By now you know I’m a foodie.
I love trying new dining experiences and experimenting with new recipes. I also make an effort to watch my diet and make healthier options when possible. If you’re a fan of organic and healthier eating, I think you will really enjoy my new find. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner at Pocono Organics. It was a spot I hadn’t heard of before, but one I’m sure to visit again.
Pocono Organics is a certified organic farm with a market, café, and event spaces. It is the concept of Ashley Walsh, the granddaughter of Rose and Doc Mattioli, founders of Pocono Raceway. If you’ve been to the raceway, Pocono Organics is located just across the street on Long Pond Road. The farm produces organic foods through regenerative agricultural practices. This type of farming aims to reverse climate change by enriching the soil, improving the water cycle, and enhancing the ecosystem. I got to speak to Ashley the night I attended the dinner. She told me they are one of the largest regenerative farms in North America at 381 acres. I was impressed that we had access to quality organic products so close to home. In addition to the outdoor acreage, there is more than 38,000 square feet of greenhouse growing space to produce crops year round. There are plans to add an additional 80,000-plus square feet of greenhouse space over the next couple of years.
In addition to numerous outdoor crops, the greenhouses held plants in various stages of growth to provide produce year round. This included random heirloom and ancient varieties of tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant, potatoes, carrots, and herbs among others. You can purchase fresh produce and other products in the farm market. When I visited, I came home with organic eggplant, tomatoes, avocado, and fresh ginger. They also sell organic CBD products, including creams and lip balms, which they produce themselves from hemp grown onsite. The market includes a café that is open for breakfast and lunch on certain days.
What impressed me when I attended the dinner was the taste and quality of the food. Everything was extremely fresh and innovative. A sampling of what we were served included falafel dusted cauliflower, house-made gnocchi with braised greens and roasted turnips, braised short rib over root vegetable puree, and apple pie with mascarpone ice cream.
The inventive menus are the creation of a talented young chef. Lindsay McClain grew up in the area and worked in hospitality at the racetrack when she was younger. She began her culinary career in Las Vegas, then worked in Philadelphia before moving back to the area. Lindsay also appeared on the hit Food Network TV show “Chopped.” How lucky for our area that she made the decision to return home to raise a family.
Getting back to dinner. It was held in one of the unique event spaces onsite. A long room that opened into greenhouses filled with squash, corn, bibb lettuce, amaranth, and tomatoes. I was struck by the magnitude of this farm to fork experience as I glanced around at the fresh produce used to prepare it. While Pocono Organics is not open for dinner, they have both indoor and outdoor spaces available for special events and hold many of their own events as well. In fact, my husband doesn’t know it yet, but I think my next visit will be for an upcoming Date Night Cooking Class. In addition to cooking classes, they offer wellness classes, children’s events and seasonal festivals. I also heard they just planted for a pick-your-own berry patch next year, which will feature blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
Pocono Organics was scheduled to open right before the coronavirus shut businesses down in March. They built an online store for takeout in only ten days so they could begin to do business offering ready to make and to-go meals. Take-out meals are still a big portion of their business today. Ashley’s family also owns a quaint 56-room hotel next to the farm called The Village at Pocono. She told me her family felt it was an important part of attracting visitors. Many of the rooms come with kitchens, which is an ideal fit for Pocono Organics’ farm to room service. They deliver organic meal kits that can be prepared easily right in room. In the future, they hope to utilize the hotel for health and wellness retreats. I look forward to what new things the changing seasons bring for visitors of Pocono Organics. Enjoy this roasted chicken recipe courtesy of chef Lindsay McClain, Pocono Organics.
Calendula Roasted Chicken
Calendula, also known as marigold, has flavors that range from spicy to bitter to tangy. The flavor and color give it the nickname “poor man’s saffron.”
• 4 pound whole chicken
• ¼ cup olive oil
• ¼ cup garlic, chopped
• ¼ cup calendula petals, chopped
• 2 tablespoons thyme, picked & chopped
• ¼ cup parsley chopped
• 1 lemon zested
• 2 teaspoons paprika
• 2 tablespoons salt
• 2 teaspoons pepper
* Save the zested lemon and 6 sprigs of thyme to put inside the carcass of the chicken.
• Preheat the oven to 425 F
• Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Pat chicken dry; rub the marinade all over the chicken skin and under the skin. Tie the legs together and tuck the wing tips behind the breast. Place zested and halved lemon and thyme inside the chicken.
• Roast chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes until internal temperature in between leg and thigh is 160 F or the juices run clear. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.