52 Dinners - Week 3: Venison and Venice

52 Dinners - Week 3: Venison and Venice

Vermont's tight-knit farming community

It’s always such a pleasure to spend an evening with Andrew and Rita from Stitchdown Farm. They have the most beautiful farm down in Bethel, VT where Rita grows and arranges flowers, and Andrew runs his design studio, raises and processes meat, and creates great art.
They’re surely some of the coolest people we know. Our buddy Dave from Morey Hill Farm also joined us. He’s a skilled woodworker and a flower farmer a couple towns over, and he grows the nicest dahlias around.

It was an Italian themed evening. We started by sipping on Stone Cutter Spirits - martini and negronis while we nibbled on antipasti.
(Every time I roast garlic, I’m reminded of the time that I was hired to do demos at a Williams-Sonoma for the 2011 holiday season. On my first day, the aggressive supervisor woman very patronizingly said “Now, Thomas, let me teach you about a little thing called ‘creating an aroma’”, then proceeded to put a head of garlic in the oven.)
You’ll no doubt be seeing a lot of these wooden planks as time goes by. When we redid our kitchen last year, we saved all the scraps from the butcher block countertops and I use them for everything.

I rang the dinner bell and we shuffled into the dining room, where we began with venison ravioli in a caramelized onion, and cranberry browned butter sauce, using Vetri’s 9-yolk pasta recipe and deer meat that our neighbor shot in our back pasture.
Next up was garlic-y lemon & rosemary roasted chicken, accompanied by braised spinach, roasted fingerlings, and carrot and parsnip “fettuccine” with pesto and toasted almonds. Then a nice bitter salad of radicchio and cress with honey, bacon, and parmesan.

I would like to be better about taking photos of people during these dinners, but I’m finding that I don’t like to take the camera out while guests are here. It feels rude. The purpose of this project is to connect with friends, not to host staged photo shoots. But I do want these gatherings to be documented. There’s a balance to it all, of course, and my feelings may evolve as time goes on. I guess we’ll see.

For dessert I made a chocolate ricotta cake, which I served with amarena cherries. It looked nice and tasted just fine, but the texture was quite strange. I was expecting something a little more cheesecake-y and a little less curdled.

Growing up, my mother (who, as I previously mentioned, is a true hostess with the mostess) taught me that when it comes to cooking for others, you should always pretend that everything turned out exactly as intended.

Your guests will never know, plus no one wants to hear your excuses.

But for this cake, I made an exception to that rule. Thankfully our dessert course was saved by an exquisite bottle of Quebec-made amaretto gifted to us to our friends Marc and David.
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We used our very special antique gold rimmed Haviland ‘Moss Rose’ china, given to us by our friend Kelly , which previously belonged to her glamorous mother Bonnie.

It’s sad to see so many beautiful sets of china at thrift stores and garage sales these days. Expensive wedding gifts & family heirlooms, now forgotten and collecting dust, likely destined for the dumpster. So it brings us tremendous joy to be able to put such pieces to use, and I love to think about the meals that would have been served on these plates many decades ago. We have discussed someday starting a ‘china rescue’, but we haven’t yet worked out the logistics.
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I recently picked up these napkin rings at our local gem of a thrift shop, Nana’s Bears and Buttons. Nana always does me good. A true rebel, I’m not afraid of mixing gold and silver. Though truth be told, if I owned a set of brushed gold flatware and some gold napkin rings, I’d have absolutely used them.

Dare to dream!

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