OIMBY, short for Outstanding in my Backyard, came together in 2010 as a reaction to the skyrocketing prices for the national farm-focused dinner series Outstanding in the Field. It brought together foodies, some top-tier local chefs and donated local ingredients for an affordable yet memorable experience.
Now OIMBY has returned to Houston with a series of summer dinners at the home of Monica Pope.
"[David Leftwich and Tara Kelly] did it as a cheeky thing: Not expensive, charitable," Pope says. "But in the last five years, of all the things I've done, it's one of the things people are still talking about. It resonated with people."
"It feels very exposing, like 'Yikes, I'm going to have people entering my home, in my backyard,' but it's expressing the importance of all of us doing this," Pope says.
Pope hopes the revived OIMBY experience (organized with Leftwich and Kelly) will help her express her food philosophies, focusing on changing the way people live, not just how they eat. Over the past two years she's transformed the backyard of the house she's owned for 20 years, bringing in a bee hive, growing a butterfly garden and even adding chickens into the mix.
"It feels very exposing, like 'Yikes, I'm going to have people entering my home, in my backyard,' but it's expressing the importance of all of us doing this. It's been a long journey and it ended with a microcosmic world in my backyard, " Pope says. "I want it to be meaningful and beautiful in a way that will resonate, not just cooking hot dogs in the backyard.
"I want people to come and go 'Wow' . . . to see the spectacle. And it's going to be fun, that's the most important part."
Pope will hold the OIMBY dinners on eight Sunday evenings in June and July. Tickets are $40 each, available here or by calling 713-524-6922. Pope says she is still getting the menus and guest chefs in place, but says she's working with vendors to create themes like a pork-driven supper, plus events that will focus on seafood and goat.
Yet OIMBY is only a one of Pope's summer projects. Pope is also starting a farmers market program called "Shop Cook Eat Love." Starting on June 16, she'll lead a group through the Eastside Farmers Market on Saturdays and the Rice University Farmers Market on Tuesdays, teaching customers how to "get the most out of [their] trip to the farmers market," picking out produce and heading to t'afia afterwards to learn how to prepare them, eat their bounty and go home with new knowledge and a new recipe. Tickets are $45 and include the cost of food.
Oh, and when she's not working on either of these projects or at her restaurant, Pope is also writing a memoir.
"I just wanted to push it this summer, personally and professionally," she says.
Are you on board for OIMBY?