Outstanding in the Field

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Outstanding below Mt Currie.JPG

The imposing face of Mount Currie, northernmost peak of the Garibaldis (an evergreen and snow-dusted height of 8501 feet), presides over British Columbia's Pemberton Valley.

Below, on the banks of Lilloet River, the 60-acre, asparagus-to-zucchini North Arm Farm has been transformed, on this midsummer night: a festive, 160-foot-long table, covered in white linen, has been set up beside the raspberry vines, with formal silver and glassware place settings for 162 guests.

The guest chef for this evening's venture, a floating piece of dinner theater known as Outstanding in the Field, is the talented James Walt, whose day job is to oversee the kitchen at Whistler's best restaurant, Araxi. Walt has brought along a cadre of cooks and servers to complement OITF's itinerant band of Californians. "Make it perfect," he tells them, sweetly but insistently, as they plate up Dungeness crab, stuffed squash blossoms, wild sockeye salmon, local beef, choux-pastries filled with homemade ice cream. "Make it perfect."

Salmon with peas.JPG

Making it pefect, no easy task for a farmer like Jordan Sturdy, 48, drawn to the mountains by the excitement of winter sports and to this corner of the valley by its natural beauty. After nearly 20 years of farming, he knows the imperfections of organic polyculture. "It would be a lot easier to do a single crop," he acknoweldges. But those are his own flowers and garlic scapes on the crab, his own squash blossoms, his own sweet peas and peppermint atop the salmon, his own horseradish on the beef, his own berries in the dessert. The concept of farm-to-table takes on a profound new resonance.

As the sun dips and shadows lengthen, the pale,spindly lavender flowers of the evening-scented stock, planted alongside the table, Matthiola bicornis, perk up and emit their sweet, alluring smell. The mosquitoes come out, too, adding that grace note of dissonance to the perfection of the dinner.

Farmer Jason Sturdy.JPG Chef James Walt.JPG

They sit on the sideline like a benched second-string players, well-known names of North American agriculture like Massey Ferguson, International Harvester and John Deere. Only scrappy little Honda, a riding mower rigged with wire shelves front and rear, gets the call to shuttle trays and baskets from the farmhouse commissary to the field kitchen in the meadow.

Tractors on their day off.JPG

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on July 19, 2010 5:00 PM.

She'll turn Manhattan into a drink of joy was the previous entry in this blog.

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