By Mary Boyle
For the fifth year, Port Washington's farm-to-table restaurant, Twisted Willow, hosted their Harvest Dinner, a six-course extravaganza featuring food from local producers, as well as Twisted Willow's own farm, benefiting the Ozaukee Family Sharing Food Pantry.
The restaurant was closed on Saturday, October 21st, to accommodate this special meal, which has grown so much in popularity that two seatings were offered: one at 5 p.m. and one at 7:45 p.m. The dinner is served over a leisurely pace, and guests may choose whether to include a pairing.
The First Course was a Gorgonzola Dome; a blend of gorgonzola and mascarpone cheeses served with pears, Little Mountain Apiaries honey, crushed hazelnuts, dried cherries, and a housemade rosemary cracker paired with Cynar Spritz, a bitter Italian liqueur made from artichokes that was complex, but still light and refreshing.
The Second Course was an excellent Wild Mushroom Chowder, featuring locally foraged wild mushrooms and TW Farm's rainbow chard, as well as fingerling potatoes, brandy cream, and a topping of walnut gremolata paired with a Pozi Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
A Grilled Plum Salad with frisee, arugula, baby spinach, local dried honey crisp apples, roasted pecans with a sherry vinaigrette and topped with local Marieke young gouda, from Thorpe, WI, made for a sweet and delicious Third Course, paired with a New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest.
A seared Alaskan halibut was served with TW Farm's roasted poblano creamed corn and delicata squash puree, carrot top, parsley oil, local bacon, and micro-cilantro, and paired with an Alain Normand Macon La Roche Vineuse for the Fourth Course.
A refreshing Palette Cleanser of Lemon Italian Ice with lavender and orange zest was made by The Amazing Ice Cream Co. in Port Washington, which is a recent venture by the owners of the Chocolate Chisel.
The Fifth Course was a roasted red deer loin, served with parsnip and yukon potato puree and a lingonberry demi-glaze. A little formed mound of locally foraged miatake mushroom bread pudding, which was reminiscent of turkey stuffing, and brown sugar baby carrots were served alongside, and this dish was paired with M. Chapoulier Petite Ruche - a sharp, peppery red.
Finally, the dessert: a warm TW Farm kabocha squash and olive oil cake, which was similar to a pumpkin bread, topped with The Amazing Ice Cream Co.'s Ginger Ice Cream and candied pumpkin seeds - the combination of which can only be described as "amazing." This was paired with a Mocha Manhattan, which had a wonderful chocolaty scent, but was quite strong.
As usual, Chef Dan Wiken and the team are masters at combining flavors, and the attention to detail - from food to drinks to decor - is outstanding. The staff are so inviting, and the restaurant has such a warm, indulgent ambiance, particularly with these large community dinners. If you missed your chance at the Harvest Dinner this year, I strongly encourage you to make your reservations for the next one. My advice: arrive hungry, or you will definitely run out of room before you hit dessert!