If you take a look at Ryan Clark’s calendar for collaboration dinners this year, you’ll note an abundance of BFFs.
But this isn’t about his best friends forever. This is about farmers, and an impressive cast of Clark’s best farmer friends will make rotating appearances at this year’s Dinner with Chefs series at the Casino Del Sol’s PY Steakhouse.
The idea originated four years ago when Clark mapped out a schedule of 12 dinners that paired him up with a different local chef each month. The following year he teamed up with area celebrities for the year-long series, and last year—in the same spirit, so to speak—he partnered with libationists for 12 months of culinary and cocktail evenings.
Given his longtime affinity for the farm and the prominence of local produce on virtually every menu that he’s created, Clark’s decision to bring farmers into his kitchen for this year’s program seemed like a natural move. And with two of these farmer dinners now under his belt, he says the decision was the right one.
“When we get these farmers into the dining room, they get to show off their personalities while sharing stories about their produce,” said Clark, executive chef at Casino Del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road. “Our guests really enjoy meeting the people behind the food and all the work that goes into it.”
The next farmer dinner is scheduled for March 24 at 6:30 p.m. with Alex Bencomo of Felicia’s Farm in the spotlight.
The collaboration for this month’s meal began with Clark’s recent visit to Felicia’s Farm to inspect the produce that will be at its peak come dinnertime in late March. What resulted is a three-course menu that will integrate distinct touches from both Clark and Bencomo.
The first course will present charcoal-cooked carrots plated with an heirloom corn hummus, meyer lemon, baby spinach and a pistachio dukkah, a blend of nuts and spices to finish the salad with a crunch.
Clark drew from St. Patrick’s Day customs for the second course, a filet mignon brined in the corned beef tradition, rubbed with juniper berries and black pepper and smoked at a low temperature. It will be served with a fermented and wood-grilled cabbage and mustard whipped potatoes.
“Most people wouldn’t corn something of high quality, like a filet mignon, but it’s definitely fun and whimsical in this preparation,” Clark said.
The evening will conclude with a warm honey sticky cake, served with a lavender-mint gelato, fig paste and vanilla merengue, with a finishing spritz of lavender brandy.
“The lavender-mint is a special mint varietal at Felicia’s Farm that I’m super excited to work with,” Clark said. “This is one of the cool things about working with farmers, when they pull out some secrets like this that they typically keep for themselves, sort of like the butcher’s cut.”
The dinner is $75 per person, plus tax and gratuity, which includes a welcome glass of white sangria, wine pairings with the first two courses, and a bourbon cocktail with dessert. Reservations can be made by calling 324-9350.
The series of dinners, with a different local farmer featured each month, will continue throughout 2020.
“These are dishes that no one will be able to have again,” Clark said. “They’re special moments that we envisioned together with the farmers that highlight both the techniques of the time as well as the produce that will be at its peak at that moment.”
Spoken like a true BFF.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.