Archive | November, 2009

Mark Your Calendars! Eat Local Week starts Saturday, 12/5 & Contest for Fresh Tickets

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It’s almost time!  No, not for Christmas, but for Eat Local Week!  December 5th through 12th is Edible Austin Magazine’s annual celebration of our finest locally sourced food and products with the proceeds benefiting Urban Roots, a local nonprofit that teaches under-served kids how to grow sustainable food and run a business through the operation of a farmers market stand.   I’ve had my calendar blocked off for several months now and am looking forward to the kick-off this weekend.

Eat Local Week truly offers something for everyone.  Each day, there are events highlighting some aspect of the local culinary community from coffee and tea to seafood to locally produced products to cocktails. You can also participate by dining out at one of the many Central Texas restaurants that will have a special Eat Local Week menu or items using locally sourced ingredients.  The list of restaurants is impressive and could keep you busy sampling great food all over town.

I’m kicking off Eat Local Week on Saturday, December 5th at 10 am with the Urban Farm Bicycle Tour organized by Bicycle Sport Shop.  This easy, family-paced ride will explore several East Austin farms, community gardens and give folks a chance to stop in at Zhi Tea for refreshment.  I can’t wait to explore the farms on bicycle.

If bicycles aren’t your thing, you can stop into Zhi Tea from 10 am to 2 pm for the Edible Austin Tea Festival.  For $10 you can try several local teas paired with local food.

And rounding out your Saturday is a very special screening of the movie Fresh at the Paramount Theater at 8 pm with a special guest appearance by celebrity farmer, writer and local food advocate Joel Salatin who will host a question and answer session after the movie.  If you haven’t seen Fresh, it is a lovely movie that illustrates the difference between local family-owned and industrial farms.

I was fortunate enough to see a screening at Boggy Creek Farm this summer and enjoyed it so much that I’m giving away a pair of tickets to the screening on the 5th.  Edible Austin has generously provided me with two tickets to give away to a reader.  If you are interested, please comment on this post by 6 pm on Wednesday.  I will use a randomizer to pick the winner.

If you aren’t worn out after Saturday’s festivities, I’ll look forward to seeing you at some of the other events next week:

Sunday, December 6th you can attend the Drink Local Coffee Festival hosted at Owl Tree Roasting from 11 am to 2 pm or sip inventive cocktails that evening at Tipsy Texan’s Drink Local Cocktail Contest hosted at Palm Door from 6 to 9 pm.

Monday, December 7th you can enjoy a delicious dinner and movie at The Alamo Drafthouse Benefeast showing of Julie & Julia that includes a question and answer session with author Julie Powell at 7 pm and/or you can indulge in a Happy Hour with The Cupcake Bar at Finn and Porter from 5 to 7 pm.

Tuesday, December 8th grab your jacket and skate at the Local Growers First Frost from 5 to 10 pm at Whole Foods.  You can enjoy live entertainment and tastings from local vendors while you skate.  Or, if you prefer an evening of art and seafood, visit Austin Museum of Art’s Gulf Coast Sampler.  This event has limited seating and it is suggested that you buy your tickets in advance.

Wednesday, December 9th you can shop for products made by local food artisans at the Edible Local Gift Fair from 4 to 8 pm – a great way to make local gift baskets for friends and family for the holidays.  That evening, Fino is hosting a Chef’s Table dinner with Balcones Distillery pairing their delicious dishes with cocktail master Bill Norris’ Balcones concoctions.

Thursday, December 10th from 6 to 8 pm the Wally Workman Gallery is hosting Fine Food Art Gallery Night with food prepared by the Austin chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier and cocktails from Tipsy Texan and Paula’s Texas Spirits.

Friday, December 11th you can join six Texas Breweries at Meet Your Local Brewers Happy Hour at the Whip-In from 4 to 8 pm.  For $20 you get to taste up to six pints of locally brewed beer and sample food from some of the best carts in town like the Best Wurst, Sushi-a-Go-Go and Flip Happy Crepes.

Finally, the week winds down on Saturday, December 12th from 10 to noon with a Celebrity Local Food Cookoff at the Downtown Austin Farmers Market.

Phew!  Most of the events are reasonably priced in the $10-$20 range and they support an organization that is making a tremendous difference in our community.  I’d say that’s a win-win for everyone.

So, go review the Eat Local Week site and block your calendar for a great week of celebrating food in Central Texas.  I’ll see you at Eat Local Week!  And don’t forget to post a comment if you are interested in winning the tickets to Fresh!

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A Lovely Day Filled with Farms: Pure Luck Farm and Dairy, The Leaning Pear and Dai Due Whole Hog Dinner

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A few Sundays ago, I had the pleasure of spending the day on two different farms. First, I joined Jodi Bart of Tasty Touring and a few dozen other folks on a tour of Pure Luck Farm and Dairy in Dripping Springs. I was excited to take the tour as I had met Amelia and Ben of Pure Luck at the American Cheese Society Conference this summer and was struck by their insistence that their cheese was good because they had happy goats.  It all sounded a little too easy, until I met the goats.

112309_2On the first stop of the tour, we walked into the field where the goats graze and were promptly greeted by a herd of the happiest animals you have ever seen. They walked straight up to everyone to be petted and fawned upon; they were almost more like dogs than goats.  Lindsay Lehfeld of Apron Adventures seemed to be particularly popular with the goats, or maybe it was just her borrowed leather jacket.

For the remainder of the tour, we learned about the milking process, how they store the milk and make their cheese.  They craft their cheeses right there on the farm, qualifying them as farmstead cheeses – the milk and the cheese come from the same place.  Pure Luck is able to create great product not only because they have happy goats, but because they can tightly control the quality of the milk since it never has to be transported.

I found myself grinning from ear to ear during our tour.  Whether it is  the happiness of the goats or the pure passion that the Sweethardts have for what they do, it is hard to be at Pure Luck and not be overtaken by the joy.

We ended the tour with a tasting and I couldn’t resist buying tubs of plain, basil pesto and chipotle chevre to take home.  Nothing like a big dollop of chipotle chevre in your black beans.  Yum!

Many in the group headed to Bella Vista Olive Ranch next, but a few of us made our way to The Leaning Pear in Wimberley for lunch.  Just off of River Road, The Leaning Pear features a lovely brunch menu on the weekends that highlights locally-sourced products.

We sat on their charming patio and enjoyed several selections from their brunch menu including the Migas Stack, Shredded Beef Torta and Porchetta Panini.  Sometime when I’m not having Dai Due for dinner, I’m going to have the BBLT (Bacon, Brie, Lettuce and Tomato), but this was not the day for that indulgence. The Leaning Pear is a great place to relax and while away the afternoon.

I would have loved to explore Wimberley, but I had to scoot back to town.  I had a date with a pig.  I have listened with envy as others described their experiences at Dai Due dinners and I was finally attending one .

112309_3Dai Due is the labor of love of Jesse Griffiths and Tamara Mayfield.  Started as a supper club, Dai Due hosts dinners in unusual locations, particularly farms, with food that highlights locally grown product and food artisans.  Over the years, the business has grown to include a butcher shop featuring Jesse’s delicious sausages and condiments, like Fireman’s 4 mustard, that are now available at both the Downtown Austin Farmers Market on Saturdays and the Hope Farmers Market on Sunday.

On this particular evening, we were celebrating the bounty of fall from several local farms and a beautiful hog from Richardson Farms in Rockdale, Texas.  The Whole Hog dinner is hosted the day after Jesse teaches a Whole Hog butchering class in which about 10 people learn how to butcher and prepare all aspects of a hog. Jesse doesn’t believe in waste and  he teaches folks how to use the parts of the hog that might otherwise be left on a chopping block.

112309_4Springdale Farm, one of the newer urban farms located at 7th and Springdale in East Austin, hosted the dinner.  Their four-acre farm stretches to the edge of the school with rows of beautiful crops inviting you to explore.

After having a chance to wander the property and visit with the other guests, we were greeted with our first course of Charcuterie: Liver Pate, Tenderloin Terrine, Dry-Cured Sausage, Head Cheese, Liverwurst and Rillettes.  I tried a little of everything, despite not being a huge fan of Head Cheese and Liverwurst, and was glad that I did.  The Head Cheese was a little challenging for me texturely, I’m not a huge fan of the chewy bits, but the flavor was incredible.

112309_5I was particularly intrigued by the Liverwurst because it didn’t have that “liver-y” flavor that I have come to associate with it.  I’m not sure how Jesse and crew accomplished that feat, but I will no longer shy from Liverwurst if Dai Due was involved in the preparation.

The condiments on the Charcuterie tray were as enticing as the meats.  The Beet Chutney, Fireman’s 4 Mustard and Bread & Butter Pickles were great compliments to the rich meats.

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The second course was a pumpkin soup with chorizo, one of my favorite Dai Due sausages, and a slice of blood sausage on top.  As each of us tasted the first spoonful, you heard a chorus of “yums” around the table, and despite it being an unseasonably warm evening, we devoured our soup. The sweet, rich flavor of the pumpkin and the spiciness of the chorizo complemented each other marvelously.

As we looked over the menus, we started to question how we were going to make it through two more courses (seven more dishes), but some how we summoned the courage just in time for the first dish in the main course to arrive.  The main course included:

  • Chaurice with Greens and Cracklin Cornbread 
  • Kielbasa and Boudin Blanc with braised Chinese Cabbage
  • Braised Belly with Turnips, White Wine and Pickled Radishes
  • Spit-roasted Loin with Herbs, Lima Beans and Corn
  • Slow roasted Fresh Ham with Sweet Potatoes, Apples and Arugula
112309_7Everything was delicious and perfectly paired.  The Chaurice, a Creole sausage, brought out the flavor of the greens and the sharpness of the pickled radishes brought out the richness of the braised belly.  I don’t even like lima beans, but I ate every lima bean on my plate because you couldn’t separate them from the corn and pork loin without short changing the flavor of the dish.  On the other hand, I love sweet potatoes, but had never eaten them with arugula before.  When paired with the saltiness of the ham, the sweetness of the potatoes and the peppery arugula were a tasty match.
At this point, I could have gone home happy, but dessert was on the way.  Normally, I would have been happy to skip dessert since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but Jesse had me so intrigued that I had to at least taste the sweets.  
Sticking with the whole hog theme, the desserts were made with lard from the hog.  The Beignets were light and flavorful and at least as good as the beignets I have sampled at the famous Cafe du Monde.  The Bizcochitos, a cookie typically made with butter, was made with the lard and pecan flour.  I could have eaten the entire plate, but marshaled my inner strength and stopped at one.
It is difficult to describe what an amazing evening it was.  The food was impeccable and the company was delightful.  I had the great pleasure to sit across the table from Jim and Kay Richardson who were also experiencing their first Dai Due dinner.  They are a charming couple who share a great love for their farm and their work.  It was heart-warming to watch their faces light up as we shared the fruits of their labor.
As I looked around the table, I was struck by what a magical dinner this truly was.  Everything, from the detail of the table settings, to the lights, to the service, to the conversation with the other guests, was lovely.  I had let the price of the dinner keep me from participating in previous Dai Due dinners, but now that I have shared in the experience I understand that as fabulous as the food is, it’s about more than that.  It’s about the connection with our food, the farm and each other. I am ever grateful to Jesse, Tamara and crew for teaching me that. 
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Satisfying a Craving with a Hope Market Meat Loaf

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As much as I love the Saturday farmers markets, I have fully embraced the Hope Farmers Market on Sundays. I find that it fits in well to my “lack of plan” Sunday mornings – I can aim to be finished piddling around the house around 11ish and meet a friend or two to wander the market and look for new treasures.

I also find it reassuring that if I forgot to pick something up on Saturday that I can get it at the Hope market. During a recent cool snap, I was craving comfort food and meat loaf in particular. Unfortunately, I had neglected to pick up any meat from the Saturday markets, so I was grateful there are several meat purveyors participating in the Hope market.
I decided to use a ground meat combination of Thunder Heart bison and Loncito’s lamb. It was perfect. The bison is lean and the lamb has a nice fat content, not too much/not too little. I served it with sautéed beet greens and steamed asparagus – a perfect week night dinner.
Maybe after your overdosing on turkey this week, you should cuddle up with some Hope farmers market meatloaf. See you at the market on Sunday!
Hope Market Meat Loaf
1 pound ground bison
1 pound ground lamb
1 small onion, finely chopped (make sure your chop is fine so you don’t get big chunks of onion in your meatloaf)
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (or tomato sauce if tomatoes are out of season)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(If you like a little spice, add a tsp or two of Tabasco)Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients together until well mixed.
Place the mixture into the loaf pan. Bake in the center of the oven until the temperature reaches 160°F in the center of the meat loaf, about 55 minutes. To check the temperature, insert a meat thermometer into the center of the loaf after 50 minutes of cooking.
Remove the thermometer if you need to return the loaf to the oven.
Remove the pan from the oven and pour off any excess fat (there won’t be a lot using the lamb and bison). Let the meat loaf stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.
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To Market, To Market in San Francisco: Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

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I had the good fortune to attend the 2009 Food Buzz Festival, an event for food bloggers from around the country, in San Francisco last weekend.  As I reviewed the schedule, I was beside myself with joy when I realized that attending the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market was slotted for Saturday morning.  The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market!  I can’t tell you how many people have suggested I attend that market since I started the blog.   Finally, I was getting my chance.

And, it was heaven!  The market surrounds, and I mean this literally, the Ferry building located at Market and Embarcedero.  There are stalls everywhere, behind the building leading up to the ferry dock, in front of the building edging toward the street curb, on the side bumping up against the park benches.  As I walked up to the market, I was completely overwhelmed – I, who shop at farmers markets every week, had no idea where to start.  I took a deep breath and just dove in.

I wanted to buy EVERYTHING.  I was enticed by the produce that we don’t  grow in Austin like the grapes, a strange fruit called a Jelly melon and the sunchokes, but I refrained.  I would have given my eye teeth to be in a hotel room with a kitchen.

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I decided to focus on the things I could bring home more easily and there was plenty to pick from.  I tasted cheeses, olive oils, vinegars, flavored salts, spices, dried fruits, jams and breads.

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The Ferry Plaza building is the home to Cowgirl Creamery (right), a festival sponsor, which makes a variety of delicious cheeses including one of my favorites, Mt. Tam.  Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company also had a booth in the market proper and I did not miss the chance to taste their Point Reyes blue cheese which is creamy, pungent and delicious.

Frog Hollow Farms, one of the sponsors of the Food Buzz event, has a retail shop at the Ferry Building and also has a booth in the market.  Their granolas, dried fruits, jellies and conserves were delicious and I couldn’t walk away from the booth without a few jars. I opted for Meyer Lemon Marmalade which was mouth-puckering tart, Cherry Conserve and Nectarine-Plum jelly.  Frog Hollow Farms was also generous enough to give each of the conference participants a package of granola, Cherry Chocolate Chip cookies and dried peaches.  I haven’t tried the cookies yet, but the granola and peaches were delicious.
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After all the spoonfuls of sweet jam, I realized I needed something of substance for breakfast.  I opted for the ever so healthy choice of an oyster from Hog Island Oyster Company.  After all, you can’t get an oyster for breakfast at the Austin market, all due respect to Taco Deli and Dai Due.  I love a freshly shucked oyster and these were perfect – filled with brine of the Pacific ocean – salty and luscious.


I decided to wander the inside of the Ferry building.  The shops inside are equally focused on sustainability and get in on the act for market day with tables and specials for market shoppers.  And that’s how I ended up at Boccalone, an artisan salami shop with the motto “Tasty Salted Pig Parts.”  Oh my.


Their novelty of the day was a “meat cone” which includes three different types of meat wrapped together and placed in a snow cone wrapper.  No bread.  No vegetables.  Just meat.  Well, of course I had to try it.  It was amazing.  Each of the meats – mortadella, orange and wild fennel salami and prosciutto – complimented each other and had a distinct flavor.  Yum!  These guys love their product and it shows.

And at this point, I still had the vendors in front of the ferry building to visit.  Phew!  I bought Indian spice mixes and mango pickles from Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods and dried heirloom beans and pozole from Rancho Gordo.  

111109_9After two hours of exploring, tasting, questioning and poking, it was time to head to the Food Buzz panel on Farm to Table issues with Brian Kenny of Hearst Ranch and Chef Paul Arenstam of Americano Restaurant & Bar.  As hard as it was to leave the market, I was glad that I went to the panel.  Brian Kenny shared the business model Hearst Ranch is using for their sustainable beef business and it was refreshing to hear Chef Arenstam’s view on why he partners with sustainable farms.

For me, the market was like a big amusement park.  It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I see the vendor booths the way someone else sees a roller coaster – a thrill, a challenge, something to discover.  

111109_10And, as much fun as I had, I didn’t lose site of the bigger picture.  The market was packed.  Yes, a number of the people were tourists like me, but there were plenty of people buying to fill their local fridge.  

As I wandered through San Francisco for three days, I noticed that there were signs in every neighborhood I visited to support local farms.  Whether I was meandering through the Mission District, Union Square or the Financial District, there were signs to buy fresh and local.   You couldn’t forget because you were surrounded by it.  

Buy Fresh.  Buy Local.  I like the mantra.  Maybe we should try it on for size in Austin.

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