Sarah Rowland benefit shows Austin's big heart and local eats

The rousing success of the benefit for Central Texas farmer Sarah Rowland last week had me counting my blessings once again. That lovely evening made it twice in the same month that I was privileged to witness this community lavishing love and support, both emotional and financial, on friends in need. It is a beautiful thing – the people who live here do give here. Kudos to Larry Butler, Carol Ann Sayle, Suzanne Santos, Salila Travers, Emmett Fox, Mark and Melanie McAfee and the staff at the Barr Mansion, and Marla Camp and her staff at Edible Austin for putting such a great party together in about three weeks. Heartfelt thanks to all the farmers, chefs, artisan food and beverage producers, musicians, and other businesses who donated their products and their talents to a very worthy cause. (See candid photos with this story online at Local food businesses are becoming more sensitive to and aware of the issue of gluten intolerance, and that's being reflected on menus and store shelves around town. For example, Zax Pints & Plates (312 Barton Springs Rd., 481-0100, has recently added a Tripel-style gluten-free Belgian beer to their menu. The brewers of Quest use "millet, buckwheat, and sorghum instead of barley or wheat as the base malt." Also, celiac sufferers who miss chocolate cake and brownies will want to keep an eye out for the new gluten-free version of Miles of Chocolate, which should show up in local stores before the end of the month. I've tried the new version, and it is every bit as decadently delectable as the original – known to many local chocoholics who can't live without it as "Miles of Crack"... It's gratifying to see restaurants around Austin and the rest of the state doing what they can to feature local produce, meats, and cheeses on their menus, considering how difficult it can be for time-stressed chefs and small farmers to make business connections. For example, most of the chefs who cooked at last week's benefit are all regular farmers' market shoppers who make time in their busy schedules to forage for the best local produce. To make farm-to-restaurant connections easier across the state, the Texas Department of Agriculture created the Go Texan Restaurant Program ( this year and already has 274 restaurant members participating. For a $25 annual fee, member restaurants get help in sourcing locally produced foods and benefit from the statewide Go Texan marketing campaign. If the quality of food at the Rowland benefit last week proved anything, it was that when it comes to great flavor, local is certainly the way to go. For more info about the program, call Sarah Riggins at 475-1663 or e-mail

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