Tops in the Field
Guests devoured deliciously sustainable local dishes prepared by chef Mike Lata of FIG.
october 14, 2009
Tops in the Field
Get a taste of last Sunday’s Lowcountry Field Feast at Keegan-Filion Farms in Walterboro
Written & photographed by Ida Becker
Only a veil of fireflies could have made the night a more magical, picturesque affair. It had all the hallmarks of a fabled Lowcountry evening: a bucolic setting, candlelit ambiance, and the wafting aroma of slow-cooked pork. Sunday night’s Lowcountry Field Feast was a tactile and organic fusion of fine cuisine served amid a working farm.
Located in Walterboro, an hour south of Charleston, Keegan-Filion Farms is one of the area’s premier suppliers of humanely raised poultry and pigs. It’s also a postcard of rural life that canvasses 50 acres of fields and pastures dotted with charming clapboard structures where piglets roam at whim and the shrill call of turkeys occasionally pierces the laidback country setting.
The farm’s clutch of wandering chickens cast a wary eye at the arriving townies, who turned grazing land into a temporary parking lot. And one particularly bold bird—an ornery hen that charged at the sight of cowboy boots—gave a few dinner guests an immediate brush with the wild life.
Deviled eggs and mason jars brimming with a honey-colored elixir heralded the 4 p.m. cocktail hour. Gregarious guests hopped aboard a tractor-drawn wagon for a hayride tour of the farm lead by owner Marc Filion, an affable host eager to educate people on the practice of sustainable agriculture. Keegan-Filion Farms’ products appear on the menus of several noted restaurants, including FIG, preparer of this night’s feast. As the sun began to set, the tantalizing smell of chef Mike Lata’s supper drew everyone to the dining tent, where flickering hurricanes and knobby squash—autumnal tableaus crafted by Gathering Floral + Event Design—dressed the outstretched tables.
As the sun set, the party basked in golden light while servers from the Culinary Institute of Charleston delivered family-style platters of the first course: a garden vegetable salad with egg vinaigrette. The rest of the feast appeared at a perfectly languid pace. Kabocha squash mezzaluna with crispy pancetta comprised the second course, while a medley of Keegan-Filion meats made for a third-course pork trifecta: agrodolce with polenta spin rosso (sweet and sour pork over polenta), roasted fresh ham, and porchetta. The meal culminated with a crème fraiche-topped sorghum pudding that prompted well-known caterer Callie White to stand up and exclaim, “This is the best dessert I’ve ever put in my mouth!”
It was the perfect showcase for Lata’s delicious farm-to-table philosophy, which earned him the 2009 James Beard Best Chef: Southeast award. Proceeds from this special Sunday supper benefitted Lowcountry Local First, an advocacy group that promotes locally owned businesses. Here’s hoping for many future feasts in the field.