Eating local is good for the environment, your health, and the local economy. Outstanding in the Field, a California-based group of foodies, is trying to spread the gospel of local food. Each summer, they load up an ancient red and white bus and hit the road for what they call a “roving culinary adventure.” They arrange locally sourced meals with well-know hometown chefs at farms across the country.
They’ve been making their ways through ski country, stopping in Pemberton, BC, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Keystone, Colorado, among others. Now, they’re headed east. Next week they’ll be in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Chef Jeff Drew of Jackson Hole’s Snake River Grill cooked the meal at the Jackson event. He filled us in on the importance of knowing where your food comes from, why he thinks potlucks are making a comeback and, of course, what they had for dinner.
Why did you decide to do the dinner?
We’ve never done an event like that before. I believe in the movement itself, it’s about recognizing small farmers, and where the food came from as well as the slow food movement. It’s all of us sitting around a large table and eating the food when it’s ready.
In this day of Food Network the celebrity chef gets a lot of attention, but the truth of the matter is that the chef knows a farmer that grow amazing tomatoes and if the chef is smart they don’t do much to the food.
How did you keep the emphasis on local food?
The Outstanding in the Field crew was great about explaining where everything came from. Teaching people where their food comes from is really important. People have a hard time connecting the fact that their lamb chop comes from a lamb. During the dinner at Mead Ranch, which is a cattle ranch, we made steak tacos. The cows were amongst us as we were grilling their brothers.
What was the dinner like?
We cooked over an open fire, and then ate at one large table, so people were forced to sit with people they didn’t know, which was great. The more food and wine, of course, the more the conversation flowed. That’s how people used to eat; it’s a way of slowing it down. Everyone liked the concept; they were talking about doing it themselves. Maybe the potluck will come back in style.
What did you eat?
For hors d'oeuvres we served Hallumi cheese, a Greek-style cheese from Ballard dairy, which is local, with wyomatoes, Wyoming tomatoes. Then we had a farmer’s lettuce salad with fresh herbs from downtown Jackson. Some of my servers grow them in their yards and we use them in the restaurant. We served Mead Ranch rib eye as an entrée, then Utah apricots and Washington cherries served on toasted peace shortbread with fresh lavender whipped cream for dessert. Niner Estate Wines donated wines.
Catch the rest of the Outstanding in the Field Tour as it heads east, then south.