Behind-the-Scenes at Outstanding in the Field Slideshow
September 9, 2011
1. The View
The scene upon arriving at Westport Rivers is stunning. Walking in through the shaded pergola, visitors are greeted by the magnificent view to the southwest and on the day of the dinner party, a rustic farm-style "bar" (left).
During the cocktail hour, guests are given a tour led by winemaker Bob Russell. He leads them from the barn, and through the vines (left), guiding them to the table.
2. Farm Barn
Westport Rivers Vineyard is a 25-year-old working farm (barn at left) run by the fourth generation of a family of wine growers, located along the South Coast of Massachusetts. They have more than 80 acres of grapes, including Riesling, Pinot Noir, Muscat, Rkatsiteli, and more.
With three hours until guests were to arrive, the OITF team was hard at work when I arrived, unpacking a stack of more than 160 folding wooden chairs for their iconic table that they tote along with them, wherever they go.
3. Setting the Table
The morning of the event, the chef, farmer, and Denevan walk the property to locate the perfect spot for the evening’s meal.
For the dinner at Westport Rivers, the team chose this spot (left) between one section of grapes and a lush field, as it was remote and would offer guests a spectacular sunset come evening.
5. The Fields
The area surrounding the vineyard, and the dinner table, is full of wide-open, verdant fields (view looking northwest, left).
6. Contents of the Truck
Aside from using farm-fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, each OITF dinner is low-impact. Along with chairs, the team brings along boxes filled with lanterns (left), reusable pitchers, silverware, and more to ensure each event is refined, similar to what one might find in a proper restaurant.
7. The Menu
At each event, a copy of the menu is placed inside each guest’s napkin, using the same style of fold. One side features the dishes that will be served, while the other lists all the farmers and purveyors who contributed to the meal.
A long-standing tradition at OITF is that each guest brings their own plate with them to the dinner. As guests enter, there is a special place to leave your dish (left). The OITF team then transports the plates to the table, where guests pick up their plate before sitting down.
Throughout the meal, the no plates are cleared until after dessert, when they are washed and then used to serve individual the final course. At the end of the night, each plate is again returned to its owner to bring home, sparkling clean.
9. More Plates
If you forget your plate, OITF carries a trunk filled with plates of all kinds that previous guests have gifted at the end of a dinner, or forgotten, for people to borrow for the night.
10. The Iconic Table
There is more to setting the OITF communal table than just lining up 20 tablecloth-covered, six-foot tables end to end. Each table is gently coaxed into a perfectly straight line with as level a surface as possible. As fields are naturally bumpy, it can be quite a challenge — shims are essential.
11. Cocktail Hour
About two hours before the dinner is to begin, the finishing touches are being made to the table and the chef begins cooking. Guests also begin to arrive, enjoying cocktails and appetizers on the lawn before going on a tour of the farm.
13. The Team Cooking
The entire New Rivers team closed up shop for the night to be a part of the event; a team of six is doing the cooking. From left to right: Doug Higley, Matt Blanchette, Elizabeth LaMantia, Beau Vestal, Tom Zippelli, Aaron Peirolo, and Oliver Crawford.
While guests enjoy cocktails, the chefs are hard at work, here grilling zucchini squashes from Four Town Farm in Seekonk, Mass. until nearly tender, to serve along with the entrée.
16. Place Setting
Part of the table’s brilliance is its sheer simplicity — with only a wine glass, utensils, a napkin, and menu at each place.
While guests used to pick flowers on their way to the table to place in a jar for decoration, the tradition has since been discontinued to make room for the numerous colorful platters of food presented family-style throughout the meal.
19. First Course
As guests arrived at the table, a sprinkling of edible herbs and fresh flowers from Eva's Garden were being put on the house-smoked Rhode Island bluefish pâté appetizer, served with garlic-rubbed grilled crostini for guests to share.
18. The Tour Ends
With the meal preparations underway, Russell winds down his farm tour, guiding guests through the vines where the wine came from. As the guests round the corner and first see the table, previously nestled out of site, you can hear exclamations of delight and awe.
20. Dinner Begins
It's the moment everyone has been awaiting for all day. The table has been set, and the cooking is underway — time for dinner.
Once every guest finds a seat at the communal table (there are no seat assignments), a member of the evening’s volunteer waitstaff comes around to introduce themselves and begin telling the story of the evening's meal.