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The next time you pick up a pack of corn tortillas, take a second to appreciate the ease of buying such a delicious staple. Centuries of work went into that rather simple-looking product derived from the development and cultivation of corn around 9,000 years ago. Farmers from Mesoamerica (roughly the region that is now Central Mexico down to northern Costa Rica) spent eras selectively breeding wild grass for its large kernels until around 1,500 B.C., when the cluster of kernels began to resemble the large corncobs we know and love today. (We can also thank them for inventing the nixtamalization process that makes corn more nutritious and easier to grind.)
Held October 4 at The Allan House, the event gives guests the opportunity to bid on exclusive dining packages with notable Austin chefs. With small bites prepared by the chefs, refreshing libations, an oyster bar hosted by our friends at Fulton Fish Market, as well as a fantastic silent auction, you’ll leave happy even if you don’t place the highest bid (though we’d love it if you did).
Chet Garner has made a career out of traveling the state of Texas, filming his Emmy award-winning show “The Day-tripper”—an approachable, sometimes adorably nerdy look at various characters and locales across the Lone Star State. It’s a career that’s inadvertently made him a Texas barbecue expert—he’s hit all of our local barbecue joints—but when he’s at home with his family in Georgetown, Chet and his wife, Laura, are squarely in what he calls, “the kid zone.” With four kids ranging from 2 to 9, the Garners tend to eat very simply.
Heading out Texas RM 165 toward Blanco, there’s a moment when you crest a hill and the breathtaking expanse of the Hill Country spreads out before you. Only a few minutes farther along stands the cheerful Blue Barn of Arnosky Family Farm. A local landmark, the barn draws tourists, day-trippers and neighbors, who gather up buckets of sunflowers, mixed bouquets of seasonal color and hanging baskets to grace their homes, front porches and special events.
When dreaming up a remodel or new build, flooring may not be as sexy or Pinterest-worthy as say, wallpaper, paint colors, kitchens or bathrooms. However, nothing supports the life coursing through a home each day quite like our floors. We play with our children and/or pets on them, stand on them for hours cooking and walk the same traffic pattern from room to room. The floor really anchors the entire home, and now homeowners are more conscientious than ever about remodeling or building with flooring that reflects their values and concerns for the environment.
The Cooks Issue
Every year when this issue goes to press, the feeling of satisfaction is quickly followed by the buzz of planning the Chef Auction, our annual celebration of local food, cooking talent and noteworthy nonprofits. We’re very excited about this year’s event—our seventh annual—as we’ve been hard at work to make sure it’s the best possible evening for both the guests and our two nonprofit beneficiaries, Sustainable Food Center and Urban Roots. Find out more on the 2018 Chef Auction here.
And as you flip through the issue, we hope you enjoy the features on some of the people who help make Austin the city we love. Cheers to Cooks!
We Texans are known for a lot of things, not the least of which is our humility. But if there’s one thing that can get us to puff out our chests and boast a little bit, it’s Texas barbecue. Though we’re primarily known for our smoked brisket, a good Texas barbecue joint will often excel at smoking other delicious cuts. Pork ribs, especially, are a staple, but often they’re the trickiest to get right.
Plants can brighten up the interior of any home, but those who lack experience often avoid them. We’re here to say that the houseplant shouldn’t be feared! With some basic knowledge about light, watering and the right plants to buy, you’ll soon be on the way to growing your own urban indoor jungle.
Red and rosé wines often steal the headlines in Texas, but there’s a growing number of Texas white wines winning praise and awards in competitions across the state and around the world. For example, Pedernales Cellars produces what is arguably the most lauded Texas white. Their viognier, a varietal common in the Rhône Valley of Southern France, has received gold and double-gold medals not only in the United States, but also in the Lyon International Competition, where the 2012 Viognier Reserve won a Grand Gold. “We want our viognier to be the full, unmoderated expression of the grape,” says Pedernales Cellars winemaker David Kuhlken. “This means big, ripe tropical fruit, honeysuckle and peach. We hang the fruit out to get maximum ripeness and look to accentuate those big notes in our style.”
The Heirloom Issue
As we prepare to move into the new year, it’s time to take a look back and be thankful for the bright points in 2018. We are truly grateful for the wonderful community in Austin that has supported us for the last eleven years—we are constantly inspired to create thanks to our wonderful partners and readers. And we love being able to lift up and promote local Austin artisans and introduce people to the diverse, sustainable and delicious food businesses and producers in Texas.
As a free publication, our goal is to bring you meaningful, high-quality content. This is possible thanks to the support of all of our partners and advertisers—so please remember to support them this holiday season. They are the reason that we can continue to provide this magazine at no cost to our readers. And thank you for being a reader, supporter and part of the Edible Austin family. We’re thankful for you, and look forward to telling you more stories of our Central Texas heroes in the years to come.
Edible Austin Celebrations will help you plan out your next few months of holiday parties and get you through the gift giving season, with tons of ideas for presents and party tips. Then, bookmark it as a future resource for artisan gifts and event vendors all year long.
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To honor longtime East Austin friend, farmer and mentor Larry Butler, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) has established the Larry Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund for Beginning Farmers. The FARFA board decided to establish the funds soon after Butler succumbed to liver cancer on June 28 at the beloved Boggy Creek Farm that he and his wife, Carol Ann Sayle, started in 1992.
Despite what canned concoctions may lead people to believe, humble chicken soup can actually be a work of art. A broth, so goldenly hazy it’d make IPA drinkers jealous, surrounds crispy islands of croutons; carrots pop against this canvas, as do cannellini beans and seemingly sun-kissed zucchini, and a sprinkling of Parmesan and dill brings it all together with additional color, fragrance and texture.
Grace Rivera sits behind a table stacked full of vegetable seeds and smiles brightly as a group of young children and their teachers approach.
“Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables!” one youngster shouts.
“Are you going to take them home?” Rivera asks, referring to seeds the kids have gathered.
“Nope! We are going to take them back there and plant them now,” another says, proudly pointing to their plot in the community garden behind Rivera.
This is a typical scene at Sustainable Food Center’s (SFC) Spread the Harvest biannual Resource Giveaway Day, an event that Rivera volunteers at regularly. Hosted at New Day Community Garden in East Austin, the Resource Giveaway Day provides school, community and low-income gardeners with free seeds, plants, compost and organic fertilizer to start their gardens each season.
A Houston native, Rivera came to Austin in 2005 and got involved with SFC by taking a free six-week class through its cooking and nutrition education program, The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre®. Since then, she has taken 32 more cooking and gardening classes, volunteered at multiple events and participated in Farm to Work, SFC’s program that connects local farmers with employees at partner worksites. Now a trained facilitator at The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre, Rivera teaches the very cooking class she first participated in over a decade ago.
“My mom was a gardener,” she recounts. “It may be the real, secret reason I got involved [with SFC]. Every time I get out in the garden, I really reconnect with her. In the Hispanic culture, food is love! That memory of being out there with her and then bringing [the food] in and cooking it for my family, it’s precious. I just wish everybody had that experience.”
After getting involved with SFC and learning so much about organic food gardening and healthy cooking, Rivera has seen her blood sugar levels drop and overall health improve. “Now I use a lot less salt. I think about it when I add meat to something. I think about all the different ingredients.”
But it’s the connections she makes that inspire her to stay involved in this work. She volunteers because of the interactions she has with interesting and diverse people. She takes classes to continue her pursuit of lifelong learning and she teaches to pass her knowledge down to future generations. “I don’t have access to my mom anymore, but I can go and take a tamale class and relive all that and bring home some awesome-tasting tamales.”
When asked what she would like to share with others, Rivera had this to say: “If you didn’t have the experience [I had] growing up, make that experience for your kids. It’s highly important, I think, for kids to know where their food is coming from.”
For more information, visit sustainablefoodcenter.org
By Becca Montjoy, Sustainable Food Center
My small-town Southern upbringing includes many beloved and nostalgic memories — including our Main Street mom-and-pop shops. The owner of the small grocery store we frequented knew our names, went out back to collect eggs upon request and sent my mother a monthly bill for her purchases. Those days of a pay-me-later line of credit are long gone, but it’s comforting to know that warm customer service and attention to local and artisanal product selection — particularly in the craft beer and wine departments — still exist today in the form of neighborhood markets throughout Austin.
On a gray, windy afternoon 10 days before Christmas and a week after the most spectacular snow in the memory of most Central Texans, I’m heading across the flat ranchland east of the Balcones Fault to Rockdale, Texas. I’m looking for Renda Graham, owner and operator of Bad Girl BBQ, a pink flamingo-adorned food truck open for business most Thursdays and Fridays in the parking lot of Stoney’s Liquor.
We have beautiful products in Central Texas, especially on the seam of the two seasons that coincides with Thanksgiving. Winter squash and lettuces are available, but tomatoes aren’t out of the question, either. Persimmons and apples are easy to find, and, with a little ingenuity, you can arrange for ducks, turkeys, pheasants and doves (think of them as little turkeys.) There’s no need to use words like “bounty” or “cornucopia”—just take a look around and see what’s growing, swimming or flying.
Our Thanksgiving menu reflects what’s available now and here. If you’re a traditionalist, mix a few new dishes in with your old favorites. Either way, I don’t think there’s a better way to celebrate.
Also, Honor the Animal with Hugh Fitzsimmons as he field harvests his bison with compassion and grace. And learn about Brenton Johnson who started a garden in his backyard and now has a thriving CSA.
We are excited to support a local initiative called Citizen Foodie, spearheaded by Brandi Clark, Austin’s dynamic grassroots-community activist (she is chair of the board for Austin CarShare, sustainability officer for the proposed, socially and environmentally-responsible One Earth Bank and Austin Eco Network founder, to name just a few of her endeavors). The Citizen Foodie program, a re-imagining of the post–World War II victory gardens, is inspired in part by L.A.-based eco-artist Fritz Haeg’s international edible-front-yard project embraced by Austin earlier this year. It is currently being developed in conjunction with an impressive slate of local nonprofit food and gardening organizations and businesses. This initiative aims to exponentially increase the amount of private and public land used for organic and sustainable food cultivation in our area, making nutritious, local food more readily available to all.
And, because this is an election season, and because we as individuals can collectively make a big impact on how our food future plays out, please consider the power of your vote and honor its voice. Vote with your fork!
By Amy Crowell
During the severe Texas drought of the 1950s, my grandpa quit farming and went to work for the rural electric cooperative. His parched corn stood crispy in the dust. The cracks in the field were so big that my mom, five at the time, was afraid she’d fall in and never get out. Yet, even though he quit farming on a grand scale, my grandpa never gave up his garden that produced food for his family until the day he died.