Chef Chris Eddy's Five-Diamond Winivian Recipe: Become a Seed-to-Table Farm
Imagine a movie scene in which a teenager's first kiss ignites a montage of essential moments that races backward until reaching the moment of conception. Now imagine that cinematic device applied to a dish like handmade parsnip ravioli with greens, spinach, and cauliflower at The Restaurant at Winvian Farm in Morris.
You would see Executive Chef Chris Eddy and his team choreographing creative deliciousness in the kitchen; organic vegetables selected that day, those veggies being harvested, the growth cycle of the plants going all the way back to seeds being planted, and even a cadre of chefs clustered against the cold of mid-February, choosing seeds from catalogs with the joy of children anticipating magnificent gifts.
Having trained with such culinary legends as Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud, Eddy could have pursued an arc that gave him command over kitchens at the nation's most renowned restaurants. But after a decade at Winvian, the chef has put down deep roots tying him to this soil and this mission of showing how smart and sensitive regenerative use of the land can drive a business model whose endpoint is sybaritic satisfaction.
"This is my dream job," says Eddy, who distills Winvian's seed-to-table ethos into daily menus featuring dishes like beet salad with citrus segments, endive, and watercress, as part of threeor four-course d inner s , or weekend lunches, which area residents are encouraged to discover. "I've hit the jackpot. I've kind of created my own reality here."
That jackpot extends from having license to "put anything on the plate" to spread-the-bounty outreach, which has integrated Winvian into the Litchfield County landscape through the sale of organic produce at farmers' markets in Morris and Washington Depot. And then there's The Farm Truck by Winvian, a non-food-truck food truck. "We're trying to set an example," says Eddy of Winvian's constellation of pursuits, built upon the principles of fine living, eating well, and respecting the land.
FROM SEED TO TABLE
When we meet on a cold winter's day, Eddy sees the "what do you grow?" question coming and jumps in midstream to say, "I think the question is, 'What don't [we] grow?'"
What began as a "tiny, little garden" of 50 square feet has colonized more than three acres and become central not only to Winvian's culinary delights but also to its sense of identity. Winvian was launched as a luxury resort, and while it remains that, the rise of the farm has been so embraced by owners Maggie Smith and the Smith family that the property is now branded as Winvian Farm.
Almost everything that shows up on a plate at Winvian's AAA Five-Diamond restaurant is grown on the farm or in its greenhouses, extending to honey from the apiary and fruit grown on-site. "Even the dining room bouquets come from Winvian Farm's heady flower and herb beds," the website notes.
As Eddy and his team became more confident with the expanding farm, it spread onto fields that historically sustained hay production and has since continued to grow. "We started livestock two years ago," explains the chef in reference to the sheep, chicken, and pigs raised outdoors seasonally on the farm.
So why all the time and effort expended on the farm, which Eddy admits is a significant investment? "We want to introduce novelties to the menu, to the guests," he says, and the farm is a catalyst for epicurean invention, because it "forces creativity."
"When you see the whole plant, you get a more global view," Eddy says. "You say, 'Wow, how could I not put this on the plate?'" and the this ranges from fruit and roots to buds, tendrils, leaves, and seeds.
In the spring, Winvian is growing in its greenhouses, and the emphasis is on greens. Broad-scale production begins in earnest in late May and early June, and Eddy says, "From that point, we're rolling into mid-December."
Early summer brings beets, carrots, and lots of root vegetables, which yield to string beans and pole beans in mid-summer, while tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers are sovereign in August and September. "The plants are just keeling over with all the peppers."
Greens then make a return as the weather turns cold. "The spinach is just spectacular. It's like candy in November," Eddy says. Overwintered, this "sweetest spinach you'll ever taste" makes an appearance in a spring dish, sautéed striped bass with "candy spinach," burnt Meyer lemon, and capers.
THE PURE FOOD ROADSHOW
It was the confluence of two factors – Winvian's overflowing gardens and its desire to better integrate into the community – which inspired expansion beyond the properties boundaries. The first foray was setting up a booth at The Morris Marketplace Farmers' Market held each Sunday, seasonally, at Ben Paletsky's landmark South Farms in East Morris.
"We had agreed that us being there, in a whole different dynamic, might be a great thing for the market and Winvian," Eddy says of his conversation with Paletsky. While his vegetables are organic, and as pure and local as food gets, Eddy chooses not to charge premium organic prices but to keep the cost affordable. Winvian also sells its produce at the farmers' market held Saturday mornings in Washington Depot.
And then there's The Farm Truck by Winvian, which serves its delicious street food at The Morris Marketplace and is available for catering, parties, and events. "The whole idea behind the truck was to do something entirely different than we do here at the restaurant," says Eddy. "We want the food truck to be the anti-food truck, in a sense."
There's nothing fried, just "super flavorful bangin' dishes" made with herbs and organic vegetables. A hallmark is The Ridiculous Grilled Vegetable Salad. "Fresh herbs just reign on that thing," Eddy says. There are Winvian-style tacos, of course, and lots of chilled soups, such as gazpacho, zucchini, and cucumber, and even chilled fruit soups. Of course, no food truck would be complete without offering hot dogs for the kids.
THE FOOD AND CULINARY EXPERIENCE
"I hate beets, but you made me a believer." A sentiment like that, Eddy says, is the greatest accolade he can receive.
Despite the multifaceted nature of Winvian Farm's operations, Chef Eddy's core mission remains a simple one: prepare exceptional food and introduce guests to new things and new flavors. "The last thing I want to be is a slave to the menu," says Eddy, who expresses appreciation for the talents of his Chef de Cuisine, Patrick Espinoza, and Pastry Chef, Selena Gearinger ("She's amazing").
In a four-course dinner featuring a choice among three starters, three pastas, and three main courses, just two dishes out of those nine options will likely look familiar. They're there as comfort-zone anchors, but Eddy wants taste buds to be tweaked.
That process might include such dishes as these from a sample winter menu: guinea hen fagottini pasta with mushroom ragout and lardo, or handmade orecchiette pasta with lamb ragout and parmesan. Winvian's pasta dishes also serve as platforms for unique ingredients. The "freaky things," Eddy says, things like pigeon and squid ink, go into the pasta dishes by design. "That's their intermezzo," the chef says, a course where guests are willing to experiment, in part because the shock of the new is counterbalanced by the safety of a beloved staple, pasta.
By spring, diners can look for such dishes as Kona kampachi (a Hawaiian fish) crudo with the flavors of spring – brand new mint shoots, English pea shoots, and rhubarb – or a bacon-crusted rabbit leg with a ragout of foraged ramps, overwintered carrots, greenhouse watercress, and nettle shoots. Summer brings a garden pepper piperade with capers, Taggiasca olives, and persillade, and a seven-basil, field-grown tomato salad with fresh cheese curd and olive oil.
When it comes to dessert, Gearinger prefers to think of sweet within the larger farm context of savory, and Eddy says Winvian's dessert menu is actually vegetable-based.
Consider, for example, the beet degustación with the flavors of rose and champagne, and that Winvian makes a beet sorbet, a rose ice cream, and a champagne ice. "If it's been done, we've tried it with beets," Eddy remarks.
More hedonistically-minded guests might appreciate the white chocolate mousse with pretzel cream, caramel lattice, and coconibs, or the whipped milk chocolate custard with pomelo grapefruit, citrus meringue, and a caramelized white chocolate dome.
And as exceptional as all of this is, none of it strays from a normal evening of dining at Winvian. As Eddy emphasizes, "We want every night to be special."
The Restaurant at Winvian Farm is open for dinner from 6:30pm to 9pm, Wednesday through Sunday, and also open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday from 12:30pm to 2pm.
A three-course prix fixe is $98 per person, the four-course prix fixe is $115 per person, and tasting menus start at $140 per person. Winvian Farm's wine cellar features approximately 500 labels from 37 regions and 13 countries.
The Restaurant at Winvian Farm offers an ongoing series of wine dinners, and Eddy also offers three farm dinners during each growing season, which are very popular. Reservations are required for all dinners.
155 Alain White Rd., Morris