The only thing better than spending a beautiful Saturday at a vineyard or a farm is spending a Saturday at both a vineyard and a farm. Thanks to an invite from the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, we were able to spend the last Saturday of September enjoying wines, produce, and beef from Crow Farm and Vineyard and St. Brigid's Farm as we made our way from the Crow Farm tasting room to a table for 150 at St. Brigid's Farm Annual Field to Fork Dinner.
It could not have been a better day for a visit to the vineyard and farm. Bright blue skies turned into star filled skies at night. There is nothing quite like eating dinner with 149 of your closest friends while gazing at the Big Dipper.
Just over an hour and a half drive away from DC is Crow Farm and Vineyard, located in Kennedyville, MD. This former dairy farm now lives on as a bed and breakfast, winery, and a producer of grass fed Angus beef, with the property's milk house now serving as the wine tasting room with adjoining event space. The tasting room offers an array of hand crafted Crow Vineyard wines with the option to add a pairing tray made from their local grass fed Angus beef and other farm grown items. Cuts of Angus beef are also available at the bed and breakfast and for pick-up at the farm or a few other locations around town. Crow Farm and Vineyard welcomes visitors daily from 12 pm to 5 pm, though as a working farm, they ask that you call in advance for Monday-Thursday visits so they can prepare to come in from the vineyard or tending cattle to assist you with a tasting and tour.
Before we settled in for the evening at St. Brigid's Farm, we stopped by Crow Farm and Vineyard to taste some of their wines. In the short time they've been producing wine (the vineyard opened in June 2012) they've already managed to win multiple Governors Cup awards. In 2013, their Barbera Rose won Best Rose, their Vidal Blanc 2012 and Barbera Rose were awarded gold medals, and their Barbera 2011 was recognized with a bronze medal.
Of course there is no better way to taste wines then with some good cheese. A representative of Cabot Creamery, who have been raking in awards of their own since 1995, walked us through five of their cheddar cheeses, ranging from their buttery smooth cheddar to their salt crystal specked old school cheddar, aged five years. In addition to receiving a wealth of knowledge about how Cabot Creamery cheeses are made, we were given some useful nutritional information, as we were informed that contrary to popular belief, many natural cheeses are actually lactose free, since lactose is removed from the milk when curds are separated from the whey in the cheese making process. Furthermore, many people lower their consumption of cheese to reduce the amount of sodium and fat in their diet, but with the amount of cheeses available, there is really a cheese to suit most dietary needs (lower sodium, lower fat, more calcium, more protein, lactose free, etc), and in general, less aged cheese require less salt than harder, aged varieties.
In addition to offering wine tastings and tours, Crow Vineyard and Farm also invite visitors to participate in the harvesting of grapes. Call (410) 648-5687 for more info.
After tasting a few of Crow Vineyard's award winning wines, we drove a whole two minutes to St. Brigid's Farm, named after St. Brigid, the patron of dairy maids and scholars. Owners Judy Gifford and Robert Fry like to refer to themselves as the dairy maid and scholar, respectively. This 62 acre farm is planted in pasture comprised primarily of perennial rye grass and clover, and their seasonally calved herd intensively graze from April through November.
Robert and Judy raise hormone and antibiotic free Jersey cows and hand process their beef in a local family owned, USDA inspected facility. Non-milking cows eat grass that is stored as oat hay, as pictured above, and half of bull calves are sold as grass finished beef, while the other half spend five months being raised for meadow veal by a surrogate mother or nurse cow before they are sold to restaurant customers.
St. Brigid's Farm is managed using the three guiding principles of profitability, environmental stewardship, and involvement with the community. In addition to hosting third graders to show them the farm, how to milk a cow, and to teach them about the benefits of calcium and nutrition (though milk alternatives have similar amounts of calcium to cow's milk, cow's milk contains the most absorbable source of calcium, and nonfat milk has less fat and more protein than milk alternatives), Robert and Judy give back to the community through their annual Field to Fork Dinner, which we were fortunate enough to be a part of that evening. Judy and Robert donate net proceeds from these dinners to area charities, and since 2008, the support of fellow farmers, neighbors, and out of town visitors has allowed St. Brigid's Farm Field to Fork Dinners to distribute a total of $12,000 to area charities. This year St. Brigid's Farm partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association to give net proceeds to Maryland and Capital Area Foods Banks.
We arrived on St. Brigid's Farm to the the music of Evening Stroll featuring Rebecca Petri. Before taking a seat at table for 150, we sipped on more Crow Farm wines, and enjoyed a few small appetizers and cheese from Chapel County Creamery.
Dinner, catered by Palate Pleasers, started with a butternut squash and apple soup that was "lick the bowl good" (said the gentleman sitting next to me). I'm sure all 150 guests all but licked their bowls, as the bowls within my view were primarily white within a few minutes. An endless supply of Magnolia Bread Company's sweet potato ciabatta was the perfect accompaniment to the soup.
Thankfully we didn't have to choose between soup or salad, but were able to enjoy both the soup and a salad made from Colchester Farms arugula with beets, Chapel's Country Creamery blue cheese, and apple shallot vinaigrette.
It's no surprise that the St. Brigid's Farm beef osso bucco, mashed potatoes, and seasonal vegetable, were the highlight of the meal. Farm owner Robert Fry warned us not to leave any of the marrow in that bone, though by the time we received this warning, I don't think there was any marrow left on anyone's plate.
For dessert, we were served handmade pumpkin pie and apple crustada with Lockbriar Farms cinnamon and vanilla ice cream. My favorites were the pumpkin pie and cinnamon ice cream. They were the perfect way to end this lovely meal.
Though St. Brigid's Field to Fork Dinner only occurs once a year, you don't have to wait a whole year to enjoy a meal on the farms in Kennedyville, MD, as Crow Farm and Vineyard is hosting a "Harvest Lunch" on November 3rd from 1pm to 3pm. Chef Sabrina Sexton, Lead Chef instructor at the Institution of Culinary Education in NYC, will be crafting a menu consisting of salad, bread, and a beef main dish with sides, dessert, and coffee, using farm fresh and local products to create a delicious family style meal. Tickets are $40 per person or $75 per couple, and can be purchased by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 302-304-0551. Visit www.crowfarmmd.com for more info, and make sure to plan a visit to St. Brigid's Farm to say hello to Robert and Judy while you're in Kennedyville.