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The bevy of bars near 7th and Red River in downtown Austin may not be the first destination for a seasoned locavore, but revelers in search of a uniquely farm-to-glass cocktail should dive into the side bar. Behind its long, L-shaped bar, under a Bob Wills poster and next to the beer taps, sit two giant decanters filled with delectable vodkas infused with locally sourced, seasonal produce and spices, just waiting to delight the most discerning foodie’s taste buds.
By Amy Reynolds
Photography by Jody Horton
Salt is the most universal condiment found on the planet. And not just the iodine-laden, burned-at-1,000-degrees-Fahrenheit shaker salt we all know, but the sun- and earth-baked, mineral-filled, rainbow-hued, sea and rock salts dotted across the globe now gaining in popularity. With an almost 5,000-year history of making and breaking the strongest of empires, inciting wars and causing the construction and destruction of countless cities, salt might be considered the most valuable treasure in human history.
By Lucinda Hutson
Photography by Lucinda Hutson
A generous splash of vinegar—with its tart and tangy essence and intense burst of pure flavor—can brighten and balance a recipe like nothing else. My kitchen shelves are laden with aromatic vinegars of every kind—from syrupy, aged balsamic to fruity pear, fig, raspberry and blood orange, to rice, sherry, champagne, red wine and, of course, my favorite homemade herbal vinegars.
By Suzanne Hurley
On a sunny Saturday in March, when the heat hadn’t yet driven everyone inside, hundreds of gardeners and wannabes strolled under the oaks in Govalle Park for the third annual Passion for Plants event.
Sponsored by the Travis County Master Gardeners Association (TCMGA), the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the Holistic Education and Health Network, Sustainable Food Center and Green Corn Project (GCP), the East Austin garden fair offered resources and free information on many gardening- and environment-related topics from double-digging, growing native plants and composting, to gardening for butterflies and more.
Wandering among the fairgoers, and collecting information for herself (because, as all gardeners know, there’s always something new to learn), was longtime Green Corn Project gardener Paula Gilbert. The curly-haired University of Texas employee was just another attendee until noon, when Gilbert was announced as an honored gardener.
By David Ansel
Photography by Dustin Meyer
When Mike McKim, founder of Cuvée Coffee, prepares his morning cup, he’s meticulously exacting with his weights and measurements—like an engineer, alchemist or apothecary. It’s a fitting comparison, really, because McKim is actually equal parts of all of these. The scene opens with McKim heating filtered water to 200 degrees, then using it to rinse a paper filter that’s set inside a conical glass perched atop a Chemex (a sort of Erlenmeyer flask).
By Terrence Henry
Photography by Jody Horton
The adventures of A+S Farm began on a drizzly morning in the spring of 2008 with “The Great Chick Run,” as Amy and Shaun Jones—a newly married couple in their late twenties—set out from Houston to Fayette County to become sustainable farmers. In the car with them were 150 chicks in a cardboard box, kept warm by a heat lamp running off of the car battery—a move that resulted in a completely drained battery by the time they reached the farm.
We all like to be needed in some way, don’t we? Being an especially attentive spouse, say, or an exemplary parent, a trusted friend or a pillar of the community, not only nudges a person toward the guarantee of good karma, but also helps give a certain meaning to life. A reason to get up every morning, at the very least.
(Adapted from The Herb Garden Cookbook, University of Texas Press)
For best flavor, pick herbs in early morning before the heat has wilted them. Gently rinse herbs; shake out excess moisture and allow herbs to dry naturally for about an hour, or carefully pat them dry. Remove any damaged or discolored leaves and woody stems.
Fill a clean glass gallon jar 2/3 full of the herbs, gently twisting or "wringing" them to release their volatile oils. Add other flavorings as desired such as peeled garlic, dried red chiles, citrus peel cut in a continuous spiral, flower petals, ginger, and whole spices). Ginger and garlic should be peeled and gently mashed with the back of a wooden spoon. To prevent bitterness, take care not to include any white pith of citrus peel.
Use only high-quality vinegars such as white, red, or champagne wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is way too harsh!
By Ruth Gardner-Loew
Photography by Candice Oneida
Austinites are becoming enchanted with tea—not only for the health benefits, but for the beauty, celebration and mystery of a drink that obliges us to slow down, reflect and connect. For centuries, tea has been the drink of preference in the Far East, notably China (where it originated) and Japan, as well as in parts of Europe. Yet aside from the ubiquitous iced variety enjoyed closer to home, tea—in her multitude of exotic varieties—has been a relative shadow-dweller.
By Jeremy Walther
Illustration by Hillary Weber-Gale
Sustainability in the home landscape is more than just a set calendar of seasonal tasks, especially in variable-draped Central Texas, where some years see total rainfall measure below 20 inches followed by years with almost 60. This unpredictability might be nature’s hint to us that large monocultures of nonnative turfgrass lawns just aren’t the way to go. The hottest, sunniest areas of a lawn are better used for plants that do more than just drink water and look green, which explains the trend of larger vegetable gardens, wildlife-loving native plant beds and shrinking lawns.
By Rebecca Saltsman
Photography by Jenna Noel
I love cooking, eating and talking about food, and I’m constantly thinking about my next meal even while enjoying the current one. Finding and preparing new foods and serving other people dishes they’ve never tried before are my passions. I also enjoy disproving preconceived notions about certain foods and what it means to eat well, healthfully…and with dietary restrictions. It’s true—I’m one of more than 20 million people in America living with gluten sensitivity, but it doesn’t define me or how I eat. Sometimes it’s challenging, but most of the time it’s very easy.
Celebration of Día de los Muertos in Xalitla, Guerrero (detail)
Acrylic painting on bark paper
By Helen Cordes
Photography courtesy of Lori Ferris
Round Rock has been bustin’ out all over in recent years, with folks flocking to the booming burg north of Austin at record rates. But while Austin’s growth has included the formation of many community gardens, bustling Round Rock had enjoyed not a single one—much to the chagrin of Lori and Jeff Ferris. When they found their backyard too shady to grow veggies, they looked for a community garden and found none. So they took matters—and garden tools—into their own hands.
By Kristi Willis
Photography by Carole Topalian
Many home chefs were taught to cook by first finding a recipe and then hunting down the ingredients at the store, without much thought as to whether the produce was at its peak. The ease of shipping foods across the world to the local grocery aisle has made popular produce available year-round, regardless of its freshness, and has resulted in ubiquitous grainy tomatoes and flavorless peaches.
By Veronica Meewes
Photography by Whitney Arostegui
Urban Patchwork (UP), Austin’s first nonprofit neighborhood farm network, launched three years ago, very appropriately, on Independence Day. “We wanted to claim independence on our food systems,” says Paige Hill, founder and director, with a smile. The program works to connect neighbors by turning yard space into sustainable farmland through collaborative efforts. “Our intention is to make well-grown, healthy, organically grown food accessible and affordable for folks,” Hill says.
When Amrit and Chandan Topiwala opened Whip In as a quaint corner store on the access road of I-35 in 1986, neither of them could have forecast it would evolve into the culinary hot spot and beer nerd’s paradise it is today. Early on, when the Topiwalas realized they weren’t selling much gas, they had their tanks and pumps removed. They knew they were, however, making most of their sales in beer. Following suit, they began to carry the craft beers, like Grolsch and Spaten, that had become so desirable to their customers.
By Betsy Levy
Photography by Carole Topalian
It’s 8:00 a.m. on a summer Saturday and most Austinites are still in bed. But at Johnson’s Backyard Garden CSA, sleepy volunteers slam their car doors, grab tools, and fan out into the crop rows to start the day’s harvest. The screen door creaks and farmer Brenton Johnson rounds the corner, smiling, coffee mug in hand.
By MM Pack
Photography by Carole Topalian
Paula Angerstein makes a mean cocktail, and she’s not afraid to share it. Considering she’s the creator/owner of Austin-based micro-distillery Paula’s Texas Spirits, that’s not much of a surprise. If you’ve enjoyed a mixed drink in an Austin bar, shopped in a Texas liquor store or attended a culinary event in the past few years, the odds are pretty good that you’ve encountered Paula’s spirits. Central Texans are accustomed to local produce, cheeses, artisan foods, beers and wines, but a newer idea is handcrafted, locally distilled spirits.