First there was the farm-to-table movement. Now there’s table-to-farm. For the past 14 years, Outstanding in the Field, the education-through-eating project based in Santa Cruz, California, has staged more than 430 dinners on rural plots around the States and in eight foreign countries. A long, cloth-draped table is arranged under the stars and top-tier chefs create one-night-only meals using locally sourced ingredients, with a goal to create connections between diners and food producers.
When the sold-out event comes to Alexandria’s Arcadia Farm on September 27, Birch & Barley’s husband-and-wife team, Executive Chef Kyle Bailey and pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, will helm the feast for the third consecutive year. The program veterans, who specialize in comforting, seasonal American fare, have learned how to cope with X factors associated with entertaining in a rustic setting. A few years ago, MacIsaac recalls, diners arrived amid marshy conditions. “It poured the night before our dinner,” she says. “We ended up wading through mud all day.” But the rain didn’t put a damper on the meal, or on the duo’s hand-selected beverage pairings.
Though the couple spends plenty of time hashing out their menu ideas over Scotch on the porch of their Annandale home, the lineup isn’t finalized until one week before the dinner—all because Bailey and MacIsaac seek to showcase whatever ingredients are freshest and most flavorful at Arcadia. Five courses are planned as of press time. And, while more details are scarce, the two chefs confirm that this year’s diners shouldn’t expect dishes from years past, such as Bailey’s skate with Hubbard squash and pumpkin seeds. “You don’t ever want to repeat yourself,” he explains. “You always have to push yourself to always do something new.”