By design or circumstance, outdoor dining on Wisconsin farms is growing in number and popularity.

The scenery and fresh food were part of the appeal long before COVID provided a new appreciation for outdoor dining.

Whether it’s raising a glass of wine while touring the vineyard where the grapes were harvested, or dining in a field of hay as the evening stars come out, there’s no better way to appreciate the bounty of Wisconsin than a dinner on the farm.

These gatherings have taken on added brilliance during the pandemic, when many people have felt safer gathering outdoors. As the 2022 summer picnic season draws to a close, there are still fall gatherings to come. Some venues, like Campo di Bella near Mount Horeb, offer indoor dining and continue to serve through winter. And it’s a good idea to put a reminder in your spring calendar for next year, as these dinners tend to sell out quickly.

When dining on the farm, you can eat under a trellis, in a barn, or in a hay field. (Photo by Susan Lampert Smith)

Here are a few places to make the connection between farm and fork in the most delicious way possible:

Enos Farms Harvest Moon Dinner Did we say clearance sale? This Spring Green pork products supplier sold out all 225 tickets in 24 hours for its 11th annual meal in early September. This year’s version featured chef Itaru Nagano of Madison’s Fairchild restaurant. The event cost $235 per person and included six courses and drink pairings. While Enos Farms pork is revered by chefs, they also welcome vegetarians.

The first Enos Farms dinner in 2011 drew 18 people, but in 2020 Wisconsin‘s public television show Wisconsin Foodie featured the Enos dinner, and it’s been a tough ticket ever since. Your best bet is to sign up for the Enos mailing list, where tickets are advertised.

Near Mondovi, south of Eau Claire, Together Farms offers a range of dining options from fancy wine dinners to Burger Nights (hey, it’s a beef farm).

At the other end of the food spectrum, Fresh for Life Organics, Richford serves gourmet vegan cuisine in the sandy central region of Wisconsin. Chefs Genie Metoyer and Russ Brown grow organic vegetables on a farm near the Waushara and Marquette county border. their summer Picnic in the field The series runs from early June through Labor Day and features weekly vegan meals for members of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. Since CSA membership is only $12, it’s worth it even if you live too far away to buy vegetables.

The last field picnic of 2022 at Fresh for life featured a Cajun menu. (Photo by Susan Lampert Smith)

Fresh for Life’s final meal of the 2022 season included a Cajun menu, a tribute to its chefs’ New Orleans roots. As the ASC members sipped beer and wine, Brown turned a pile of green tomatoes from the nearby garden into fried green tomatoes in a spicy remoulade. After diners were seated around a winding row of picnic tables, servers brought out a multicolored coleslaw, followed by Cajun potato salad and an etouffe topped with crunchy fried shiitake mushrooms.

Dessert was one of Metoyer’s signature frozen desserts: a salted caramel apple “ice cream” (made with cashews) that was so rich and delicious you’d never miss the dairy.

The vegan ice cream made with cashew nuts, caramel and apples is a specialty of chef Génie Metoyer. (Photo by Susan Lampert Smith)

Nearby Flyte Family Farms, known for its giant fields of strawberries and blueberries, offers a series of seasonal dinners throughout the growing season. The Fall Gala took place on September 17, but there’s still a farm breakfast in early October at Flyte’s Fieldstones Farm, located between Wautoma and Coloma and featuring a corn maze and other family entertainment. ‘fall.

In the lakes region west of Milwaukee, Stone Bank Farm offers monthly farmer’s dinners prepared by a James Beard Foundation award-winning chef. The farm always has an October dinner, farm lunch, and wine tasting on its schedule, as well as a cooking class focusing on cold-weather stews and soups.

Nearby, in the Kettle Moraine, the Holy Hill Art Farm offers farm dinners, music and art events.

Another type of dinner is the one-time popup event. A California group called Outstanding in the Field has been hosting these events for more than 20 years, in venues ranging from a cheese cellar in Wisconsin to an oyster farm in Maine. If you want to be on the list for 2023, sign up for the Outstanding newsletter. Tickets go on sale the first day of spring and usually sell out quickly. These “itinerant restaurants without walls” showcase local products and chefs. The Wisconsin sites in 2022 were Hidden Acres Farm in Door County and Blue Moon Community Farm near Stoughton.

Hidden Acres also hosts monthly Underground Farm Dinners the first weekends of May through December.

Campo di Bella, outside Mount Horeb, is modeled after an Italian agriturismo, where guests can book an apartment above the dining room and stay for the weekend. Many more head out of nearby Madison for the three-course meal on Friday night or the five-course meal on Saturday.

The farm was founded in 2008 by first-generation Italian-Americans Marc and MaryAnn Bellazzini. It includes a vineyard and winery, as well as meals that are seasonal and cooked in traditional Italian and French styles.

The end of summer was marked by several vegetarian feasts featuring handmade lasagna and other pastas. As the weather cools, MaryAnn Bellazinni said, the menu will shift to heartier dishes: steaks from nearby Dreamy 280 farm, pork-based porchetta from the Dorothy range and vegetables like kale, leeks, potatoes and squash.

During the holidays, Campo hosts a traditional Italian seafood feast. And the cold months will be “all about comfort food.” In January, that will mean Italian stews and in February, French comfort food such as coq au vin, cassoulet, beef bourguignon and French onion soup.

Bellazzini said the restaurant, which opened in 2015, is also based on the Italian tradition of “pranzo,” communal lunches with extended family that she remembers from her childhood. They featured long tables and course after course, served family style.

Campo di Bella moved away from group seating when it reopened after the pandemic, and currently diners are seated with their own groups.

“It’s my dream to bring back the long tables one day,” Bellazzini said. “I can’t tell you how many people have met at our long tables, started a friendship, and now come back again and again to dine together.”

About Marc Womack

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