Meadow Lark Farm Dinner at McCauley Farm
Within hours of landing in Denver, Colorado, I was riding high in an open-air, bright red Jeep Wrangler, alongside a white wolfish looking German sheppard and my childhood friend who had picked me up. We were cruising towards Boulder, and then on just a bit further into farmlands with a specific destination in mind. McCauley Family Farm was where we were headed, for a meal I had waited years to experience.
My friend’s aunt, Veronica Volny, is the creator of a farm to table dinner program called Meadow Lark Farm Dinners. Armed with a yellow school bus converted into a mobile kitchen, as well as a few very passionate hands who make up the tight knit and efficient staff, Volny travels to partnered farms around Colorado. The team works alongside the owners of each farm to throw beautiful dinner events which highlight seasonal produce and animal products specific to each farm. Dinners run every Thursday and Saturday night and includes an aperitif welcome as well as a tour of the farm before settling in at a long, narrow table strung with twinkly lights. Dinners are generally booked out before the season even begins, so I counted myself very lucky to finally get the opportunity to experience Meadow Lark after hearing about it for years.
Upon entering, I was handed a celery shrub and an egg salad crostini garnished with edible wildflowers from the property. I stood underneath a canopy of trees, sipping my drink and chatting with other attendees. It wasn’t long until we were handed sun umbrellas to guard against the warm July rays while the tour took place. We looped around the farm, learning everything from what goods were produced on McCauley farm, to how the land was revitalized and continues to thrive through sustainable practices of rotation. We took a moment to fawn over the piglets and then passed by goats on our way back to the solace of shade. An interesting fact new fact for me was learning how many farms have both llamas and alpacas on the properties. They are surprisingly effective guard animals, with a very high pitched, alert scream and intense plan of attack should anyone threaten their comrades' well-being.
As the tour ended, we were ushered past the bus-kitchen and seated one by one along the communal table. We were then given a quick run-down of how the night would flow. Next, out came the wine. We had been emailed the previous day with a link to choose any wine that we might want to purchase for the dinner, to be submitted by 8pm the night before. I had chosen an Albarino while in a rush to get to my last day of work before travel, and my friend had decided upon a cider. Imagine my surprise when the wine showed up to the table in a small can! Luckily, my friend’s cider came in a large bottle, slightly contradictory to what we had originally imagined. I loved that each couple or group along the table all chose different beverages, it made for a really beautiful and eclectic table presentation.
The first course was a shaved hinona turnip, beet and carrot salad served over a swoosh of salsa verde, followed by a braised greens and chèvre tart . They were both very fresh and delicious for the warm evening, however, it was the main course that had me most excited. The roast chicken from the farm arrived family style, while the rest had been plated per person. Out came huge white bowls, piled high with all the pieces of an entire roast chicken, covered in spoonfuls of tender grilled nectarines and edible flowers. Upon further investigation, I was ecstatic to find a nest of braised bitter greens along with what appeared to be half a loaf of bread, rustically torn and toasted in the chicken jus. My favorite bit of that course was actually the side dish, the understated hero of the night- a pile of garlicky greens that looked just like a bed of seaweed but which tasted tender, light and delicious. The name of the green is "Agretti", and I look forward to further experimentation with the unique green.
My heart sang and the wine kicked in as I felt myself become lighter with ease and relaxation. The evening was wonderful and filled with conversation as couples began interacting with the strangers seated around them. Dusksettled into darkness and we finished the meal with a Labneh Raspberry semi-freddo, a small biscotti and a chamomile tea. I panicked mildly when I heard that our dessert would incorporate labneh, as I have been going through somewhat of an obsession-like phase lately, and could not wait to have it in dessert form. I wasn’t disappointed. The rectangular marbled slab of semi-freddo melted from raspberry ice cream into yogurt with each bite; definitely an interesting sensory experience. Unfortunately, my dining companion had never tasted biscotti before, which tends to be more on the dry and brittle side, so I had a laugh at his proclimation that it was the strangest “cookie” he’s ever had.
All of the sudden, we looked around and noticed that the evening had come to an end, groups were rising one-by-one to head home. We said our goodbye’s and piled into the Jeep to head back to our hotel room. As always, I was sad that a moment I had anticipated for so long had come to pass so quickly, but I left with the promise of more Colorado adventures to come, so it was a sweet goodbye.