FIELD NOTES: But what if it rains?

A little slice of life on the road through the eyes of tour crew members.
Written by: Ariel Knoebel

Oct 09, 2022

But what would you have done if it rained today?

We knew it wouldn’t rain.

But it said all week it was going to rain. 

No rain after 4:00. We knew it would clear up. 

How, though? 

All I can do is laugh as I walk the table, foamy grey clouds rolling away across the blue and gold horizon behind me, my brow still slightly damp from the rain falling earlier that day (or maybe that’s a little bit of sweat from the mad dash to set the table once the sprinkles stopped). Because it does feel like a little bit of magic, even from behind the scenes. 

We talk a lot about the weather at Outstanding. We have to when we’re putting on over one hundred events all across the country, rain or shine. That means we watch the radars obsessively and check the weather on at least three different apps to get the most accurate forecast. Sometimes, we text Jim with dripping fingers from coastal Connecticut, where the cats and dogs have been coming down all day, in order for him to reassure us, all the way from Wisconsin, that the rain will clear up just in time for guests to arrive. Even though it may just start raining harder as you read that text, it’s best to trust. Jim seems to have a special handle on the weather, and he’s pretty much always right – much to the surprise of some skeptical farmers who ended up giving sun-drenched farm tours that afternoon in Connecticut. 

I joked our entire way through the Northeast, if a farmer wants it to rain, all they have to do is book their Outstanding in the Field date – that will promise you at least a 60% chance. For a year of historic drought, we’ve seen our fair share of rain this season. It wasn’t just the Northeast, either, but across the country, from the cloyingly perfect double rainbow just before dessert, framed by the open barn doors at Tantre farms in Michigan to the surprise thunderstorm that drove guests under shelter for over an hour at Red Acres in Utah. Once the lightning cleared up enough for us to safely sit at the table, lined with pop up tents to keep things dry, we were able to serve dinner. Finally, the rain let up enough for staff to shuttle those popups off the table, tied together, in a “coordinated ballet of tent poles and no electrocution, like a beautiful symphony,” says Service Manager Brett Bankson. 

We’ve set up tents in rice fields, decorated barns with wildflowers, poured rainwater out of our boots just before service, walked food from the field kitchen under umbrellas (always the over the food more than the people, to be clear) in the middle of the storm, and carried tables across apple orchards to bring dinner back outside once the rain has passed. We do whatever we can to bring the best experience possible, rain or shine. That means rain dinners are a lot of work for our team, physically and mentally. Despite the extra planning and the extra quad workout from trudging through the muck, there is a real magic to a rain dinner. They remind me that this thing we’re trying to do, this roving restaurant without walls, this traveling culinary circus, is pretty much impossible. But, that’s the beauty of the farm dinner. It’s gorgeous for its audacity, addicting in its whimsy. It’s a sunbeam in the face of a storm. 

I’ve always loved the rain; the spontaneous drama of a summer thunderstorm that charges the air before it splits it in half, the lazy embrace of a drizzling late spring day, even the driving chill of that New England special, wintry mix, that traps you inside under a blanket for the entire day. Some of the coziest nights of tour have been spent reading in my tent – in the vineyards of Belden Barns in Sonoma, California or the KOA in Augusta, Maine – listening to the patter of raindrops against the expedition-orange rainfly, knowing my teammates are similarly snuggled in their matching tents all around me. Foggy, rainy mornings on site bring things into a different perspective, adding an intimacy to the day that we simply don’t get with bright sunshine. That carries into dinner, where the chatter echoes differently off barn walls and tent roofs than the open air, the cheers a little louder, forcing folks to lean in a little closer for their quiet conversations. The warm glow of oil candles along the table make the whole thing look like a cozy fireside chat, unwinding leisurely over a good meal.

“But, that’s the beauty of the farm dinner. It’s gorgeous for it’s audacity, addicting in its whimsy. It’s a sunbeam in the face of a storm.”


While I know not everyone loves a rain dinner like I do, I can tell you the farmers certainly agree with me. They may prefer the rain fall on a different night, but as their wells run low and fire risks continue to rise, they certainly aren’t complaining about a little sprinkle during dinner. As I am writing this, we are driving up I-5 in California to kick off the final leg of tour. I can’t help but be struck by the brittle landscape. The subtle sage I know the California hillsides to be has crisped to a warm gold. Another part of our team is barely outrunning hurricanes across the gulf, starting their final leg of tour alongside what promises to be one of the most severe storm seasons of our lifetimes. For a team that makes the outdoors both our home and our workplace, it is impossible not to notice these changes. So, we celebrate the rain that falls during dinner. We cheers to a drought-breaking storm and to the clouds clearing just in time for sunset with equal vigor. And we continue to listen to our farmers, the tireless stewards of the beautiful land they let us on, as they tell us about their present struggles and dreams for the future. Because you have to trust the people who know, even if their plans seem outlandish, even if what they are doing seems impossible. 

FIELD NOTES: Like Satellites in the Night Sky

A little slice of life on the road through the eyes of tour crew members.
Written by: Ariel Knoebel
Main photo by Kimberly Motos

Recipe from the field: Brett's Salted Chamomile + Cucumber Spritz

Recipe by Brett Bankson
Photography by: Brett Bankson