Mother May I Dine With Danger?
The Homegrown Revival kicks off its fall season at Austin Open Room
By Melanie Haupt, 6:05AM, Thu. Sep. 13, 2012
"Raw, Wild, and Unpasteurized" was the theme for Saturday night's al fresco dinner hosted by Sonya Cote and David Barrow, with proteins sourced by Tink Pinkerton and tunes by DJ Chinocasio.
Now, I'm not really one to go in for wild game and unpasteurized foods, having internalized a healthy fear of being poisoned from an early age. But the combination of this being my first Homegrown Revival dinner and the unauthorized nature of the event goosed my interest, so down to the Open Room I went, having warned my husband to have bail money at the ready. I mean, we were going to be eating RAW GOAT MILK, people. In public, no less! Have we no shame?
After a happy half-hour of socializing, the 20 or so of us Revivalists were encouraged to seat ourselves at the aluminum picnic table so that the wild rumpus could start. And, quite frankly, the dinner could have ended after the first course because Cote absolutely nailed it with the wild-caught yellow catfish that gamesman Tink Pinkerton caught out of the Brazos river. Lightly breaded in a locally sourced cornmeal and given a bit of kick with some cayenne, the catfish was moist and pillowy, with a light, clean taste that spoke to the fish's all-live diet. (Yellow catfish aren't bottom feeders and, unfortunately, are not commercially available.)
The next course comprised a chilled gaia melon and cucumber soup, which was followed by a heaping mound of wild greens hiding little gems of foraged figs from Windy Hill farms, accompanied by a complement of grilled dove quarters. (Here I will admit I succumbed to my fear of wild things and only ate a few bites. They were delicious, but all I could think of was bird flu. Yes, I know I'm crazy. I am also filled with regret because I was the only one who didn't suck the bones clean on those little birdies and to my knowledge, none of my fellow diners have been struck down with any form of avian affliction.) The centerpiece of the meal was a rack of sliding-off-the bone smoked goat ribs and a mountain of polenta points. The goat was tasty, if a little mild in flavor (but nothing a dab of homemade barbecue sauce couldn't remedy), and the polenta was smoky and creamy and a lovely, light counterpoint to the tender ribs.
Unfortunately, I had to excuse myself from the dinner after the main course, but Chef Cote was kind enough to give me a bite of the goat milk ice cream I'd be missing out on during the dessert course. I was shocked at how mild and sweet and decidedly not-goaty it was. Further proof that Sonya is a magician of the highest order. (Or just really knows her stuff when it comes to sourcing the freshest, yummiest ingredients.)
In retrospect, the Open Room was the perfect place to host a gathering like this, where strangers meet to break bread and bond over the food. It was also the perfect night to say goodbye to summer and turn our attention toward fall and its bounty, which the Homegrown Revival will celebrate through a fresh series of monthly dinners. The next one takes place October 3 at Johnson's Backyard Garden as part of SXSW Eco. Check their homepage for more details.