A lot of my dinners start off with chicken.
But never have I had a dinner that started off with… meeting chickens.
My friend Kate found about the dinner at Goat Lady Dairy, and told us about it. As soon as I read about it on the website, I was in. Actually, all I had to read was “goat cheese truffles” and I was in. So last night, Kate and Charlie, Anne and I (husbands were working, sadly) and Anne & Kate’s parents, Linda and Eddie, packed ourselves into the car and made the 50 minute drive out into the country (and it was indeed) to have dinner at the Goat Lady Dairy.
Our evening started off, as I mentioned, in the chicken coop. Steve Tate, one of the owners of the 15-year old goat farm, assured us that we would be better off not looking down at our feet while he chatted. We happily complied. Steve gave us a little history of how Goat Lady Dairy came to be, but more near and dear to my heart, he waxed poetic about sustainable farming.
If you’ve seen Food Inc, you know we’re in a tad bit of trouble – food wise – in this country. And I’m not just talking about the stuff that I usually talk about – weight loss, obesity, health. We're totally disconnected from where our food comes from… and what our food is – and what that's doing to all of us. There’s a whole heckuva lotta stuff in the grocery store that your great-grandma wouldn’t even know how to identify, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. Cheap food comes at a great cost.
Oops, guess who else can wax poetic about sustainable farming? Sorry, I’ll try to keep myself in check here… Anyways, the point I was going to make is – I liked Food, Inc. I thought it was informative and important. But it was also a little bit IN YOUR FACE, YO and I know a lot of people had a hard time stomaching the film... or even finishing it. Steve had pretty much the opposite approach, but with the same message. He spoke from a place of passion and purpose. Here we all were to have a delicious farm fresh meal and he had recognized an opportunity to minister to a captive audience about a simple idea: “Food is the problem, but food can be the solution.” (His direct quote, but I loved it.) And we were a captive audience indeed, as we were locked in the chicken coop. See if a bunch of us city folks can figure out how to work a pen latch!
Genius. But genius delivered with a side of earnest, heartfelt truth about our food.
Oh and the food! The food we had for dinner last night was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. Everything served came from the farm we were on, or a nearby local one. Considering March isn’t exactly known to be the most generous garden month of the year, I was a little curious as to what we would be served up. Here’s the blow by blow:
A cheese tasting platter, all the cheese coming from the goats on the farm. (They are, after all, a goat dairy. Their cheeses can be found at Reynolda Farm Market year round, as well as I think the Krankies market in the summer.)
The top cheese was a chevre mixed with carrots and a little bit of, I think dill? It was called the “spring garden goat cheese.” Amazing. And then the next one was called “Farmer’s Cheese” – a bit similar to feta. The bottom one was called the “Smoked Round” which I will be buying in mass quantities to dollop generously on top of a tomato-basil-salad. I bit into that piece of cheese and my mind went “mmmm, summer.” The fourth one was a sweet chevre with honey and fig, and could pretty much have been dessert.
Course two was a roasted sweet potato soup with a hint of thyme. I hadn’t had enough wine to throw my manners out the window yet, or I’m certain I would have tipped the entire ramekin up and slurped it clean.
The third course was a cold kale (previously sautéed?) salad with a sundried tomato lemon vinaigrette. This wasn’t my all time favorite, but that’s because I’m still learning to like greens. Not being a natural born Southerner, my palate still doesn’t quite know what to make of collards, kale and turnips. But I want to like them – hello, nutritional powerhouse – and this was certainly a step in the right direction. Fortunately Anne, Southern born and bred, finished off my plate for me. I informed her that she had gotten her fair share of vitamin K and her blood would be clotting well. “Uh huh, okay, but did you try the flower? It tastes like PURPLE!” was her response.
It did, surprisingly, taste like purple. (And yes, we checked. It was okay to eat them.)
The main event was venison and pork ragu served over a bed of polenta. Growing up, we\e often had venison at my family Thanksgivings, thanks to uncles who were handy with a shotgun and had a few too many Bambis in their backyard. It amuses me that I now see venison on some nicer restaurant menus as a “delicacy.” But, you can’t argue with good tasting meat right? Right.
The next course (I know, right?!) was the infamous goat cheese truffles. Oh my souls. Goat cheese and chocolate? Amazing.
And then finally….
Pound cake with dark chocolate sauce and an orange whipped cream. I was too full at this point to actually eat much of the dessert, but I do love me some real whipped cream. I now pledge this: I shall forever add orange zest to my whipped cream.
The food was amazing. I wish I could go back weekly, because the menu changes each week with whatever is in season. The setting was perfection – simple, rustic and wholesome. It’s obvious that everyone who works there believes in what they’re doing and why they are there and it shows.
And the goats!
How could I forget to tell you about the goats? Well, for starters, they were all pregnant. As in, due any day now preggars. After our session in the chicken coop, we were introduced to the goats. They were sweet and curious, putting front feet on the fence to snuffle hands like a puppy dog.
I am quite certain Locke is going to have to buy his wife a goat this summer or else she is just not going to ever be happy again.
Although, I believe she said she’d be okay with a few chickens, too.
SO! If you live in Winston-Salem or Greensboro, make yourself a date with some goats and chickens and a truly amazing meal. Gather up some friends, bring a couple bottles of wine (it’s BYOW) and don’t wear your favorite shoes.
If you don’t live here, read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Watch Food, Inc. Find a Farmer’s Market. Cook seasonal. Heck, get a goat. Do whatever you feel like you can do. I think a lot of people get stuck because they feel like if they’re not going to go 100% organic, local, or whatever, then they shouldn’t bother doing it at all. I’m a far cry from eating “ideally” all the time (I’m certain the “Pirate’s Booty” I’m eating as I write this is neither local nor organic nor…gasp… nutritious…) but whatever small steps you can make towards eating in a way that supports your health and yup, the planet’s health, count.
And I mean, if eating sustainably means eating goat cheese truffles for dessert from time to time, well I’m sorry, but that’s just the price you’ll have to pay.
Happy diners – Kate, me, Anne.