As you know from my birthday post, over the weekend, Tim and I headed out to Ojai for what promised to be an incredible foodie experience. We joined nearly 200 other guests at a dinner table on a farm at Outstanding in the Field. Despite the terrible traffic, back road detours, and super-fast wardrobe change, we did somehow make it on time to the fabulous feast at Rio Gozo Farm on Saturday.
I couldn’t wait to taste every morsel of this locally-sourced meal. When I received the tickets for this event, the food was the thing I awaited with the most anticipation. To be honest, I’m not a die-hard organic purist and I would never consider myself a locavore. I am a big fan of freshness and creativity, however. The idea or eating something that has been recently harvested and creating a menu from ingredients immediately available intrigues me.
Upon arrival at this picturesque farm surrounded by mountains, we were served wine and appetizers. Crostinis with carmelized onions, pixie tangerines, and pesto were passed before our tour of this farm with an interesting history. Rio Gozo used to be a state prison that produced many of the vegetables consumed by the California penal system. Now locals join the Rio Gozo CSA to receive fresh fruits and vegetables every week.
After the tour, we gathered at the communal table for four more courses. We began with fresh bread and avocado spread served with beet, avocado, and blood orange salad with mint and goat cheese. Next came grilled squash, meyer lemons, fennel and wilted romaine. The main course included braised short ribs, carrots, and the most delicious creamed chard I can imagine. We finished with limoncello and mulberry brioche french toast for dessert.
While I enjoyed each dish (especially that chard), I was surprised by my experience at Outstanding in the Field. I expected that the food itself would be the most important element for me. In fact, the most powerful part of the experience for me was the people. We talked with a couple from Palo Alto about Paris and gardening. Two couples who sat with us during dinner shared about their careers, supper clubs, and language studies. I met the president of a southern California historical society and a young dentist from Atlanta.
What a joy it was to be with such interesting fellow diners sharing a meal in a beautiful space. I’m glad that the table was so enriched by these people and that the experience was truly outstanding.