Outstanding in the Field: A Traveling Culinary Feast

I didn't know what to expect when I arrived at the East End Community Organic (EECO) Farm in East Hampton for Outstanding in the Field: a traveling culinary feast that re-connects diners to the land, the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it. Since 1999, this outstanding crew has been hosting farm-to-table dinners for 100-plus locavores at some of the most awe-inspiring locations across the United States and Canada. The crew teams up with farmers and chefs at each location to prepare a five-course feast using local and seasonal ingredients.

I watched Jim Denevan, founder of Outstanding in the Field, carefully place an "Eat Local" sign on the front of the iconic 1953 red and white Flxible bus that the crew travels on to each culinary adventure. 

A long dining table that would accommodate 120 guests was situated perpendicular to the bus—spanning east to west—and aligned with two Poplar trees at the east end of the table; this exact location was very reflective of the nave of a church or holy table for what we were about to receive. 

Jim Denevan's artistic nature, precision and placement of the table or sign are no surprise, as he is a landscape artist and surfer whose creative sensibilities and balance are immersed in nature. Whether carefully studying the horizon to create a giant raked drawing on a beach or catching the perfect wave, his talents are fleeting to the natural environment. He is a maker of moments and his culinary table installations within the flora and fauna are reminiscent of the Storm King Wall of landscape artist, photographer and sculptor Andy Goldsworthy—who happens to be one of my most favorite artists.

Speaking of favorites, chef Jason Weiner of Almond created the menu for the evening and I became an instant fan when I tasted his stunning corn vichyssoise at the Great Chefs Dinner . His beautiful presentation and delicate balance of flavors reminded me of a summer sunset along the dunes of the South Fork. That dish left such a lasting impression on me that I knew the evenings’ meal was going to be spectacular.  

Diners began to arrive at 3 p.m. to sip Channing Daughters 2012 Cuvee Tropical and nibble on hors d'oeuvres of tête de cochon with peach mostarda, smoked bluefish with cucumber, dill and yogurt, chicken liver crostini with pickled onion and oysters with yellow gazpacho.


Téte de Cochon with Peach Mostarda

Smoked bluefish with cucumber, dill and yogurt

Chicken liver crostini with pickled onion


Oysters with yellow gazpacho

Ian Calder-Piedmont giving the EECO farm tour

While guests were on the farm tour, given by Ian Calder-Piedmonte, co-founder and farmer of Balsam Farms and Outreach Director of the EECO Farm, chef Weiner was preparing the most anticipated feast that was locally-sourced from Amber Wave FarmBalsam FarmsGood Water FarmsMecox Bay DairyPaumanok Vineyards, Pike FarmsRoot 'n Roost FarmLong Island Mushroom FarmMarilee FosterMontauk Shellfish Companyand seafood from Montauk CSF, Dock to Dish

The tour ended at the long dining table that sat amongst the flower and vegetable gardens. Convivial diners grabbed one of the many colorful dishes provided and took a seat for the five-course meal. The weather was sunny and comfortable; Mother Nature would sneak a swirl of wind once and awhile to remind us that fall is gently upon us. 

Kareem Massoud, Winemaker of Paumanok Vineyards pouring 2012 Dry Riesling

Paumanok Vineyards 2012 Dry Riesling was paired with the first course: tuna crudo with frisée, green zebras tomatoes, sungold tomatoes, red radishes, purple Cherokees, avocado, and garlic croutons. Oh my, the colors in this dish looked like a beautiful bouquet of flowers, very reflective of the blossoms that were all around us. The freshest sushi grade tuna blanketed the beautiful bounty that was just harvested—truly a lovely start.

Tuna crudo with frisée, green zebras tomatoes, sungold tomatoes, red radishes, purple Cherokees, avocado, and garlic croutons. Dock to Dish Yellowfin Tuna caught by Captain Ralph Towlen by Rod and Reel

Channing Daughters 2011 Pinot Grigio was paired with the second course: “Fish-n-Chips” of black sea bass, mahi mahi, fingerling tostones, baby arugula and a five herb rémoulade. Chef Weiner and his crew deep-fried the mahi mahi filets and black sea bass whole. The warm fish and tostones toppled the baby arugula and I could not get enough of the remoulade that brought a brightness to the fried fish—I was in heaven.

Fish 'n Chips of black sea bass from Montauk and mahi mahi caught by Captain Ralph Towlen of Dock to Dish.

Fish 'n Chips - black sea bass from Montauk CSF, Dock to Dish

Channing Daughters 2011 Tocai Friulano Mudd West Vineyard was paired with the third course: Blue mussels with coriander, saffron, leeks, rouille, grilled bread and smoked tomato. I cannot emphasize how sweet and fresh the mussels were. I enjoyed the heat from chili peppers in the rouille that topped the mussels. My only wish was that we had a few loaves of bread to soak up the "liquid gold" that pooled on the bottom of the heath ceramic bowls — a drinking straw would have worked too.

Dock to Dish sourced Wild blue mussels harvested by Captain John Berglin.

Dock to Dish sourced Wild blue mussels harvested by Captain John Berglin.

Paumanok 2012 Cabernet Franc was paired with the fourth course: chicken fricassée with maitake mushrooms, kale, charred corn, red onion and pomme puree. We were dining by candlelight at this point and we had to rely on our sense of taste to guide the way. Luckily, I saw the steps in preparing this dish and the ingredients were layered until it formed an amazing heap for us to uncover. Every bite was different: the grilled chicken had a light smoky undertone, the mushrooms had a pleasant chewiness, the sweet corn and red onions were crisp, the potato puree was smooth, velvety and complemented the braised kale. If there was a dish that could be eaten in the dark, it is this one. I found it interesting to decipher what I was tasting—this was over the top.

Grilled chicken for the fricassée

Chicken fricassée

The fifth course: ricotta cheese tart with husk cherries and Thai basil. I never heard of husk cherries and coincidentally this past week I saw Amber Wave Farm on the television show "The Chew" and one of the crops featured were their husk cherries. When I saw them on the menu I could not wait to try this mysteries fruit. The flavor is a mix between a tomatillo, cherry tomato and grape. These golden beauties were on top of the light ricotta cheese tart and when you would take a bite the sweetness of the fruit would burst— a nice play with the creamy ricotta.

Ricotta cheese tart with husk cherries and Thai basil

Throughout the evening I mingled with like-minded strangers and made new friends. Some of these folks were on their second, third and even fourth Outstanding in the Field dinner. It is easy to understand why these dinners can become an obsessive love affair; it is magical and captivates a moment for us diners to give pause and thanks to the contributors of the feast. Outstanding in the Field is continuously poetic, a culinary art installation that I want to be part of again and again—Outstanding! Bravo! Bravo!

Dock to Dish Spears the Future of Sea-to-Table

As land-dwellers we have a 360-degree view of our agricultural landscape, an everyday convenience to absorb what is all around us: Amber Wave Farms is growing the season’s bounty, Browder’s Birds are grazing on pastures and in Montauk, N.Y. the fishermen are bringing fresh seafood to the docks. Nowadays, there are values that have gathered momentum in our agricultural landscape—“how was this tomato grown and who raised my chicken?”— is transferring over to the fishing industry. We know our farmers, but have you ventured beyond your local fishmonger and market and on to the docks to get to know your fisherman?

Well, this might be your chance. Dock to Dish, a CSF, community supported fishery, spears the future of sea-to-table by delivering fresh sustainably harvested seafood to your dish within 24 hours of being pulled from the ocean. 

And fish is not the only thing they are hooking into, awareness and education are on their radar. Every week a newsletter goes out to inform members of their weekly catch describing: who, what, when, where and why the fish was caught, a suggested recipe to go along with the catch, a sustainable write-up about the species and strict methods used during and immediately after capture. They are also dedicated to hosting a variety of events for members and guests about why it is so important to support your local fishermen and to become stewards of our seas. 

I was fortunate enough to attend their first event that celebrated the New York Times Best Selling book, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food at Canio’s Bookstore in Sag Harbor and to meet the author, lifelong fisherman and the book’s James Beard award-winning writer Paul Greenberg

There are many challenges we face in sourcing local, wild and sustainable seafood. "Today we take more seafood out of the ocean every year than the equivalent of the human weight of China,” says Paul Greenberg. His scientific investigation and insight into how four wild fish: salmon, tuna, bass and cod frequently end up on dinner plates and whether they can be brought back from the brink of extinction was fascinating. “Our menus will be shaped in the coming years by aquaculture, we can expect to see limited options listed as the catch of the day. Local seafood, not too much and mostly bivalves is what we should be eating,” he says.

“It meant the world for us to have Paul Greenberg as our first guest speaker,” says Sean Barrett, co-founder of Dock to Dish. “Four Fish was a motivating force behind our launch. Now, having met Paul, we are able to see the relationship deepen and our understanding of his amazing work expand. As we continue learning the myriad of benefits in knowing our fisherman, we can now apply that philosophy to Paul and advocate that our members really get to know thy author.” 

L-R: Melissa Hillmer, Paul Greenberg, Sean Barret, Laura Luciano, Ralph Towlen, and bottom row Jamie Pollack

When I looked across the intimate Canios Bookstore there were many like-minded and familiar faces: Top-chef and avid fisherman Kerry Heffernan, Editor of Edible East End , Brian Halweil, Culinary Nutritionist and the host of Stirring the Pot on WPPB, Stefanie Sachs and New York State Field Outreach Representative of Fisheries for the Pew Charitable Trusts, Director of Operations for Shark Angels and scuba diver Jamie Pollack. 

Jamie Pollack diving with sharks

“The majority of fishermen see the fish from the surface when its caught and find the fun of the sport in the fight of the animal, I see the beauty of marine life in its natural habitat swimming around and interacting with it's environment,” says Jamie Pollack

Ralph Towlen, a spear gun fisherman and co-founder of Dock to Dish knows first hand what is beneath the hull and swimming in our oceans. Spear gun fishing is the most sustainable fishing method known to man. “We have zero bycatch, can harvest exact amounts, are able to analyze fish schools to pick the biggest and healthiest, and at times gender specific fish. If we see a female is carrying eggs we let the fish live and procreate,” says Sean Barrett. “Our restaurant clients are serving the freshest fish to over 700 people a week, combined with our CSF that is 1,000.” Expect to see a variety of local Long Island and New England fishes year round, including: black bass, blowfish, bluefish, haddock, hake, monkfish, pollock, porgy, skate, striped bass, summer flounder, redfish, swordfish, tilefish, tunas, wreckfish, mahi mahi, mullet, snappers, triggerfish and wahoo.

Another bonus to spear gun fishing is their conservation efforts to reverse the years of damage to the oceans ecosystem and marine life from lost drag nets and traps; these items are retrieved by Dock to Dish divers any chance they can get.

Paul Greenberg touched upon the Magnuson-Stevens Act or MSA. This was a law that was passed in 1976 and sets the standard for conservation, management and sustainable fishing in U.S. ocean waters. This act:

  • Kicked out foreign fishing fleets.

  • Established our Economic Zone which is about 4 million square miles of ocean 3-200 miles offshore and

  • established 8 regional councils to govern this vast territory. These councils are made up of representatives of coastal state governments, scientists and fishermen.

  • Set annual catch limits and accountability measures and

  • gave fish 10 years to rebuild.

The MSA was reauthorized in 2006 and is set to expire at the end of Sept 2013. “To weaken this world-class model now would be to ignore the innovation and sacrifice of those who built it over time, says Jamie Pollack.

When Congress reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Act, it should consider amendments to:

  • Minimize the habitat damage and bycatch of indiscriminate fishing.

  • Ensure that adequate forage fish are in the water to feed the larger ecosystem.

  • Promote ecosystem-based fisheries management.

This law has been proven to strengthen the health of our seas and Dock to Dish is a great example of a CSF who is following suit.

Paul Greenberg signed personal copies of his book for fans by request. Some read: Thanks for your work to protect our oceans. Because of you, the oceans are a better place. It is nice to know that the grassroots movement has hit our seas.

A few hours before the event I had received my weekly Dock to Dish newsletter informing me of my family share—4lbs of Golden Tilefish. I thought, “wouldn’t it be apropo to share the catch and have a dinner for friends and family, including Sean Barrett, the fisherman himself.” Fisherman to Dish—it does not get more tangible than that.

 While I was preparing our meal of: Arugula with Catapano goat cheese, beets and walnuts, grilled local sweet corn, North Fork heirloom cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella with homegrown basil, and pan seared Golden Tilefish with fresh herbs from Amber Waver Farms, friends and family were mingling. 

I observed something truly remarkable, a discussion around the meal we were about to have, in particular—the Golden Tilefish. Even my father who is an avid fisherman of these local waters learned a thing or two. Golden Tilefish is a deep-water delicacy; 250 to 1,500 feet deep where cold bottom temperatures range from 49 to 58 degrees Fahrenheit. What made the catch most special was who caught the fish—The Nolan Family of Montauk, N.Y. and where it was caught— in the Hudson Canyon. 

Sean Barrett, co-founder of Dock to Dish

Finally dinner was served; everyone grabbed a dish and helped themselves to the feast. As we sat down and took our first bite of this Golden Tilefish that has a sweet and mild flavor similar to lobster and crab; thoughts surmounted. “This is the freshest fish I have ever eaten” “simply awesome” “incredibly tender” “I never knew fish could taste this good”.  I would love to take all the credit and accolades for the taste of this truly spectacular fish; truth be told it is the fish that speaks for itself. There is very little you need to do to the fish when it is taken from the docks to your kitchen in a matter of hours— less is more flavor.

Over dinner we shared stories of past, present and upcoming future fishing trips; an evening I will always remember and cherish. I grew up fishing on the East End of Long Island, my fisherman and fishmonger is one in the same—my Pops. Similar to Paul Greenberg, my parents divorced when I was a child and his way to bond with my brother and me was to take us fishing; to this day all us kids still fish.

My brother and I fishing with Pops.

Brother John, Pops, Sister Kristin and Me

For Sean Barrett he saw his dream come to life; Dock to Dish created a dialogue around the dish, and before his eyes he saw first hand how he brought the sea-to-table.


Recipe for Pan Seared Golden Tilefish



  • Sea Salt and Pepper

  • 1 bunch of parsley and dill, chopped

  • 4 lemons and juice of 1 lemon

  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil



  1. Season fish with salt and pepper on both sides.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan.

  3. Lay 2 fish filets skin side down and let sear until you see the fish turning white along the sides for about 5 minutes, or until the skin is crispy.

  4. Once the flesh turns white about 1/2 way up the edges of the fish, turn it over and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining filets.

  5. Sprinkle with the parsley, dill and juice of one lemon over all of fish. Garnish with additional lemon wedges and finish with a sprinkle of sea salt.

That's it!