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Sustainability is on the menu, the farm and the pier at L.A. Times fall dinner series

People in a field holding produce at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano.
The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano will serve as both food purveyor and setting for a dinner on Oct. 14.
(Kat Reynolds)

The Los Angeles Times is partnering with Outstanding in the Field to present five Food Bowl dinner events — each with an eye toward sustainability — spread across Los Angeles and Orange County, from Oct. 7-16. The ticketed dinners will bring some of Southern California’s most innovative chefs to outdoor locales.

Outstanding in the Field is a nomadic restaurant-without-walls that has been presenting seasonal, site-specific meals since 1999. The dinners with The Times have been organized to celebrate local produce, line-caught seafood, women-owned small businesses, regenerative farming practices or other topics central to building sustainable foodways.

At the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, which will serve as both food purveyor and setting for a dinner on Oct. 14, sustainability is the ethos year-round. “Living in harmony with the Earth is what we strive to do, and it’s not necessarily that we are advocates or preaching on our high horse about it — it’s literally required to sustain on this planet,” said Jonathan Zaidman, director of engagement. “The work that we’re trying to do is critical. I would say that we don’t even have another option.”

The 28-acre farm, nonprofit, education center, farm stand and events space in South Orange County embraces a number of sustainability-minded techniques, including soil conservation, low-till practices, compost repurposing and water conservation. Team members have installed 39 kilowatts in solar paneling, which powers much of the operation. The recent acquisition of a biodiesel generator means they’ll be able to create their own biodiesel made with partner restaurants’ waste vegetable oil.

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Chefs John Cleveland (Post & Beam) and Eric Bost (formerly of L.A.’s Auburn, currently of Carlsbad’s Jeune et Jolie and Campfire) will be cooking a multicourse al fresco meal at the Ecology Center, using produce from the farm. While the menu is still being finalized, Zaidman says the chefs will have full access to everything on the farm, which, he estimates, grows more than 150 varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers.

A dinner event on Oct. 7 at the Sepulveda Dam will include a screening of the documentary “Man in the Field,” which focuses on Outstanding in the Field founder Jim Denevan and his career spotlighting local farms. The film examines Denevan’s childhood, his artwork, the founding of the organization and how they are intertwined.

An Oct. 9 dinner will take place at West Hollywood community garden Wattles Farm and will feature only female farmers and chefs and women-owned businesses, including wineries and breweries.

On Oct. 12 chefs Andrew Gruel (Slapfish Restaurant Group), Craig Brady (Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar in Orange) and others will cook up seafood caught that day — using sustainable methods — off the Huntington Beach Pier, which will serve as the setting for the evening’s meal. Both chefs offer sustainable seafood at their restaurants year-round, partnering with ethical hatcheries and local fishermen and, in the case of Slapfish, conservation programs such as the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Seafood for the Future.

The concluding event in the series will be held Oct. 16 at Paramount Studios and will showcase a range of L.A.’s culinary talent, including Broken Spanish’s Ray Garcia and Valerie Confections’ Valerie Gordon.

Tickets for each of the dinners — part of Los Angeles Times Food Bowl, presented by City National Bank — cost $385 per person and are available now at lafoodbowl.com.


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