Farmers Are The New Black

"Meet the Farmers" said the invitation. Be our guest. At the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island Luxury Resort, yet. 

I didn't wait a minute to let it sink in, I didn't even  check my calendar for prior engagements (that's a joke), I just hit reply and said thank you, of course I accept your kind invitation! 

I had just met some of our local and regional farmers at a recent event at the Marriott Sawgrass Resort in Ponte Vedra, and I was still playing over in my mind how great the food was that night. The Slow Food First Coast's Tour De Farm was on my calendar, and I was (and still am) looking forward to another upcoming Slow Food farmers / chefs event at Intuition Aleworks.

Ever quick to spot a trend (at least one that has been happening for a couple decades nationally), I have come to the realization that farmers (move over, celebrity chefs) are the new black. 

It was my first trip to the resort, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Any thought that this was going to be a stuffy formal event went out of my head the minute we walked into the lobby. 

A group of soggy children draped in beach towels were chasing after a young lady dressed as a pirate, holding a rather large colorful parrot! Oddly, I felt right at home.

After a private session (aka press conference)  to meet the farmers we were ushered to the patio outside Cafe 4750.

We sampled Snoqualmie Naked organic wines - the 2009 Riesling was a peachy crowd-pleaser, and the Chardonnay was lovely as well.

Hors d’oeuvres were passed on shovels (adorable, right?). We shoveled them in, too!

The farmers on this evening were more regional and national purveyors than local small-farmers, but they had in common a passion for their field of endeavor and a commitment to provide the Chefs of the Ritz-Carlton with the highest quality ingredients. 

Can you spot the farmer in this group?
They were invited by Ritz Carlton Executive Chef Thomas Tolxdorf to share some of that passion with diners at the sold-out "Meet the Farmers" dinner at Cafe 4750

In attendance were Marvin Wilhite of Cahaba Clubs Herbal Outpost in Odessa, Florida; Matt McLean of Uncle Matt’s Organic in Clermont, Florida; Farmer Lee Jones of The Chef’s Garden (playing the Green Acres shtick to the hilt - clad as he was in denim overalls, red bow tie and suit coat); and Gary Reed of Gary’s Seafood Specialties in Orlando, Florida, who was our tablemate at dinner. 

Chef Thomas shared that having a personal relationship with these vendors and purveyors is essential to his philosophy. “We visit farms first hand to see how they grow their produce. Now our farmers and fish purveyors gather at our restaurant to experience how their product looks on a Ritz-Carlton plate” he explained.

Thoughtful little touches of farm-themed elements appeared throughout the evening - such as adorable edible centerpieces of micro-vegetables and dips served in canning jars, and a whimsical farm-truck sculpture of baked breads that occupied a place of honor on the cheese service.  

micro-basil on caprese - a brilliant and whimsical touch
Once we were ushered to our seats, the dinner service began. Appetizers were served buffet-style. Marinated vegetables, local cheeses and honey, house cured meats, local fish and seafood were plentiful and attractively presented.

There was such a gracious plenty that more than one diner thought they WERE the dinner. Not so. Entrees were served family-style, another brilliant example of how the cozy-down-home theme was threaded throughout the event.

The hit of the evening for many of us was the local triggerfish. It was perfectly prepared and the very essence of fresh. It was adorned with hydroponically grown micro-greens from Cahaba Clubs, and served with tiny roasted veggies from the Chef's Table. 

I don't know what the sauce was, but it was heavenly. 

There were three variations of Berkshire Pork, of which the smoked pork  was a melt-in-your-mouth stunner, and farm fresh vegetables.

While the room was packed with over 140 diners, each table was an oasis unto itself, and the conversation flowed with the wine. 

We were so caught up in conversation we were surprised by the arrival of our dessert course - a trio of citrus-themed selections featuring Uncle Matt's goods. Of these,  a fresh, bright grapefruit sorbet atop a pastry crust was my favorite, though I cleaned my plate like a good Girl Scout.   

And after dessert - they brought out coffee and MORE DESSERTS! I am officially in LOVE with the Ritz-Carlton and taking applications for a sugar daddy to support my new obsession.

Speaking of sugar daddies - the head pastry chef at the Ritz-Carlton has literally written the book on pastries and desserts. Seriously, you can buy his books at their store. 

As uber-fabulous as it was in every detail - the price was just $75 per person, plus tax and gratuity, and included a lovely swag-bag of mini-veggies, cheese, organic oranges and more - and complimentary valet parking. 

Keep your eyes and ears open for a repeat of this sort of event this coming fall - you'll probably see me there, snapping away with my iPhone and posting the delicacies on Facebook. 

If you just can't wait - check out Cafe 4750 for Sunday Brunch - Adults $39 ~ Children (ages 5 – 12) $11. 

Also not to be missed - SALT - the signature restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island is hosting a cooking school series.  I'm thinking about going to one of these too. I'll keep you posted if I do. 

Sports fans will want to check out the resort's Eight Burger Bar and Sports Lounge - with specials during most major sporting events.

If you just want to go and be pampered - they've got you covered! The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Amelia Island, was named one of the top spas in the world by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler. 

AND - If you need more reasons to get to Amelia Island - I've saved the best for last...

See You on the Island!

Thanks to our gracious hosts, and the chefs, growers and farmers who made this event such a memorable experience.
And thanks to my friend Jodi at EatJax for loaning me some of these swellegant pictures! My camera does great outdoors, but some of these tasty indoor food glam shots here are hers. 

Full disclosure - my participation in this event was complimentary - and while this post is my personal and honest point of view - it is not meant to be a critical, unbiased review of the restaurant. 


  1. I follow you on IG. I'm glad to have found your blog.

  2. Marinated tomatoes and other veggies are excellent any time of the week


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