Umbrella-wielding, skyward-looking New Yorkers united on Wednesday to partake in Outstanding in the Field’s 54th stop on its tour across America. A self-described “roving culinary adventure,” the group has made a name for itself by organizing creative dinners in creative places, and celebrating locally-sourced ingredients, the farmers who grow them, and the chefs who honors both the ingredients and the place. A little rain and the looming threat of Hurricane Irene didn’t stop foodies from traipsing up the Hudson Valley to Blooming Hill Farm to see – and taste – what chef Bill Telepan and the team from his eponymous NYC restaurant would do with farmer Guy Jones’ freshly picked fruits and vegetables.
Known for the diversity and quality of his produce, Jones grows an eclectic array of vegetables and herbs including three types of kale, five types of basil, and an edible squash vine called Tinarumi. “This land was once considered wasteland,” Jones said of the Black Dirt region where his farm is located – its name comes from the dark soil, rich in nutrients and especially suited for growing root vegetables and onions, left from the ancient glacial lake that once stood there. Now, a century after this land was first harvested, Jones has become one of the leading growers of chemical free, organic, quality produce in the area.
Guests, friends, and strangers sat at communal tables in a field that bordered growing vegetables. The five-course menu included roasted lamb with oregano, local trout with tomatillo and corn, and a nectarine crumble, all paired with local wines and beer, creating a culinary treat for the mostly New York City crowd who traveled far to enjoy the charming experience.
Outstanding in the Field has come a long way since it first began in 1998 in Santa Cruz, California, when founder Jim Denevan could hardly get more than five diners to his tables. Going international in 2011, the organization now unites James Beard and Michelin Star-winning chefs with small family farms around the world.
As the clouds cleared and temporary tarps were taken down, guests, cozy in their Hunter boots, sipped wine, debated the merits of daily nectarine crumbles, and rued the drive back to the city. With few months left, the 2011 OITF bus now makes its way south before heading back to the West Coast. Though future dates will require more than a drive upstate, there’s no reason that we New Yorkers can’t continue to enjoy its deliciousness. Trip to Georgia anyone?