Last week, a group of Vancouver media and writers were invited to dine with the very farmers and wine makers that grew the food and produced the wine for our sumptuous, six-course long table dinner at Abbotsford’s Tanglebank Gardens and Brambles Bistro.
The dinner’s focus was on the Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour operators—a dozen or so farmers and dairy producers who live and work in the region. Abbotsford is in the heart of Fraser Valley’s farming region, its topsoil amongst the richest and deepest in the world. While an abundance of Fraser Valley produce is brought to Vancouver’s top restaurants, it’s often more rewarding to visit the farms and taste the sun-kissed fruits of the farmers’ labour.
The evening was designed to be casual, with writers seated directly beside farm tour partners, giving us all ample opportunity to learn about each one’s products.
With each course and wine pairing, the farmers and winemakers stood up, introduced themselves, and offered a brief background, bringing the concept of farm-to-table dining even closer to home. The farmers take great pride in producing the best, freshest, and healthiest crops and meats possible, many of the producers family-owned businesses spanning several generations.
Coming as no surprise, several of the farmers originated from The Netherlands: the Fraser Valley is filled with Dutch families who arrived decades ago to start a new life (and farming business) in the area’s emerald fields and gorgeous surroundings.
Tanglebank Gardens and Brambles Bistro is a fifth-generation farm; Arnold and Brenda Falk’s two daughters are kept busy as one is a grower, the other a chef (recently departed for Alberta with her husband). Chef Sarah was in the Brambles Bistro kitchen preparing our dishes, using products from the local farms. Open throughout the year, Tanglebank also operates a heritage Christmas store in November and December.
“I enjoy having a connection with the food on my plate and with the people I grow it for.” – Farmer Chris, One Love Farm
Chicken veloute with early harvest vegetables came courtesy of Rockweld Farms, Lepps Corn, and Brambles’ carrots and turnips. Rockweld’s Tim and Flo Rempel raise certified, organic-fed, BC SPCA-certified chicken and eggs and attend 16 area farmers’ markets. The BC SPCA classification means chickens never go cold, hungry, or thirsty, and are comfortably, ethically treated.
Tomme goat cheese and duo of beets contained Mt. Lehman goat cheese, Brambles’ beets, honey and micro-greens, and Apple Barn’s Elstar apples. Mt. Lehman’s Jason Dykstra grew up on a goat farm. At 20, he started working in cheese processing, and at the start of this year, founded Mt. Lehman, using pasteurized whole goat milk (which he also began shipping last year), specializing in high-quality, local cheeses.
I counted five farms that collaborated on our main course of cider-braised pork: Lepps (pork shoulder), One Love (Russian garlic and winter luxury pumpkin), Mt. Lehman Cheese Company (goat cheese), Apple Barn (cider, cinderella pumpkin), and Campbell’s Honey (squash, honey, and honeycomb). This was by far my favourite dish and beautifully presented!
Taves Family Farms Applebarn offers numerous seasonal produce, alongside a healthy variety of apples (including U-Pick), a country store, and seasonal attractions including hayrides, a pumpkin patch, zipline, petting barn, and more. I was happy to see that they grow German Elstar apples, something we’ve missed from living in The Netherlands. Check out their website for current offerings and events.
Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm and Meadery owners Mike and Judy Campbell produce a variety of honey wines, naturally-sourced honey, beeswax, beeswax candles, and honeycomb, using honey produced by their own bees. Their meadery and beekeeping hobbies have blossomed into full-time passions as they continue to be active in the company’s production, also offering tours (by appointment) and off-farm honeybee pollination services to local growers.
A couple of dessert offerings followed: Mead-poached pear and brown butter shortbread tart, with Concord coulis and Birchwood Dairy’s yummy pecan praline ice cream, and a sampling of Onnink’s handmade Belgian chocolate bonbons containing antioxidant-rich blueberries from their farm.
Founder Henk Onnink was born in Barendrecht, The Netherlands (close to Rotterdam); one of his two daughters, Arina, was at the dinner to talk about the six varieties of blueberries grown down the road from Tanglebank, as well as their award-winning blueberry iced tea, and soon-to-come blueberry-infused coffee!
Maan Farms and Estate Winery kicked off our supper with a glass of blackberry wine from their estate’s fruit wine collection.
Our dinner was paired with pours from award-winning Mt. Lehman Winery, including a light and crisp 2013 Gewurtztraminer; 2012 Symmetry (blending Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Ehrenfelser, Riesling and Oraniensteiner); 2010 Pinot Noir Platinum Reserve, aged 16 months in French oak; and a 2011 Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc, a nice balance to the brown butter shortbread tart and accompanying pecan praline ice cream. This is the winery’s take on a late-harvest style dessert wine, with a great texture, and notes of apple, pear, and melon, providing a smooth finish to a great meal.
Tanglebank will offer Long Table dinners in Spring 2015, continuing to work with Abbotsford CFT members. Contact Tanglebank via tanglebank [at] telus [dot] net with Long Table Dinner in the subject line.