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Outstanding in the Field: A Farm to Table Cookbook Hardcover – Large Print, June 3, 2008
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About the Author
JIM DENEVAN, a chef and renowned land artist, is the founder of Outstanding in the Field, an organization that sets up outdoor dinners wherever food is grown. He lives in Santa Cruz, California.
MARAH STETS is a food writer and editor. She lives near Washington, D.C., with her husband and their three children.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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What I didn't know at the time, but have since learned, is that Jim is also a chef. He was the chef at Gabriella Café (Santa Cruz) who instituted Farmer Dinners. He would invite local farmers, foragers, and artisanal producers in and create special dinners from their products. The producers would dine along with the paying guests, thus allowing each end of the chain - the farm and the table - to interact with the other, the net result being that the diners gained a greater appreciation of where food comes from, and the producers had a new understanding and involvement with how their food is used creatively to nourish and nurture the final consumer.
What a great concept!
But, as Jim says, "It dawned on me that while Farmer Dinners were good, Farm Dinners would be better." And so began, in 1999, what has turned into a passionate undertaking: the roving Farm Dinners put on by Jim's organization, "Outstanding in the Field."
This book is a series of snapshots of that journey, told through beautiful photographs and delicious-sounding recipes created for those dinners, with a nice mix of story told in Jim's engaging conversational style.
Each recipe includes a small prefacing note, sometimes about a particular dinner where it was made, and sometimes just about the recipe itself. Just glancing through it last night, I have already found several things I can't wait to try, and specifically purchased ingredients for them at this morning's Farmers' Market.
A true celebration of the idea of local and seasonal, the mostly-simple recipes range from Wilted Dandelion Salad with Pancetta and Poached Egg to Smoky Sturgeon and Potato Ravioli, from Blueberry Granita to Pickled Wild Mushrooms, from Caramelized Carrot Salad to Upside Down Fresh Fig Cake.
Jim gives substitutions when it won't change the spirit of the dish, because not everything is available everywhere. However, sometimes he doesn't, because as he states, "The salad of Santa Rosa Plums, Red Cabbage, Purslane, and Sunflower Petals, for example, really cannot be made with anything besides purslane and sunflower petals, so it is definitely a height-of-summer dish."
Sprinkled throughout the book are several one and two page spreads about a particular producer, or dinner, or larger topic such as "CSAs" or "Wineries Across America." Jim manages to be both interesting and informative without much preachiness creeping in. And that is indeed rare among those dedicated to the local food movement!
Many of us became familiar with Jim through the program "Sunday Morning" or the food channel. Yet, there is a precious few of us have had the opportunity to experience Jim's passion for food and sustainable farms. Recently, I had the opportunity to experience an "Outstanding in the Field" dinner.
Jim didn't prepare this particular dinner, yet, he was responsible for the sight, set-up, and involving the farmers, cheese makers, fishermen that created a dinner that was beyond approach. Jim knows good food and his cookbook is truly a delight for the senses.
Kathy Condon, Executive Coach, Speaker and Author of the book "It Doesn't Hurt to Ask: It is all about communication."