Posted: September 1, 2017
Have a feast at these Maine farms
Written by: Katy Kelleher
Up Next: Best of the west: What to see and do when you head inland
As a kid growing up in suburban Massachusetts, I was obsessed with books about frontier life. I devoured the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder and begged my mother for an expensive American Girl Doll named Kirsten, who came with a series of books about life in 19th-century Minnesota. I read about witches in Salem, stories about settlers in Maine, and watched every PBS program on the topic that I could find. From this research, I learned two things. First, life on a farm is absurdly hard. Second, farmers really know how to party – but only in the autumn. Winter is for sewing and trapping, spring is for planting, summer is for working, but fall? Fall is for eating.
While I’ve left behind my Wilder cosplay days, I still think of fall as fundamentally festive. (I mean, even the trees put on their grooviest outfits.) Fortunately, many Mainers agree. In recent years, a whole bunch of farm-to-table events have cropped up, making it a cinch to celebrate the harvest with like-minded folk. From fancy French cuisine to down-home cooking, here are five places where you can dine on a farm this fall.
Plates piled with colorful comestibles are prepped for service at a farm-to-table dinner at Point Lookout in Northport. Photo by Megan Marsanskis
Farm-to-table dinners at The Point Lookout Farm
Summer 2017 marked five years of farm-to-table dinners at Point Lookout Farm. Tucked into the foothills of Ducktrap Mountain, the MOFGA-certified farm practices sustainable agriculture techniques to grow what it calls "outrageously good tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, melons and sweet potatoes." Point Lookout is also a mountain resort and frequently welcomes travelers from all around the globe to stay in its cozy cabins. (If you happen to be driving from far away, you can always book a place to sleep off those locally sourced beers after attending the family-style gathering.)
DATE: Sept. 8
COST: $98 per person
LOCATION: 67 Atlantic Highway, Northport
The table is set for Graze, a series of seasonal dinners held at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. Photo by Archerdog Photography
Graze at Pineland Farms
With foot-stomping good live music, a five-course paired dinner and complimentary beverages, the Graze series at Pineland Farms gives attendees plenty of bang for their buck. These seasonal events take place on the rolling green grounds of Pineland Farms out in New Gloucester, where dedicated farmers produce top-notch cheddar and succulent beef. (Pineland Farms also owns nearby Gillespie Farm, where they grow produce and greens.) The Graze dinner series features Pineland's fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products, prepared by the experts from The Black Tie Company in a variety of ways. Expect dishes like Maine apple and sharp blue cheese crostini, cheesy potato and chorizo croquettes, and fennel microbrew-braised beef short rib with smoky carrot gravy. As an added bonus, a portion of the proceeds goes to charity, so you can dine local and feel extra good about it, too.
DATES: Sept. 13 and Oct. 4
COST: $60 per person
LOCATION: 15 Farm View Road, New Gloucester
Cocktail glasses at Yellow Birch Farm in Deer Isle, which holds farm dinners for small groups on select evenings. Photo courtesy of Yellow Birch Farm
Farm dinners at Yellow Birch Farm
Back in the early 1990s, two artists moved to Deer Isle and decided to put down roots. Eric Ziner and Missy Greene are now the owners of Yellow Birch Farm, a 52-acre island property that boasts a Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association-certified organic vegetable garden, a herd of Alpine goats, multiple high tunnels and a licensed dairy kitchen. For a few select evenings, they open up their house to dinner guests, welcoming in groups of 16 into their barn (which also functions as an art gallery). The dinner includes a tour of the farm and five delectable courses created by guest chef Bobby Cleek. The owners view these events as both an opportunity to meet their neighbors and a chance to educate others about their work, so don't be afraid to pepper them with questions.
DATES: Sept. 14 and 15
COST: $95 per person
LOCATION: 73 Reach Road, Deer Isle
Guests fill a community-style table in the Stone Barn at Saint Joseph's College. There will be two farm-to-table dinners there this fall, on Sept. 24 and Oct. 4. Photo by Tonee Harbert
The Stone Barn at Sebago Lake
Although the Stone Barn is more often used for weddings, you can also enjoy the experience of dining below the vaulted post-and-beam ceilings during its harvest season farm-to-table dining events. Located on the 474-acre campus of Saint Joseph's College, this pretty property boasts a verdant garden and working pastures, as well as the historic (and aptly named) Stone Barn. Each dinner can accommodate up to 70 guests seated at community-style tables, so unless you come with 15 friends in tow, you're bound to meet someone new. Bond over bites of baklava made with local maple syrup or specialty cocktails muddled with basil or thyme. Although this is one of the pricier dinners on the list, the ticket cost includes a six-course meal (plus an amuse-bouche, which is French for "mouth amuser" but more accurately translates to "fun bite"), wine pairings, local craft beer and an after-dinner drink.
DATES: Sept. 24 and Oct. 4
COST: $100 per person (includes dinner, beverages, tax and gratuity)
LOCATION: 278 Whites Bridge Road, Standish
Portland's Union restaurant and Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport plan a harvest dinner at the farm on Oct. 15. Above: Place settings from a previous dinner. Photo by Kari Harer
Harvest Dinner at Wolfe's Neck Farm
Back in ye olden days, harvest season was the busiest time of the year as families worked together to pick, store, pickle and preserve as many tasty pieces of produce as humanly possible. But even now that we can purchase hothouse tomatoes year-round at the local Hannaford, harvest season still hasn't lost its celebratory air. This is particularly true at Wolfe's Neck Farm, where visitors are welcome to camp on the farm, dine on the farm and party on the farm at select dates throughout the summer and fall. In October, the working coastal farm will partner with Union, the restaurant in The Press Hotel in Portland, and its award-winning chef, Josh Berry, to create a night of local food and libations. Tickets go on sale on Sept. 7, and thanks to the popularity of this picturesque farm, the dinners tend to sell out fast, so plan accordingly.
DATE: Oct. 15
COST: $100 per person (includes all food and drinks)
LOCATION: 184 Burnett Road, Freeport