Picture this: You’re having dinner in a tiny country restaurant in the Basque region of southern France, and your chef-farmer host has just gone out to the garden to pick tomatoes and herbs and greens for a salad. You’re relaxing on the patio, aperitif in hand, munching on little bites from a platter of charcuterie. A rustic, multi-course meal follows, made from food grown within miles, if not feet, of where you sit. This is the culinary experience that Jill and Eric Skokan, purveyors of Black Cat Farm Table Bistro (and Bramble & Hare) want to share when you dine at their Longmont homestead, Black Cat Farm.
In July, the couple—he the chef-farmer, she the COO-farmer—began putting into practice the farm-dinner model they conceived of almost 18 years ago. “We had two amazing meals in Europe (one in France, one in a monastery outside of Rome) that inspired us to replicate that sort of experience back at home,” Eric says. “We wanted to give our guests food with meaning behind it.”
For years, the Skokans have been building up their property holdings, which extend across more than 400 acres in Boulder County. But it wasn’t until June 2017 that they leased the 30 acres adjacent to their three-acre homestead; that acquisition meant that the land—and stunning views of Front Range peaks—wouldn’t be farmed or built upon by others, so they could finally begin realizing their farm dinner dreams.
First, the Skokans turned their attention to the historical outbuildings on the property. New roofs, plumbing, wiring, and much more were needed to make the ancient buildings functional. The Skokans also added a brick patio and a pergola near the barn, which was originally a blacksmith shop the couple dates back to the 1880s. “We found Rocky Mountain News clippings from 1883 hanging on the walls and branding marks on the old exterior wall of the barn,” Eric says. Their research indicates that the building and its business were known as the Old Swede Blacksmith Shop, and was utilized by Swedish families who moved to the area from Minnesota.
Today, the Skokans have transformed the Old Swede into a charming dining room and serving kitchen from which Black Cat Farm Table Bistro chefs deliver seasonal fare made with ingredients grown by Skokan and his farm team. You can sip cocktails garnished with herbs from Jill’s patio garden (which is also the source of cut flowers that grace the tables) on the hop-vine-adorned patio overlooking the mountains, and fire pits are ready to warm the autumn chill that falls as night descends.
But before that happens, you’re treated to a hay wagon ride from the parking area down the hill to the barn, as well as a tour and Q&A session with Eric, who will explain his biodynamic approach to food production and what it’s like to be a grower in Boulder County. (You’ll harvest some food for your meal while you’re at it, but you saw that coming, right?)
The dinner bell will (literally) ring, and you’ll sup on four courses—think: pork loin roasted over grape leaves—paired, if you like, with a wine flight from Boulder neighbor BookCliff Vineyards. Dessert is best consumed by the bonfire, and tisane from Black Cat’s herb garden caps off the evening. “Our goal is warm, genuine, caring hospitality in an Old World setting,” Eric says, “with excellent food and conversation. That, to us, is the perfect dining experience.”
The Skokans will hold these public dinners every Thursday evening until mid-October; book your seat here. Thereafter, they’ll host private events and classes, too, on everything from whole-animal butchery to farmhouse cooking to whole grain milling and baking.
Black Cat Farm dinner tickets are $149 per person, including wine pairings; Thursdays through October 17, 5:30–9:30 p.m.