EDWARDS, Colorado - This year's Outstanding in the Field in the Vail Valley was just that - simply outstanding. Hosted at Copper Bar Ranch for the second consecutive year in conjunction with the unique farm-to-table concept and actualized by the chefs of Savory Group, the event was a raging success set amid the 400-acre ranch's lush green valley. Copper Bar Ranch was host to 143 diners, with beautiful summer weather and a lighthearted crowd under the wide-open Colorado skies.
Thomas Salamunovich is no stranger to amazing food as the Savory Group Owner. Utilizing fresh ingredients at Larkspur, Restaurant Avondale and Larkburger, his long-standing relationship with farmer Kerry Donovan of Copper Bar Ranch reached a crescendo during the event.
"The true rockstars are the people who give us the bounty of the earth," Salamunovich toasted.
With the prized cultivated crops coming from the ground only hours before being served, guests were in for a treat of fresh veggies, farm-raised eggs and local meats.
Copper Bar Ranch has been in the Donovan family for only 30 years but enjoys a rich history as the longest continually operating ranch in Eagle County. The same path to the homestead that was used as a stagecoach road to Leadville is the same used by more modern transportation today. The farm is proud of its harvest, even with the short growing season of the high country - a brief 60-day season subject to cold mountain nights and unruly weather. Donovan is grateful for those who appreciate the work and care that goes into her carefully refined crops.
"It is a great day when I can walk into a kitchen and have people in white coats just as excited about carrots as I am," Donovan said just before making a toast to dirt, one of the most under appreciated foundations of life.
Outstanding in the Field founder Jim Deneven's mission is to reconnect diners to the land, celebrating farmers and food. The second time at Copper Bar Ranch, the successful event joins the over 300 Deneven has organized across the country in over 40 states. Heading to Europe later this year, Outstanding in the Field has a strong following with some in-the-field dinners having 80 percent rate of returning guests at the 144 feet of end-to-end tables. Packed into a big red and white '62 GM bus, the tables, full-time team of nine, and creative force has taken hold of the imaginations of curious diners from coast to coast.
The farmer dinners began in 1998 in Santa Cruz. Orchestrating the unique concept in his own kitchens, Denevan featured his brother Bill, an organic farmer, in the concept. With fellow Chef Tom King, moving the idea from inside a restaurant into local farmers' fields was an avalanche of an idea just beginning to pick up speed. Since the inception of the outdoor model of Outstanding in the Field, the mailing list along has reached 50,000 individuals, with 10,000 people served last year and the organization is on track for serving over 12,000 this year.
Copper Bar Ranch is the 34th dinner of the season for 2011, with Boulder being the next stop. Utilizing volunteers from the featured restaurants, from chefs to servers, the atmosphere is palatable, the excitement from professionals who love to give quality service, create immaculate culinary fare, and who love seeing people happy.
"It's always ideal when the weather cooperates," Deneven said. "We have to have an indoor and outdoor option and with Colorado weather, that can always be exciting." Fortunately after a brief afternoon sprinkle, the lush grasses of the Copper Bar Ranch filed were ready to host the unique farm-to-table event, with the original pastures and gardens feet away from the dining tables and hungry guests.
Mouth-watering and artfully created cuisine included options such as Copper Bar Ranch deviled eggs with maple creme fraîche with bourbon-infused trout roe and Windsor Dairy raw cow milk glendevey brûlee with English pea foam on crostini as passed hors d'oeuvres. Mixologists from Restaurant Avondale shook up Palisade peach juleps in an aspen grove before the main event. Avondale Garden and Copper Bar Ranch greens with fresh vegetables joined the family style servings at the long tables followed by wine pairings from Canyon Wind Cellars and Colterris Wine from Palisade. Larkspur-cured pork belly and James Ranch "Whey Good" suckling pig finished off the main course, with vanilla bean cheesecake topped in LaVenture and Copper Bar Ranch rhubarb syrup, Palisade cherries, and white chocolate cream.
Upcoming events can be found at outstandinginthefield.com.