An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jul 15, 2014
02:24 PMThe Connecticut Table
One of America’s Best Restaurants Hosts Connecticut Organic Farming Fundraiser
Editor's note: Connecticut Magazine attended the Second Annual Special Culinary Fundraiser for CT NOFA Friday evening at Winvian, where chef Claire Crisculuolo of Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven received CT NOFA’s Organic Leadership Recognition Award.
In presenting the award, CT NOFA board president John Turenne—founder and president of Sustainable Food Systems who was one of the lead innovators in sustainable food practices during the creation of the Yale Sustainable Food Project—lauded Crisculuolo for her early and passionate embrace of the crusade to present gourmet food made with only the purest ingredients. And then he elicited laughter and applause by relating that when he left Yale, he hoped for a special parting gift that was often given. No, not a gold watch but one of Claire's legendary Lithuanian coffee cakes. (His wish came true.)
Crisculuolo told guests, who had been feasting on small bites prepared by chef Chris Eddy from Winvian's own gardens, that her devotion to eating well through food with integrity began early, with advice from her mother: "Never cheat your stomach."
In remarks that railed against the use of pesticides and fungicides on food products, Crisculuolo urged her audience to help raise the profile of, and demand for, everything organic, and said at one point, "We do not 'play' at Claire's [when it comes to pure food]. We are hardcore."
Impressive in itself, Crisculuolo's ethos is gilded by the fact that, in her hands, hardcore has always also meant delicious—at the vegetarian Claire's Corner Copia and at her Basta Trattoria next door, the realization of a longtime dream of Crisculuolo's late husband, Frank. (Watch Connecticut Magazine for upcoming dining stories quantifying that deliciousness.)
(Crisculuolo, left, in the fading twilight Friday evening on the terrace at Winvian.)
The program booklet for the fundraiser had congratulatory messages from, among others, Yale University and Les Dames de Escoffier, of which Crisculuolo is a member. Turenne also read a proclamation praising her from U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who, he said, had hoped to attend but couldn't get to the event.
Meanwhile, CT NOFA's A Summer Gathering: Growing Food, Farms & Community is being held on Saturday.
Back to our original preview story:
Imagine a chef so passionate about pure food and organic farming that he moonlights on top of his “day job” as the culinary wizard at a AAA Five Diamond restaurant that has been rated "extraordinary to perfection for food" by Zagat and is located in a Relais & Chateaux resort that also holds Five Diamonds for lodging—moonlights at the local farmers market, where he not only sells produce, chickens and much more he grows and raises but also offers prepared food and, as of this summer, oversees what he (modestly) calls “paper plate” food offered by the on-site Market Grille, with dining in a barn. (It's called The Morris Marketplace.)
This chef, a master of haute cuisine who trained under Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse, is Chris Eddy of Winvian, the luxurious resort in Morris centered on an historic 18th-century house and composed of whimsical cottages set amid the sylvan Litchfield County landscape in northwestern Connecticut. (Eddy, above, in a Winvian photo.)
At Winvian, Eddy has extended the farm-to-table philosophy to a seed-to-table, pure-food philosophy, and he marshals only "the freshest, most natural non-GMO ingredients,” harvested daily, to create a truly magical dining experience full of sensational flavors whose depth and richness are balanced with subtlety executed with high-wire precision. (A dining room, above, in a Winvian photo.)
(Menus change daily, but think of dishes like asparagus salad with Prosciutto, balsamic and a Winvian egg; gnocchi Parisienne with carrots, shungiku (edible leaves of the Chrysanthemum) and pinenuts; Trofie pasta with wild boar, tomatoes and Parmesan; rabbit ravioli with smoked lardons and whole grain mustard sauce, and beef tenderloin with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, potatoes and leeks.)
“Almost everything served in Winvian’s revered restaurant is grown on our private estate in three greenhouses, and three acres of organic gardens,” the website explains. “Honey from our apiary, a henhouse, root cellar, and luscious fruit trees round out Winvian’s artfully open-ended menus. Even the dining room bouquets come from Winvian’s heady flower and herb beds.”
Both Eddy’s culinary brilliance and his pure-food passion will be on display this weekend when Winvian partners with the Connecticut branch of NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) to present a weekend of food and farming to promote sustainable and organic farming in Connecticut (proceeds will go toward scholarships for teenagers and young adults who have goals of beginning careers in the organic and sustainable food industry.)
(Above, a CT NOFA photo from last year's fundraiser.)
This special weekend has two ingredients, the Second Annual Special Culinary Fundraiser on the evening of Friday, July 18, and A Summer Gathering: Growing Food, Farms & Community on Saturday—both of which you can still make plans to attend; details a bit later.
As part of Friday’s festivities, chef Claire Crisculuolo of Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven (right) will be awarded CT NOFA’s Organic Leadership Recognition Award. Eddy received the award last year, the first time it was presented.
According to CT NOFA—which calls itself and Winvian “Connecticut’s two best-kept secrets”—guests on Friday will enjoy a wide variety of Eddy’s signature appetizers and desserts, along with the freshest tastings from Winvian’s own farm and other local farms. Here’s NOFA’s bullet-point breakdown of Friday evening, which runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Winvian, Morris, CT
• Wide array of signature appetizers and desserts by Winvian’s Executive Chef Chris Eddy
• The freshest tastings from Winvian’s own farm and other local farms
• Wines and Other Beverages
• Winvian garden tours
• Silent Auction
• Live Auction
• Organic Leadership Recognition Award to Claire Criscuolo of Claire’s Corner Copia, New Haven
See our latest press release HERE
• Complimentary Valet Parking
Come Support CT NOFA in Promoting Local and Organic Food, Farming, Gardening and Land Care in Connecticut and to Kick Off Saturday’s Family/Educational Event
Tickets (Friday): $135
Friday and Saturday Events:
$175 Members/$185 Future Members
While online registration for the Special Culinary Fundraiser ends at midnight July 15, guests who would like to register after that time may call the CT NOFA office at (203) 308-2584 to RSVP. “Please call ahead to ensure a swift check in at the event,” CT NOFA advises those who might procrastinate until Friday before deciding to attend. (Right, a scene from last year's event.)
“We really are so appreciative to Winvian,” says Stephanie Berluti, the Program and Event Manager for CT NOFA. While Eddy’s food and Winvian are the star attractions Friday, Berluti stressed the appeal of the silent and live auctions, which had CT NOFA tweeting this week about some of the eye-catching items on offer:
On Tuesday, Berluti was especially excited about a last-minute donation for the auctions. “As I mentioned, Bun Lai of Miya's Sushi [in New Haven] has donated an amazing prize for our live auction,” she wrote in an email, offering this description:
James Beard Foundation Award nominated chef, Bun Lai of Miya's Sushi, (left) will take you and three other guests on a trip to fish, forage, and dive for your own sustainable seafood on his fishing boat in Branford, Connecticut. He will prepare the seafood with you on the high seas of the Long Island Sound.
See a preview of what a maritime adventure with the chef is like
(and preview the auction items here)
Friday’s fundraiser also serves as a prelude to A Summer Gathering: Growing Food, Farms & Community, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
According to CT NOFA, it will feature lots of interactive children’s activities, educational workshops for young adults on new food related career opportunities, and keynote addresses by Joan Dye Gussow, a professor emeritus at Columbia University, longtime organic gardener and writer, and Richard McCarthy, executive director of Slow Food USA.
Workshop presenters include Taylor Cocalis-Suarez, co-founder of Good Food Jobs. Scheduled to attend also was Tara Cook-Littman of GMO Free CT & ConnFact, but she is unable to come. Appearing in her place with will be Beth Beisel of GMO Free CT, who will be talking about “our children’s future, taking back our food,” Berluti says.
The event will also feature updates from public officials and advocacy information, according to CT NOFA. Guests will be able to enjoy food from their favorite food trucks, browse local vendors and exhibitors and enjoy the grounds at Winvian. See the CT NOFA posting for Saturday ticket costs.
For more information and for reservations go to ctnofa.org/winvian or call the CT NOFA office at (203) 308-2584. After midnight July 15, call the office for reservations for Friday’s dining fundraiser event (last year, right). Follow CT NOFA on Twitter for updates about the event, and see a gallery of photos from last year's culinary fundraiser at Winvian on its Facebook page.
Net proceeds benefit CT NOFA, founded in 1982 as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. CT NOFA, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut, advocates for and promotes local organic food, farming, gardening and land care in Connecticut.
One of America’s Best Restaurants Hosts Connecticut Organic Farming Fundraiser