A Magical Dinner in the Orchard

The 10th such benefit for the community-supported farm overseen by the Peconic Land Trust
Lobster rolls served up from near the Quail Hill farm stand were among the hors d’oeuvres offered at the community-supported farm’s At the Common Table benefit Saturday. Durell Godfrey

   The highlight of Quail Hill’s At the Common Table on Saturday, the 10th such benefit for the community-supported farm overseen by the Peconic Land Trust, was dinner served in the orchard at a long table for 165, set beautifully with flowers, candles, and Mason jars of pickles — dilly beans, cucumber spears, garlic scapes — preserved from the Amagansett farm’s bounty.
   The haunting sounds of a flute trailed through the dusk as guests made their way down a hill to their seats, in a scene reminiscent of the film “Elvira Madigan,” set in 19th-century Sweden, according to one wag.
The evening’s magic was due to efforts by untold volunteers, members of the community-supported agriculture program under the guidance of the event chair, Hilary Leff, who did everything from play music to set the table and provide the lighting, a mixture of candles, torches, and LED bulbs in paper lanterns strung from trees. It was Megan Chaskey, wife of the farm’s director, Scott Chaskey, on the flute.
    Several local chefs happily toiled together in a makeshift kitchen replete with wood-burning oven, where Bryan Futerman of Foody’s baked pizzas. The team was overseen by Joseph Realmuto, executive chef of Nick and Toni’s, who has presided over the dinner since its inception.
    The party managed to run the gamut from elegant to rustic, down-home to upscale, and wholesome to enchanting. Guests, including many members of the farm’s community-supported agriculture program, started the evening at the farm stand to nibble on assorted hors d’oeuvres and sip wine, all donated for the cause.
    Channing Daughters has donated the wine since the event’s inception, and the winery’s principals, Larry and Jacqui Perrine, were on hand to pour. The oysters and clams supplied by Stuart’s Seafood Market went quickly, as did the lobster rolls by Zachary Tyler Lynd.
    The party was sold out and the silent auction also raised considerable money, with the final bid on passes and other perks to the Hamptons International Film Festival coming in at $1,000. The auction also included much artwork, including a landscape of Scuttlehole Road by Walter Us. Both the executive director of the film festival, Anne Chaisson, and Mr. Us were in attendance.
    Revelers imbibed a zingy 2012 Rosato di Syrah while spreading assorted Greek dips by Mr. Futerman on disks of flat bread baked by Carissa Waechter. A former pastry chef for Daniel Boulud and David Burke, Ms. Waechter mills wheat from Quail Hill to bake her bread, or acquires flour from wheat grown and milled at nearby Amber Waves Farm, a C.S.A. run by her tablemates, Katie Baldwin and Amanda Merrow. Amber Waves is on land leased from the Peconic Land Trust.
    Ms. Baldwin and Ms. Merrow met as apprentices at Quail Hill. On Saturday they were attired in lovely frocks, in contrast to their rough hands with short, soil-stained fingernails, a condition they proudly call “perma-dirt.”
    The first course was a warm salad by Jason Weiner of Almond that featured duck shavings, a dusting of sumac, and wild purslane, a highly nutritious “weed” that is making its way into farmers markets. The main course — striped bass and tabbouleh by Mr. Realmuto, and sides of charred kale, heirloom tomatoes, and fingerling potatoes by Jeff Schwarz and a vegan tagine by Mr. Futerman — was served family style. Laura Donnelly, the pastry chef at East Hampton Point and The Star’s restaurant reviewer and food writer, made the dessert, an Arabic rice pudding known as roz bil halib.
    New to the festivities, the new farm manager, Layton Gunther, who joined Quail Hill in January, was struck by the participants’ “element of gratitude.”
    Leslie and George Biddle, members who live in Southampton, joined Quail Hill mainly for autumnal produce, particularly kale from which Ms. Biddle makes a soup with white beans. “It’s the only event we come out for all summer,” she said.
     Rebecca Chapman, vice president of the Peconic Land Trust, marveled at how the farm attracts “everyone from hedge fund people to teachers to Alec Baldwin,” a supporter who “would have been here tonight if his wife wasn’t about to have a baby.” As for the event, it “brings together multi-generations.” Indeed, Emma Rose, 15, enjoyed her fifth year attending with her parents, particularly “because everyone sits together like a family.”
    During dinner, Mr. Chaskey, who is also a poet and author, ascended a vertiginous apple ladder and addressed the gathering, reciting a poem by Charles Reznikoff that ends with the lines, “not for a seat upon the dais, but at the common table” — a fitting testimony to the night’s predominant sentiment.
 


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