15th Annual Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner

 

logoDeer Valley Executive Chefs Jodie Rogers and Clark Norris were invited to participate as featured chefs at Niman Ranch’s Farmer Appreciation Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa this August.

 Niman Ranch raises livestock traditionally, humanely and sustainably to produce the finest tasting meat in the world and is a main supplier for Deer Valley Resort.

The 2013 Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner is the ranch’s biggest event of the year and Featured Chefs included:

Alex Yellan- POK POK,  NYC
Anne Quatrano- Bacchanalia, Atlanta
David Bull- Congress, Austin
Clark Norris & Jodie Rogers- Deer Valley Resort, Park City
Jack Riebel- Butcher & the Boar, Minneapolis
Kevin Sbraga- Sbraga, Philadelphia

The 15th annual Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner, celebrated the important connection between the food we eat and the farmers who produce it.  This event has grown over the years from under 100 guests the first year to over 400 guests last year. Read more about the 2014 event on Niman Ranch’s blog

Chef Jodie Rogers documented their weekend in Iowa visiting the farms and of course, everything they ate!

Thursday, August 15:

Here we are at 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon sill trying to get to Iowa- Clark and I arrived at the airport at 6 a.m. to find out that our flight had been CANCELLED and they could not put us on a flight until Saturday (which is when the dinner for 500 hog farmers is scheduled)!  Oh dear, thankfully Sarah Willis (original farmers daughter of the Willis Hog Farms) was able to secure different seats on another airline to get us in that day!

We filled in our six-hour wait at SLC International Airport by enjoying breakfast at Cat Cora’s Kitchen, Basil Bloody Mary’s and a massage… oh my god, the massage (Clark made me do it).

We finally made it to Denver, had a quick layover and met Amanda from Niman. Soon we were finally en route to Iowa!

The Welcome Dinner that night at DJANGO, a local brasserie-style restaurant where Owner/Chef George Formaro serves everything we loved about French cuisine, utilizing fresh local sustainable ingredients (including Niman Ranch). Chef George was one of the featured chefs at the ranch’s 2011 dinner! We had a lot of fun meeting all the other chefs participating in this year’s event over dinner. We even toured their cured meats area, which is down in the “dungeon” and very similar size to what the chefs at Silver Lake do.

DJANGO menu

DJANGO dinner

Friday August 16:

Today was an amazing day all around. All the chefs and Chefs Collaborative Scholarship winners toured La Quercia.  La Quercia makes artisan cured meats or salumi — prosciutto, pancetta, coppa, speck, lonza, guanciale, and lardo. Seeking out the best ingredients, produced responsibly, they craft them by hand into something that expresses their appreciation for the beauty and bounty of Iowa. Cathy, of the husband and wife team, was extremely passionate and knowledgeable with what they produce. The two-hour tour was mind blowing and reminded me of why I should and will support the artisans within our trade. We witnessed a tight team take the steps learned by trial and error over the years to produce a superior Iowa prosciutto. After the tour we were lucky enough sample the product. It may be a long three-year process for the acorn prosciuttos but the wait is well worth it. My new favorite is the prosciutto spread, I think it would be great addition to our local cheese selections!

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For lunch, we met up with Trevor (Wasatch Meats) and his wife Sharen, Amanda (Our Niman Ranch Representative) and Rich (Niman Ranch Niman Rep) for a simple but tasty Ham and Swiss from the HUB.

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Back to the hotel (did I mention how sweet our suites are?!) Change of attire to “country casual” and back on the bus……. seriously, how can the day get any better?

Two buses were loaded up about 120 Chefs, salesmen and women in media and marketing (Google was even represented!) We were in for about a hours drive to Alderland Farm in New Providence, Iowa for five extensive lessons on hog farming.

Station 1: We started at the end product and learned how they rate the meat color and the marbling the fat contents. After this experience I am not sure I will ever buy commodity pork for my family ever again!

Station 2: What does a Niman raised hog have the privilege of eating at will? Corn, wheat, soybeans and oats. All pretty much grown on the farm the pigs are raised on. In my mind I am thinking of the dish Clark and I have ready to prepare the next night! Oh no, its high end hog feed, organic farro, fresh corn and a plethora of other local ingredients.  Hope the farmers do not catch on to this!

We started to walk towards station 3 only to be met by a tractor driven by the farmers son. We were herded on to the back and transported to meet with Paul Willis, co-founder of the Niman Ranch pork program. He is such a wealth of information and he talked us through the life of the hogs out on the field. They even have housing!

Tractor Transportation

At stations 4 and the 5 we met up with Paul Brown, the owner of the farm, he has so much passion and pride in what he does! Here we learned his story and realized that he may be the farmer but it really does take an entire family effort.

Next stop was back to the farm house for an awesome array of farm baked goods from the farmers wife. They had a chocolate caramel slice that reminded me of home (Australia). It was one of the first desserts I ever learned to make when I was not even 10. I couldn’t believe I was in Iowa with a childhood memory in hand. It was actually the farmer’s daughter that made it and we talked for a long time.

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Paul Willis

 

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Back on the bus we all go for another hour to the stop I have been waiting for– Willis Dream Farm..and yes, it is very appropriately named!

A few simple words come to mind! Prairie, Whole Pig, Heirloom Tomatoes’, Potato Salad, sunset…… I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves but did I mention the whole pig…. Delicious.

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L to R, Amanda Seastrom (NR Sales) Chefs Clark and Jodie (Deer Valley UT...

Saturday August 17:

The day of the dinner has arrived, it’s time for the chefs to show the farmers just how much we appreciate them. I hope they are ready for a lot of pork on their forks!

The day is long and tedious with many “unexpected” moments for all of the chefs. Clark did not have the roasting pans we needed to perfect the cooking of the Tenderloin and I was wearing a pan of farro down the front of my legs and in my shoes right before plate up, yes, its true! I found out the hard way that the 65 pounds of farro with 10 pounds of butter and 30 pounds of Frisian farmstead mature gouda is great for the complexion.

Appetizers began at 5 p.m. and the chefs were running for their lives, thankfully Clark did the pork cheeks at Deer Valley and shipped it overnight. We would never have made it otherwise!

Let me take a moment to give you something to think about: one kitchen and crew being invaded by 10 out of town anxious chefs, culinary students, local chefs and many many many different levels of stress and personality……. you can probably picture the chaos that ensued.

This is the menu and line-up of chefs featured:

Passed Hors d’ Oeuvres

Sausage and Eggs
Slow Poached Egg, Spicy Italian Sausage, Garlic Crouton, Basil
Chef David Bull
Congress Restaurant
Austin, Texas

 Daeji Bulgogi
Korean BBQ Pork Cheeks, Sweet and Spicy Sauce,
Pickled Cucumbers and Peppers, Butter Lettuce
Chefs Jodie Rogers and Clark Norris
Deer Valley Resort
Park City, Utah

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 Strammer Max, Butterkäse, Quails Egg, New Potato, House Mustard
Chefs Jack Riebel and Peter Botcher
Butcher and the Boar Restaurant, B&B Foods LLC
Minneapolis, Minnesota

 Iowa Farmstead
Selection of Iowa Locally Grown and Produced Foods
by Iowa Farmers and Chefs

Muu Sawan
Fried Dry Pork, Crispy Lime Leaf, Dry Chile Sauce
Chef Alex Yellan
Pok Pok
New York, New York

 Pork Pâté, Tomato Confit, Yogurt, Pita, Dill
Chef Kevin Sbraga
Sbraga
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 Star Provisions’ House Cured Toscano Crostini
Preserved Lemon, Pickled Mustard Seeds
Chefs Anne Quatrano & Clifford Harrison
Bacchanalia
Atlanta, Georgia

 Amuse Bouche
Pork Belly & Tofu Terrine
Apple-Fig Salad, Tonburi, Shisho, White Soy
Chef David Bull
Congress Restaurant
Austin, Texas

 

First Course
Country Ham Tamale
Greens, Ham,Tomato, Chile
Chef Alex Yellan
Pok Pok
New York, New York

Dish #1

 Second Course
Chilled Pork Breast, Cucumbers, Chili Oil, Sea Lettuce, Scallion
Chef Kevin Sbraga
Sbraga
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dish #2

 Third Course
Trotter Ring Sausage, Crispy Pigs’ Ear, Heirloom Tomato, Green Chile
Chefs Jack Riebel and Peter Botcher
Butcher and the Boar Restaurant, B&B Foods LLC
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dish #3

Entrée
Oak Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Iowa Sweet Corn and Frisian Farmstead Mature Gouda, Farro, Root Vegetables,Pontack Sauce, Elderberry Glaze
Chefs Jodie Rogers and Clark Norris
Deer Valley Resort

Park City, Utah

Dish #5, entree

 

 Dessert
Chocolate, Chicharonnes, Chile
Anne Quatrano & Clifford Harrison
Executive Chefs/Owners
Bacchanalia
Atlanta, Georgia

Dessert, partially eaten

A few Pictures from behind the scenes:

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Clark with his Home-made Oak Smoked Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

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65 lbs. of faro ready to be cooked

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Prepping at 1 a.m. in the morning before the event. We even had apprentices!

During the dinner Niman Ranch recognizes their outstanding farmers of the year and present the next generation scholarship awards. During the meal it is communicated to the farmers that their continued commitment to traditional farming practices remains vitally important.  

Also awarded were the top 10 hog farmers (based on meat quality) and the Hog Farm Family of the Year. This year’s award went to the Crowe family. A great video of Adair Crowe played during the presentation and I was able to get the link for it: http://vimeo.com/54176499 (be sure to watch, this was a really good video).

Overall it was a fantastic weekend in Iowa and a wonderful way to meet the Farmer’s who provide us with such quality product!