Outstanding In The Field, Out Sitting Under Stars

Before Sunset

It was a night to remember, as close to 100 guests descended on Dennis and Denise Harrison’s Dingo Farms in Bradford West Gwillimbury yesterday evening.

Though the rain initially sought to dampen the spirits of all those who’d come together, after a short burst of showers it was smooth sailing ahead, for what promised to be one magical night.

Pretty Roosters

Under the shade and shelter of a stand of trees overlooking the family’s garden, sparkling wine from Fielding Estates was passed around, a bubbly accompaniment to chef Cutrara’s beef and beet salami, mortadella, chorizo, farinata triangles and pates topped with cornichons and radishes, respectively.  After an hour of dribbles and passed hor d’oeuvres, the farm tour ensued, including a trip to see cows (a personal highlight and favourite of mine) a massive 3 year old Berkshire pig, some very contented and beautiful roosters, concluded with a horse-drawn cart ride around the perimeter of the farm with one of Dennis’ sons and his mother. After the sights were seen and the stories told, it was time to head out to the middle of the field so that everyone might begin the journey towards dinner.

Our section of table was graced by quite the cross section of foodies, from Davida of Toronto Life’s Daily Dish blog, to Amber from LFP, to an amateur sommelier and employee of Pillitteri Estates winery, we had all the major foodie categories well-covered.  There were quite a few diners that appeared to be photographers on hand for various publications, and despite a bit of trouble at the border, Jim Denevan, founder of Outstanding In The Field, even managed to make it on site for the event.

Cookstown Salad

The first course was a lovely bowl of mixed greens, edible flowers and radish pods from Cookstown Greens, dressed with a simple vinagrette.  The greens were earthy and slightly nutty, but the revelation of the dish was the crunchy radish pods, which tasted neither peppery nor bitter like radishes, or green like most pods, but faintly sweet.  A wonderful start to a casually elegant meal, served with a white called White Conception.

Cookstown Caprese

Next up was a course of Cookstown heirloom tomatoes Caprese, which included the luscious Black Krim and the tangy Green Zebra, covered with a sprinkling of fresh from the garden basil leaves, balsamic, and fresh ricotta from International Cheese.  So satisfying that nobody at our section of the table hesitated to go back for seconds.  I can only hope that my tomatoes (I am also growing these two varieties on the roof) will be nearly as good as the ones we tasted.

Corn Husk Lamb

The third course was a corn and peach salsa in a corn husk cup, flavoured with chili, cilantro and a perfectly executed lamb kebab, presumably from lamb raised on Dingo Farms.  I’m not typically a fan of peaches or cilantro, but I piled every last kernel of this fantastically tangy salsa onto my fork, pairing every bite with a nibble of the succulently tender lamb, a stellar match to the smoky Pinot Noir.

Before the fourth course, a charming palate cleanser of cherry mint lemonade was distributed by the shot glass, and though it was dark as blood, it had a light, tea-like flavour to it that was not even the tiniest bit astringent. For all intents and purposes I could have drank this cherry lemonade as a refreshing summer sipper, instead of the burst of freshness it was intended to be.

Meats Aplenty

The fourth course was a duo of meat, including both roasted pork and beef from the farm, with a creamy whole mini potato, dill and gherkin salad that was firm-fleshed and well matched to the horseradish-covered meat, as well as Red Conception wine.  Both beef and pork roasts were magnificent, but the clear winner here was the pork crackling, which for some reason our 8 seat section of the table avoided (even after we announced what it was!)  At this point in the meal the Everyman and I were both blissfully contented, but saddened by the realization that our movable feast was nearly over.

In This Twilight

Dessert was served once the sky turned to dusk, and came in the form of a delectable buttermilk cake with toffee, blueberries and raspberries.  Even though at this point I could barely see the table or the Everyman in front of me, when the dessert found its way into my mouth, it was creamy, luscious, and heavenly.  It was a wholly appropriate way to end a simple, country meal, and paired exceptionally well with the pinky late harvest Cabernet Franc Icewine that it was served with, which was reminiscent of strawberries for me.

Dennis And The Pig

Some may complain that OITF is elitist, and exclusionary, an art installation rather than a foodie destination, but none of those people could probably say that they’ve been here.  Once you’ve been in the presence of such an event, any pretence you may have had about it’s hoity toity nature goes right out the window.  From the chef, to the hosts, to the farmers and their families, you will never meet a more humbled, down to earth group of people as these.  They’re not there to make money or become rich and famous, they’re doing it to spread the word and share some transcendently good food.  As the Everyman told me at the close to our meal, this experience really does rank up there with Eigensinn.  It may not be in exactly the same vein, but the spirit of the event, and the care that went into the preparation of everything we ate, drank and savoured evoked a similar feeling of love and appreciation in our hearts.  It also gave the two of us an even greater understanding of what goes into proper animal husbandry and farm stewardship, something that our generation is sorely lacking.  It was definitely $400 that was well spent.

Until next time…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Outstanding In The Field, Out Sitting Under Stars”

  1. [...] One was the warm potato salad that we both loved at last year’s Outstanding In The Field dinner and the other was a potato and bean salad that I tested while reviewing Earth To Table.  I [...]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.