It seems like forever since I've written a column but that's just because so much has happened in the past two weeks.
I Traveled for Food
It seems like forever since I've written a column but that's just because so much has happened in the past two weeks. The trip to Mississippi for the Southern Foodways Symposium was very thought-provoking. I stopped at roadside stands in northeast Texas and Louisiana loaded with the fall crop of sweet potatoes and pecans, drove up the legendary blues Hwy. 61 through the just-picked cotton fields of rich Delta bottomland, and saw miles and miles of huge catfish tanks between Indianola and Greenwood. The meeting's topic this year was "From the Farm to the Table" and featured speakers on everything from the organizing of the Crescent City Farmer's Market in New Orleans to saving heirloom seeds in Tennessee and South Carolina. I learned that the best folks to go to for heirloom corn varieties are Carolina moonshiners and found out that the natural plant estrogens in sweet potatoes have been instrumental in the development of both birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies. I met a charming Tennessee gardener who has made saving heirloom bean seeds his life's work and learned that historically, the term "truck farming" had nothing to do with trucks. When chefs from Louisville, Ky., and Oxford, Miss., spoke about how they are building relationships with produce growers in their areas, I was pleased to note that Austin chefs and restaurants are busy doing the same things. The most memorable meal at this event was a biscuit breakfast sponsored by White Lily Flour. We'd been encouraged to bring our own condiments to the final gathering, and more than 100 hungry guests crammed into the City Grocery restaurant on the square in Oxford, jars in hand. We feasted on three kinds of biscuits (buttermilk, lard, and pepper-cheese), stone-ground heirloom grits, scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage. Each table got sorghum butter made with fresh syrup from the Oxford farmer's market and several jars of the donated jams and jellies. I was enormously proud when all the diners at my table raved about my offering, the Wild Plum Jam from Boggy Creek Farm. Next year's topic will be barbecue, and there is some talk about hosting a SFA field trip to Austin next summer to check out the Central Texas barbecue trail. We'll just have to overcome some folks' prejudices that Texas isn't really part of the South, and barbecue isn't the real thing unless it's pork!
Lots of things happening this month! If you loved the Persian food at Chelo Kebab in Northcross Mall and were wondering what would happen to it when the mall changed formats, never fear. Just up the road from the mall at Shoal Creek and Anderson Lane, look for the new Alborz Persian Cuisine (3300 W. Anderson Lane, 420-2222), just open this week. They'll have an affordable lunch buffet from 11am-2:30pm weekdays and a full menu from 2:30-10pm. Based on our experience at their little place in the mall, the food here should be divine. Look for some changes at the Granite Cafe (2905 San Gabriel, 472-6483) where chef/owner Sam Dickey has re-imagined his menu with no entrée items higher than $20 and is now serving lunch starting at 11am. Granite's appetizer prices are now in the $5-$8.50 range, and entrées top out at $19.50. Dickey is also booking dinner party cooking classes in customers' homes for the holidays. Call to check his schedule... It's that time of year again so hurry into Chez Nous (510 Neches, 473-2413) to sample this year's Beaujolais Nouveau... This Sunday, Nov. 11, the ladies at Book Woman (918 W. 12th, 472-2785) present their annual alternative community literary potluck Thanksgiving feast, Turning the Tables from 6-9pm. The festivities will include food and readings by Karen Stolz, Susan Wittig Albert, Sharon Bridgforth, Ana Sisnett, Jackie Cuevas, Debbie Weingarten, and Marsh Keake Blessing. Reservations required.