Photo Credit: Bill Strength
On Feb. 6, Outstanding in the Field returned to the Florida Panhandle for its third annual table-to-farm dinner — “13 Mile Seafood” — on the shores of Apalachicola Bay, featuring Tommy Ward of 13 Mile Seafood Market as the host farmer, with me as guest chef, along with Jackson’s Steakhouse.
My team, local chefs, included David Penniman, Rudy Rudolf, Dan Dunn, Daniel Watts, Wayan Sumadi, Sandy Veilleux, Jerry Mistretta, Brandy and Dorothy Bruton and Cat and Lee McCreary. Also included were several Pensacola farmers, wines by Curtis Flower and Cat and Lee McCreary, brewmaster Mark Robinson of the Pensacola Bay Brewery and Bo Walker of Oyster City Brewing Co. The event was sold out at 126 people.
Based in Santa Cruz, California, Outstanding in the Field is a roving culinary adventure — literally, a restaurant without walls. The mission is to reconnect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.
Since 1999, they have set the long table at farms or gardens, on mountaintops or in sea caves, on islands or at ranches. Occasionally, the table is set indoors: a beautiful, refurbished barn; a cool greenhouse; or a stately museum. Wherever the location, the consistent theme of each dinner is to honor the people whose good work brings nourishment to the table.
The Outstanding in the Field communal table, carefully composed with the ingredients for the evening’s meal — almost always local, sometimes sourced within inches of your seat at the table, and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region — inspires both conversation about the meal and a broader discussion about food, community and the meaning of place. After a tour of the farm, diners take their seats alongside the farmers, cheesemakers, ranchers, foragers, fisherfolk, brewers, winemakers, producers and other local food artisans who have provided ingredients for the feast, coming together in delicious communion to break bread and share stories.