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Entries in Outstanding in the Field (3)

Wednesday
Aug112010

Outstanding in the (Minnesota) Field

 

You may remember my post from around this time last year when I wrote about the fabulous experience I had with Kyle and my parents at the Minnesota version of Outstanding in the field.  We were fortunate enough to experience the dinner once again, for what I can only hope is a newly formed tradition with Kyle and my parents. 

 

 

This year, similar to last, my parents, husband and I packed into a four seater Toyota and travelled west into what I consider uncharted Minnesota territory.  This time we were farther south, and stayed on a highway I was relatively familiar with, until we passed all the expensive Excelsior houses and spun around in a rural round-about.  "How civilized" my mother commented.  I was gathering excitement for our upcoming meal; wondering who I might know, how things would be different from the year before, and of course, what we would be eating.  As we slowed to approach the would be dinner site (Star Thrower Farms) , I jumped out of the car to grab some pictures and cleverly ran into my lovely friend Kathy, who just so happened to be the woman who earlier this year introduced me to the wonderful world of foraging.  Having not seen each other for months, we gabbed about how good it was to see the other again, until I realized I had all but abandoned my dinner guests to chat.  I trudged along to meet up with the rest of the crowd and get my hands on some of the first treats of the evening. 

  

First up, charcuterie compliements of celebri-chef Mike Phillips.  His work at the Craftsman has been well regarded in the Twin Cities, but is about to partake in an new adventure called Green Ox, creating salumi for the masses (!!!!).

 

This year's event was notably hot and humid, compared to last years breezy, overcast and ultimately electrified experience.  We stood around and chatted sipping on our aperitifs of Minnesota made vodka and refreshing prosecco. Jim Denevan (founder and ah-mazing artist chatted with us a bit, giving us a breakdown of how it all began.  Soon there after we were introduced to farmers Deborah and Scott Pikovsky and took off to enjoy a tour of the farm.

 

 

The tour involved meeting some of their Icelandic sheep, their many rams, the milking room (including a not-to-be-messed-with guard llama) and my favorite: an amazingly well preserved old barn with gorgeous interior architecture.  Finally, we headed down the hill towards the massive linened table set for 150.  Jealous yet?

The guest chef this year was again Scott Pampuch, owner and chef of The Corner Table and the man behind the locally based Tour De Farm.  His experience cooking with local food is quite extensive and it showed clearly throughout every course.  Up first was a salad of grilled sausage and peaches, mizuna and kohlrabi purée with a sprinkling of lamb pancetta served with a Rush River Double Alt beer.  The peaches were sweet, the lamb sausage earthy, the mizuna added a slight spice, the kohlrabi purée was smooth and creamy as silk, pancetta crunchy and salty and the beer bitter.  Not a bad way to start off an amazing meal. 

 

Up next was a lamb tamale made with Kathy's foraged black trumpet mushrooms and Riverbend farms cornmeal, dressed wtih greens, pickles and oh-so-hot hungarian wax peppers.  Amazing.  Gorgeous.  SPICY!

 

Phillips and Pampuch sprinkle sheep queso fresco on a lamb tamale salad.

The sun seemed to be lowering itself in the sky at an alarmingly slow pace, but fortunately two of the dishes were paired with rosé, my all time favorite way to beat the heat.  Well.  That and sitting in my newly purchased backyard swimming pool.  But that's a story for another time.  We followed up the tamales with a simple dish of grilled lamb, potatoes, baby carrot and onion. When well executed, the easiest dishes can beat the most extravagant any day of the week.  


Nothing better to beat the head than a cool, tart palatte cleanser.  This consisted of goat yogurt paired with ground cherries served on what were at one time the floor boards lining Chef Pampuch's attic.  Absolutely stunning.

The palatte cleanser came in quite handy as the next course consisted of a rich and flavorful lamb loin, heart, kidneys (blech!) and tongue.  I'm the first girl to step up to the organ meat plate, but the kidneys were way too much for me.  I'll take liver any day of the week though and I wonder who got to eat the lamb sweatbreads? Hmmmm.....

At this point it was time for a break and some good digestion.  Mom and I hit the Biffy's (seriously the nicest port-o-john I have EVER been in.  It flushed!  And had a pump for water!  Very ooh-la-la in the land of portable toilets) and I became infatuated with OITF's vintage bus. 

 

We rounded out the evening with some lovely desserts.  We started with the best dessert of all: cheese, berries and honey.  But soon enough the sun passed beyond the trees and the cheese had been consumed. A quick round of sweet corn ice cream followed, which we enjoyed as the bugs began their twilight assault and quickly devoured our legs. It was time to go.

 

 

Thanks to everyone who made that lovely Saturday night possible: The lamb, the farmers, the land, the chefs, the line cooks, the dishwashers, the foragers, the diners, the crop mobs, the organizers and everyone in between.  It couldn't have happened without you. 

 

 

Thursday
Mar182010

I'm home!

and then off I go again tomorrow to Texas for a wedding.  The past 2 weeks of travel have been a whirlwind and it continues.  Kyle and I got home from a 2 day trip to Southern Minnesota and Des Moines, where I occasionally have to go for work.  Kyle got a little taste of what I do for my job (and some good relaxing time at the hotels) and he got to meet my boss finally, along with some good and not so good eats in the Des Moines area.  It seems there are a ton of people in Iowa who consider themselves Irish.  On our quest for good corned beef we stopped at a total of FOUR Irish bars, but only actually went to three as one was charging a $5 cover. 

Before headed over to the worst meal any of us have eaten in a long time (which involved a shepard's pie consisting of a low grade cheddar, instant mashed potatoes and taco meat), we got a guineess at an outdoor festival where we also sampled the Iowan favorite "the walking taco"... a brilliant idea for shitty street food.  Who needs a taco shell when you can smash up doritos? I also ordered what was called a Las Vegas Hot Dog, hoping for something as creative as the walking taco, but ended up with nothing but a frank (perhaps thicker than average) on bun... at least they had sauerkraut.

 

 

Don't worry.  Today's lunch made up for last night's dining experiences, but that experience is for another day (and probably another blog... sorry guys). 

Earlier in the week I was thrilled to find out that Grace, the mastermind behind the most addictive and inspirational design blog in my RSS feed posted a link to my Outstanding in the Field pictures from last year, linked to my pictures of last years Minnesota event! 

Outstanding in the Field- MN

 

You can see more of my pictures from last year's event here.  For the full schedule and to buy your tickets for the event this year check out the New! and Improved! Outstanding in the Field website, but make sure to save a ticket for me!

Sunday
Aug022009

Outstanding in the Field: MN Edition

On Friday as I drove my parents and Kyle farther West into the Minnesota heartland than I had ever been, my mother and I discussed how we had heard about Outstanding in the Field. She was certain that I, being "in-tune" with food culture, had told her about it. I, on the other hand, believed that she told me about it last year when her Houston goat cheese supplier (Blue Heron Farm) had their cajeta featured at the 2008 Outstanding in the Field in Texas.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Regardless of how we had heard about the meal, the four of us we were headed to Riverbend Farm in Delano, MN to experience our 1st farm dinner. The mission of Outstanding in the Field is simple: "To re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it."

Outstanding in the Field- MN

If that doesn't line up with my philosophy I don't know what does. The chefs, Scott Pampuch (owner and Executive Chef at The Corner Table) and Mike Phillips (Executive Chef at Craftsman Restaurant) teamed up with Greg Reynolds and his wife, the proprietors of Riverbend Farm. Both Pampuch and Phillips are well known in the Twin Cities for their commitment to fresh, local and organic ingredients, and Riverbend Farms are one of their go-to suppliers. In addition to supplying restaurants, Riverbend products can be found at local Twin Cities co-ops and they offer a CSA to a lucky 80 participants that signed up in March of this year.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

But enough with the small talk, onto the food!

When we arrived at the farm there were two options of beverages being served: 45h Parallel Spirits and Il Follo Prosecco.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

The lemonade vodka's being served by distiller Scott Davis were refreshing and smooth, but the prosecco was the best accompaniment for the Charcuterie being served up: headcheese (which is really becoming one of my favorite parts of charcuterie) coppa salame, MN cured prosciutto, Pork Rillette with spicy mustard and rhubarb compote, and house made mortadella. I've been a sucker for mortadella since I lived in Italy, and this provided me with a good fix.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

After we socialized a bit in the field, we heard from Jim Denevan, the founder of the nationwide dinners and Katy Oursler, Events Director. They gave us a brief background of how Outstanding in the Field was formed, their mission, and their travels. You can read more about much of what we learned here.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

From there we split into two groups and toured the farm. My group toured alongside Greg Reynolds, as he explained to us the theory behind his crop rotation while we got to enjoy the gorgeous July air.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Finally it was time for dinner. Just the anticipation of walking up to the gorgeous table set for 150 people made the price tag alone worth every dime. I immediately headed to the cooking tent where dinners were encouraged to watch the makings of the upcoming feast.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Our 1st course was a Farmer's Salad, composed of carrots, beets, potatoes, sheep's milk ricotta, pheasant eggs, salad greens, and a fresh shallot vinaigrette. There was a delicious blue cheese included too, but sadly it wasn't listed on our menu. The entire dinner was paired with Miner Family Vineyards Wines, which was a great flashback to California Wine Country. With the salad we were served a perfectly balanced Napa Valley Chardonnay. We got to hear from Pat Ebnet from Wild Acres talk about his poultry production as well as from Joe and Lou Jones from Idle Hands Farms, potato growers extraordinaire.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

It was around this time that Kyle noticed darkening clouds in the distance. I was skeptical they would ever reach us (have we had ANY rain in Minnesota this year, after all?) but it definitely made us wonder where 150 people would eat if a storm came our way.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Up next was cured Star Prairie Trout with cucumber, breakfast radish and cabbage coleslaw.
The fish was incredibly tender and mild, while the slaw provided a nice refreshing and light course, well paired with the Miner Viognier: clean, bright and citrus-y.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

My wonderful parents who get to enjoy Outstanding in the Field in Houston this September
Outstanding in the Field- MN

On to true Minnesota Fare (and who in Minnesota doesn't love sausage?). Next was Fischer Farm Fennel Sausage, served with a kohlrabi puree and braised greens tied together with a Honey Gastrique. Given the opportunity, I could eat this for dinner on a daily basis. The sausage was a coarsely ground pork and the fennel was brightened by the licorice flavor from the fennel. The kohlrabi was as smooth as the best mashed potatoes with a slight sweetness brought by the gastrique to tie it all together. The Miner Merlot was oaky, dry and full bodied with blackberry undertones.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

It was around this time we realized those ominous clouds were definitely coming towards us.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Never you mind, the next course was served without any hesitation. Large portions of Mark Simon veal served with a Riverbend swiss chard and a cornmeal "tamale" served on a bed of sweet corn, black turtle bean, succotash, veal demiglaze and herb butter. The tamale was a beautiful and delicious creation, with fresh sweet and creamy Minnesota corn. The veal was beautifully smokey, though I have to admit it was pretty hard to cut with my butter knife. Being the driver of the evening I only had a drop of the sangiovese, but recall a dark, earthy and dry wine. A clear cousin of a good Tuscan sangiovese, with the twist of American terroir.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

At this point the storm was upon us. The wind picked up and it was announced that dessert would be served in the greenhouses. The whole lot of us made the trek with the lightning flashing behind us. Many of us lingered outside of the greenhouses until the 1st drops of rain started to fall. The food, wine and weather combined made some of us a little loopy.

The storm approaching

Outstanding in the Field- MN


Getting my toes dirty

Outstanding in the Field- MN

All messed up on good food and great company
Outstanding in the Field- MN

Encountering friends

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Lighting strikes in the distance

Outstanding in the Field- MN
Dessert was the most unique of all courses: Riverbend cornmeal and Start Thrower farm sheep's milk cheesecake with sour cherry sauce, raspberries, black cap berry sauce, ricotta and honey ice cream. I didn't taste the ice cream, but at that point I was too infatuated with the storm to care.

A patron silhouetted by the outside barn light with rain battering the outside of the greenhouse

Outstanding in the Field- MN

The Greenhouse, lit only by lightning

Outstanding in the Field- MN

A man lit just by the light of his cell phone
Outstanding in the Field- MN