The impossibly long-tabled feast in a farm field has become such a fixture of local food celebrations–it showed up at the Parrish Art Museum’s annual gala this year, as well as a Group for the East End North Fork fundraiser last year–it’s hard to imagine a time when it didn’t exist. But a short 10 years ago, it didn’t.
That was the year Outstanding the Field was launched: a team of culinary vagabonds, piloting a vintage school bus crammed with tables, chairs and other fixings, zigzagged the country, stopping at farms and setting up magical, once-in-a-lifetime evenings where attendees brought their own plates. The bus first made its way to the East End in 2004, at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett and subsequently at EECO Farm in East Hampton, where it will return on September 10. (Buy your ticket here.)
The Outstanding in the Field team has been doing it ever since–staged more than 400 events, welcoming nearly 55,000 guests for feasts in the U.S. and Canada as well as Europe and South America. The concept–invented by surfer, local food booster and landscape artist Jim Denevan–is so beautiful partly because it’s so simple. (The table design is sort of impractical–getting to the other side to see a friend requires a long stroll around the end–but makes for great conversations with your immediate neighbors and an awe-inspring photo op.) Serve what’s from farm, throw in some local wine or beer, and maybe some local seafood when the setting allows. This year’s meal will feature same-day seafood from new Montauk CSF, Dock to Dish.
We first wrote about these dinners “set between the soil and the sky” in 2008, and the players are familiar for this year’s meal. “Jason Weiner and Outstanding in the Field go way back,” said OITF founding chef and artist Jim Denevan. “We’ve done six events with Almond and can’t wait to see Jason and his team each summer. They always create a deliciously exciting menu. And EECO Farm’s gorgeous fields provide a charming setting for our table.” The meal will be paired with wines from Channing Daughters Winery, a partner in no less than eight Outstanding in the Field dinners. (The “roving culinary circus” was also featured in this Eat TV video.)
The settings have included urban gardens on the Lower East Side and sea caves on the California coast, a New Orleans greenhouse just a year after Katrina with less than 10 paying guests, as well as mountaintops and corn fields. Whatever the setting, the goal of this gastronomic theater remains the same: connect diners to the people behind their food with ingredients often sourced within inches of diners’ seats. The pop-up evenings start early (3 p.m.), since they end in darkness, and include a tour of the host farm, ample time to chat with the chefs and artisans and a sitdown over four courses. Ticket price for the September 10 event is $220 per person, all inclusive. For more information and to reserve a seat at the Outstanding table, visit www.outstandinginthefield.com.