Review: Outstanding in the Field

You’ve probably heard of them, these renowned dinners with elaborate, farm-fresh menus eaten on long-tables in the middle of a field somewhere. Outstanding in the Field (OITF) dinners are a feat of catering genius that bring people together for a cause. I was lucky to attend one at my very own Ocean View Farms last week as the sun dipped below the horizon.

OITF’s 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.” This particular dinner was a fundraiser to benefit the victims of the Mexico earthquake. Guest chefs Gonzalo Guzman of Nopalito in San Francisco, and Guillermo Campos Moreno from Tacos Kokopelli, in Tijuana, Mexico provided a delicious meal for 80 or so hungry diners.

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Upon approach, we were greeted by this sign.

We gathered in the garden’s meeting area where we were fed beautiful hors d’oeuvres and mescal-infused cocktails as the sun set. I met Diane Lieu of Hedley & Bennett, the brand manager for one of the event’s sponsors – they provided aprons for the chefs and wait staff. Diane told me they are working on a gardener’s apron for nerds like us. I, of course, offered to test it for them. Stay tuned.

After sipping mescal and tossing back delicious black bean soup shooters, we at Ocean View Farms gave a bit of history about the place (6 1/2 acres, 500 garden plots, 4 1/2 year waiting list, land owned by LADWP, was once lima bean fields, etc.). Then OITF’s founder, Jim Denevan, and others spoke of the tragedy in Central Mexico and how this OITF event helps.  We were then ushered to well-lit long tables.

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Long tables sloped up the hill. We sat listing to one side but the food more than made up for it. Photo by Andrew Cheeseman

Since the event was a benefit for Mexico, the food was appropriately themed.

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Ceviche verde with lime and tomatillos launched the sit-down portion of the meal, followed by salad with fall ingredients like apples, pomegranates and pumpkin seeds.

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Elaborate dishes were served family style. Yours truly got her own vegetarian plate all to herself. Photo by Andrew Cheeseman

Wines were poured with each course, and dessert followed. Banana dulce de leche cream pie rounded out the evening. We left full and happy to have participated in a relief effort to help rebuild Mexico City.

Ingredients for the meal came from Coleman Family Farms, Weiser Farms, County Line South, Mary’s Free Range Chicken, Masienda Tortillas, and Henry Wine Group.

Tickets are not cheap, but when I say these dinners are a feat of catering genius, I mean it. OITF is on the road for 65 events per year. A decade ago, I worked in catering and organized 25 events per year. That was a lot of work. These guys set up a gourmet kitchen under a tree and serve 100+ people at each event with organic and non-GMO ingredients. I bow to their expertise.

If you ever get a chance to attend, don’t miss the opportunity. Find upcoming events here.

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