FIELD NOTES: A Love Letter to Our Guests

Dec 16, 2022

To our guests, a love letter. 

I know I’m supposed to be taking a break, but I have to pop into your inbox to say, hi. I miss you. 

As I finished dinner tonight, I looked down at my plate and I thought about yours. I love your plates – I love hearing why you brought them, where they came from, what they mean to you. I love seeing those vintage store finds, your wedding china you never get to use but brought to the dinner you planned as an anniversary surprise, the apple orchard themed plates that you painted for your first dinner fifteen years ago and you’ve brought to every one since. I get to know you through your plates, their endless variety and incredible backstories. My plates are terribly boring in comparison. They have nothing to say, it seems. 

Now that I’m home, I miss a lot about our events. I miss the dopamine rush when the level app on my iphone turns green to signal a level table (also, yes your iphone has a level built in and you’re welcome). I miss our early morning stretch circles with the satellites and the crazy icebreaker questions we come up with, although I miss those a lot less when I’m in my own warm bed at 6am. I miss the smell of woodsmoke when we fire up the grill midday. I miss the clink of your cheers when I’m up on the box during opening remarks. More than anything, I miss the soundtrack of dinner – the way the volume rises as the night goes on from polite chatter into a dull roar. I miss sitting down and hearing your stories, and I miss those nights when I walk the table and can’t even get a word in because you are too engrossed in good conversation with your dinner companions. Those are the nights I feel the most successful. 

We often talk about our dinners as the pieces of art that they are. There are so many aspects to that: the exact placement of the table so that it seems to grow right out of the environment, setting the stations perfectly so in order to make service seamless and keep the view stunning, timing everything so that it flows smoothly from greeting to goodbye. The wine is art as expression of place, and of course the dinner itself is a gift of talent from our chefs and our farmers, and the main event of it all. I love the perfect picture of the clean white table, I love getting to taste the amazing food and how it pairs with the wine, I love seeing everything that it took to grow it and I love getting served a perfect cocktail from a bar that seems to be falling off the mountainside. I love this collaborative art piece we get to build together. Even more than the art, though, I’m in love with the people. I’m in it for you – and I know I’m not the only one. 

You make these dinners what they are. The clean white table is great for those pictures, but it comes to life when you set your plates down, and all the meaning that they bring, to start the meal. Your laughter, your outfits, your stories, even the red wine stains leftover from some enthusiastic gesticulations during that story told over the third course — they make each event stand apart. When the crew talks about tour we talk about you like old friends, whether we’ve met you once or you come to every dinner. We wonder about your lives, what made you travel to see us, where you’ve been and where you’re going. Every once and a while, we would run into you the morning after an event at breakfast, or see you weeks later in a totally different city and get to hear your stories of the night you came to dinner. Those moments revived us, they reminded us why we do this work, why we try to build the impossible, why we work to make it perfect every time. It’s a love letter, really – take a look at the back of your menu the next time you dine with us, and read it as just that. A love letter to our farmers, our chefs, our producers and partners across the country and the world. Above all else, it is a love letter from all of us to you – because we could never do it without you, and we truly do it for you. Every time, every day, every platter served and plate washed. Every story we have from the road is really about you. 

“When the crew talks about tour we talk about you like old friends, whether we’ve met you once or you come to every dinner. We wonder about your lives, what made you travel to see us, where you’ve been and where you’re going.”

I wish I could have you all over to my house to relive your favorite moments from this summer. I would pour you tea and cook you dinner and listen for hours. I would step away, to grab dessert or a glass of wine, and I would hear that dull roar I’ve learned to listen for, the chuckle of a good story and the whisper of a close connection. I would invite the neighbors, because that’s what a good host is supposed to do. I know the meal would be good (certainly not as good as a farm dinner, but I can hold my own), but the company would be better. I hope that we would get into stories good enough to spill our wine. I hope that you would remember it fondly, maybe even tell your friends. 

Unfortunately, my dining room table is lacking enough room for us all, but I’m sending you cheers from across space and time. If you are reading this, please pour yourself a glass, from me. Better yet, invite someone over to share one with you, and tell them your favorite story. I hope that I run into you soon, and you can tell me too. I can’t wait to hear it. 

Cheers, 

Ariel