Feeling a strong connection to the past at Texas Foodways' historic locales
Last weekend's third annual Foodways Texas Symposium offered three busy days of panel discussions, hearty meals, and serious networking opportunities. The festivities served as something of a coming-out party for new Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn, along with the first look at his forthcoming book The Prophets of Smoked Meat (Anthony Bourdain/Ecco, $29.99). It sounds as though his will be a very interesting job, getting paid to travel Texas and eat barbecue. I found the food service aspect of the event vastly improved this year, thanks in part to the organizational abilities of Kristi Willis and her army of graduate student volunteers, who made each service so attractive and kept the food and drinks flowing. The only complaint I heard Friday or Saturday had to do with the morning coffee running out too soon, but with all the expert coffee roasters around town, finding someone to sponsor the coffee and solve that problem shouldn't be difficult. It was great to see so many local and state businesses pitching in: Dublin Bottling Works, Blue Bell, Amy's Ice Creams, Atkinson's Candy Company, Dripping Springs Vodka, Paula's Texas Spirits, in addition to the chefs and restaurants who supplied the meals. The true revelations at each meal turned out to be David Norman's exemplary breads from Easy Tiger – from the perfect white bread slices paired with Franklin Barbecue's brisket and the pumpernickel alongside Dai Due chef Jesse Griffith's authentic German sausage and sauerkraut feast to the perfect baguettes for sopping up the smoky sauce on Adam Saxenian's barbecued crabs – Norman's breads were just spectacular. The well-balanced and artfully presented boxed breakfast from Patina Green Home & Market in McKinney was a lovely way to start the day on Saturday. I was proud to serve the last of the 2012 Caskey Orchards peaches and McCall Creek Farms blackberries from the freezer in cobblers on Saturday night, managing to hold my own next to the (newly crowned State Pie of Texas) pecan pie from Royers. I had some fascinating conversations, as well: interviewing charming sausage scion Bryan Bracewell during a panel, learning all about garden coaching from former Austin American-Statesman gardening columnist Renee Studebaker, and dining with two of the Martinez sisters, Cecelia Muela and Gloria Reyna, hearing them speculate about who in the next generation of their family will pick up the mantle (and the workload) required to operate their family's 60-year-old restaurant, Matt's El Rancho. Attending events in two of Austin's most historic locations, the Saengerrunde Hall and the grounds of the French Legation, and knowing that we were congregating, learning, and celebrating over food where thousands of Austinites have done the same for the past 150 years provided a rich historical connection that enhanced the entire endeavor for me.
Look for this week's restaurant news at our On the Range blog at austinchronicle.com/blogs/food.