The inaugural Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival and BBQ Cook Off, which took place August 6-8, 2010, was by all measures a resounding success.
Friday evening’s “Lipstick on the Pig” champagne reception, held on the grounds of Rackheath House, was a relaxed and delightful affair. Mother Nature cooperated as weeks of intense heat gave way to a gorgeous, warm and dry starry evening. More than 50 people attended and surely left with vivid memories of the summer’s evening. Guests strolled through the manicured gardens, toured the elegant Rackheath House Bed and Breakfast and were refreshed by tall glasses of chilled Prosecco and Calhoun County white peach Sangria. The full bloom of the lush grounds set an impressive stage while guest chefs served up an assortment of American artisan farmstead cheeses and breads, petite lamb burgers, bison sliders, duck sliders and peach-inspired desserts – all sourced locally, of course.
Before making their way down to the Restaurant at Overlook Farm, guests strolled to the edge of the bluff near Rackheath, and from the picture perfect overlook took in the breathtaking view of the Mississippi River valley.
Friday’s dinner offered three courses which began with a trio of appetizers including a study of home-grown tomato “carpaccio” served alongside Chef Tim’s housemade mozzarella, roasted tartlet with fennel and chevre and hickory-smoked shrimp. Next came a Midwest-size portion of Newman Farm Berkshire Pork, which was delicately stuffed with aromatics and Justin’s bacon served atop rustic cornbread that was dressed in hamhock gravy and dusted with chicharrones powder. For dessert, a light Genoise with candied basil and lemon sabayon was served alongside vanilla panna cotta with fresh-from- Overlook-Farm berry compote chocolate decadence. A sublime ending to a wonderful day…. and a tantalizing teaser of the Luv Luv to come.
Saturday, the festival kicked into high gear. The sweet aroma of barbecue was everywhere as chefs set up and tended their barbecue stations. It was billed as a competition, but the real winners were the visitors and guests who were tantalized by the smells – and in some cases bartered for a tasting – of some of the best barbecue anywhere.
But it was a competition and there were actual winners. Overall first place BBQ winner was Team L’Ecole Culinaire, followed by Team King Leon and Team Ellisville Farmer Market. Team Palmer took first place in the chicken competition, Team L’Ecole Culinaire was first in chicken wings and Team King Leon won the BBQ pork ribs category.
Sweet sounds also filled the air. Guitarist, singer and songwriter Javier Mendoza thrilled the crowd with a wide variety of musical styles that added a laid-back vibe to the day. Crowds gathered periodically around a covered area, where five of the best chefs in the country provided step-by-step demonstrations of their cooking techniques. Much to the delight of Overlook Farm’s guests, it was announced that each of the demonstrated dishes would be served to them at the farm-to-table dinner planned later that evening.
The Restaurant at Overlook Farm was hopping all day long, as visitors feasted on the restaurant’s specialties of ribs and wood-fired pizza. Outside, guests relaxed on the terrace, under the cooling shade of flowering Wisteria vines. Mason jars filled with Overlook Farm Signature Mojitis, Blueberry Mojitos and Watermelon Margaritas provided the perfect antidote to the warm rays of the afternoon sun. Others wandered the grounds, including trekking up the bluff to the Overlook to get a bird’s-eye view of the swollen banks of the Mississippi River that had threatened to cancel the Luv Luv Festival only days before. Around every corner there was an unexpected surprise: Official Luv Luv t-shirts were being printed on site. There was a wonderful selection of BBQ sauces for sampling. And, of course, what summer festival is complete without a competitive game of horseshoes.
“It was a wonderfully laid-back afternoon,” said Overlook Farm general manager Chip Bradley. “The flow of the day felt natural and unplanned, just the kind of day that our guests are looking for after a long work-week. They literally left their stress at the door and gave in to a weekend that seemed to languish. It was a real celebration of the long, unusually warm Midwest summer that was coming to an end.”
Saturday came to a close with an incredible farm-to-table, multi-course dinner that could only come from Overlook Farm. The dinner was sold out, and the lucky diners who were served that night had an unforgettable meal.
Saturday’s menu offered one course from each of the six guest chefs. Each was given full reign, allowed to prepare any dish they desired, as long as it was kept in the realm of sustainability. Chip’s wine pairings were exemplary. Complimenting the subtle flavors of the scallop salad would have been a real challenge for many, but Chip scored a ten.
“The celebrity chefs we brought in had an incredible time and it showed in each course they prepared. I took great joy in selecting the wines and creating fresh-from-the-farm inspired cocktails,” Chip said. “I think we were all blown away by the experience.”
To be sure, guests of the Luv Luv weekend were blown away, as well. Thanks to weeks of intense preparation by Overlook Farm’s staff, a first-time festival is destined to become one of Overlook Farm’s signature events in years to come.