Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Apples & Cider: Post 390's Farm to Post With Kimball Fruit Farm

Last week, while dining at Post 390, it certainly felt like Autumn, as the Apples & Cider dinner brought to mind some of the best elements of the season.

Roughly every month or so, Post 390's Executive Chef Nick Deutmeyer and his culinary team hosts a special Farm to Post dinner and menu that spotlights "some of New England’s finest farmers, producers, vineyards, brewers, and fishermen and focuses on ingredients that are sourced locally and produced sustainably." I've been to a couple of these events in the past and always enjoyed them, savoring excellent food and drink.

Last week, Executive Chef Nick Deutmeyer created a superb dinner, spotlighting apples and cider, in collaboration with Kimball Fruit Farm, a third-generation family run farm owned and operated by Carl and Marie Hills in Pepperell. I was invited to attend this dinner as a media guest. I'll note that you'll be able to order the dishes that were at this dinner throughout the month of October, and a bit into November, and I strongly recommend that you visit Post 390 to experience these tasty and creative dishes.

The Kimball Fruit Farm was originally established in the 1930s by Allen and Foster Kimball, who bought a fire damaged dairy farm and then planted apple and peach orchards, with apples being their primary product. They eventually took on Harold Hills, Allen's brother--in-law, to help with the farm and he became active in running the orchards. At one point, when the market for apples took a significant drop, they cut down about half of the orchards so they could plant a variety of other fruits and vegetables.

In 1969, the family had to sell the land to a group of investors though they continued to lease the land to continue running the farm. Carl (Harold's son) and Marie Hills bought the 200-acre property back in 1999 and Carl used some legal actions to protect 176 acres so no one will ever be able to build on the property. They currently grow over 50 different types of apples, as well as a variety of other fruits and veggies. Most of their business is in wholesale, which they want to get out of, though they also sell their produce at 10 Farmers' Markets. The farm used to produce apple cider, but hadn't for the last 18 years, until Carl and Marie recently decided to make it once again. Rather than pasteurization, they are using an UV process, so as to not affect the taste of the cider.

Our evening began with a Cocktail Hour with some appetizers and a competition. David Danforth, Post 390’s Beverage Director, presented a welcome cocktail, a modern take on an old New England cocktail, The Stone Fence. Often associated with Ethan Allen, the Revolutionary War patriot, the cocktail was originally a mix of rum and apple cider but as whisky began to overtake rum, the cocktail changed with the times. David created this cocktail with a blend of about 1 ounce of Woodford Reserve, a 1/4 oz of Don Pappa Rum, and 1/4 oz of Scotch. He then added 1/2 oz lemon, 1/2 oz Cardamaro, 2 oz Kimball Fruit Farm cider, and a dash of Jerry Thomas Bitters. It was certainly a refreshing drink, with prominent apple and lemon flavors, and the alcohol was almost imperceptible, though personally I would have preferred a bit more of the taste of the spirits.

As we enjoyed our cocktail, there were three appetizers for us to try, including samples of six apples and a Cheddar Cheese plate with Marcona almonds. Apples and cheddar make a fine pairing, and the almonds are always a favorite of mine.

Servers also passed around Pork & Apple Sausage Tartelettes, made with blue cheese, dried fig, frisee, and an apple cider vinaigrette. Though I thought the pastry shell was a bit too dry, the filling was quite tasty, with the pungent blue cheese making a nice accompaniment to the apple and pork flavors.

There was also a station with Brandied Apple Flambé, with duck liver mousse, and I loved this appetizer, with its silky smooth and earthy mousse, balanced with the sweet and tart flavors of the crunchy apple pieces. A spoonful of pleasure.

There was also an Apple Contest, where you had to guess the names of six different apples, and it certainly wasn't easy. It helped to showcase the diversity of flavors that can be found with the myriad of apple types. My good friend Chanie was the ultimate winner, and was awarded a deep dish apple pie.

Once we sat down, our first courses was Chilled Crab & Apples, with a tart Cortland apple & herb gelée, Peekytoe crab celery root salad, Hackleback caviar, Marcona almond Florentine, and chive crème fraiche. This was an intriguing, fresh and light dish, with a nice blend of flavors and textures, from sweet crab to the crunchy florentine. The gelée, basically like a tasty apple Jello, was full of rich apple flavors. A powerful, and elegant, opening salvo by Executive Chef Nick Deutmeyer.

To pair with our dinner, David Danforth selected several heritage production, single-harvest ciders. Rather than some of the mass production ciders, which are produced year round, these ciders are far more unique and produced in much more limited quantities. The first cider of the evening was the Farnum Hill Semi-Dry Cider from Lebanon, New Hampshire. At 7.4% ABV, this cider was only mildly sweet with a tart undertone and plenty of delicious apple flavors. It went well with out first course, and certainly is a food friendly cider. I've enjoyed a number of Farnum ciders before, and they have an excellent portfolio.

The second course was named Sing a Song of Sixpence, after a nursery rhyme which mentioned 24 blackbirds baked into pie that sang once the pie was opened. This dish was comprised of a roasted young pigeon with a moutarde violette, rye & honey crumble, apple tarte tatin, and a blackberry-rosemary jus. Mutsu apples were used in this dish and the tarte tatin was based on an old recipe. The pigeon was delicious, with tender and flavorful dark meat, enhanced by the rest of the ingredients. The apple tarte tatin was also quite good, moist and with an intriguing taste. Another powerful hit by Executive Chef Nick Deutmeyer.

For the "wildness" of our pigeon dish, we drank the Shacksbury Lost and Found, from Vergennes, Vermont. For some more background info on Shacksbury and some of their other ciders, check out a prior post of mine. At 6.9% ABV, this cider is from the 2016 harvest, and has a very earthy aroma, though on the palate you'll find it is crisp and light, with more subtle and complex apple notes. It is that more wild nose that certainly brings to mind wild game, like pigeon.

The final savory course was Hand-Carved Heritage Porchettea, with an apple & sage bread stuffing, wild mushroom velouté, pumpkin mousse, and a cider reduction. The Friday before, they received a 236 pound pig, and this was one of their preparations. Swiss Gourmet apples were used in this dish and they also used some of the Kimball's new cider in the reduction. This ample dish once again brought a tasty and interesting melange of flavors and textures. Succulent slices of pork, earthy mushrooms, sweet mousse, and crunchy stuffing. The dish worked on several levels and it was clearly Autumn on a plate. A slam-dunk from Executive Chef Nick Deutmeyer.

Our next pairing was the Eden Specialty Ciders Ezekiel, a single varietal cider made in Newport, Vermont, from Kingston Black apples of the Windfall Orchard. Kingston Black, a British cider variety, is considered one of the most bitter of the cider apples, with a bitter/tart profile. It is also said to be a "...one of the few apples that has sufficient sugar, acid and tannin to make a balanced single variety cider." This cider was also aged about about 12 months in an oak barrel and only 100 cases were produced. For more background on Eden, please check out my prior article,

With an 8% ABV, this cider possessed an alluring aroma and on the palate it was a stunner. With a full body, it was elegant and crisp, complex and subtle, intriguing and delicious. It was dry, well-balanced and had a lengthy, satisfying finish, pairing very well with the porchetta. Frankly, it was one of the best ciders I've tasted in quite some time. This would be perfect for Thanksgiving too. My highest recommendation.

For dessert, we enjoyed a Warm Apple Spice Cake, made with Honeycrisp apples, accompanied by vanilla ice cream and a maple glaze. The cake was moist, spicy and scrumptious, as well as not too heavy. For dessert, we enjoyed some of the Eden Heirloom Ice Cider, which is sweet, yet well balanced with a good acidity. A fitting ending to a superlative dinner.

At only $55 per person, this was an excellent value dinner too, considering all of the quality food and cider you received. Executive Chef Nick Deutmeyer put together a compelling dinner, a true taste of the Fall, and Beverage Director David Danforth compiled an excellent set of cider pairings. I strongly recommend you visit Post 390 this month to check out these dishes which are being offered. And you also should check out the next Farm to Post dinner, Local Roasters: Chocolate & Coffee, on November 14.

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