Last updated: August 15. 2014 7:01AM - 753 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com

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An exclusive five-course farm to table dining experience featuring ingredients farmed in Sampson, prepared by its own chefs and whose proceeds will act benefit this community is again being extremely well-received.

“The tickets are selling very well and people seem very excited,” Nancy Carr, director of Sampson County’s United Way, said Thursday. “It’s going awesome. We’re so pleased with the community’s response.”

“Outstanding in Our Fields,” the aptly-titled United Way of Sampson County fundraiser, is back this year after a wildly successful inaugural outing in April 2013. The dinner, deemed “Outstanding in Our Fields: The Bounty,” is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, at the South River Lodge.

“It’s going to be a farm to table concept featuring five of our chefs from the county,” Carr has explained. “We always keep the menu under wraps because that’s part of the mystery of the event, but it’s definitely going to showcase the fall foods and it will be very much the same as far as the five-course dining experience.”

Tickets are limited to 100. They went on sale Monday.

The chefs who will be preparing the feast include: Alfredo DiPinto of Alfredo’s Ristorante Italiano; Trey Cummings and Jorge Soza of Ribeyes Steakhouse; Joanie Babcock of Southern Exposure; and Debbie Valenti, who operates “Debbilicious,” a private chef business. Joining them this year will be newcomers Theresa Ellis and Laura Goodrich of Simply Southern, who are replacing Patty Tarr from last year’s lineup.

September’s bounty will feature a varying array of autumn cuisine, a much different experience than last year’s.

“The first one was in the spring, so it really featured foods that were available in our county during that time,” Carr has pointed out. “This year, the menu will be quite different because it is going to feature fall agricultural products.”

Carr promised the dining event would again exemplify its moniker, showcasing quality ingredients donated from local farms and businesses, a hallmark of the dinner. Last year, some of the many donations included five pounds of asparagus from Lane’s Asparagus, 100 three-pound bags of sweet potatoes from Southern Produce Distributors Inc. of Faison, 28 pints of strawberries from Jackson Farming Company of Autryville and 60 pounds of blueberries from Hannah Forrest Blueberry Farms of Delway.

This year’s mysterious menu has now been selected by chefs, Carr confirmed Thursday, and event sponsors and ingredients will be secured in the coming weeks.

“The menu has been selected and will feature fall cuisine and showcase Sampson County agriculture — that’s about all I can say,” said Carr.

Local farmers are now being contacted to gauge their interest in providing ingredients the chefs will need to concoct their delicacies. Sponsors also continue to be sought, Carr said.

“One hundred percent of the proceeds from this event go into our county to help address the needs of our community,” Carr said. “That’s part of the reason we like to encourage sponsors, because the sponsors really help us cover the cost of this event. Although so much of it is donated, there is some cost. What we strive for is that all of our ticket sales will be profit.”

“Outstanding in Our Fields” raised $10,350 in 2013. Passes to last year’s exclusive event sold out in the first week.

Carr said she wants to ensure everyone has a chance to snatch up tickets for September’s bounty. Fliers and emails were sent out at the beginning of this week to publicize the start of ticket sales.

“We’re just trying to get the word out so everyone has equal opportunity to get a reservation. Last year, it seemed like when people found out about the event the tickets were already sold out. They didn’t know until after the tickets were gone.”

While Carr said she wanted to see that ample opportunity is extended to everyone who wants a ticket, the limitation on the total tickets remains intact in order to maintain the ambience of a five-course meal.

“We are going to limit the number of tickets to 100 people. That is mainly to accommodate the chefs and the venue. We want to have a first-rate gourmet experience and the chefs feel like they can deliver that to 100. Once you start getting much more than that it becomes a different type of affair,” Carr attested. “We really want this to remain a first-rate, five-course (meal) of decadent local food.”

Seating is available for $125 per person with a limited number of VIP seats available for $150 per person. The select VIP tickets will include VIP parking near the lodge, indoor seating for dinner, and the chance to meet and mingle with the chefs.

A different twist to this year’s event, members of the 16-person United Way board will act as servers for the meal. Carr said the United Way board is looking forward to its second “Outstanding” event, one it appears has received a positive response yet again.

“The community really embraced the idea last year,” Carr remarked, “and we’re really pleased they’ve embraced it again.”

To purchase tickets for the “Outstanding in Our Fields” event or for more information on becoming a sponsor, contact Sampson County’s United Way at 910-592-4263 or send an email to uwaysampsonco@embarqmail.com. The local United Way chapter can be visited online at www.unitedwaysampson.org.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-249-4616. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.

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