Serving and Dining at Outstanding In the Field

Monday, July 2nd, 2012
The Table

The table during dinner in the Fig Grove at Knoll Farms

When I moved to San Francisco in 2010, I knew very little about the Bay Area, much less California. In an effort to educate myself, I started working with Outstanding In the Field. OITF is a family style farm-to-table dinner tour based in Santa Cruz that travels across the country every year and sets over 80 tables in the farms, orchards, vineyards and fields of America. At each dinner, a local (often highly sought after) chef  joins the OITF crew to serve over a hundred guests locally sourced food and wine. Over five courses of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, breads, wines and sometimes beers, the guests are told about the farmers, winemakers, cooking methods, the chef, and the Outstanding in the Field Tour. They are also treated with the company of new acquaintances to their right and left as they share platters of food for their “family”.

During that first year, I joined the crew of 8-12 staff to serve at four events in Northern California at the beginning of their season. We unloaded and placed tables and chairs, folded napkins, set the table, uncorked wine, greeted and directed guests to parking and reception, served passed appetizers at reception, gave full table service for the four course meal, washed the dishes, and then took it all down at the end and packed it back into two trailers. We worked along side chefs of some of the most notable San Francisco restaurants, and spent evenings in some of the most beautiful farms and vineyards of the region. After my last dinner, I had a slightly better understanding of my new home, but the quality of the food and opportunities I had been given did not sink in.

Devil's Gulch

2012 May 27 Devil’s Gulch Ranch

Secret Sea Cove

2012 June 3, 13 & 14 Secret Sea Cove

Little Organic Farm

2012 June 20 Little Organic

Knoll Farms

2012 July 1 Knoll Farms

When I was given the opportunity to do it again this year, I jumped at it. Over the past two months, I joined the crew for ten dinners all over Northern California. I went with them to Santa Cruz, Davenport, Nicasio, Napa, Healdsburg, Tomales, Sunol, and Brentwood. The chefs were Jim Denevan of Outstanding in the Field, Tom McNaughton of Flour + Water and Central Kitchen, Staffan Terje of Perbacco and Barbacco, Kim Alter of Haven in Oakland, Ravi Kapur of the Liholiho Yacht Club, Greg Dunmore of Nojo, Adam Dulye of the Monk’s Kettle and Abbot’s Cellar, Curtis Di Fede and Tyler Rodde of Oenotri in Napa, Sean Baker of Gather in Berkeley, and Lief Hedendal. We served seafood from H&H, Monterey Fish, Twoxsea and Drakes Bay Oyster Co.; meat from Devil’s Gulch and Prather Ranch; fruits and veggies from Route 1 Farms, Little Organics, County Line, Knoll, Baia Nicchia, Brokaw, Pie Ranch, Mariquita, Dirty Girl, Iacopi, Lindencroft, and Freewheelin among others; cheese and dairy from Bellwether, Andante Dairy, and Strauss;  bread from Acme and Model Bakery; beer from Firestone Walker; and wine came from Joyce Vineyards, Robert Sinskey, Cline Cellars, Mantra & Mobius Wines, and Sans Liege among others.

The main difference between 2010 and 2012 for me was that this time I had a local perspective on their locally sourced meals. I had seen the restaurants these chefs were coming from, and I had seen these farmers at the markets. When guests asked me questions about the locations, I understood where the Russian River Valley was and how far inland the Santa Cruz mountains were. When the winemakers told me the elevation of their vineyards in Sanoma, I understood which hills they were referring to. When the fisherman told me which cove they caught the black cod off of, I knew exactly where it was. This year I had a little more knowledge to stand behind, and I was able to learn more.

Four Courses

Top left: Summer leaves with sungolds, serpent cukes, Brokaw avacados, aged Andante cheese & herbs; Top Right: succotash of Iacopi butter beans, green beans, roasted Brentwood corn, grilled Knoll crookneck squash, pickled onions, peppers, basil & garlic; Bottom left: roasted Knoll Farm roots & kale with hen of the woods, ginger & horseradish; Bottom right: Knoll stonefruit & Dirty Girl berries, soft whip & rosemary shortbread, Little City Gardens herbs & flowers

Last night was the final Northern California event of this year’s tour. It was also my tenth and final dinner of the year, and I had the opportunity to take Nik as a guest rather than a server!!! We sat at one of the tables that I had unloaded and unloaded countless times. We drank the wine I had typically poured. We ate the food that I had typically carried. We listened to the stories that I had typically told. Sitting at the table gave me a new appreciation for what we had been doing all along. As a guest, the evening was relaxed and seamless, while as a server, the evenings are a marathon of tasks. The crew’s hard work pays off every night, and now I understand why guests keep coming back year after year. I also understand even more why I want to go back next year.

Dreamy Saturday

Saturday, May 26th, 2012


Today was dreamy…

Breakfast with Nik at home…coffee and cinnamon currant loaf from Acme.

Quick wake-up shower.

Scooter ride downtown along our typical commute route, only there was very little traffic.

Ran into a store to return some pants only to find out that the cashier never actually charged us for them. Weird, I know.

Continuation of the scooter ride through SoMa, the Dog Patch, the Outer Mission and Bernal Heights in search of the Alemany Farmer’s Market.

Easily squeezing into the parking lot because we have a scooter while all the suckers with big cars waited in line!

Strolled through the market, which is by far our favorite farmer’s market in San Francisco. We picked up strawberries, peaches, oranges, basil, beets, green beans, and collard greens.
Bought four hot tamales to share while sitting on the ground. Had dessert horchata while watching people scrounge for cherries.

Part three of the scooter ride through a couple neighborhoods we had never been in. Portola, Excelsior, Glen Park, Sunnyside, Balboa Terrace, Ingleside, Parkside, the Sunset, and finally through Golden Gate Park back home to the Richmond. Along the way, we were stopped at a traffic light, and Nik turned his head and said, “I like being married to you.”

Parked the scooter, washed off the strawberries and enjoyed the sweetness of being home together.

Nik played computer games while I sewed him a case for his hard drive.

I talked to my mom for a couple minutes before being forced off the phone by my sister because she was physically with my mom, and she wanted her attention. I didn’t think it was fair, but we ended our conversation anyways.

Nik continued playing the game while I made myself an iPad case out of a remnant of Merrimekko fabric.

Nik made pesto and green beans for dinner while I packed up my sewing table and washed the dishes.

We ate dinner at home in the kitchen in the booth with red wine from the first Outstanding in the Field dinner of the season (which I served at a couple weeks ago).

Nik juggled while I watched.

I made oatmeal cookies and he read tech news while still seated in the booth.

We ate cookies and strawberries and drank tea, which brings me to right this moment. I am writing my first blog post in months. It is also the first one I have ever written on the iPad, so maybe writing this way will be easier for me since I rarely turn on my computer these days.

That is all! It wasn’t a day of anything extraordinary, but this is one of my favorite kind of days. Also, a lot of our Saturdays have been like this one lately, so by telling you the story of today, I have told you the story of nearly every Saturday!

ps. Thank you Kisha for nudging me to post again. Your encouragement means a lot.

East Brother Light Station

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
East Brother Light Station

East Brother Light Station & the Marin Room

This weekend we took quick trip to stay in a light house on an island in the San Francisco Bay for the night. Did you know that there was a Bed & Breakfast in a historic light house on an island in the San Francisco Bay? Me neither!!

That is, until Nik’s uncle gave us a gift certificate to stay there as a wedding gift. Thanks Uncle Gary!!!

Staying at East Brother Light Station is perfectly choreographed. We met our fellow castaways on the dock at precisely 4 o’clock for a ten minute boat ride to the island. Hors d’oeuvres were served along with champagne in the parlor at half past 5. The dinner bell rang at half past 6, and coffee was served with dessert at 9 o’clock. In the morning, coffee and tea were available at 7 o’clock and breakfast served at 9. A brief tour of the original fog signal building was given at 10, the earth-shaking horn was blown at a quarter after, and the boat back to the main land departed at 11 o’clock. In between the milestones, we were free to wander around the half acre island, climb the spiral staircase to the light signal, browse the books in the parlor, or stare out to sea. During our nineteen hours on the island, we ate for five, slept for eight, read for two, took photos for two, and stared out to sea for three which meant that despite the lack of activity, there was no time to be bored. When it’s all said and done, we made the entire trip in less than 24 hours.

The price tag on the room is more than we would typically pay willingly, but when you consider the hors d’oeuvres and champagne, a four course dinner including wine that rivals any we’ve had in the city, and a huge breakfast….it’s not so bad.

On a side note, East Brother is conducting an inn keeper search right now and before we went, Nik and I wondered if we could do it. We don’t meet two of the critical qualifications….neither of us is a chef or has a coast guard approved boating license….but after staying on the island, we decided that we couldn’t do it anyways. Every day would be a little bit like ground hogs day, and I don’t think we would be as good at hosting ten people every day as the current inn keepers were to us. I still think we would be great inn keepers, just not at this inn!!

Nik has more photos on his blog.

Staring out to sea through the agave and past the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to San Francisco

Page 4 of 21First...23456...1020...Last