Outstanding In The Field

Imagine you’re with good friends sitting outside at a long dining table.  It’s draped with a crisp, white table cloth and set for a fabulous menu of fresh, delicious foods and amazing wine pairings that you’ll share over the course of a hot but not humid summer’s evening.  

You see these scenes in movies set in Tuscany or a film like Chocolat, but when you actually eat outside yourself, you end up with a totally different type of evening.  Paper plates, plastic forks and an endless supply of condiment bottles littering the table that you tend to knock down when swatting at the mosquitos that dive bomb you right as dessert is being served. And try as you might, you just can’t get Johnny Depp to RSVP as being in attendance.

Well, dream no more.  If you’d like to have a place at the outdoor table all you need to do is make a reservation.  Outstanding In The Field, is a moving restaurant of sorts.  They find farmers and local food artisans and invite the diner to the source, so to speak.  You get a tour of the farm, a meal made from local ingredients and dine with those that provide you with the meal such as the cheese maker, the local bread baker or the owner of the local vineyard.

Most of their summer dates are sold out, but I’m going to definitely keep these folks on my radar for next year.  It’s a pricey evening with dinner starting at $180 per person.  That’s for a five course meal with wine pairings, a farm tour, commentary by the food producers in attendance,  Q&A time with the artisans as well as gratuities.  So you’re paying not just for food, but for an education as well as an experience.

And yes, they have contingency plans for foul weather, such as tenting or eating inside the barn or at a winery rather than in the field.  From the web site it sounds like no location is too remote, so if you can afford it or have enough folks to pitch in, they’ll do a private party for you anyway in the world.  

If you’ve ever attended an Outstanding In The Field dinner, please leave a comment.  Check out their photo gallery when you have a chance because the founder, Jim Denevan, has a cookbook on the market so you could also borrow some table setting ideas and try to recreate one of their fabulous outdoor evenings at your home as well – I can’t guarantee that Johnny Depp will show but if word gets out, you never know.


14 responses to “Outstanding In The Field

  1. Go to Google, type in “Outstanding in the Field” and read every review – read carefully! I don’t want to sound caustic, but after attending one of these dinners last weekend, I really wish I’d taken the $$, made reservations at the fanciest restaurant that I could find, and then found that I had enough money leftover to spend elsewhere.

  2. Carokomo:
    That stinks. Do you care to elaborate? Was it the food? Or was it just over priced in your opinion?
    I hope at least the company was enjoyable.
    Thanks for posting,

  3. Hi Linda – It was a combination of things – you can read my review (and many others) here:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/532569#4086874 – – – or you can just go to chowhound.com and type in Outstanding in the Field. Even though we attended the dinner in South Carolina, my review was really a response to a California dinner… 🙂


  4. I have to say, I’m shocked. With so many people attending a dinner and the power of the internet, you’d think they’d be smarter than that. Bad news travels fast, especially online.

    With the economy the way that it is, folks won’t be willing to shell out that kind of money for anything less than an extraordinary meal. Hopefully, OITF will catch on if they want to survive.

    Thanks for posting again and leaving the link.

  5. As another disappointed OitF dinner attendee – I also posted to chowhound- let me confirm that we I had a similar experience at the Sep. 18th Wash. DC dinner. We’ve yet to get a email response from the OitF crew and their voice mail is full and won’t take messages. A earlier Calif. OitF dinner attendee advised us to contact the local chef to express our disappointment and request a partial refund. Tried that, but the local chef said to contact Jim Denevan, and seemed to want to distance himself and his restaurant from OitF. We were lured into paying $381.60 for two by the CBS Sunday Morning segment – that apparently – like you – glowingly reported on the experience without actually sitting down at the farm dinner table. I don’t mean to be harsh – the OitF farm dinner concept is wonderful, but somewhere along the line (100+ dinners) they turned into a money-making scam, or didn’t learn a thing along the line – ours was a fiasco.
    For that money we could have eaten twice at a great local restaurant, sipped a few glasses of wine in our favorite field and still had money left over. Beware.

  6. You’re right – it sounds super on paper, but unless the execution is superb, it does sound like it would suck.

    I’m curious why they don’t scale it back or why chefs are putting their reputation on the line and working with this outfit?

    Again sorry you wasted your hard earned cash.

  7. i was so excited about attending oustanding in the field in phoenix… we knew that it wouldn’t be a lush garden but our location was in an industrial park between the freeway and a parking lot of big rig trucks… the table was sitting atop a rock pile… the food was good, not what you would expect for the price… we brought out own plates as asked to enhance the experience…. each course was served on top of the next (at one point i asked to have my plate scraped) when i wasn’t looking one kind of wine was poured over another kind of wine… our appetizer was chips and salsa… and dessert was a rootbeer float…. just expected more… really was such a joke… on us…

  8. We experienced our first Outstanding in the Field dinner recently which was held October 25th 2008 in Napa, California. My expectations we somewhat low given that it wasn’t until the last moment we were told the menu would be vegetarian. Well, this wasn’t an issue. Chefs Jeremy Fox and Deanie Hickox-Fox of Ubuntu did a great job of bringing what remained of the summer garden to the table.

    Overall the staff and hosts were great. The garden was awesome and the weather was great. I look forward to making it to another event soon. I just hope I can score tickets in the first few hours before they sell out!

    Read More….. http://www.foodgeektv.com/?/blog/post/58/

  9. Nice to hear a good review. Perhaps all of the bad feedback of late improved their service/food.

    Glad you had a nice experience.

  10. To update the record – OitF finally replied to our emails requesting a partial refund. We received a refund check for $180 (of $381.60 total for two) just after Xmas. That reduced the pain some. It seems these farm dinners can be successful or near total duds.
    We still believe these dinners are a wonderful idea, but will refrain from recommending them based on our experience.

  11. Rob – Thanks so much for the follow up. Glad you got some of your money back and that you’re still open to the concept. I agree, it’s a great idea. Perhaps they should scale back a bit and focus more on execution/customer service and then it’ll evolve into something really fantastic. I hope it does. If you ever do it again you’ll have to let us know.

  12. I found two other groups that do something similar but you you need to live in LA or at least California!


  13. Cool! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Rob et al,
    Wish we asked for our money back. This was an unpleasant experience, with below par food and fake foodie guests. Everyone was just trying to one up each other. We left after the second course of what I termed, gray broth, and went to a fab authentic Mexican restaurant for dinner. Do not waste your money.

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