The Chatham Bars Inn Farm: Taking Farm to Table to a Whole New Level
On a recent Saturday morning, I enjoyed watching the Chatham Bars Inn Farm wake up and become washed with sun as farm hand Teresita Fitzback picked huge blueberries. I marveled at a wall of gorgeous orange Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, and sampled a few. I watched the sun illuminate the Bright Lights Swiss Chard, basil, and Red Oak lettuce. I admired the squash blossoms, tried some green beans and watched farm hand Chris Cronan water sunflower sprouts in the greenhouse. They have a delicious, nutty flavor. I could clearly see Chef Anthony Cole’s passion for his work as he and Farm Manager Jamie Fuqua gave me a tour.
“This size,” Anthony’s eyes lit up as he held up a baby summer squash, blossom attached, to show Jamie. “I could use as many of these as you can send me.”
The Chef visits the new Chatham Bars Inn Farm at least twice a week to see for himself what’s in season and to plan his menu. His plans for the baby squash with blossom: a crabmeat stuffing.
In June 2012, the Inn acquired the property in Brewster formerly known as Fran’s Cape Farm. Land was cleared to make space for planting, and two large greenhouses were added last winter. The first year’s harvest consisted of the existing crops on the property, mainly raspberries and blueberries. “We started by improving the soil,” says Jamie, focusing on “process before production.”
This year, the farm is producing as many vegetables, herbs and micro greens as the world-class resort, which has three restaurants, can use—with a little surplus. “It’s been fantastic,” says Chef Cole. By ordering food directly from the farm, the Chef has been able to cut out the middle man, which means the food arrives in the kitchen as fresh as it can possibly be.
Anthony is pleased to see the excitement level in the kitchen when the produce arrives. “The quality is superior, with nuances of taste and flavor and sweetness,” he says. “The variety is consistently changing. We like to keep it simple, keep it natural.”
The farm uses organic methods of growing. For manager Jamie Fuqua, also Director of Grounds at the Inn, it is the only way to go. He orders all of his seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds because they are GMO free and he is impressed with the consistent quality.
Heirloom tomatoes are the stars of the summer garden, inspiring dishes at Stars restaurant like the savory Burrata & Heirloom Tomato Salad, with Burrata cheese, fresh farm tomatoes, crispy fried green tomatoes, and aged Balsamic vinegar. This dish is a feast for the senses, both visually colorful—with red, orange and green tomatoes—and delicious.
Varieties like Brandywine, Green Zebra, Moskovich, and Striped German are grown, along with cherry tomatoes Sun Gold, Black Cherry, and Gold Nugget.
Then comes the squash: zucchini, yellow crookneck, patty pan, and hybrid summer; several types of bush beans, kale, salad greens, herbs, pea shoots and sunflower shoots; French Breakfast radishes, turnips, beets, and even edible flowers, with borage being the favorite.
As for the surplus, there may be a farm stand in the works for next year. The ideas keep growing, as does the passion and enthusiasm for the farm. A children’s educational program, “Down on the Farm” brings kids from the Inn to the Brewster farm to meet the farmers, see how to grow fruits and vegetables, harvest some fresh produce and use fresh herbs from the herb garden to make lip balm.
Richard Burtt, manager of Stars restaurant, envisions an al fresco dining experience at the farm in the future. “You hear (the catchphrase) farm to table all the time,” he says. “We would like bring the ‘table to farm’ where guests could experience a meal right where the food is grown.”
Formerly the Main Dining Room, Stars was born in the spring of 2012. Chef Anthony Cole and Andrew Chadwick came up with the concept two winters ago, according to Richard. Open year round, Stars is popular among both visitors and locals. “People come here to celebrate special occasions, like birthdays or anniversaries,” says Anthony.
Specializing in steak is unusual for Cape Cod, but Stars fills a niche not many restaurants do. With custom cuts of Nebraska raised beef, and a steak cart that comes to your table, Stars provides a unique Cape Cod dining experience, enhanced by vegetables and herbs grown on the farm. With beef as its mainstay, the menu changes with the seasons, and new dishes are created with the farm’s abundant harvest.
The dishes are imaginative, the staff hospitable and enthusiastic. Here you can get slow food at its best, in a relaxing, opulent atmosphere. When I went, we started off with an amuse-bouche (a small offering sent out by the Chef): a melon/apple drink topped with a sunflower sprout. Yum. Then we had Lavash, a crisp flatbread, and bread with herbed butter. I had to try the Burrata and Heirloom Tomato Salad, and the signature steak, with Chef’s seasonal vegetables: farm-grown braised baby turnips and beets. The meal was an adventure in fabulous flavor. For dessert, Anthony recommended “Risk.” On the dessert menu, it reads: “Risk Recommended(?)/Chef’s Surprise/Do you dare?” It is tough to turn down a dare like that one, and it was a surprise—a pasta dish with a sweet twist: pasta filled with chocolate ganache, with a chocolate basil sauce, almond biscotti “garlic bread” and grated white chocolate “Parmesan”. Such fun!
After the meal we met Stars Chef Joseph Yapele. Joseph has worked at restaurants all over the U.S., most recently at Four Seasons in Hawaii. He has been at Stars since April.
THE SACRED COD
Open for lunch and dinner year round, The Sacred Cod is less formal than Stars, and has the most farm to table value, according to Anthony. The entreés are simply prepared, and the menu has space for specials to be written in by hand.
“The menu becomes very pliable and flexible, depending on what we’re harvesting,” says Anthony. “The same thing goes for fish. The menus expand in the summer.”
THE BEACH HOUSE
The Beach House is a seasonal restaurant, open from May to mid-October. Situated on the sands of Chatham Bars Inn’s private beach, it is known for its traditional clambakes and seafood.