Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bosky Acres Benefit Dinner

There’s a farm I know down in Waxhaw, hidden behind a screen of woody brush along a gravel road. Bosky Acres comes by its name honestly.  Behind that screen stands a solid cement-block building, perched on a slope above the huge arch of a large, open-air barn.  In its airy shadow mill several dozen active, friendly ewes, kids and yearlings.

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These are “the girls,” Michele Lamb’s herd of dairy goats, a mixed batch of Nubians and Saanens.  Floppy ears and mottled coats abound.  Twice a day, about nine months of the year, Michele, her family and her small band of helpers bring each mama doe to the milking room atop the slope, extracting up to 30 gallons a day during the most productive months.  Then Michele steps into the adjacent, sanitized cheese room and whips up batch after batch of fresh chèvre and feta cheeses.  Via farmers markets and restaurants, the four-ounce containers find homes in kitchens all around Charlotte.

This is all well and good, but Michele’s passion for cheese has outgrown her facilities.  She wants to age cheese, to create nutty goudas and mold ripened goodness.  Several years ago, she and her husband Matt started the Cave Project, bringing in and installing an 8’x10’ cement room, half buried in the hillside beside their modest home.

Problem is, the project got stalled, for a number of reasons, and then the money ran out.  A chef friend, Joe Bonaparte, wanted to help Michele the way chefs always do—by feeding people.  Thus evolved the benefit dinner held last Saturday evening at nearby Pecan Lane Farm.

Along with Bonaparte, five local chefs stepped up, volunteering their time and talent to create a five-course meal served in a charming horse barn paneled with wood sourced from the property.  Before the 60 guests arrived, hosts Steve and Geny Case had decorated the dining area, recruited about 20 volunteers, and set a gorgeous table.

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At the end of the cozy barn-aisle-cum-dining-room, large chalkboards displayed the evening’s menu.

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Down a long grassy slope, in a small brick house tucked into the woods, the chefs began to gather, and the first steps of that night’s dance began: Organized Chaos.

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Soon, Joe brought the first food up to the plating area outside the barn, sending out five different appetizers as the guests mingled nearby.

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In the attached pasture on the other side of the building, the stars of the show held court.  Matt and Michele brought two of their yearling does to meet Bosky Acres’ fans.

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Matt and Fawn had a special thing going…

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Eventually the guests had tasted their way through the array of hors d’œuvres and were encouraged to take their seats for the first served course.  As the sun fell behind the trees, the first plates hit the tables, and chef Paul Verica moved through the room, pouring the soup tableside.  Rich sweet potato flavor surrounded an island of duck confit and caramelized goat cheese.

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This was followed by chef Matt Krenz’ beautiful beet salad.  Michele’s tangy goat cheese played in every dish that evening.

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A small army of chefs and helpers gathered to plate each course.  Next up was Jeremy Bevins’ lamb sugo over goat cheese gnocchi…which I didn’t get a photo of.  Perhaps I should mention that I wasn’t dining that evening, but volunteering as server?  Not only did I miss getting a shot of this dish, but I missed getting tastes of any of the dishes pictured thus far.  Judging from the guests’ comments and clean plates, everything was delicious.

The fourth course—Terra Ciotta’s duo of two pork cuts, one with goat cheese gratin and fennel slaw, the other with grits and kale—took an even larger army to plate.  

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Fortunately for me, by the time this landed in front of the guests, they were sated enough that we servers got a little breather while they tried to find room in their bellies.  Between the camera and my fork, I opted for the fork, so no photo of this one either.  Besides, as you can tell, it was now too dark to get pretty pictures of food.

Except I had to make an attempt for the next and final course, Ashley Boyd’s piped goat cheesecake with hibiscus, ginger, apple and chocolate.

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I have to say, this picture doesn’t do it justice.  Because it tasted just as good as it looked, and it tasted a whole lot better than this photo lets on.

As the guests lingered over their last glass of wine, the chefs and their assistants gathered around the fire pit, warming chilled hands and feet next to the hot coals, re-living each course, swapping jokes—and insults, probably. 

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After this crew returned reluctantly to the kitchen to start the cleanup, guests and servers took their place before bidding each other and their hosts goodnight.  Eventually, the tables were cleared, dish and glass racks stacked, and the kitchen put back in order.

Though I faced nearly an hour’s drive home through the dark chilly night, I was content knowing that our local food community is strong.  How lucky we are to have so many people willing to help a farmer—to buy tickets, volunteer their expertise or lend their time.  And, if nothing else, the promise of sampling Michele’s first aged cheeses next spring keeps this local foodie inspired to continue helping.