Dining in the Field: Sandhills Children's Center's Field of Dreams
For generations, since the arrival of the Tufts family, Pinehurst has been identified as a destination.
True to its origins, it was golfing and equestrian lifestyles that created a community rich in diversity of its residents and visitors.
And did Pinehurst ever seize the opportunity. It is this diversity that has attracted artisans from around the globe who have built this resort destination as one of the top venues to experience.
These artisans have responded to the calls of residents who desire unique culinary creations, and one artisan in particular, chef Mark Elliott, has delivered with Dining in the Field.
Elliott and his wife, Kelly, had the idea 10 years ago to bring this unique dining experience to Moore County. The concept of the farm dinner is a reflection of their core belief of "Know Thy Food."
"Know what is going in your mouth and body and from where it comes," says Mark Elliott.
"'Dining in the Field' is about bringing the harvest of local farmers right to your table, sharing it with close friends and slowing down life long enough to enjoy the pleasure of food," says Kelly Elliott, adding, "It is also about bringing together a community for a great cause - Sandhills Children's Center.
"When Mark and I decided to introduce the farm dinner idea to our community, we knew right away that we wanted the proceeds to benefit children, and naturally we selected the Children's Center."
This year's dinner was punctuated with the element of weather surprises, but the spirits of the Elliott's team, Kohl's Associates in Action volunteers and staff of the center were not dampened.
"The clouds parted and the sky stopped raining just in time for the first guests to arrive, and the evening was perfect for a most memorable feast," says Kathy Desmond, director of development. "The Elliott's on Linden team has shown that when it comes to the challenging task of cooking for a big group from a remote field kitchen, they can't be beat.
"Chef Mark Elliott brings it on. Mark inspires, and he is an artist at bringing a lot of chefs together to create a perfectly smooth operation. Chefs Fiona McKenzie and Krista Duffy were among the culinary talent that was carving away in the field kitchen and sending out massive amounts of perfectly cooked local meats, seafood and vegetables served family-style. From hors d'oeuvres to dessert, they all brought it back to the Earth."
This year's six-course menu featured Cane Creek barbecue on chive and cheddar biscuits, poached flounder with lump N.C. crab, warm pulled smoked chicken salad, pork belly with collards, and fresh strawberry cream cheese crepes.
Heaps of produce from the farm went into the menu, and some local farmers were there to share in the preparation and delight of the guests.
"When people love an event this much, it's great to do it again. The enthusiasm our guests have about this dining experience and the charitable nature of its existence is exactly what gets us excited about what we do," says Kelly Elliott. "And, how can you pass up the occasion to visit Sandy Woods Farm? The farm has the view of views. The grassy site where we place the tables is actually framed by large live oaks and magnolias and offers an unobstructed view of the early 1900s mansion and surrounding lake in the near distance.
"We have been so fortunate to benefit from the generosity of John McKean, who has graciously hosted the past four dinners. It is this type of generosity we have found to be the connection in our community that enables Elliott's to pull together this annual benefit for the Children's Center."
In its 42-year history, Sandhills Children's Center has relied on the support of a community who recognizes the need to provide quality services to preschool children with disabilities.
"Foundational support from the United Way, the ARC of Moore County, local churches and numerous volunteers has made it possible for the center to keep open its doors since 1970," says Melanie Gayle, CEO. "Our young children with special developmental needs reap the benefits of this caring community."
Thousands of children with and without disabilities have walked through the doors of Sandhills Children's Center and back out into the world better prepared for what lies ahead.
"It is the generosity of our friends and supporters that has sustained our programs in times of economic growth and economic decline," says Desmond. " Since 2008, the Children's Center has felt the impact of the global economy, the reduction of state and local revenue sources and the increased need for service delivery to children with disabilities. It is during these challenging times that the Center relies on the generosity of existing donors, the prospect of attracting new donors, and the sharing of our message within the community."
This year's supporters and volunteers include Amy Moyer Photography; Botanicals Fabulous Flowers & Orchids; Cane Creek Farm; Jimmy Arginger; Krista Duffy; Court Stewart Jazz Band; Fox Squirrel Farm; Gaddy Waste Systems; Goat Lady Dairy; Grand Rental Station; Hilltop Angus Farm; John McKean, of Sandy Woods Farm; Karefree Farm; Kea Meacham and Ken Bonville; Kohls Associates in Action; Not Just Linens; Pinehurst Magazine; Sandhills Community College Culinary; Sweet Fi's, Fiona McKenzie; Elliott's on Linden and The Sly Fox staff.
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