As a triple Libra — sun, moon, rising sign — I crave balance. It’s part of my DNA. So when a series of disturbing, life-altering events (during Mercury’s last retrograde cycle, no less) tipped my scales so far off center I wondered if I’d ever find my way back, I jumped at an invitation to visit my friends, Sherrie and Stephen, at their haven-of-a compound in Scituate, Massachusetts.
Both are former hoteliers and two of the most genuinely hospitable people I know. The icing on this cake is that Sherrie is also an outstanding chef, so the lure of being well cared for was irresistible. And if that wasn’t incentive enough, Sherrie had an intriguing plan for me, and she can be very persuasive when she has a vision. She wanted me to experience Just Right Farm in nearby Plympton, and get to know her friend, chef/owner, Kimberly Russo and her husband, veterinary neurologist and holistic vet, Dr. Mark Russo. She just “had a feeling.” As a true believer in trusting my gut, I had “a feeling,” too.
For the sake of word count, I’ll dispense with the “whys and wherefores” of Sherrie’s underlying agenda; suffice it to say, the idea of spending time at a place named Just Right Farm was just what this off-kilter Libra needed. And once I visited the website, I knew that this experience would be instrumental in restoring balance, and guiding me home to my center:
Just Right Farm…a Renaissance of Farm and Food: A contemporary screen house in the middle of ten acres of farmland, a three hundred year old house, a sustainable garden, a labyrinth in the field, an inspired kitchen, a show of fireflies as evening falls.
“Not all farm-to-table restaurants are created equal. In fact, neither are farms,” Kim had written to me a week earlier. “Ours is a 300-year-old affair that seems to have thrown its arms wide open in welcome. Our guests come for the evening to find themselves at a dinner party only steps away from the garden and the kitchen. The elegance at dinner may be a surprise, but it’s just how this farm honors the rural tradition.”
Hell yeah! Sign me up!
From the moment we turned onto a long, tree-lined dirt road, I could feel the stress I had carried with me from New York begin to melt away. We were greeted by a cheerful man with shiny silver hair and beard, who took both my hands in his and told me how happy they were that I had come. This was Dr. Mark. Later, when I got to know him better, I told him he was sparkly, and his eyes twinkled even brighter.
Kimberly came out to greet us shortly thereafter. We had spoken on the phone and exchanged a few emails before I got there, but this was our first meeting. We hugged like long lost sisters.
Dinner would be served promptly at 7, so while there wasn’t enough time to walk the grounds, I knew I would be returning the following day — not as a diner, but to experience the preparation for the next night’s dinner. Kim returned to the kitchen, and in we went to join 21 other dinner guests in the screen house for our magnificent five course dinner. From the ambiance to the service to the food, the entire evening was, in fact, just right.
When I returned the following day, Kim brought me into the kitchen, where I met Elaine Murphy and Marilyn Browne…two amazing women who round out the trio that make the culinary magic happen.
“I wish I could write a love letter to New York,” Elaine says right off the bat, taking me by surprise. Turns out that Kim and Elaine eat their way through the City a few times a year for inspiration. They order a tableful of dishes, taste and make notes. This inevitably gets them noticed by the chef, who invites them into the kitchen and they all share ideas. Marilyn, as well, has joined Kim on these culinary excursions, so all three tell me how friendly and generous New Yorkers are. “We tend to get a bum rap,” I say…and they wholeheartedly agree.
The atmosphere in this all-women kitchen feels more like a family affair than the restaurant kitchens I’ve seen on the Food Network. “A collaborative kitchen is uncommon,” says Kim, but it really works for us.” It worked for me, too. They let me help prep, “run the pass,” garnish, wipe the plates…they welcomed me and made me feel part of something special.
When it came time for me leave, I felt like myself again; and although I was sad to leave the warm embrace of friends old and new, I was happy to get back to New York, the place that’s “just right” for me.