Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

By: Debra Puchalla

What do you cook when Rachael Ray's coming to dinner? That's what I asked my pal Brent Ridge when I heard Rachael Ray visited his farm to film a Food Network special, Rachael's Vacations: Farm to Table, which airs tomorrow at 11 pm EST/10 C. I'd lean on comfort, just to make myself comfortable: Something seasonal, mac-n-cheese or chili, probably. But whose? Would making my own offend? Would making hers be odd? Brent had a different approach, one I appreciate. Menus must be more clear from the outset when you spend days growing your own food and minding your own herd of goats, which beget luscious creamy goat cheese.

A few years ago Brent, a physician, blogger and all-around interesting guy, and his partner, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, parlayed their New York City love of terrace-grown tomatoes into an ex-pats' paradise Upstate called Beekman Farm. Their "experiment in seasonal living," as they call it, has become a full-on way of life, with 60 acres of land to tend, dozens of animals and 110 different kinds of heirloom veggies to sow, grow, harvest, can, freeze, pickle and share.

Brent's always cooking up something fun, but I'm sure he had a few moments of panic at the idea of entertaining Food Network.  "Sharon Springs is a very, very small town," Brent says, "and of course the news that Rachael was coming couldn't be kept a secret..."

"Rachael got her start in upstate New York," he says, "so not only were we welcoming a celebrity, but also celebrating a hometown girl who made good. Every store on Main Street was polished to a shine, and the local beauty salon worked overtime getting everyone ready." Sounds idyllic, no? You should meet Brent—this is how he speaks and really how he lives, with enthusiasm and a good spirit and a sunny outlook. You can take a virtual tour of his place here.

Rachael's visit was a ways back, in high harvest season, so Brent made a green bean slaw and welcomed Rachael and crew. He said it was a blast, and that he can't wait to see the special tomorrow. (It has to be strange to be on the other side of things, getting filmed and interviewed without knowing what will make it to air!) He'll be watching with friends. On the table? Some of the farm's first artisanal cheese, Beekman 1802 Blaak (the name comes from Dutch spelling of the color, and the color of the cheese's rind). To go with it, Brent suggests a mellow Malbec, rosemary crackers and maybe onion jam as a to-go-with, or chili pepper jelly. I loved his idea of setting out whole honeycomb to go alongside, but I don't think I can get that in my 'burbs. Still, it's nice to hear such a simple, dreamy idea and to think if I ever stop by his place like Rachael did that I might be able to enjoy some, too.

--Editorial Director Deb Puchalla

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