Pie Ranch

Tour had ended, and most of my fellow crew members had scattered across the country and returned to their respective homes.  There was, however, one final weekend…the December grand finale of the two Pie Ranch dinners.  And being from Northern California, I (along with Eden and Jim) was able to work them, thankfully postponing my post-farm dinner depression.

Every year, we finish the season within the picturesque walls of the Pie Ranch barn.  This tradition of coming full circle, of ending just 20 miles north of Outstanding’s Santa Cruz home, is one that I hope never changes.  For six months, we have spread the message of locality across the country (and beyond).  We have celebrated the farmers and artisans responsible for fresh, beautiful ingredients and the chefs who create memorable meals from them.  And to conclude by highlighting those products and participants so close to home…well, it’s a pretty darn good end if you ask me.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

These events are not your average farm dinners; these are foraging dinners.  Both days, guests are lead on a lengthy hike by mushroom aficionado Reno Taini These dinners encourage guests to be active participants in not only what they choose to eat but also how they choose to get it.  Sure, we can buy local and organic.  We visit farmer’s markets and even the farms themselves.  But actually hunting and gathering for one’s food?  Well, this prehistoric-sounding idea is something that you hear about far less regularly.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

I myself have gone foraging only once, for chanterelle mushrooms in an area quite close to Pie Ranch in fact.  And I will be the first to admit that it takes time and a certain about of necessary education (like the essential ability to discern whether something is poisonous or not).  But to later cook and eat the very food that you searched and dug for all afternoon gives you a unique satisfaction, as well as an appreciation for those who do it on a regular basis.

And while I always think solely of mushrooms when I hear the word “foraging,” these dinners showed me, as they have so many times on tour, that I was once again mistaken.  In addition to showcasing mushrooms in his main course of lamb cheeks with chanterelles, broccoli, and savoy cabbage, chef Jason Fox of San Francisco’s Commonwealth prepared a dish of Dungeness crab, sole, and mussels that had been foraged by Jim the day before.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

And the following night, chef Ryan Harris of Woodside’s Station 1 Restaurant finished his spectacular menu with a panna cotta flavored with Douglas fir that he had gathered from right outside his restaurant.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

After the barn had been returned to its former state, and we had closed the trailer doors for the final time this year, it really hit me.  I had done this 87 times.  By now, I could pack the storage bins with my eyes closed; I could take one look at our table and figure out exactly what was needed to level it; and I could train a new staff…every single dinner.  But I was still learning.  As I took a step back and considered our season, I began to realize what I had gleaned from every individual dinner.  My consciousness had been raised, some beliefs had been challenged, and previously-held misconceptions had been dispelled.  It is not that I expected to be fully knowledgeable about food and farming in my six months with Outstanding in the Field; not at all.  But to keep discovering as much as I was by dinner #87 was a bit staggering.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

And that is the beauty of this season, the eight before it, and the many more to come.  We are constantly educating those who dine with us, and in turn, we are learning as well.  I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this traveling movement, a part of this passionate effort to inspire, to teach, and to spur to act with intent and awareness.  And with upcoming January events in Florida and Hawaii, Outstanding in the Field shows no signs of slowing.

Pie Ranch

Tour had ended, and most of my fellow crew members had scattered across the country and returned to their respective homes.  There was, however, one final weekend…the December grand finale of the two Pie Ranch dinners.  And being from Northern California, I (along with Eden and Jim) was able to work them, thankfully postponing my post-farm dinner depression.

Every year, we finish the season within the picturesque walls of the Pie Ranch barn.  This tradition of coming full circle, of ending just 20 miles north of Outstanding’s Santa Cruz home, is one that I hope never changes.  For six months, we have spread the message of locality across the country (and beyond).  We have celebrated the farmers and artisans responsible for fresh, beautiful ingredients and the chefs who create memorable meals from them.  And to conclude by highlighting those products and participants so close to home…well, it’s a pretty darn good end if you ask me.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

These events are not your average farm dinners; these are foraging dinners.  Both days, guests are lead on a lengthy hike by mushroom aficionado Reno Taini These dinners encourage guests to be active participants in not only what they choose to eat but also how they choose to get it.  Sure, we can buy local and organic.  We visit farmer’s markets and even the farms themselves.  But actually hunting and gathering for one’s food?  Well, this prehistoric-sounding idea is something that you hear about far less regularly.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

I myself have gone foraging only once, for chanterelle mushrooms in an area quite close to Pie Ranch in fact.  And I will be the first to admit that it takes time and a certain about of necessary education (like the essential ability to discern whether something is poisonous or not).  But to later cook and eat the very food that you searched and dug for all afternoon gives you a unique satisfaction, as well as an appreciation for those who do it on a regular basis.

And while I always think solely of mushrooms when I hear the word “foraging,” these dinners showed me, as they have so many times on tour, that I was once again mistaken.  In addition to showcasing mushrooms in his main course of lamb cheeks with chanterelles, broccoli, and savoy cabbage, chef Jason Fox of San Francisco’s Commonwealth prepared a dish of Dungeness crab, sole, and mussels that had been foraged by Jim the day before.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

And the following night, chef Ryan Harris of Woodside’s Station 1 Restaurant finished his spectacular menu with a panna cotta flavored with Douglas fir that he had gathered from right outside his restaurant.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

After the barn had been returned to its former state, and we had closed the trailer doors for the final time this year, it really hit me.  I had done this 87 times.  By now, I could pack the storage bins with my eyes closed; I could take one look at our table and figure out exactly what was needed to level it; and I could train a new staff…every single dinner.  But I was still learning.  As I took a step back and considered our season, I began to realize what I had gleaned from every individual dinner.  My consciousness had been raised, some beliefs had been challenged, and previously-held misconceptions had been dispelled.  It is not that I expected to be fully knowledgeable about food and farming in my six months with Outstanding in the Field; not at all.  But to keep discovering as much as I was by dinner #87 was a bit staggering.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

And that is the beauty of this season, the eight before it, and the many more to come.  We are constantly educating those who dine with us, and in turn, we are learning as well.  I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this traveling movement, a part of this passionate effort to inspire, to teach, and to spur to act with intent and awareness.  And with upcoming January events in Florida and Hawaii, Outstanding in the Field shows no signs of slowing.

Pie Ranch

Tour had ended, and most of my fellow crew members had scattered across the country and returned to their respective homes.  There was, however, one final weekend…the December grand finale of the two Pie Ranch dinners.  And being from Northern California, I (along with Eden and Jim) was able to work them, thankfully postponing my post-farm dinner depression.

Every year, we finish the season within the picturesque walls of the Pie Ranch barn.  This tradition of coming full circle, of ending just 20 miles north of Outstanding’s Santa Cruz home, is one that I hope never changes.  For six months, we have spread the message of locality across the country (and beyond).  We have celebrated the farmers and artisans responsible for fresh, beautiful ingredients and the chefs who create memorable meals from them.  And to conclude by highlighting those products and participants so close to home…well, it’s a pretty darn good end if you ask me.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

These events are not your average farm dinners; these are foraging dinners.  Both days, guests are lead on a lengthy hike by mushroom aficionado Reno Taini These dinners encourage guests to be active participants in not only what they choose to eat but also how they choose to get it.  Sure, we can buy local and organic.  We visit farmer’s markets and even the farms themselves.  But actually hunting and gathering for one’s food?  Well, this prehistoric-sounding idea is something that you hear about far less regularly.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

I myself have gone foraging only once, for chanterelle mushrooms in an area quite close to Pie Ranch in fact.  And I will be the first to admit that it takes time and a certain about of necessary education (like the essential ability to discern whether something is poisonous or not).  But to later cook and eat the very food that you searched and dug for all afternoon gives you a unique satisfaction, as well as an appreciation for those who do it on a regular basis.

And while I always think solely of mushrooms when I hear the word “foraging,” these dinners showed me, as they have so many times on tour, that I was once again mistaken.  In addition to showcasing mushrooms in his main course of lamb cheeks with chanterelles, broccoli, and savoy cabbage, chef Jason Fox of San Francisco’s Commonwealth prepared a dish of Dungeness crab, sole, and mussels that had been foraged by Jim the day before.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

And the following night, chef Ryan Harris of Woodside’s Station 1 Restaurant finished his spectacular menu with a panna cotta flavored with Douglas fir that he had gathered from right outside his restaurant.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

After the barn had been returned to its former state, and we had closed the trailer doors for the final time this year, it really hit me.  I had done this 87 times.  By now, I could pack the storage bins with my eyes closed; I could take one look at our table and figure out exactly what was needed to level it; and I could train a new staff…every single dinner.  But I was still learning.  As I took a step back and considered our season, I began to realize what I had gleaned from every individual dinner.  My consciousness had been raised, some beliefs had been challenged, and previously-held misconceptions had been dispelled.  It is not that I expected to be fully knowledgeable about food and farming in my six months with Outstanding in the Field; not at all.  But to keep discovering as much as I was by dinner #87 was a bit staggering.

Photo Credit: Simone Anne Lang

And that is the beauty of this season, the eight before it, and the many more to come.  We are constantly educating those who dine with us, and in turn, we are learning as well.  I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this traveling movement, a part of this passionate effort to inspire, to teach, and to spur to act with intent and awareness.  And with upcoming January events in Florida and Hawaii, Outstanding in the Field shows no signs of slowing.