There is nothing better than being a “tourist in your own town.” Exploring unique places near where you live is fun, cost effective, and helps you to be a better ambassador for your town. Because of our vagabond lifestyle, I have lots of places that I call home. Swank Specialty Produce gave us an edible opportunity to fall deeper in love with Palm Beach County. Throughout the growing season, October to May, here in South Florida, they hold a dozen or so culinary events, many benefiting charities. We attended Swank Table Sunday Dinner for Sustainable Seafood, benefiting Wellington Wellness.
Swank Speciality Produce is a hydroponic and natural farm started by Darrin and Jodi Swank in 1996. It started as a small lettuce farm and has grown to 360 varieties of produce and wildflowers. They use no fungicides, herbicides or pesticides. All of their leafy vegetables are grown without soil, in a nutrient rich solution. The Swank's began by selling to restaurants and hotels. Today they are a highly regarded source of produce for local chefs and food venues. They also sell to the public at the West Palm Beach and Delray Beach Green Markets. Plus, they offer the public Swank Sacks, a box of freshly picked produce to cook and enjoy at home. We ventured out to the farm to experience Swank Speciality Produce ourselves.
After meandering through western Palm Beach County, including three dirt roads, we arrived at the farm. We were greeted by two gray and black spotted pigs. When the attendant said, the pigs would be the last meal of the season, I knew we were on a real farm. We fortified ourselves with a few oysters on the half shell topped with a citrus mignonette and a smoky margarita, garnished with nori and dill. Then we headed into the fields to explore. There are rows and rows of root vegetables, flowers and sun loving vegetables, all grown in bags of nutrient dense soil. As the sun sets, and the air cools, we wandered through the fields enjoying a local three piece bluegrass band. We could not linger long because there was more to see and taste.
Our next stop was a four plate appetizer featuring, shrimp, mussels, lion fish and smoked trout. This was paired with a glass of Campo Viejo Garnacha Rose. Sipping our wine, we toured the Shade House which contains the hydroponic operation. Huge, flat tables contain long trays that house the hydroponic plants. Brightly colored micro greens, herbs, lettuces, beans and cucumbers grow all around us. After an informative question and answer period with Darrin Swank, off to the Pole Barn we go for dinner.
A salad of freshly picked greens awaits us on the table. The flavors of anise and dill lightly balanced the freshness of greens and the tanginess of the vignette. There is no doubt the ingredients of this salad were picked that day. A glass of Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc and a soft roll complimented the salad. As we waited for all the guests to be seated, we enjoyed our salads, tasted a local beer, and watched a Shakshuka stew being prepared over an open fire.
The entree was three small plates each served family style with a Jacob’s Creek, Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon. Each entree was prepared with sustainable seafood, most available in Florida. We started with a Horseradish Crusted Arctic Char, served over melting leeks and shelling beans with little neck clam garlic bread. The pungent horseradish in the buttery crust was a flavorful topping for the mild Char.
The second plate was a Wood Fired Cobia, over a pigeon pea salpicon, puffed rice and bitter greens. Salpicon is a dish with multiple ingredients that is chopped and combined with a liquid. The side dish was Shakshuka. Shakshuka is a rich, spicy tomato based sauce that often has a poached egg in it. The flaky Cobia with the rich Shakshuka and the firm pigeon pea and puffed rice created a flavor and texture combination that was a treat to devour.
The final entree was a Swordfish Criollo with lime garlic aioli, pickled pearl onions and Chimichurri sauce served with baby beets, watermelon radishes and Meyer lemon ricotta. The herbaceous sauce complimented the firm fish while the aioli and ricotta added a lushness to both the fish and vegetables.
Dessert was a delectable Strawberry Lemon Trifle filled with lemon pound cake, vanilla pastry cream, lemon curd, whipped cream and strawberries from Swank Farms. It could not have been a better dessert for me. I love the lemon strawberry combination. Add in the richness of vanilla cream and lemon curd and my tastebuds were in heaven. Combined with a cup of Pumphouse coffee, the soothing sounds from the band, and the chill in the evening air, it was a lovely end to a delicious and informative evening.
For more information on Swank Farm Sacks and Swank Table Sunday Dinner go to www.swankspecialtyproduce.com