Waiting For the Growing Season

I know it’s only April, but I am so ready for the new growing season. It’s still a full month before the local farmer’s market will open. To get myself ready I’ve been reading up on the farm-to-table movement. I know from my own experience how much better food is when it’s eaten only minutes or hours after it comes from the ground.

There is a trend, new to me anyway, that goes a step beyond the farmers markets and CSAs. I’m talking about the trend to bring the restaurant to the farm. Here’s one of the books I’ve been reading:

Outstanding In the Field

by Jim Denevan with Marah Stets

Published by Clarkson/Potter

Summary from the book jacket:

Instead of bringing food to guests in a traditional restaurant setting, Jim Denevan brings diners to their food, creating what Alice Waters has called “the restaurant I always imagined.” His innovative organization, Outstanding in the Field, sets up dinner tables in fields, ranches, dairies, vineyards, and community gardens across the country for alfresco meals that truly reconnect us with the land and people that produce our food.

The book talks about the program but it’s primarily a cookbook of the various dishes that have been prepared at the organization’s special dinners. The food is natural, straight from the farm’s fields, but with a decidedly gourmet bent. Here’s a sample menu:

Goat Cheese Crostini with Sweet Pea Pesto

Carmelized Carrot Salad

Fresh Lamb Sausage and Lamb Kidneys

Stewed Fava Bean and Mint

Green Garlic and Potato Gratin

Mixed Berry Tart with Meyer Lemon Pastry Cream

Recipes for each of those dishes are in the book along with about one hundred additional ones. Menus for actual dinners in the field I’m sure will vary because of the local foods available at the time of the dinner.

Jim Denevan’s organization has an active schedule, serving dinners in various locations around the U.S. I checked his 2011 schedule here: Outstanding In the Field.

I saw that one of the group’s events would be in a town near me and I really thought it would be fun to go. Unfortunately, there were two negatives attached to that event: One is that it was already sold out and Two, it cost $200 per person. When I told my husband that a special dinner for two (including wine and a tour of the farm) would cost us only $400, well, I’ll let you imagine the look on his face.

Needless to say, it’s probably a good thing that event is sold out. I think I’ll be trying some of the recipes in this high-class cookbook. It’s not the same as having someone else cook for me, but still an excellent food experience. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m wondering –  Has anyone reading this post attended a meal with Outstanding In the Field or a similar group? Tell us about your experience.

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14 Responses to Waiting For the Growing Season

  1. Staci says:

    He’s going to be in Chelsea which isn’t a bad drive for me but there’s no way I could sell the ticket price to the hubby!! I do like the whole concept though!!

  2. I haven’t attended a meal like that, but it sounds like a lot of fun! I need to go by and check to see when my local organic farmer will be selling produce.

  3. Beth F says:

    I haven’t attended this kind of meal. The ticket price would keep me away, I’m afraid. Our farmers market holds a event in midsummer that includes food booths from chef/farmers, but that’s the closest I’ve gotten. California has to be the haven for this movement.

  4. Louise says:

    Hi Margot, I read your post just as I was writing a post about my afternoon grazing at a local outdoor food event here in Australia! Such great timing. Your post is very interesting. I’m sure I’d love to attend an outstanding in the field event, but geography makes it a bit hard.

  5. JoAnn says:

    I haven’t been to anything like this, although I sure would like to! Two hundred dollars per person would make it hard to sell to my husband…

  6. I’ve heard these meals are wonderful, but at those prices….!!!!

  7. Robin says:

    What a neat idea. However, the price is what kills it for us. I’ll have to check out the book.

  8. I should know better by now than to read your Saturday posts just before dinner time. You can probably hear my tummy growling from where you are.

    What a fun concept. I couldn’t sell that ticket cost to Bill (well, or to me either for that matter).

    Oranges and strawberries are just about over for the season here. Watermelons are coming on. It is early April. Florida is weird!!

  9. JP says:

    This book sounds great! I’ve never been to something like this (like everyone said, the cost is prohibitive. Also, boyfriend is NOT an adventurous eater… he’s so picky!). But as for the book, you had me at “goat cheese crostini with sweet pea pesto” and sealed the deal with “mixed berry tart with meyer lemon pastry cream”

  10. Chinoiseries says:

    What a wonderful idea, for introducing people to their local farmers 🙂 I think most people (including me, too often) forget that organic doesn’t always mean it comes from the farm next door, but may have been flown over from another continent. I am very grateful for my CSA to deliver veg & fruit from local farms (or at least Dutch ones. But hey, we’re a very small country, it counts as locavore :P).

  11. We briefly considered driving over to Kansas City for a similar event last fall. The ticket price certainly gave us pause as did my husband’s food allergies. If we were going to pay that much for a meal, we needed to know that he was going to be able to eat it! I think I would be more willing to go to one in my immediate area (on the east side of Missouri) since it would introduce (or re-introduce) me to farmers closer to me.

  12. Marie says:

    I haven’t attended a dinner like this, but I think it’s an interesting concept and might be fun to attend. However, the cost would defintely keep me away. The recipes sound divine, so it just might be worth it.

  13. Heather says:

    We attended an event sort of like this. My friend hosted it at her farm. We had fresh pork and poultry from their farm. They did it as a fund raiser for the choir their daughter sings in. It was an amazing dinner.

  14. stacybuckeye says:

    He’s going to be 20 minutes from here in August, but $400 for dinner is a hard sell. I bet the recipes are very good though.

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