Ritz Carlton Amelia Island Meet The Farmers Dinner #4

Every year, Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island's Executive Chef Thomas Tolxdorf leads a group of chefs to visit farmers, growers and seafood purveyors for a better understanding of their capabilities and how they work. “Our goal is to partner and support our growers so we may offer fresh, sustainable foods” explains Chef Tolxdorf. 

Vichyssoise - a vegetarian version - was cool and silky smooth.
Other passed hors d'ouevres were honey-glazed pork belly sliders
and baked Clams Casino, served from a shovel. Adorable!
Back at the resort, these partnerships are celebrated in a series of Meet the Farmers Dinners. I was recently an invited guest of the Ritz-Carlton at their Cafe 4750 for one of these entertaining and informative events. 
The first one I attended was in 2011, and I was happy to be invited again this year. 

I learned a lot about what goes into bringing top quality, fresh, sustainable food to the table. 

The evening began with a reception with passed hors d’oeuvres, followed by an appetizer buffet of cheeses, fruits, breads and meats.
The dinner featured local seafood, chicken, vegetables, salad, house cured meats and elegant desserts -prepared and presented at a series of buffet stations attended by Ritz-Carlton chefs. 

Featured producers for
the evening's event were:
Blue Sky Farms
St. Johns and Putnam, Florida
Danny Johns is a fourth generation potato farmer with 20 varieties on 600 plus acres - including Blue Fingerling, a first for Northeast Florida and SunLite, a low carbohydrate potato. His potatoes were showcased in a chilled Frutti del mar and served family-style at table to complement the main entrees. 

Bacon Farms Lettuce - soft, tender, fresh local produce.
Bacon’s Select Produce
Jacksonville, Florida
6,000 square feet under greenhouses, using organic and beneficial pest control for Hydroponic Arugula, Butterhead, Multi-Leaf, Red Oak, Romaine and Upland Watercress lettuces. Their website name, greatlettuce.com says it all.

Flat Creek Lodge
Swainsboro, Georgia
Environmental stewards with a mission to rehabilitate farmland from years of soil abuse, they developed a full production dairy farm with a Jersey only herd. Their crops are Oyster Mushrooms, Artisan Cheese and Blueberries. 

A standout in the cheese display was their award winning Aztec Cheddar - a traditional Cheddar layered with Guajillo chilies and black cocoa. I was pleasantly surprised to see a wedge of this nutty favorite in our guest bag at evening's end. It's going to figure into our Sunday afternoon plans quite nicely! 

Cedar Creek Shellfish Farms
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
New Smyrna Clams steamed in beer from Bold City Brewery
Beginning in 1992 as a food clam distribution operation, Cedar Creek Shellfish Farms grew into a successful seed clam business to other farmers. They built their own hatchery and produce 40 million clam seedlings from January through July. With a 52 week per year harvest season, their goal is to harvest and process 100,000 clams per week in the coming years. If they are as fine as the clams we enjoyed raw and stewed in broth, we're hoping to sample more soon.  

Executive Chef Thomas Tolxdorf introduces the resort's
Beekeeper, Michael Leach. And there were live bees present. 

American Bee Company
Jacksonville, Florida
Micheal Leach is the Beekeeper for The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. He maintains the resort’s 200,000 bees and harvests the honey used in the kitchens. He also holds harvest and honey processing demonstrations for guests and groups. 

The stories he told us about the behavior of honeybees were amazing. This guy really knows bees. The thousands of LIVE BEES in the glass enclosed hive display were a most fascinating aspect of the evening, as was the honey tasting. We couldn't get enough!

 Fresh Local Corvino and Grouper were set atop
Logan's Mill grit cakes and napped with shellfish essence.
Gary’s Seafood and Specialties
Orlando, Florida
Gary Reed began selling fish out of his truck direct to restaurants - he even filleted the fish right in his truck.

Today Gary's Seafood and Specialties is one of the most respected suppliers of the highest quality seafood, sourced from Florida and all over the world.

Mayport Shrimp, Oysters on the half-shell. Keep 'em coming!

Tanglewood's Organic Chicken was set atop a refined
Ratatouille with fresh local vegetables, and topped with micro-greens.
Dessert is an art form at the Ritz-Carlton. Always. 
Thanks again to our hosts, the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, Executive Chef Tolxdorf, and the entire crew at Cafe 4750 for a lovely evening. The ticket price was $75 - the value was far greater. My participation was compliments of the resort.

Cafe 4750 Patio
I made her laugh!    Look for Seafood Buffet Fridays
at Cafe 4750 - they really, really, really do it right.

I will always disclose when, as in this instance, I have received free food or swag, but I will not allow said gift to color my opinion or reporting of the food and experience. I attempt to share in plain terms what I do and don't like, and if I like it, I will urge you to try a place for yourself and form your own opinions. I'm not a trained chef or expert in any food related field, I just appreciate the social and cultural aspects of good food and dining experiences, and I enjoy sharing them with you through my blog. Thanks for reading!


Guts and Glory - An Evening With Anthony Bourdain

This photo, courtesy of the Artist Series,
brings a whole new meaning to the term food porn!
Any writer who has labored to string together a perfect sentence, turning words like a Rubik's Cube in their mind until just the right one clicks into place, has got to appreciate the singular literary voice of Anthony Bourdain.

Not familiar? Here's a taste.

In his book The Nasty Bits, Bourdain lampoons Las Vegas as “the heart of ugly-shorts capitalist darkness.”

In Medium Raw he pronounces the James Beard House “a private dining society for the soon-to-be-incontinent,” and refers to food bloggers as “the bastard offspring” of the Fourth Estate.

In both of these relentlessly snarky accounts of life in the food world, he even skewers his best seller, Kitchen Confidential, as an “obnoxious, over-testosteroned memoir.”

Is it any wonder I am smitten by this uncommonly clever, self-deprecating rogue who parlayed a love for food and a summer dish-washing job into a lifetime of world-travel and celebrity status? Add to that, he’s not half bad to look at.

When his Guts and Glory tour brings Bourdain to the Times Union Center’s Moran Theater this Thursday, I’ll be there, devouring every crumb of wit and wisdom he serves up. The VIP section and post-show reception is sold-out, but I have it on good authority that there are still a few seats still available from $40-$75. Unlike his popular TV show, however, for this gig you’ll need RESERVATIONS. Bring some cash too - they'll have copies of his books for purchase. 

Thanks to the folks at the Artist Series for their kind invitation, and for bringing Guts and Glory to Jacksonville. See you there, Beasties!