Dinner with the Stars – Outstanding in the Field, Leicester, NC and The Ultimate Critic’s Dinner, Charleston, SC
Seating themselves on the greensward, they eat while the corks fly and there is talk, laughter and merriment, and perfect freedom, for the universe is their drawing room and the sun their lamp. Besides, they have appetite, Nature’s special gift, which lends to such a meal a vivacity unknown indoors, however beautiful the surroundings. ~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
The frequency of food and wine festivals and culinary events in the country continues to escalate as does our preoccupation with food. Every week there is an opportunity to attend a local event or to travel to a unique destination to experience food in a different way. Outdoor dinners have become very popular, especially in the South, where the temperatures allow for almost year-round dining. They afford an opportunity to reconnect with your surroundings and provide a romantic backdrop, especially on a beautiful evening. We had the pleasure of taking part in two of these dinners in October: The Outstanding in the Field dinner in Leicester, North Carolina and the Ultimate Critic’s Dinner in Charleston, South Carolina.
Outstanding in the Field Dinner – Gaining Ground Farm – Leicester, North Carolina
Chef William Dissen – The Market Place, Asheville, North Carolina
Jim Denevan, Founder of Outstanding in the Field, has been credited with creating a movement of connecting people with farmers and chefs while dining under the stars. Jim and his team travel the United States with tables, chairs, cooking equipment, and serving pieces in tow to destinations from coast to coast (and beyond), to work with local chefs to put on these events.
William Dissen, Chef-Owner of The Market Place restaurant in Asheville, NC was the chef for this event. Hosted at Gaining Ground Farm, Anne and Aaron Grier’s family farm outside of Asheville, on a gorgeous evening in early October, it was our first time attending one of these dinners.
While guests enjoyed champagne and appetizers in the barn, Jim Denevan and Leah Scafe, Jim’s partner and assistant, talked about their “mission to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.” The Griers talked about their challenges and successes of owning a small farm. Chef Dissen shared his philosophy and commitment to sourcing and cooking with only sustainable and local ingredients.
Following this gathering, there was a brief farm tour, culminating with dinner in the field.
If you have never been to an outdoor dinner like this, there is something very special about fellowship with new friends while dining under the stars with the moon and candles providing the light. There were 140 guests at the farm that evening, all with the same philosophy around supporting local farmers and chefs who have a mission to do the same.
With the breeze blowing and the sun setting, we dined on beautifully prepared and freshly harvested vegetables and local meats and fish. Guest chef, Tim Peters of Motor Supply Company in Columbia, South Carolina, worked alongside chef Dissen and his team to prepare four courses from these locally sourced ingredients. One of the dishes featured beef from the farm where the event was hosted, Wood Grilled Gaining Ground Farm Beef Brisket with Tomato Jam, Farm and Sparrow Roasted Garlic Spoonbread, served with Rainbow Swiss Chard with Braised Radish. Paired with some lovely wines, this was truly a memorable evening.