By Jeff Maisey
A single, 450-foot long table cloaked in pristine white linen stretches down the center of America’s most famous road — Duke of Gloucester Street — in the heart of the pedestrian-friendly Merchants Square in historic Colonial Williamsburg. Strung overhead — illuminated glass bulbs.
Elegant and classy, yet relaxed and casual, David Everett’s 8th Annual Farm to Table — scheduled on September 7 — is, as you will read in the following interview, based on the unique Outstanding in the Field concept. The idea is to focus on a unique, unexpected setting and share the bounty of the land and waterways while talking with the people who harvest, catch and grow the food and drink you’re feasting upon.
Chef David Everett is the owner/operator of several stellar Williamsburg restaurants — The Trellis Bar & Grill, Blue Talon, DoG Street Pub and Culture Cafe. Everett’s honors include being a 9-year AA Five Diamond Award and 10-year Distinguished Restaurants of North America award recipient. Working along side with such notable chefs as Jean-Louis Palladin, Charlie Trotter and Paul Bocuse added to his culinary education.
Here’s our conversation.
How did your Farm-to-Table grand dining experience get its start?
There are the trends for these dinners with the catchphrase farm-to-table. We didn’t start out as a farm-to-table dinner. It was a dinner celebrating the harvest in the fall. After we had done a couple of events, we went to Outstanding in the Field, which is done as a farm-to-table dinner where they hookup the restaurant literally on every continent on earth. They have done these crazy dinners on the beach, mountaintops, oceans, meadows.
We went to one in Asheville and saw how they did it, which is much different than we would do. We liked the idea of what they were doing. They made it much more simplistic than we did, but that’s kind of what we do.
Like Outstanding in the Field, you use a long table with white table cloths. It stretches down the center of Duke of Gloucester Street in Merchants Square. Can you talk out the layout and why it’s important to you?
I think it goes back to the novel thing. You could have a cluster of tables and make it look like a banquet hall, but the cool thing is that you’re sitting at one long table — a harvest table. The bounty of whatever you can gather comes to that table. That’s the idea of where that came from.
The drama of the table that’s almost 450 feet long is pretty cool as well. It just looks awesome.
Again, having looked back at some of the things Outstanding in the Field had done, I mean, they snake these tables along the ridge of a mountaintop or a hill overlooking a farm. It’s dramatic.
The other thing is you can only talk to about four people any way — at any table. So it doesn’t matter if the table is 450 feet long or six-foot round.
In the promotional video the event is clearly well-staffed. Is there a server for each person?
No. Each section of the table has a team. It has a captain and then two other waiters that service about 20 people. Everything for us is done family style; very few things are plated. You have a plate and then pass platters between four or five people. We like that kind of communal thing.
Throughout the table we are putting farmers from where that product came from. They talk about their product, whether they operate a winery, grow flowers or vegetables, or fish.
When a couple purchases a pair of tickets are they seated next to each other or across from one another?
When you book your ticket it’s done like an airline. You go in and pick your seats. So if you and your friends want to go and you tell them you’re at table 20, seats 3 and 4, then they can pick 5 and 6 across from them.
So, David, I guess the question now should be — What’s for dinner?
We’re still working on the menu because we literally go by what you can get. It’ll be a casual thing. I think we’re going to do a braised short-rib, then a version of a fried chicken.
In the past we’ve done these sort of gallant ballotines of chicken and other stuff. It hasn’t been easy to get out. 450 people on the street without a kitchen is really tough. You have to be creative.
We have some local trout, I think we’re going to use this year. We’ll do some vegetables.
Is wine served with dinner?
At the reception, we cook pizzas on the grill as we work. Then we feature a couple local craft beers — Alewerks and Virginia Brewing. This year we’ll use Busky’s cider out of Richmond, which is also the winemaker for Williamsburg Winery.
My friend Eli Parker of Fess Parker Winery has donated a couple of cases for the reception.
At the dinner — itself — there’s red and white from Upper Shirley Vineyards and Williamsburg Winery. We pour the glasses and then put the wine on the table.
I imagine there must be a lot of spectators while dinner is being served since it’s open-air dining in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg. How do you manage the curiosity seekers?
There are. When you’re setting up people go, “Oh, is this a wedding?”
It is very white. Again, it adds to the drama. People are really interested in what’s going on. They’re sort of like, “Oh, this is great. How much is it? Can we come?”
They’re tourists; they’re here; and they haven’t heard about it.
People stand around because it’s just fenced-off with twine. They ask, “What’s this? What’s it for?”
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David Everett’s 8th Annual Farm to Table
Friday, September 7
6:30 to 9:30 PM