Around the Island

Farm to Table at Sylvester Manor

ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTOS | Sylvester Manor decked out in its finery and ready for the 2016 benefit.
ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTOS | Sylvester Manor decked out and ready for the 2016 benefit.

Sylvester Manor Educational Farm began its life as a working plantation. Though it may have a lot of history behind it, this is definitely not a museum. Rather, it’s a living, breathing, working farm that functions according to the seasons, the demands of the land and the livestock and, most importantly the vision of those who work and care for this unique place.

On Saturday, when guests come to the Manor for the sixth annual “Farm to Table Dinner,” what they will see, taste and smell are the actual fruits of the labor that go on year round — right down to what’s on their plate.

“It’s called ‘Farm to Table,’ and this year, it really is,” said Jo-Ann Robotti, Sylvester Manor’s executive director. “We’ll be serving venison from the Manor lands, and using vegetables and produce from the farm.”

This is Sylvester Manor’s biggest fundraiser of the year and 300 guests are expected to gather under a tent on the lawn on June 24 for a family-style meal highlighting much of what the farm is all about. Courtney Wingate, Sylvester Manor’s director of development, notes that the goal is to raise $400,000 from the event.

“We’re getting there and are very close,” she said. “We also have donor cards which will hopefully put us over the top.”

Unlike many East End benefits, this one doesn’t go for the hard-sell of auctions, raffles or celebrity appearances. Instead, the “Farm to Table Dinner” is a decidedly low-key affair that brings together a wide range of patrons and lovers of Sylvester Manor to share a fabulous meal together by the creek. There will also be music, courtesy of longtime Shelter Island resident Joe Lauro and his HooDoo Loungers.

But perhaps the true star of the evening will be dinner itself, which will be prepared by Fire Roasted Caterers from the Berkshires.

Fire Roasted Caterers’ unique bicycle-spit open fire cooking system in action during the 2016 'Farm to Table Dinner.' The chefs will be back for an encore performance this year.
Fire Roasted Caterers’ unique bicycle-spit open fire cooking system in action during the 2016 ‘Farm to Table Dinner.’ The chefs will be back for an encore performance this year.

“They cook everything over an open fire and all the wood they use is from the Manor grounds,” Ms. Robotti said. “The bounty of all the acres will be channeled into the menu.”

Those who haven’t seen Fire Roasted Caterers in action are in for a treat. Guests are encouraged to stop and watch dinner in progress and ask the chefs about how the meal is being prepared.

“It’s really dinner as theater,” Ms. Robotti said. “As people come from the parking area, the rose garden will be set up for the caterers to cook. One is on a bicycle turning several spits. You get to watch this amazing crew preparing dinner over open wood fires.”

“It’s a culinary experience, you can see it, smell it and talk to the folks making it,” Ms. Wingate said. “Even dessert — a cobbler — will be prepared over the fire.”

There’s something about gathering around a fire for food and drink that just naturally invites good times and social interaction.

“I think there is a casual element to the evening a lot of people look forward to,” Ms. Wingate said. “On the South Fork, benefits are all about the Hamptons chic. From my feedback, a lot of people like not having the pressure of a silent or live auction and limited speeches.

“They’re at Sylvester Manor to hear what we’re raising money for and have a great time,” she said. “It takes a lot of formality out of the evening and the creekside dancing with the HooDoo Loungers will be upbeat and lots of fun.”

“This is like a big wonderful dinner party. The star is the property,” Ms. Robotti said. “To build on what Courtney said, this is one of numerous points of involvement with our guests. Some may have children in our youth programs, others are our CSA members or people who have come for house tours, or to visit our ‘Women of the Manor’ exhibition. There are also a lot of people who have come to our concerts over the years who are actively partaking of what the organization has to offer.”

And on Saturday, we imagine the partaking of this particular Sylvester Manor bounty will make it an evening to remember.

But Ms. Robotti notes that even if you’re not attending the benefit this weekend, visitors are still invited to come visit the Sylvester Manor grounds which are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Be sure to check in with the office, then feel free to walk the road, picnic on the lawn by the creek, or visit the goats.

The sixth annual “Farm to Table Benefit Dinner” is Saturday, June 24, at 6:30 p.m. on the grounds of Sylvester Manor Educational Farm. Tickets start at $500 with a special “first timers” ticket available. Visit for details or call (631) 749-0626.