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Setting the Farmer's Table
Too good to visit just once, Krause Berry Farms and Estate Fruit Winery in Langley once again hosted the annual Feast of Fields celebration en plein air in September.
This year though, guests passed beneath the archway of something entirely fresh – essentially the largest Farmers Table in the Fraser Valley.
Towering high above the vines, a rather massive white table awaits along with a pair of similarly sized chairs. It is an unabashed call to table and the good things in life. In this case, to join “Wolfgang at the Farmers Table”– as the final lettering around its edge will read.
For Chef Wolfgang L. Schmelcher, comfort, food and family have long been synonymous. His parents first met in a kitchen and he met his wife working in Malaysia with W Hotels. Wherever his travels have taken him, the kitchen has always felt like home.
For more than 25 years, those kitchens grew increasingly larger and more complex, as did his role in managing luxury hotels and restaurants worldwide.
From Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe to the hotels of W, Hyatt, Intercontinental and Marriott throughout Asia Pacific, work first carried Schmelcher to Canada in 1998. He developed a definite appreciation for the West Coast – and a fascination with one particular U-pick farm in the Fraser Valley.
Since returning to Canada and making Walnut Grove home in 2010, he has made some ‘berry’ good friends on that farm.
Krause Berry Farms has been a popular destination for nearly four decades. With the addition of its recently launched Estate Fruit Winery, replete with cooking school kitchen, owners Alf and Sandee Krause’s 200-acre-plus family farm has never been busier – or more fun.
What began with Alf planting a single acre of strawberries in 1974, and Sandee’s creative flair for baking, has blossomed. And while the bright blue and white Krause barns catch the eye, it is what’s within that feeds the soul.
Their farm store serves fresh homage to smart homesteading with a plethora of products, ranging from berry pies, preserves and ice creams to a savoury selection of pickled pleasantries.
With tractor rides for kids and adults alike highlighting the changing seasons, as well as an apiary, the Krause Farms commitment to ethical farming is equalled only by its ethos.
“Everything here has to be fun. A winery and a cooking school just seemed to go together,” says Sandee Krause. “We knew we wanted a quality offering around a Farmers Table, and knew we had a match with Schmelcher. People connect with that passion in the kitchen.”
Never doing things by half measures, the Krauses brought aboard winemaker Sandra Kiechle in the spring of 2012. The new cooking kitchen just off the main wine-tasting room opens onto the steel tanks in which the fruits of her labours are transformed.
The launch portfolio of their “Farmers to Boot” fruit wines range from dry to dessert with a bit of bubble to bring the sparkle to the table. As intended, the pairing potential has never been more imminent.
For Schmelcher, the Farmers Table cooking classes, slated to begin on Saturday nights in October, are a chance to reconnect people with their passion for cooking – and have some fun on the farm.
In keeping with the ‘fun’ factor, the classes range widely, from back-to-basic sauces to epicurean explorations of personal favourites such as Turkish cuisine.
“We’re going to keep it to a maximum of 12 people, so that everyone is truly involved,” explains Schmelcher. “The goal is to have some good fun, make some great food and get comfortable in the kitchen.
“The reality is that we see more and more ready-made foods and people lead busy lives. Fortunately, there is a similar trend towards education about where our food comes from, and that goes hand-in-hand with local foods. With the Farmers Table, we will take a journey of many cuisines using local ingredients.”
When asked about the menus for the classes, Schmelcher smiles and shares with a shake of his head, “The best chefs in the world make the menu for lunch in the morning.”