Forget picnics, backyard grilling, and rooftop cocktails. Outstanding in the Field gives new meaning to al fresco dining. The California-based group travels around the country promoting locally grown food through farm-to-table dinners actually held in farm fields, beaches, and now national parks. Last Thursday, the folks at Vermilion restaurant partnered with the group to hold the first area Outstanding in the Field Dinner, which sold out just hours after the event was announced. They served a five-course meal to 120 guests, and we’ve got the dish.
Where: George Washington Birthplace National Monument, near the town of Montross, Virginia.
Ticket Price: $180.
Who: Nary a black-tie-clad guest in this crowd. The cowboy-hat-wearing founder of Outstanding in the Field, Jim Denevan, presided over a group that included Bruce Woods of Dragon Creek Aqua Farm and Gabriele Rausse of Gabriele Rausse Wines. Local foodies in the crowd included chef and restaurateur Nora Pouillon and FreshFarm’s Ann Yonkers.
Food and drink: Vermilion chef Anthony Chittum, Nathan Anda (who is working with Neighborhood Restaurant Group to open a butcher shop), and Will Artley of Evening Star Cafe put together the menu. It started with hors d’oeuvres including crispy soft-shell crab, bison tartare, house-made lardo, and marinated eel. Guests then gorged on crab soup, whole grilled rockfish, cornmeal-crusted catfish, pickled okra, bison chops, and peach-and-blackberry pie. All of the fare was locally sourced and paired with Virginia wines. The feast was even more remarkable considering the rustic accommodations, giving new meaning to the idea of an open kitchen.
Scene: Guests from throughout the region let the stress of the long drive—many traveled more than two hours to Montross—melt away in the grassy park, with the Potomac River meandering past. Free-flowing wine and plentiful appetizers helped take the edge off, too. Diners walked past Denevan’s bus, parked in a field, and made their way to a grove of trees where several tables were scattered through the pines. As the night progressed, the wind whipped off the Potomac, blowing out most of the tea lights on the table and leaving guests in the dark. A few commented that they got to experience two trends—farm-to-table dinners and blind dining.