A farm-to-table and sea-to-spoon experience for the ages on a private beach

Allow me to paint the picture. Close your eyes. Envision a long, winding table on a stretch of untouched beach, simply dressed so as to not detract from the beautiful beachfront vista, allowing it to take center stage, yet allowing the setting to retain its aura of elegance. No fussy tablescapes to distract from bonding with the strangers seated next to and across from you – or to take the focus away from what you were there for, Outstanding in the Field, a farm-to-table and sea-to-spoon dining experience.

We gathered at Woodes Rogers Walk amidst the hustle and bustle of a Friday afternoon for a short ferry ride to our destination which turned out to be a gorgeous spit of green grasses and white-gold sand jutting out into the variegated turquoise and blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean on Paradise Island – a private, tranquil beach that we had all to ourselves.

The Outstanding in the Field table setup.

To get to it, I hopped off the boat into shallow, pristine waters for a quick trek through the “woods”. After cresting a slight hill, the beach location chosen by Outstanding in the Field for the dinner came into view. It was a stunning, untouched beachfront that I had never visited before. It was there that they had set up the long, winding table that is the hallmark of Outstanding in the Field events.

Attendees were invited to drop bags, hats and any other extraneous item on a table set out just for that reason, offered a choice of libation – Bahama Mama, white wine or flavored iced teas – then encouraged to relax and mingle as we nibbled on passed canapés that included a jelly coconut ceviche (vegan); pickled backyard watermelon with guava rum jam, farmer’s cheese and molasses vinegar; conch plantain cake with ginger lime aioli; and Andros crab and dough with crab ghee – setting the atmosphere and mood for what was to come for the family-style four-course meal; all the while, the chef collaborators were “busy like bees” in their outdoor kitchen for the day, with their final preparations and one goal in mind – provide a showstopping dinner with carefully curated courses, wine-paired to complement.

Not standing on ceremony, diners were encouraged to even go for a swim, which many people took advantage of. After all, this was no stuffy affair.

West End panny cakes, roasted banana chutney, brown butter powder, and goat pepper honey with three rock stove steamed-down provisions served with spatchcocked mutton snapper. EDWARD LOWE

Once seated, we were presented with the first course, a cold-smoked and cured dayboat fish, with seasonal raw crushed vegetables and quick-pickled shoreline purslane with grilled flatbread and smoked butter. A dish conceptualized by chef Gal Kotzer.

It was an absolute stunning start to the meal and what was to come.

It was followed by a Green Leaf Farms salad with flowers and blossoms, fire-scorched vegetables, with charred sour orange dressing for the second course conceptualized by chefs Shaker Estephane and Jane Clarke. I kept returning to that bowl.

A peas ‘n’ guinea corn grits pelau showcasing Eleuthera blue crabs, dry conch, salt beef, lobster and stone crab meat, with steamed gravy was a crowd-pleasing showstopper that had diners clamoring for seconds and thirds. Again, a dish Estephane and Clarke receive credit for, and was one of those dishes that you wished you had a doggie bag for, because you could not keep eating with so much more to come and needing to leave space.

The master of flavor, known as chef Jamal Small, was the mastermind behind the spatchcocked mutton snapper with lobster fat emulsion, herbs and greens, wild pink peppercorn vinaigrette, and spicy pickled Exuma onions with West End panny cakes, roasted banana chutney, brown butter powder, and goat pepper honey with three rock stove steamed-down provisions. This was a dish with a lot of flavors that came together in harmony that just worked. That roasted banana chutney on those fluffy panny cakes was the thing people have dreams about.

Green Leaf Farms salad with flowers and blossoms, fire-scorched vegetables, with charred sour orange dressing. EDWARD LOWE

A skillet-caramelized guava duff with rum raisin gelato and guava rum sauce conceptualized by chef Sheldon Sweeting was the sweet finish to an outstanding meal and event.

While Sweeting is a savory chef, dessert is also something that he dominates. You never know what he’s going to give you, but just be prepared to be wowed. Sweeting took the simple Bahamian dessert staple known as guava duff, toasted it to caramelize the flavors, owing to the fact that we were dining on the beach, then upped the ante with a benne seed crumble for texture, kissed it with guava rum sauce and served it surrounded by heaping mounds of rum raisin gelato.

In recent times, I’ve been known to pass on guava duff offerings because … well, I can save on calories because at best the offering has been mediocre, but Sweeting’s sweet Outstanding in the Field finish drew me in. It was visually stunning, sprinkled with beautiful edible flowers.

The Outstanding in the Field experience unfolded over six hours, which meant that by the time we departed our private enclave to be ferried back to the mainland, it was well after the sun had set. But we all took with us memories that will last a lifetime.

Founder Jim Denevan’s culinary caravan made its way to The Bahamas, courted by Chef Simeon Hall Jr., a self-proclaimed “culinary griot”, who is as passionate about storytelling as he is about locally sourced cuisine, and a fierce proponent of the “farm-to-table” and “sea-to-spoon” movements to add The Bahamas to its winter 2023 schedule.

The Bahamas was its first stop. It will also include stops in the United States, Hawaii, and Mexico.

It is Hall’s hope that Outstanding in the Field returns to The Bahamas for future stops. If it does, this incredible experience is one you should not miss. This full-service, four-course, family-style meal brought people together from all walks of life through one common thing: food.

Part of the mission of Outstanding in the Field is to reconnect diners to the land and the origins of their food. When diners are seated at the long table, eating foods just picked from that field or plucked from the waters, they definitely feel connected to the land and sea.

Cold-smoked and cured dayboat fish with seasonal raw crushed vegetables and quick-pickled shoreline purslane. EDWARD LOWE

The other part of the Outstanding in the Field mission is to honor the local farmers and fishermen/women and food artisans. Outstanding in the Field’s host fisherwoman was Shacara Lightbourne from Island Foodology; the host farmer was Anthony Hall from Green Leaf Farms.

Chef collaborators included Quentin Scott, Shaker Estephane, Jamal Small, Sheldon Sweeting, Marcella Evans, Harold Pinder, Gal Kotzer, Sara Dama, Emmanuel Gibson, Addimae Farrington, and George Roberts.

Outstanding in the Field, the tour, founded in 1999 in California by Denevan, travels the globe exalting those who grow and raise food in a way that respects the Earth and land, closely paralleling Denevan’s practice as a land artist.

His culinary caravan has been set in stunning natural locales around the world that yield celebrated ingredients via sustainable farming and husbandry methods. Denevan brings his trained eye to every detail of his communal dinners, beginning with the highly considered placement, shape and length of each table. On some occasions, he combines one of his extraordinary large-scale works, which is etched into the sand using a rake and shovel and created without the aid of measurement tools of any kind.

Outstanding in the Field was founded by Denevan, an artist and chef, as a radical alternative to the conventional dining experience. Rather than source ingredients for a restaurant, they bring the restaurant to the source.

It began with a humble dinner on Denevan’s brother’s farm. Their culinary caravan has since reached all 50 United States and 16 countries around the globe – with tables set in vineyards, beaches, meadows, fishing docks, and city streets in addition to a long list of organic and sustainable farms.

The roving restaurant without walls is rebuilt every morning and disappears every night. It is a momentary experience and a joyful celebration of human connection. Diners gather at one lone table to share the most fundamental and universal human conversation – a meal.

Hundreds of the world’s most honored chefs, including James Beard Award winners and Top Chef champions, have performed in Outstanding in the Field’s outdoor kitchens.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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