by Ian McNulty
Dining under the stars is one thing, but how about dining with the butterflies? That’s part of the promise for an upcoming farm dinner organized by a group of New Orleans-based eat-local advocates.
The event is called the Harvest Dinner and it’s set for Nov. 5 at Mizell Farms, in the Northshore town of Folsom, about an hour’s drive from New Orleans.
The farmer here is Jim Mizell, a regular at local farmers markets where he sells herbs and flowers and has a specialty in plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. He even hosts his annual Hummingbird and Butterfly Festival at the Folsom farm.
Next week, he’ll host guests who want to make a day of it in the name of a true farm-to-table meal.
“I thought it would be great to give people an opportunity to get out of town, relax, meet Jim, hear his stories and build on people’s farmers market experiences by actually going to the farm,” says event organizer Anne Lloyd.
Lloyd is a New Orleans chef who made a name for herself in the years before Katrina at Mango House, the Caribbean-inspired restaurant she opened Uptown in 2003. Mango House didn’t reopen after Katrina, and Lloyd turned much of her attention to raising her young children. But last year she launched Nolavore Catering Company, which specializes in family meals delivered to the home. She and business partner Justin James, her former sous chef at Mango House, prepare dishes sourced largely from farmers markets and other local suppliers, and more recently they’ve begun supplying sandwiches, salads and such to Poeyfarre Market, a specialty grocery in the Warehouse District.
Lloyd is also starting to develop what she calls “culinary experiences,” and she hopes this first Harvest Dinner will lead to a series of similar meals held at local farms. She was inspired by the example of Outstanding in the Field, a national series of outdoor dining events organized with the stated purpose to “re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.”
The Harvest Dinner starts early. Guests arrive at 3 p.m. and get a tour of the farm and grounds led by Mizell, followed by a farm-style happy hour of sorts with cocktails and appetizers. The main event, dinner, will be a mix of rustic and refined.
“We’ll be in an orchard, so we’re stringing up lights in the branches then setting a long table with a white table cloth and stemware and lots of flowers and we’ll have a fiddler performing,” says Lloyd.
The precise menu is still in the works, though it’s sure to include some produce grown at Mizell Farms and staples from an array of other local producers.
“It will have whatever’s in season and the freshest we can get that weekend,” Lloyd says.
Dinner will run to four courses and includes wine, cocktails and local beers. It costs $100 per person and reservations are required.