In the winter when local produce is scarce and mainly found in the freezer or preserved in jars, here at Skyline Camp and Retreat Center along the border between Macomb and Lapeer Counties, we dream up a feast to feed cyclists in search of an amazing local harvest dinner at our local biking event, the Tour de Food.
Planning, shopping, preparing and cooking our farm to fork meal is a labor of love. We imagine the rainbow of colors covering farm stands in Almont and think of our local farmers. We dream of overflowing bushels of handpicked ripe red tomatoes and juicy watermelons at Ziehm’s, bright purple grapes at Honeyflow, red raspberries at Brookwood Fruit Farm, red pears from Hilltop, pink apples at Miller’s Medley, bright yellow peppers at Blake’s, rich orange carrots from Iron Creek, curly green lettuce from Lettuce Alone, and dark blue blueberries from Blueridge Blueberry Farm. Add in the amazing milk from Crooked Creek Farm Dairy, maple syrup from Keller’s Maple Products, some candied walnuts from Rightfully Raw and apple cider from Hy’s and voilà, we have our list of ingredients!
The Almont area is covered in orchards, so fresh fruit is always on the menu at the Tour de Food dinner. September is the best month to catch a glimpse of a brilliant edible rainbow. This year we will begin our meal with strolling hors d’oeuvres: beautifully colored fruit mandala trays, vegetable trays, homemade pickles and preserves. There are so many different colored apples, pears, plums and grapes growing in this area. Both Ziehm’s and Blake’s farms grow a wide variety of brilliantly colored vegetables making it a rewarding artistic endeavor to choose, clean, chop and arrange the vegetables for our guests.
Our goal is to include each of our local farm stops in the Tour de Food dinner menu. We are able to source almost every part of the meal here in the Almont area near the M-53 Corridor. For our 2013 Tour de Food harvest dinner following the bike tour, we served a vegetarian lasagna as an alternative to the roast chicken. The lasagna was so popular we have decided to do it as our main entree this year in 2015, but with a beef option as well. Processing enough marinara sauce from Charlie Ziehm’s tomatoes is a day long process involving “too many cooks in the kitchen” and a lot of laughter. But a good marinara that you’ve known from the time it was a tomato on a plant is worth every minute that goes into its creation. Making the ricotta cheese is an endeavor that takes endurance, constant stirring and faith that yes, the curds will form before the milk boils! Many loving hands chop the rainbow of colorful, locally grown vegetables. Careful eyes verify the gentle roasting of each vegetable to retain all of the plants’ nutrients and vitality. Volunteers harvest the last pungent herbs from our summer camp gardens and add them to the mix. Layer upon layer, this lasagna is a masterpiece composed by our farmers, our land, our cooks and our friends.