It's not every day that you get the opportunity to enjoy a farm dinner, that's hosted in a restaurant's personal greenhouse. Don't get me wrong, any kind of experience where you enlighten yourself to conscious cuisine is already a unique encounter. You're seeing first hand where the food comes from, and your body can rejoice in some of earth's most exquisite creations. So what makes The Squeaky Bean's farm dinner so exceptional then? It's the idea that 'farm to table' for them is actually more like 'dirt to plate.' Their produce is cultivated straight from their farm and given directly to you, within hours of its harvest. This three-acre farm, with two 6,000 square foot YEAR-ROUND greenhouses, lends it's habitation to 7 different styles of tomatoes and 5 varieties of eggplant - just to name a few. They have removed the middle man and replaced it with forward thinking, and community oriented cultivation. These green thumbed gurus are all about keeping it local, so there is no doubt in my mind that their landing spot, of Warren Tech, was the perfect match to bring a little education onto this plantation.
"Dave DeMalteris is basically my science guy. He’s the brains, and I’m kind of just the muscle work out here - I wouldn’t be here without him."
Josh Olsen (Partner, Chef, and Head of Farming Operations at the Bean) is heavily focused on community through common ground, and is looking to build a new greenhouse for that exact purpose. “I think our parking lot is kind of big here, and I like to grow wherever I can, so we’re going to try and reclaim some of that lot to build the soil, or create some raised beds; something to bring community members in from around the area." Olsen and his team are looking to create a strong vibe around the locality of food, and want to show people how farm fresh food truly is nutritious and flavorful. This is an all year round program for Olsen, but Bean Acres has put together an Executive Internship program for seniors at Evergreen High School, allong with education for future farmers at Warren Tech, and culinary guidance for JTS (Jeffco Transition Services) students who are looking to expand their horizons in a more earthy way. "Culinary STEM outdoor leadership will probably be learning a lot from us here in the future. They’ve got a decent schedule going on already, but the more we are out here together the more we’ll be learning off of each other." Olsen, with the help of his right hand man Dave DeMalteris, have worked with the students to bring many projects to light on the farm, including four of the acres Hoop Houses. Two were constructed this past year, and the remaining two were built just a few months ago! - A hoop house is a structure that is heated by the sun and cooled by the wind, to create a more controlled environment in which to grown in. "We crop rotate, which means we move the crops from row to row so nothing is feeding to heavily on a specific row. Well also succesionally plant, which means we'll plant root vegetables and greens every 2-3 weeks. That way we can have a constant harvest throughout the season, of the specific size or variety that we want."
Josh took us through a full tour of the farm, showing us all the ins and outs of how their vision came to life. Bean Acres uses vermiculture, the process of using worms to decompose organic food waste. This process cultivates nutrient-rich material to help sustain plant growth. They brew a minimal ingredient worm tea, for 24 hours, and use it to nourish the greenery on the farm. “It’s actually the best thing you can feed your garden,” says Olsen. Team Bean is looking to create mason jars that you can purchase from the school, with directions on how you can make this process a reality at home! Who knew that these creepy crawlers could actually be used for something FAR more pragmatic in life, rather than their usual job of just making us a bit squirmy!
Bar Manager, Jack Bethel
Chef Chris MacGillivray
The last course was entirely refreshing, making it an impeccable palate cleanser! - Shiso Strawberry Jelly Candy equated with Bronze Fennel tossed Strawberries, and topped with a Eucalyptus cream.
The backdrop to our enchanted evening at Bean Acres
Bean Acres is, without question, my Eden. It's the type of environment where you can satiate your body, with a meal made from passionate ingredients, and have the added benefit of knowing exactly where it's coming from! Chef Chris MacGillivray, and Bar Manager Jack Bethel worked together to create a four course family style menu, that was both imaginative and fruitful. The first course began with a Crostini of Breakfast Radish and Cultured Butter that was paired with Bethel's Nasturtium Bitters, Lemon, Cucumber, and Soda "Mocktail" - Since Bean Acres is on a campus, they are limited in being able to serve alcohol to their guests. Instead Bethel created ‘mocktails,’ that indeed rivaled the typical libation, with the use of bold flavor profiles and inventive ideas.
They grilled away at the second course featuring a Charred Kale Salad with Green House Tomatoes and Feta, paired alongside a quite zesty Roasted Green Tomato Virgin Mary. Those slightly charred tomatoes could leave you lusting over them for days, and the whole dish was filled with versatile, and complex flavors. They promised you zing, and it was undoubtedly delivered.
Since I am a pescatarian, and don't eat meat, I found a huge sense of relief in knowing that the dinner was family style. That way I didn't have to tell this incredible chef that I wouldn't be enjoying his third course. This is one of the many reasons my hubby comes with me to these dinners. I get to be googly eyed over how handsome I still find him after 7 years of marriage, and he gives me the skinny on everything I am missing out on by not eating meat. I will say this, the aroma of the Farm Herb Chimichurri Sauce that was cascading along the Grilled Meyer Natural Flank Steak was to live for, and the Arugula, Cilantro, Herb Soda was something I could have quite literally guzzled down in one swoop. After my first sip I looked up, and before I could get the words to roll off my tongue Root PR owner, Kuvy Ax, declared "This is like a party in my mouth!" - I couldn't have said it any better myself; for I was in a deep state of mocktail love, and the only words I could think of were "Come to Mama!"
Ladies you've heard of a sugar scrub, well this is what I would want mine to be made of, if I could customize my own. Herbal kisses from Mother Nature touch your lips when you taste this cream. I had never had anything quite like it, and I had to stop myself from continuing to eat the entire family style bowl in which it was served.
Thank goodness my inner consciousness told me to halt; because I had forgotten for a second there that I was inhaling CREAM! Looks like I have a date with my spontaneously purchased Hip Hop Abs DVD this week! - Infomercials....they get me every time...
WHERE HAVE YOU 'BEAN' ALL MY LIFE
I can only imagine how much these students learn, when working close at hand with people who are this ambitious about what they devise. I was in awe with the amount of love permeating throughout the greenhouse, and you can be sure that my honey and I will be back to the farm this summer to do some cultivating of our own. A huge thank you to Josh, Johnny, Jack, and Chris, for taking such great care of us on the 20th! Your effort to provide the community with sustainable education, while mentoring people to make healthy choices in their life, is something every city needs!
Bean Acres is the place to be for farm dinners, and their season has only just begun! Click HERE, or call 303.623.2665 to reserve a seat at their next event, and let The Squeaky Bean fill your senses with outstanding culinary craft!