'Outstanding' food tour honors local farmers

July 22, 2011 8:29:16 PM PDT
With sellout dates, eager fans and a-level chefs, the annual "Outstanding in the Field Tour" has the trappings of a music event. But the tour is more about forging a connection between farmer, chef and diner. And the locations for these summer-only events are truly magnificent.

It's like something off the cover of a magazine, not to mention every food lover's fantasy. Eating at a table set up in the middle of a farm, utilizing produce grown just a few yards away. A year ago, Hot Chocolate's Mindy Segal led a team through several delicious courses at City Farm, where Division and Clybourn meet. It was one of the 70 or so stops for the Outstanding in the Field tour, an annual feast artist Jim Denevan began 13 summers ago in California.

The mission is simple: re-connect diners to the land, while honoring local farmers.

The tour returns to the Midwest next week. On July 28, a partnership will be forged between Bleu Mont Dairy in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin with dinner prepared by the staff from L'Etoile in Madison. Two days later, the Dietzler Beef Farm in Elkhorn hosts Logan Square's Longman & Eagle for a sold out event. The next night, another sellout in LaFox, as The Bristol cooks at Heritage Prairie Farm. The caravan moves to North Judson, Indiana on the first, as Green Acres Farm hosts chef Bill Kim from Urban Belly and Belly Shack; then on the third, Paul Virant takes his team up to Northport, Michigan, cooking at the Bare Knuckles Farm.

"Here, you look at the farm, and you see the farm, but then you look up and you see our beautiful Chicago and it's awesome," said Randy Zweiban.

Zweiban is the Chef and Owner of Province; he led another dinner last summer in Grant Park, where the city has given Milwaukee-based Growing Power a huge plot of land to grow vegetables.

"We try and include something in every course from the farm but it's great what Growing Power does 'cause we've been able to use all their vegetables in every course with what we do," said Zweiban.

That could mean something as simple as tomatoes, fresh herbs and olive oil. For the non-profit, it's a chance to show like-minded food lovers how important urban gardens can be.

"This garden here in Grant Park is one of our trademark projects showing how cities can use public land to grow food and to train youth about where food comes from, and contribute to the city's food security," said Growing Power's Erika Allen.

Seats are still available for the dinners in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. The only way to sign up is to go to their website, where you'll need to check back in the spring, to check out next summer's events as well.


upcoming tour dates in the Midwest:
July 28
Blue Mounds, WI
Bleu Mont Dairy
(prepared by L'Etoile from Madison)

July 30
Elkhorn, WI
Dietzler Farms
(prepared by Longman & Eagle in Chicago)

July 31
LaFox, IL
Heritage Prairie Farm
(prepared by The Bristol in Chicago) SOLD OUT

Aug. 1
North Judson, IN
Green Acres Farm
(prepared by Urban Belly/Belly Shack in Chicago)

Aug. 3
Northport, MI
Bare Knuckles Farm
(prepared by Vie in Western Springs/Perennial Virant in Chicago)

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