On Tuesday evening, August 24th, the Outstanding in the Field bus was parked outside a huge barn at Aquidneck Farm in Portsmouth and the invited chef, Executive Chef Beau Vestal of New Rivers in Providence, prepared a multi-course local food dinner right there at the farm. Over 160 people arrived at Aquidneck Farm around 3:00 p.m for a tour of the farm, along with Vestal’s hors d’oeurves course. After the tour the guests were seated inside a barn, because of some pesky late summer downpours, where the Outstanding team had set up their beautiful dining area. Vestal and his team, along with some of the traveling Outstanding staff, set up under some portable canopies outside the barn and the feast commenced.
Outstanding in the Field’s “mission is to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it. . . . Wherever the location, the consistent theme of each dinner is to honor the people whose good work brings nourishment to the table.” The New Rivers crew couldn’t have done a better job at fulfilling Outstanding’s mission, serving ingredients sourced from right there at Aquidneck Farm to Narragansett Creamery cheeses, local oysters, Portsmouth wines and vegetables from several RI farms. I sampled several items and loved the pork & garlic terrine wrapped in ‘Round the Bend Farm bacon. It was a perfect example of how to take local ingredients and transform them into something delicious. On the other hand, the heirloom tomatoes “vierge,” Narragansett Creamery fresh mozzarella, mixed herbs & flowers, house smoked salt was a textbook case of choosing the right ingredients and not transforming them at all, just knowing what combination would bring out the best of those fresh flavors.
The evening ended with what Outstanding in the Field creator Jim Denevan thought was the biggest ovation a chef and his staff had ever received at an Outstanding dinner. As darkness fell, everything that was brought to the farm was packed up and taken away, and I’m sure on Wednesday morning the cows of Aquidneck Farm never knew there was even a party there the night before. Before the rest of the photos I wanted to paste in an e-mail I received from Vestal when I asked him to send me his staff’s information for this post:
- me, Florida raised, exec chef, dummy, handler of lists, pan slinger
- elizabeth lamantia, Cleveland girl, grill chef, baker, pasta wrangler, all things cookies, Beau’s life partner
- kyle kerstetter, grill chef, beau’s day off fill in, chocolate manipulator, PA expat
- doug higley, salads and cold things, baby face, NH native, Kerstetter co-habitor and BFF
- nate silver, mercenary cook, moses brown class president of 2006, did senior project with NR, just graduated from vassar, flew in from NYC just to do event, onto chicago to pursue theater, catering, mischief
Vestal also added, “we don’t take ourselves too seriously!! as you can tell!” That may be true, but their food, oh their food, seriously excellent.Portions of this story appeared in edited form on GoLocalProv.