I don’t know too many people who work harder than Jody and Luisa Somers, the farmers and artisans of the delightful Dancing Ewe Farm in Granville, NY. Already busy raising their family, tending to their sheep, making outstanding cheeses and salumi at the farm and olive oil and other delights at Luisa’s family’s property in Tuscany, and selling their products at farmers’ markets from NYC to Saratoga, they have also begun importing and selling wines from small scale Italian producers and preparing bi-weekly Italian dinners and lunches for the public in their barn. I recently had the opportunity to visit the farm twice and both visits were quite magical in their own ways.
The first visit was to one of their Saturday night dinners. We were taken as a surprise by our good friends, Tom and Amy, and what a lovely surprise it was. The country evening began with a glass of a lovely Tuscan Rosato wine that segued into a tour of the sheep dairy farm and the caseificio (cheese-making operation). The farm defines the word “bucolic” as it is ringed by multi-toned green hills, while the evening’s lullaby comes from the mellifluous chiming of the Sardinian bells around the necks of the sheep out in the field. We caught up to the ovine creatures as they began to make their way from the lush and nutritious fields into the safety of the barn. Jody showed us the milking operation then brought everyone to see the cheese-making facility and the aging caves, where-in the age-old custom of using wooden boards remains proudly in use.
It was time to return to the rustic, but comfortable and clean barn for dinner. our friends and I sat at a communal table with two other couples whom we had just met. As is typical, the evening wore on and our inhibitions began to be washed away by Dancing Ewe’s fine Italian wines, conversation flowed around the table with new friends made. It didn’t hurt that each of us started with our own plate of antipasti, filled with the farm’s luscious products including marinated olives, sun dried tomatoes, a variety of their cheeses, their truffled ricotta, a vegetable frittata, and to my great delight, their world-class salumi. Relaxed and delicious, this would make a great start for any meal.
The meal continued with rich, creamy canneloni with ricotta and funghi. It is no accident that Mario Batali’s NYC restaurants, especially Del Posto, use Dancing Ewe Farm’s ricotta. It is the real deal made from sheep’s milk, like it is over large swaths of Italy. It is fresh, richly flavored and absolutely delicious, suitable for dessert as much as for savory eating.
The main course consisted of sumptuous beef involtini paired with Italian style peas, that brought back many childhood memories of my mother’s peas. One might expect that a sheep dairy farm would sell lamb. After all, the nearby and equally fabulous Three Corner Field Farm does just that. Not so for the Somers. They ship off their male lambs and raise the female lambs born on the farm. The only product that they make and sell that utilizes lamb meat is their fabulous merguez, which is used in NYC by Daniel Boulud. Most of their salumi is actually made from pork from nearby farms. In addition they make a small amount of outstanding beef bresaola, also from meat from small nearby farms. Thus, the slightly surprising presence of beef rather than lamb as the main course. With beef this flavorfully prepared, it was not a disappointment.
Dessert came back to the ricotta, but not simply served as is with a little fruit and honey as I have been known to do at my own home. Luisa, who does all of the cooking with the help of some family and a few employees, made a marvelous ricotta panna cotta served with berries. The recipe that she used was given to her by Gina dePalma, the former Executive Pastry Chef from Babbo. It was simple, smooth and quite delicious. Everyone left that dinner under a cloudless, starlit night satisfied by a lovely, rustic dinner.
My next visit to Dancing Ewe followed shortly after under quite different circumstances. I had received a communication from the Michelin two-star chef, Matt Lightner of Atera in NYC, one of my favorite restaurants, asking me if I could give him some advice for a visit to the North Country. He was hoping to come up with his Chef de Cuisine, Jaime Young and the restaurant’s resident horticulturist, Ian Rothman, to recharge their batteries and gleam some new inspiration for their work. I was more than happy to take the lead and make some arrangements for them, which included a Monday mid-afternoon visit to Dancing Ewe.
What was originally supposed to be just snacks, turned into a delicious and fully satisfying Italian country lunch fueled by more of the wonderful items in their antipasto, a bit of pasta bathed in their wonderful olive oil and plenty of wine.
Jody took the time from his busy day to make sure that they saw and understood the various facets of their fascinating and beautiful farm.
In addition to seeing, tasting and learning, Chef Lightner also found himself with a new friend, the Somers’ young son, Matteo.
Dinner and/or lunch at the farm along with the tour is a worthy destination for anyone looking to get away and recharge. The food reflects its rural nature and Italian roots. It is simply prepared, depending on quality ingredients, and served with love and respect. It also happens to be delicious and satisfying.
Please visit my flick’r Photoset for more photos from Dancing Ewe Farm.