Living Entertaining:

Farm Dinner… swoon-preme!

Sometimes I find myself wondering, who am I, really? Or, more specifically, what am I? I’ve learned that I can curate a beautiful room or tablescape and, though not trained professionally, I do have some kitchen skills to be proud of. That said, I am not a chef and I could never pull off a 40-person dinner on my own! Of all the dinners I had planned together with Cointreau, my upstate adventure at Westwind Orchard was to be the grand dame—the one to reign swoon-preme over all others. I knew that meant I’d need some extra help in the cooking department. SNOOP THE VIDEO HERE!

When Laura Ferrara (who owns Westwind Orchard with her husband Fabio) and I began planning in September, she mentioned her relationship with Chef Jody Williams of Buvette. I screeched with excitement, as I’ve been a longtime fan of Jody’s food. It’s in moments like these that the magic happens, isn’t it? You admire someone from afar, hoping to someday meet them and pick their brain, and then boom—you’re sitting together discussing a dinner you’ll create together!

As we got to chatting, it quickly became clear that all our visions were in sync. Jody’s attention to detail rests not only in the food she creates but in sourcing every single element inside her restaurants, from a salvaged door to vintage plates to a customized light fixture, it is Jody herself who works tirelessly to ensure her vision is expressed. In these moments of sharing, I really got to see Jody’s lively spirit and authenticity–ultimately the reason her restaurants are so successful.

A few weeks before the dreamy dinner, Jody and I took a road trip upstate to visit Westwind. After exploring the beautiful property, menu ideas were born and then crafted further in the car ride home (my favorite part). By the time we’d arrived home, the menu was complete: Risotto Sotto Bosco (with mushrooms and blackberries); roasted squash (in abundance at the farm); a shaved cabbage salad; and a rabbit dish infused with Concord grapes. Served family style, it was all quite cozy and rustic, though elevated by Jody’s skillful use of contrasting flavors! The tarte tatin that finished the meal brought together elements of us all: a personal favorite from Buvette made with Westwind Apples!

Like I said before, I am nothing without the people surrounding me. EyeSwoon is meant to be a community: a place to be inspired and to inspire; a place for me to share but, also, for me to learn; a place for me to highlight talent and come together with other lovers of beauty and food. For my dinner at Westwind, we came together indeed: Laura & Fabio offered their home, their farm and their food; Jody and her stellar team delivered a perfect meal, all from an outdoor kitchen with the turning leaves cascading around them; and our lovely friends, old and new, came out eager to get relaxed and inspired. We broke bread, shared ideas, grew closer and, most importantly, chowed down on some spectacular food. Serious amounts of gratitude to our hosts and chef—I am honored and humbled to have had this moment with you!

Photography by Winnie Au

Risotto Sotto Bosco

from the kitchen of chef jody williams


4 tablespoon (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
2 firm, fresh porcini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (about 1½ ounces)
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
Leaves from 1 small sprig fresh rosemary, minced
1 cup high-quality risotto rice
½ cup dry white wine
Coarse salt
3 to 4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Small handful fresh blueberries and/or blackberries

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, porcinis, and herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened and beginning to turn golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and cook until it turns opaque and starts to make a faint popping sound, just a minute or two. Add the white wine to the pot and cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add a pinch of salt and 1 cup of the boiling water and cook, stirring continuously, until the water has nearly evaporated. Repeat the process with a second cup of the boiling water, and when that has nearly evaporated, add a third cup. You will know when to add more water when the surface of the rice is coated with small bubbles—it’s not unlike knowing when to flip a pancake. Cook, stirring, until this last addition of water has nearly evaporated.

Test the rice by tasting it—it should be just cooked through, but still have a bit of a bite. If it’s too undercooked, add ¼ cup of water. Depending on the cooking temperature and the type and age of the rice, it may or may not need it. Trust your instincts.

When the rice is just cooked through, about 20 minutes of cooking altogether, turn off the heat and vigorously mix in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter along with the cheese. Fold in the berries, and season the risotto to taste with salt.

Serve immediately, with an extra dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano on each portion.


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