Supper clubs and dinner series where the chefs cook off the same land they farm are, quite literally, growing in popularity and this historic Michigan farmstead is proving you can do pop-up dinners and weddings all in one expansive place. Tucked away in Washtenaw County, Zingerman’s Cornman Farms is a working 42-acre farm with an old farmhouse, a big, historic barn and a seasonal open-air tent led by England native, Kieron Hales, the founder and executive chef of Cornman Farms.
The farmstead started hosting seasonal dinner events last summer and has been picking up speed since. We recently got the scoop from Kieron about the gardens and options for private dining, weddings and more.
Zingerman's Cornman Farms has so many amazing venue spaces - can you give us a rundown of each?
Cornman Farms is a historic property and working farm with 42 acres of land and two beautifully restored structures dating back to the 1800s.
The white farmhouse was built in 1834 and truly feels like you’re walking into someone’s home from the second you step foot in the door. Greeted by the open kitchen plan, you will also find a cozy lounge with wood-burning fireplaces as well as a full bridal party suite including a balcony, lounge area and hair and makeup room making this the ideal space to great ready for your big event.
The Red Barn, originally built in 1837, was completely restored to its historical glory when we acquired the property in 2012 and began renovations. We ended up taking the entire structure down and putting it back together piece by piece with the help of a local architect renowned for preserving historic barns. The now climate controlled structure features two levels, both with wood-burning fireplaces, and the upper level has a gabled roof and beautiful windows overlooking the grounds and the lower level has a built-in bar and a walk-out patio.
At the start of high season, we also raise a white peak pole tent pavilion that offers a beautiful setting overlooking the grounds. We recently transitioned our agricultural fields into a large chef's’ garden, my absolute favorite part of the property. I love to walk out the kitchen door and peruse the garden to gain inspiration for my next menu.
How do you tie the farm into events you host?
Whether it’s an intimate wedding with a five course farm-to-table meal or a private anniversary dinner showcasing the best of our winter root vegetables or a large wedding with custom cocktails featuring our homemade simple syrups with my mum’s rhubarb from the garden... it’s all a part of what we do. We love to incorporate our surroundings into the stories we tell through food and drink.
Tell us about these seasonal dinners :)
We launched our Seasonal Dinner series last year to highlight the best of the season’s bounty while also promoting our private dining offerings. It has been an incredible way to gather and welcome the community to the farm and show them who we are and what we’re all about.
We launched our first seasonal dinner last summer with the help of Chateau d’Esclans, the French winery who produces the cult favorite Whispering Angel. They paired the four rosés in their portfolio with our summer menu starring pickled watermelon salad, braised tarragon chicken and foraged elderflower tempura popcorn. Working with Jen House Design, we transformed the dinner into a rosé dreamworld.
Our fall dinner celebrated our newly redesigned garden courtesy of Stephen Lamberti of Rio Rosa… We transitioned our agricultural fields into a large chef’s garden last spring and added raised beds so it’s super easy for me to walk out the kitchen door and pick the produce I need for whatever the menu calls for that day.
Our recent winter dinner highlighted the coziness of our historic barn with decadent dishes that I always turn to in the winter for a sense of comfort. The highlight was the entrée, the Filet de boeuf Albert, which is a ridiculous dish... a delectable cut of beef stuffed with truffles, foie gras, wild mushrooms, porcini stuffing and cooked in port and brandy... it is pure decadence.
Another way to experience our farm-to-table food is through our intimate weddings. In the past 18 months, we’ve noticed a significant shift towards smaller weddings with more and more of our clients interested in offering intimate experiences that prioritize high quality food and drink.
These are some of the most unique and rewarding events we host... not only because of the close relationships we form with our intimate couples along the way but also because we get to prepare a customized farm-to-table meal for them and their closest loved ones to enjoy.
What could a menu look like for a spring garden dinner party look like?
We often host intimate 10-person “Dish Development Dinners” where I present a variety of new recipes I have been testing for the upcoming season’s menu. Our current spring menu would be perfect for a garden dinner party…
- Amuse: Smokehouse Trout Toasties dressed with local Tarragon bound with sour cream and dusted with chive blossom.
- Appetizer: Kale salad with flash pickled rhubarb, Parmesan and walnuts. The rhubarb from England that we grow on property.
- Entrée: Lamb Breast Sainte Menehould served with Pea purée, Mint Jelly, New potatoes, Mustard Sprouts, Poached Beet Egg.
- Intermezzo: Trio of Turkish Delight in lemon, lavender and pistachio.
- Dessert: Seasonal trifle with local fruits, syllabub, cardamom, rhubarb and homemade ladyfingers.
What other types of events could be held in the garden for a dinner-party feel?
Why not throw a wedding ceremony or reception in the garden? It’s the perfect setting for an intimate wedding with farm-to-table fare... You can literally enjoy your meal where it was sourced. We want people to view the farm as an extension of their home. Whether it’s a birthday party, anniversary or just a celebration of friends you can host private dinners at the farm and enjoy our seasonal menus and wine pairings.
Created in partnership with Zingerman's Cornman Farms.