The first thing they teach you in Critic School is to eschew hyperbole. After all, if everything is “the best” or “the finest,” you not only give readers reason to doubt your critical judgment, but by the time you run into something that really is extraordinary, you've used up all your adjectives.
So we won't get bogged down in heaping high praise upon Touch Supper Club's Farm-to-Table Supper last night at Stone Garden Farm in Richfield. We'll just say that in our personal annals of eating, this one rocked.
Watching Touch executive chef Jeff Fisher standing in one of the Garden's many sprawling veggie patches, pinching green leaves off a towering lamb's quarters, was just the start of what turned out to be a remarkable parade of pristine dishes served family-style on tables set on the farm's freshly mowed lawn.
First up, farm-fresh deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes, and watercress picked from a farm pond only minutes before it was served. A parade of salads followed, each a celebration of the garden's seasonal bounty. Panzanella made with juicy heirloom tomatoes...buttery red and yellow beets topped with crumbled blue cheese and sugared walnuts...crisp, earthy green beans tossed with pine nuts and feta...Flavor profiles were through the roof; we could almost feel the vitality of the wholesome produce coursing through our veins.
Smoked and grilled salmon on a bed of succulent leeks, fresh sweet corn, and slab bacon...roasted pig and sweet potatoes...white wine...red wine...and a collection of sassy little cocktails made with ingredients like honeydew, cucumbers, ginger, and peaches.
For dessert — and bear with me here: The best homemade blueberry pie that has ever come out of a Cleveland kitchen, topped with a scoop of homemade custard goosed with cheddar cheese, white pepper, and cinnamon.
As if all this wasn't enough, consider the open-air setting, anchored by farm owner Jim Fry's mind-boggling collection of historic buildings and antiques. As evening fell, the sounds of goats bleating in the distance gave way to tree frogs and crickets. In the absence of electric lighting, we dined by lanterns, candles, and a blazing bonfire. In the background, old-timey musicians — on fiddle, steel guitar, banjo, bass, and mandoline — played their way through a vast repertoire of folk and country standards. Conversation around our eight-top soared from European travel to the medicinal value of sauerkraut and snake bites. (I did mention the wine, right?) And when I got up between courses to find the porta potty (along with the mosquitoes, one of the few less-than-romantic parts of the evening), I came back to find a cat curled up on my chair!
All this, for $70 a person.
What the hell: This just may have been the best dinner ever.
Just don't tell that to anyone at the Critic School.
Learn more about Touch Supper Club at touchohiocity.com. Learn more about Stone Garden Farm at ohiofarmmuseum.com. More pics of the night's events below.