The Austin Chronicle


Finding community

By Virginia B. Wood, September 18, 2015, Food

Community-supported agriculture shares are fairly common around Austin, but the concept of community-supported restaurants is relatively new. Ideally, the program ensures that the restaurant gets a yearly infusion of cash while the patron enjoys a house gift card account at discounted prices, plus other perks such as advance sales on wine dinners, cooking classes, or special events. Two popular local independent eateries offer somewhat different programs. Lenoir (1807 S. First) has been offering shares annually since 2012 and sells about 25-30 per year, according to co-owner Jessica Maher. Every January, guests buy in at one of three levels - $1,000 for a $1,200 card; $2,500 for a $3,000 card; and $5,000 for a $3,000 card plus a private catered meal for eight with wine pairings and some other perks. Guests can use the cards for family or corporate meals, wine dinners, or special events at Lenoir. Maher says a predictable infusion of cash at the beginning of the year is beneficial to the restaurant and the program helps develop supportive relationships with her clientele.

Just in time to celebrate being named one of the Hot 10 best new restaurants of 2015 by Bon Appétit as they enjoy their first anniversary in the brick-and-mortar location, Dai Due (2406 Manor Rd.) is offering their first Rootshare program. According to chef and co-owner Jesse Griffiths, shares will be limited to 25, and for $2,000, patrons will get a $2,500 gift card that can be used in the butcher shop, the restaurant, to reserve space at beer or wine dinners or special events, or to book three-day hunting workshops or classes in the New School of Traditional Cookery. Card holders will get advance notice about all of Dai Due's special events during the year, as well as an invitation to a Rootshare members-only dinner in the fall or spring. Memberships will be valid from Sept. 9, 2015 to Sept. 9, 2016.

Mexico's independence from Spain is celebrated on Sept. 16 with food wherever there are Mexican communities around the globe. Longtime Chronicle contributor Claudia Alarcón is in Finland this week presenting an overview of Mexican cuisine from pre-Hispanic times to the present as part of Mexican Cultural Month sponsored by the Mexican Embassy in Finland at the University of Helsinki. Alarcón left Austin with ingredients such as peppers, grasshoppers, mezcal, and artisanal chocolate. She'll lead hands-on cooking demos and then share meals with the European Association of Mayanists. Much closer to home, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at UT is hosting a free talk by chef and culinary educator Abdiel Cervantes Escalona on the delicacies of the northeastern Mexican semi-desert. The talk takes place at 5:30pm on Thursday, Sept. 17, at the IBC Bank (500 W. Fifth) and will be followed by a reception catered by El Naranjo. Over the weekend, chef Escalona will be a guest in the kitchen at El Naranjo, where he will collaborate with chef/co-owner Iliana de la Vega on a cooking demo and luncheon on Friday, dinners on Friday and Saturday, and brunches Saturday and Sunday. Call 512/474-2776 for necessary reservations.

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