Eat Drink Local Week comes of age
When journalist and community activist Marla Camp entered into a trademark licensing agreement with Edible Communities to produce a magazine focusing on local food in 30 Central Texas counties in early 2007, the learning curve necessary to get up to speed on the subject was pretty steep. Camp turned out to be a quick study, however, and by early December of that same year, Edible Austin sponsored a small slate of events for the first Eat Local Week. A handful of restaurants agreed to feature a local dish on their menus for the week, but some area food writers demonstrated their complete lack of knowledge of Central Texas growing seasons by speculating about the wisdom of scheduling a celebration of local food for the first week in December. Camp, on the other hand, had done her homework. She was well aware that the late-fall growing season would deliver a bounty of crops: lettuces, cabbage, spinach, and other greens; beets; carrots; turnips; fennel; broccoli; cauliflower; hard squashes; and persimmons, plus citrus fruit from the Rio Grande Valley, dairy products, eggs, and grass-fed, hormone-and-antibiotic-free beef, lamb, pork, bison, goat, and poultry – plenty of food to warrant a seasonal celebration!
Since that humble beginning in 2007, Eat Local Week has grown every year, increasing restaurant participation and adding events that appeal to Austin's diverse community. As the area craft-brewing scene exploded and more Texas distilleries opened, events were added to showcase those products, and the title evolved into Eat Drink Local Week. (See "Eat Drink Local Event Schedule," below, for a schedule of events.) The crown jewel of this year's celebration is An Evening With Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson, author-activists and influential architects of the modern sustainable-food movement. Tickets to the presentation were so coveted that both the originally scheduled evening event and an added matinee sold out quickly. For the first time this year, the festivities commence with an online Chef Auction (www.edibleaustin.com/auction), in which foodies can bid on personal dinners for eight guests, to be prepared in the winner's home or a private venue by renowned area chefs David Bull, Bryce Gilmore, Jesse Griffiths, Zack Northcutt, Will Packwood, Sibby Barrett, Terry Thompson-Anderson, and chefs from the Sustainable Food Center's Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre.
Eat Drink Local Week activities provide a valuable spotlight for area restaurants, growers, food artisans, winemakers, craft brewers, and distillers while raising much-needed funds for two worthy food-related local nonprofits:
• The Sustainable Food Center operates three of Austin's busiest and most successful farmers' markets and increases access to healthy, local food through programs such as Grow Local, Farm Direct, Sprouting Healthy Kids, and healthy cooking classes at the Happy Kitchen.
• Urban Roots was created the same year as Edible Austin as a farm program for at-risk high school kids under the auspices of the multidimensional YouthLaunch. The program has grown from one small plot to a 3.5-acre urban farm that provides annual paid internships for area high school students as they learn to cultivate, grow, market, and distribute organic produce for themselves and the local community. Urban Roots recently celebrated its transition from being one of several programs under the YouthLaunch umbrella to being an independent nonprofit entity. Donations generated during Eat Drink Local Week will support worthwhile programs of both SFC and Urban Roots as they give back to the entire community – everybody wins.
As Eat Drink Local Week has grown, the indefatigable Camp has tweaked the schedule and ironed out kinks. For example, when area farmers complained that staff at some of the restaurants listed in the EDLW promotional materials couldn't name or describe the local dishes offered, Camp developed a plan to solve the problem. She made a diligent effort to pair newly recruited restaurants with area growers and required that each participating restaurant submit a description of its featured dish along with source information before Thanksgiving. Now, when Austinites dine out during EDLW, participating restaurants will present special printed menus describing their local offering and its sources. Refer to the handy list of restaurants and local dishes on the Edible Austin website when making plans to dine out during the coming week. Support the local economy and our vibrant local food scene by eating and drinking local Dec. 3-10 – you'll be glad you did.
Eat Drink Local Event Schedule
Buy tickets for the following events online (www.edibleaustin.com) or at the events. Visit the same website for a list of 40-plus restaurants that will feature a locally sourced special entrée on their menus during the week.
Urban Farm Bike TourSaturday, Dec. 3, 9am; multiple locations
This family-friendly outing has been expanded this year, with optional longer rides and stops at urban farms and school and community gardens. Tours will depart from three separate locations: Bicycle Sport Shop, 517 S. Lamar (9am); the Downtown Farmers' Market (10am); and the Triangle (9am). $30; kids under 16, free.
Pig Roast and Harvest DinnerSaturday, Dec. 3, 4-7pm; Springdale Farm, 755 Springdale Rd.
Work up an appetite for this party during the bike ride, then feast on local pork and seasonal side dishes with the added bonus of live music and tours of Austin's newest urban farm. $30.
Coffee and Chocolate FestivalSunday, Dec. 4, 11am-3pm; Texas Coffee Traders, 1400 E. Fourth
Several area coffee roasters will present coffees and coffee drinks to complement the delectable sweets from new, local chocolatiers such as Edis' Chocolates, Delysia Chocolatier, and Sip, as well as perennial favorites Miles of Chocolate and Cocoa Puro. $25.
BeneFeast: 'Moonstruck'Monday, Dec. 5, 7pm; Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar
Alamo Executive Chef John Bullington has designed an Italian-immigrant-inspired New York menu with wine pairings to enhance this delightful romantic comedy. $70; purchase tickets online at www.drafthouse.com.
Better Bites of Austin's 0x000AHoliday Gift FairWednesday, Dec. 7, 4-9pm; the Domain, 11410 Century Oaks Terrace
More than two dozen local food and beverage artisans will present samples of their wares at this free event that offers excellent holiday shopping opportunities.
Drink Local NightThursday, Dec. 8, 6:30-9:30pm; AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, 1900 University Ave.
Be on hand in the grand ballroom as River City's best mixologists compete to have their local libation designated as the Official Drink of Austin for 2012. Enjoy appetizers from Swift's Attic, BC Tavern, the Carillon, and Lick Ice Creams. $35.
Local Brew FestSaturday, Dec. 10, 1-5pm; Black Star Co-op, 7020 Easy Wind #100
Meet and greet some of Central Texas' most accomplished craft brewers at this popular party while sampling their brews. $20.