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Outstanding in the Field: A Table in an Olive Grove

Since 1999, Outstanding in the Field has been essentially creating and tearing down a brand new restaurant every night, for at least seven months out of the year. Their tours run consistently from May through November, allowing the crew to travel all over the US to sample fruits, vegetables, seafood, and meat grown and raised in every geographic climate.

At each stop along their tour, they bring with them the tradition of making every person feel welcomed and part of something bigger, a collective “family” so to speak — an idea larger than life.

Recently, the Outstanding crew hosted dinner at the Temecula Olive Oil Company, where Catherine Pepe & Thom Curry produce some of the finest extra virgin olive oil I have ever tasted. The 18-mile-long windy road leading to the grove was, in itself, breathtaking. It gave me the opportunity to take in the picturesque, sunny, and inspiring valley of natural rolling hills and vineyards.

This is the stuff dreams are made of. Hand-painted signs pointed the way to paradise.

Lightly covered by the shadows from nearby trees, an assortment of unique china and the long dinner table were the center of attention.

After a tour of the site, through the dark green, romantic trees, where Thom taught us all about how we’ve been buying the wrong oil (we really have been), everyone gathered at the dinner table, including the farmers, producers, culinary artisans, and diners, excitedly deciding where the best place to sit for the night would be.

I found that the middle of the table was best, as I could look to my right or left and see an endless row of happy, smiling faces all living in the moment.

The positive energy emitting from countless conversations and the shared love for fine wine and delicious food was nothing short of exquisite. It was as if this was the ocean of humanity. Conversations ebbed and flowed like the ocean tide.

Chef Paul Arias of The Fishery in Pacific Beach returned to cook his second dinner with Outstanding in the Field. Paul specializes in seafood, and what could pair better with a beautifully cooked piece of Copper River sockeye salmon, honey onion jam, pickled summer squash, and a glass of “Brezza di Mare” than a little (or a lot) of olive oil? As far as I’m concerned, not a damn thing.

The flavor of the olive oil was nearly impossible to describe. Its smooth texture and earthy, grassy nature was enough to put my taste buds over the edge. Our entire table was drizzling it on practically everything. We may have even sneaked a little bit onto our crispy blueberry meringue and vanilla fig balsamic dessert.

Each of the three courses served were works of art, especially when paired with Palumbo Family Vineyards’ handcrafted wine. The gingered fish dumplings smothered with Fitzgerald Farm nectarine, lime oil, and shaved vegetables only seemed to heighten the aroma and flavor of the 2010 Syrah Clone 877.

Paul’s marinated grilled albacore belly and Estate Merlot, which was served with Crows Pass Farm warm potato salad, had my entire dinner “family” and myself savoring every last bite.

I don’t remember the last time food tasted this good.

Outstanding in the Field did more than just bring an unforgettable meal to the table, they made a lasting impression on every guest who stepped foot on that grove.

When the sun fell below the horizon, little candles in vintage jars were placed on the table. The stars even decided to make their presence known in the Southern California sky. Tucked away and out of reach from urban lights, Temecula is the ideal place to stargaze.

What a lovely way to end a perfect evening.


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