You can credit Santa Cruz-based chef and environmental artist Jim Denevan for the prevalence of pop-up farm-to-table dinners. Denevan founded a series of migrating meals, which he named Outstanding in the Field, in 1999, before farm-to-table was even a phrase in our vocabulary. At the time, he had one goal: to make a lasting connection between the public and the farmers, ranchers, and winemakers—and their hard-working crews—who grow California’s incredible produce. The results have done that—and more—creating magical marriages of food, place, and people. Picture a seemingly endless picnic table, set for dinner with tablecloths, place settings, and fresh flowers. Now put that table in the middle of a beautiful orchard in bloom, or a field on a coastal ranch in view of the sea, or a handsome vineyard amid sun-burnished hills. For guests, these events start with tours of the farm or ranch property, followed by multicourse meals prepared by celebrated chefs in the region, with ingredients that may have been sourced on site. Farmers and producers sit with diners to share stories about their work, and soon the entire table is talking about food and community. The remarkable event that started here in California has mushroomed to include events in nearly every state, but the new ones here, like ones at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival south of Palm Springs, continue to sell out weeks and even months in advance. Check the schedule and make reservations as soon as you know your travel dates.
Outstanding in the Field