Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Outstanding in the Field - Temecula, CA - 2011

A year ago my neighbor attended the Outstanding in the Field Event in Temecula, CA and I was positively green with envy.  This year, though, she is the green with envy girl and I am the one with a truely wonderful evening spent in the valley and filled with "outstanding" food, wine, views and friends!

Since 1999, Outstanding in the Field has been reconnecting diners to the land and bringing us closer to the origins of our food.  Held literally in a field, or on a beach, or for us in an apple orchard on a farm, an extraordinarily long dining table is dressed with linens and ready to receive the local delicacies of the day.  Using as many local ingredients as possible noted Chef Paul McCabe, of Del Mar's Kitchen 1540, dictated a menu featuring the bounty of Crows Pass Farm in Temecula, CA.

Nick Palumbo
Wines from the Palumbo Family Vineyard and Winery greeted us as we stepped off the shuttle deep into the heart of the farm.  Nick Palumbo paired the wines with the courses of the meal starting with a light '09 Rosato Secco as we perused the grounds while the rest of the guests arrived.  Light winds chilled the air, however the sun shone brightly and our first sips of the wine were fully enjoyed surrounded by the majestic beauty of the Temecula hills and valley.

Serving a scrumptious Heavenly Nectar cocktail as an alternative to the wine brought smiles to the lips all those who partook.  With chandler strawberries ripening on the berry plants at Crows Pass the cocktail was indeed heavenly with an infusion of crushed berries combined with sweet Chartreuse, gin and homemade bitters.  Word on the farm had the bitters containing some 20+ herbs in an infusion of its own.  Passed appetizers and bowls of farm fresh snap peas worked as nibbles before we headed out on a farm tour with Crows Pass Farm owner Tina Barnes.

Heavenly Nectar!
"Named for the crows that pass over each autumn evening as they travel between vineyards to roost, the farm began in 1991 with a fistful of strawberry plants, a few carrots, peas and a dependable truck," began Tina Barnes.  Since its inception, the organic farm has grown incredibly in size and currently rotates some 15 fields (planning up to 40 in the future) and specializes in chef-direct relationships with area restaurants.  Touring a few of these fields we were treated to the views and aromas of produce on the farm.  A field of spring onions, warm and fragrant from the sun, tantalized our senses as Tina spoke of the types of onions growing and the sustainable practices they use to keep the fields healthy.  

Heading to the top of the farm little doubt was left in our minds as to what was growing as the scent of sweet, ripe strawberries greeted us on the knoll.  Shiny, red berries dotted the field, and with urging from Tina many of us took the rare opportunity to pluck a juicy berry (or two!) to taste warm from the field.  Fresh strawberries just don't get any better than that!

Thomas Curry and Temecula Olive Oil
Arriving to the apple orchard our elegantly dressed and seemingly endless table awaited.  Wine, an '09 Viognier, was eagerly poured for us and complemented the awaiting breads and olives to perfection.  Soft bread with flavors of garlic swirled through was my favorite, though the crusty loaf dipped into the Temecula Olive Oil Company olive oil was definitely a treat.  Introducing ourselves to our immediate tablemates we settled in for an evening of deliciousness.

Compressed Fruit and Vegetable Salad
A Compressed Fruit and Vegetable Salad including strawberries, jicama, cucumber, pineapple and purple basil simply burst with intense flavors.  At first most of us thought the white "crumbles" on top were some sort of cheese, but with delight we tasted the airy concoction and were informed that it was actually dehydrated olive oil.  Positively divine!

Next up the local white Sea Bass topped with verde and chorizo sauces had me at the edge of my seat.  Surrounded by Cross Pass baby new potatoes and snap peas, the fish and sauces melted in my mouth.  My favorite course of the evening, I was lucky enough to score seconds from the family style serving platter.  Cooked to perfection on the outside grill, the fish was tender and flavorful, but it was the verde sauce that held my full attention.  Bright and tantalizing with flavors somewhat reminiscent of pesto, my inquiry discovered the main ingredient was parsley and not the basil I had imagined.  Again, pleasure washed over us as we awaited the next course and polished off what was left of our Palumbo '07 Mourverde/Syrah.

Sea Bass with Verde and Chorizo Sauces, Snap Peas and Baby New Potatoes
Nathan Rakov, of Alpine, CA, supplied the hog which became the most tender and scrumptious slow braised, smoked pork I've ever had.  Topped with a savory romesco sauce and surrounded by grilled Crows Pass Temecula honey onions the dish was nearly complete.  Fresh cherimoya sweetened the plate mixed in amongst the other ingredients and had our entire table groaning with pleasure and soon holding our filled stomachs.  The '08 Brunello di Mantalcino Sangiovese was an ideal pairing to the flavorful pork and zesty sauces.

Alpine hog, slow braised with smoked Romesco, Temecula Honey Onions and Cherimoya
As the sun set, the chill set in.  Candles were lit along the table and my friend Debby and I found ourselves grasping the mason jar holders to warm our chilly fingers.  Pulling our coats a bit tighter around us we were somehow able to muster the willpower to partake in the Strawberry Shortcake and Brown Butter Ice Cream.  Not being much of an ice cream fan I spooned only a small dollop of the chilled confection onto my berries.  However, my first bite taught me that I had indeed made a mistake and luckily the plate was still being passed with a more generous portion still to be had.  Flaky, tender biscuits topped with generous sprinkles of raw sugar sopped up the sweet strawberry sauces and the slightly melty ice cream bringing this dessert to its peak.

Our Outstanding in the Field experience was indeed truly an outstanding evening.  From the food to the wines to the service and the most wonderful company (thanks Deb and Keith!), the evening is one I won't soon forget. The guys don't know it yet, but Deb and I have already planned next years experience.  We'll have to surprise them with the location as the time draws near...

Outstanding in the Field


  1. WOW - what a great event! All of the food and wine looks perfect.

  2. Wow... what a spread at the event! I love the name 'heavenly nectar'! And the rest of the food looks awesome too :)

  3. Sounds like an outstanding event! Everything just sounds so wonderful but I have to admit that I did sneak down to the bottom of the post to see what dessert was first. It is a bad habit of mine. Add me to the list that is green with envy.

  4. Now I am envying you! Such a lovely event! I wish we have something similar like this going on in our community!

  5. Looks like a lot of fun! I like the bright color of that heavenly nectar.

  6. Wow this look so much fun! I guess Southern California is already warmer that you guys started to enjoy being outdoor! Not in SF cold! It seems like you had fun eating good food, good wine, and good entertainment! What a perfect way to enjoy spring weather. :-)

  7. Kim this looks like such fun! Great food, great wine, great company - what more could a person want! It couldn't happen here tho - we'd need blankets and hot water bottles to stave off pneumonia and the rain would water down our drinks. :)

  8. Oh this sounds like such a fun experience! Everything sounds truly delicious - and I'm sure it made it all the better that it was all mostly locally-sourced! Definitely jealous =)

  9. What a wonderful event, and one you won't soon forget, I'm sure. I was hanging on your every word, as you described each tantalizing dish and drink. I wish that I was there;) You could be a food writer for a magazine!

  10. That looks amazing. I love that dehydrated olive oil!

  11. The food looks good. I wish I was there! :)

  12. I love the name of this event, looks you had so much fun, thanks for sharing your experience;-)

  13. I love the idea of this type of event. Unfortunately, that is not something that I think has hit the rural southeast at all. We do have pig pickins though. Does that count? :)

  14. Ooh I'm green too. Looks like a fabulous event.
    Love that sea bass dish!

  15. This looks like such a fun event! I would love to do something like this! I love the Temecula valley and I would love to check this out sometime. Thank you for sharing your wonderful time with us!

  16. I'm so jealous that you got to attend this event! It sounds just incredible. I've eaten at Kitchen 1540 twice in the past two weeks, such wonderful food.

  17. Wow-What a fabulous experience! The sea bass dish looks absolutely amazing!


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