Monday, August 27, 2007

Outstanding Marathon

Veronica and Leah are sitting on the Steamship Authority Ferry about to take off from Hyannis Port, MA for the two hour sail to Nantucket. The Chicago dinner is at our backs and Nantucket is tomorrow – two dinners in 4 days, 1200 miles apart.

The Kinnikinnick Farm dinner was a complete success. Once again, mother nature is on our side – the day was beautiful: blue skies and not a rain cloud in sight. We had a record 180 people seated at the two long tables stretched across the yard between the circa 1800s farm house and the barns. After the weeks of rain and storms the fields were definitely still too soggy to set up our tables in the field, as is the tradition. We toyed with the idea of having the table go around the circular driveway (getting creative with table shapes!) but the middle lawn proved dry enough to support the tables and guests.

Paul Virant of Vie and his kitchen team arrived at the dinner in the early afternoon with their “Chef to Field” refrigerated van, armed and ready for the challenge. They assembled the kitchen outside of the barn and began creating the three different types of crostini for guests who began arriving at 3:30. Some guests had an easier time making it to the farm than others: one party of 7 coming from Chicago had decided to make an evening of it and hire a limousine and driver to transport them to the farm. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, they ended up having to hitch a ride in a pizza delivery car as their limousine had broken down up the road. The delivery driver ended up having to make two trips, but the guests said that they did tip him well. They would deal with how they were getting home when the time came.

At the welcome area, the guests strolled around the yard enjoying the crostini and an Austrian Gruner Veltliner supplied by Vin Divino prior to their farm tour. Farmer David Cleverdon and his intern Kendall had just returned home from market about an hour before guests started arriving, having left at 3 am that morning to go to the Evanston Farmer’s Market, 85 miles away. Despite 4 hours of driving in the rain, setting up and working at the market for 8 + hours, David had no problem speaking to his dinner guests and guiding them on an extended tour of the fields of tomatoes, kale and lettuces. He is a real gift to his community!

Once at the table, the guests enjoyed this delicious menu from Paul. Highlights were definitely the Kilgus Farm’s goat leg and Leslie Cooperband’s “Little Bloom on the Prairie” cheese and peach preserves. During the meal, Mary Ellen shared the story of her organization, First Slice, which provides nourishing, balanced organic meals to Chicago’s homeless and low-income families. Outstanding in the Field is excited to have donated a portion of the proceeds from the Kinnikinnick Farm dinner to Mary Ellen and First Slice.

More thank yous that we don’t have enough room on the back of the menu for: again to Paul and his kitchen staff for creating a wonderful meal as well as help serve the guests in all of their charm; to the Cleverdon family and extended family (Susan, David, Stacey, Tim and Erin) for having us in their home and helping set up/take down the dinner as well as host 180 people to their farm; Seth Allen and his Vin Divino crew Zoe, Chris and Chad as well as Bob who poured and served throughout the dinner; and of course the serving crew Michaela, Claire, Jenny and Ian. A special thanks to James Macknyk who brought his limoncello to share at the end of the dinner.

After the guests had left down the paper bag lantern trail towards their cars the OitF crew began tearing down the 180 chairs, 22 tables, all of the flatware, dishware and putting the yard back to its original state – all the while intermittently enjoying some left over food and wine. There was a little more pressure for a quick, thorough clean up after this dinner as Katy and Jim had a 7:00 am flight booked out of Chicago to Nantucket for the next day and Veronica and Leah had to begin their 1200 mile driving journey. Needless to say, everyone was a little groggy at the 4:45 am wake up, but Jim and Katy did manage to get out the door and to the airport in good time. Veronica and Leah were able to relish a few more hours of shut-eye a generous breakfast with the Cleverdons before hooking up the trailer and heading out on the road.

Hard to believe that was just yesterday morning – and now here we are, 30 hours later at the Hyannis-Nantucket ferry! Veronica and Leah took shifts through the night and drove the entire distance through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts – needless to say, they are very happy to have a stationary place to sit and write this entry!

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