Well, the event we have been anticipating for the entire summer is now behind us, and it was indeed outstanding. We had a great time and met a lot of great people around the table. It was a real pleasure to have so many interested and fascinating people with whom to chat and share our food and farm. Having had such a wonderful experience,it is now a bit of a relief to have the 100 person dinner party at our field complete and to be able to free up our thoughts to return to farming, and especially, weeding.
We have gotten some good exposure in the press surrounding this event and those articles are available here, for the pre-dinner article and here, for the coverage of the actual event, which was on the front page of the Saturday Burlington Free Press. Many of our guests from the dinner came the next day to visit us at the Farmer's Market and we all agreed that the focus on the price in the articles was a fairly tacky approach. I have rarely seen coverage of other events like concerts or the recent Champlain 400 celebrations focus on who could afford the ticket prices. I willadmit that the focus on the price in the press leading up to the event was a little intimidating and certainly did make us and our friends, Steve and Lara from the Kitchen Table Bistro a bit nervous. I think it did push us to make the event the best possible. Indeed, our own preparations began in March and April as we planted flowers and special vegetables for the event and also involved raising and harvesting cornish game hens for the first time ever. Our foray into meat production was far from smooth, especially the harvest day, but in my opinion, the game birds were the star of the dinner. This made it worth the long frustrating day at the beginning of last week. Steve's menu highlighted the produce and the farm connection as he always does, and was expertly prepared under challenging conditions. The atmosphere at
the dinner was not at all focused on the price. In the first Free Press article, we were unable to answer the question of who would pay to come to this dinner. This question was answered very clearly as we chatted with the guests.
It was a very diverse crowd sitting down together at the table, and despite the claim in the second article, that they all had in common the means to pay for the dinner, this certainly doesn't imply a uniform income bracket. Like many things that cost money, people had considered this an event worth planning and saving for. Many I spoke to had been wanting to come to an Outstanding in the Field dinner for over a year and had been waiting for one to come to a nearby area. We had visitors from Vermont, and also from New York, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., New Jersey and Ottawa. One couple came to this as a special romantic surprise, one woman came to celebrate a birthday, another, a chef, as a part of a professional experience. Many people came as part of a weekend trip to Burlington and included this dinner, only the 147th of its kind anywhere in the world, as part of that vacation. The crowd was more youthful than I expected, with over half the attendees in our
generation. Our conversations at the long table were about food, agriculture and culture. The price of the experience seemed the furthest topic from anyone's mind. People met new friends and realized connections that spanned the country. We gave an opening introduction that tied our farm with farms in the late Roman Republic and that returned over and over as a topic of discussion, even as I walked the length of the table, by request of Kate from Outstanding in the Field, talking about compost. Instead of just an expensive dinner, the evening was really a gathering of interesting, widely different people around a table in the field where the food was grown, and where the conversation was lively, engaging and convivial and tied together with foods and wines expertly crafted by people who care deeply about what they do. While the cost of this experience never came up in the conversations I was hearing, its real value was the central theme of the night. Here are some great photos Mara took of the event with her commentary - enjoy!
Lara Atkins from the Kitchen Table Bistro prepping for the dinner...
The tables almost ready...
Heirloom tomatoes harvested right before the dinner.
The guests start arriving and a wine reception is held.
Jim Denevan and Kate give a history of Outstanding in the Field and some fun anecdotal stories about previous dinners.
Spencer & I split up to give tours of the farm.
Guests sit down for dinner...
...and are served by OITF staff 5 courses, paired with wines.
Much great conversation was had, and people forged new friendships through their love of food. It was such a hot day, but everyone maintained great spirits and lively discussion despite the sweating!
First course: cherry tomato, cucumber and heirloom tomato salad, topped with Vermont Butter and Cheese feta and our microgreens. A second salad with our heirloom lettuce mix and radishes with a sherry vinaigrette was also served. Soooooooo yummy!
Second course: our cornish game hens on a bed of braised swiss chard, with a sweet corn and tomato succotash that had a warm tomato-tarragon vinaigrette. Best dish of the evening!
Third course: grilled Vermont pork loin, red wine veal reduction, new potatoes, haricot vert, colorful carrots and baby squashes with a tomato shallot jam, with a tomato-potato salad with a tomato reduction. Heavenly!
Dessert: cream cheese poundcake with blueberries and vanilla bean cream! Can't believe I didn't take a picture - it was devoured quickly and was delicious! Hopefully someone will post a picture somewhere, and will share with us!
Dessert was paired with Eden ice cider - if you've never had it, you're missing out!