Last Thursday, the Dallas Farmer’s Market played host to the city’s first Farm-to-Table Caucus Dinner, situated within an elegantly transformed Shed #3. Texas House representatives from opposites sides of the aisle, David Simpson (R) and Eddie Rodriguez (D), spearheaded the event to support local farmers and ranchers throughout the state. Both were present in order to express their passion for the common initiative; and, also, to relate the importance of educating the public on the benefits of purchasing local, fresh provisions, while eschewing processed foods.
The Caucus disseminated invitations to purveyors and chefs alike to participate in this unique event and delighted in the interest. Among the chefs who responded with alacrity were Graham Dodds of Hibiscus, Adam West of The Porch, Mark Wootton of Garden Café, Sharon Hage of Farm-to-Table Consulting, and Jeff Kent of Knife. Proud Texas vintners, Wedding Oak and William Chris Vineyards, readily offered to donate their delectable grape juice, and brewers including Franconia Brewing Company and Grapevine Craft Brewery were also present to provide refreshment in the form of local, artisan beers.
The evening commenced with a reception in which guests were offered samplings of the wines and brews available, and encouraged to patron the fruit and vegetable stands of the dozen farms represented throughout the evening. Of convincing popularity this particularly warm summer evening was William Chris’s Blanc du Bois, one of the first sparking wines ever produced on Texas soil. For those opting for a refreshing still beverage, Wedding Oak’s Terre Blanc, a blend of Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousssanne, proved satisfying.
The open forum provided a relaxed environment in which the food was served family style, and bottles from William Chris Vineyards and Wedding Oak’s flowed freely. The appetizer course consisted of a red snapper ceviche accented with fresh avocado, poblano, heirloom radish and cilantro. A tremendous favorite, requests for seconds could hardly be accommodated. A salad course of heirloom tomato, cucumber, Bibb lettuce, watermelon and goat cheese followed. The crisp contrast of sweet watermelon, acidic tomatoes, and rich cheese left the palette primed for the carnivorous main course to follow. Heaping platters of perfectly smoked beef short rib and jalapeño sausage were delivered with sides of summer squash casserole, jalapeño cornbread that masterfully disguised the potent peppers, and a greens mix of collard, mustard, and chards that seemed to disappear into the ether before the plate pasted four guests’ plates. Capped off by a Texas peach and blackberry cobbler with buttermilk ice cream, only one word could best describe the feast: comforting.
I enjoyed the opportunity to speak at length with Graham Dodds of Hibiscus, and was extremely intrigued and impressed by each chef’s interest in the cause and concerns for the issues of obesity and diabetes plaguing society. When pressed to identify the author of any one recipe, he informed it was a truly collaborative effort. In a society smitten with “throw-downs” and “cook-offs,” I found this sense of unity to be extremely comforting. The pints of organic cherries and strawberries that accompanied me home only enhanced my aforementioned comfort.