Last Thursday night, I attended an event that was right up my alley. The event was a collaboration between Backyard Farms and Neptune Oyster. Backyard Farms is known for its tomatoes and Neptune Oyster for its lobster (and, yes, oysters). Throughout the evening I learned all about Backyard Farms and sampled some awesome salads made with Backyard Farms tomatoes, prepared by chef Michael Serpa of Neptune Oyster.
The evening began with information about Backyard Farms and a tomato tasting. Well, actually, the evening began with wine. So after I had a glass of rose in hand, I listened to Pete Lewis, VP of marketing at Backyard Farms, talk about the company.
Here's what I learned:
- Backyard Farms is located in Madison, Maine.
- They grow three kinds of tomatoes: tomatoes on the vine, beefsteak, and cocktail.
- They grow tomatoes year-round and ensure you'll get the same great-tasting tomato in January as you will in July.
- The personal gardeners at Backyard Farms each tend to a specific row of plants and are responsible for those plants from blossom to harvest.
- Backyard Farms provides more than 200 jobs in the community, with competitive wages and benefits, something that is very unusual for tomato growers.
- Backyard Farms' tomatoes are sold at Hannaford's, Shaw's, Whole Foods, and small independent grocers... but only as far away as a day's drive from where they're grown. Forty percent of the tomatoes grown never leave Maine, and 80% never leave New England.
Something really neat that I learned about the tomatoes on the vine (that I've been doing wrong all this time) is that you should eat the top tomato (called the king tomato) first and work down to the bottom of the vine. I always take the bottom tomato because it's the easiest one to pull off. The top tomato ripens first, so it's ready to use first.
After the tomato tasting, we gathered around to watch chef Michael Serpa prepare the lobster caprese salad, a popular summer addition to Neptune Oyster's menu.
The salad consists of lobster, shallots, chives, salt and pepper, fresh squeezed lemon, Greek olive oil, torn basil leaves, fresh mozzarella, and Backyard Farms tomatoes.
Serpa discovered Backyard Farms tomatoes when he ran out of tomatoes one afternoon and ran across the street to grab some. He was impressed with the flavor and quality of Backyard Farms tomatoes and has been using them ever since.
While the salad looked tasty enough to eat right out of the bowl, Serpa plated it with some grilled bread and micro greens, making it look even more mouthwatering.
And then he got to work preparing another salad for us to try.
This one featured white Spanish anchovies, radishes, and an olive tapenade.
After he finished his demo, Serpa headed into the other room to plate up the salads for all of us to try.
Finally, it was time to dig in!
With the use of Backyard Farms tomatoes and other bright, vibrant ingredients, Serpa really captured the essence of summer. I loved both salads and especially loved how the flavors soaked into the bread too.
Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods, so I was definitely in my glory the whole evening.
Backyard Farms was kind enough to send us all home with some tomatoes (cocktail and on the vine), Filippo Berio olive oil, a tomato-shaped cutting board, Maine sea salt, and a serrated knife (for cutting our tomatoes).
This event was complimentary, but as always my opinions are my own. I was already a fan of both Backyard Farms tomatoes and Neptune Oyster.
Have you ever tried Backyard Farms tomatoes or been to Neptune Oyster?