Several years ago I heard of a program called Outstanding in the Field. The project of chef and artist Jim Denevan, this program hosts a farm-to-table dinner at farms throughout the country featuring local chefs in each place. I thought this sounded like a fantastic idea the first time I heard of it. But this year it got even more fantastic when our CSA farm - Fair Share Farm in Kearney, MO - got to host the event.
I jumped at the chance to join in and snagged 2 of the 150 tickets available, which quickly sold out. The chef for the evening was the famed Jonathan Justus of Justus Drugstore, which I know from previous experience to be absolutely superb. And his OITF dinner did not disappoint.
The evening started with hors d'ouvres and drinks and mingling around the farm. In typical Justus Drugstore fashion, the simplest of foods so expertly prepared were such a pleasant surprise. The server offered me a seemingly boring watermelon chunk topped with a foamy blueberry, but boring it was not. Watermelon + blueberry + black walnut + lemon = something else altogether.
"sweet pea," the Fair Share Farm van
Rebecca demo-ing the tractor.
After mingling, Jim Denevan gave a big welcome to all the guests and introduced farmers Tom and Rebecca, who then told a little bit of their story and shared about their farm before leading us all on a brief but informative farm tour which featured a perfectly quiet demonstration of their electric tractor, the illustrious 1948 Allis Chalmers "G."
The tradition of the plates.
After the tour we all filed back over to the long table that seemed to stretch to infinity and - on our way, picked up our plates. Guests were invited to bring their own plates to the event, the eclectic result of which adds to the charm of the whole evening. (Although I think I won the prize for The Most Boring / Least Charming Plates with my scratched up old white plates from Target).
"Spinach Cherry Limeade" spinach, cherry limeade, black pepper pecans, cherry basil rose sorbet, beets
The first of seven incredible courses commenced. Everything was served family style so the whole meal felt warm and friendly. My dinner date that evening was my sister-in-law and we enjoyed the company of some other members of the FSF CSA who were, for the course of this meal, our food-sharing "family." We marveled at the duck egg fettucini, the carrot gnocchi, the grilled romaine, the corn pastry. Outstanding, indeed.
I was so impressed with how smoothly the evening was run, how charming and beautiful the array was, how sharp the servers were, rattling off not only the intricacies of each dish, but the provenance of each ingredient as well. 15+ local farms contributed their local produce and products to the meal. Even the wine was local and extra local at that - from Fence Stile Vineyards right next door to Kearney in Excelsior Springs.
We lucked out with a less-than-scorching day on Sunday and to avoid the heat of the day, the dinner began an hour late. As best I could tell, no one melted over the course of the evening, although I can't say the same for the Shatto butter on the table. By the time the sun set, we were still holding out for the last two courses and finishing off our outstanding dinner by candlelight. Even in the dark, the food was divine.