This weekend, me, the fam, and many others, headed to bucolic Bucks County, PA for the first annual Smallholding Festival—a celebration of seasonal eats, DIY food-making, and the authors of the book The One-Block Feast. It was a big outdoor party that was hosted by the fine ladies behind Canal House Cooking and took place at Linden Hills Gardens, a location which was like something out of a Beatrix Potter book it was so lovely. We ate, we got sunburn, we pet baby chicks and we helped make a pizza oven…it was good times.
Many interesting food makers were on-hand to teach their craft, from the apiary arts to canning, pickling, gardening with Kitchen Potager, chicken-raising, and beer making. Here was the area for learning how to make a wood-burning pizza oven: the crisp oblong pizzas it created converted me immediately into wanting an earthen, dome-shaped oven in my backyard. The question is, do I need a permit?
This enthusiastic gentleman was making strawberry jam.
Conor became close intimate friends with this 4 year old Jersey cow (a real beauty) and milked her—twice. He also learned that milk comes from lady cows, which should come in handy down the road.
There were also goats. They were very nice, don’t let the horns scare you.
And then the food: More perfect delicious pizza from the Nomad Pizza Truck, ice cream from the Bent Spoon in Princeton, brisket sandwiches that I didn’t even get to try because people swarmed it and ate it all, breads from Bobolink Bakery, and pork shoulder cooked on a spit over potatoes by Ian Knauer, which had the carnivores lining up as soon as he started it carving (The pork was tender and fine but I wanted more of the flavor I got from the mustard rubbed skin, and the potatoes would have been much better if they were par-boiled first. How many times do I have to mention the wonders of par-boiling?).
After the festivities there was a special lunch that I am still marveling over: First there were cocktails served on the lawn with bottles of pomme lambic (Belgian apple beer) and deviled eggs with bacon, followed by a several course meal on long tables in a vast old stone barn. It was country magic. To start there was a cold pea and avocado soup with creme fraiche and chives, along with a slice of smoked salmon on toast, and big jars of cold dill pickle spears on the table.
And for the meal: Heaps of fried chicken, tomato salad with vinaigrette (that was better than any tomatoes I’ve been able to get this early in the season, I heard they got them in south Jersey so head there if you want tomatoes right now), and a cold potato salad. Perfection. There were also pickled watermelon, which we ate with the chicken like a condiment. I have never had that before, I’m sure you Southerners have.
And for dessert I am not exaggerating when I say it was may have been one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten (and that includes the lemon tart I had at La Recaimer in Paris that I still dream about on a regular basis). It was an apricot crisp, but not a crisp exactly, there was a crust, that was caramelized and tasted of brown butter, and these very tart melty apricots underneath–I must learn how to make this.
It was an ideal summer day and really very inspiring. From the simple lunch tables set with waxed brown paper, wildflowers in mason jars, and lots of delicious chilled wine, to the people who came to share their talents (There was even a wise old man sitting in a chair giving out advice! I didn’t know what to ask him though). I can’t wait to do it all over again next year.