FLAVORS TO REMEMBER

The table is set for the Slow Food South Texas and Peeler Farm dinner featuring Chef John Brand.

I have a confession to make.  As a northerner I am not cut out for summers in South Texas.  I would like to say the heat makes me lethargic but I don’t think that is a strong enough word to describe my current state of being.  In fact when the mercury rises above 85F I reach a state of hibernation.  I slow down dramatically and find it difficult to accomplish much more than the basic tasks required to sustain life.  Luckily eating and drinking are a few of the “required tasks,” unfortunately blogging is not.

With my weak excuse laid before you, we can now get down to the crux of this post.  The highlights of the second dinner in the Slow Food South Texas Farm Dinner Series.  If I had to describe it in a few short words … amazing and delicious.  For those of you who need a little more than that continue reading for a slightly more wordy description.

While I had visited Peeler Farms before, I never made it very far past the pastures of chickens or utilitarian farm out-buildings.  After passing these familiar sights, I drove down the lengthy driveway and the Peeler Ranch came into view.  What stretched before me was a vast expanse of well manicured green lawn, surrounded by mature live oak, hickory and pecan trees, at the center of which sat the ranch homestead.  The home, a low slung one-story ranch surrounded on three sides with a deep screened in porch.  At the back of the house was a large slate and flagstone patio with flower beds and two long tables.  Each table was dressed with a white tablecloth, flatware, and wildflowers in mason jars.  The scene was both elegant and understated at the same time.

Guests enjoy the beauty of Peeler’s vista.

As the guests arrived they were treated to the music of Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist from the Band of Heathens, some aguas frescas, and an informal tour of the farm from Marianna Peeler.  Guests were encouraged to roam the grounds and a few of the younger guests even got the opportunity to hold one of the chicks.

Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist of “The Band of Heathens” entertain the guests while chef John Brand and his team prepare dinner in the Peeler’s screened in porch.

Marianna Peeler shows her guests one of the baby chicks.

After the tours, Chef Brand’s much anticipated 5 course meal began with a flourish of champagne and three hors d’oeuvres served as guests chatted on the patio.  The first to make it to me was the deviled eggs with black garlic.  While I will be the first to admit that fermented or “black” garlic is definitely an acquired taste, I will say that Chef Brand used them with a light hand balancing the sweet and savory flavors.  Marianna’s pasture eggs were cooked perfectly.  Firm whites topped with a creamy yolk and black garlic mixture.  The next hors d’oeuvre I tried was the chicken liver pâté.  Served in small mason jars topped with a rhubarb gelee, the pâté appeared deceptively simple.  It was only until I felt the smooth texture that I fully appreciated Chef’s skill.  The pâté was silky smooth and highlighted the robust flavors found in organ meat without being overpowering.  The last dish before being seated was one of my favorites of the night; smoked dates stuffed with blue cheese wrapped in candied bacon. I know, I know … none of these ingredients come from chickens but it was absolutely delicious.  Again the balance of sweet and savory was outstanding.

Black garlic deviled eggs.

Bacon wrapped stuffed dates. Can you say yum!

Chicken liver pate with rhubarb gelee.

After the guests were seated they were treated to an amuse bouche of flan “en cocotte.”  Using the egg-shell as a serving dish, the mild sweetness of the flan served as a palate cleanser while chef Brand described the night’s menu.

Each of the farm dinner’s courses was paired with a wine, highlighting the dishes flavors and encouraging conversation.

As introductions between neighbors grew into conversation, the wine began to flow, and  the servers began arriving with the “first” seated course of four different salads.  The dinner was served family style and the salads were of generous proportions as they flaunted the abundance of South Texas’ first harvest of summer.

I prepare to enjoy the bounty of summer.

Chef Brand’s salad of charred carrots.

Smoked salmon potato salad with fresh chives.

Watermelon, quinoa, and kale salad … sweet, bright, and crisp.

The color of the watermelon, quinoa and kale salad with its reds, yellows, and greens attested to its bright flavors; light, sweet, crisp and refreshing.  The potato salad was a little more substantial without being too heavy.  The smokey flavor of the salmon permeating the crème fraîche mixed with fresh chives.  Think sour cream and chives, but taken to a whole new level.  The grilled artichoke, arugula, and romaine caesar made a perfect bruschetta.  The crusty bread acting as the ideal crouton.  Finally, my favorite, the charred carrot salad.  The carrots’ natural sugars intensified by the carmelization.  Chef Brand had achieved the perfect balance of supple and firm; these were not your mother’s cooked carrots.

Guests enjoy the food as the amateur photographer in me enjoys the light.

As we feasted on the gifts of summer I forced myself to take a pause and save room for the main courses.  Chef Brand had prepared two dishes highlighting Marianna’s chickens.  The first was a roasted chicken served in beautiful copper dishes, the second a chicken confit and lentils; with my favorite herb marjoram.  In addition, chef also served a dish of braised lamb which I guiltily admit was my favorite dish of the night.  I know, I know, the lamb wasn’t grown on Peeler’s farm but it was too delicious and stole the show.  Since I cannot describe the flavors of each dish without appearing to be a complete glutton I will let you feast on them with your eyes.

Roasted chicken served family style in copper cookery.

Chicken confit with lentils.

Chef John Brand’s braised lamb stole the show.

As the sun set on one horizon, a full moon rose on the other.  While the guests’ stomachs had been satiated their hunger for good conversation and thirst for wine continued.  Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist resumed their playing and as twilight gave way to night the music mixed with the sounds of South Texas’ nocturnal fauna; providing a sublime soundtrack to the evening.  Regretfully, as I settled into my chair I realized another amazing dinner was almost over.  The servers reading my mind, brought the last course.

Guests listen to Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist of the Band of Heathens as twilight approaches.

Dessert consisted a plethora of truffles, macaroons, and a peach cobbler with sticky toffee pudding.  Like the courses before it, this last one was both bountiful and delicious, balanced in flavor and texture.  As the evening came to a close, the guests voiced their approval of chef Brand and his team.  Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist gave the musical lead to the songs of the Texas frogs and insects and the crowd slowly faded into the night.

A full moon rises as another amazing meal comes to an end.

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SCHOOL GARDENS

The following post was written by guest blogger Susan Rigg,  Slow Food South Texas Chapter President.

I’ll bet you’re not thinking about school campuses right now.  Why would you?  It’s summer, right?

Well, Slow Food is thinking about our two school campuses and how we can improve our programs for next year.  Some of you may not have heard, but the San Antonio ISD Foundation has awarded funds to our two schools to support our endeavors in the garden.  We will be working in partnership with them to make sure the students have another great year of learning about good, clean, and fair food.

Slow Food South Texas Chapter President Susan Rigg, teaches students from Bonham elementary the joys of gardening and eating local.

Last school year, Slow Food South Texas reached over 450 students each week or every other week with our School Garden Project.   At Lamar Elementary, we taught every grade level from Pre-K to 5th, and we were at the school teaching full days every other Monday from October until March (when state testing kicked in).  At Bonham Academy, we started our garden project in January and taught at the school every Thursday morning until the end of the school year reaching all of the students from Pre-K to second grade.

The response from the students was very positive, and it was a joy for me to show up in my Slow Food t-shirt and be greeted with, “Yay!  It’s Slow Food day!” as I traveled the hallways.  There is nothing quite like the excitement of a child who sees the inside of an artichoke for the first time, or sees how water can go directly from a solid to a gas when we studied the water cycle and brought dry ice for show and tell!

Next year, due to our SAISD grant we will be able to take our students on a couple of field trips out to some of the local farms.  We have made such great partnerships with our South Texas farmer’s who are eager to show young people what farm life is like.  So if you’d like to join the fun, come and see us at The Pearl Farmer’s Market every other Saturday, or contact us through the website at www.slowfoodsouthtexas.org.

Slow Food school sessions include both academic and hands on lessons.

Teaching children about the importance of healthy food is central to our purpose at Slow Food, but more importantly, we need to make fresh food fun for kids so they can grow up to make healthier choices.

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AND THE WINNER IS…

Congratulations Esther Cervantes, you are the winner of our VIP ticket Raffle.  Slow Food South Texas will contact you with details on how to redeem your winning raffle ticket.

Thank you to everyone who supported our local farmers today at Pearl and for everyone who purchased raffle tickets in support of Slow Food South Texas.

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VIP TICKET RAFFLE

 

The second of the Premier Farm Dinner Series is this Sunday, and you won’t believe how much work everyone is putting in to make this event “a meal of a lifetime.”

Once again, Slow Food South Texas will be hosting a ticket raffle.  This time the prize is a pair of VIP tickets valued at $300.00.  VIP tickets include all the farm dinner amenities plus roundtrip transportation from San Antonio to Peeler’s farm on a limo-van and complimentary champagne.

Raffle tickets will be sold at the Peeler Farms Poultry stand at the Pearl Farmers Market this Saturday June 2 from 9AM-1PM.  Single raffle tickets are $5 each but $25 dollars will get you six tickets.

Now you have one more reason to come out and enjoy a Saturday at the Pearl Farmers Market.  Just don’t forget to stop by Marianna Peeler’s booth to purchase tickets for a chance to win.

All proceeds for the raffle will be used by Slow Food South Texas in support of food education in the San Antonio area.

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THE MENU

I have to admit I am more than a little excited for the second dinner in our farm series, even more so now that I have seen Chef Brand’s 5 course tasting menu.  Yes, I said 5 courses.  

Passed hors d’oeuvres
Smoked Medjool Dates, Cave Blue Cheese and Candied Bacon
Black Garlic Deviled Eggs
Chicken Liver Pate with Rhubarb and Peppercorn Gelee
Aguas Frescas
Amuse Bouche
Toasted Cauliflower Flan ‘en cocotte’
First Impressions
Crispy Quinoa Kale, and Watermelon Salad, Fresh Dill and Toy Box Tomatoes
 Toasted Olive Bruschetta with Grilled Artichokes, Arugula, Romaine and Smoked Tomato Caesar
Smoked Salmon Pastrami and Peruvian Potato Salad with Chives and Crème Fraiche
 Charred Carrots, Pickled Sultanas, Carrot Meringue, Pistachio and Greek Yogurt
Features
Oyster Mushroom and Farro Porridge with Rosemary, Slow Poached Egg
Black Truffle and Meyer Lemon Roasted Chicken
Chicken Confit with Laurel and Marjoram, Brassica and Lentil du Puy
Braised Lamb Neck, Bearnaise Aoli
Closing
Sticky Toffee Pudding, Stonewall Peaches and Toffee Sauce
Truffles and Macaroons for the Table
Popcorn, Pretzel and Marshmallow

There is still time to get your tickets at Slow Food South Texas, but don’t wait too long because there are only a few remaining.

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PREMIER FARM DINNER SERIES II

This Peeler Farms pasture hen struts her stuff for the camera.

I know what you are thinking … really, another event?  The answer my friends is yes.  The time has arrived for the second dinner in our Premier Farm Dinner Series.

I will be the first to admit that this spring has been busy, with tasty Slow Food events joining the usual springtime San Antonio festivals.  But if you really think about it, having a plethora of high-caliber chefs creating meals out of quality local produce is a nice problem to have.  I don’t know about you but I am more than happy to join new friends and old, over a table full of delicious food and drinks, while I enjoy that last few weeks of spring.

The second dinner in our series will be on June 3, and is being hosted by Slow Food South Texas and Peeler Farms.  The dinner will feature the best aspects of various dining traditions; an elegant white table-cloth meal served family style at long tables surrounded by pastoral vistas.  Chef John Brand, of Las Canarias, is sure to wow with a minimum of 5 courses featuring Marianna Peeler’s pasture raised poultry and eggs.  The meal will include wine paired with the courses to highlight each dish.

As if this wasn’t enough, the live music will consist of the acoustic stylings of Gordy Quist & Ed Jurdi of The Band of Heathens.

Awesome cover art from the Band of Heathens “Live in Denver” album.

Tickets are on sale now at Slow Food South Texas.  VIP tickets include round-trip transportation on a limo-van from San Antonio to the farm in Floresville, along with Champagne and goodies.

For those of you who attended our first farm dinner you already know how great these events are.  For those of you who have yet to experience one, if the prospect of great food, great wine, great music and great company pique your interest, than this dinner is for you.  Seating is very limited so don’t wait to purchase your tickets.

You can read more about Peeler Farms poultry raising practices in my post FINDING BALANCE.  For those of you diehards asking yourself what happened to the blogging about the farms?  I promise this summer we will be back on track, featuring local farmers and their stories about raising the best food in South Texas.  But for right now I am busy blogging about EATING the best food in South Texas.

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AND THE WINNERS ARE …

Congrats to Lucy Lashover and Skylar Altman.  Lucy Lashover won tickets to the “Fine Swine Cook-off and Flavor Fest” and Skylar Altman won tickets to the “Farm-to-Family Picnic.”  Thank you everyone for leaving such wonderful comments and enjoy Food Revolution Weekend.

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