The Max Restaurant Group of CT and MA is no stranger to putting on fabulous foodie events. I myself have attended a couple different ones at Max Fish in Glastonbury, CT. They’ve certainly outdone themselves with their Chef to Farm dinner series, though. Fodor’s Travel even declared the series to be one of the top five chef-to-farm dinner programs in the country.
This past Friday night, Jeff (he also accompanied me to the other two Max events I’ve been to) and I attended the Tomato, Tomato dinner, one of several that have been and will be held at Rosedale Farms & Vineyards in Simsbury, CT.
I was extra excited to go because I have been wanting to visit Rosedale Farms for awhile now since I’m a total wino. They are part of the CT Wine Trail and I even have a tasting Groupon that I still need to redeem.
A tent was set up with a tasting table underneath, and Jeff and I wasted no time in grabbing a glass of vino. Jeff chose the white, 2011 Simsbury Celebration (100% estate-grown Seyval Blanc), and I chose the Farmington River Red (California Petite Sirah). We are very predictable.
The Farmington River Red was wonderful! I love Petite Sirah. Jeff is still getting “used” to red wines and he really liked how smoothly it went down. I in turn am learning to enjoy whites and I was skeptical of the Seyval Blanc since I sometimes don’t enjoy other whites like Sauvignon Blanc, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. It seemed to me to be a refreshing balance between a Pinot Grigio and a Chardonnay.
Rosedale is truly a beautiful place. The evening sun cast a calming aura as it slowly set over the vineyard vines, flowers sprouted out of the ground almost everywhere I looked, and the barns’ exteriors displayed whimsical artwork (as seen in photos above).
While some patrons sipped their wine and enjoyed passed appetizers at tables adjacent to the wine tasting tent, others took rides around the farm in a tractor-pulled wagon with their glasses and snacks.
There were not quite enough tables set up for the pre-dinner fare, but Jeff and I made do and ended up sitting down with a really nice couple that so happened to be at our assigned dinner table later – funny how that works out! It also seemed that there was an abundance of certain appetizers (I must have been offered an oyster about a thousand times) being walked around by waitstaff, yet not enough of others (I had to eventually seek out waitresses carrying a couple of items and ask that they come by our table so that we could try those apps).
However no one went hungry (far from it) and the waitresses were friendly and responsive! Jeff and I did end up getting to sample each small taste during the reception. The presentations on some of the dishes, particularly the oysters, were beautiful.
I am still stuck off-board the oyster train. I have tasted pretty much only expertly-prepared varieties, yet have never really enjoyed any of them! I give credit to myself for continuously trying but I don’t think I’m an oyster girl.
Other appetizers were not as gallantly presented, but their tastes spoke for them plenty, like the below mini-BLTs. Crusty bread and juicy tomato made for a dynamite combination. The tomatoes were so very flavorful that I could’ve eaten these without the bacon. But of course, bacon makes everything better.
I was trying not to taste more than one of each appetizer since I wanted to save plenty of room for the upcoming multi-course dinner, but the one bite I made an exception for was the below grilled flatbread. After all, pizza is my favorite food.
The ricotta, made in-house at Max’s Oyster Bar, was some of the freshest and most flavorful I’ve ever sampled. It was actually made WITH basil, which was subsequently strained out of the finished-product, explaining how strongly basil-flavored the flatbread was. To the naked eye it appeared to only have a few shaved pieces of basil providing that flavor, perched atop the rest of the fantastic ingredients. I happily had two slices.
I adored the presentation of the above veal meatballs, and adored their taste even MORE, thanks to the decision by Chef Scott Miller (Max Oyster Bar’s Exec Chef and the chef behind this dinner) to use both lamb and cheese fresh from Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, CT. The sungold tomato nage was not only made with tomatoes straight from Rosedale Farms, but with their white wine as well! As soon as I learned that, I knew I really wasn’t going to get a meal more local than this unless I literally went out to farms, purchased the ingredients, and prepared the dishes myself.
The veggie crudites had been set up self-serve style on a beautifully decorated garden-themed table. The tomato aioli paired with them was fantastic! I grabbed one veg plate and one aioli plate for Jeff and I to share.
I was more than ready to chow down by the time the crowd was ushered through the vineyard’s aisles, abundant with perfect purple grapes. By this point Jeff and I had shared another glass of the Simsbury Celebration white wine.
The meal was literally being prepped before our very eyes, and long tables were set up under a white tent, giving attendees gorgeous views of the farm fields at sunset.
At each seat, a creative cocktail was already waiting – now that’s my kind of table setting!
The rest of the touches at each setting – linen napkins, mason jar centerpieces – weren’t too shabby either.
The cocktail, dubbed by its creator (Beverage Director Brian Mitchell) to be called the Mojitomato, was actually a twist on one of his favorite classic beverages, the gin and tonic. Yup, those are Rosedale Farm tomatoes floating in that mason jar (MASON JAR LOVE), which also contained herbs like basil and tarragon. And a salt-and-pepper rim was the perfect touch! My only regret is that I didn’t drink that guy faster since by the end of the evening it had become quite watered-down by the ice, but I refused to give it up each time the waitresses came around to collect glasses.
Both the owner of Rosedale Farms & Vineyards and Chef Scott Miller welcomed the crowd before the amuse bouche was served. We learned that Rosedale goes back five generations, and produces six different wines. Chef Miller explained how his desire to know where his food comes from, and how much better he feels when he does know, have driven him to design and create these Max Chef to Farm Dinners.
I love when chefs jazz up a classic comfort dish like Chef Miller did with the amuse-bouche!
Yeah yeah, I know, it’s a grilled cheese and tomato soup. And it was way better than mom used to make #sorrynotsorry
See the leaf garnish on the plate? Jeff and I decided that it looked like a tree star from “Land Before Time”. Anybody? Well, it turns out that garnish was not a tree star, but a grape leaf from the vineyard! Straight from vine to Jeff’s palate!
The first wine served with the main meal was Rosedale Farms (all the wines were) Three Sisters made from 100% grapes grown in the Rosedale Vineyards (77% Cayuga, 23% Seyval Blanc again). The Cayuga grapes made this a sweeter white than the first we sampled, but I actually liked it more. It seemed closer to the Pinot Grigio end of the spectrum to me, and thanks to Heather, I’ve been becoming Pinot-obsessed.
Each time the waitstaff refilled the cute wooden bread boxes, they did so using a different variety of bread from Hartford Baking Company, the West Hartford cafe and bakery that I visited with Heather and Jenny last month. My carb cravings were in full swing at this dinner. I kept feeling like I needed some starch to absorb the alcohol in my stomach, since the meal’s courses were not very starch-heavy!
The above first course actually used both regular AND golden watermelon, which I had no idea even existed! That black olive on the plate isn’t your average olive at all, but an encapsulated version. Chef Scott Miller created something that looked and tasted like an olive, but was not an olive. Instead, he pureed kalamata olives and combined them with a mixture of xanthum gum (a popular smoothie addition in the blog world!) and calcium lactate. Then he bathed it all in a bath of water and sodium alginate. The result? The above encapsulated olive! So. Cool.
The second course starred seafood, so I was so very excited! And not just any seafood…seafood that was harvested TWO days prior from Stonington, CT!
The monkfish fritter was definitely my favorite part of this dish, and the lobster broth was a close second. Mopping it up with thick, white Hartford Baking Co. bread (complete with an asiago cheese crust) was beyond words perfect.
Don’t worry, the above main course was served with a red wine, a pleasant pairing indeed. This food didn’t need any wine to make it taste good though. The beef was reddish-pink when I cut into it (just how I like it) and that sauce – ah! I could taste the freshness of the Rosedale Farms in the ratatouille and in the torpedo onion, which I would have loved even if it hadn’t been presented in such a cool fashion, with the widest rings on the bottom and gradually building to the thinnest on top. I have also been waiting to try fried green tomatoes for so long, and was glad to do so! However I’d say they were the least memorable part of the dish – I hoped I’d be able to taste the tomato, but the savory (albeit tasty) breading overpowered the veggie. Maybe I got a thinner pair of tomatoes!
Forgive the photo above – it was taken with an iPhone using the most-hated FLASH! Instead of a cheese plate, Chef Miller took it one step further (though i was hoping for a good old fashioned plate of varied cheeses, I have to admit) and crafted the above small plate. The tomato flavor of the tarte was so very rich and paired excellently with the fresh Cato Corners cheese…and the red wine.
We were informed of the proper way to drink to above dessert cocktail (El Jimador tequila, Ripe, chartreuse)…bite in the tomato, then sip it down! It was a delicious concoction and I love that Brian Mitchell used what he called a “saltier” tequila, because I love me some salt!
Dessert was food science at its best because not only did we get more encapsulation action, but we also got tomato gelato, which was rock-hard when served. So rock-hard in fact that when Jeff tried to slice his scoop in half with his spoon, it squirted right off his plate and into the grass! Luckily he has a good foodie friend like me to split my scoop with him – though Chef Miller was kind enough to offer him a replacement scoop too! I adored the unique taste of the gelato, because its cold ice-cream-like texture screamed “sweet” to me, yet the flavor was shouting “savory”. The ensuing battle between the two made for a food experience that I’m sure cannot be easily replicated. The dark chocolate torte however, though the most traditional component, was certainly my favorite. So rich, so simple. It’s hard to beat chocolate!
Chef Scott Miller and Beverage Director Brian Mitchell were both kind enough to pop in at our table throughout the meal and answer any questions I had about what I was trying. I wouldn’t have been able to give you the details on the encapsulated olive, Mojitomato, and other tastes without their input, so thank you!
At the end of the evening, the crowd applauded for the chef and his team, Rosedale Farms, and the attentive waitstaff. On the way out, each patron got a set of goodies to take home – bibb lettuce and tomatoes also fresh from Rosedale, and a bottle of Ripe Bar Juice‘s San Marzano Bloody Mary Mix! Score – I can see this coming in handy during TN football game parties this season!
What a magical evening. Local food, good friends, fabulous drinks…it was the perfect evening for an everythingarian foodie like myself. Thank you, Max Restaurant Group!
If this post made you hungry for some Max Restaurant fare, you’re in luck – from 8/27-9/2, the Glastonbury locations Max AMore and Max Fish are celebrating Taste of the Suburbs East of the River with prix-fixe $20.12 menus. From 9/3-9/9, Max A Mia will be offering a $20.12 menu for Taste of the Suburbs Farmington Valley!
Have you ever been to a dinner on a farm or vineyard?
What’s the freshest farm-to-table meal you’ve ever had?
Which dish would you have wanted to try the most?