Ever since I heard about the traveling Outstanding in the Field dinner series a few years back I've been wanting to attend, and this Sunday I finally got my chance. We packed our camera and our appetites and traveled two hours from Brooklyn to Blooming Glen Farm in the heart of Pennsylvania's beautiful farm country.
Started back in 1999, OITF's mission is to reconnect diners to the land, with regional chefs preparing meals created from ingredients sourced from local cheese makers, farmers, winemakers, ranchers and foragers. Dinners are served outdoors at their signature family-style table, and they now host over 35 dinners all around the United States. Here is the table before the diners arrived at Blooming Glen.
The evening kicked off with passed hor d'oeuvres like fried chicken on buttermilk biscuits, grilled flatbread with squash, sage and house cured bacon, and chilled gazpacho with avocado mousse and smoked trout. Guests sipped Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir from Berks County-based Blair Vineyards and explored the farm's gardens. OITF's founder Jim Denevan and manger Eden Riley stood up on farm crates to welcome everyone and give a bit of history about the event. Jim looks like a real, old-fashioned cowboy, and his enthusiasm for the project and for showcasing America's local farms was palpable and got everyone excited for the meal ahead.
Beyond the food, one of the best parts of the event was getting to hear from the farmers whose land we would be eating from and on, Blooming Glen owners Tricia Boneman and Tom Murtha. Tom joked about the challenges of farming life, but said that "It was the only thing he and Tricia could imagine doing," because they feel so passionately about farming and creating quality, organic food. Tom also, hands down, wins for best beard.
Afterwards guests took a tour around the farm to learn more about what it takes to run 35 acres.
Guests were invited to bring their own plates for dinner (an OITF tradition) and the result was a colorful, eclectic table of china patterns.
One of the coolest things about the dinner was the guest list, largely composed of chefs and farmers. We sat next to John and Amanda Place of Keepsake Farm who had provided the milk for the mozzarella in the first course, and Jeff Frank of Liberty Gardens where the greens for the salads throughout the dinner had been sourced. There was lots of laughter, great stories and, of course, excellent food.
There are still tickets available for OITF events in Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and more. See the full list of 2014 dinners here.