Outstanding in the Field 2012

I wanted to share an amazing dinner experience that Hubby and I had on Saturday night. We attended the Outstanding in the Field event in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

If you haven’t heard of Outstanding in the Field, it’s a nationwide tour of farm to table dinners. The OITF crew sets up a super long table on the actual farm. The day starts with a tour of the farm, followed by an evening of delicious food.

These events are widely popular and some sell out within hours of the tickets going on sale. I purchased our tickets back in March for our September dinner. I can tell you all now that we’re already looking forward to going again next year! (By the way, OITF has no idea I’m writing this post, I purchased our tickets and hadn’t even planned on blogging about the meal. It turned out to be such a great experience I had to share!)

In order to turn all this amazing local food into a meal, a local restaurant/chef is featured at each dinner. Our dinner was hosted at the Green Spark Farm by farmer/owners Mary Ellen and Austin Chadd, with chef Andrew Taylor of Hugo’s and Eventide Oyster Co, both in Portland, Maine.

We headed up to Cape Elizabeth on Saturday afternoon. Upon arriving at the farm, we were greeted by Leah from OITF. We each grabbed an Allagash White to sip while tasting a variety of appetizers. Appetizers were passed as guests mingled in an open field on the farm. I didn’t take pictures of the appetizers, but we had the following: golden beet & miso soup, Winter Point select oysters with watermelon & pink peppercorn mignonette, Caldwell Farms beef tartare with fried biscuit dough, and Eventide lobster bun with a house made mayo and dill on a steamed bun.

All of the appetizers highlighted the fresh local ingredients that were used here. Hubby’s favorite was the lobster bun. No surprise there. The steamed bun was the perfect vessel for carrying the lightly dressed lobster salad. My favorite was the beef tartare. The fried biscuit dough was heavenly.

After our first bite, we knew we were in for a treat of an evening. We lucked out and had sunny mild weather, even though the forecast had warned of clouds and rain. After about an hour, Outstanding in the Field founder Jim Denevan spoke to the crowd. He explained how OITF got started and what’s still to come for them.

Then he introduced the farmers, Mary Ellen and Austin. They gave some history about themselves and the farm and then we split into two groups for the tour. Austin told us about some of the unique produce they grow at the farm, about how the farm got started, and about life on the farm. He also showed us the cute little farm stand that they just opened in 2012.

After our tour, it was time for dinner! There is a tradition that everyone brings their own plate to dinner. This is so that everyone is contributing to the meal and it makes the table a once in a lifetime combination of faces and plates. You’re seated right next to complete strangers who you share a family style meal with.

Once we found our seats, you could hear the buzz of excitement all around. Some guests had been to previous OITF events, but everyone at our section of the big table was new to OITF. Each course was served with a wine pairing, all from Italy at our meal. We started with some homemade sourdough and hand-churned butter.

Next up came the salads. We had a mixed greens salad that was lightly dressed and another salad which was made up of compressed melons, gherkin, squash, prosciutto, and thai flavors. The curry in the spices on the melon salad was a unique twist on a classic salty-sweet flavor combination.

The next course was my favorite of the night. We had a grilled North Atlantic swordfish belly with gribiche, bean salad, black olive, and Isreali couscous. This course provided the most perfect bite of the day. That bite consisted of smokiness from the bean salad, tenderness from the swordfish belly, crispiness from the green beans, and creaminess from the gribiche. I couldn’t get enough of it. Especially the beans.

Then came a side of Caldwell Farms beef with nightshades, spilanthes, and gai-lan. It also had potatoes, an eggplant puree, and au-jus. We devoured the beef. And then a second platter at our small section of the table.

As the dinner plates were being cleared away, the sun had start to set. The OITF team brought out candles to set on the tables.

And last but not least came dessert. This course was a make-your-own sundae with corn gelato, tomato sorbet, granola, olive oil popcorn, basil syrup and corn financier. And our sundae glasses were served with a slice of heirloom tomato. I passed on the corn gelato since it had dairy in it, but piled everything else into my sundae dish. The tomato sorbet tasted like nothing I’ve ever had before. It was refreshing and had a strong tomato flavor. Paired with the crunch from the granola and the corn from the financier, it was a great ending to the meal.

At this point, those predicted clouds had started rolling in. It had been a breezey night all night long, but the wind was really starting to pick up and the clouds were looking quite full. The chef said a few closing remarks and our event was over. No one really lingered due to the storm that was rolling in, so Hubby and I headed in to Portland where we were staying for the evening.

We had a great time at our Outstanding in the Field dinner. It was fun to meet some new people who were passionate about food while enjoying an amazing meal outside on the perfect late summer evening. I highly recommend checking out the events for 2012 – you can see there are still some locations that aren’t sold out yet. I also recommend signing up for their mailing list so the you can get the notification about when tickets go on sale for 2013. I know Hubby and I are planning to attend at least one meal next on next year’s tour.

I know Outstanding in the Field is coming to Allandale Farm here in Brookline tonight (with chef Tony Maws from Craigie on Main)! We have our CSA through Allandale, but thought it would be to tough to do the dinner on a work night and wanted a good excuse for a weekend in Portland. If you’re going tonight – have fun!

One Year Ago: How to Dice a Peeled Peach and Strawberry Peach Basil Bars
Two Years Ago: Goat Cheese Cake with Peach and Blueberry Topping and Fig, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Onion Crostini
Three Years Ago: Blueberry Peach Muffins and Shrimp with Cilantro Pesto
Five Years Ago: Spice Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

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