Last night’s delectable RAFT Harvest Dinner at Garden at the Cellar in Cambridge, MA marked the start of our collaboration with Slow Food Boston this harvest season, a series of dinners themed around RAFT heirloom vegetable varieties.  The dinner series is part of our RAFT Heirloom Grow-Out project, which seeks to celebrate agricultural diversity and build farmer-chef connections.

Chef Will Gilson put together a fantastic five-course menu in which each course featured one of the RAFT varieties.  Diners started with a local lobster bisque with slow-cooked Gilfeather turnip, then moved into a miso-marinated scallop with Gilfeather turnip puree, soy-cured green apples, and dashi cilantro sauce.  The Gilfeather turnip was developed by Vermont farmer John Gilfeather, who apparently cut off the top and bottom of each turnip before selling it to prevent others from growing the vegetable.  Luckily someone got ahold of the seeds so we could enjoy it on the menu.

Next up was a charred Wethersfield Red Onion soup with a Gruyere-rye crumble, thyme, and crispy onions, which tasted like a lighter, creamier version of French onion soup.  Wethersfield onions were once grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, and were the prize crop of Wethersfield, Connecticut in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The soup was followed by a juicy, tender slow-roasted heritage pork chop topped with Jimmy Nardello pepper romesco and served with seared cauliflower, golden raisins, and creamy zucchini fregola.  Jimmy Nardello pepper

seeds were brought by the Nardello family from Italy in the late 1800s.  Chef Will Gilson proclaimed the sweet, flavorful red pepper his favorite of the RAFT vegetables.

Finally, we ended the dinner on a sweet note with marinated Oka Muskmelon over coconut lime panna cotta with Szechuan peppercorn syrup and Thai basil.  The spices complemented the sweet melon and creamy panna cotta excellently.  The melon, which grows well in northern climates like New England, was bred by Trappist monks in Quebec.

Thanks to the Garden at the Cellar for kicking off our dinner series! We are looking forward to more delicious opportunities to share meals with Slow Food Boston this harvest season.