For the last five years, Topeka resident Betty Jane Moore has celebrated her birthday with dinner at her favorite restaurant: Pachamamas in downtown Lawrence.
This year, she's turning 100, and though the big day officially falls on Feb. 24, Moore and her family have scheduled reservations at Pachamamas for Saturday.
The iconic Lawrence eatery will close its doors for good this Valentine's Day, and the soon-to-be centenarian was more than willing to have her birthday dinner there a few weeks early, says Hilary Edwards, Moore's granddaughter.
"We've been calling it bittersweet," Edwards says."It's so wonderful to celebrate her birthday there, but to never be able to go again... What are we going to do next year when she turns 101?"
Edwards, who started the tradition when Moore turned 95, says the staff at Pachamamas has always treated her grandmother "like royalty." Former Pachamamas pastry chef Jay Tovar-Ballagh, now at Hank Charcuterie, made her a special dessert every year and always stepped out of the kitchen to wish Moore a happy birthday.
On Saturday, Ken Baker will also create a special dish for Moore based on her favorite flavors (probably a mixed grill of beef, pork and salmon, he says) as will current Pachamamas pastry chef Sam Hupp.
Knowing that Moore and her family chose to celebrate her 100th birthday at his restaurant, despite its closing weeks before the actual day, is "amazing," Baker says.
"It's difficult for me to hear that, but at the same time, it makes me feel pretty good about what we've been doing the last 15 years," he says. "From the outside looking in, I've realized there's a lot of people who really care about this place."
Think “agrotourism,” and pick-your-own apples and winery tours probably come to mind, at least in the Midwest. But another take on it is becoming increasingly popular (and hard to get tickets to): fine dining on the farm.
Gieringers Orchard has scheduled its second Feast in the Fields event for 6 p.m. July 13 at the orchard, which has an Edgerton address but lies on the Douglas County-Johnson County line. Orchard owner Melanie Gieringer said today that tickets are still available for the event, which takes place outdoors between rows of peach trees.
In Weston, Mo., Green Dirt Farm has already sold out all but one of its wildly popular farm-to-table dinners through October. Each features acclaimed Kansas City area chefs, including Pachamama’s chef/owner Ken Baker on Oct. 5 (Yes, that one’s sold out, too. Sorry.).
River Creek Farms near Manhattan also has played host to dinners in its barn and cornfield — where one of Baker’s dinners earlier this month filled up as well.
The Gieringers Orchard dinner will feature Kansas wine and an all-local, four-course menu, also prepared by Baker. Tickets are $100 each (includes gratuity) and can be purchased online at gieringersorchard.com or by calling 913-893-9626.
Gieringer said it’s hard to put her finger on exactly what’s so special about the experience, which attracted about 50 people last year.
“It’s not every day you get to actually have all local food and it’s actually eaten out in our orchard,” she said. “It’s so neat.”
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Pachamama's executive chef and owner Ken Baker is preparing the menu for a four-course en plein air dinner next month on a Kansas farm.
The fourth-generation River Creek Farm, about nine miles east of Manhattan, will host its annual Feast of the Fields event June 8 in a growing cornfield. The event aims to promote awareness of agriculture by serving meats, produce and wines from the Flint Hills region in a natural setting.
The cost is $100 per person. Event organizers say any proceeds will be reinvested into educational agrotourism programs and to assist local culinary students.
For more information or to reserve a seat, go online to feastofthefields.net.