. He’s fantastic and I’m looking forward to working with him again very soon. If you’re local, he takes amazing family photos too!


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