July 10, 2017 Missive from J.K. Farm
The shimmering heat of summer in Southern Ontario is back. The vines feel it. They love it, but they could do without the humidity that comes with it. Humans and vines are alike in this way. Along with the shimmering heat comes the hypnotic drone of the cicadas. Listen for a few moments and you will also hear the bluesy drawl of the mourning dove. You are outdoors with your hands submerged in cool water moving the just harvested leaves of lettuce around allowing the grit to fall to the bottom of the sink, when you hear the dove. You skim the fresh leaves out of the sink and into the spinner to pull the moisture away and now the salad is ready to dress and serve with the cheeses. Out of the corner of your eye, a flash of red. You look up to see the cardinal and his mate chasing each other in the black walnuts. At some point in the early evening when you are back outside at the sink scrubbing pots and pans you look past the barnyard towards the creek and you catch sight of the nesting pair of great blue herons elegantly descending on their return to the creek.
This day of focused production, in preparation for the big dinner on Saturday night, is punctuated by sights and sounds of nature on the farm. Garter snakes slither across my path as I walk out to the garden to harvest thyme and mint. As I stoop to clip some fresh leaves, the dragonflies are hovering. All these creatures must play a part in the ecology of this place. I haven’t yet determined the useful role of the mosquito in this balance, but surely there must be one. I do encourage their natural predators to thrive though.
This week’s lead up to the dinner has been particularly intense. All of us were feeling the magnetic and unpredictable pull of the impending full moon. On Saturday evening while everyone was outside enjoying their salad and cheese accompanied by Southbrook’s delicious “wild ferment” cider, one of the guests noticed the full moon rising in the eastern sky. A huge orange orb resting on the treeline, changing colour as it ascended in the sky to a deep yellow and then to pale white with the man in the moon laughing down on us as it climbed higher in the evening sky. Dessert followed in the loafing barn as we bid au revoir to strawberries and rhubarb for another year with a warm galette. The two fruits tasted together as one in delicious harmony.
Victoria set the bonfire alight and the guests drifted outside, drawn by the warm glow, for a few moments of contemplation before finding their ways home. I stayed on at the fire, stoking it from time to time, but mostly relaxing and chatting with my darling and my kitchen team. Sometimes there was silence as I contemplated the dinner service that had just transpired.
I think about Southbrook Vineyard and the work Ann Sperling has done there as their winemaker. For many years Ann has had an interest in biodynamic viticulture. At Southbrook she has taken this philosophical approach into practice in the vineyard. The wines served at dinner were vibrant and delicious. I remember meeting Ann when she was the winemaker at Malivoire and I was cooking at my restaurant in the Royal Ontario Museum. I remember feeling honoured that the winemaker herself would come and take me through her portfolio, sharing her excitement and passion for making wines.
The embers are fading and my eyelids are heavy. I get up and walk back to my house through field that is now pixelating in the full moonlight with myriad fireflies.
Saturday July 8, 2017 featuring Southbrook Vineyards
Hors d’Œuvres on the Ridge
JK Fries with Two Sauces
Socca with Olive Paste and Feta
Smoked Whitefish Éclairs
Confit Pork Belly on Crisp Apple Rounds
Chilled Sorrel and Buttermilk Soup
Southbrook 2016 Biodynamic Bubbly VQA Ontario
Menu in the Loafing Barn
Beef Tea with Summer Savoury Célèstine
Southbrook The Anniversary VQA Niagara on the Lake
Shallot Sauté Perch with Chicory and Radish
Southbrook 2013 Poetica Chardonnay [magnum] VQA Four Mile Creek
Braised Shoulder of Lamb with Minted Peas and Gaufrette Potatoes
Southbrook 2013 Estate ‘Witness Block’ Cabernet Sauvignon / Cabernet Franc
VQA Four Mile Creek
Highlights of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival
Southbrook Organic ‘Wild Ferment’ Cider ** Avalon Orchards, Innisfil
Strawberry and Rhubarb Galette with Crunchy Meringue
Southbrook 2014 Organic Vidal Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula
Coffee or Tea
Photos by @chefjamiekennedy and our guests @kl_wells and @julianmartensen