Outstanding in the Field

Last September, I was literally out standing in a field.  The field was Tim Stark’s  pasture at Eckerton Hill Farm, near Kutztown. I was there for the Pennsylvania stop of the Outstanding in the Field tour. Jim Denevan’s  company roams the country in a 57 year old bus and stages farm dinners  out in  fields, at vineyards or in all sort of other interesting outdoor places.  The bus is coming to Stark’s farm again this September and since it’s usually a sell-out, now is the time to sign up.

A beautiful late summer evening - Photo by Ali Locascio

Tim, farmer and author,  is the king of the heirloom tomato.  His book, Heirloom:  Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer ( Broadway Books, 2008), is a must -read for anyone who loves farms and farm markets or who has a secret dream of ditching the rat race for  something more rewarding. If you’ve ever been to the  Union Square Greenmarket in New York, you’ve probably seen Tim selling his PA produce. He’s there a few days each week.

Sampling some local wine.

The wine was locally made and most of the food came from within a few miles of the  long white clothed outdoor dinner table.  Sheep yogurt and grilled lamb,  Stark’s bounty of tomatoes, onions , fingerling potatoes and  herbs and a grand finale that included local,  juicy  peaches and homemade whipped cream melted in our mouths.   The food was fantastic and the conversation was even better . . .  even though we were pretty much all strangers just a few hours before.

Not every chef wants to take on this challenge since the bulk of the cooking is  done over an open fire near the dining area. In 2009, the chef was Dave Pasternack  fom Esca in NYC. This September,  Lee Chizmar,  executive chef of Bolete in Bethlehem PA, will  test his skills in this outdoor setting.

The website lists all the stops on this year’s tour. Just don’t wait too long to sign up. . they sell out fast. This year, I’m thinking it could be  the Delaware or Virginia stop  for me.

Then I can say I once again have been out standing in a field.