It was a “thinking-outside-the-box” experience — the same, but different. We had arrived via a short drive to Lansing Farms to Joan and Kyle’s adaptation of farm-to-table wonderland.
At Field Notes, the table was set outside in a square, white tent with glass sides.
A dozen adventuresome diners sat in mismatched chairs at a long, narrow farm table decorated with a runner made of flour sacking. Three centerpieces with small purple ageratum, orange marigold plants and assorted candles added a farm-like elegance. Tall vines on trellises stood in corners, while various designs of stained glass hung in the middle of the windows. Strings of clear, white lights crisscrossed overhead lent our gathering a party atmosphere.
A few feet from the tent was the farm itself, already bursting with the promise of produce. On the other side of our table was the red farm store with hanging baskets and pots overflowing with flowers.
Other farms contribute to Field Notes’ fare, such as Engel’s Acres in Troy, the Battenkill Valley Dairy in Salem and Riverside Maple in Glenville.
Guests sat down timidly, not quite knowing what to expect. At 7 p.m., culinary duo Joan Porambo and Kyle Macpherson stood at the end of the table, introduced themselves and began with a description of farm-to-table cuisine: “It’s about community,” Kyle quietly explained. It was the first clue toward understanding why we were sitting together at one long table.
Menus for the evening sat on each cloth napkin, and Kyle or Joan explained how each of the five courses was prepared, as well as the source of the ingredients.
Course one was an amuse-bouche — a small amount of food to stimulate the appetite (literally, “amuse the mouth”), or as we might say today, “tickle the palate.” The evening’s appetizer was pickled watermelon rind with a tiny mauve chive blossom to be eaten with a dollhouse-size fork. It was neither sweet nor sour as I expected, but rather tasted like a crunchy, bland cube of apple with a hint of spice.
Course two might also have been officially the amuse-bouche — beet and green tomato tartare (a food which is chopped fine and eaten raw). In this case, beets and green tomatoes were raw and chopped. Tiny dollops of ricotta with pickled chive blossoms decorated the bright purple/red vegetables, and the small mound of vegetables was heaped upon a perfect dark green beet leaf.
Course three was a patty pan au gratin consisting of a four-leaf clover of baby patty pan squash, held together with grated cheese and bread crumbs, and sautéed. Accompanying the dish was a salad of squash blossoms sliced lengthwise, and nasturtium blossoms and leaves dressed with a garlic and kambucha vinaigrette. I was so smitten with the colorful spicy salad, I forgot I was not fond of kambucha.
The main course was duck confit. Legs of duck were salted and seasoned, then cooked in their own fat. The result was tender (though very salty) duck meat. At Field Notes, the leg was finished with a maple glaze. Accompanying the duck was Peruvian northern cilantro rice and smoked bok choy. I detected a slight spicy hint, but was unable to tell whether it came from the rice or the bok choy. The smokiness from the bok choy was, however, delightfully pronounced.
The second-to-last course was farm cheese with focaccia with five different spreads: black current mostardo, carrot chutney, onion jam, herbed butter and Jamtastic Jam from Rutland, Vermont. My guest jokingly accused me of looking like a kid having an after-school snack as I carefully spread dark purple jam and herbed butter on focaccia.
After all the courses, I was curious to experience dessert. The blueberry and brown butter financier is a classic French almond cake designed to resemble a bar of gold. Joan and Kyle’s version looked more like a round ingot with an almond and blueberry core covered thickly with chocolate. Piped on top was a swirl of blackberry cream with two of the largest black raspberries I have ever seen. I was too full to eat more than half and too proud to take the remainder home.
I intend to return to this wonderland of food where the bok choy is smoked and the chive blossoms are pickled. Where nothing tastes the way one expects, and everything amuses the palate.
WHERE: 204 Lishakill Road, NY, 12309; 518-400-2024; www.fieldnotes-ny.com
WHEN: Monday-Thursday closed, Friday 5-9 p.m., Saturday 7-11 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $65/person on Saturday for five-course dinner (reservations required)
MORE INFO: Parking lot; Visa accepted online, cash otherwise; noise level permits conversation; accessible; BYOB; outdoor dining; menus change weekly and can be found each Tuesday on website.