The most memorable dining experiences don’t necessarily have to occur in four star restaurants or that hot new spot that all the food writers adore. It might not even be a place with the best food. Much of it is the company and environment, part of what makes Outstanding in the Field such a special experience.

Tickets for the 2012 season go on sale at 9 a.m. on Tuesday (3/20) and as is normally the case, the Outstanding in the Field team is making numerous stops to the greater Bay Area, bringing a bunch of the region’s best chefs with them this year.

A little background first. Outstanding in the Field is a traveling dining experience. Founded in 1999 by Jim Denevan, the Outstanding in the Field staff travels the country in a creaky looking bus, stopping at farms and other destinations.  A guest chef, who uses what the farm or region provides, prepares a meal for diners sitting at a giant communal table. It is truly an amazing and unforgettable experience.

This year, the dinners kick off on May 15 in Santa Barbara. The first Bay Area visit is to Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio later that month on May 25. Guest chefs for that evening will all be from the Mina Group, including David Varley, Jason Berthold and Michael Mina himself. The next night, Devil’s Gulch Ranch will host Thomas McNaughton from flour + water and Central Kitchen. Other chefs throughout the year include Peter McNee from Poggio in Sausalito, Staffan Terje of Perbacco, David Bazirgan from Fifth Floor, Mark Lieberman from AQ, Kim Alter from Haven, Ravi Kapur from Liholiho Yacht Club and many, many more.

The dinners are certainly not for everyone. They are not cheap (most range in the neighborhood of $200/person or slightly higher). But in my humble opinion, it is worth every penny. I had the privilege of attending an Outstanding in the Field dinner a few years ago at Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio. The special guest chefs were Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, who just recently opened State Bird Provisions and are once again going to be guest chefs at Pie Ranch in Pescadero in November. From the time we got to the ranch, the shuttle ride up the hill, champagne and appetizers, a tour of the farm, amazing dinner in the middle of the vineyards and farm and meeting other foodies, it was what dining is truly meant to be. Eating and drinking off of the land, understanding the process that farm owners go through and talking and socializing with complete strangers, all who share a passion for food.

A few suggestions for those interested. Pick out a few dates as the most popular locations (usually the Secret Sea Cove) and chefs (plenty to choose from this year) usually sell out rather quickly. If you are fortunate enough to get a spot, definitely prepare for any type of weather. Rain or shine, cold or hot, the events run without a hitch. Go to Outstanding in the Field’s website to sign up or for more information on these amazing dinner events.