Oh, the power of social media! About a year ago, I started following a chef on Instagram whose handle is @phillyfooddude_ (follow him for some droolworthy photos). He posts the most delicious-looking food photos and after a while, I realized he actually cooked most of the dishes featured. I did some culinary investigation to find out he cooks at a farm in South Jersey – at this point I was very curious. The place he cooks at is called Cecil Creek Farm and I simply had to go.
Cecil Creek Farm is the brainchild of Bill and Megan Bumbernick and named in honor of Megan’s father, Cecil John Cuthbert. The 42-acre farm is adjacent to the house where Megan grew up in South Jersey and in 2012, the entrepreneurial couple purchased the land from a developer. On the site, the Bumbernicks created a community farm where people could enjoy the beauty and share in the food cultivated on the property.
Cecil Creek Farm was made up of a working farm, a market, farm dining, educational classes and a CSA program (more about that in a bit).
Farm Dining Experience
For our farm dining experience, I had to book months in advance to get two seats at the market’s communal table for 14, which is only available Fridays and Saturdays, and on a very limited scale.
After the market closes in the evenings, Cecil Creek Farm creates a magical community setting where guests experience an eight-course, fine seasonal, sustainable and local dinner. Every course is prepared in an open kitchen, just steps away from the communal table, where diners can interact with the chef and host. Most of the ingredients used for the dinner come right out of the farm’s field and what doesn’t, is from other ultra-local sources.
There are two types of seatings offered at Cecil Creek Farm:
Full Table Reservation
This is how most of the reservations are done. Groups of 10 to 14 guests reserve the table and it’s theirs for the evening. The chef, the host and the wait staff are there to serve only that table, all evening.
Community Table Reservation
About once a month, a community table is offered where diners can book only the number of seats they need. This reservation is perfect for guests who enjoy a convivial, interactive experience with other diners.
We had two seats reserved at the community table and weren’t sure what to expect when we drove up to the modern wooden structure off a dark country road. The first thing we noticed as we entered the market-turned-dining room is the incredible aromas from the open kitchen—we immediately knew we were in for a treat. Our host for the evening, Mark Ulrich, who’s also a chef at Cecil Creek Farm, greeted us warmly when we arrived, showed us around and introduced us to Chef Darren DeBlasi (you know, the aforementioned guy from Instagram) while one of the two lovely servers opened the wine we’d brought—this is BYO. The communal table was beautifully dressed with fun glassware, dishes, flatware and centerpieces. The dinner lasts four hours and we were grateful for the extra expense spent on delightfully comfortable chairs.
Here was the menu the evening we visited (note the menu changes often, with the seasons):
First Course: Charcuterie Plate, La Divisa Meats house-made country terrine
Second Course: Leek/potato soup garnished with Cecil Creek’s Berkshire crispy pork belly
Third Course: Seared scallops atop organic winter squash purée + wild rice with pepitas
Fourth Course: Organic winter salad – cabbage, radish, greens and roasted beets with honey/lime vinaigrette and toasted crushed walnuts
Fifth Course: Organic cremini mushroom and eggplant risotto with pine nuts
Sixth Course: Oven-roasted lamb chop with braised greens, whipped carrots and sweet potatoes
Seventh Course: Local chef’s selection cheese plate with local honey
Eighth Course: Cinnamon apple crumble with homemade whipped cream
The charcuterie was unbelievable and I made a mental note to visit La Divisa Meats at Reading Terminal Market on future visits to Philly.
Chef DeBlasi had us at crispy pork belly with his unctuous, flavorful soup: a winner.
The scallops were perfectly seared nicely and a nice match to the wild rice and winter squash.
I’d been eyeing the giant pans of creamy risotto since we started dinner, so I was so pleased with how delicious it was, with lovely earthy notes from the mushrooms and eggplant.
The lamb was cooked nicely and was complimented by the bright orange, hearty whipped root vegetables—this was perhaps the dish of the evening.
We had excellent zinfandel left so we were grateful for the cheese plate. I’ll take cheese over dessert any time.
The dessert was pure comfort on a plate and a nice thing to cap off an outstanding meal.
The hours seemed to fly by as we conversed with interesting guests at the table and as the staff informed us about the efforts the farmers go through to grow and humanely raise the food we enjoyed. We visited during the winter, but in warmer months, the evening ends with dessert served under the stars at a bonfire—we’ll be back for this.
The Market at Cecil Creek Farm was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had in recent memory and I highly recommend paying these fine folks a visit very soon.
Interview with Cecil Creek Farm’s Megan Bumbernick
After our visit, I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Bumbernick. Here’s an excerpt of our exchange:
Jersey Bites: We know you’ve been open for just over two years. What is your background?
Bumbernick: My background is as a stay-at-home-mom. My husband, Bill, and I owned a technology company, which we sold in 2011 and took time with our kids to travel and contemplate what was next. On a five-month RV trip around the country we decided to bring the CSA concept to our hometown, Mickleton.
What’s your goal for the farm dinners?
We love the concept of artisan chefs creating fantastic dishes with the food we have raised and grown on the farm. Our goal is to have just about everything on our plates come from our land. It would be as close to farm-to-fork as you could get. And as far as I know, no one else can offer this in the tri-state area or beyond.
Do you have any expansion plans?
As business owners, we’ve tried to create a place that offers more than just the CSA. We do many things in our market besides being a store, CSA pickup location, farm-to-fork dinners and cooking demonstrations and classes. We offer weddings, bridal showers, christenings, birthday parties, and all kinds of private events. We have had an influx of private party and wedding requests lately. We certainly see an expansion of our infrastructure to support these events. We also see the need for agricultural educational programs in South Jersey. We are currently working on plans for week long children’s camps and possible field trips this year. Lastly, we’d love to grow our agritainment options here, such as a corn maze and other farm-related, family-friendly attractions and festivals.
What else should our readers know about Cecil Creek Farm?
The one thing I’m most proud of is seeing people use the farm to learn, spend time with their family, teach their children, visit animals and just enjoy nature and what God has given us. Our members of the farm and community have made their own memories at Cecil Creek whether it be their wedding, birthday or movie night with their kids and roasting s’mores. As much as our start came from growing sustainable food, it has evolved into more than that. There is really something for everyone.
Cecil Creek Farm CSA Program
Cecil Creek Farm offers a very popular CSA program on a limited basis. The program not only offers produce packages but half and full shares of pork and black angus beef, pasture-raised and organically fed at the farm.
Other Farm Happenings
Cecil Creek Farm
73 Democrat Road
Editor’s note: Since Veronique’s visit, Cecil Creek Farms has changed ownership. The new owners are committed to continuing to activities already in place at the farm and to expand on them.