FARM TO TABLE DINNER: It’s All About Community, Conversation and A Good Bottle Of Wine

By Dedra Davis

farm tt 5When you go to a restaurant or attend a dinner party, you generally know what to expect and who you will be dining with.

Not so at the farm to table events gaining new fans around Waco.

Here’s it’s all about getting out of your comfort zone, being brave, trying new things and meeting new people. Garden-fresh meals, from local farms and purveyors, prepared by a chef who is known as much for his biscuits as he is for his gourmet meals. That’s the farm to table event.

Corey McEntyre, chef and owner of Milo Biscuit Company, plans and implements every detail of the menu according to what is available at the farms he sources, locally in Waco.

When choosing the menu, McEntyre taps from ten to 15 different farmers or producers, locally.

Described as a restaurant without walls, the Farm To Table Dinners are planned by Sara Martin, of Kindred Event Studios and coordinated food and wine are provided by Milo and Waco Wine Shoppe.

Martin works her magic at each dinner by decorating the tables to perfection and lending a bit of romanticism to the dinner party.

The venue and menu are often announced to the participants the night of the event, all a part of the suspense and magic of the evening.  A secret society type of evening.  All the secrecy lures you in and is a part of the intrigue.

Diners to the land, some of the venues in the past have been outside among the stars at the World Hunger Farm and along the Brazos River, in Cameron Park. Others have been in unique buildings in Waco.

Only having less than ten of the “pop up” dinners, the last venue was hosted by Jonathon Martin at his studio, Black Oak Art.

Known for his “unapologetic twists”, the menu is generally unique and invented by McEntyre, himself. Never classic, more than gourmet, and definitely different, which is one aspect of the dinner that is so spectacular.  It is not just a dinner party.  Something magical really.

When asked if the menu comes first or if the fresh local produce is discussed first, he explains how the menu is born, “[We]definitely talk to the farmers first and work with them to figure out a range of what we’ll have. We still get surprised, like at this [last] dinner, we were good to go on red cabbage and then it gets wiped out because of too much rain and then too much heat, right in a row. Or sometimes I get an ingredient in that I’m really excited about and we cure, pickle, ferment, or preserve it, to use for that event.”

McEntyre always finds a way to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate the fresh meat and produce.

“I always say that every dish is inspired by season with a play-off of nostalgia. Take for example, the dessert from Friday night, blueberry, which is seasonal, cheese cake which is nostalgia-in concept. We plated it a very playful way and added a few ingredients that you wouldn’t have considered, i.e. cantaloupe. I think my job is to get you to the table with the “idea”- but surprise you with the execution. And with the additions we add to bring the dish together. So, to answer your question, I’d call them something different. I want to start with a classic dish and work to get it to a place that’s delicious but still approachable so that anyone will try it.”

The menu served at the Black Oak Art Studio included a mixture of hors d’oeuvres, family style shared plates, and composed dishes.

The menu consisted of Shishito peppers, peaches and ricotta cheese served on rye toasted bread, Eggplant Tartines, Gulf Oyster, watermelon with lemon and thyme, an heirloom tomato salad.  And for the main course, Milo served Berkshire pork tenderloin with herbed baby Yukon potatoes, harissa with wilted red cabbage, red onion, feta, mint, dill, parsley.  The final course, and most beautifully done, was the dessert that consisted of a cheesecake-like Fromage, in a mason jar, overturned with fresh blueberry, cantaloupe ice and a crunchy topping. 

There is always a wine pairing from Waco Wine Shoppe and also wine is sold by the glass or bottle, David Mayfield Selections will be there to help find a wine for you to enjoy for each course or for the whole meal.

He discusses the wine pairings and how they decide on the perfect matches for each course, “Depends on how I see the dinner going, but usually we talk through flavor profiles and the “perfect bite” of the dish and then David works his magic from there.”

McEntyre describes how the concept of the Farm To Table Dinners came about, “I went to Sara, a little over a year ago, and threw out the idea of doing a monthly pop-up dinner club that allowed us to tell a story through seasonal food and surrounded by a unique and creative atmosphere.”

When asked about the different venues and how they decide the location, McEntyre answered, “Sara and I get together to talk through the specifics and one of us usually has a connection or an idea of where we can host it at.”

McEntyre is famous for his homemade biscuits. Hence the name Milo Biscuit Co. The recipe has been in the family and comes from Georgia by way of his grandmother.

When asked about the story of the biscuits, he replied, “Yes, so my grandmother, Jackie McEntyre, (I called her Jack-Jack), made these incredible biscuits that she taught my Mom and then my mom taught me. The recipe is a little adapted from theirs; they used shortening and I use butter. But it’s really more in the feel and technique than it is anything. For the longest time, I didn’t have a recipe, just kept making them until someone would tell me that batch was the closet to Jack-Jacks. Wrote it down and do it every day now.”

You can also eat at Milo’s food trucks at three locations in Waco, at the Magnolia Silos, on Webster, behind Heritage Creamery, located at 1125 South 8th Street, across from Baylor, or on Saturday mornings at the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market, located at 400 South University Parks Drive.  The menu at the food trucks is just as fresh and sourced from local farmers but has more of a downhome feel.

Described on the Milo website as “collaboration between southern comfort food and local farmers”, Milo knows how to serve a biscuit.

They serve cheeseburgers on biscuits.  Fresh chicken, fried and placed on a biscuit.  There are other menu items as well but the biscuits are a must.

Even with the two food trucks and serving breakfast at the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market every Saturday, McEntyre has bigger dreams. He plans on opening a restaurant on Elm Street, in Waco.

 At the Farm To Table dinners, part of the allure of the evening is how hard it is to acquire a place at the table. The venue is always small and the seats are limited. There are only two ways to acquire tickets to the dinners, catching the announcement on Instagram or by signing up for the emails that alert you to the date and time.

To learn more about the dinners or Milo Biscuit Company, please visit  http://www.milowaco.com/

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