Feast of Fields – A Look Back
The Louisiana Feast of Fields: a Gastronomic Gala held on April 12th was an immense success. An authentic farm-to-table style dinner that showcased Louisiana chefs, purveyors and farmed products from the shrimp to the salad greens to the ducks and even the wine, beer and signature cocktails. After a gloriously beautiful spring day with blue skies, warm sun and a crisp breeze, the event organizers (one of whom is my beautiful wife, Kat Rivera) couldn’t have picked a better day to create the magic in Baton Rouge at the LSU Ag Center Botanic Garden at Burden.
A team of 20 student chefs from the Louisiana Culinary Institute helped in the set up of the outdoor kitchen, many thanks to the L’Auberge Casino and Hotel equipment that they lent to us for the event. Because the proceeds of the event were designed to go to the Louisiana Culinary Institute Student Fund and the LSU AgCenter Botanic Garden at Burden, everyone pitched in and helped create an event that was received with open arms from the 161 guests.
Because my role was one of the featured chefs for the dinner, I was embedded deep in the outdoor kitchen set up. The chefs and I found out that we ended up having 20 more guests than we had originally suspected – 11 tickets purchased at the door and a few extra guests that ended up being able to make the dinner. We weren’t worried though, we had prepped more than enough food and fortunately we were able to seat everyone without a delay of more than 5 minutes.event that was received with open arms from the 161 guests.
For the reception as guests began to arrive, they listed to a jazz trio – whose beginning song was appropriately named Wine and Roses. We created a Farmer’s Market set up as the theme for the reception. Various tables were set up to showcase different Louisiana products: signature cocktails from Donner-Peltier Distilleries, Vermilion Bay shrimp and grits, Blahutt Farms strawberries served in a jam with a roasted pork shoulder on toast points, roasted Louisiana vegetable tart, and a Louisiana charcuterie platter serving 4 different types of charcuterie. Many hours were put into the variously prepared dishes, but it was worth the effort as everyone raved about the appetizers. The farmers of the products being showcased attended the dinner, donated their ingredients, and were able to meet with the guests to personalize the purpose of the dinner.
Right on time, the guests strolled from the reception area to the Rose Garden which was just beginning to bloom with various varieties of roses; so many that I can’t even begin to name them. The dinner set up featured 2 long tables for a total of 100 guests to be seated and then several round tables.
Wines from Pontchartrain Vineyards were paired up with four of the five courses of the meal. We threw in a beer pairing from Tin Roof Brewery as a surprise change up from the norm, to go with the braised pork belly dish, guests were ecstatic.
First Course – Mixed Green Salad with Louisiana farmed feta, roasted beets, carrots and strawberry-wine vinaigrette.
Paired with Zydeco Rosato from Ponchartrain Vineyards
The dish was fresh and had just a touch of sweetness from the roasted beets and carrots which were accentuated by the chef-made strawberry wine vinaigrette. The sweetness was not overwhelming and was balanced by the gems of salty and creamy feta cheese.
Second Course – Vermilion Bay sweet shrimp ceviche.
Paired with Le Trolley Chardonnay from Ponchartrain Vineyards
Another dish that could be considered sweet, was the ceviche. Yet the lemon and lime juice, shallots and other vegetables that were marinated for 24 hours before the dish was served, all pulled together the savory aspects of the ingredients.
Third Course – Seared Chappapeela Farms duck breast with local kale and spicy duck tasso hash.
Paired with Dah Red Shiraz and Cabernet blend from Ponchartrain Vineyards
Chappapeela Farms is a Louisiana based farm that now sells to several local restaurants directly. Their goal of providing quality pork and duck products to Louisiana while allowing their animals to live just as happily as one could hope for seems to be a recipe for success. The duck breasts they donated were seared until the outside skin was crispy. The wonderfully tender and savory meat was placed atop a hash made from sweet potatoes and new potatoes on a bed of just wilted local kale.
Fourth Course – Community Coffee braised pork belly with toasted pecan biscotti and pickled mirliton squash.
Paired with Tin Roof Perfect Tin Amber Ale
This was the surprise pairing for the evening. The pork belly from Hollywood Farms was braised all during the day before the event in a rich and aromatic Community Coffee brand rub. Salty, savory, intense flavors were accented with the toasted pecan biscotti and offset with the bright and slightly sour pickled mirliton squash.
Fifth Course – Chocolate angel food and strawberry shortcake with white chocolate whipped cream and Kleinpeter Farms ice cream.
Served with Port of New Orleans and Community Coffee.
I heard so many rave reviews on the white chocolate whipped cream. It had been prepared by the Pastry Chef of L’Auberge casino Arlety Estevez. Everyone renamed the white chocolate whipped cream to a delightful white chocolate mousse. And the intensity of the strawberries came through in the ice cream provided by Baton Rouge based Kleinpeter Dairy Farms.
All Pictures are Courtesy of Teresa Bailey Day – Many Thanks to her for our pictorial experience.
As part of my weekly column for Dig Magazine, I thanked many of the chefs for their hard work. I have taken a few quotes from that article to best allow them to have their due credit.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the chefs that collaborated together to make it possible. Executive Chef Ryan Andre’ of Le Creole’, L’Auberge Casino and Hotel: Executive Chef Jeff Oliveri, Banquet Chef Jared Rising, Pastry Chef Arlety Estevez, LCI Chef/Instructors: Colt Patin, Alex Hamman, Christina Nicosia; the LCI Students; and local chef prodigy Trey Tanoos. Most important to the success of all the chefs involved were the Sous chefs and kitchen staffs of their workplaces to allow them to plan and attend the event while holding down their respective forts during their Friday night dinner service. On behalf of everyone involved, thank you.”