Outstanding in a Vermont Field
FarmPlate Aug 30, 2010 Event Beat 0 comments
Great meals are not out of the ordinary in Orleans County, Vermont's localvore Mecca. Still, August 17 stands out, even in the minds and palates of Vermont's hippest foodsters. That was the day the Outstanding in the Field's red-and-white bus pulled into the driveway at Pete's Greens at Craftsbury Village Farm to begin assembling one very long table for one unforgettable meal. A touring "restaurant without walls," Outstanding in the Field brings together local chefs and producers for a special culinary experience in a beautiful outdoor setting. Here, the very two people who made the event possible share their experiences:
Pete Johnson, owner/farmer, entrepreneur, Pete's Greens, Craftsbury, Vermont
The OITF crew was great to work with. Relaxed, organized, they really made it easy for us to
host them. Dinner was held in our farm field and for a few weeks I had pondered what might be the best location. Most of our field is taken up with ripening crops or is bare, waiting for fall plantings. There were not a lot of open options. Just by luck, we happened to have several acres of three-foot-tall buckwheat in full flower. This is grown as a cover crop, is a bee favorite, has a sweet scent and would make a perfect location for dinner. We mowed a narrow rectangle in the buckwheat for the long table.
After a reception and leisurely tour, we made our way to the far end of the field and settled into the field of buckwheat. Over the next two hours, the combination of incredible food prepared by Eric Warnstedt of Hen of the Wood, beautiful late summer weather, good company and the fragrant buckwheat made for a magical evening. Dinner featured our pork at every course, including candied bacon for dessert. Eric and his crew can really cook—I'd recommend a trip to his restaurant in Waterbury.
Eric Warnstedt, chef/owner, Hen of the Wood, Waterbury, Vermont
Outstanding in the Field represents everything I focus on and get excited about in the restaurant world—a blend of history and tradition, a casual and relaxed vibe, a focused and motivated crew. Most importantly, OITF is all about the food, the wine and the experience.
Weeks ahead of time, we decided on doing porchetta as a main course. That gave Pete the time he needed to get the pigs ready for the butcher. I knew I probably wouldn't think about the event again until a few days before. Sure enough, a "few weeks away" rolled into a "few days away" and it was time to start checking out veggie availability and to begin preparations.
Brining and curing were at the top of the list. A huge plastic bin held all of the porchettas in their brine, taking up way too much space in our little walk-in. The pork was eventually taken out of the brine and laid out, rubbed with rosemary, garlic, salt, fennel seed and mustard. The event was on a Tuesday and all the produce was being delivered on the Saturday before. We made room for five flats of heirloom tomatoes, 20 pounds of broccoli, 20 pounds of Pete's gold potatoes, 15 heads of radicchio, 2 wheels of Jasper Hill blue cheese, 10 cases of wine and copious amounts of herbs, nuts, salt, oil, prosciutto, bacon, cornmeal etc.!
The big day: We're not really prepared for off-site catering at Hen of the Wood, so it was a bit of an ordeal. Sous chef Jordan had made it clear that his brand-new Subaru was not to carry the pork! Long story short, we rolled into Pete's Greens at about 1 pm. ready to rock.
The Outstanding crew had already arrived and was setting up the "kitchen." We were driven down to the dining table, which was about a quarter mile away in a spot more beautiful than any of us could have imagined. A cover crop of buckwheat had been cut out to create a pathway and then a dining area. From a few feet away you would have never guessed there would soon be 80 people dining in the field.
We got our bearings and started loading the two six-foot grills with hardwood charcoal. The porchettas, a glass of wine each and a host of random things all laid out in their proper places. The night went off without a hitch. Every few minutes a guest would come by to say hello or take pictures. My mother attended the evening and was glowing with pride and enthusiasm for the whole affair.
As the sun was setting, the sky turned shades of blue, orange and purple. We all seemed to be feeling the same vibration—smiling gleefully and peacefully, somewhat overwhelmed with perfect weather and the absolutely gorgeous evening just trying to take it all in before nightfall.
Heirloom Tomatoes with Grilled Prosciutto
from Pete Johnson, Pete's Greens, Craftsbury, Vermont
5 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 shallot, diced
½ tablespoon kosher salt
½ cup basil
5 pints mixed heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
6 slices of prosciutto (we use domestic prosciutto from La Quercia), sautéed until crispy and chopped
1 tablespoon pine nuts
Pinch of sea salt
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, shallots and salt. Chop the basil and immediately add to the dressing to avoid discoloration. Add the tomatoes and stir gently to mix. Transfer to a decorative platter.
Scatter the prosciutto over the tomatoes, the sprinkle the pine nuts on top. Sprinkle a few flakes of good sea salt on top to finish.
See more great images of Outstanding in the Field on our flickr page!