Outstanding in the Field: An Outdoor Dinner in the East Village

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If you’re surprised that the East Village is a stop on a national lineup of 40 feasts in farm fields, remember that the creators see the tour as an art experience.

“It’s definitely a restaurant, but mobile, and with guests chefs,” explains Outstanding in the Field’s earnest coordinator Leah, speaking by cell phone from the team’s tour bus somewhere outside Boulder. “But for [founder] Jim [Denevan] it’s an art piece as well. He’s a sand artist but in this case the table is the installation piece, in all these different environments. He decides exactly where the table goes.”

The table in question is the gathering place for the 130 or so ticketholders who convene at each five-course, family-style, wine-soaked and farmer-studded outdoor dinner as the roving restaurant makes its way across the nation. We’ve grown accustomed to claims of local ingredients, but in this case the phrase means within a few feet of the dinner table; guests can often reach out and touch wax beans on their vines, or gaze at grazing cattle while tucking into grass-fed steaks. The Web site explains that
“dinners always take place between the soil and the sky, near the source of the ingredients for your meal. This is generally a farm, on occasion a ranch, sea cave, winery or other locale.”

Or, on Friday, September 12, 9th Street’s La Plaza Community Garden where Brown CafĂ©’s Alejandro Alcocer will prepare a meal in a rustic on-site kitchen. He’s not as well-known as past chefs Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune or Gramercy Tavern’s Mike Anthony; still, all 140 $200 tickets sold out the day they posted. “We’ve got a huge mailing list,” admits Leah, “and there’s definitely people sitting on the button when the tickets go up for sale.”

The city is “a different environment from sitting out in the field,” she admits. But the biggest difference? Leah laughs. “It’s hard to find parking for the bus, that’s for sure!”

Photo credit: Andrea Wyner