January Field Notes: Back to Its Roots

The kitchen at Longhaul Farm in Holderness hums all year ‘round. Lorri Downs, her sister Sally and gourmet chef Michael Lewko collaborate on a menu of constant new creations that include savory quiches, lasagnas, slow-roasted ribs, as well as jams and jellies. But just out of the oven, it’s the chicken potpies that command the most attention this time of year.

“The potpies are a piece of the action, part of the madness,” says Downs. She’s referring to the frenetic pace at Longhaul — so named because rebuilding the place was a long haul.

Neighbors and random travelers (they spot the “Public Welcome” sign) who stop by for the summer-long Friday night barbecue or Saturday morning farm kitchen breakfast never seem to leave without hands full of potpies, as soon as they’ve cooled that is.

Visitors come to explore the 30-acre farm, walk a medicinal herb trail, play with Tucker the sheepdog or merely marvel at the resurgence of a farm that laid fallow for more than 60 years. If there’s ever a setting for a fairytale organic farm with renovated farmhouse, newly-built post-and-beam country store and dining pavilion, this is it.

“We’re trying to turn people on to an adventure,” says Downs.

The potpies are a twist on an old business principle: Find a need and fill it. In this case it’s: Find what New Englanders have a profound culinary memory about and bake it to perfection with local ingredients and a rich, golden filling from a top-notch chef.

“Mom inspired Sally and me,” says Downs. She grew up on a dairy farm in Belmont with six siblings. “Every night mom would make something wonderful that would bring the family together. We’re bringing back that wholesome feeling, sharing that experience with people from our farm and other local farms.”

“I’ve taken it back to its roots,” says Lewko. “The stock is from scratch, the use of fresh herbs, the organic vegetables, especially in late summer when you’re literally picking and using it on a daily basis.” The potpie, which serves two, has a rich, creamy, herb-infused, farm fresh taste. Each vegetable stands out and complements pleasing bites of free-range white meat chicken. The top crust is light, crisp and memorable.

While a few ingredients come from a little farther away in the wintertime, carrots, onions, potatoes and herbs are from Longhaul. “It’s definitely a fall and winter dish with the root vegetables, so it fits nicely into cold weather foods,” says Lewko, former chef at William Tell in Waterville Valley.

“We started the kitchen with the dream to create products out of our own food,” says Downs. After a sigh she adds, “We just have too many fun ideas.”

“It’s our way of creating our own market and getting people to come to the farm,” says Downs' husband, H.O. Lenentine. “We’re just hard workers,” says Lenentine, who nonetheless marvels at his wife’s energy level.

Always on the go, Downs and Lenentine have begun selling their potpies at local stores in Plymouth, Sandwich and Waterville Valley.

Pot pies $9.99, serves 2

For special orders and menu call (603) 968-9381

or visit www.longhaulfarm.com.

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