anthimeria

Outstanding

Posted in my everyday life by Maria on 2010/08/15

At times, I enjoy living in a big city. I was reminded of this as we circled the tiny town of Jordan at 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night in search of an open coffee shop (to no success). Toronto living comes with its conveniences – like nice little coffee shops that close after the summer sun sets.

But more and more I imagine that a life with some soft toe-hugging grass, a few fruit trees and a pair of chickens would be more than alright.

On Thursday, Sameer surprised me with a little road trip to St. Catharines for Outstanding in the Field. Here is the idea: one long communal table stretches as far as you can see through a farm field. A local chef uses this farm’s produce and animals to write and prepare a dinner. Wines from a nearby vineyard are gathered to serve with the food. A couple hundred strangers share the meal and the table.

Jim Denevan started what would become Outstanding in the Field as a series of farmer’s dinners in the summer of 1998. Soon after, he moved his tables into the fields, eventually setting up a traveling itinerary of dinners with guest chefs throughout California. Six cross-continent seasons later, his farm dinners have grown to thousands of guests toting their plates to tables on tour through North America.

Whitty Farms hosted this year’s one Ontario-based dinner at Thirteenth Street Winery. Doug and Karen’s farm is what you imagine a farm to be: rolling, picturesque, and story-filled. Doug led our 130-strong dinner party – Torontonians and Texans alike – through greenhouses, a bakehouse, fields and vineyards and shared stories of his hundred-plus year-old farm. We landed squarely between a crop of young sunflowers and grapevines, where a table was set for dinner.

What a dinner it was. Stephen Treadwell created a simple and charming meal from the land: a salad of Tree and Twig Farms‘ heirloom tomatoes (Linda grows hundreds of varieties!), Lake Huron perch with a radish-potato salad, veal ribeye with ratatouille and vanilla-roasted peaches to end things sweetly.

The food was very good. But more so, I experienced something curious and welcome as I shared platters of food with a group of strangers. We’ve left our communal table for a private one. As someone who tends away from crowds, I worried that I might feel self-conscious passing platters and conversation, and to some extent, this was of course true. But any awkwardness was overshadowed by our shared reverence and a migration into a field that hundreds signed up for – just to eat a meal. We put ourselves in the farm’s hands and brought to mouth what the earth underfoot and sky above created.

Full set of the Outstanding in the Field dinner on Flickr.

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11 Responses

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  1. Lan said, on 2010/08/15 at 20:48

    As always such a loverly post! What a great evening spent w friends and strangers, sharing a love for food and things beautiful.
    Lucky girl to have a friend like Sameer to road trip & chow down with. :)

  2. Sameer Vasta said, on 2010/08/15 at 21:57

    One perk of being in a village where everything closes after sunset: being able to dance with your best friend in the middle of the main street in the dark of the night. It doesn’t get much better than that. (Though I really could have used an espresso.)

    An amazing dining experience to kick off three of the happiest days I’ve had in a long time. Thanks for letting me share them with you, and for capturing our Thursday adventure so beautifully through your photos and words.

  3. Sarah said, on 2010/08/25 at 17:47

    Oh my gosh, I never knew such an event existed. How amazing and wonderful! The food looks fantastic as well. Great writing!

  4. Dessert Mixer – Dessert. said, on 2011/07/31 at 17:15

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  5. Dessert | daixixi said, on 2011/08/20 at 10:19

    [...] down to NIagara-on-the-Lake and the Twenty Valley, and our first activity on our trip was to attend Outstanding in the Field. If you want to know more about the event, check out their website, and read Maria’s [...]

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  7. Dessert. | recipepins.tk said, on 2013/01/10 at 01:58

    [...] down to NIagara-on-the-Lake and the Twenty Valley, and our first activity on our trip was to attend Outstanding in the Field. If you want to know more about the event, check out their website, and read Maria’s [...]

  8. [...] down to NIagara-on-the-Lake and the Twenty Valley, and our first activity on our trip was to attend Outstanding in the Field. If you want to know more about the event, check out their website, and read Maria’s [...]

  9. [...] down to NIagara-on-the-Lake and the Twenty Valley, and our first activity on our trip was to attend Outstanding in the Field. If you want to know more about the event, check out their website, and read Maria’s [...]

  10. […] down to NIagara-on-the-Lake and the Twenty Valley, and our first activity on our trip was to attend Outstanding in the Field. If you want to know more about the event, check out their website, and read Maria’s […]

  11. […] down to NIagara-on-the-Lake and the Twenty Valley, and our first activity on our trip was to attend Outstanding in the Field. If you want to know more about the event, check out their website, and read Maria’s […]


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