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Farm-to-table dining holds more meaning when you're seated near the source of the food on your plate. That’s the idea behind many outdoor dining experiences, often hosted at the farm where the tomatoes in your dish first ripened on the vine. Take advantage of warm weather and beautiful Wisconsin scenery with one-of-a-kind food experiences offered this summer. From pizza to bourbon and casual to formal options, there is something for every local gastronome. By incorporating local music, farm tours and guest chefs and experts to explain what you’re eating, these experiences go beyond just the meal. Here are 13 upcoming dining experiences that might give you a new perspective on local eating.
Campo di Bella Saturday Dinners
Every Saturday evening, Campo di Bella hosts a farm-to-table dinner on its beautiful property in the township of Blue Mounds, just five minutes outside of Mount Horeb. The meals (summer menus are posted by the end of April), are typically Italian- or French-inspired and feature vegetables grown and heritage beef, pork and lamb raised on the property. Campo di Bella has more than 350 grapevines used to create a dry, medium-bodied red wine. In addition to the Wisconsin wine, the dinners here also feature wine from California, Italy and France. Starting this month, Campo di Bella will open its outdoor patios to take advantage of the warmer Wisconsin weather. Pick a weekend this summer to make a trip to this winery, where you will enjoy a great wine selection and delicious food with some stunning views of Blue Mounds State Park. 6-8/8:30 p.m., Saturdays (Outdoor patio open from May to October), 10229 Sharp Road, Mount Horeb, $55 prepaid tickets only: campodibella.org
Cress Spring Bakery Pizza Wednesdays
Starting this month, Cress Spring Bakery will serve wood-fired pizza every Wednesday on its farm in Blue Mounds. With live music and a seasonal menu, the casual dining experience is a great way to break up the workweek on a warm summer night. No reservations are necessary, but you might want to call ahead to place an order because the wait time can be long on busy nights. All pizza is served in cardboard boxes, so enjoy it on the lawn while listening to music or take it to go. If you plan to dine on the lawn, be sure to bring your own plates and cutlery. In addition to pizza, the bakery also offers a rotating selection of appetizers, desserts, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. Cress Spring Bakery allows customers to bring in other food, but that does not include alcohol. Pack the car with chairs, blankets and some friends or family to make the most of a summer weeknight at Cress Spring Bakery. 4:30-8:30 p.m., Wednesdays (May to October), 4035 Ryan Road, Blue Mounds, $12-$17 depending on menu: cressspringbakery.com
Madison Magazine’s Farm-to-Feast
Kick off June with Madison Magazine’s Farm-to-Feast at J. Henry & Sons, Henry Farms. The on-site bourbon distillery will create a unique experience when paired with a delicious menu from chef Daniel Bonanno of A Pig in a Fur Coat. The Radio Wranglers will provide musical entertainment, and tours of J. Henry & Sons, Henry Farm will be offered throughout the evening. The menu includes hors d’oeuvres, a three-course family-style dinner, dessert, cocktails, wine pairings and coffee. Transportation will be available to make travel to and from the farm easy. 3-7 p.m., June 3, 7794 Patton Road, Dane, $125 per ticket: madisontix.com/events/farm-to-feast-dinner-2018 *Editor's Note: This event is sold out
40th Annual Dane County Breakfast on the Farm
Enjoy a dairy-filled breakfast of cheesy scrambled eggs, yogurt, pancakes, custard, milk, sausage and more at Hensen Bros. Dairy in Waunakee for the 40th Annual Dane County Breakfast on the Farm. The affordable event aims to educate people of all ages on the Wisconsin dairy industry in a fun environment. The Soggy Prairie Boys will provide live music and you will have the opportunity to meet Bessy the Dane Dairy Cow. If you aren’t full from breakfast, you can try an assortment of food samples in the Expo Area while learning about dairy. The Hensen family has more than 150 years of dairy farming experience across five generations. The family is opening up its farm, which includes more than 500 cows, to welcome an expected 6,000 guests for breakfast. 7-11:30 a.m., June 9, 5116 Pheasant Branch Road, Waunakee, Free for ages 2 and younger, $4 for ages 3-11, $8 for ages 12 and older (includes breakfast, parking and entertainment), for more info: danecountydairy.com/breakfast-on-the-farm/
Thursday Nights at Troy Gardens
Every Thursday night from June 14 to Sept. 20, Troy Gardens features wood-fired pizza, vegetables for sale at Troy Farm Stand and music in the garden. The farm-fresh pizzas are made to order while you enjoy local music or participate in a rotation of activities, including tours of the property. Gardening for Good, a program that teaches gardening techniques to individuals with developmental disabilities, will take place during the event. All proceeds from the sale of pizza and veggies will go to support Troy Farm’s Beginner Farmer Training Program. In addition to pizza, there will be salad options. The event is BYOB and alcohol is allowed. 4-7 p.m., June 14-Sept. 20, 502 Troy Drive, prices vary based on menu: communitygroundworks.org/content/pizza-nights
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Farm Dinners
You have two opportunities this summer to enjoy a four-course farm-to-table dinner at the Taliesin estate. The dinners will feature locally sourced ingredients, including fresh vegetables from the Taliesin farm. The casual dinners will be outside on the stunning property and focus on Frank Lloyd Wright’s history of land use. The events will take place rain or shine, but if it’s raining, the dinner portion of the evening will be moved inside. Local beer and wine will be included. Park at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center and take a shuttle to and from the farm. 5-8 p.m., July 8 and Aug. 26, 5481 County Road C, Spring Green, $125 per ticket: taliesinpreservation.org/engage/culinary *Editor's Note: The July 8 event is sold out
Wisconsin Foodie Annual Farm dinner with Driftless Café
Wisconsin Foodie, an independent TV show on Wisconsin Public Television, discovered the public’s desire for more agritourist events so it started organizing its own with the help of local chefs, farmers and artisans. This summer, Wisconsin Foodie and Luke Zahm of Driftless Cafe are collaborating to bring the annual farm dinner to Ridgeland Harvest CSA farm. With the beautiful Driftless region serving as both a backdrop and inspiration, Zahm will prepare a locally sourced five-course dinner with beer pairings. Zahm will speak to guests about the meal between each course, and local purveyors who supplied ingredients for the dinner are invited to attend. Local musicians will entertain guests during a reception prior to dinner. The event will host 80 guests and likely sell out as it did last year. Reception starts at 4:30 p.m., dinner starts at 6:00 p.m., July 21, E5538 Nelson Road, Viroqua, $150 per ticket: facebook.com *Editor's Note: This event is sold out
Midwest Fire Fest Dinner: Fire Feast
The Midwest Fire Fest, a celebration of art created with the help of fire, will host a family-style dinner, complete with plates and platters made by the Clay Collective. Luke Zahm of Driftless Café will serve up a locally-sourced dinner on Wisconsin works of art to connect the farm-to-table experience to the state’s talented art scene. The meal will kick off with a fire dancer and the Clay Collective pieces will be available to purchase. The dinner will take place in Westside Park, on the festival grounds, but will finish just in time for attendees to watch the fiery reveal of a 7-foot clay sculpture made on site. Beyond the fire art, the festival will feature Madison bands, a beer tent and a variety of food trucks which you could enjoy during the day leading up to the dinner. Starts at 6:30 p.m., July 28, Westside Park, 300 W. Water Street, Cambridge, $125 per ticket: midwestfirefest.com
Soil Sisters Farm-to-Table Dinner at Dorothy's Range
The Soil Sisters’ Farm-to-Table experience starts with a tour of Dorothy’s Range, the venue for the evening in Blanchardville, about 50 miles southwest of Madison. During the tour, meet the farm’s pigs, including the Gloucestershire Old Spots, which are part of the farm’s claim to fame. Known for raising pigs in a natural and healthy environment, Dorothy’s Range is one of few Wisconsin farms currently raising the Old Spots and claims the flavor is different from other pork. The family-style meal will take place at a community table inside a rustic dining space on the property. Farmer April Prusia and ecologist Steve Fabos are the guides for the evening as guests dine on pastured pig and seasonal vegetable sides. You can bring your own beverages, but offered at the dinner will be coolers, herbal tea, ice, glasses, fruit, bubbly mixers and gluten-free options. 4 p.m., Aug. 4, W8707 Sawmill Road, Blanchardville, $75 per person (must be 21 or older) purchase tickets here: brownpapertickets.com *Editor's Note: This event is sold out
2018 Wisconsin Farm-to-Table Experience
Darlington Ridge Farms and Tyler Salisbery, head chef and owner of The Black Sheep in Whitewater, are behind this year’s Wisconsin Farm to Table Experience. While Darlington Ridge Farms will provide the beautiful backdrop, Salisbery will prepare a flavorful meal featuring locally sourced ingredients. The event aims to connect consumers directly to the farmers who produce the food. It will also educate attendees on environmental, animal and food safety. Featuring Wisconsin cheeses, beef, wine and more, the dinner is sure to excite your taste buds with local delicacies. 5-10 p.m., Aug. 4, 24425 Saint Peters Road, Darlington, $100 per ticket: eventbrite.com
Outstanding in the Field
The second opportunity to experience a farm dinner at J. Henry & Sons, Henry Farms takes place in August at the Outstanding in the Field event. Drawing from local farmers’ produce and cheese, Chef Dan Fox of Heritage Tavern will prepare his fourth dinner for OITF. Seated at a long table covered with white tablecloths, you will enjoy creations prepared by Fox. As Madison Magazine’s 2013 Chef of the Year and a 2018 James Beard semi-finalist for the Best Chef: Midwest category, Fox has established himself as a talented chef on both local and national levels. 4 p.m., Aug. 4, 7794 Patton Road, Dane, $235 per ticket: outstandinginthefield.com *Editor’s Note: This 2018 event is sold out.
Field to Vase Dinner at Star Valley Flowers
Star Valley Flowers in Soldiers Grove in Crawford County was one of five locations across the country chosen to host a Field to Vase dinner this summer. With three of the other locations in California and one in Tennessee, Star Valley Farms is the only Midwest host. Certified American Grown flowers put together the Field to Vase Dinner Tour to educate consumers on why buying flowers from U.S. farms is important. The dinner will feature flowers to take home, a gift bag, a locally sourced meal from Luke Zahm of Driftless Café and more. From beautiful centerpieces to seedling experts and florists on hand to educate, the event is ideal for both flower lovers and newbies alike. 5-8 p.m., Sept. 8, 51468 County Road C, Soldiers Grove $185 per ticket at the table when you purchase before Aug. 8 and $200 per ticket when you purchase after Aug. 8: eventbrite.com
8th Annual Enos Farms’ Harvest Moon Dinners
For the first time ever, Enos Farms near Spring Green is offering its Harvest Moon Dinner two nights in a row, instead of just once. The Sunday five-course meal with beverage pairings, musical guests, artists and photographers is the traditional Harvest Moon Dinner offering while the Saturday three-course meal also features beverage pairings but is much simpler and less expensive. Erin and Jeremy Lynch will host you on their farm for an evening of conversation, nature, hiking, relaxation, delicious seasonal food and more. You are encouraged to dress according to the weather because the evening will be spent outside. Don't forget comfortable shoes for hiking. Because of a couple steep inclines, Enos Farms cautions that this is probably not the right experience for those with difficulty walking. 4:30 p.m., Sept. 22 ($95 per ticket), 4:30 p.m., Sept. 23 ($155 per ticket), Spring Green address provided after ticket purchase, for tickets: brownpapertickets.com
A Dinner Runs Through It
Chef Luke Zahm of Driftless Café will create a one-of-a-kind dining experience at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. Owned jointly by the Ho-Chunk Nation (through the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs) and the state of Wisconsin, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve features extraordinary scenery that will inspire the menu. Guests will canoe the Kickapoo River to access each of four courses. Stopping at sandbars along the river, guests will enjoy each course paired with a drink. The interactive dining experience will be unlike any other event offered this summer. More details regarding event partners will be announced soon. Sept. 29, visit driftlesscafe.com/special-events/ for more details closer to the event.
What to Bring to an Outdoor Dinner
Many outdoor dinners have limited options to be in the shade, so it’s important to pack sunblock.
If you are going to a farm dinner, especially one that includes a field tour, be sure to wear or pack comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty.
As soon as the sun sets, the temperatures will drop on the farm, so pack an extra sweatshirt or blanket to stay warm after dark.
Be sure to determine before the event whether you should bring your own alcohol to enjoy during the dinner.
Margaret Duffey is an editorial intern for Madison Magazine.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article has been changed to reflect updated information about the A Dinner Runs Through It event. Chef Sean Sherman will no longer be a featured chef for the dinner.