Ranch Dinner

As much as I like the idea of farm-to-table events, in reality, they can often be a bit precious. At times, they seem to be trying to be more than they need to be, and this leads to farm dinners that are upscale in a way that seems at odds with the realities of farming, or events that feel more like places to see-and-be-seen rather than the chance to enjoy a meal close to the source.

So when I went to one of Della Fattoria’s ranch dinners in Petaluma last weekend, what stood out for me was that it was exactly what it claimed to be: it was dinner at the Weber family’s ranch.

della-dinner It wasn’t a showcase for some new chef from the City, and it didn’t appear to involve a bunch of Chez Panisse alums. The space was beautiful, but it didn’t look like it was vying to get on Pinterest or catering to the latest design trends. And the dinner wasn’t used a marketing opportunity for Della. We weren’t urged to buy anything extra. We were welcomed, fed, and left to make the rest of evening what we wanted it to be.

We got there late, driving up (and trying to stay awake) after the farmers market, and when we arrived, everyone seemed to be doing their own thing. Some people sat at their table drinking wine and socializing with their friends, while others walked around the grounds, checking out the sheep or the chickens or the nearby gardens. Since Della’s bread bakery is right on the ranch, some people watched the bread come out of the ovens, while others snacked on the bread over at the appetizer table. A group of people sat on an upholstered sofa and chairs that were set up outside around an outdoor fireplace. Dogs of all sizes ran around (one came up and licked my arm during dinner).

della-ovensEveryone was drawn back at the table when the food started to come out: first, a green salad full of summer produce, then a platter of roast pork surrounded by grilled peaches and an enormous dish of potatoes au gratin. We passed around cutting boards that held loaves of still-warm bread from the bakery. (Meals are always an issue at my family’s annual Tahoe trip and the meal at Della was a reminder of what group meals can be. Of course professional cooks and staff also help).

After dinner, slices of galette were put out (with a bowl of extra whipping cream) as well as the fixings for s’mores.  Most people left soon after they’d had dessert and coffee, but Mr. WholeHog and I had been invited to stay overnight in one of Della’s adorable little cottages (yet another example of how all good things in our life seem to come from the farmers market), and eventually we were the only ones still sitting outside in front of one of the fireplaces. The staff urged us to finish up the s’mores (like we need much encouragement) and after the tables were cleared, one of the servers came by to make a few s’mores and to keep the fire going for us.


The evening was full of moments like this, full of small gestures that made me feel like family rather than a visitor. And it continued even as we prepared to turn in for the night. One of the Weber’s reminded us to get some eggs and a loaf of bread at the bakery so that we’d have something for breakfast the next morning.


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