Foodtripper

Eat: Outstanding in the Field

Farms across the country
10.07.2010 | by: Meghan

The roving dinner party Outstanding in the Field has been written about everywhere. And it deserves every bit of ink. Huge farm feasts sprawling out in fields, cliffs, caves, beaches, orchards, hillsides and stables across the country with a mission to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, while honoring the local farmers and artisans that cultivate it. They sell out every time. One of my favorite interiors photographers—and trusted foodie friends—Bob Coscarelli and his wife Karen scored a seat at Chicago’s Paul Kahan’s spread at Kinnickinnick Farms in Wisconsin. He says it easily makes it into the top-10 dining experiences of his life. And he snapped this beautiful photograph.

In Detroit, the concept is a little less polished. Like most things in Detroit, it’s pretty underground. Not literally. ClandesDine diners find out an hour beforehand where to go for the locally sourced meal (usually prepared by a rotating host of local chefs): an abandoned building downtown, a former elementary school gone indie film theater. This Monday, the third installment. There’s no website; no press flurry. The event is generated entirely by word of mouth. Expect a full report next week.

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Stay: Taxhof

Bruck, Austria
10.05.2010 | by: Meghan

This past winter, there was an article in The New York Times about new inns cropping up high—like 12,460 feet high—in the Austrian Alps. Instead of crashing at the base of the mountains, travelers are braving the tippy-top of the ranges. But not just for skiing. Big vistas, mountain pastures and inns with family farms serve up rustic accommodations and meals from local ingredients. Six different places were mentioned, but one sounds especially fantastic: The Taxhof, which has been owned by generations of the same family since 1687, is attached to a big working farm with cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, ponies, chickens, quails, rabbits and cats. There’s even a petting zoo for the kids.

Most of the rooms and cottages look functional, spare and quite lovely, but the Docbodnsuite (in the photos) is unexpectedly modern with panoramic, atrium-like views, rooftop terrace, an open fire pit and super stylish furniture (I spy a stool from e15). Part of the appeal, at least for me, is the cozy on-site restaurant that serves regional specialties, like Pinzgauer Kaspressknödel (a type of cheese dumpling), lamb roast, potato dumplings stuffed with black pudding, and sugared pancakes with stewed fruit—all made with ingredients from the family farm (or neighboring ones).

[Photos courtesy of the Taxhof]

Check In: Olde Bell Inn

Hurley, Berkshires, UK
07.27.2010 | by: Meghan

It’s easy to see why people make such a fuss about The Olde Bell Inn—all rush matting, pewter pitchers, colorful Welsh woolen blankets, local high-backed chairs handcrafted in nearby High Wycombe, and a flock of sheepskin throws tossed in every direction. With makeover by Ilse Crawford (the revered former editor of Elle Decor known for bringing modern design to the English masses), the Olde Belle is the oldest functioning inn in England. Paint peels, stairs creak, rooms slant. And for it, there’s a tangible sense of place at Ye Olde Bell, as the sign reads out front next to the namesake iron bell. Crawford honors the long storied history dating back to 1135, instead of trying to re-create a new interior all glossy and pristine.

Old photos and postcards tell the stories. An ancient passageway through the fireplace runs from the pub to the old priory down the street. Monks used to welcome visitors in the bar when they heard the bell clanging; Elizabeth Taylor was a regular; Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower stayed here prior to the Normandy Invasion. The place has seen lifetimes of political upheavals, generational turnovers, natural disasters. Once, the present owner, who invested all his savings in wine, woke up to a flood and all his wine bottles floating in the street.

But the Olde Bell is not some kind of touristy living museum, preserved for show. When I stayed there (while writing a travel story for Interiors), I was blown away by the intimate level of service and impeccable local food effort. Hailing from famous farm-to-table London restaurant St. John’s, innkeeper Neil Irving, who pulls off red suspenders without a hint of irony, sums it up perfectly. “It’s been here for almost 1,000 years. We’re insignificant, just here as caretakers. The building is the character… Some people are annoyed because there’s no minibar in the room, but we want to interact with people. It’s not about pushing people into a room and forgetting about them because we have their credit card.”

We ate local English comfort food: Wood pigeon! Salt lamb shank!  Pheasant pie! Jam and bread! Raised beds in the brick-walled garden feed the kitchen with rosemary, thyme, oregano, arugula, strawberries, artichokes and tomatoes, while colorful jars of preserves and pickled vegetables decorate windowsills. We spent afternoons in the pub, planted in front of the picture-book roaring fireplace with a pint—or glass of cider from a nearby mill.

We took long walks along the Thames, which we could see from our second-story room with a peaked-roof and long view of the moor. There was even a freestanding soaking tub, from which, yes, I did, in fact, read a few chapters of the complimentary Pride and Prejudice.