Outstanding in the Field

The mission is to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.

This extraordinary experience and brilliantly crafted entrepreneurial endeavor travels the continent and beyond and we were thrilled that it landed in our part of the world.

Outstanding in the Field is a moving culinary feast that began in 1999. The founder, artist Jim Denevan, has set this long elegant table at farms and gardens, on mountain tops and in caves, on islands or in our case, at a local ranch. Wherever the location, the theme of each dinner is to honor the people whose work brings nourishment to the table. Ingredients for the meals are almost always local and they are prepared by a local celebrated chef of the region.

In our case, the setting was Doublecheck Ranch, buried along the San Pedro River in Gila County, AZ.  After a tour of the operation led by ranchers Paul and Sarah Schwennesen, we settled into the long table. We experienced, beef from the ranch, produce from McClendon’s Select, a local grower, and wine from Dos Cabezas, a Southern Arizona winery with a full range of reds and whites. The meal was orchestrated under the brilliant director of Chris Bianco.

Of course, what made the evening so special was the table – seated with farmers, ranchers, vintners, culinary artisans, and diners – all sharing a meal. From one vested in the humanities, the magic started immediately. Early on, I spotted Gary Nabhan, my personal food hero and the founder of the local food movement. I got to hear stories of working the land from Paul and Sarah and was seated amongst interesting and amazing people; a physician with a love of food, a recently retired art teacher, a clothing line entrepreneur. Our conversation resonated and connections were built.

I love the vision of Jim Denevan and that he invented this endeavor to feed his love of travel and to bring people together.  Check out his website to find a meal close to you or better yet, invent the concept yourself and honor the land and those who cultivate it into nourishment.

The Gorgeous Table

The Gorgeous Table

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Chris Bianco and Fiancee

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Bring your own Plate

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Our Ranchers

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Spotted in the Crowd – my Food Hero

Paul de

Paul describes the Ranch

IMG_0627Todd Bostock – our winemaker

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Sarah explains the Operation

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And she makes up for size!

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Such a beautiful table

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After-dinner bonfire

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The Lowdown

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Sorry, all plates are empty!

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The Conversation Continues

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Candlelight

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Gorgeous Tarts

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My own Tart

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The Chef and the Winemaker retiring for the evening

Lemony Shredded Brussel Sprouts
From Martha Stewart

Serves 5

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded with a knife or food processor
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high, add brussels sprouts and 2 tablespoons water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in lemon juice.

At the ranch, Chris Bianco did these with bacon. It was a local, ethically raised variety and the accolades were loud and frequent. This version is lighter and vegan but of course, it’s up to your preference.

Okay, so now I’m wondering about this entire community meal appeal…   Should I try this at home?

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65 Comments

  1. Great post! This sounds like a wonderful evening!

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  2. So great you got to do this! Looks like a beautiful evening…

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  3. Looks like a hell of a great time. A lot of people and a lot of food at all times is just how I grew up.

    Tim

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  4. I just love this! I love the food, the people, the setting, the whole idea of it. Thanks for sharing your lovely experience with us.

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  5. What an amazing experience!

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  6. I love this idea – communal eating, mixing with new people that are there because of a shared passion and, of course, enjoying the food in a natural landscape. Yes! You should do it! (And, how can I get on that list?) :) What a great experience – thanks for sharing!

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  7. Wonderful that the weather cooperated . . . lot more fun under clear skies. Glad you had a chance to attend. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. How exciting that you got to attend one of these special dinners. I had the oppurtunity to work at one many years ago in California . I will never forget it!! Such a great way to connect.

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  9. Looks like a beautiful evening and meal. They’ve hosted dinners at my favorite farm in Vermont, and always sell out. My only wish is that the price could be more accessible—not just for me, but for the residents of the communities where the farms are. In this case, I believe the dinner was about $250, which is far, far, out of reach for locals on a $30,000 or less annual income. Other than that, I love the concept!

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    • I hear you. This was phenomenally expensive but a rare and special occasion (20 years of bliss) so we splurged. The farm itself is going to host another soon at about $80 which is still pricey but I’m thinking that I could do something like this on a smaller scale without the money making aspect.

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  10. What a great idea (down to the lovely white table that becomes so colorful with the bring your own plates). Looks like a good time. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. wow, that table looks like a dream. I love it! I wonder if I could do something like this on my farm.

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    • It would be a lot of work but what a kick and what a great way to introduce others to your farm.

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  12. How neat, I love the way formality meets nature. You should definitely try this and blog about it so we can join in our adventures outstanding in the field :)

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  13. What was your tart? Looks so pretty and delicious!

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  14. So inspiring and gorgeous photos. I loved everything about this post! Really brightened my day:)

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  15. I’ve always wanted to go to one of those! Yum!

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  16. Fresh

     /  February 1, 2013

    Sounds like an amazing experience. I hope they come to my neighborhood one of these days!

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  17. That is one long looking table!

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  18. Great post! I love the long table photo!

    Sent from my iPhone

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  19. That table out in the middle of seemingly nowhere is just stunning. I’m so glad there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – I would have been so nervous if I was the organiser and I started to see clouds! xx

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  20. Tammy .. .last year we drove by a beautiful white set up in the middle of a field . .and I just thought maybe a wedding reception. Now you have me thinking it might have been something like this! Thank you for letting us in on all the beautiful connections going on out there.

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  21. This post makes me so homesick! Doublecheck farms is definitely one of my favorite Arizona beef producers and I miss working with them on food events in Tucson. What a romantic evening!

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  22. What a great dinner–and the long table really is most impressive. We aren’t doing anything like this in Wisconsin now ;-) !

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  23. Tammy, al fresco is the holy grail of eating to us in Britain. That table looks just amazing. What a wonderful way to celebrate. It sounds like an incredibly exciting occasion.

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    • I think you’d love it. The irony of al fresco is that we can’t do it during peak summer months due to heat. The rest of the year is grand however.

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  24. I love this kind of long table & the setting too! :) Waw! What a great initiative!
    I would liked to have been there too! :) A tasty recipe too!

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  25. What a lovely idea! It looks so relaxing, lovely photos, especially the candle-lit ones. I’m glad the weather co-operated. .

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  26. That is an amazing setting! I love how your food was local, really makes you appreciate all the time and work that went into bringing it to your table :D

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    • It’s a fabulous awareness raising exercise and I think they can do even more to cultivate good habits for us afterwards.

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  27. Outstanding in the Field visited a farm about 60 miles away in October and I SO wanted to be a part of it, but it just wasn’t possible. I hope I’ll be able to attend one soon (and host one on my own farm sooner, than later!)

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    • The Doublecheck ranch where they did it has other versions of farm to table dinners that are much more reasonably priced. While I don’t have a farm, I’d also love to put on an event like this.

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  28. Lisa H

     /  February 8, 2013

    What a wonderful evening! Food always brings people together and is even more special when you get to see where the beautiful meal actually comes from in it’s own setting. Amazing photos and people. Thanks for sharing!

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  29. An inspiring celebration of being one with nature and creating a community that appreciates each other. Wonderful pictures.

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  30. What a great way to celebrate local food and the producers. It sounds like a very special evening. I’m of fto check out the links!
    Oh and lemony brussel sprouts sound delicious, and lovely and easy to prepare too.

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    • I became most fond of brussels when I lived in the UK. Prior to that, I didn’t really have an appreciation for how they grew. I hope they do a dinner near you.

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  31. What a beautiful table!

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  32. A beautiful event indeed, a great celebration and tribute to the local producers and food. Thank you for sharing those moments with your lovely pictures.

    Reply
  33. WOW! Great, great post!

    Reply

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