Tickets still available for the Downtown Dinner set for July 13 at 6 p.m.
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Harvestville Farm-to-Table Downtown Dinner in Fort Madison is getting a reboot for 2019.
The much anticipated and sold out meal in 2018 ran into a logistical washout due to pending thunderstorms and was moved back to the farm of Adam, Julie and Kathy Hohl just a couple miles east of Donnellson on Highway 2 last summer.
This year on Saturday, July 13, the Hohl’s will attempt the street-style dining experience again on 7th Street between the family’s Harvestville Mercantile and Jimmy Windorf and Hitomi Moratini’s chic eatery “Simple Table”.
Hohl is quick to say what her expectations are this year after making the tough decision to move the dinner back to the farm in it’s inaugural year last year.
“I think the weather cooperates this year,” she said with a chuckle.
The dinner is a way to showcase Harvestville’s Farm-to-Table produce and mentality, as well as serving as another vehicle to bring people to Fort Madison’s downtown.
Chairs and tables will be set up in the half block on 7th Street between Avenues F and G on the southside with a look at the city’s unique architecture, as well as the backdrop of the city’s riverfront and the Mississippi River.
Hohl said tickets, which usually sell out fast for the freshly prepared farm-to-table dinners that Harvestville puts on throughout the summer, are still available. She said the simplest way is to visit the farm’s website at https://www.harvestvillefarm.com/farmtotable. Then click on the Reservation link at the bottom of the page and follow the prompts to the July 13 Downtown Dinner. If you can’t make that meal, there are other dinners later in the summer that still have tickets available as well.
No payment is required to make the reservation, and staff will make contact within a couple weeks of the event to secure payment for the $65-per-person event. A portion of each ticket sold, plus proceeds from an on-site silent auction will go to the Fort Madison Food Pantry.
Guests will be served up five courses including assorted appetizers prepared by Harvestville Farm, and the Hitomi goes to work on a roasted tomato and eggplant bisque with fresh basil, olive oil and a crusty baguette.
A salad course will include sweet summer corn and feta salad over greens with cocktail shrimp and fried corn tortilla strips.
The main course will be a slow braised Asian beef with mushrooms, orange and thyme over steamed 16-grain rice.
As the evening cools, the dessert is sure to warm with a chocolate brownie and fresh raspberry trifle.
“We want to this to be a really laid back atmosphere. The whole point of doing the 5-course is to allow people to connect with the food, each other, and have a good conversation. All while experiencing the downtown that we’ve come to love having a business down there,” Hohl said.
She said Moratini will be using as much produce as possible from the farm and the rest will be secured from local providers. And the Hohls are adding seats to this one-of-a-kind event. The dinners at the farm usually are planned for 60-70, but the Downtown Dinner will sit up to 95 diners.
The diners will be entertained by local live music and Hohl said the sun should be down behind the buildings so the evening should be cool and enjoyable.
The idea was born out of some conversations with Moratini back in 2009-10 and the first farm-to-table dinner was born in 2011. The idea then stretched into the Downtown Dinner after Julie and Adam participated in some outdoor farm-to-table dinners around the Midwest.
“It really was just general conversation and how could we do a unique event. Then we thought, ‘How cool would it be to have a dinner in the street,” she said.
“We’d been part of those in places like Quincy and Iowa City, that are farm-to-table style, and we attended those because it was such a unique experience and to see how it’s done. To our knowledge this hasn’t been done in southeast Iowa.”
Hohl said her and her family were hesitant originally to bring farm to table or “farm to fork” events to the area because it was so rural already.
“We were a little worried about it working here and the whole concept is to use as much as possible of what we produce on the farm in the meals. Our first dinner was in 2008 and from that dinner on we’ve been hooked.” she said.
“It’s really has been great. We attract people from quite a distance for the dinner. Some from as far away as St. Louis, Hannibal, Iowa City and our local support is big as well.”
In the event of rain, the dinner will be moved back out to the farm.
The Harvestville’s dinner set for this Saturday is sold out, but in addition to the July 13th dinner, they are tickets for the July 27th event and the Aug. 10th event, both out at the farm at 1977 Hwy. 2 in Donnellson.