Leigh and I have been attending The Homegrown Revival’s dinners for nearly two years now. We’ve only missed a couple during that time, and I start to get a little antsy if too many days tick by without seeing The Homegrown Revival Team and the Revivalists.
The friends. The food. The conversations. Breaking bread and sharing drinks with farmers, foragers, and foodies. Sharing a meal with the wonderful chefs who prepared it.
There’s just something special about attending The Homegrown Revival’s dinners.
The last dinner we attended took place way back in January, and that’s entirely too long.
The Homegrown Team members had planned to hold the dinner in the garden area at in.gredients, but because of the looming threat of thunderstorms, they had to abruptly move the dinner to the warehouse at Reclaimed Space. I love in.gredients, but the warehouse at Reclaimed Spaced provided a perfect location. When the thunderstorms finally rolled over Austin, the clattering rain on the tin roof provided our soundtrack, and the breeze brought in by the cold front helped cool us down.
Last night’s meal was a special one because The Homegrown Revival is currently in the process of creating a television show based on its mission statement, and during last night’s dinner the camera crew floated around and filmed the action.
The meal itself couldn’t have been more amazing. The menu came together as the result of a collaboration between Sonya Cote, Tink Pinkard, and Paige Hill. Tink provided the proteins, which were duck and yellow catfish. Paige foraged and sourced the produce, and Sonya created the dishes.
We started with duck confit, served with beets and onions. Chef Cote had poached the duck in its own fat, and the result was nothing short of amazing. After the duck confit, we had a bright red radicchio soup. Thinly sliced cucumber graced the middle of the bowl, and the soup had just a naughty little hint of spice that played well with the coolness of the cucumber. Along with the soup, we had a dish of potato salad made with several varieties of potatoes and beautiful hard boiled eggs. The fourth course was a huge mound of salad with fresh veggies from local Austin farms, and right on the top sat a pile of candied pecans.
And the coup de grâce was a ceviche made with yellow catfish, mango, and jalapenos. Before last night, catfish would have been waaaaaay down on my list of fish I want as ceviche, but man oh man was that ceviche good. Really just sublime. I could have easily mistaken it for something like grouper. But nope. Good ol’ Texas catfish.
And for dessert? Fresh strawberries and chocolate ganache. The chocolate was just lovely–rich and creamy. I’m glad they didn’t give us a spoon. I would’ve eaten it right out of the bowl.
I mentioned earlier that a film crew was on hand, but what I didn’t mention at the beginning of this post was that I had the distinct honor of sitting in on a roundtable discussion about local food for the shoot. In fact, I sat at the head table with Tink Pinkard from The Homegrown Revival, Cameron Molberg from Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill and Farm, Judith McGeary from Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Paige Hill from Urban Patchwork, Dorsey Barger from HausBar Farms, and Renee Rangel from RRR Farms.
I have to admit, I felt a little outta my league. Those wonderful ladies and gracious gentlemen were so knowledgeable and passionate about the Austin local food movement that I had to internally remind myself that I was there to talk and not listen.
One of the things that we kept coming back to during our discussion was the importance of community and the communal act of sharing information. Changing the way we view food in this country will take a real paradigm shift, and for that to happen, many people have to enter into this conversation. So talk to people about local foods. Go to farmer’s markets and actually talk to the vendors. Check out the web pages I linked above, and then visit those farms and try their produce and proteins.
Above all else, become involved with your food and the artistry that’s required to prepare it. The ability to create food that sustains us nutritionally is easy. Thousands of species of animals have figured out how to create or gather food for sustenance. But as far as I know, we’re one of the only species capable of creating delicious, transcendent meals that not only sustain us, but that bring us emotional and life-affirming pleasure. We should take pride in that aspect of our species and celebrate it.
It’s what makes us human.