Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Outstanding In The Field & Love Is Love

From the Farm to the Table:
I absolutely must deliver a quick interjection to my regularly scheduled posting about my trip to Italy to share an amazing experience I had two weekends ago in Atlanta. Unfortunately for my step-dad (but fortunately for me), he had to make an unexpected trip to Alabama to take care of his mother, leaving me his ticket to the Outstanding In The Field organic dinner and farm tour at Gaia Gardens on the outskirts of Atlanta.

 Outstanding In The Field's mission is "reconnecting diners to the land", bringing people to the bit of earth their food is born from, seeing the process of deriving that food, and learning more about how it gets to the table.  The collaboration of sorts began back in 1999, when founder Jim Denevan decided to revolutionize the dining experience and bring eaters to the source of their eats! Since then, every May through November, Jim and his traveling crew have been setting up mile-long tables in the middle of beaches, caves, and farms all over the U.S. and now in Europe!

The man himself, Jim Denevan

Jim is also a widely known sculptor and artist--
this is a photo of one of his famous sand designs

The dinner and farm tour started at 3pm so we arrived a little after, knowing this was most likely going to be a long night. Once there, we were guided straight to through Gaia Gardens and onto the Love Is Love  farm. We gathered in the back near the okra plantings and enjoyed some viognier from Tiger Mountain Vineyards, a winery nestled not to far away in the Northern mountain of Georgia. To accompany the wine we were served a couple interesting bites (of which I was unable to snap quick photos of - I'm sorry!); shrimp cracklings, which kind of resembled a shrimp flavored rice puff or cake, spicy cheese fingers, and local bacon lacquered with sorghum and drizzled with hollandaise... pretty amazing. 

Our pre-dinner drinks and apps gathering

After a short speech from Jim and one of his crew members, we embarked on our farm tour with Joe Reynolds, one half of the dream team that operates the farm. Joe explained the different types of produce that is grown at the farm and how the climate and soil in north Georgia affects the plants. Thankfully, Georgia clay is richly nutrient and the climate allows for planting for about 30 weeks out of the year. 

Joe discussing the planting process
Love Is Love Farm in all aspects reflects it's name; love the earth and land you work and it will love you back with produce. Joe and his counterpart, Judith, are very careful in their farming processes, using only natural resources to ensure the best quality product possible and sustainable methods to derive them. 

Pictured above is Joe talking about his mulch and letting guests take a wiff. The farm is roughly only a few acres and the amount of hard work and "love" that Joe and Judith put into the land shows the incredible amount of crop they are able to extract from just a small parcel. Below are pictures of the different varieties of lettuces, okra, and Joe standing in front of his bean plants.

Following the tour we were called to grab our plates and make our way to the 160 seat table, stretching nearly the entire length of the farm.

Outstanding In The Field has a "bring your own plates" policy, but of course for those forgetful few (i.e. Me and my Mom) they have plenty extra to accommodate. 

Our part of the table

The delightful menu

Mom and I on the farm
We sat down and examined the menu, every detail described and origins of ingredients labeled. If it didn't come from Love Is Love, it came from somewhere near by in Georgia and all of the proprietors were there to answer questions. We met the woman who owned the goat farm that provided the lovely cheese for our second course and the cattle farmer that sat down a few seats next to us, who provided the tasty ribeye for our main.

Our chef's corner, where executive chef, Linton Hopkins,
of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, prepared our delish dishes

After sitting, we first tested the breads; a crusty sourdough shaped like a wheat reed and a crusty olive and nut loaf accompanied by a sea salted fresh butter made from local cow's milk with wildflower petals... creamy salty heaven! Our server greeted us and informed our table that everything would be shared family style; one huge dish per 6 diners. She served us a different glass of wine, a rose also from Tiger Mountain, and  quickly set down our first helping to share, a massive salad. The salad consisted of several different varieties of radish, crispy kale, beets, basil, turnips, sorrel, and plump trout roe, all topped with a creamy but light fresh herb buttermilk dressing. There were so many flavors, but they all managed to work together in one crisp bite.

After sampling the garden, literally, we went on to the next course which was luscious and juicy ribeye medallions drizzled with arugula butter, served with "sweet potato dauphine", a sort of fried sweet potato soufflé, and braised turnip greens.

This course was served with Tiger's mountain cyn, a rare blend of grapes with a smooth but slightly spicy taste. The ribeye was tender and the sweet potatoes were the perfect crisp compliment to the wilted and slightly bitter turnips. 

In between courses we took a moment to smile for the camera with our dear friends Sandy and Dale Stice, our dinner date for the night. For our third tasting, we received huge chunks of delicious goat cheese from the Decimal Place goat farm rolled in herbs and sitting on a bed of pickled veggies, eggplant puree, spiced pecans, and toped with a cranberry-walnut crisp. 

Though goat cheese can be a little too strong for my taste, and though my mom has never been particularly fond of the tangy flavor, this cheese was surprisingly mild and when combined with the puree, veggies, and nuts, made for the perfect balance of sour, sweet, spicy, and salty. As per the trend, we were served yet another lovely Tiger Mountain wine, a nice rich cabernet franc. 

Once we had our fill of the creamy but decadent cheese, we still had the dessert course to tackle. In addition to a small plate filled with little delights like Jack Daniel's truffles and espresso covered marshmallows, we were served an Elijay apple gel sprinkled with caramelized sugar shards, white chocolate caramel sauce, and a spiced buckwheat cake. 

Holy Moly.

Icing on the cake... or plate
Of course we were served a super sweet, but just as delicious dessert wine accompaniment, but we just about taped out before we could have more than a sip. The food was over-the-top and the company and hosts were just as fantastic. I've never felt closer to the farm and more in tune with the food I put in my body than at that dinner. What an amazing and enlightening experience. I would recommend this to anyone! Though Oustanding will be dormant until next May, visit their website for updates on the 2012 tour and go connect with the land, people, and farms that make your meals possible! 


  1. I don't know how I've missed this event. Everything looks so beautiful!

  2. Oh my goodness, Shea, this looks like pure heaven. I need to meet this guy a.s.a.p! I'm totally in love with everything about this post!

    Love you, and miss you soooo much!!

  3. Extremely cool event! Their season is ending soon, but they will be starting back up in March I think! They do these dinners all over the states && abroad! Can't wait for next year!