Anyone who knows me, knows that farm-to-table dinners are my absolute favorite thing. There’s nothing better than sitting on a farm, meeting the people who run the land, and tasting the delicious foods and produce that have been grown there. Since 2014, my friends and I have been attending every farm-to-table dinner we can get our hands on. We’ve attended Outstanding in the Field two years now, in 2014 and 2015 (we have tickets for the 2016 season) and this past February we attended a farm-to-table dinner at one of my favorite Pennsylvania farms, Wyebrook Farm. Needless to say when we discovered Johnson’s Corner Farm was hosting their own version, we knew we had to attend.
Located in Medford, New Jersey, Johnson’s Corner Farm is probably one of the best farms in South Jersey (don’t worry Springdale Farms, I love you as well). This spring, it’s the perfect place to go strawberry picking (May – June), sugar snap pea picking (June), and blueberry picking (June-July). In the fall, they have more pumpkins than you can imagine, plus hayrides, corn maizes (see what I did there?), and fresh apple cider. In the other months, they have tomatoes, apples, peaches… literally, everything you could imagine. And if you don’t feel like going out to pick your own, they have a HUGE farm market, where they sell everything from fresh produce, to pecan pie, to buffalo chicken dip, and chicken enchiladas.
Images via Johnson’s Corner Farm Facebook
In the summer of 2015, the folks at Johnson’s Corner Farm decided to hold their very first Farm-to-Fork dinner series, where they incorporated the food from their land (and other local farms) into amazing farm-to-table dinners.
They had such a great success and turnout, they decided to continue the dinner series into the summer of 2016, and I was fortunate enough to attend last weekend (May 21, 2016).
As anyone living in this area will tell you, Spring 2016 has been miserable. It has rained every day… it’s been cold… I feel like we live in Seattle, and not the North East. So, of course, on the day of the farm dinner, it was down pouring. The folks at Johnson’s Corner were not discouraged, however, and were easily able to switch up their plans. Instead of having our dinner out on the farm, we were going to eat in the market.
At 7pm, everyone met in the farm’s greenhouse. It was gorgeous. The flowers were in bloom, there was live music, wine was being poured (BYO), and waitresses were walking around handing out delicious hors-d’oeuvres, including short rib tacos, mini quiche, and blue cheese on radishes.
Marcia, the evening’s event planner and coordinator, included all the perfect little touches. The center pieces on the tables were gorgeous, made out of fresh fruit and produce from the farm. Even the tables themselves had that rustic farm feel. The hors-d’oeuvres were being served on chalkboards and wooden palates. While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, we were able to mingle and chat with the owners of the farm, as well as the other guests. Everyone was incredibly friendly, and we immediately felt like family.
After everyone arrived, the rain stopped long enough for us to have a hayride tour of the farm. Everyone piled on, and a big green tractor pulled us around, while Mr. Johnson pointed out all the produce on the land, the different farm houses, and the various animals on the farm.
After our tour, we were led inside the market, where a gorgeous dinner scene had been set. All the tables and chairs were brought in from the various farm houses on the property, so it had this bohemian vibe that was incredibly homey and cozy. We didn’t even care that it was pouring outside.
Even the place settings were done perfectly – the napkins were folded around greens to make them look like carrots, and fresh picked flowers were in the wine glasses.
After everyone was sat, we met the other people at our table, and had a chance to glance over the menu for the evening. Everything we would be enjoying came fresh from the farm, and from other local farms. Executive Chef Scott Reddy prepared a delicious feast for us to dine on. Our dinner started with a bread course, with homemade onion jam (that tasted just like French onion soup), and bone marrow. I’ve had bone marrow once before, but it was on a burger, so I couldn’t really tell what it tasted like. I was a tiny bit hesitant to try it straight from the bone, but it actually tasted just like butter. Needless to say, there was no marrow left in our bones when they cleared the bread away.
Our next course was a delicious plate of seared sea scallops, with almonds, spring-onions, rhubarb compote, and strawberries picked fresh that day. Never in my life have I had scallops paired with strawberries, but I think from now on it’s the only way to go. Especially if the strawberries are freshly picked like these were – you could really taste how sweet and juicy they were. I am never eating strawberries from the grocery store ever again.
After the scallops, we enjoyed homemade ricotta gnocchi, with pancetta, spring pea puree, wild mushrooms, and pea tendrils. I absolutely love peas, so this was my favorite dish of the night. Plus, the gnocchi was soft but had a nice sear to the outside, which made it better than any other gnocchi I’ve ever had.
The food just kept on coming. The next course was a chilled asparagus broth with crispy veal sweetbreads, and shaved asparagus salad. This seemed to be an evening of firsts, because never in my life had I had sweetbreads. For those of you wondering what they are… they are typically the thymus gland (located in the neck). I’ve tried to expand my palate over the years, and have even ventured to try crickets, duck heart, and escargot. So while I was extremely intimidated by the sweetbreads, I knew this was the place to try it, especially considering how delicious everything else in the evening had been. And guess what. It tasted exactly like a chicken nugget. I can now add sweetbreads to the list of foods I thought I wouldn’t like, but enjoyed (crickets will never be on that list).
Finally, our main course arrived – braised grass-fed short rib (from the other Johnson family farm), with glazed vegetables over a carrot mash. Despite the fact I was already bursting at the seams from all of the other delicious food, there was no way I was going to let any of this plate go to waste. The meat didn’t even need to be cut with a knife it was so tender. It was super juicy, the sauce on top was phenomenal, and when mixed together with the carrot mash underneath? Heaven.
After everyone was sufficiently stuffed, we received a tour of the farm market, and learned all about the market history. What started as a teeny tiny bakery has expanded into a huge market, selling literally everything you could imagine. I really wish the market had been open that night for us, because there were a few things calling my name. Oh well, I guess it’s just an excuse to go back!
After our tour, we sat back down at the table and were served dessert, prepared by Chef Laura Reddy (can I be invited to dinner in that home please?)- phyllo dough stuffed with goat cheese mousse, topped with pistachio, strawberries, and honey. Like everything that came before, the dessert was great, and I was definitely happy to enjoy more of the sweet fresh-picked strawberries.
The evening was absolutely perfect. I’d tell everyone reading this that they HAVE to sign up for the next Farm-To-Fork event in July, but unfortunately (or fortunately for Johnson’s Corner Farm), it’s already sold out. But don’t be discouraged, there will absolutely be more events next year. Plus, there are tons of things to do on the farm besides enjoy a six-course five-star meal.
Go pick some of those fresh strawberries yourself. Friday and Saturday May 27/28 and June 3/4 is their Strawberry Festival, with hayrides, strawberry ice cream, strawberry baked goods, a bounce house, and a BBQ with live music. More info can be found here.
Wednesday’s are “Family Fun Nights” from June 22 to August 31st, with hayrides to pick your favorite crops, 1/2 price admission to the Animal Farm and Discovery Barnyard, and patio seating at the market for dinner.
From May 9th to August 30th, enjoy “Dollar Dog Night” from 5-9pm, where Dietz & Watson hot dogs are offered for $1!
There’s seriously something for everyone at Johnson’s Corner Farm, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon with friends and family. Trust me when I say you will have a great time.