Photo: Andrea Wyner
It's the first day of spring with all its bloom and burble. The sky is clear and full of more hope than the world has a right to these days. But why not? If watching a grey skeleton of a tree transform into a cotton candy mass of delicate white blossoms isn't a miracle, I don't know what is.
In honor of the new season, the team responsible for one of the most intriguing dining experiences out there is announcing its 2009 schedule. Outstanding In The Field is an al fresco, farm to table, traveling culinary adventure that involves sitting down elbow to elbow with a hundred or so other spirited diners at one extremely long table in some fantastic, natural setting and enjoying a meal prepared by a top local chef. It couldn't be fresher with produce traveling generally not much farther than the field you're sitting in. It's like a five-star picnic where you don't have to sit on the ground or lug a brimming basket into the wild.
The outdoor, roving restaurant was begun by Santa Cruz, CA chef and artist Jim Denevan, who has cooked in some of Santa Cruz's finest restaurants, and whose large-scale, art pieces have been installed at farms and on beaches throughout California. He is joined by food artisans, local farmers, chefs and winemakers as they take their culinary show on the road to natural venues across the country.
I have not attended one of these events, but am hoping to do so this season. They apparently book up quickly, and it's not cheap. The dinner runs from $180 to $200 a person. Think of it as a complete experience, not just a meal. It's about the people, the setting, the food, the philosophy.
Their website states their mission as re-connecting diners to the land and the origins of their food, and honoring the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it. That seems like a worthy endeavor and a highly enjoyable one at that.
The opportunity is brief, coinciding with the peak of the growing season and the weather, mid-May to mid-October (with one additional event in December that will be held inside a barn in Pescadero, CA).
You only get eighty or so summers on the planet and, if you're like me, half of those are already behind you. Make your plans now to get out there and celebrate the season.
Photos from the Outstanding In The Field website.