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.
On 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 .
Dai 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.
Springdale 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.
I 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.
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
Everything 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.