Jim and Leah flew off to New York for several days to scout for a November 3rd, 2008 special event sponsored by Absolut Vodka. Jim was asked to participate as an Absolut ''Visionary'' and come up with some super cool idea to go with the "In an Absolut World" campaign. A couple of the ideas that unfortunately didn't make the cut were a table crossing the USA/Mexico border and a table set on an iceberg in Greenland. A giant dry lake drawing was also in contention. Absolut supplied Jim with some scout money last June which resulted in interesting times in Vegas, the Grand Canyon, dry lake exploration in Nevada and an amazing trip to Greenland with Outstanding bus driver Ben.
Finally, Jim's NYC five borough dinner idea was approved. ''In An Absolut World Cities Farm'' A five borough dinner on a New York rooftop. So Leah and Jim were off to NYC to visit the five boroughs and meet gardeners/farmers while having the whole process documented.
A final version of the film will be released soon on the Absolut website.
Phoenix and Crooked Sky Farm
Meanwhile, the culinary caravan made its way through Texas and New Mexico and onward to Arizona and the next dinner. Jim and Caleb decided to do the cheffing in Phoenix. Jim does a few dinners every year and was excited to grab a knife and get back in the kitchen (Jim was chef for all dinners during the first three years of OITF). Caleb arrived several days ahead and set about sourcing local ingredients. He also sourced a local kitchen: Tapino Kitchen & Wine Bar and chef James Porter in nearby Scottsdale who joined us for what became a group effort. Chef James and Tapino are pioneers in the Phoenix area in the use of local product. Besides sourcing a myriad of local goodies we attacked a cactus for nopales right in front of the restaurant. As you can see, Adam got right in there picking and foraging and was a great help in the kitchen too. We also visited the Superstition Dairy which had a few animals on display left over from the previous day's dairy open house which included a petting zoo.
Our Crooked Sky Farms dinner went off without a hitch though the site that was a bit on the industrial/rustic side. Farmer Frank gave a heartfelt description of what it was like to realize his lifelong dream of becoming a farmer. He also described his hugely successful CSA. Tucson CSA chicken farmer Philipe, an immigrant from France, walked the table with Jim describing the french heirloom chickens he raises. (Thanks Mali and Aubrey for making the long drive to pick up the chickens). Rancher Paul from Double Check brought his young daughter around the table and shared the the story of his grass fed beef operation.
The next day we said goodbye to our new friends and slowly made our way across the desert. Thanks again to Wendy and James for helping us out with this event.
Our journey included a side trip to see several ancient desert drawings located along the Colorado river. Markings preserved for hundreds of years by the dry desert environment and discovered decades ago by a pilot in a passing plane.
What is it like to travel by bus across North America living in a very small space with six people...?
We get that question a lot: "What's it like living on the bus?" On our way to the next dinner Jim remembered there was a town in California called 'Desert Hot Springs' located several hours ahead- this seemed a good enough reason to get off the bus and book some rooms at a spa called The Spring.
THE KEY TO SUCCESSFULLY TRAVELING ON A BUS is to make sure GET OFF the bus as necessary.
The ladies loooved the spa and basked in luxury... the guys were quickly bored with 'treatments' and soon made plans to take off into the desert. Jim, Caleb and Adam took the bus on a Man Adventure leaving all the ladies lounging at the spa. Neiman Marcus/Armani asked Jim to make some temporary drawings on a dry lake for a fashion shoot so... another scout. Other nearby dry lakes were also checked out, including the Lucerne Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert. A strange adventure in a very odd environment.