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Way back in March, we signed up for Outstanding in the Field's Boston dinner.  The purpose of this event?  To "celebrate food at the source." Last night, all the waiting was finally over!

The event was hosted by Allandale Farm, which is wedged between suburban Brookline homes, a golf course, a cemetery, and a school.  It's Boston's last working farm and has been family owned since the French and Indian wars.  (In addition to regular farming operations, Allandale farm has a seasonal retail store and a kid's summer program. Check 'em out.)

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Arriving at the farm was a strange experience. One minute we were stressed out by Boston rush hour traffic, and the next minute we were standing here:

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Immediately, we could see that the Outstanding in the Field (OITF) program is aptly named: All of the guests were out standing in one of Allandale's many fields.

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Fortunately, there was plenty of food and wine to keep us entertained as we stood in the field.  The folks from Island Creek Oysters shucked some freshly caught bivalves, while folks from Harvest restaurant in Harvard Square served goat cheese, herb, and tomato canapes... 

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and a bevy of pickled fruit and vegetables.  (The jalapenos were crazy hot and the peaches were savory -- not sweet!)

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After the appetizers, OITF's founder Jim Denevan (pictured) gave us a brief history of the program and then Jim and John, two of Allandale's farmers, gave us a tour of the farm.  (You'll notice a couple of people holding plates in the photo below -- apparently this called The Tradition of the Plates. From an OITF email: "We find that this is a wonderful way for each guest to contribute something of their own to the community meal and to create a unique setting for the dining experience.")

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After the tour, it was off to a long dining table, set of course in the middle of a field, where we discovered the evening's menu.

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The watercress, fig, goat cheese, and pine nut salad was fabulous!

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The blur below is Mary Dumont, chef at Harvest, working furiously to finish plating wild striped bass (the last of the season), grilled romaine, braised radish, zucchini, leeks, and orange saffron beurre blanc.

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Unfortunately, Haven was feeling a bit under the weather, so we had to leave before the dessert: twig farm tomme with marinated olives and membrillo (quince paste) plus sweet corn creme brulee with gingersnap cookies.

Today a friend from California tipped me off to an organization called Outstanding in the Field that puts on rather extravagant farm dinners.  "Outstanding in the Field events feature a leisurely tour of the hosting farm followed by a five course, farm-style dinner at our long table set in a scenic spot. Dinner is accompanied by a wine paired with each course. Diners are joined at the table by the farmer, food producers, a winemaker and other local artisans associated with the meal."

Many of the dinners are in California, but we New Englanders are fortunate to have one in Boston on September 5, exact farm location TBD. (I'm guessing that the pic below, which I poached from the OitF website, is of the 2007 Boston dinner.)

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The price is a whopping $200 per seat -- and while I don't think that it should cost an arm and a leg to "celebrate food at the source" (as the OitF folks put it), my foodie friend assures me that this is one experience worth paying a premium for.

If you want to join us (yes I ponied up the cash), act soon.  Eleven of the 27 2008 dinner dates are already sold out.

Ok, the chocolate you're about to read about is admittedly sourced far, far away from New England.  But if you're going to eat chocolate (and you know you will), then you might as well get it from folks that source their beans directly from farmers and process them (the beans, not the farmers) locally.

And that's just what the proprietors of Taza Chocolate do:  "The Taza Chocolate mission is to bring chocolate eaters closer to the cocoa farmer by making minimally processed chocolate that passes directly from the farm, to us, to you. Since we source beans directly from farming communities and co-operatives, we can ensure that a fair price is paid for high quality cocoa beans. From there, we bring the beans to our chocolate studio in Somerville, Massachusetts and grind them into our delicious chocolate."

We found their Chocolate Mexicano at Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square (Somerville, MA).   (And, a noteworthy aside: after a lifetime of being a skim milk drinker, I finally caved to 1% so that we could buy from Crescent Ridge.)

taza - raw.jpgThis is no ordinary chocolate -- it comes in a disk that you have to break apart into pie-shaped pieces to make hot cocoa.  Action shot:

taza - action.jpgAnd, being no ordinary chocolate, it wasn't a huge surprise that it made no ordinary cup of cocoa.  It's much less lighter in color than the normal cocoa we normally get, the sweetness is more subtle, and it has a hint of cinnamon.  On sip one, we weren't really sold -- but by sip three, we could never go back to our old stuff.  It was incredible.

taza - cooked.jpgIf you're up for an outing this weekend, stop by the Paper & Chocolate event on Saturday, February 9, from 1 - 6 pm at 561 Windsor Street in Somerville.  Taza is pairing up with the very talented Shelley of Albertine Press who will be selling her beautiful handmade cards, coasters, and calendars.

If you can't make it to Paper & Chocolate, you can also find Taza in plenty of other (mostly New England) retailers and online

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From the King Corn website: "King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, nitrogen fertilizers, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America's most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil.  But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat -- and how we farm."

Unfortunately I can't make it, but next Sunday, February 10, Slow Food Boston is hosting a screening of the film King Corn at 4pm at Theodore Parker Church in West Roxbury, MA.  The church is located at 1859 Centre Street, on the corner of Corey Street. There's parking on the street and in local lots and the church is also accessible by MBTA bus.


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