Outstanding in the Field

I first heard about Outstanding in the Field back in September on Say Yes to Hoboken. (I know that I've made a lot of references to that blog recently; it turns out I really like it.)

I was enamored by the pictures and needed to know more. This description of what Outstanding in the Field is, was taken from their website:

Our mission is to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.

Outstanding in the Field is a roving culinary adventure - literally a restaurant without walls. Since 1999 we have set the long table at farms or gardens, on mountain tops or in sea caves, on islands or at ranches. Occasionally the table is set indoors: a beautiful refurbished barn, a cool greenhouse or a stately museum. Wherever the location, the consistent theme of each dinner is to honor the people whose good work brings nourishment to the table.

Ingredients for the meal are almost all local (sometimes sources within inches of your seat at the table!) and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region. After a tour of the site, we all settle in: farmers, producers, culinary artisans, and diners sharing the long table.

I immediately sent Steve an email with a link and told him to add it to his "someday" file. (Tickets run about $200 per person.) When the schedule was released in March, and we saw Jackson, Wyoming on the list, Steve told me to buy six tickets and we would make a business trip out of it. (The part about me being stuck in bed, recovering from surgery and really needing something to look forward to might have had something to do with Steve being willing to spend $1200 on dinner.)

We dropped our four kids off with three different kind-souled families and drove to Jackson without any kids for the first time in ten years. It was almost nostalgic. (Steve claims he fell in love with me on our first trip to Jackson in the summer of 2001.) We love Jackson.

We were some of the first guests to arrive at Mead Ranch. The long table was set in a freshly mowed section of the pasture. And I suddenly wished we had brought a photographer along with us to better capture the simple beauty.

We enjoyed various hors d'oeuvres prepared by guest chef, Richie Billingham of 43 North and went on a wagon tour of the ranch, given by host farmer, Kate Mead. (The horses' names were Lucy and Grace.)

After a quick introduction to the ranch and brief history of Outstanding in the Field, it was time for dinner.

The famous-on-facebook newlyweds, Kelsey & Josh:

Steve and me:

Somehow, I failed to get a picture of the third couple in our group, Dalton and Holly. Dalton is the son of former Denver Broncos defensive end, Rulon Jones. His family runs two hunting ranches in Liberty, UT and Blackfoot Mountains, ID. Dalton is an aspiring restauranteur, currently employed at Sonora Grill.

The other company at our table was fantastic, as well. On one side of us was a small group from Casper, WY who eagerly asked questions about Sonora Grill and had an engaging conversation with Holly about autism. On the other side was a couple who own an art gallery in downtown Jackson. A few seats down from us sat Kate Mead, owner of the ranch and some of the winemakers. (We might have lost our credibility with the art gallery owners when they asked where we were staying and I told them we were camping.)

The farmers, ranchers, and winemakers who had contributed to the meal walked around during dinner and met everyone.

I only managed to take a couple pictures of the food because I was too distracted enjoying it. I wish I would have at least taken a picture of the menu so I could remember what everything was.

The food was beautifully presented and tasted good, but we were a little surprised that it was not spectacular. Don't get me wrong, it was an elegant meal with classy ingredients, just not prepared perfectly. We are, admittedly, a tough crowd to please, but we heard others at the table whispering about the dry meat, etc. as well. But I enjoyed my newfound ability to eat without getting sick and had more than my share of the food, which was served family-style. The highlight of the dinner was the first course of heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil and truffle oil. Wine was served with each course, and they even provided a non-alcoholic drink for me and Steve.

The setting was impeccably beautiful and the atmosphere was perfectly serene, which more than made up for the slightly disappointing food. Too bad those rolling hills were blocking the view of my Tetons.

Outstanding in the Field founder, Jim Denevan, and Eden Reilly:

Bottom Line: Our dinner was unforgettable. Such an incredible memory. The experience was well-worth every penny. I will eagerly look forward to other opportunities to attend (or possibly host) other dinners with Outstanding in the Field in the future. (We are going to send them information about Dalton's ranch in Liberty, in hopes of hosting in the future.)


i'm h.mac said...

is it strange this is so beautiful i am possibly teary. what an amazing experience!

Julie said...

Geesh, I wish I'd known about this when I lived in Utah! I am helping with Slow Food here and they just had their "Feast in the fields" last month! Super cool.

Molly said...

very, very cool.