When it comes to a Wisconsin farm-to-table experience, there may be no place more creative and rooted in tradition than the Riverview Terrace Cafe. The restaurant is part of the gateway to Taliesin, the 800- acre estate of Frank Lloyd Wright located in the Driftless Area’s Wyoming Valley near Spring Green.
At the Riverview Terrace Cafe, the experience and the menu are inspired by Wright’s legacy. As an architect, he often designed using local materials and focused on creating stunning views. He was also a farmer, who in the 1940s needed to feed the Taliesin Fellowship, a community of apprentices and their families who lived, worked and studied with Wright at his studio and farm. Today, that legacy of local food, breathtaking landscapes and innovation are on full display at the Riverview Terrace Cafe and special farm-to-table events and programs at Taliesin.
The Wisconsin River and the Wyoming Valley offer stunning views from the café, while the local food comes from Fazenda Boa Terra farm, owned by two farmers who moved from Minnesota in 2013 with a commitment to organic production and conservation. They farm 40 acres of the Taliesin property and are the sole source of fresh vegetables for the Riverview Terrace Cafe and Taliesin’s farm-to-table events.
A Full Menu of Events
Wright’s legacy of innovation is carried out through the efforts and creativity of the dedicated Taliesin Preservation staff. According to Aron Meudt-Thering, communications manager at Taliesin Preservation, “That innovative thinking has created new events and programs that have been responsible for engaging more people in the estate and allowing them to experience it through immersion of all their senses.”
Among those efforts are the Taliesin Farm Dinners, held outside near the farm fields multiple times every summer. Each dinner features an outstanding chef and a unique menu with items sourced from local producers.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to enjoy a great meal and engage in an extraordinary natural environment that showcases the beauty of how the lines can be blurred between landscape and architecture on the estate,” Meudt-Thering says.
It is also an educational event in which the chef, farmers and diners share Wright’s vision of a bountiful way of dining in harmony with nature.
The popularity of the farm dinners led to a new event for 2019, the Taste of Taliesin. “This is a progressive culinary experience with a seasonal menu that will highlight the Driftless Area,” Meudt- Thering says. “Guests will walk through four different stations located at significant buildings on the estate. Each station will feature another artisan and beverage provider, so guests will not only have a chance to enjoy fresh, locally sourced food, but will also interact with the artisans and experience the architecture up close.”
An Immersive Experience
Taliesin has also implemented a unique program that supports the restaurant as well as these farm-to-table events. The Food Artisan Immersion Program, launched in 2018, is a 27-week work-study culinary program designed by Odessa Piper, farm-to-table pioneer and founder of L’Etoile restaurant.
Caroline Hamblen, director of programs at Taliesin Preservation, explains that the program was “founded on the principle that respect for nature and all that grows is the beginning of understanding good food and being more mindful of what we eat.”
She says that this year, seven artisans will live and work on the estate, preparing meals and gaining valuable experience in kitchen skills, techniques, recipe development and food preservation practices. They will also interact and learn from local growers, producers and chefs. For the artisans, it’s a stepping stone to advancing their careers. For Taliesin, it’s a way to ensure a staff that provides a consistently high level of quality and service for guests at the café and farm-to-table events.
“Last year was our pilot year of this program, and we are building on that success,” Hamblen says. “Through our many programs and outreach opportunities, we continue to create alliances where we can come together and celebrate this beautiful Wisconsin region, educate guests, and promote the sustainable approach that is part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy.”