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Happy Labor Day: Outstanding in the Field

A couple of days ago, the BFF and I decided to blow a wad of cash, shaking our tiny fists in defiance at the vindictive economy gods.  And for the better part of a lovely day, we ate, drank and were merry at an Outstandinginthefield event.  The idea of Outstandinginthefield is to reunite the diner with the earth and to give thanks to the people who bring you food- the farmers.  The Outstanding crew travel the country in an old bus and set up feasts in fields and by streams and next to the ocean.  Anywhere there is a connection to the land.

Our dinner was held at Mosefund Farm in Branchville, NJ.  The farm is an experiment of sorts in raising Mangelitsa pigs.  These are pigs only a mother could love.  Dark, hairy and chock full of high quality pig lard, lovingly infused with fennel and black pepper….

Here, piggy, piggy! (Bwahahahahahahhhh!)

Er, where was I?

Z-Food Farm in Lawrenceville also participated, contributing delicate tomatoes, tender beets and eggplants. The chef, Scott Andersen, was from Elements in Princeton.  The wines that were paired with the dishes were from Alba Vineyards here in NJ.  New Jersey makes good wines?  Who knew?

The guy who started it all, Jim Deneven, a farmer hat wearing (and incredibly hot) chef from California said the idea grew from his encounters with farmers at local farmers’ markets he visited to shop for his restaurant.  He got to know them, visited their farms and had a few dinners around the Bay area.  Then he bought an old bus and voile!  Restaurant on the Road!

Jim and Leah give thanks to the farmer before dinner

Just before dinner, he talked about farming and food to the approximately 200 of us foodies and people with too much money.  Someone asked him about other companies who have followed in his footsteps and have hosted dinner in the fields.  What makes Outstandinginthefield different?  Now that I think of it, it sounds like something an investor would ask, which wouldn’t be inconsistent with the clientele.  Jim explained:

“We’re different because you can’t do this kind of event well without paying your people well”

Jim hires chefs and cooks from around the country and the world.  For months at a time, the eight of them live on a tiny bus.  And these well trained cooks do this to serve the diners, not to cook for them.  And he pays them well because they are good at what they do and it is obvious that they are enjoying themselves learning from the farmers they meet, the various chefs they work with and the service they perform.  Jim explains that many of the other companies who do farmer dinners rely on cooks and servers to volunteer their time.  But paying well does show in the final details.  The farmer who hosted told us that the Outstandinginthefield crew were very well organized and prepared.  They came at 10:30am to set up and the farmer didn’t have to lift a finger.

Bring your own plate

The food was delicious.  The farmer, Michael, a full time personal chef who raises pigs on the side, was interesting and inspiring.  Jim and his sidekick Leah, the organizer, were wonderful, highly efficient and had really done their homework.  And the servers, who put their cooking careers on hold to travel the country by cramped bus to wait on spoiled foodies, were outstanding.

Take a day off, guys.  You earned it.

17 Responses

  1. Who the heck is reading the PUMA Power post? That thing has like a zillion hits by now.
    Are the martyrs suddenly credible?

    • What is the link to the PUMA article?

      Is the photo at the table someone we know?

      What a great idea, a moveable feast that combines local, slow, and on the road.

      • It’s in the Top Posts bar at the left. The original post is called Monday: PUMA Power. We’ve moved away from PUMA. it was compromised by ratfuckers from both parties. But the spirit lives on. There’s another post equating us with Bull Moose. That one was by garychapelhill who no longer blogs here. I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate. I prefer to call us Denicrats in Exile. We are FDR style Democrats. We believe in social compacts, the New Deal, the strength of the economy if scale that results when people unite and organize their government to work for our common prosperity. It was the New Deal that helped the American economy take off after the Depression. And it has been the constant attack on it over the past 40 years that have brought us to this state now.
        Thee tables and chairs were rented. Sorry, I don’t know who the vendor was.
        Yes, the concept us wonderful. Unfortunately, I think Jim’s message went right over the heads of some of the attendees. There were a lot of very wealthy people at the table. Lots of business types with money to burn. I considered myself very lucky to be there and enjoyed every mouthful. The service was impeccable.

      • Oh! The woman at the table was an executive coach. She was tres impressed with herself. I told her I was working class and she didn’t speak to me for the rest of the dinner.
        Her loss.

        • Her loss indeed – your gain. I believe her husband is a
          local guy that has had exceptional success since leaving
          this area. She can have any job she wanted because of him
          – in the US or internationally – her name is Susan. I could
          be wrong, but I enlarged that photo to enjoy the simplistic elegance of the table setting and the lovely lake. Small world.

          Lovely dinner concept – so glad you shared.

          • Nope, her name is not Susan. Or she was lying. I have to admit tho that her husband looked familiar. But she said he was a physical therapist. Not sure what to believe except she behaved like people who work in labs are distasteful dinner companions.

  2. Oh so Californian, RD. Srsly.

    Glad you had fun. That table reminds me of a scene in one of my fave films Amarcord. Long tables outdoors, white tablecloths and convo ala all of the above.

    People out here live in vineyard land. It happened slowly, but? Geez. It’s all grapes now as far as the eye can see. Glad you had fun and it sounds great, what that guy is doing.

    • Yeah, but all that handsome good looks, zenlike personality, inspiration and artistic talent bestowed on one person seems a bit sinful. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
      There’s got to be a mouldering portrait of him sitting around in his attic.

      • I swear, you would love it out here! It’s all about who that guy is? Srsly!
        Ya know? There must be big science out here someplace if it all falls apart in the East, RD. With the housing slump, that’s not a prob. The weather is good and every other day there is a farmer’s market someplace….

        Santa Ynez is the wine capital and other points north. bet they even have scientists!

        sends hugs.

        ps: those fab rings and couches? Yep. They are out here too. The other day i passed a shop with the Art Noveau guy! LOL!
        Fun is out there. It is. It has to be.

        • I’ve been to wine country in California. I agree that it’s probably my kind of place. Loved Santa Barbara.
          But I can’t afford to leave it all behind, at least not yet. My youngest starts high school tomorrow. Her dad is laid off, working as a contractor traveling to Canada and Japan for work. I’m the only working adult in my family with health insurance and a steady job-for the moment. The kid is incredibly smart. It’s scary. I have to get her into college before I consider any moves. Maybe someday.

          • High School! wow. High School!

            Canada and Japan. Geez. Great, no? Contractor as outsourced. Great. Even them.

            Little B! Grown up, post Paris.
            ps: lately (I know we are no longer Pumas, but that post I cross reffed 2 years agoof yours is getting lots of reads. 2 years ago….hard to believe.

          • Yep, Brooke went to France andcane back speaking French. No, REALLY speaking French. I don’t think her guidance counselor believes me when I say she will find French II too easy. She needs a placement test. She’s driving me crazy with all the French grammar stuff. I can’t keep up with her. I think this is what is called Flow for gifted individuals. It’s an almost autistic intensity of concentration for some subject. Every waking minute of her day is filled with French. How to conjugate, irregular verbs, idioms, simple past vs passé compose, negative statement construction. Sometimes, I beg her to stop. But then she corrects me and says “the word is arête”.
            I can’t wait til she goes back to school.

          • Amazing! What a talented kid.

  3. RD this is off topic but did Conf use that new sharing button thing in WP? I just watched about it here:

    http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/more-ways-to-share/

    it looked cool for Conf and also my Depth Psych stuff. Might try.

  4. What fun! And what a wonderful way to make one’s point. I’m sure it was worth the $.

  5. you can’t do this kind of event well without paying your people well”

    Sounds like a recipe for a thriving economy.

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