Honoring Time, Place, and Creative Exchange Around the Table at Ravenwood
Five years ago, Ravenwood owners Chris Lanier and Dana McClure grew enough food to accommodate a table set for twenty in their Williamsburg loft space. They loaded up their Subaru and hauled produce from their small vegetable farm in Ulster County’s Olivebridge to showcase their produce and small-batch products to an intimate group of friends. It was a dinner that begat many dinners as word spread of their delectable bounty and downright magical presentation. Friends told friends, and those friends brought new friends to the next one; it became a makeshift supper club of sorts, a reputable dinner series that eventually paved the way for the couple’s monthly harvest dinners up in the Shawangunk Mountains, the first of which occurred this past Memorial Day Weekend in their newly restored 1850’s dairy barn in Kerhonkson, just five miles down the road from their humble plot of land.
Today, Ravenwood is less of a business or traditional farm than it is a collaborative project between Chris, an experienced chef, grower, and food stylist, and Dana, an award-winning visual artist and graphic designer. “Ravenwood has been a way for us to figure out how we might integrate our professional lives and passions in food and design,” explains Dana. “Our aim is to create a space that celebrates New York State’s distinct seasonality and to connect the urban center of New York City to its rural outposts — much like the Hudson Estuary itself that flows two ways.”
After three years of renovations, the couple opened their barn doors on back-to-back evenings at the start of their growing season. Once bare and covered in sawdust, the centuries-old structure came to life as locals and visitors gathered to toast the start of summer and learn more about the area’s rich agricultural history and creative revitalization by way of plated dishes expertly prepared by Chris and a small team of upstate cooks. Utilizing the best ingredients from the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Finger Lakes regions, as well as homegrown produce from their own farm, the dinner was a stunning tribute to the hard work that happens out in the field and shined a light on the remarkable talent that continues to surface in the ever-growing communities of upstate New York.
For this opening season, Ravenwood will be hosting ticketed barn dinners one weekend per month from May through October. With invites going out approximately two months before each event, their next gathering is scheduled for Friday, August 25th and Saturday, Aug 26th. Visit their website’s dinner listing to reserve a seat at the table and be sure to follow Ravenwood on Instagram for the latest updates.
“The first dinner party we had in Brooklyn felt like friends coming over for supper. Although there were formal elements — five plated courses, a sommelier, and menu introductions — guests were literally in our living room,” says Dana. “We hope that the barn creates that same intimate feeling of coming to our home for dinner. In Brooklyn, people stayed late laughing and talking around a table dripping with candle wax and stained with wine. These dinners had that same feeling. Although the guest list was bigger, and some faces were unfamiliar, we looked around the room at the end of the evening and saw smiling faces connecting over food and a shared experience.”
The barn’s natural interior provided an unforgettable setting for Ravenwood’s first ticketed event. András Gipp of Hudson Workshop handcrafted a 26-foot long white maple dining table to serve as the barn’s centerpiece for years to come. “Supporting Chris and Dana’s mission of bringing a community of creatives together over incredible, locally sourced food feels like the ultimate success,” says András, who traveled from Hurley with his wife, cookbook author Sarah Copeland. “That’s always my goal: to create pieces that people can build memories around; pieces that support and inspire moments and experiences. It’s the humans on the other end that turn my work into a living, breathing part of a beautiful life, and that is the joy and purpose in every moment I spend in the workshop.”
“I enjoy the challenge of cooking with fire,” says Chris, who likes to mix the rustic nature of cooking over fire with the techniques he learned working in fine dining restaurants. “It’s a learning curve, but exciting and very satisfying.”
While dinner was being prepared over the open-fire grills, guests drifted in and out of the barn sipping on ladled cocktails of cider punch with rhubarb, apple, and rosemary. The cider was made and fermented by Westwind Orchard, a certified organic apple orchard located minutes away in Accord.
“These upstate barn dinners are more refined, but more rustic at the same time. Guests can hopefully feel a greater connection to the food on their plate which is sourced from our own farm and neighboring growers within an hour of the barn location,” says Dana. “We’re often tweaking and refining our dishes right up until the last day to take advantage of what’s coming up in the garden.”
Dana took on the task of flower arranging for the dinner, making selections from ten greenhouses full of unusual cut flowers on Cedar Farm in Ghent. As the sun went down, dripping beeswax tapers from Greentree Home Candle in Treadwell set the barn aglow, adding magic to the evening.
The five-course meal began with a starter dish of chicken liver pâté, duck egg salad, pickled radishes, sauerkraut, cured meats, Betty Acres cheeses, and bread made by friend and dinner guest Tait Simpson.
A brief introduction to the menu and wine selection was followed by a series of savory courses that made use of Chris and Dana’s homegrown produce as well as meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables from their neighboring farmers. “One thing we love is driving out to meet with our purveyors to pick up wine, meat, and surplus produce,” says Dana. “To hear the process behind their growing methods and pride for their product is always such a pleasure. It makes cooking with, and serving their product and our own, all the more enjoyable to know first-hand the love that went into its nurturing.”
Dishes like smoked pork belly with crispy Caledonia kidney beans and baby kale paired beautifully with wine from Eminence Road Farm Winery in Long Eddy and Ravines Wine Cellar, a winery set in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country.
A crisp salad of asparagus, radish, and spring garlic quark showed off the bright colors of the season.
Frida Kristinsdottir and Emily Lock worked with Chris to slow cook lamb breast asado-style, which was then served atop coal roasted squash, polenta, and spring herbs. “I love working with Lee and Georgia at Kinderhook Farm for meat,” says Chris. “They’re really thoughtful and take the time to answer all my questions. They give their animals a great life on a beautiful nurturing farm, and they make sure that once the animal leaves the property, it’s transported and killed as humanely as possible, and that it returns to them processed and packaged with great care. The quality and flavor of the meat is exactly what I’m looking for.”
Guests lingered over coffee from The Ship and the Whale and creamy maple flan “made with last year’s apples and this year’s rhubarb” before saying their long goodbyes.
“The most exciting part of these dinners by far comes at the end of each evening,” says Dana. “To see the barn fill up with such gracious, creative, and inspiring people, all gathering to celebrate our region and the community growing within it, is truly a gift. Watching old friends — who attended our first teeny gatherings in Brooklyn years ago — and new friends we’ve made upstate, exchange bouts of laughter with unfamiliar faces in the crowd was such a treat. We finished the weekend feeling so humbled and honored to have such an outpouring of support.”