BREWSTER — Black tomatoes. Fairy Tale eggplants. Cape gooseberries. Not to mention cucamelons, tiny cucumbers that look like mini watermelons: Those are among the unusual ingredients you might find in a salad, studding a doughnut, or on a charcuterie platter at Chatham Bars Inn.
You’ve probably heard of the inn — it’s one of Cape Cod’s most iconic properties. What you might not know: the property includes an 8-acre farm, with a farmstand that’s open to the public. You can buy a bounty of colorful produce at the farmstand and concoct your own recipes (cucamelon ceviche, anyone?) but, for a burst of leafy green inspiration, there’s nothing better than attending a farm dinner at the Chatham Bars Inn Farm.
Held on Wednesday nights in season (and into fall), these dinners take place in a grassy field alongside neat rows of plantings. The farm’s freshly harvested produce plays a starring role on the menu, accompanied by locally sourced meats and seafood. For some guests, it’s a unique way to celebrate a birthday or anniversary; others are keen to celebrate summer with a different kind of dining experience. “Delicious food in a lovely pastoral setting — what’s not to like?” said Cape resident Paul Kelley, our dinner companion. “I feel like Monet should be over in the corner painting us.”
Typically, about 20 percent of the 150 attendees are overnight guests of the hotel. Given the colorful plumage of the dinner party — lots of Lilly Pulitzer and Tommy Bahama — you’ll definitely pick up a Garden Wedding vibe, minus the awkward toasts and embarrassing speeches. Guests sit at long wooden tables under a string of lights with their own posse or with strangers, who quickly bond as the wine flows and beautiful food starts arriving tableside. Service is family-style.
“Welcome to the farm!” says farm manager Josh Schiff, who will join you for dinner. “This is the highlight of our season. We work very hard and it’s great to see people enjoy the fruits of our labor.” He means that literally — tomatoes and cucumbers are, botanically, fruits.
“Every menu is different,” says Schiff. While they post a menu online, it’s purposely vague, he notes. “We keep it flexible so we can go with what’s fresh.” Although Chatham Bars Inn has been hosting these dinners for four years, this is the first time with executive chef Andrew Chadwick at the helm. “From our fields to guests’ forks, the Farm Dinners are unlike anything offered in Cape Cod. Our culinary team gets to be creative with the farm’s recent harvest, paired with locally-sourced proteins,” Chef Chadwick says.
We purposely didn’t look at the menu beforehand so we’d be surprised when the food came. The first of four courses, an assemblage of crudité, was so gorgeously presented it looked like a painting. We tried to resist the accompanying house-made bread, but who can turn down a cheesy pretzel roll? Following that was a medley of cucumber varieties with halloumi cheese, tomato, and sunflower crunch. A harissa vinaigrette added a kick to the bright veggie flavors. The courses that followed featured seared halibut with crushed chickpea salad and shawarma spiced cauliflower, and grilled strip loin with saffron potatoes and green chermoula — a Mediterranean take on surf & turf, if you will. Dessert was a coconut and almond basbousa, a fine-crumbed semolina cake, with a swirl of strawberry-rhubarb-yogurt sauce.
Much of the cookery takes place outdoors on grills and at a tented station, so you can smell the next sizzling course.
Guests are welcome to wander around the gardens. So much kale! Such tall tomato plants! The numbers are rather astonishing: They grow 125 varieties of vegetables within the farm’s 8 acres, including 30 varieties of tomatoes (“We grew 100,000 pounds of tomatoes last year!” Schiff says) and plant 3,800 heads of lettuce every 10 days. Is there someone on staff whose full-time job it is to corral the Cape’s ubiquitous rabbits? There’s room for experimentation, too — those Cape gooseberries wound up in some tasty doughnuts, Schiff said.
If you like fresh food — well, it doesn’t get any fresher. “It’s amazing to have this farm in our own back pocket,” Chef Chadwick says. “We’re all really proud of this.”
Upcoming farm dinners at Chatham Bars Inn Farm will be held on July 5, 12, 19, 26; Aug. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; Sept. 6, 13, 20, 27, and Oct. 4, weather permitting. (Rain dates have been scheduled.) Fall farm dinners feature seasonal vegetables (gourds play a major role). At least two will take place inside the farm’s heated glass greenhouse, decorated with fall décor and dahlias. Reservations required. $200 per person includes a four-course dinner, wine, and gratuity. Chatham Bars Inn Farm, 3034 Main St., Brewster; www.chathambarsinn.com.
Among the farm dinner options available off-Cape, the Trustees of Reservations (https://thetrustees.org/events/) hosts events at their farms, and Smolak Farms (www.smolakfarms.com) offers a series of pop-up dinners with guest chefs at their property in North Andover.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org