The imposing face of Mount Currie, the northernmost peak of the Garibaldis (with an evergreen and snow-dusted height of 8,501 feet), presides over British Columbia's Pemberton Valley.
Below, on the banks of Lillooet River, the 60-acre, asparagus-to-zucchini North Arm Farm has been transformed on this midsummer night. A festive, 160-foot-long table, covered in white linen, has been set up beside the raspberry vines, with formal silver and glassware place settings for 162 guests.
The guest chef for this evening's venture, a widely traveling piece of dinner theater known as Outstanding in the Field, is the talented James Walt, whose day job is to oversee the kitchen at Whistler's best restaurant, Araxi. Walt has brought along a cadre of cooks and servers to complement OITF's itinerant band of Californians. "Make it perfect," he tells them, sweetly but insistently, as they plate up Dungeness crab, stuffed squash blossoms, wild sockeye salmon, local beef, choux pastries filled with homemade ice cream. "Make it perfect."
Making it perfect is no easy task for a farmer like Jordan Sturdy, 48, drawn to the mountains by the excitement of winter sports and to this corner of the valley by its natural beauty. After nearly 20 years of farming, he knows the imperfections of organic polyculture.
"It would be a lot easier to do a single crop," he acknowledges. But those are his own flowers and garlic scapes on the crab, his own squash blossoms, his own sweet peas and peppermint atop the salmon, his own horseradish on the beef, his own berries in the dessert. The concept of farm-to-table takes on a profound new resonance.
As the sun dips and shadows lengthen, the pale, spindly lavender flowers of the evening-scented stock, Matthiola bicornis, perk up in their spot alongside the table and emit their sweet, alluring smell. The mosquitoes come out, too, adding that grace note of dissonance to the perfection of the dinner.
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