Friday, July 8, 2011

Outstanding in the Field

Twelve years ago, Jim Denevan had a vision. As an artist composing designs in sand and earth and ice, his energies are poured into the grand scenery of nature. He turned this creative vision toward hosting dinners at farms around Santa Cruz, California. While growing up, he spent time at his older brothers organic farm, and hosted one of his earliest alfresco dinners there. After a few years of cooking these meals himself, Jim assembled a crew and took the show on the road. He has published a cookbook with photos of their famous bus travelling the country, and recipes of favorite Outstanding in the Field meals.

For the past eight years now, Outstanding in the Field has travelled the country serving these dinners at farms and orchards, wineries, dairies and ranches, bringing people closer to the people and the products they strive to celebrate. Each dinner is now prepared by a chef from the region, and the travelling crew set up the now familiar family table stretched through these beautiful landscapes of American agriculture.

Over the past decade and across the country, this kind of farm dinner has become increasingly popular, and many others have begun hosting similar events. The hard work of our farmers and ranchers, cheesemakers and winemakers are once again being praised. It takes a lot of work to set up these dinners and serve great meals in rural settings, but if the guests take away some appreciation of the beautiful scenery and some insight into the origins of great food, its worth the effort.

This year, I had the opportunity to work with them at Cameron Winery, cooking alongside my friend and OITF alumnus, Troy Maclarty. He had spent the previous summer on the road with them. Our friends John and Teri at Cameron Winery have a beautiful property, and have hosted several special gatherings here, so we felt right at home cooking at the winery, which is all you can hope for at events like this!

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