Years ago, it might not have been so special to feast on pork that had but hours before been a happy critter rolling in the muddy pen out back of your plantation. Today, not so much; that pork you eat and the vegetables that go with it are most likely from a grocery store, and your plantation has been turned into a subdivision.
The Arkansas Times is going to re-create a little of those past foodways and the country air ambiance with its Farm to Table Dinner Party at the Scott Plantation Settlement on Saturday, June 29. L'ecole Culinaire-trained Country Club of Little Rock Chef Brian Kearns — winner of the Times' Heritage Hog Roast — will serve an all-Arkansas-sourced meal on the grounds amid historic buildings that have been restored to give a flavor of early Scott.
"This is such an exciting time of the year" for food-lovers, Kearns said, exulting in melons and stone fruits and tomatoes and delicious vegetables coming into season. The menu won't be all Arkansas — the wines will come from California, which is a good place to deviate from the locavore principle. Bonnie Montgomery will provide some downhome music, as well.
Diners will be greeted at 5:30 p.m. with a Piper Sonoma Brut champagne and "butlered" hors d'oeuvres to ward off hunger and thirst they'll work up by checking out such things as the first Bearskin Plantation home and the corn crib from the Dortch Plantation and the one-room schoolhouse from the Cottonwoods Plantation and so forth. At 6:30 p.m., dinner will be served family-style at a long table under a tent. First course: Carbon, goldies and annis noir tomatoes (grown by Times publisher and farmer Alan Leveritt) and feta made by Kent Walker tossed with watermelon, red onion and arugula from Scott Heritage Farm, which is right down the road from the Settlement. For this first course, the wine will be Buoncristiani's Triad Blanc (Napa, 2012), a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay.
Next up: That most cherished of summertime dishes, ratatouille, prepared by Kearns with local eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and onions. Blackbird's Arriviste rose (Napa, 2011) will be paired with the second course.
Scott Heritage has provided three Old Spot hogs for the main course, which Kearns will begin cooking late Friday night on site. Kearns won the Times' Heritage Roast by letting the hog be a hog. "I didn't try to mask the taste of the pig itself," he said, but accentuated its flavor with a barbecue rub of chili powder, cumin, sugar and salt. The pork will be served with an heirloom tomato jam and a corn, pea, onion and tomato succotash. A bold pinot noir from Renteria's Knittel Creek Vinyard (Carneras, 2009) will accompany it.
Finally, peaches from Barnhill Orchards in Lonoke will be served on a crostata (a "free-form tart," Kearns described it) with salted caramel ice cream. "I've already started buying ice cream from Loblolly," the small-batch creamery in Little Rock. The final wine: Reynolds Family Up To You white blend (Napa, 2009)
When the sun goes down, the mosquitos will come out for their own all-Arkansas meal, so dinner will be over by 8:30 p.m.
Tickets are $110 and may be purchased up until June 28 at http://atfarmtotable.eventbrite.com or by calling Kelly Lyles at the Arkansas Times at 375-2985.