Tuesday, July 05, 2011

My Dinner with Ellen: Old Tioga Farm

This weekend, my Pious Ladies friend Ellen Lafferty and I made our ... dare I say it?... pilgrimage to Old Tioga Farm for a dining experience that was a feast for the senses and a solace to modern souls susceptible to exhaustion by the frenetic pace and over-stimulation of life in the 21st century.

For three hours, we enjoyed culinary delights in an old farmhouse setting, where six courses were served up at a leisurely pace, dishes made extraordinary by use of fresh ingredients (some hand-picked on the spot), careful preparation, skilled cooking and intimate hospitality.

This is strictly BYOB. Ellen and I brought a single bottle of Chianti to accompany us through the whole meal. A party of six appeared to have brought a different bottle of wine to accompany each course, possibly picked out by Chef Justin Naylor whose expertise in wine and knowledge of each dish would make for a winning combination.

Think Babette's Feast, but in the rolling hills and green fields of Stillwater, Pennsylvania.

Plus we dressed for dinner! This was totally unexpected. We were hitting the boutiques and thrifts shops in Bloomsburg, PA in the afternoon, and found ourselves looking at wedding gowns at the Salvation Army. We saw some evening wear on the same rack and suddenly thought, "Hey, let's go out tonight in evening wear!" So we spent the next hour pulling together two party outfits -- fit for elegant dining.

Here's how the evening went:
Course 1: Salad of baby lettuces, fresh picked from Old Tioga garden. I exclaimed with pleasure when I had the first bite. I don't know if it was the tender, fresh-picked greens, or the exquisite dressing (made of the usual olive oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt and pepper!) that made this salad so good. I only know that it made me want to cry, and set te tone for the rest of the meal. Mmmm.

Course 2: Potato croquettes with prosciutto. I wish I had a picture. This was Ellen's favorite course. She said she could have eaten those croquettes - exquisitely golden brown on the outside, freshly mashed potatoes on the inside seasoned perfectly and mixed with delicious bits of prosciutto -- forever.

This is as good a time as any to mention that each course was a small portion of food - the cumulative effect was that by the end of the meal you were full, satisfied, but not stuffed or uncomfortable. So many restaurants think they have to give large amounts of food in order to satisfy their customers. There's a place for that kind of economy, but it's not in a six-course meal. We were each served two potato croquettes.

Course 3: Thin-crusted pizza with sausage and mozzarella di bufala.
What can I say? The fresh basil was the piece de resistance of this flat-crusted delight.

Ellen and Rae with Course 4: House-made tortelloni filled with ricotta, sauced with butter & sage. Feeling the good vibes flow.

Again, I wish I had a picture of Course 5: Meatballs of veal and spinach with tomatoes and cream. Ellen was beginning to wear out by this time - she gave me half of her second meatball. My endurance was unfazed...

6th and final course: Flourless chocolate cake. This was like the moistest brownie you've ever tasted, with a crunchy exterior and dusted with confectioner's sugar.

Chef Justin Naylor chatting over final course.

I wish I had picture of our hostess, Dillon Naylor, but unfortunately she was the one taking all the pix. Dillon was a vision of beauty and hospitality in an ivory shirt and long skirt. Their two young sons were at "Grandmom's", nearby, for an overnight.

Their prix–fixe menu is $50, including 6% PA sales tax and gratuity. You need to get on their reservation list in advance, because once they announce the menus and dates for a season, the seats fill quickly. We got on their list in mid-March. They sent out the season's dates and menus on April 1. By April 3 all but a few seats were filled. They have only a single seating per night, one night per week, and their season is the Summer only. (They may be opening for Fall soon.)