By Lynette Carrington
Recently, we discovered the beauty and majesty of outside dining via Outstanding in the Field. The outdoor-friendly dining experience company orchestrated a gorgeous sit-down dinner in the peach orchard at the Farm at Agritopia in Gilbert.
Since 1999, Outstanding in The Field has been creating lasting foodie memories as it sets long tables at rural farms and urban gardens, on mountain tops and in sea caves, on islands and ranches, serving from farm to table across the country. The 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. Dinners take place all over the world, and the peach orchard dinner at the Farm at Agritopia was engaging, delicious and delightful. Chef Cullen Campbell of Crudo in Phoenix was the executive chef of this particular dinner, and host farmer Katie Critchley of Agritopia was on hand, with the assistance of the Outstanding in the Field crew. Beer was provided by from local microbrewery 12 West Brewing Company and the wine will be by Garage East and Dos Cabezas. Both 12 West Brewing Company and Garage-East are both located at Agritopia.
The weather was absolutely perfect as our large group gathered in the urban garden at the Farm at Agritopia. I met briefly with Joe Johnston who called the many, many acres of Agritopia his childhood home, and has since gone on to help in developing the Agritopia area into a rich community that includes stores, restaurants, artisan space, an urban garden, housing, a school and its own unique culture. Additionally, Johnston is the agri-preneur behind Joe’s Real BBQ and Liberty Market, both located in Gilbert, plus various other ventures throughout the years.
A Warm Welcome
We were greeted with a delightful citrus spritz courtesy of Garage-East, and Frontside IPA and Blap! Blap! Blood Orange IPA from 12 West Brewing. As I lingered among fruits, flowers and vegetables, Johnston showed me the individually rented plots in the urban garden that are tended to by the owners. In the larger acreage of Agritopia, dates, lettuces and various other fruits and vegetables are grown, and some of those items are utilized at the on-site restaurants. We also sampled some pre-dinner noshes including Noble Bread tartine with McClendon’s Select ceci, pea greens and radish along with a collection of McClendon’s Select pickles, which were divine! Another savory surprise was the chilled McClendon’s Select cauliflower soup, which was wonderful on its own and that I also utilized as a Noble Bread dip.
Next, Johnston got up to address the group and provide a brief history of Agritopia as well as some more current developments. As a true steward of the land, entrepreneurship and a brilliant businessman, it is always a uniquely informative experience to hear what Johnston has to say. Founder and CEO of Outstanding in the Field, Jim Denevan gave our group a briefing about his company and how it truly is a team effort as his cast and hospitality crew crisscross the nation bringing Outstanding in the Field Dinners to thousands of fans. Finally, Host Farmer from Agritopia, Katie Critchley provided some fun facts about the Agritopia Farm before sending us traipsing off to the peach orchard for the main event.
The Main Event
As we approached the orchard, a massive single line of tables was placed end-to-end-to-end, creating a large dining space to accommodate more than 100 diners. A fun visual for Outstanding in the Field Dinners is created as each diner is encouraged to bring their own main plate to the event. As we sat and noshed on Noble Bread with smoked tonnato and pickled McClendon’s Select radish, guests also chatted about the plate they brought. Some guests had even traveled from other parts of the county to attend this special event, and some guests had attended up to 20 dinners all over the country! The Outstanding in the Field meals are an experience unlike any other and it’s easy to see why guests would seek out various dinner locations. For upcoming Outstanding in the Field events and to make reservations, visit www.outstandinginthefield.com.
Our first entrée was a seafood scapece with McClendon’s Select fingerling potato and tomatillo salad. This selection was paired with 2016 Garage-East Pinot Gris from Cimarron Vineyard in Wilcox, AZ. The chilled salad was prepared “family style,” as were all the other entrees. The method in which the food is served is just another way that the group is brought closer together through the outdoor dining experience.
Next, was a savory dish of charred Agritopia kale and leeks, bagna cauda with capers and Noble Bread pangrattato served with a 2016 Garage East ROSE, from Cimarron Vineyard in Wilcox, AZ. It was a beautifully orchestrated entree that combined flavors and textures that simply popped when I put them in my mouth. Cullen Campbell toiled away in the orchard kitchen/prep area, overseeing each dish as it was plated and sent out to our tables. His feverish pace was matched by the attentive servers who were on point all evening.
The main dish was next, and it was a delightful surprise, too. The grilled Niman Ranch pork shoulder was complimented with dates from the Farm at Agritopia, Two Wash Ranch Rapini and McClendon’s Select Yams. The inclusion of the yams and dates brought a sweetness to the tender pork that was wonderful. This entrée was paired with 2014 Garage-East Red Blend, from Cimarron Vineyard in Wilcox, AZ. Our individual plates were gathered by the staff and taken to be washed.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and it was time for dessert. Large platters of McClendon’s Select apples and Crow’s Dairy goat cheese layered atop Hayden’s Flour Mill crespelle were brought to the tables and everybody dug into the unique dessert.
Throughout our entire dining experience, the Outstanding in the Field staff were constantly attending to guests, pouring water and wine, and talking about the wine pairings and making sure guests had everything they needed. As I sadly bid the peach orchard adieu, I picked up my washed plate, which is now designated by me as my official Outstanding in the Field plate. It will come in good use as I eagerly await the next meal adventure!
The Farm at Agritopia, and the associated businesses and restaurants, including Barnone, Joe’s Farm Grill, The Coffee Shop, 12 West Brewing, Garage-East and a weekend farmer’s market and urban farm are located at 3000 E. Ray Rd., Gilbert. Visit www.thefarmatagritopia.com or call (480) 988-1238 for additional information.