by Caitlin Saniga / photos by Joel Hawksley
I love it when Joel take pictures. I tell him this all the time. So it was to my utter delight when his new lens arrived just in time and he brought it along to Outstanding in the Field this past weekend. What is Outstanding in the Field, you ask? I’ll tell you about our experience at Arcadian Fields in Hope Valley, R.I., but I think the photos tell a better story.
Outstanding in the Field is a dinner party road trip. It’s a true farm-to-table meal prepared by a local chef at a local farm, wherever local may be. It’s hundreds of people who don’t know each other, sitting at one table in the field or the pasture or the orchard or the beach, eating the food from the land.
The signature symbol of the dinner gatherings is an extremely long, white table, immaculately set for 100 or more people. Our table was arranged in a straight line, along the edge of a field that produces potatoes, salad greens, herbs and zinnias — like the ones you see in this photo.
It’s OITF tradition that diners bring their own plates. Joel and I brought plates we found at a thrift store that reminded me of a set that Baboo used to have: They’re speckled tan porcelain with brown and burnt-orange stripes along the rims.
Guests are invited to arrive early for dinner to enjoy local brews and wines as well as an array of passed hors d’oevres. We snacked on pickled vegetables, oysters with kimchi vinegar, and buttermilk biscuits with green tomato jam, and enjoyed pours of Peak Organic Brewery and Red Hook Winery.
After the snacks course, we were taken on a tour of the farm by Diana, the one full-time worker who founded and lives at Arcadian Fields. One shared observation from the tour was that Diana’s gardens are impeccably weed-free, which is not always common for organic farms. She takes great pride in this and attributes her success to good tools, attention to detail, and midnight weed walks.
Diana on deer at her farm: “They have radicchio parties. If you’re wondering — ‘what should I eat to be healthy?’ — ask a deer.”
Diana ripped up a bunch of rainbow carrots during our tour. This might have been my favorite part because I’ve bought these carrots at her farm stand at the Saturday Hope Street Farmers Market. There’s a bag of these carrots in my fridge’s crisper drawer right now.
Walking around the farm got up our appetites. Waiting at the table when we got back was our first peek at the dinner menu along with loaves of crusty, grilled bread and slabs of butter. And the butter was better than usual, whipped with miso, sherry vinegar, and cracked black pepper.
James Mark of Providence restaurant North was our chef for the evening. His grills and stoves were set up outside, just feet from the table.
The first course had all of my favorite things: juicy heirloom tomatoes, torn bread, sherry vinegar, spicy mustard greens and holy basil. I had thirds.
Each course was paired with a Red Hook wine. Pictured here is the Dry Rose 2013.
The second course was a fresh sweet corn salad with mussels and clams from American Mussel Harvesters, shaved Japanese turnips and radishes, cilantro and mint. Unfortunately, you won’t get to see our third course because we ate it too quickly! We had grilled squid and bluefish with blackened eggplant and zucchini.
We lingered until dusk, sending up our wine glasses for “Cheers!” as spontaneous toasts were made up and down the table.
For more information about Outstanding in the Field, and to see if the dinner tour will visit your city this year, visit the website here. To see a few more photos from our evening at Arcadian Fields, visit Joel’s blog here.