James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour does Tour de Farm

Grilled bison tenderloin with sweet corn panna cotta, corn relish and tomato

Grilled bison tenderloin with sweet corn panna cotta, corn relish and tomato

On Sunday afternoon, diners flocked to Star Prairie Trout farm in Star Prairie, Wisconsin, to dine with James Beard Award winners and famous chefs. The familiar faces included the Twin Cities' most famous adventurous eater, host of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods Andrew Zimmern; Barton Seaver, National Geographic fellow and author of For Cod and Country; Mike Phillips, cured meats maestro of Green Ox Charcuterie; James Beard Award winner Tim McKee, representing La Belle Vie; and local slow-food activist and Tour de Farm founder Scott Pampuch. James Beard Award-winning writer and author of Drink This: Wine Made Simple Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl acted as sommelier. 

Tour de Farm celebrates family farms by gathering local tastemakers and curious diners at the farms for meals created by some of the area's most talented chefs to raise awareness about local, sustainably raised foods and the people who provide us with them.

The Celebrity Chef Dinners celebrate James Beard, the emblematic cookbook author, by hosting dinners with marquee names and beautiful wine pairings to benefit the foundation that continues Beard's passionate work in educating people about American cuisine.

But the real draw, of course, was the food.

A long, winding table set with white linen and gleaming stemware stretched between the streams and ponds holding lively trout. Guests were greeted with glasses of shimmering cava and rustic boards full of cured meats, including a full ham leg of prosciutto shaved thin and served with fennel-studded crackers.

After touring the farm, guests carefully walked to a riverside table set for their first course. Planks of bread from Patisserie 46 and fat cubes of Hope Creamery butter held the hungries at bay as Andrew Zimmern and Tim Mckee squinted into the flames of a giant outdoor grill, carefully turning rolls of trout, crisping the skin. The first course was billed as "grilled trout." "I expected it to be more...trout shaped," Moskowitz Grumdahl observed. Rather, the trout appeared more like a little sausage, a dill-studded mousse rolled in its skin and cooked until set, topped with glittering jewels of roe and earthy, sweet baby beets, nestled onto a pillow of yogurt.

Our second course was prepared by Barton Seaver: mixed micro herbs with ribbons of carrot dressed with smoked trout, which Seaver described as an element he used more as a flavor than as the main component with vinaigrette. The herbs included paper-thin slices of snappy flavored radish and spritely parsley with husky smoke notes from the trout.

The next course, again prepared by Zimmern and McKee, was grilled duck breast with duck confit, braised radish, clover-leaf-shaped sorrel, and a honey juniper gastrique.  The skin on the duck breast was charred crispy, and the confit was rich and tender. The floral honey and woodsy juniper enhanced the meat's flavor, creating a experience so down to the moment of the season that you could have just called the dish "Late August Evening."

Scott Pampuch's dish was expertly cooked bison served with a lush panna cotta so purely sweet-corn-flavored that the lack of a cob confounded expectations. The ruby tomato and deep green charred relish with sunny corn studs popped in the mouth before coating the palate with garden-plucked goodness. It was so clearly a Pampuch dish, representative of his style--masculine, decidedly dude food, presented with refinement.

A cheese course of Love Tree Farms Big Holmes was served with an apple mostarda and grilled wild pears. The creamy sheep's-milk cheese was coated in piney herbs enlivened by crispy fruits.

The playful dessert seemed as though it should be another savory course, featuring chanterelle and lobster mushrooms, but the lush cream base of the chanterelle ice cream and the raw sugar coating of the lobster mushroom was so sweet and lovely, crunchy, soft, chewy, and rich, a beautiful balance.

Although each course was served with a chef's name beside it, many people pulled together to present each dish. From the staff of Corner Table to Moskowitz Grumdahl's personalized serving of the elegant wines to the efforts of Mike DeCamp, chef de cuisine at La Belle Vie, and Jamie Malone, newly minted chef de cuisine at Sea Change, who plated dish after dish for diners, it was a collective effort of people passionate about food at the height of their game.