Socially distanced back garden gatherings and doing things locally are dead to me. I want to go to one of these dinner parties in the USA! Outstanding in the Field is a travelling dinner party club which each year travels around the USA staging elaborate dinner parties on mountain tops, farms, islands, ranches, in sea caves, greenhouses and vineyards.
It was set up in 1999, by Californian chef Jim Denevan, who had the idea to bring the table to the farm, so you get to see where your food is grown and talk to the farmer and then an awesome chef makes an amazing meal. Since then, more than 300 chefs have help cook in one of Jim’s travelling kitchens, and almost 70,000 guests have eaten in farm fields and orchards, on beaches and mountain tops, in barns and greenhouses. I got carried away choosing snaps from past dinners… they even have their own tourbus!
The way it works is: Every year on the first day of spring, they post their tour schedule on their website. You then pick your favourite, reserve your place and wait for your invitation which arrives roughly two weeks before the chosen event. On arrival, you grab a wine, mingle with your fellow dinner guests, take a little tour of the hosting farm or site, and meet the local producers who provide the ingredients. Then it’s time for dinner at the iconic table, family style, passing down bowls of deliciously fresh ingredients and eating alongside the farmers, producers, culinary artisans, and fellow guests.
Foodwise, for each event, a celebrated chef from the region creates the menu, and dishes are prepared using ingredients all local and often sourced just inches away from the table.
They also have this fun little tradition called “BYOP”– as in bring your own plate, where each guest is encouraged to bring their own vintage plate to add to the charm of the table. Everyone drops off their little treasures upon arrival and hopefully there’s the chance to do some plate-swapping after dinner.
Tempted? You’ll find the 2021 tour list here.