Hello!! I am back from a little vacation having achieved a dose of much-needed R&R (and a tiny amount of sunshine!) on the beautiful island of Oahu. I am getting caught up here at CGD and Marmalade (back up is the price one must pay for said R&R…) and feeling a little bit more like I know what day it is again.
While I was in Hawaii, I was treated to some of the most lush and incredible landscapes I have ever had the privilege of laying eyes on. I was also able to enjoy some of the magnificent fruits and nuts and fresh delicious fish that are so readily available there. Eating wholly and locally is a growing passion of mine and the more I learn about food, the more interested I become in the people and places who grow it.
For a few years I had been reading about what Outstanding in the Field was doing, and how they were growing and I was dying to get to one of their events. So last year, for a friend's 40th birthday, we treated ourselves (and her) to what would end up being one of the top 5 favorite things I have ever done.
You would think hosting an intimate dinner for 200 strangers in an orchard or on a beach or in a pasture would be something of a fiasco, but with almost 10 years of experience putting these dinners together, the team of food gypsies at OIAF is a well-oiled merry-making machine. The recipe is simple: 1 local farm + 1 local chef (or restaurant) + 200ish local food lovers + a sky full of stars = an evening to remember!
Using only local (most as local as a few feet from your chair!) ingredients and providers and the vision of a local chef, the dinners have garnered something of a cult following. In fact, the night we were there (at a peach orchard in New Hampshire) we met people from all over the country who had made an OIAF dinner part of their yearly travel. In fact, while we met lots of first -timers like ourselves, I was amazed at the number of people who had more than one or two of these under their belt!! OH! And about that belt… mine had to be loosened!! The food was nothing short of divinity. From the local oysters to the peach pork tenderloin…even the wine was made by one of the families in attendance!
When we first arrived on a late August evening, we were loaded onto a little tractor-tram and wheeled through the grounds of the peach farm. It had been raining off and on most of the week, and there was some speculation that we would be under a tent instead of the night sky so we wore our wellies and each brought a plate from home as instructed. Once we arrived at the site, there were sparkling peach beverages, fresh oysters and the afternoon sun graced us with her presence. We chatted with other guests and heard a little OIAF history from founder Jim Denevan. The staff was super friendly (and relieved that they had made a game-time decision to not put up the tent!) and seemed just as enchanted as the rest of us with this glorious evening.
After awhile we were piled back onto the tram and ferried into the peach orchard where we came upon the most incredible thing I have seen (in all my days of catering and doing events)…what seemed to be a single long table snaked down a row in the orchard stretching farther than they eye could see set to the decks with service for a 5 course meal! I am pretty sure I made an audible squeal. We ate family style well into the night and left full, newly minted lifers. I (heart) OIAF 4-ever!!
Locations and dates were announced on March 1 on their website. Tickets go on sale on the 20th. TICKETS SELL OUT FAST so you will want to be poised at noon on the 20th if you want to get them. I may have to call in sick that day….
It is a bit of a splurge, but I promise you will not have a more magical dinner with 200 people you have never met before. You will also leave with a renewed awareness of the bounty around you and what the earth has to give in your area. You will also get to enjoy the creativity and genius of a chef in your area that has a passion for that bounty. It is all in all good soul-loving stuff that I couldn't get much more enthusiastic about.
Follow them on Twitter for updates and let me know if you end up going (or have been) ! Coach and I are gonna put our finger on the map this year and try somewhere new!