Local Chefs Team with Churchview for Farm-Fresh ExperienceOct 01, 2016 02:06PM ● By Jennifer Monahan
Date nights and typical evenings out with friends often include dinner and a movie. For anyone seeking a unique and creative alternative, Tara Rockacy’s farm dinners and happy hours at Churchview Farm might be the perfect answer.
A self-proclaimed “accidental farmer,” Rockacy spent the first 13 years of her professional life working in various roles for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. While she often planted small container gardens or roof gardens in various apartments over the years, Rockacy grew food as a hobby—not as her livelihood.
That all changed in 2007. Rockacy’s desire to purchase a home intersected serendipitously with an opportunity to purchase just under 10 acres of land from her family. Located slightly south of Pittsburgh, Churchview Farm required two years of effort to restore it to workable land. Rockacy accomplished that feat while keeping her day job; she continued to work full-time at the library until 2011. Today Rockacy is a third-generation family farmer who has come up with an innovative way to introduce others to the pleasures of fresh local food.
The summer farm dinner series started four years ago and is as much about an incredible experience as it is about amazing food. Rockacy conceived the idea along with her then-partner Kate Romane, currently chef/owner of popular Pittsburgh restaurant e2.
Each dinner includes a tour of the farm and a cocktail to welcome guests, a five-to-eight-course meal created by an area chef, drink pairings (wine, cocktail or local beer) for each course, tax and gratuity. Meals feature ingredients from Churchview Farm with an emphasis on sustainable, seasonal and locally sourced items.
“I’m lucky to work with some of the best chefs in the city,” Rockacy said. Indeed, the list of individuals who craft each dinner reads like a Who’s Who of Pittsburgh’s best chefs. Curtis Gamble of Grit & Grace and Station fame, Brian Pekarcik (Spoon, Willow, Grit & Grace), Chris Bonfili (Avenue B), Eli Wahl (Eleven), Leah Lizarondo (The Brazen Kitchen) and Monique Ruvolo (Independent Brewing Company) are just some of the well-regarded chefs who collaborate with Rockacy.
“The chefs get excited about the farm dinners,” Rockacy explained. While the chef responsible for a particular dinner receives a small stipend, Rockacy said that they do the events because they really enjoy them.
Rockacy added an outdoor kitchen last winter, which sits adjacent to fields growing pole beans, root vegetables, raspberries and an herb garden. The chef is able to interact directly with the guests, and patrons can ask questions about ingredients and how the meal is prepared.
“The experience helps close the gap between where food comes from and the people who are eating it,” Rockacy said.
Space is limited to 48 people per dinner. Tickets cost $115 per person and sell out within days of being available. Rockacy recently added new happy hour events at $40 per ticket to make a farm experience accessible for more people.
Churchview Farm happy hours are more casual than the farm dinner series and can accommodate between 85 and 100 people per event. Guests are encouraged to explore the farm while sipping local beers and cocktails. Multiple snack courses and small plates are created by many of the same talented chefs who partner with Rockacy on the farm dinners. Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream is on the menu, and Handmade Arcade provides hands-on activities like scavenger hunts and farm-themed crafts.
While both the 2016 dinner and happy hour series are sold out, tickets for the 2017 dinner series go on sale in December. Happy hour tickets launch in the spring. Either option promises an engaging evening—and a truly uncommon experience. More information is available at http://churchviewfarmpgh.squarespace.com.