“If you leave without an epiphany, we have failed,” announced Brook LeVan, co-founder and executive director of Carbondale’s Sustainable Settings ranch, just before a group of some 50 diners tucked into a farm-fresh meal prepared by Field 2 Fork Kitchen.
What was billed as a Midsummer Night’s Dinner took place July 19 under a full moon at the ranch, which has become known locally–and beyond–as a mecca of organic agriculture. Almost all of the ingredients were sourced from the ranch and turned into delicious dishes by Chef Mark Hardin, who launched Field 2 Fork earlier this year and now offers catering and farm-to-table events. Beer and cocktails, respectively, were provided by Roaring Fork Beer Company and Marble Distilling Co., just up the road in Carbondale proper. Many of the guests (including this writer) biked to the event.
Hardin, who previously helmed the kitchen at Carbondale’s Beer Works (and elevated the menu way above typical pub fare), created a flavorful feast that included pâté served with pickled veggies, preserves, and bread; a salad of red-speckled bibb lettuce with mixed greens, shaved vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers; and a main course of succulent and tender lamb (baked underground while topped with clay from the Carbondale Clay Center) accompanied by carrot-top and purslane chimichurri sauce; Hopi polenta; cassoulet beans; and braised greens. Dinner was preceded by a farm tour that included several appetizer stations; the most interesting was the chance to taste three “single-udder butters” from three of the ranch’s cows.
The evening epitomized what LeVan referred to as “cooking and farming with intent.” If not every diner left with an epiphany, certainly almost everyone gained more appreciation for locally sourced, sun-ripened ingredients unadulterated by chemical additives (whether to soil or plant), prepared by the hand of a chef skilled in letting the natural goodness shine through. “Flavor is a litmus test for vitality,” added LeVan; Sustainable Settings, and Hardin’s new venture, are both incredibly vital.
For another opportunity to eat and tour at Sustainable Settings, reserve your spot at the annual Harvest Festival, September 17. And read more about Field 2 Fork Kitchen, along with other bike-to-farm dinners, in the midsummer issue of Aspen Sojourner.