Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Spring Means Fabulous Outside Events in Austin! (Revised) March 25, 2014

After a long, and very cold winter in Austin, I look forward to outdoor events in the Spring.  There are many, many events, and this list is not exhaustive by any means.  I do have my favorites, all of which involve amazing food, cocktails and  support good causes. My picks also boast some of my favorite outdoor venues in the City as well.

March 29, 2014 – This weekend, there are two events that I really enjoy, this Saturday March 29th, is Farmhouse Delivery’s Fais D0-Do, Gumbo Cookoff at Rain Lily Farm.  Stroll the gorgeous grounds at Rain Lily Farm, sampling Gumbo from the varied entrants, sipping on bloody marys, listening to Zydeco music.  There are raffle prizes, too. I’m in!  $10 a ticket.  Proceeds benefit Creek People.

March 30, 2014 – this Sunday, 2nd Annual Crawfish Boil at Lenoir, benefiting Austin Food for Life, a non-profit  organization that assists Austin area food workers with health care.  This event will take place in the garden behind Lenoir.  $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

April 13, 2014East Austin Urban Farm Tour - Spend a Sunday afternoon strolling amongst the crops, visiting the chickens, donkeys and goats on four urban farms mere blocks apart. At each farm, chefs will offer tastes of their art, using farm ingredients. Local mixologists, brewers, and wine merchants will share sips. In the fields, farmers will introduce their crops, share their experiences as farmers and answer gardening questions. It will be the perfect opportunity to get your gardening questions solved, with farm tours on the hour.  Proceeds benefit Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.

Your $50 ticket will tell you which farm to start at, to prevent a backlog at any of the farms. No charge for children 12 & under.
Boggy Creek Farm – 3414 Lyons Road Austin, TX 78702

Food: Wink Restaurant,  Cafe Jose, Dolce Neve, Lenoir, Bufalina.  Drinks: Austin Wine Merchant, Live Oak, Weather Up

Hausbar Farm – 3300 Govalle, Austin, TX 78702

Food: Qui, Bola Pizza, Kome, Anjore Deepa, Dai Due.   Drinks Dripping Springs Vodka, Wahaca Tequila

Rain Lily Farm – 914 Shady Ln, Austin, TX 78702

Food:  Olive and June, Fabi and Rosi, Fresa’s.  (will update with full list)

Springdale Farm – 755 Springdale Rd, Austin, TX 78702

Food:  Eden East/Hillside Farmacy, Driskill Grill, Peche, Olamaie, Confituras. Drinks  Vinyards of Florence, Hops N Grain, Peche

See my recap of the 2011 East Austin Urban Farm Tour here:

April 19, 2014-Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour - Spend an afternoon on a self-guided tour of select Austin-area produce keepers to get inspiration for your own urban coop.  Proceeds benefit the Urban Poultry Association of Texas, Inc.

My recap of the 2010 Funky Chicken Coop Tour is here:

April 17, 2014 -Live Fire! – Austin Food and Wine Alliance 6:30 – 9:00
This year at the Salt Lick Pavilion, local and regional chefs will exhibit their culinary mastery over open flames. Stroll the beautiful grounds of the Salt Lick Pavilion, taste the chefs’ offerings, taste a variety of wines and enjoy being outside before summer moves us all back inside. $75.00

Chef lineup:

Rene Ortiz of Angry Bear, Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen (San Antonio), Brandon Fuller of Cafe Josie, Kendall Melton of Contigo, Jeff Martinez of El Chile Cafe y Cantina, Aaron Franklin of Franklin’s BBQ, Matt McAllister of FT33, (Dallas), Jason Dady of Jason Dady Restaurants (San Antonio), Ronnie Killen of Killen’s BBQ (Pearland), Rick Lopez of La Condesa, Monica Glenn of qui, Ben Runkle, Bryan Butler and Josh Jones of Salt & Time Butcher Shop & Salumeria, Callie Speer of Swift’s Attic, Josh Watkins of The Carillon, Timothy Rattray of The Granary (San Antonio), Scott Roberts of The Salt Lick (Driftwood), Kristine Kittrell of Weather Up, Reece Lagunas of Whole Foods Market

More about this event from their website: http://austinfoodwinealliance.org/?page_id=610
To order tickets, go here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/live-fire-2014-tickets-10930275749
My recap of the 2011 Live Fire event here:

April 30, 2014Homegrown Revival Dinner at HOPE Outdoor Gallery.  “A very special dinner on the top level of one of Austin’s most popular landmarks – The HOPE Outdooor Gallery.  The night includes a 5-7 course locally sourced dining experience with music and pairs drinks along copy of  HOPE Outdoor Gallery; Lost &  Found Vol 1 art book & collection sticker pack.”  The dinner will be prepared by Chef Sonya Cote.   This should be a fabulous evening with amazing food, drinks and company. $150.00.  For tickets click here.

May 8, 2014 – Sustainable Food Center Farm to Plate: http://www.sustainablefoodcenter.org/donate/farm-to-plate $125.00

Sip and stroll format, with lots of local chefs, at the beautiful Barr Mansion.  Proceeds benefit the Sustainable Food Center and their many fabulous programs.

 

Amplify Austin Day, March 20, 2014 March 18, 2014

Amplify Austin’s big day of giving to local non-profits, is coming up in 2 days and 9 hours, as I write this.  From March 20-March 21st, you can donate to your choice of over 400 non-profits.  The goal of Amplify Austin is to raise $4,000,000 in 24 hours!

There are several non-profits that are near and dear to my heart, so I’m sharing their pages here in an effort to get the word out about their good works.

Green Corn Project – https://amplifyatx.ilivehereigivehere.org/greencornproject/overview

Texas Organic Farmer’s and Gardeners Association – https://amplifyatx.ilivehereigivehere.org/tofga/overview

The Sustainable Food Center – https://amplifyatx.ilivehereigivehere.org/sustainablefoodcenter/overview

Austin Food and Wine Alliance – https://amplifyatx.ilivehereigivehere.org/austinfoodwinealliance/overview

The main website is https://amplifyatx.ilivehereigivehere.org/ and you can search for the non-profit of your choice.

 

 

La Traviata is still Making Delicious Italian Comfort Food February 11, 2014

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Chef Marion Gillcrist opened La Traviata, at 314 Congress Avenue, in 2000.  I first ate there shortly thereafter, for dinner.  It is a smallish, narrow space, on the West side of Congress, adorned with chandeliers, and a couple of coveted window cubbys in the front, for people watching.  Over the years, I’ve had lots of things from the menu, a tenderloin dish that was really memorable, a ravioli of the day that was equally delicious.  Their panini at lunchtime are also delicious.

However, at some point in history, I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara, and I’ve not been able to try anything else since, save for a couple of the appetizers and salad to go with the Carbonara.  It was mind-blowing good.

Four years ago last November, I met up with my friend Michelle, writer of the blog Foodie is the New Forty. I had been telling her tales of this Carbonara for a while, and we decided to wait until a cold  Winter night, to go.  She wrote about that night here:

We have continued our annual Carbonara pilgrimage, and the dish remains as delicious as the first time either of us ever had it.  On our recent visit, we started with the Proscuitto di Parma appetizer – Prosciutto di Parma, Endive, Scallions, Olives, Shaved Parmesan and White Truffle Oil.

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Michelle’s husband, Chris, started with Soup of the Day, which was Beet Soup.

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Our server asked if we had any questions about the menu.  A resounding “No” was the universal response and we all ordered the Carbonara.

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The menu describes it as Spaghetti tossed with Pancetta, Onion, Cream, Lemon and topped with a Fresh Farm Egg.  Immediately upon its arrival, we all puncture the yolk and stir it into the pasta.  This adds some extra unctuousness.  The pasta is cooked perfectly, the pancetta provides some chew and saltiness, the hint of lemon cuts the richness and the shaved green onions adds the only textural quality that might have been missing, crunch.  It is as divine and I always remember it, and certainly well worth the gluten and carb splurge.  (Certainly not a wallet splurge at $15.00)

I love that this little place is still cranking out high quality, amazing Italian comfort food, amid the quickly, ever changing food/restaurant scene in this City.  I’m always trying to hit up the next new spot that has opened, and watching upcoming opening dates for places that I know I will find interesting.  It feels good know that this place will likely still be making this food, in this spot, hopefully for years to come, and that although I don’t get to see my dear friend Michelle nearly enough, I do know that we can always make time for Spaghetti Carbonara.

 

My New Favorite Winter Soup – Green Chile Chicken February 6, 2014

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I have gotten into the habit of roasting a whole chicken on Sunday evening for Sunday supper, and for an easy go to meal in the fridge during the week.  I pick up my Dai Due order at their kitchen on Friday, and always get a Dewberry Hills Farm hen which they have brined and treated, either with a marinade or with butter and herbs under the skin.  They are smallish birds, but delicious, and enough for four meals for me.  And after I have accumulated the bones from a few in the freezer, along with odds and ends of vegetables, I make stock.  It is my opinion that a rich, delicious stock is the foundation for many wonderful things.

While digging through the usually over crowded chest freezer in the garage, I noticed bag upon bag of roasted green Hatch chiles, which I had gotten during the chile season in the late Summer.  And so, this soup came to be.

First, I cleaned two, half pound bags of Hatch chiles.

Cleaned Green Chiles

Cleaned Green Chiles

I put half of these back into the freezer for another day.  My soup ratio is 1 Quart Chicken Stock, 1/2 pound chiles.

Stock

Stock

I keep my stock in the freezer, and just take one out the morning I’m going to need it.  I let the chiles simmer in the stock while I cut up one leftover chicken breast, some garden cilantro, and some avocado.  I also grated some Dos Lunas Especial cheese for garnish.

Chicken, Avocado, Cheese, Cilantro

Chicken, Avocado, Cheese, Cilantro

Once the stock is bubbling away, and infused with chile flavor, I take it off the stove and use the immersion blender to puree the chiles.  You could use a blender, Vitamix, or whatever.  Because this is more soup that I want to eat for dinner, I pour half of the mixture back into the quart jar for another day,  and put the chicken into the soup to heat it up.  It’s already roasted from Sunday night, so I just want it hot.  Once hot, I pour it into the bowl, then garnish with avocado, cheese and cilantro.  A squeeze of lime would be nice too, but I don’t have any.

Green Chile Chicken Soup

Green Chile Chicken Soup

This is the perfect meal for me, because it is spicy from the chiles (I get the hot ones), filled with Vitamin C to ward off winter colds, and with the chicken and avocado is hearty enough for a filling meal.  Since I already have a freezer full of stock, and the chicken is already roasted, it is very quick to pull this soup together.  And I have another one teed up in the fridge now.

You could vary this soup by dicing potatoes and cooking those in the stock first, using pork or beef in place of the chicken, adding other vegetables, sour cream, creme fraiche, or whatever.  It’s just so quick and easy and delicious, I’m enjoying it often.  I will be sad when my stash of Hatch chiles is gone.  Fortunately, I hoarded them, so I have more to work through.

I have grown several varieties of green chiles, similar to those grown in Hatch New Mexico.  Somehow the flavor just isn’t the same as these, which make their appearance around Austin in the late Summer.  I have ordered some New Mexico peppers seeds, and will keep trying to duplicate this amazing pepper flavor, but if not, I’ll stock my freezer again with already fire-roasted peppers from Central Market, once they appear again.

Stay warm! Eat some soup.

 

Mid-Winter in an Austin Urban Garden February 5, 2014

There are still 42 days until Spring and I’m already getting antsy about planting my Spring garden.  I’ve been somewhat lazy this Winter, and did not plant many late Winter crops.  I had an amazing harvest  of broccoli and cauliflower in January and am still eating broccoli.   But I did not plant more when I could have.  Much of my gardening activity has been covering and uncovering existing plants, to protect from the brutal freezes we’ve been experiencing.

Herb Bed prepped for freeze

Herb Bed prepped for freeze

I have some lettuce that isn’t doing much.

Lettuce

Lettuce

The two big onion beds are looking great.  I’ve been worried about the onions bolting, (going to seed)  with our erratic weather and the really  warm days that have come between freezes.  That wouldn’t be a disaster, because I would harvest them as green onions and eat them anyway, but I’m holding out for the big storing onions.

Onion beds

Onion beds

There is more going on inside the house than outside.  I picked up some seed potatoes from The Natural Gardener a couple weeks ago, and they have been sprouting roots in brown paper bags, while I wait for planting day, which typically is around February 15th.  I may go ahead and get them in the ground this weekend.

Seed potatoes

Seed potatoes

Every year I try to grow something new, and this year it is going to be peanuts.  I planted these inside a couple weeks ago, and they sprouted quickly.  I have them under a kitchen cabinet light at the moment.  Apparently they like heat and sandy soil, so my efforts may prove to be too early.  I need to add some sandy soil to one of my raised beds for them.  A crop of peanuts would be fun.

IMG_2122

I planted a bunch of tomato seeds at the same time I planted the peanuts.  They started putting on their true leaves last weekend, so I transplanted the healthiest of them to 4 inch pots.  They are still on their heating mat under the light, and I’m spritzing them daily with a dilution of John’s Recipe, from The Natural Gardener.  Once they get a bit bigger, I’ll start letting them spend warm sunny days outside ( if we have more of those.)

Tomato seedlings

Tomato seedlings

I’ve ordered lots of seeds from Seed Saver’s Exchange – several varieties of peppers, watermelon, tomatillos and cucumbers.  Those should come today or tomorrow, and I’ll start those inside as well.    If we are to believe the famous groundhog, we still have lots of Winter left before we can get these plants in the ground.  I plan to be ready.

If you aren’t into turning your living space into a greenhouse, there are some really amazing plant sales you can get your Spring transplants from.  My favorite is the Sunshine Community Garden plant sale, which will be on March 1st this year.  According to their website, they will have over 70 varieties of peppers and over 130 varieties of tomatoes this year.  There is a list of the varieties on their site as well.   I can’t wait!

Grow some food, ya’ll!

 

Hank Shaw Book Tour Dinner January 28, 2014

Hank Shaw, wild food advocate, hunter and forager is the author of Hunt, Gather, Cook and now, Duck, Duck, Goose, and popular food website, Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.  Shaw ended his months long book tour in Austin, last night, with a dinner hosted by  Foreign & Domestic, with Ned Elliott and Jesse Griffiths, of Dai Due.  I attended the first seating.

The first course, prepared by Ned Elliott, was Poached Breast of Muscovy Duck, with Pickled Hearts, Beets & Rutabaga Sauerkraut.

Poached Duck Breast with Rutabaga Sauerkraut

Poached Duck Breast with Rutabaga Sauerkraut

As I watched the dish being plated, I was thinking that looked like a lot of Rutabaga Sauerkraut, which I wasn’t sure I would like.  On the contrary, it was amazingly complex, not at all sour, and actually quite delicious and buttery.   Ned always does amazing things with vegetables.

The second course was prepared by Hank Shaw – Ganseklein, a German Sweet n Sour Giblet Soup with Scorn Spaetzle.  The soup was very Earthy and hearty.  My picture doesn’t do it justice.

Ganseklein

Ganseklein

The third course, by Jesse Griffiths and Chase Cole, of Dai Due, was Muscovy Duck Kasekrainer, with Sprouted Wheat Pilaf, Pickled Mushrooms, Daikon & Mailbock Mustard.  I’ve always loved Kasekrainer, and finely ground sausage with chunks of Mill-King cheese curds, and this Duck variety was delicious.

Duck Kasekrainer

Duck Kasekrainer

Dessert was Duck Fat Cornbread, with Duck Egg Ice Cream, Pickled Cherries, Roasted Fruit, & Sea Buckthorn prepared by Ned Elliott.  Not being a fan of really sweet desserts, I loved the cornbread, and the ice cream was really rich and delicious.  I was dining with friends Houston and Stephanie, Austin’s own award winning jamstress, and she was curious about the Sea Buckthorn, so Ned brought her a spoonful.  We tasted it, and it was slightly familiar, yet different from anything.  Stephanie compared it mostly to tamarind, which I would not have figured out.  When spooned over the cornbread, it added a tart and  slightly sweet flavor that blended well with the roasted fruit, and creamy ice cream that was a perfect end to a delicious duck dinner.

Duck Fat Cornbread, with Duck Egg Ice Cream, Roasted Fruit

Duck Fat Cornbread, with Duck Egg Ice Cream, Roasted Fruit

I’m looking forward to reading my new cookbook, and hopefully cooking more wild game.   There are lots of recipes for duck eggs as well, which are available locally at Springdale Farm and Countryside Farm.

 

Foreign and Domestic, Indie Chef’s Week 2014 Recap January 26, 2014

Indie Chef’s Week has become one of my favorite food events in Austin.  Created last year by Ned Elliott, and Jodi Elliott, chef/owners of Foreign & Domestic, (Jodi has since left and will open Bribery to highlight her amazing pastries) as a showcase of indie chefs from around the US and Canada, Indie Chefs Week is  five nights of dinners, where each chef creates a dish.

The first night showcases local chefs.  I attended local chefs night last year, and wrote about it here.  This year, I decided to forego the local night, and try some food from the visiting chefs.

Here are some of my favorite dishes from the nights I attended this year:

A surprise dish from David Barzelay, of Lazy Bear, in San Francisco, was a delicious amuse, that wasn’t on the menu – Abalone Chowder.  I had never eaten abalone, and it was amazing.  David was fun to watch and interact with.  I would love to visit his Lazy Bear and try more dishes from him.

Abalone Chowder

Abalone Chowder

Aguachile of Snapper

Aguachile of Snapper

This was a replacement dish for a chef whose flight was late.  Aguachile of Snapper, Serrano, Guava Jam, Cress, from Carlos Salgado, chef at Taco Maria in Costa Mesa, California.  It is difficult to describe how something seemingly so simple, could be so delicious.  It was spicy with heat from chiles, and packed a memorable punch.  The guava puree cooled it off and added sweetness.  It was so good, I was excited to have it again at the finale.

Also from Carlos, another amazing dish that I won’t soon forget.  Winter Squash Tamal, with Queso Fresco, Lime Honey, Pipian Verde.

Tamal

Tamal

Ok, so I make tamales at least once a year.  Mine have absolutely no relation to this amazing creation.  The masa was light and fluffy, almost cake like, and just lightly treated with lime and honey, just enough to make it really interesting and flavorful, with the Pepian Verde, a spicy side, and the cool creamy queso fresco.  I’m not a food critic, but this was one of the best bites I’ve ever eaten.  I want to go to California, just to visit Taco Maria.

Another really wonderful dish that night was from Ryan Lachaine, of Houston, Texas.  Flat Iron Steak, Charred Carolina Gold Rice, Kimchi, Pickles, Yolk, Gochujang, and Benne. (sesame seeds)  Ryan is currently not associated with a restaurant, but based on this dish, I will look for him on any future trips to Houston.  This was delicious, interesting, and the plating is stunning.

Flat Iron

Flat Iron

I tried to wave off dessert that night, because I was very full, but our server assured us, that it was light and beautiful.  It was gorgeous!

Dessert

Dessert

This dessert included Shaved White Truffles, Truffle Sage Cheesecake, Lemon Curd and Egg Ice Cream, by the Foreign & Domestic Chefs and David Barzelay, of Lazy Bear.   This was so gorgeous, especially plated on the Keith Kreeger dishes loaned to F&D for this event, and it was equally delicious.

I loved the Octopus and Pear Salad, with Pear Butter, Cress and Toasted Almonds, from chef Michael Serpa, of Neptune Oyster, in Boston.  I’ve never had octopus so tender, ever and it was delicious.

Octopus Salad

Octopus Salad

The Chestnut Stuffed Quail, Winter Panzanella, Mandarin and Horeseradish, from Jason French, of Ned Ludd in Portland, Oregon, was another favorite.  A chef after my own heart, everything on this plate was uber locally sourced in Portland.  Another interesting bit, is that the entire menu of his restaurant, is cooked in a wood burning oven. How cool!  Somehow, I didn’t make it home with a photo of this one.

Anthony Fusco, former CDC of Foreign & Domestic was back, and it was lovely to see him.  His dish, a pork and beef meatball, made me actually like meatballs.  Very yummy.

Pork and Beef Meatball

Pork and Beef Meatball

One of my favorite take-aways from this event, is the camaraderie between the chef attendees.  It would be impossible to pull off such a night of dinner service, without a collaborative effort from these chefs.  It is really fun watching them help one another plate their dishes, and seeing, what I can only imagine to be, lasting friendships forming. By the finale night, it was clear that these chefs had formed bonds with each other, evident in their heckling, joking, and laughter as the end of the 24- course dinner service wound down to the last dish.  So much fun!

Plating

Plating

Plating

Plating

Chefs on Phones

Chefs on Phones

I can’t wait to experience Indie Chef’s Week again next year.

 

 
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