Lake Forest’s Elawa Farm hosts FEAST on summer’s bounty

A feast for the eyes, nose and palate will be created at a former gentleman’s farm when the Elawa Farm Foundation presents its annual fundraiser Sept. 11 in Lake Forest.

Featuring farm-to-table cuisine from renowned chefs, the event called FEAST, will begin with guests sipping locally crafted lavender beer.

They can enjoy the flavors while sitting on hay-stack chairs and admiring freshly picked flowers arranged in vases. They can also meander through the expanse of yellow dahlias, multi-colored zinnias and heirloom tomatoes, among many other fruits, vegetables and flowers being tended by farm staff and volunteers.

Established in 1917 by Elsa and A. Watson Armour, the farm at 1401 Middlefork Road was restored to a working 2.2-acre farm with renovated historical buildings that features a garden market and special events including FEAST.

“Nobody knows what the menu will be at FEAST. It’s a secret,” said Mary Gesualdo, co- chairwoman of the event with Pam Bailey.

“The chef will work with the garden manager harvesting food out of the garden and creating a wonderful meal,” Gesualdo said.

Elawa Farm is working this year with chef Doug Psaltis, who earned three stars from the New York Times while running New York’s County Restaurant. Now working in Chicago with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Psaltis will partner with his wife, Hsing Chen, a pastry chef who’s created culinary masterpieces at some of the nation’s prestigious restaurants. Elawa Farm’s chef-in-residence Mary Reidy-McMahon will assist.

Reidy-McMahon spends from May through December preparing foods from produce in the kitchen right near the farm’s herb garden. The items get sold at the weekly markets on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

But FEAST “is really fun for the kitchen,” she said. “It’s a chance to be creative. Last year, I did a sage cookie with lemon zest and cornmeal.”

Even though the menu is supposed to be secret, Reidy-McMahon revealed she’ll be making “a spicy plum jam with lemon thyme to be used with the cheese course” for this year’s event.

She and garden manager Jesse Rosenbluth said they’re glad an herb garden was added to the farm last year.

“The herb garden is so much fun,” Rosenbluth said. “We’ve got lavender, basil, lemon grass, marjoram, three kinds of mint, oregano, lemon grass.”

Rosenbluth added the Lake Bluff Brewing Company will be using lavender and lemon grass from the herb garden and beets from the larger gardens to craft brews for FEAST.

When it gets closer to FEAST, Rosenbluth said he and the guest chef will meet on the farm.

“The chef will come with these great ideas and we’ll walk through the garden showing all our offerings,” Rosenbluth said.

Though vegetable gardening has been slow in the northern Illinois region due to the cool, wet summer, Rosenbluth has no doubt Chef Psaltis will find the perfect ingredients.

“We always have great lettuce mixes, onions and leeks,” and many kinds of tomatoes including heirlooms in yellow, red and dark brown colors, he said.

“When people come out they’ll be getting an incredible experience,” Rosenbluth said. “Everyone will get together and we’ll celebrate what’s been going on over the season.”

FEAST, Elawa Farm Foundation Benefit

Elawa Farm, 1401 Middlefork Road, Lake Forest

6 p.m. Sept. 11

Seating is limited; $175 per person

The farm is open to the public year-round

(847) 234-1966 or visit Elawa Farm

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