Celebrating Fall, the HTCC Barn Dinner Way
It’s quite the way to ring in the fall season, or to say goodbye to summer: a country-style pig roast in a turn of the century barn, sipping locally handcrafted wines while watching a spectacular sunset. I recently attended the last HTCC Barn Dinner of the year. Award-winning Chef Heidi Tunnell, of Heidi Tunnell Catering Company (HTCC), puts on an amazing dinner inside her families turn-of-the-century big red barn about four times a year – during the valley’s warmer months. She selects locally, organically grown meats and vegetables for her culinary creations and pairs them with wines from selected local vintners. The featured winery for the evening was J. Scott Cellars, a local family-owned winery that focuses on handcrafted, small lot, Pacific Northwest varietals.
Once I arrived at the barn, the air was crisp, the skies were blue and fall was in the air. Aromas from the wood burning fire pit where the pig was roasting were a welcoming addition to the rural countryside ambiance. Fall foliage, gourds and pumpkins outside the barn doors were a reminder that fall had indeed arrived.
For starters, Heidi and her culinary team prepared two delectable appetizers: Crostini with Apple Butter, House Made Bacon, Spiced and Sauteed Apples and Smoked Chicken Salad with Peppers and Onions on House Made Blue Cheese and Pecan Crackers. Both were paired with J. Scott Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir, which was lightly chilled and perfect as an appertif wine. The smoky flavors of the chicken salad along with the blue cheese and pecan crackers were an incredible match with the Pinot Noir – white meat sometimes does pair perfectly with red wine, especially when the meat is smoked. The fall flavors in the apple and bacon Crostini were in perfect tune with the bright cherry and pie spice flavors of the Pinot Noir – what a great way to start the evening.
Continuing with the fall theme, the first course was a salad which consisted of lettuce, roasted kohlrabi and seared cauliflower with candied pumpkin seeds and cider dressing. I’ve been to more than one HTCC Barn Dinner, and I’ve also enjoyed dinner and special brunches at the HTCC Restaurant located in downtown Creswell, Oregon, and I have always absolutely loved Heidi’s salads – she makes the world’s best dressings and seriously knows how to perfectly combine flavors and textures. This salad was incredibly delicious – the cider dressing and the candied pumpkin seeds were simply ambrosial with the other ingredients. I ate every little morsel in my bowl. The 2011 J. Scott Cellars Sauvignon Blanc was the pairing with the salad, and everything was excellent together. The Sauvignon Blanc had melon and apple aromas with a small hint of pepper. On the palate, similar flavors with some added herbal qualities ended with a nice, crisp finish that was really refreshing and medium in length.
Just before the main course arrived, the setting sun cast amazing pink and orange colors that streaked across the sky, and I made a mental note to enjoy each minute of the sunset. The skies above the Willamette Valley will soon be gray and drizzly for months to come. If it weren’t for the rain, however, the bounties of the Pacific Northwest would not be as plentiful and outstanding.
As the sun dipped behind the Coastal Range, the main course arrived. Thick slices of juicy, tender pork and roasted onion pork gravy along with fingerling potatoes with leeks and flavor packed-vegetables, which were cooked over an open flame in an extra large paella pan, of corn, tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos and garlic arrived on separate platters to be self served and passed down the table, family-style. Everything, from the juicy pork to the savory thick onion pork gravy, was delicious. J. Scott Cellars 2010 Grenache was the pairing with the main course, and it was genuinely sublime.
Not that I had much room for dessert, a Bittersweet Chocolate Blue Cheese Tart with Blackberry Reduction Sauce was delivered with a glass of J. Scott Mistelle, a Port style dessert wine. I was able to manage a couple bites, and a few sips of the Mistelle, and what a divine way to end the evening. With the smell of fall in the air along with the cool night breeze and a meal full of fall flavors and spices, I can’t imagine a better way to say hello to a new season.
Tickets for the HTCC Barn Dinners go on sale several months before the dinner series begins. The dinners sell out fast and are worth every penny. To join the mailing list, so you can be among the first to know when tickets go on sale, visit HeidiTunnellCatering.com.