The date on April’s calendar shone like a beacon at the end of a month strewn with deadlines and obligations.
During the past month, whenever I reviewed the week ahead—usually in a moment fraught with a heart-pounding sense of being overwhelmed—the prospect of April 27 calmed and soothed.
An escape to the country was on the horizon, at times barely visible but always entirely imaginable. Tickets to Green Dirt Farm’s inaugural cheese appreciation event of the season, in collaboration with Amigoni Urban Winery, were safely tucked away.
My anticipation of a luxurious afternoon spent plunk in the middle of ewes and lambs and border collies proclaimed more relaxation than a day at the spa.
Green Dirt Farm, located in a pastoral setting outside Weston, Missouri, is hardly a hidden gem on Kansas City’s rich artisan food scape.
Owner/cheese-maker Sarah Hoffmann and owner/farmer Jacqueline Smith, who started Green Dirt in 2000, are firmly pinned on the growing map of community-based farms throughout the region and country. They raise 100 percent grass-fed lamb on the steep bluffs above the Missouri River Valley and hand-make luscious farmstead sheep’s milk cheeses and yogurt.
If passion is something discernible to the palate, then what Hoffmann and Smith do at Green Dirt Farm is seriously infused with it.
To highlight their award-winning products, the Green Dirt Farm team developed a calendar of spring, summer and fall events to celebrate food produced without hormones, chemicals or unnecessary antibiotics. Cheese appreciation events, farm table dinners and farm tours highlight sustainable growing practices and a vibrant partnership with other Kansas City food artisans and chefs.
Green Dirt’s cheese and dinner events are staged in the property’s lovely covered barn — the interior punctuated by stunning glass windows from a Michigan church and a long, rustic wooden communal-style dining table.
During the day light streams in, bathing the space in an ethereal glow. At night, for the farm dinners, the barn transforms into a seductive canvas of flickering candles illuminating diners and food.
My senses are on high alert as the crowd gathers for cheese and wine communion on April 27. The damp, reawakening earth’s pungent aroma mixes with American farmstead cheeses sliced and arranged on gleaming white plates.
Slices of Fervere bread are nestled in baskets. Michael Amigoni of Amigoni Urban Winery in the West Bottoms is poised with a bottle of Urban White 2012 that is paired with the day’s first sampling of Green Dirt’s Fresh Plain.
As the afternoon progresses my fellow cheese heads nibble and remark and make notes. Hoffmann weaves in charming farm life stories amongst dialogue about the cheeses and growing practices and her favorite varieties.
Hoffmann’s neighbors who live three miles from the farm and are regular visitors sit across from me, lost in the moment. Two women from Kansas City, giddy with their first experience at the farm, sit to my left. A woman on my right, a Green Dirt evangelist, murmurs about the cheeses’ individual personalities, speaking in terms straight from a romance novel.
The afternoon is a wrap. The five American farmstead cheeses, including two from Green Dirt’s creamery, and Amigoni wine a pleasant memory. Guests chat about future events they’re attending or make plans for an annual farm tour.
Mist begins to embrace the verdant fields and Hoffmann makes her way across a muddy patch to greet a resident border collie who has faithfully tended the Green Dirt flock all day.
My partner purchases a Green Dirt trifecta: bossa, wooly rind and fresh plain. I snap one last photo for Instagram and survey the surroundings, soaking in every last nuance.
Getting to Green Dirt Farm is easy; it’s the leaving that is difficult.
For more information on cheese and dinner events and farm tours, visitGreen Dirt Farm’s web site
Spring Asparagus Tartlet – by delish!
Makes 12 1-inch tartlets
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
5 medium stalks of fresh asparagus
1 vine ripened Roma tomato
3 scallions (white and green)
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
Olive Tree Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive Tree Aged Balsamic
¼ pound Green Dirt Farm Nettle Sheep’s Milk Cheese
Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste
1-2 sheets prepared puff pastry (If you are feeling like a rock star, make your own!)
2 tablespoons melted butter
To prepare the filling: Clean and blanch asparagus. Cut into small dice. De-seed Roma tomato and cut in small dice. Mince scallion green and whites. Add asparagus, tomato, scallions and garlic to mixing bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil until shiny, approximately 2 tablespoons. Add a splash of balsamic, approximately 1 tablespoon. Season with salt and pepper.
To prepare the shell: Dock puff pastry with fork. Cut puff pastry with cutter. Brush puff pastry cutouts with melted butter. Place cut puff pastry into a muffin tin. Press into shape of muffin tin. Put in oven preheated 400 degrees. Bake until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool.
To assemble tartlets: Take 1 tablespoon of asparagus mixture and place into tart shells. Top each tartlet with a ½ tablespoon of Green Dirt Farm Cheese. When all tartlets are assembled place back into a 400 degree oven to lightly brown cheese – about 3 minutes.
Per tartlet: 255 calories (68 percent from fat), 19 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 15 milligrams cholesterol, 15 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 140 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.