Get in Touch With Your Food at Chef Du Moo
What does bacon, bread pudding, and fresh hay all have in common? They were all part of the dining experience at Chef Du MOO, a local, monthly dinner event hosted by Arizona Farm Bureau member, Superstition Farm in Mesa, Arizona.
I live about two miles from the farm and although I pass by it almost every day, I have never been there. When I heard of their Chef Du MOO event, I thought it was time to check it out.
The Chef Du Moo event was advertised as a “plan to win over foodies hearts.” There was going to be a four course dinner prepared by local chefs using Arizona grown meat, dairy and produce provided by Arizona farmers. It sounded delicious.
When we arrived, we followed a sign that said “Chef Du MOO check in” that led us to a small and cute gift shop packed with farm-related goodies. My step daughter loves cows, and we thought she would absolutely love that little shop.
There was also a cold case with fresh dairy products produced by the farm including one of my absolute favorites; fresh cheese curds!
Sorry, I got distracted…
We walked up to the counter and were warmly greeted by Allison and Glenda Stechnij, co-owners and operators of the farm who quickly checked us in.
Glenda gave us a quick little tour. There was a cocktail bar set up in the adjacent barn, along with a cheese-tasting station and several cocktail tables. Glenda told me that was the area where they set up for school tours, and special events.
On the opposite side of the room sat Cowboy Ken Willis on a barstool, playing his guitar and singing country tunes.
Just outside of the back door of the gift shop was the petting zoo; a menagerie of animals that the Stechnij’s have rescued over time. We were “greeted” by Phyllis the chicken who strutted on top of a rabbit cage, puffing out her chest and showing off her “hair” like she owned the place.
There were rabbits, goats, calves, a mule, a chinchilla, chickens and probably more. Many of the animals had been abused and were being nursed back to health. In the summer months some of the animals are adopted out to families around the valley since it gets too hot to keep them on the farm.
Off and to the right of the petting zoo, across the driveway, lay the dairy corrals and hundreds of cattle who were just coming in for their evening meal and milking. I remarked to my husband that I thought that the cows looked happy. He thought that they definitely looked well cared for and content.
To the left of the petting zoo were two rows of picnic tables, with enough seating for about 100 people I would guess. The tables were covered in purple plastic table covers and decorated with fresh flowers set in mason jars and votive candles set in Mason jar lids.
To the left of that was an indoor/outdoor kitchen area, where the chefs were busily preparing the meal for the evening. I went over to say hi and waved at Chef Jennifer, who waved back. I couldn’t see what they were preparing since part of the area was closed off, so I went back to the picnic tables and started visiting with some of the guests while we waited for dinner to be served.
Before dinner was served, we were invited to go on a hay ride and take a quick tour of the farm. I thought it sounded like fun so about 25 of us climbed onto a trailer piled with hay bales, being pulled by a tractor.
Our tour was narrated by a lovely young lady named Melrose, the farm’s marketing director extraordinaire. As we tootled around the farm, she talked about how the cows took two showers daily to make sure they were clean before milking. She showed the diary barn and the outdoor veterinary “hospital,” and gave us general trivia about the goings on at a real working dairy farm. The tour lasted about 10 minutes.
After the tour, we went back to visiting with some of the guests. I met some of the farmers who had provided the food for the event including Arizona Farm Bureau member Kelly Saxer of Desert Roots Farms, who provided the fresh vegetables, and Casey Stechnij. Alison’s brother, who provided the fresh milk and dairy products.
Casey grabbed the microphone and welcomed everybody to the farm and foreshadowed the evening. He talked about the farm, and the food, and what we were going to eat that night. He let us know that the chefs would come out to greet us. He also let us know that that night they were “turning things upside down” by having a pastry chef cook our dinner and a dinner chef prepare our dessert. And instead of recommending wine pairings with dinner, they were recommending beer pairings from Four Peaks Brewery.
He then introduced Pastry Chef Jennifer Johnston, of Udder Delights, a Gilbert ice-cream shop and bakery owned by the Stechnij’s. She introduced the first course; roasted vegetable salad, made with farm-fresh beets, and carrots from Desert Roots Farms, goat cheese made by Superstition Farm, and olives from Queen Creek Olive Mill. All of the vegetables were grown less than 20 miles from Superstition Farm.
The salad was colorful and fresh looking. I happen to love beets, goat cheese and olives, and dove right in and was not disappointed. The lemon vinaigrette was not too heavy, with just the right amount of sweetness for the beets. My husband, who is not a beet lover, tried it, and to his surprise, enjoyed it enough to eat most of the beets. Of course, what he didn’t eat, I finished!
The next course was a Cuban style pulled pork sandwich with pineapple curried vegetables. My husband, being the meat and potatoes guy that he is, dug right into the pulled pork sandwich. It was tender, moist and flavorful. Of course, I am more of a vegetable lover, and I enjoyed the curried vegetables; a mélange of colorful fresh carrots and parsnips in a light, pineapple infused curry sauce. I’m not a big fan of curry, but I did enjoy these vegetables, and I didn’t let any of them go to waste.
The next course was Chipotle raspberry ribs with apple tarragon coleslaw. The slaw was freshly made, not soggy or over dressed and the ribs were absolutely to die for. The meat melted in our mouths, it was so tender. And the sauce was just right; with the perfect amount of sweet, spicy and kick. Terrific course. Both the pork and the ribs were provided by Arizona Meats, located in Phoenix, Arizona.
Throughout the evening Casey mingled with the guests, and introduced different beers. Many of the guests had brought friends, although there were some guests who had come alone, just for the experience. By the end of the evening however, everyone had made new friends. And throughout the evening, Cowboy Ken continued to croon songs with his guitar, taking requests and even starting a sing-a-long at the insistence of the crowd.
The last course of the evening was a surprise dessert by Chef Payton Curry of the now world famous Caffee Boa located in Tempe, Arizona.
Chef Payton recently garnered national media attention by featuring rabbit on the Easter Menu at Caffe Boa; stirring up a controversy that was heard and repeated around the world. People were dismayed that he could actually cook a rabbit!
Anyway, the dessert came out piping hot from the oven. It was vanilla bean bread pudding with homemade and fresh vanilla ice-cream provided by Superstition Farm’s own restaurant, Udder Delights.
By then it was quite dark outside and although there were candles on the tables and some overhead lights, I could not see the food very well. It looked like the ice-cream was garnished with candied walnuts. And then I took a bite of it and got a big surprise. It was not candied walnuts, it was candied bacon!!
Chef Curry came out and introduced his dessert, warm bread pudding with chocolate chips, and infused with bacon.
To be perfectly honest, I am a bacon purist. My bacon sense of normalcy was incensed that evening. Although the flavor of the bacon in the bread pudding was purely incidental; in fact, I probably would not have been able to taste it at all had I not known it was in there, I couldn’t get over the fact that there was bacon in my bread pudding!
But you remember my husband, the carnivore? He loved it!!
The evening was enjoyable. The food was delicious and even though I wasn’t a fan of the bread pudding with bacon, it was fun to try new things and I would definitely go again.
The next Chef Du MOO is scheduled for May 22nd, however, this time, Chef Payton is going back to cooking what he is best known for; savory dishes, with just little bit of spunk. Chef Jennifer Johnston will be preparing what is sure to be an amazing dessert. For more information go to: http://www.superstitionfarm.com.