By Kristin Schultz
Lansing Farm on Lisha Kill Road sowed a seed of an idea this spring and has been reaping a respectable harvest ever since.
Kyle MacPherson and Joan Porambo, uprooted themselves from chef and sous chef gigs in northern Vermont and planted themselves in a new venture called Field Notes. The couple is preparing weekly dinners using almost exclusively ingredients grown on Lansing Farm.
The first dinner was held at the end of July and now, every Friday, MacPherson and Porambo serve a five-course meal to no more than 18 guests seated at a communal table under a tent just to the side of the farm stand.
The menu is different every week, because each course features produce straight from the Lansing family farm fields. The pair evaluates what is ripe and ready, then develops a menu that highlights those products.
“It’s a dream come true,” MacPherson said of the opportunity.
Jessica Lansing, daughter of owner Al Lansing, said the family is equally pleased with the new venture.
“It comes back to what we love to do,” Jessica Lansing said. “It’s about what’s in season, what’s bountiful. They look at what’s in abundance and see what they can make with it.”
The Sept. 22 menu featured end-of-summer vegetables, fall squash, sweeping sunset views and conversations with strangers-turned-dinner-companions.
MacPherson and Porambo refinished a salvaged conference table that serves as the communal centerpiece under the tent. A simple rustic-chic chandelier hangs overhead. A motley crew of dining chairs adds another spot of charm, as do the candles in blue Mason jars and the feed-sack table runner.
As MacPherson and Porambo served each course, Porambo described the dish and its ingredients. Al Lansing joined the paying guests, chatting freely about the farm’s history, the ever-present threat of development and his hopes for the future.
“We are stewards of the land,” the eighth-generation farmer told the guests.
Upon arrival, diners could fill a glass with cucumber-mint water or limeade to sip alongside a halved grape tomato under a drizzle of vinaigrette and parsley leaf or a quartered fig dotted with farm cheese and fig jam.
Lansing Farm does not have a dairy component, but the chefs make cheese onsite with Battenkill Dairy milk. Field Notes also does not have a liquor license yet, but diners can bring their own bottles to imbibe with dinner.
Strangers to friends
At the beginning of the evening, the dozen diners mainly chatted among themselves. By the end of the evening, however, lively conversations would be happening across the table and among diners who, not an hour earlier, were effectively strangers.
The first course was Broccoli Three Ways. A butter-poached broccoli floret sat in a broccoli purée punched up with smoked gouda and was drizzled with a bright but subtle gastrique for acidity.
Next came a warm succotash that featured sweet corn, yellow and Italian flat beans, tomatoes and green peppers with a tangy sun-dried tomato vinaigrette for balance and brightness.
The main course heralded the first day of autumn as light lemon-thyme cream sauce blanketed a generous seven farm cheese and acorn squash-stuffed ravioli that were not too cheesy and not too sweet. A sprinkle of sweet candied bacon and toasted, spiced pumpkin seeds provided a fun pop of textural variety.
Between the main course and the dessert, MacPherson and Porambo offer a cheese course. Though common in France, the cheese course in America could be considered the unicorn of dinner courses — rare and, frankly, pretty magical.
Field Notes’ version always sees freshly baked and sliced baguettes in a basket, house-made fresh, creamy, mild and spreadable farm-style cheese and an assortment of accompaniments served in baby Mason jars on a serving board.
“It’s creamy and just a little salty,” Jessica Lansing said of the cheese. “It’s my all-time favorite.”
There was the smooth, sweet and slightly spicy chipotle peach butter, a mildly earthy kohlrabi chutney, a sweet onion and maple conserve, and a tomato jam that tastes at first sweet but finishes with tang and spice. Three piles of house-made pickles — cucumbers, yellow squash and watermelon rind — completed the board.
(Some of the accompaniments are sold in the farm store, but get there early if you want the onion and maple conserve. It sells out quickly.)
By this time, the sun had set and the wine the diners brought had been drained. MacPherson and Porambo offered coffee or one of an assortment of teas before they presented dessert: a cool, butter-smooth cantaloupe panna cotta with a fluffy, whipped strawberry mousse quenelle topped with macerated cherries that retained their firmness.
On the side was a mint shortcake that, instead of tossing a handful of mint into the dough then baking, Porambo infused the butter with the mint. That resulted in a cookie with just a hint of herbaceous mint flavor.
On the way out, each guest was given a cider donut to take home.
MacPherson, Porambo and the Lansings hope to continue the weekly dinners through October. They’ve served in every kind of weather, including heat and thunderstorms. They’ve also gained a following with many of the diners booking repeat reservations.
In November, the chefs hope to host a whole-hog pig roast with Rare Form Brewing featuring suds poured from the Troy brewery’s tap and keg-equipped truck (which is compliant with state liquor laws).