Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Another Marathon...

Hog Heaven

After a flight from Miami reunited with bus and crew we all made our way to Bourbon Street in New Orleans for a bit of drinking.

Caleb and Mali stayed out a little too late while the rest of us packed it in early getting plenty of rest for the next day's event....

After a long drive we arrived at our dinner site La Provence Restaurant. La Provence has a small farm out back with very large pigs, chickens, raised vegetable beds. "Locally grown" as in everything is a stone's throw away from the kitchen. We set out our table and a few stray chickens jumped on to check it out. As we set the table Caleb took a bit of time to spiff up the bus. Arriving guests mingled and met our forager and beekeeper and then heard the story of the farm.

La Provence's new Executive chef Randy Lewis executed a beautiful meal. He and his wife KK are old friends of John Besh's (owner of La Provence) and they had recently relocated from California to take over the restaurant as chef and manager and are doing a wonderful job at it. One of the farmers almost stole the show though: Adrian Juttner of Algiers Honey, who has a hive right there in La Provence's backyard. Adrian eventually brought to our attention that it was in fact his birthday and he was due home for some celebration, but once we got him touring down the table chatting to the guests, there was almost no pulling him away! The guests are always so interested in hearing about bees and Adrian had plenty to share.

Unfortunately, John Besh had an emergency at one of his other restaurants and wasn't able to join us for the evening, as originally planned. It turned out to be one of our better Outstanding in the Field dinners, possibly because a real restaurant kitchen is a very short distance away. Cleanup was quick because we had a very long drive to the next site: 7 hours! The longest distance between sites and the shortest amount of time to do it.

A long way to the top

After an all nighter with the bus and with truck and trailer we arrived in the mid morning at Jolie Vue Farm in Brenham, TX, about an hour outside Houston. Aubrey had rejoined the tour in Houston providing some much needed driving relief. It was a dazzling day with perfect weather and a stunning hilltop site. After opening introductions with the Boudreaux family (and a wonderfully welcoming crew they were!) we all set out for the long trek to the hill top dinner site. What a view!

Guest chef Monica Pope of T'afia and her crew worked very hard to create a fantastic meal for a LOT of people at a very remote site. A great Texan meal with Jolie Vue corndogs, steamed pork buns, "trotters & gear", smoked sausage and an amazing swiss chard and goat cheese gratin, just to name a few. There's no way that anyone left that meal not feeling entirely satisfied.

Read a review by Allison Cook and see pictures of the dinner in this Houston Chronicle article.

Austin Back Yard

Farmer Brenton Johnson's Backyard Garden sure is big! Big enough for one of our longer tables and then some. With the table set in the shade of big green pecan trees our dinner guests were treated to a stellar meal from Austin Chef Jesse Griffiths. Jesse recently started his own series of farm dinners in Austin called Dai Due Supper Club. Seems Outstanding in the Field is no longer a voice in the wilderness... Despite our table being considerably longer than what Jesse was used to, he and his skillful crew did a wonderful job. Following a beautiful curried squash soup, a menu favorite was the whole grilled Vermilion snapper. Up until a few days before the dinner, Jesse wasn't sure what sort of fish he was going to be able to get in enough quantity as many of the coastal fishers were still recovering from the recent hurricane. But Jesse knows all about planning menus based on what's available right then and he handled it without a problem.

Special guests Larry and Carol Anne from Boggy Creek Farm also joined us at the table. Beautiful Boggy Creek Farm was the site of our Austin dinners in 2005 and 2006. It was wonderful that most of the interns of Johnson's Backyard Garden were also able to join us at the table and appreciate their hard work, shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the dinner guests.

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