REDLAND (CBSMiami) — Outstanding in the Field, an organization that sets up outdoor dinners wherever food is grown, made it way to South Florida once again to the delight of true South Florida foodies.
Their mission is 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.
Earlier this year, patrons of this roving culinary adventure found themselves sitting in a field at a long, long table on Hani Khouri’s Redland Farm.
Guest Norma Jean Abraham gazed across the scene beaming, “The people, the food, the ambiance. Look at this! It is so unique. That’s what makes this so special,” declared Abraham.
Outstanding in the Field is known for selecting farmers who produce the highest quality products.
Since 1999, the group has pulled off events all across America and abroad, serving 13,000 meals on mountaintops and in caves, at the shore and, of course, in a grassy field or two. Its first South Florida event was at Paradise Farms in 2008.
Chef Alex Pinero of Sustain was the honored chef of the night, and created a medley of dishes inspired by Hani’s various goat cheeses.
The creator of the event is Jim Denevan, who smiled from under the brim of his trademark cowboy hat and announced “Welcome everyone, to Outstanding in the Field.”
He knew by the end of the night and some eight courses of locally produced organic dishes and treats, those who traveled here to sit at his infamous table, would understand what this ‘green effort’ is all about.
“It’s not just what is on your plate or fork but what is behind it,” said Denevan when he explained his passion.
“Last year we served 15 thousand people. It’s to get people close to where the food comes from. And this is pretty close,” said a smiling Denevan looking over his shoulder at the goats. “The harvest was an abstract thing, rather than a physical, visceral, or delicious thing. To see the harvest directly, to enjoy food with one long table, everyone dining together, expressing their appreciation for the farmer, that’s what the magic of the night is all about,” he said.
For $190, guests were given a wine and hors d’oeuvre reception, along with a four-course wine paired meal made with ingredients sourced from other South Florida farmers including: Paradise Farms, Teena’s Pride, Knauss Berry Farm, and Bee Heaven’s Farm.
For Lebanese goat herder Hani Khouri, it was a truly magical night. Just 3 years ago, he was a player in the marketing and financial world. He gave it all up for organic farming and the goats.
“I have been doing this for 3 years and this is like the culmination of what I have been doing. It validates it all,” said Khouri, who was assisted by his beaming wife and son.
“The gratification is when someone takes a bite and says ‘Wow!’ Thank you, Thank you!” He exclaimed.
And this night there were plenty of “wows”.
“I would rate it with the best. Definitely. That would include Paris, Rome, Spain, they are all tremendous. The food has been beyond. I can’t believe how wonderful it is,” exclaimed Lillian Gillen, a devout foodie and cook who enjoyed the evening’s delectable homegrown feast.
“It’s exciting. It really is an exciting time,” said Gabrielle Marewski, founder of Paradise Farms, thrilled to see all enjoying the magic of the local farm.”When people actually come to the farm, and eat the meal at the farm, they get it,” said Marewski. The nights organic greens and blossoms were all just picked at Marewski’s Paradise Farms.
“We grow it with love. We love what we are. The energy shows in everything we grow. It shows in the food,” said Marewski.
The mantra around the table that night, seek out produce from local farmers, it not only tastes good but is good business.
“That’s why we go to local restaurants and support our local restaurants that are family-owned. Because we want to see that family guy be able to sustain his family, his kids, put them through school, that’s the American way,” said foodie Tom Abraham.
So the next time Outstanding in the Field comes to town, just bring your appetite, a dinner plate, and a curiosity to connect to the land and all the blessings we share it with who help feed our body and soul.