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With the return of spring, nothing is more enjoyable in Texas than being outdoors. Sunrises are warm and invigorating; sunsets become spectacular theater. Nature is reborn—abounding in the budding trees, soft grasses and the candy-colored palette of our famous Texas Hill Country wildflowers. As we celebrate this lush, vernal time, we look to certain customs and foods as representatives of life’s victory over winter’s cold repose, and of the gentleness, tenderness and innocence that are promised to follow.
Probably the best known of these symbolic foods is lamb—gracing springtime tables in both religious and non-religious contexts for thousands of years and important to many cultures that began in the Mediterranean regions. Roasted lamb shank is traditionally eaten as part of the Jewish Passover Seder, and eating lamb at Pasqua (Easter, in Italian)—considered the most important religious celebration of the year in Italy, if not all Christendom—is deeply rooted in custom.
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by Pamela Walker
Monticello, New Mexico, home to fewer than 100 people, was founded in the mid-1900s and is nestled in a canyon at the end of NM 142—25 miles northwest of Truth or Consequences and 160 miles south of Albuquerque. The area lies within the northern Chihuahuan Desert, and the highway winds first through a plateau of lechuguilla, creosote bush and ocotillo, and then continues downward into Cañada Alamosa, named for the cottonwood trees that long ago took root near Alamosa Creek. Here, cattle roam freely, horses graze in paddocks, alfalfa grows in small, diked plots and old adobe homes alternate between more recent framed houses and a handful of trailer homes.
Among the town’s residents are Jane and Steve Darland of Old Monticello Organic Farms—the sole source of travel lodging in Monticello. The Darlands cultivate roses, lavender and other herbs and a vineyard of mainly trebbiano grapes. From their flowers and herbs they make floral waters and essential oils, and from the grapes they make their primary product: traditional balsamic vinegar—distinct from common balsamic because of its pure, unadulterated grape juice that’s been fermented and concentrated in casks for at least 12 years in the centuries-old Italian manner.
A Q&A with Juliana Ross, Director of Events, The Allan House + Brodie Homestead
What’s worth the money? Because everyone has a limited budget for their wedding, where is money best spent for maximum effect?
Hire a coordinator! It is definitely worth the money to hire someone with experience who will be at your venue on the day of your wedding to greet vendors, oversee setup, run your timeline for the entire event, and make sure your cleanup runs smoothly. Even if you don’t have the budget for a full-service coordinator who will work with you from the start of planning, hiring a “day-of” or “month-of” coordinator will take the stress out of the last leg of the planning process. Coordinators will bring things to your attention that you would never even think of, and most importantly, they will be able to make tweaks and adjustments as needed on the day of your wedding without ever having to bother you or your family. I always recommend hiring an entire group of professional vendors, but hiring a professional coordinator is my number one tip to all brides and grooms.
What’s the best way to get RSVPs back? Traditional or digital?
I may be the wrong person to answer this question since I am such a huge fan of paper goods and the lost art of sending a letter. I love receiving mail, holding it in my hands. It’s a tactile thing, but also very visual. Receiving a wedding invitation in the mail—being able to see it and feel it—is such an important element to me. An RSVP card is part of that experience, as it really sets the tone for the entire event. Even if you’re planning a casual wedding, having an RSVP card to send back to the event hosts is a tangible reminder to RSVP. That said, I’m seeing more and more couples use a digital RSVP system, usually through their wedding website. It’s probably where things are heading since we’re all on our computers all the time, but I am holding on to traditional RSVPs for as long as I can!
What should you rent versus buy as far as wedding accoutrements and event items?
There’s not a lot that you can’t rent these days for an event. You can get pretty much any look or aesthetic you want by using event rental companies, and here in Austin we have some pretty incredible local options. I think buying items in bulk because you think you’ll save money is a recipe for stress. Rental companies drop off and pick up at your venue, include cleaning services for linens and tabletop items, and overall, make the process so much easier.
Do you recommend seating charts? Why or why not?
Yes! I am completely against the open seating plan trend, and I am so happy to see it’s dying off. Guests at a wedding want direction. They hate feeling like they are doing something they shouldn’t be doing or going places they shouldn’t be going. Open seating is a recipe for awkwardness.
Could you walk us through how far out couples should be taking care of various components of a wedding?
My advice to all couples is that the vendors who can only do one wedding on your wedding day need to be booked first, while the vendors who can take on a few weddings in any given night can be booked a little closer in.
Driving up the road to Austin Discovery School during the school year, you’re likely to see gaggles of kids with wheelbarrows, shovels, hoses and hoes. You also might see a bunny named Rusty being “hopped” on a leash, a pond being dug, trees being watered, chickens being held and leaves being hauled and spread. That’s because the public charter school’s Eco-Wellness program is an integral part of the kids’ educational routine. It’s also a critical way to fulfill the school’s mission of creating socially aware and confident critical-thinkers through hands-on learning.
In just two short years, Rainey Street darling Emmer & Rye has made the interesting combination of in-house fermentation and butchering, house-milled heritage grains and dim-sum carts both popular and something to watch. And some of the big guns that have taken notice are Texas Monthly, Food & Wine, The New York Post and Bon Appétit, to name a few. Good friends Executive Chef Kevin Fink and Pastry Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph took a little time off from polishing and arranging awards to describe their personal go-to/must-have kitchen items.
When asked to prepare a meal with special meaning, Kim and Whit Hanks choose the classic Spanish dish paella—not only because it’s delicious, but because preparing it can be, should be, a team effort. The Hankses should know from team efforts, too—married co-founders and owners of Whim Hospitality, they share a passion for hard work, hospitality and celebrating happiness in all its forms, business and personal.
Natural. Grassfed. Pasture Raised. Organic. These are only a few of the marketing stamps, seals and buzzwords jumping off food labels strategically placed to catch the eye of would-be conscious consumers. While these potentially exclusionary options might not be for everyone (partly due to food accessibility and equity), the marketing world of messaging can be a tricky landscape to navigate for those seeking to make food purchases that align with their values of humane animal treatment, sustainable and regenerative practices, ethical and fair sourcing and/or health concerns, to name a few. According to Daisy Freund of the ASPCA, “Well-meaning people are making choices that don’t actually support their values.” The problem is three-fold: misleading descriptors, undefined terms and lack of accountability.
“Your diet is like a fingerprint,” says Dan Marek, school programs manager and chef for Whole Kids Foundation. “No single diet is going to work for every single one of us.” Marek is standing in front of a group of teachers in the Williams Elementary school cafeteria in South Austin, leading a healthy-eating workshop/cooking demo—part of the foundation’s Healthy Teachers Program. And despite his soft-spoken and gentle demeanor, he means business. He’s not here to school teachers on what they should or shouldn’t be eating or to tell them what products to buy (“I work for a foundation that’s sponsored by an organic grocery store, and I can’t even afford to buy organic 100 percent of the time.”) Instead, Marek’s mission is to arm the educators with both data and inspiration, so they can make their own informed choices about how to eat.
Walk into any Austin restaurant from Torchy’s Tacos to Jeffrey’s and you’ll most likely find that it’s understaffed. In early March 2018, Poached Jobs, a website that posts jobs in the food and drink industry, listed 689 open positions locally, and the Food, Beverage and Hospitality section of Austin’s Craigslist had more than 2,000 posts. We took a quick survey of some of Austin’s most spotlighted restaurants and found that 80 percent had open line-cook positions, and all had at least one open position from hostess to dishwashers. In a lightning-fast-growing city seemingly teeming with eligible people seeking employment, what could be the disconnect?
In “The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk,” author Donna Marie Miller leads us around the dance floor (always, always counterclockwise) of one of the only remaining authentic honky-tonks left standing in Texas. Other than a few inside counters, a coat or two of paint and an added dance floor, things around the Spoke simply haven’t changed that much, and that’s just the way owners James and Annetta White have always wanted it. Once inside the door, the music, smells, atmosphere—sometimes even faces—are pretty much the same now as they were when the doors opened in 1964.
Hunger is a serious issue in Central Texas, where one in six of our neighbors doesn’t know where their next meal will come from. That’s why the Central Texas Food Bank (CTFB) is always looking for fun, creative ways to engage the community in helping us serve those in need.
We’re always trying new local products. Take a look at what our staff is enjoying this month.
One glance at Chef Ren Garcia’s résumé and you’ll notice it reads like a who’s who or what’s what of the Austin culinary scene for the past three decades—Bouldin Creek Café, Vespaio, Dai Due and now, Micklethwait Craft Meats, are all there. It’s clear he has the chops to handle the chops…and brisket and ribs…working the pit at the popular barbecue food trailer, but interestingly, he wasn’t always a connoisseur, or even consumer, of such things. Garcia’s evolving culinary prowess all started when this once-devout vegetarian moved to Austin in his 20s (to play in a band, of course) and found that cooking was also his jam.
Stuck in traffic on north 183, I often wonder what goes on in all those sprawling, anonymous storefront office units and warehouses lining the highway. Most of it is probably pretty mundane—insurance companies, bookkeepers, medical supplies—but maybe, my daydreams suggest, there’s an episode of “Breaking Bad” going on somewhere in there. I would never think that tucked behind a custom 4x4 auto parts garage lives the burgeoning frozen pizza empire, Bola Pizza.
When I was a little girl in Southern California, I routinely turned up my nose at fresh fruit. Like many kids, I preferred the soft, unidentifiable, brightly colored fruit cubes that came so conveniently out of a can. (I know I wasn’t the only kid partial to that sweet, syrupy fruit from the ’70s, but the irony of walking to school through orange groves in the agricultural capital of the nation, paired with my chosen career as a fruit preserver, is not lost on me.)
As the last days of summer approach us, so do some sweltering temperatures. But fear not, these 10 frozen dessert recipes will help keep you cool and content until autumn arrives.
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.