Smile Politely

Farmer’s Table continues to impress

For the uninitiated, The Farmers’ Table is a weekly locavore dining experience held Saturday nights at the Red Herring vegetarian restaurant. The chef, Steve Moore, and volunteers put together a three course vegetarian or vegan dinner using raw materials obtained at the Saturday morning Urbana farmers’ market. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased in advance at the Tiny Greens booth at the market, or reserved by phone. Since the ingredients for the dinner are purchased that morning based on the number of reservations, the event can’t handle walk-ins.

Now that you’re oriented, I’m going to let you know tasty everything was at the August 8th Farmers’ Table. The dinner starts at around 7:30 p.m. and I was a late arrival at about 8:30 p.m., which was unfortunate as I missed most of the live music by Nathaniel Ruiz, who was just wrapping up his tenor sax set when I sat down.

The first course of crusty Pekara bread with Baba Ghanoush dip was out immediately along with some much needed ice water. The eggplant-based dip was mildly spiced and had a smooth texture with large chunks of eggplant skins and a liberal helping of garlic. The Pekara bread had a very respectable crust and seemed to be just sliced fresh. The bread was supposed to be sourdough, but I didn’t get much of the tartness that one would expect — and that tartness would have made the starter dish even more amazing.

The main course of the evening was the impressively named Ratatouille Napoleon & Couscous Corn Pilaf. This dish did have shades of the Napoleon I’m familiar with — layered ice cream. There were two small vegetable towers consisting of a base layer of roasted eggplant, a middle layer of zucchini, and a top layer of warm tomato slices. On top of the towers was a melted slice of Prairie Fruits Moonglo goat cheese. For me the eggplant and zucchini layers were okay, but the real stars were the two tomato slices, one red Beefsteak and a yellow Jubilee. The Beefsteak had a very strong flavor that you only get from picked-ripe tomatoes and the Jubilee was also tasty but slightly more acidic, and both were excellent friends with the goat cheese.

The veggie towers were sitting in a smooth sauce of blended basil and oregano. This tangy sauce was reminiscent of the green sauces often served at Indian restaurants. The sauce was asking to get mopped up by the eggplant, and complemented what is often a boring vegetable. In the middle of the dish was a small mound of seasoned couscous mixed with fresh corn. In addition to the food, there were two teas available and I chose the hippie dippy named Flower Power, and wasn’t surprised to find a heady nose of lavender. All in all, it was an amazing dish, with presentation, textures, and flavors all working together to make my belly happy.

The meal finished with a simple but delightful warmed half peach topped with vanilla ice cream from the Sidney Dairy Barn. The ice cream had the home-churned slightly icy texture that made me think of childhood picnics. I’ll definitely be hitting up the Dairy Barn truck next time I’m at the farmer’s market. The peach half was served brulee, where the top is browned using a torch or broiler, and was a good foil to the cold ice cream. As I finished off the dessert I was feeling pleasantly full but not stuffed.

Looking back at the meal, I have to admit that I didn’t find any off notes in the entire experience. The presentation, the amazing local food, the live music, the friendly volunteers, and the laid-back atmosphere of The Red Herring once again made this dinner more than worth the cost of admission. Next time I have a free Saturday night, I’ll volunteer and try to get a feel for how everything works behind the scenes — stay tuned for the resulting article. Keep up the good work, Farmers’ Table!


If you liked this article, might we also recommend:

Review of the first Farmers’ Table, May 30th

Photos from June 6th Farmers’ Table

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