Before farm dinners were “Farm Dinners,” there was Outstanding in the Field…
Back when Natalie Imbruglia was all out of faith (that’s just how she felt!) and Armageddon was hitting theaters, more and more local ingredients were making their way to restaurant menus. Chefs were beginning to achieve celebrity status, but the farmers and artisans behind their ingredients remained quietly in the background. Noticing this divide at the time, chef and artist Jim Denevan sought to elevate the status of the farmers.
He also sought to connect eaters to their food sources in a more meaningful way. His solution was to bring chefs and diners to the very source of their food. Simultaneously, the eaters gained more appreciation for the labors preceding their meals, and the farmers found inspiration in the support. These were the early stages of what came to be Outstanding in the Field, which continued to grow via word of mouth.
Outstanding in the Field is a roving culinary adventure – literally a restaurant without walls, using long table at farms or gardens, on mountain tops 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. Ingredients for the meal are almost all local (sometimes sourced within inches of your seat at the table!) and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region.
Thanks to a relationship forged with Cure’s Chef Justin Severino during his Santa Cruz stint, the Pittsburgh area is now a regular stop on OITF’s tour, which makes for a very thrilled Quelcy (that’s me!). Each installment has been an opportunity to highlight a new farmer from Blackberry Meadows last year to Jarosinski Farms this year.
Though founder Jim Denevan was in a future tour locale for an art installation, veteran OITF leader, Leah Scafe, mounted the quintessential soap box to remind all of us why we had gathered to eat on a farm. She then passed the platform to our gracious host and farmer, Kevin Jarosinski.
Kevin is the leading force behind Jarosinski Farms, a first generation family farm located approximately 30 miles Northeast of Pittsburgh. The farm’s mission is to “Keep it Natural,” with a high priority placed on animal welfare. Kevin refuses the use of all antibiotics, growth hormones and steroids for his livestock, and the farm has proudly been “spray free” throughout all pastures & hay fields for over four decades! When Kevin spoke of his happy cows and his natural fields, his commitment was encouraging, and his enthusiasm was contagious.
Eventually, there will be a post dedicated to this bread and its fanatical quality. As a girl who has traveled through France, I do not say this lightly- this bread is some of the best I have ever eaten!
Though many a skim-milk-latte drinker would cringe, this was just the crowd for serving lard-crust pies with local peaches and cheddar from The Pittsburgh Pie Guy. The raw milk ice cream came from a neighboring farm, and even though the temperature dropped with the sun, the homemade ice cream was the perfect conclusion!
OITF really put farm dinners on the map. Part of that map marking meant the sun set over the Pittsburgh dinner, they packed up and journeyed onward to many, many more beautiful gatherings with gracious farmers and talented chefs. I hope to see them all next year if not sooner!