But the event isn’t losing any of its down-home appeal. Dinner in the Orchard is Franz’s yearly event created to raise funds for her Tess’ Community Farm Kitchen. Set in the orchard on the site where her community kitchen will be built, guests dine under the stars, enjoy live music by The Oak Street Quartet Jazz Band and afterward can pick their own grapes to take home. The dinner will be held this year on Saturday, Aug. 25 from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 8091 Balfour Road in Discovery Bay (across from The Lakes). Admission (tax deductible) is $70.
“The orchard is beautiful; people can come and pick their own grapes and enjoy the evening,” said Franz.
Dinner includes ribs and chicken prepared by John Papini, along with hors d’oevres, salad, beans, garlic bread, corn, fresh grilled vegetables donated by local farmers plus beer, wine, soda and dessert.
Franz’s vision for the nonprofit farm kitchen – named for her mother, Tess – would operate as a community co-op, allowing residents to create pies, jams, jellies and syrups prepared from local farms to sell at market or enjoy themselves.
Her original project began more than 10 years ago when the Brentwood lawyer purchased the property on the corner of Bixler and Balfour roads, envisioning a 5,000-square foot, community-oriented, farmer-friendly, organic Shangri-La designed to attract both casual visitors and eco-minded epicureans. The site could include a community kitchen, farm market and community gardens with a glass house visitor center.
And while the project continues to move forward – permits are in place and partial funding in the bank – Franz said she hopes, once the buildings are up, to incorporate getaway trips including wine tasting and overnight stays for local and out-of-town visitors to the farm kitchen.
“I would love to put together packages with other businesses in the area where people could come for the weekend and pick their fruit and vegetables and then cook them up in the kitchen. I’d also like to show people how to U-Pick.”
How to U-Pick?
“You’d be surprised how many people pick a bunch of fruit they can’t eat that’s all bruised or not ripe,” said Franz. “But with the kitchen here, they could pick their fruit and then the next day come to the kitchen and make jams and jellies or sauces. Or go to the farm market (on site) and buy what they want and then cook it up.”
Tickets for the event are still available but limited to the first 125 people. Children 12 and under are free. For tickets or additional information, call 800-800-5373 or purchase online at www.communityfarmkitchen.org.