“Oooohhh… Aaahhhh… Mmmm… Wow… Delicious!” were heard throughout the evening from the 22 guests who had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in the amazing alumni-coordinated and student-supported Organic Farm Dinner. Top bidders at The Evergreen State College Foundation’s annual Art of Giving Gala & Auction won invitations to the unique culinary experience on September 9, 2017 helping to raise more than $200,000 for scholarships at Evergreen.
Annie Sloan and Archer Hobson-Ritz, who graduated in 2017, spearheaded the unparalleled event that resulted in a heartfelt volunteer capstone project in appreciation of their Evergreen education. In true Greener fashion, Annie and Archer created and designed the menu using an Evergreen education as the theme. Each of the 21 courses were paired with either an alumni-owned beverage or a drink they made themselves, like parsnip milk or bay leaf juice.
As the other guests and I arrived at Evergreen’s Organic Farm, we were warmly greeted by students and invited to enjoy a glass of Whitewood dry cider on the porch while the finishing touches were completed for the cocktail hour. We then moved into the Sustainable Agriculture Lab (SAL) and enjoyed music by MonkFlower while sampling a variety of hors’d’oeuvres including Kumamoto oysters donated by Taylor Shellfish, Olykraut tapioca pearl mignonette, cured ham, lamb (grown on the Organic Farm) prosciutto, Sikkim cucumber and geoduck, broccoli leaves with cured egg yolk and cured salmon roe, and sublime chicken stock pie paired with a Salish Sea Hibiscus Liqueur, sage, and egg white cocktail as well as a non-alcoholic sparkling strawberry top shrub.
A student-led tour through Evergreen’s Organic Farm transitioned the party from the SAL to the dinner table. Guests popped the largest raspberries ever seen into their mouths as they strolled through the farm. The steamy cup of corn silk and cover crop broth (illustrating how even the parts of the vegetation that would normally be discarded or used in compost can create a nourishing meal) greeted us at the end of the tour. The broth was matched with a rose and shiitake rosé vermouth.
We dined alfresco with centerpieces of candles and potted flowers and twinkling white lights, and dried herbs decorating the canopy. Before I go into the main courses of the dinner I want to remind you that everything, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, was prepared completely from scratch by recent Evergreen alums.
Beginning with “Freshman Year,” lamb tongue pizza with truffles and nasturtium was distributed in a cardboard pizza box and paired with Three Magnets Smoked Urban Farmhouse Ale while Pink Floyd played in the background with a lava lamp illuminating the darkness. Then an array of delicious bites—sourdough fried mushrooms with lavage, fried eggplant with honey, fried Olykraut, candied hemp, and hazelnut butter wrapped in beet (to mimic a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) plated on cedar rounds. Each bite was more delicious than the last. “Freshman Year” was also paired with Iggy’s kombucha.
The next course was “Seminar.” Served on edible paper with original student poetry and three different perspectives on tomatoes. We were encouraged to discuss our poems, use the edible paper to eat the tomatoes, and share our thoughts on each of the tomato varieties. This dish was paired with Mercer Viognier Culloden Vineyard 2015.
Bonnie Zion learned to make Sichuan buttons while studying abroad and she prepared individual bites of lamb broth Sichuan buttons that burst with flavor in our mouths. This course was matched with COR Alba Gewürztraminer or Pinot Gris Celilo Vineyard 2014. Next up was freshly baked bread with seasoned lardo, pickles, and bay leaf juice.
The Longhouse-inspired course was served on compostable palm plates and consisted of Ozette potatoes, smoked sockeye salmon, greens from the Longhouse Ethnobotanical Garden, and paired with Mercer Reserve Chardonnay Zephyr Ridge Vineyard 2014. Armando DeLao ’17 caught the wild salmon as well as the salmon roe served during the cocktail hour.
Next up was “Fall Quarter” where lamb sausage (remember, made by scratch!) was paired with charred pear, served on burnt leaves, and paired with Mercer Mourvedre Horse Heaven Hills 2013.
“Winter Quarter” was a delicate parmesan and white sweet potato cappelletti with hazelnut snow and pine oil coupled with parsnip milk. The creamy white parsnip milk was refreshing and mildly sweet.
“Spring Quarter” was a delicate plate of light pink rose granite and pea tendril yogurt served with fermented honey and pineapple weed juice.
“Week Ten” was full of surprises—just like life at Evergreen! As a dish of ice cream was served to each guest, we were informed the dirt in the flowerpots in front of us was actually squid ink and chocolate cookie toppings for the ice cream! Squeals of delight burst out at this revelation—those who had been inspecting the flowerpots earlier had exclaimed, “I know that’s dirt!” We didn’t know what “woodruff” was, is that an ice cream brand we asked? No. Woodruff is a flowering perennial plant that was harvested from the Evergreen forest and used to make the ice cream. The final touch to this incredible dessert was coconut sugar caramel to pour on top. Three Magnets Vanilla Tompkins Stout was served with this dish.
For “Evaluation,” we walked along a path lit-up with tea lights to the rustic Farmhouse dining room, where we enjoyed anise pinwheels, raspberry and lemon verbena pavlova, and, drumroll please, lamb bacon donuts with rosemary and black pepper! For nightcaps, Salish Sea Honeybush Liqueur and Batdorf & Bronson coffee were offered.
Gathered around the farmhouse table, with Paul Simon’s Graceland in the background, participants were presented with gift bags including a wall hanging of the menu with original student artwork, sweet pea and angelica seeds, raspberry jam from the Organic Farm, pouches of dried pepper and lavender, and two small decorative stones.
Those of us who were lucky enough to indulge in this incomparable feast will treasure the experience for years to come. Annie and Archer, along with all of the supporting volunteers and alums, appreciated their ability to give back to Evergreen by supporting scholarships for future generations of Evergreen students. If you’re interested in helping coordinate next year’s Organic Farm Dinner, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, save the date for the next Art of Giving Gala & Auction—you are sure to be inspired—March 10, 2018.