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Innovative Locations put Excitement into Dinner; You Should Hire a Driver to Get There

It’s one thing to go to dinner. It’s another to really go – as in travel to a location so exotic that it’s a good idea to hire a driver just to get there.

For guests of the new Napa Valley Dinner Underground group, part of the treat of eating is wondering where the meal will take place. It’s all about “locations unknown, with chef and wine not revealed until arrival,” says founder Mark Buckley, who just held his first official dinner last week, and is planning the second event for June.

Napa Valley Dinner Underground

Napa Valley Dinner Underground will host its covert suppers during the third week of every month, as intimate parties limited to just 20 guests. Meet-up spots will be announced at the last minute, and in some cases, the area will be remote enough that transportation is provided. The journey pays off as diners dig into a five- or six-course meal with paired wines, prepared by recognized chefs and offered for $125 to $200.

When guests attend an Outstanding in the Field meal, meanwhile, the venue may be a farm, a food purveyor’s property, or even, yes, a field. The spot changes every evening, as the group of Santa Cruz-based chefs crisscross the nation.

At this weekend’s dinner in Marin, at Devil’s Gulch Ranch of Nicasio, the farm was so tucked away that attendees parked in a lot at the base of a mountain, and boarded Pure Luxury Transportation charter shuttles to navigate the steep, winding drive. Anticipation built as the buses passed homes and left civilization, gliding past vineyards, past sheep grazing in the fields, past watch dogs guarding those sheep, and finally to a century-old barn where an elaborate table was being set for a sumptuous supper catered by Peter McNee of Poggio in Sausalito and hosted by Devil's Gulch Ranch owners Mark and Myriam Pasternak with wines from Pey-Marin.

Outstanding in the Field

The idea behind Outstanding in the Field is to help reconnect people with the origins of their food, by taking them to where their food is made. Up to 200 dedicated foodies come together at each location, sitting at a long, linen-draped community table set between the soil and the sky. They eat a five-course meal prepared in an al fresco kitchen by a local, top-name chef, explore the property to discover what it produces, and share respect for the hard work of creating food.

Through the Outstanding in the Field 2011 tour, the crew will prepare more than 80 dinners across North America, including a feast in Petaluma tonight. Other nearby dinners will include St. Helena on June 14, Marshall on June 16, and Napa on June 24.

For details on future Napa Valley Dinner Underground gatherings, check Facebook, follow on Twitter @dineunderground, email Buckley directly at mark@nvdinnerunderground.com, or watch for the new website coming soon at nvdinnerunderground.com.

To check the Outstanding in the Field schedule, visit the website, outstandinginthefield.com.

Tip: The Nicasio parking lot for Outstanding in the Field was filled with limousines and Town Cars for guests who had banded together for chauffeured rides to the tucked-away town. Not only is chartering transportation safer when combining winding roads and wine, it’s good for the environment when choosing Pure Luxury, a certified “Green” ground transportation company.

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