Weekend Postcard: Outstanding in the Field

16 September 2013

When I was single, I was the girl my guy friends called last minute when they needed to fill a seat. Date to a wedding, tickets to a play, basically any event they didn’t feel like eating the price of a ticket. I really didn’t mind, minus the filler-wedding dates, no one wants to be the random date at the wedding.  My “availability” allowed me to experience some pretty incredible events, including my first introduction three years ago to a culinary adventure called, Outstanding in the Field.

Outstanding in the Field is literally a restaurant without walls founded by artist and chef, Jim Denevan. Its mission is to “re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food while honoring the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.”  The Outstanding in the Field team travels in a bus all across the United States producing amazing dinners with long wooden (often winding) tables at farms, gardens, mountain tops, sea caves, islands or at ranches. Occasionally the table is set indoors: a beautiful refurbished barn, a cool greenhouse or a stately museum. Wherever the location, the consistent theme of each dinner is to honor the people whose good work brings nourishment to the table.

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The Outstanding in the Field bus. Photo by  Jeremy Fenske.

above Outstanding in the Field photos by: Jeremy Fenske.

When Outstanding in the Field announced its 2013 schedule last March, one of the Manhattan dinners was set to be held atop The Brooklyn Grange Farm, which is the largest rooftop garden in the United States. I knew immediately who I wanted to be my date, so I snatched up two tickets as soon as they went live. The hell if I was going to be someone’s +1 this time!  Later, I tried rallying a few friends to join, but the event sold out in under fifteen minutes!

Patiently we waited for six months for the event to happen, but it was well worth it.  This past Saturday, we made the trek to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where the farm sits high above on “Building #3,” a massive 65,000 SQ FT roof towering eleven stories over the East River with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline.  It was here the Outstanding in the Field team laid out a table for over 100 guests to sit. There was a cool breeze and  breathtaking views of the city, making it a perfect day for what would be an amazing meal.  When we arrived we were greeted by the friendliest staff, a Brooklyn Brewery beer and curried tomato crostinis.

From there, we took a tour of the farm, led by spunky New York native, Michele Kaufman, the Farm’s Director of Events. We learned about the arduous process of farming on a roof.  Think – there are no sprinkler systems, no Caterpillar earth movers, just good old brow sweat.  I’ve been toying with the idea of  joining a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) here in Syracuse and Michele totally sold the importance of CSA’s to me while we were on the farm tour. Joining a CSA allows you to receive ultra-fresh seasonal food, which exposes you to new vegetables (like the beautiful rainbow array of string beans we were served.) Which forces you to learn new ways to cook and experiment. This is a much-needed injection for creativity on my side, I’m really tiring of brussel sprouts, even if I lace them with pancetta.  I came home immediately and researched my local CSA and signed up.  You can find yours here on the Local Harvest website.

Ingredients for the meal are almost all local (sometimes sourced within inches of your seat at the table!) and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region. We had lucky to have the talent of Lower East favorites, Fat Radish and LeadBelly steer our meal.  After a tour of the site, we all settled in: farmers, producers, culinary artisans, and diners sharing the long table. Even Tyra Banks was in attendance, and as admirable as she is, the attendees were more focused on the food than the celebrity.

Here are a few of the photos I snapped at dinner.  Not pictured are the wonderful people I sat next to during the meal.  Pleasantly surprised, I didn’t look at my phone once and noticed no one else did really either. My camera stayed put in my bag and we were all very “present.” For New Yorker’s I know this can be tough, and for me, this can even be tougher.  The event attracts so many interesting people and the family style serving of food made for a welcoming way to strike up conversations while the wine pairings ensured the chatter didn’t stop. A big thank you to the staff at Outstanding in the Field for making what was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had!

table set.

table set.

not a bad view

not a bad view.

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touring the farm + working up an appetite.

touring the farm + working up an appetite.

 

Plate tradition: Dates back to their first farm dinner event in 1999 where each guest brings their own dinner plate to the table. The long farm table is set with the guests' myriad contributed plates providing a colorful one time only table setting.

Plate tradition: Dates back to their first farm dinner event in 1999 where each guest brings their own dinner plate to the table. The long farm table is set with the guests’ myriad contributed plates providing a colorful one time only table setting. Great dinner party idea, isn’t it?

my setting

my place setting, flowers of course.

full house.

full house.

I suggest signing up to their newsletter to hear announcements when new Outstanding in the Field dates are posted.  They do sell out very quickly.  Looks like there are still seats for some of  their Southern events this fall and they’ll be announcing Winter Tour dates and details for January/February dinners in warm-weather spots like New Orleans, Florida and Hawaii soon.

Till then, join a CSA and feel free to share some recipes with me.  I could use the help, my fiancé thanks you in advance.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Lifestyle

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