Bucket list (buck·et list)
a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during his or her lifetime
: An Outstanding in the Field farm dinner is at the top of my bucket list
Two nights ago I checked an item off of my bucket list. I’ve dreamt of going to a farm dinner hosted by Outstanding in the Field, and my wish came true on Tuesday night. I’m bursting and must share.
First, a little history. Jim Denevan, the founder of Outstanding in the Field (OITF) brings diners to their food by way of an 80-foot-long dinner table that is set up in a field, ranch, dairy, vineyard or community garden. These delicious alfresco meals reconnect us to our local land and to the farmers and food artisans who tend it. The ingredients come directly from the fields in which the great table sits and the individuals who work so hard to cultivate them share equal billing with the guest chef, and sit shoulder to shoulder with the guests.
As we entered the beautiful grounds of Tres Sobores, we were greeted by one of the many happy staff members of OITF. Imagine yourself arriving at a famiy reunion and having your cousin come out to greet you…yep, they’re that friendly. The young man explained that we would first gather in the olive grove, and to get there we were to walk between the rows of grapevines and make a left.
We were offered a glass of Tres Sobores’ Por que no? wine, a delicious red blend, or a Gin-arita made with organic pomegranates from the property. I, um, had both. A few delicious hors de’oeuvres were passed and each picnic table had a beautiful salumi tray.
We were then welcomed by Jim and Leah of OITF and the property owner, Julie. Under the shade of the olive trees, a glass of wine in hand, you could feel the comraderie beginning to develop among the guests. We all could sense we were in for something very special.
As is tradition at these farm dinners, we walked the property of Tres Sobores. Julie told us of its history and we learned much about the different grapes they’re growing and of the 100% organic methods they use. We were introduced to their lambs and guinea hens, (otherwise known as “dinner”), and we picked and ate ripe strawberries from the organic garden, still warm from the sun.
In keeping with tradition we were then led to the long stretch of table with its white tablecloths, framed along its curve with grapevines, and topped with twinkling wine glasses. If it wasn’t apparent before that Jim and his crew have been doing this since 1999, it was now – the string of chairs gently curving along the tableside were perfectly in line. This was such a magical sight, and I saw a sparkle in Jim’s eye as we all got our first look.
We were invited to pick any seat and each of us had our own dinner plate from home in hand…another wonderful tradition upheld. As Jim states in his farm to table cookbook, “The dozens of individual plates set down the length of the table effect an incredibly striking visual testament to the diverse community we create every time we set up that table. “
Dinner was served family style starting with huge grilled Baja scallops. Big bowls of salad with farm fresh vegetables and fingerling potatoes were brought out followed by heavy trays of spit-roasted lamb and guinea hen married with a moro bean and chard ragout. We finished up with sweet and tender peaches and cherries topped with crème fraiche. All of these courses were perfectly paired with Julie’s wines, and during the dinner we met many of the growers who provided their part of this generous feast.
On this beautiful day in this glorious spot of heaven called Tres Sabores, dozens of strangers gathered together in the late afternoon, came together to enjoy the fruits of the land and the labor of the chef and growers, and left as kindred spirits.
Although I’ve crossed this incredible experience off of my bucket list, I’m adding another one right back on – I have the burning desire to experience another dinner with Jim and his crew at a Secret Sea Cove location somewhere here along our California coast. Perhaps next year. And if you find yourself at one of the 68 remaining farm dinners this season (there’s a very good chance there’s one near you), please tell Jim and Leah I say hi.