Connecting Diners, Farmers, Aina

Outstanding in the Field (OITF) is a roving culinary adventure – literally a restaurant without walls. Since 1999, OITF has laid out a series of long tables (dressed with crisp linen tablecloths, white china, sparkling silverware and warm candles), and tucked them into stunning settings. Dinners have been served in the gardens of farms, at ranches, on mountaintops, sandy beaches and in sea caves.

Occasionally, the tables are set inside a beautiful refurbished barn, a cool greenhouse or a stately museum. Wherever the location, the consistent theme of each dinner is to honor the people whose good work brings nourishment to the table.

OITF’s mission is to connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, while honoring the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it. Ingredients are sourced within inches of where diners are seated, and prepared by a celebrated local chef. After a tour of the site, diners settle in for a convivial meal along with the farmers, producers and culinary artisans who contributed to it.

Founding chef and artist Jim Denevan and his culinary caravan have traveled around North America for their unique outdoor dining events. On Thursday, Jan. 24, at 3 p.m., OITF will host its second dinner at Olana Organic Farm in Kilauea. The event starts with a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a tour of the farm and a four-course meal paired with wine.

“Farmer Tim (O’Connor) is a wonderful host and we’re really looking forward to seeing him again,” says Denevan. “The incredible variety of fruits and vegetables he grows are the healthiest-looking plants you’ll ever see.”

“We are very excited for the return of Outstanding in the Field,” says O’Connor. “Last year’s dinner demonstrated how effective OITF is at bringing diners together with farmers and culinary artists over a wonderful meal in a unique setting.”

The gardens at Olana Organic Farm are bursting with seasonal produce including white pineapple, sweet onions, carrots, beets, greens, tomatoes, lychee, ginger and culinary herbs.

“We are thrilled to share not only our produce, but our beautiful farm with those attending the OITF dinner this month,” says O’Connor.

O’Connor’s vibrant produce has previously been featured in MidWeek Kaua’i‘s Farmers Markets column, and executive chef Ron Miller of Hukilau Lanai will use it to create the dinner.

Miller is known on Kaua’i for using local farmers, fresh fish, island pork and Kaua’i-raised, grass-fed beef and lamb. His dedication to the food growers of Kaua’i is so strong, their names are listed on Hukilau Lanai’s online menu. Every March, farmers, ranchers and fishermen are celebrated through the Hukilau Lanai’s annual Earth Dinner.

“I’ve been very excited since OITF contacted me several months ago,” says Miller. “Going to Tim’s farm and cooking at the source is going to be a blast. You simply can’t get any more connected to your food than that!

“We have not finalized a menu yet, but you can expect to see Kaneshiro Pork, Kunana Dairy Goat Cheese and, of course, some of our local fresh fish included on the menu.”

Denevan did his first farm dinner in 1999 in his home-town of Santa Cruz, Calif. Since then, OITF has staged more than 400 farm dinners, welcoming nearly 50,000 diners in all but five U.S. states, as well as three Canadian provinces, and nine countries in Europe and South America.

“Last year was my first visit to the island, and Farmer Tim was a super-warm and friendly host,” says Denevan. “It was really exciting to see pineapples, bananas, mangoes and papayas just a short distance from the table – and then see them on the table. Pretty much a perfect day!”

Outstanding in the Field $190 per person, all inclusive

For more information, or to reserve seats, visit http://outstandinginthefield.com/events/north-american-tour/

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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