New stoves and local nonprofits garner support despite difficult economic times

I really do love the new stove, but it is taking some getting used to. The oven controls are touch buttons on a panel around the clock/timer rather than a knob on the front, and the oven door has an actual working handle – imagine that! We christened the new stove by making jelly. My big French copper jam pot was bubbling away, full of Light­sey's tart red plums that eventually became lovely jars of glistening garnet ... syrup. Oops, better luck next season. All I've baked so far has been cornbread to eat with purple hull peas, heirloom tomatoes, and watermelon, but there should be blackberry/peach cobbler any day now. Cooking with the bounty of summer crops brings to mind how the local farm-to-table connection has blossomed here in the past few years, despite two years of extraordinary drought. Just before Inde­pen­dence Day, I enjoyed brunch at Olivia (2043 S. Lamar, 804-2700, with a couple of area farm families. Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler of Boggy Creek Farm ( and Kay and Jim Richardson of Richard­son Farms ( provided many of the ingredients for a remarkably delicious local meal: fresh watermelon juice mimosas; chicken-fried Richardson's rib eye napped with peppery cream gravy and paired with big, beautiful slices of Boggy Creek heirloom tomatoes; intensely flavorful Richardson's pork chops with fresh peach slices, peach barbecue sauce, crispy fries, and tangy homemade ketchup. Beholding the food on that table reminded me that at a time when our country is searching for solutions to issues of food safety, health care, the obesity and diabetes epidemics, and overall environmental sustainability, it is crucial that we nurture and maintain strong connections with the people who humanely produce clean, safe, healthy food at the local level. Supporting local farmers provides both independence and homeland security!... Three local businesses have come up with ingenious ways to support local nonprofits in these difficult economic times. At Austin Land & Cattle Co. (1205 N. Lamar, 472-1813,, proprietors Christian and Theresa Mertens choose a different charity every month (the SIMS Foun­da­tion for July) to benefit from their Second Helpings program: For every three-course prix fixe ($35) meal sold on Sunday evenings, the charity receives a $5 donation. At one Pluckers Wing Bar location (3909 S. Lamar, 443-9464,, they Party With a Purpose every Thursday night, inviting representatives of local nonprofits to provide information about their organizations to customers while donating 20% of the food and nonalcoholic beverage sales made between 6 and 9pm to those charities. At Sugar Mama's Bakeshop (1905-A S. First, 448-3727,, owner Olivia O'Neal chooses a different charity beneficiary for her monthly Sweet Charity program. She bakes a chocolate cupcake with a different flavor frosting every month and decorates it in honor of that month's chosen charity, donating $100 plus $1 for each of the special cupcakes sold. This month's charity is Family Eldercare; customers are encouraged to nominate deserving charities for future months... Fans of the fine Cajun/creole culinary stylings of chef Michael Amr will be pleased to know that he and wife Yoli are back in business at Mama Roux (13000 N. I-35 #600, 490-1304) in the Five Oaks shopping center at Parmer and I-35.

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area farms, local nonprofits, Lightsey's, Olivia, Boggy Creek Farm, Richardson Farms, Austin Land & Cattle Company, SIMS Foundation, Pluckers Wing Bar, Sugar Mama's Bakeshop, Mama Roux

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