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It was Outstanding…and in the Field

August 10th, 2009

An orchard in South Haven, no rain, 140 guests and a host of fresh, local food.

My hubby, Steve, and I along with two Chicago cousins joined 138 others (I think 98%  also from Chicago) at a dinner hosted by Outstanding in the Field, a Santa Cruz, California venture that started with Jim Denevan, a chef, and his desires to introduce people to fresh food, family style and as close to the source as possible. His dinners are al fresco as weather permits and along with the fantastic fresh foods there are beverages to match, and farmers at your side, as he and his staff strive to prepare and serve a “spectacular yet uncomplicated feast”.

These guys have created a literal “roving culinary adventure”.  They have had really interesting dinners all across the U.S. and the world and they try for an outside single table event.  Sometimes, like last night’s (the Sunday event at the same farm) had to be not so pretty with torrential rains in their direction (however, I’m sure they made it all work out, they’re creative and the barn was ready).

Saturday’s rain, happy for us,  subsided in time for us to walk through the orchard, listen to Peter Klein, the farmer & owner of Seedling Farm, give the lowdown on what he grows, how he grows it and where he sells it with a bit of time for harvesting French strawberries for our own dessert.  He of course left the rest of the night to wine & dine (and beer – thanks to Goose Island of Chicago) under the stars and amongst the trees with new and old friends.

Jim and his staff were gracious and laid back hosts.  The food was tremendous and as promised, not hoity, just dang good!  Ah, are you wondering what we had?

Here’s the lowdown on the food:

Appetizers: served with Goose Island Matilda and Esporao Reserva Bruto

Duck Rillette & Seedling Farm plum on baguette

(There was apparently Smoked Trout and Col. Bill Newsom ham & goat butter for the appetizer too.  Sadly didn’t get any of either.)

Salads: served with Goose Island Sophie and Brochelle Rose

Whipple Organic Farm beets & burrata salad (with the best little sprouts on it ever!)

Growing Power cucumber, tomato & hazelnut salad (fresh as fresh can be!)

Nichols Farm corn (on the cob straight from the grill) and aioli

Main: served with Goose Island Harvest beer and Huber Pinot Noir

Farm raised chicken & toulouse sausage with herbs & garlic inside (with a surprise in the bottom of our dish – homemade french fries that didn’t get soggy – yum!)

Becker Lane Organic Farm porchetta (basically a cut of pork wrapped with lots of fat and then slowly cooked for a long time. )

Dessert: served with Porto Barros Colheita 1994

Polenta cake with Seedling Farm peaches and wild strawberries & caramel gelato

Honestly we were all pleasantly full after the dinner, dining for hours and eating small portions is the way to do it.   I didn’t roll away down the orchard because of the full tummy.

I think my only complaint was that – and those of you who know me will find this hilarious.   I missed not having Michigan wines at the table.  I have been practically anti-Michigan wines until recently.  But I’ve noticed that there are some (not a ton, but some) really decent Michigan wines.  And they can be paired with a meal!  We have a world class bubbly producer in Larry Mawby up north and decent Merlot from the Fenn Valley Winery just minutes away.  Instead we had Portugese bubbles that really weren’t all that great and a Pinot from California!…and it’s not that they didn’t taste fine!  It’s just that if we’re at the source, let’s really put it together!!

Overall we were really happy with our evening, hanging out in the field – it felt good.  I’m doing it all again in a few weeks, but next time I have to produce the dinner!  If you’re interested in the concept, there’s a farm dinner in Grand Rapids on August 29.  It will resemble this meal ~ these dinners are not cheap by any means, but at the Grand Rapids dinner, you’ll be able to share in

  • a 5 course meal provided by four of Grand Rapids’ top chefs
  • glasses of wines & beer selections from all over Michigan
  • an amazing time
  • new friends and old
  • and help a cause too

If you’re interested in joining me and many others for that outing, find out more at

the nacc website.

Photo credits to Janet Mesic Mackie of Chicago and a few to lame photos to Steve and Amy with Blackberry & Lies’ killer camera.

One Response to “It was Outstanding…and in the Field”

  1. Marylou Coe Says:

    Thanks for encouraging MI wines at MI Outstanding in the Field. Black Star Farms provided the wines for the O i t F dinner in Chicago at City Farm on August 5th with Hot Chocolate doing the catering. Isn’t it strange that an Illinois restaurant would specify “local” MI wine when the Michigan ones don’t? Why is it that Michigan doesn’t recognize what terrific wines are being produced right in their own back yards?

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