Wednesday, October 9, 2013

So, I know I mentioned in my last blog post that I was going to go into further details of some inspiration that I had for creating a blog.  I started a new job two weeks ago, so I am finally finding some time to do this!

If you were like me, you probably have never heard of Outstanding in the Field.  I got invited to attend through my cousin, Miles, who was cooking for this event along with some other chefs in the Memphis/Oxford area.

First, I will give you a little background about this organization.  I won't bore you with too many details, because I think you should check it out for yourself.  But, basically this organization was born in the summer of 1998 with a series of "farmer dinners" in California.  The founder of OITF, Jim Denevan, invited several of the producers out of the field and into the restaurant cafe in California.  The menu featured dishes containing ingredients that came from the farm, from the man or woman that grew the food, or raised the animals, or caught the bird, fish or whatever-so, it was a way to show appreciation to the farmers for all of their hard work and to directly show how it came "from the earth to the table, or from the farm to the table."  The idea continued to expand into having an actual meal on a long wooden table in a field on the actual farm itself.  Guests came toting their own plates, a tradition that still continues today, wearing smiles of gratitude and appreciation for these farmers and their toil.  There, on a sunny California afternoon, a chef prepared a five course meal using all local ingredients from the farm.  The idea continued to expand into San Francisco and other California regions, ultimately culminating in a big red and white bus traveling from coast to coast.  The core staff consists of the original founder, as well as staff from all around the world, from Atlanta to Vancouver, from Italy to Portland.  In 2011, they traveled (without their big red bus I'm assuming) to six European countries.  They even host an annual vegetarian meal to accommodate those who don't eat the farm fare livestock!  Each event begins mid-afternoon, is about five hours in length, beginning with a reception, meet and greet cocktail hour and appetizer pass, followed by an introduction to OITF and their staff, followed by a tour of the farm, ending in typically a four course meal, finishing up around sunset.  Their mission is simple:  To reconnect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local food farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.  Essentially, it is a restaurant without walls, setting up a dinner table with white tablecloths in barns, greenhouses, gardens, ranches, wherever the climate and terrain allow.  The meal is prepared by celebrated chefs of the region, using ingredients often found as "local" as a few feet behind your chair, and everyone celebrates together:  farmers, producers, culinary experts, and diners.
  Outstanding in the Field event at Woodson Ridge Farms in Oxford, MS that I attended

Having personally attended an event, I can attest that what they say on their website-from their mission, to their presentation and style, is all true.  During my years attending college in the Mississippi Delta, as I watched farmers toil over the fruits of their labor (often from sun up to sun down) while we carried on about our precarious ways, as most college students do, I would think to myself, it must be taxing on the body and spirit to work all day, to plan for the harvest, and to rarely ever feel any gratification or receive any appreciation for your work.  Outstanding in the Field is an organization that gets it-giving farmers and producers the credit that they deserve.  Not only that, it educates the general public, like you and me, about the origins of our food, the work it takes to cultivate it, and the skills it takes to delicately prepare a fine meal.  Perhaps you find this spin on a mobile restaurant as unique and interesting as I did.  If so, check them out here and see if the big red and white bus is rolling into your town anytime soon!  Save money for a ticket, bring your finest dinner plate, and go-because I guarantee you that you won't have another meal quite like this, and I can also guarantee you that it will be absolutely outstanding!  

Main website for schedule of events, interactive map, photos, and more
 Check out the blog here!

Sample Menu (based off of the program that we had) Note:  All items served are not listed here.

Bruschetta, tomato jam
Roasted eggplant, goat cheese, mini BLT

Apalachicola Bay oysters, mignonette, Claybrook Farms oxtail horseradish
LA gulf shrimp, citrus rind puree, oxtail brussel sprouts
2011 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier

Will Harris' chicken a la grecque, hominy, burnt okra, pickled radish, Bonnie blue feta,
Woodson Ridge farms salad, beets, chicken fat vinaigrette, slow grilled Woodson Ridge farms eggplant

Frangipane tart, warm apple and brandy compote, sweetened chantilly cream
2011 Secco Brut Rose

Local Farmers and Culinary experts used for this meal:

-Elizabeth and Luke Heiskell                                                  -Kelly English
Woodson Ridge Farms, Oxford, MS                                       Restaurant Iris, Memphis, TN

-John Currence                                                                      -Wally Joe and Andrew Adams
Dwayne Ingraham                                                                   Acre, Memphis, TN
City Grocery, Oxford, MS

-Miles McMath                                                                     -Vishwesh Bhatt
St. Jude, Memphis, TN                                                           SnackBar, Oxford, MS

-Jesse Houston                                                                      -Sean Adams
Jackson, MS                                                                          Honeybee Bakery, Oxford, MS

-Michael Hudman and Andrew Ticer
Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen
Memphis, TN

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