Table for 1,000? Feast Your Eyes on Pics of This Stunning Traveling Dinner Series

Table for 1,000? Feast Your Eyes on Pics of This Stunning Traveling Dinner Series

And now you can buy a ticket that helps people in need.

By Lizbeth Scordo

You might call the Outstanding in the Field dinner series a sort of traveling culinary circus: Its team of staffers crisscrosses the country in a very groovy vintage red-and-white bus every year, stopping at dozens of venues, where they partner with local chefs and food artisans — from farmers to fishermen — to pull off a killer and creative multi-course dinner set at the series’ signature farm table for 200-plus guests each night. And though the far-flung locations aren’t always the easiest to turn into dinner party venues, the outcome (and all those amazing resulting photos) tend to be well worth it.

“It’s pretty darn challenging to have a restaurant that not only moves all the time, but also has a different chef all the time,” says Jim Denevan, a chef, artist, and Outstanding in the Field’s founder and C.E.O. who put the first dinner together back in 1999. “We think of it as a stage. And we’re making it fascinating and interesting and organized for chefs to want to participate from year to year.”

Now, the team is about to set its biggest table yet for a very good cause: helping those impacted by the Northern California wildfires. Celeb chef Tyler Florence will cook up a Thanksgiving-style feast at a yet-to-be-revealed vineyard on the Napa-Sonoma county line as part of The Grateful Table charity dinner, in partnership with Visit California. The plan is to host up to 1,000 (!) guests at the November 21 event while raising money for four community organizations working on fire relief efforts. In addition to purchasing a place at the table, anyone can contribute by buying a seat for one of the first responders, too. To give you an idea of what diners are in for, check out eight stunning locations that served as striking stages for some of this year’s dinners.

Mead Ranch, Jackson, Wyoming

Photo: Outstanding in the Field/Neringa Greiciute

Rancher Brad Mead’s great grandfather was a homesteader at this Big Sky ranch not far from Yellowstone, which he now runs with wife Kate. Guests got a horse-and-wagon ride around the property to kick things off and a sweet view of the dramatic Tetons as their dinner backdrop. Private chef Joel Cox partnered with Jackson butcher shop Sweet Cheeks Meats to create a carnivorous feast.

Ploughgate Creamery, Waitsfield, Vermont

Photo: Outstanding in the Field/Emmy Hagen

Though the dinner series has been from Big Sur to the Big Island, this dinner on a little dairy farm in rural Vermont is a perennial favorite with Fieldheads (the endearing term for foodies who hit multiple events a year), who often tout it as one of the loveliest settings they’ve experienced. In August, chef Eric Warnstedt of Vermont’s Hen of the Wood paired Ploughgate Creamery’s cultured artisanal butter with his fresh-baked Parker House rolls and whipped up a butter soup spiked with corn and seafood as a first course. And while the dinner usually takes place out in the open air, there’s always a historic old barn standing by in case of summer showers.

Hama Hama Oyster Farm, Lilliwaup, Washington

Photo: Outstanding in the Field/Neringa Greiciute

Some of the most popular dinners in the series involve food cultivation — like an abalone farm in Central California and this waterfront oyster farm situated on the tide flats of the Olympic Peninsula’s Hood Canal in the Puget Sound. The July mollusk-centric meal was prepared by Seattle chef Jason Stoneburner, who, believe it or not, typically focuses on stone hearth cooking.

Kinnikinnick Farm, Caledonia, Illinois

Photo: Outstanding in the Field/Clara Lyle

Fabled Chicago chef Paul Kahan (of Blackbird and Avec) suggested this farm as the venue for his first Outstanding in the Field dinner in 2004. Since then, it’s been the site of multiple dinners where guests get to indulge under the farm’s famous willow tree. This year, Bruce Sherman (whose restaurant North Pond in Chicago has a pretty attractive setting itself) churned out dishes including a parmesan panzanella salad with Kinnikinnick’s heirloom tomatoes, and served the farm’s Berkshire pork with grilled onions, peaches, and chimichurri for a final savory course.

Kualoa Ranch, Kaneohe, Hawaii

Photo: Outstanding in the Field/Ilana Freddye

The crew didn’t take the bus across the Pacific, but chances are guests who got to attend one of the three Hawaii dinners that took place in January as part of the last winter tour didn’t mind. Two of the events were set on Oahu’s Kualoa Ranch — which includes a working cattle ranch, vegetable and fruit farm, and freshwater aquaculture ponds — and is so other-worldly, it served as the location for Jurassic Park.

Secret Sea Cove, Santa Cruz, California

Photo: Outstanding in the Field/Neringa Greiciute

Since Denevan’s hometown of Santa Cruz is where it all began, the group always holds a few dinners here every year that take a lot of work to pull off thanks to the remote location. Setup even involves constructing a temporary bridge to access this hidden beach that lives up to its name. The dinner honors on a different kind of farmer, fishermen, and the May meal highlighted a sustainably caught bounty from H&H Fresh Fish Santa Cruz, which contributed just-out-of-the-ocean salmon and tuna.

Brooklyn Grange Farm at the Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York

Photo: Outstanding in the Field/Adam Miliron

A venue to which you can arrive by subway might not seem like it fits in with the rest, but the urban location is part of the appeal. These back-to-back September dinners took place on one of the country’s largest rooftop farms that covers 65,000 square feet and grows everything from kale to cucumbers. It also happens to also tout amazing views of Manhattan — and a super sunset — from its 11th floor location.

Mt. Tamalpais, Mill Valley, California

Photo: Attached, Credit: Outstanding in the Field/Anne Simone

Earlier this month, the Outstanding in the Field gang pulled off its biggest event yet (until the Grateful Table blows away that record, of course), hosting more than 300 guests high atop Mt. Tamalpais (better known as Mt. Tam) a landmark peak in Marin County’s Mill Valley, giving diners ridiculously dramatic views of the Pacific below. Lauded Northern California chef Charlie Parker of Menlo Park’s Flea St. Cafe was charged with cooking the feast transforming albacore tuna and black cod from sustainable seafood purveyor TwoXSea and beef from Marin Sun Farms, along with lots of local veggies.

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