Homegrown Revival’s Axis & Oysters Dinner–You Shoulda Been There

May 16th represented the penultimate Homegrown Revival dinner for this year. I’ve written about Homegrown Revival in the past, so I won’t retread old ground concerning art and food. I’ll just say this: The good folks from Homegrown Revival have created a wonderful community that revolves around local, sustainable foods. We need this type of thing in the United States. It strengthens communities, while at the same time, bolsters the local farming industry. Two things we need desperately.

Normally the Homegrown events are sit-down affairs, but this one was a bit different. First off, there were 60 tickets sold. The past events have had 30 people at most. To accommodate for the larger guest list, Homegrown opted to go with an informal, family-style buffet line.

To be frank, and by frank I mean blunt and not this guy, I usually don’t care for buffet lines, especially at family events. A buffet line at a family event means I have to stand and chat with members of my family. I am a fancy man, and I don’t have time to engage unkempt plebeians in banal conversation.

Fortunately for me, the line at Homegrown was not filled with my family members. My wife and I struck up a wonderful conversation with Roger, a fancy gentleman like myself, and surprisingly, I learned to hate standing in buffet lines a little less.

The best part about the buffet line was that Chef Sonya Coté served each guest herself. At past Homegrown Revival events, Chef Coté has been in the back preparing food, so the guests only have the pleasure of visiting with her after the meal. At the “Axis & Oysters” dinner, Chef Coté had the opportunity to briefly chat with each guest and serve them personally. She would point out the best cuts of meat, help you fill your plate, and in the process, make each guest feel welcome.

A Verdant Oasis in a Concrete JungleLike many of the Homegrown events, the “Axis & Oysters” dinner took place at Springdale Farms. I just love Springdale. The farm speaks to me with an earthy voice. Having grown up on a farm about 12 miles north of Waco, visiting Springdale makes me feel like I’m visiting my childhood home. This time of year is particularly wonderful. The sunflowers were in bloom, the tomato vines were filled with green tomatoes, and simply staring at the finely manicured rows of greens made me hungry.

When we arrived at the farm, David Barrow greeted us warmly and promptly made us gimlets mixed with Dripping Springs vodka. That David. He’s a good egg. We said hello to David’s brother Charles, who incidentally, wears a Scally Cap like straight-up boss, and then we began to mingle with the other guests who were just arriving.David Serving Up liquid Happiness

I just love the sense of community at the Homegrown Revival events. We hugged old friends, chatted with new ones, and languidly mingled while enjoying our drinks. At one point, David appeared out of thin air and placed another drink in my hand. From half-way across the farm, he’d noticed I’d finished my gimlet, and he apparently thought I needed another. Fine man, that David.

The food was wonderful as always. Chef Coté had oysters on the grill and she handed them out one by one. We had curried grits. Wonderful grilled peaches that were sweet and slightly caramelized. Fried oysters Chef Coté and her helpers prepared for each guest. The breading was still crispy and piping hot while the middle was luscious and juicy. Pickled green tomatoes that were tangy and tasted like spring. A chilled potato salad. Smoked axis venison that literally melted in your mouth. Summer squash sliced paper thin and served with cucumber.

Chef Cote Servin' It UpAnd for dessert? Buttermilk biscuit shortcake, served with blackberries, peaches, and fresh crème. Sinful enough to make an atheist attend confession.

When my wife’s attention was diverted by conversation, I stole a humongous bite of her dessert because I had already devoured mine like a ravenous, rabid dog.

The “Axis & Oysters” Homegrown Revival dinner was especially special (I like the way that sounds). Leigh and I had finally convinced another couple to attend a Homegrown event with us. We’ve been trying for over a year, with minimal success. This marked the second occasion when friends had joined us, and one of them is, as she calls it, a recovering vegetarian. She eats meat, but not much, and certainly not red meat that’s still attached to bones while on the platter. I was a bit nervous for her, but I shouldn’t have been. After eating an oyster that Chef Coté had pulled directly off the grill, she said dreamily “Wow. It tastes like the ocean.” When she tried the axis, she just rolled her eyes and sighed.

I feel kinda bad for her husband because I think the Homegrown Revival might have created a carnivorous monster. So, you have my apologies Marc. Veggies are cheap. High quality meat is most certainly not.

We ended up leaving Springdale after ten at night. Sonya gave us a big ‘ole hug and kiss, David and Charles both said their goodbyes, and as we walked in the moonlight through the farm out to our vehicles, I comforted myself with the knowledge that there’s one more Homegrown Revival event in June.

If you feel like having a Coté prepared meal before then, make sure you check out Hillside Farmacy, and keep a look-out for the June dinner on Homegrown Revival’s webpage. When the tickets go on sale, you damn well better buy them quick.


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