I went to the Outstanding in the Field dinner last sunday night in Carpenteria. I had been reading not so good reviews from people who had gone a few weeks before, so I was getting a little nervous. I'm happy to report, I had a great time!
First I have to say that was plenty of wine and food to go around. The first course was served with the wine when you first arrive. Ours was fig and proscuitto bruschetta on rosemary bread. We had one when we first arrived, but later they walked around with platters serving the guests. The winery was Arcadian Winery and there served a nice light Chardonnay.
The event is not rushed, so relax and enjoy the atmosphere. I encourage you to bring a hat and wear sunscreen as we were in the sun quite a bit. Wear comfortable shoes and remember, you are on farm. There are flies and other insects and it can be dusty. We met the farmer,Romeo Coleman, took a little tour and then off to the table. It's true, people do get to the table first and set down their plates. By the time we got there, all the shade spots were gone and we were left in the blazing sun. No need to worry. They set up canopies, then took them away when the sun went down.
Second Course: This was served in little glasses. Pureed melon with shrimp. It was very refreshing. Served with more Chardonnay.
Third Course: Next was the salad served family style. We passed our plates to one guy in the center and he served us. This worked out well all evening and everybody got plenty. The salad was grilled duck breast with duck confit, strawberries and persian cucumbers. Served with a Pinor Noir that was my favorite of the evening. Very light.
Fourth Course: Roasted halibut with "pork palace" ham & mushroom risotto wrapped up in grape leaves and grilled. It was served with baby carrots and sugar snap peas. They were passing out seconds if anybody was interested. They served another Pinot with this, but it was a bit heavier, but quite good.
Fifth Course: Roasted & slow cooked pork with cavolo nero kale, roasted bermuda onions, blue peruvian potatoes, Santa Barbara olive and tomato relish. Just when you thought it was enough, they set down another platter of the same! Again, plenty of food. They served a Syrah with this course and it was perfect.
Sixth Course: Rinconada Dairy pozo tomme cheese with roasted pistachios. It was nice little course before dessert.
Dessert: Grilled honey glazed peach and cherry kabob with vanilla creme fraiche and grilled cinnamon brioche. Delightful end to a delightful dinner.
Was it the best meal I've ever eaten? No, but it was one of the most enjoyable meals I've had under the stars. Was it worth $180? For me it was. Everyone's different. It's difficult to put a price on an experience. I would definitely go again in a heartbeat.
By the way, Jim Denevan was very accessible all evening and never "sold" the cookbook. There are books there to buy, but he was happy to sign the books we brought. It was fun to go inside the bus, it's so kitchy.
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