The Sustainable Food Center, which runs four area farmers markets, as well as food education, cooking classes and gardening programs, hosts an annual fundraiser called Farm to Plate that is coming up on May 10.
First off, it’s the 10th annual year for the event, but secondly, the organization is nearing $1 million in money raised through this upscale affair at the beautiful Barr Mansion, 10463 Sprinkle Road. (It really is beautiful.) Over the past nine years, SFC has raised $900,000.
Logically, this year should be the year they cross that million-dollar milestone.
At this year’s party from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, chefs from dozens of restaurants, catering companies and food businesses will be sharing bites of their best dishes. Participating chefs include PJ Edwards (Chicon and Contigo), Peter Maffei (Cannon + Belle), Nicholas Yanes (Juniper), Michael Paley (Central Standard), Sonya Cote (Eden East).
Tickets are $300 at sustainablefoodcenter.org. Yeah, that’s pricey, but it is one of the nicest food events of the year and the primary fundraiser for the nonprofit.
At the party, organizers will present the City of Austin with the Sustainable Food Changemaker Award. According to SFC, the Changemaker award honors individuals and organizations that have contributed to their mission in a significant way
“We have been strong partners with the City of Austin since our inception 41 years ago,” Ronda Rutledge, executive director of Sustainable Food Center, said in a release. “Through its comprehensive plan – Imagine Austin – our local government has made it a priority for Austin to be a thriving, equitable, and ecologically resilient community through a healthy and just local food system. Growing, selling, eating, and recovering food locally creates jobs, strengthens the economy, improves public health, and reduces transportation impacts. I’m proud to live in a city that espouses these incredible goals.”
Looking for a healthy treat to bake for an upcoming picnic, potluck or end-of-school party?
With oats, apple and dates that are rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber, these date and apple squares from “Have Your Cake and Eat It” author Mich Turner are way better for you than a buttercream-frosted cupcake. The bars are naturally sweetened with the dates and apples and have less sugar than you’d typically use in a bar or brownie. You can store them for up to five days in an airtight container at room temperature or chilled.
Date and Apple Squares
12 ounces cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups Medjool dates
3/4 cup soft light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups rolled oats
Generous 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the base and sides of a 12-inch-by-8-inch pan with parchment paper.
Place the apple in a saucepan with the lemon zest, lemon juice and the cinnamon. Bring to a boil and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes until tender.
Add the dates and 1/4 cup of the sugar and cook for 5 minutes until the mixture is a stiff paste, but not dry. Be careful not to let the mixture boil dry. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons water if this is looking likely. Remove from the heat.
Put the flour, remaining sugar and oats into a bowl and mix together. Make a well in the center and pour in the melted butter. Mix together to form a crumbly mixture.
Press half the oat mixture into the bottom of the pan and press down firmly. Spread the apple and date mixture over the base, then top with the remaining oat mixture. Press down firmly. Bake for 35 minutes until golden. Leave to cool in the pan, then cut into 16 bars.
More than 1,000 Big Green Egg fanatics are taking over Camp Ben McCulloch for the 15th annual Texas EggFest. This celebration of all things barbecue and a bestselling ceramic smoker started out as a smaller promotional event with BBQ Outfitters, which started in Austin and now has a location in San Antonio.
Since 2014, the event has taken place at the event venue at 18301 FM 1826 in Driftwood, and this year, Texas EggFest returns from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 29, where you can take cooking classes, watch cooking demonstrations, listen to live music, try samples of food from chefs, including Will Rivera of Cured in San Antonio, and shop barbecue accessories.
There will also be a Big Green Egg cook-off with teams competing from around the state. Carolyn Wonderland, Elijah Ford & the Bloom and Lost Pines are scheduled to perform. Tickets cost $35 and benefit the food banks in Central Texas and San Antonio. You can find them at texaseggfest.com.
Only if there are peanuts involved, says Hershey’s, which announced today that it is now selling a Texas-themed BBQ PayDay bar for the next few months.
Salty peanuts are a favorite bar snack, and barbecue is a favorite, well, everywhere in the Lone Star State, so it makes sense that Hershey’s would bring the two together in a limited edition candy bar.
The bar is part of a “Flavors of America” line that puts a regional twist on six classic candies and candy bars, including Twizzlers, Kit Kats and Reese’s. The Strawberry Kit Kat comes from the California Strawberry Festival, while the Hershey’s Kisses Coconut Almond Flavored Candies “transcend your taste buds to the beaches of Hawaii.”
Our friends in Georgia inspired Hershey’s to make a Honey Roasted Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. “The twist on a classic offers a mixture of sweet and salty peanut butter notes complete with a hint of floral, amber and molasses – all providing the sweet taste of Georgia.”
And the BBQ PayDay: BBQ-seasoned peanuts surround the chewy caramel center” is how the company describes it. (I haven’t yet seen one while browsing the candy aisles with my kids, but when I find one, I’ll let you know.)
Also in the line are Key Lime Pie and Orange Cream Pop Twizzlers, and New York Cherry Cheesecake Bars.
You can buy them wherever you’d buy a PayDay, and you can also find them online.
The grocery world has been abuzz about 365 by Whole Foods Market, the new retail concept from the Austin-based grocery, but it wasn’t until this week that Central Texas got its first location of this new chain-within-a-chain.
On Wednesday in Cedar Park, the area’s first 365 opened — the fourth location overall — with a packed parking lot, a store teeming with shoppers and lots of excitement about what this new store means to the local grocery eco-system.
I hosted my weekly Facebook livestream from the store, but I wanted to compile 10 things I think you should know about the store before heading up to Cedar Park to check it out.
1) Not everything in the store is a 365 product. Early reports indicated that these new stores would be predominately stocked with Whole Foods’ private brand, and that number turns out to be around 40 percent. The rest of the goods are from national and local brands you’d find at a traditional Whole Foods.
2) Most of the produce is priced by the each. That means an apple costs 85 cents or a banana 19 cents, much like at Trader Joe’s. Some of the irregularly sized produce, such as potatoes, are priced by the pound, and customers weigh out the produce to print out a sticker, similar to Central Market.
3) Good luck finding a reasonable amount of cilantro. Two small nits, but ones I wanted to bring up. For the most part, I was pleased with the store’s grocery options, shopping flow, vibe, etc, but I had two memorable hiccups. I went to buy cilantro, and the only option was this 10-pack of cilantro for 95 cents that was so huge, I couldn’t even wrap my hand around the stalks to show you how much cilantro was bunched together. The roots are attached, so it’ll last longer, but I certainly didn’t need all that cilantro. I mentioned to the produce guy that this was waaaaaaay too much cilantro and that I wasn’t going to buy it because I knew 9/10ths of it would go to waste. He said, “Well, that’s how the local supplier gives it to us” and didn’t seem to care too much about getting the feedback, which also rubbed me the wrong way. It’s opening day. Customers are going to give you feedback. It’s your job to take that feedback, even if you can’t do much about it. (However, I imagine if the farmer who labored to grow this cilantro knew that 90 percent of consumers thought it was too much to eat without wasting most of it, he/she would probably appreciate that feedback.)
4) The small selection isn’t too limiting, until it is. My other nit: The 365 stores have about 8,000 products, a small number compared to the 30,000 or so in a traditional store. I didn’t mind having fewer options in each category, but that changed when I went to buy tortillas, and the only flour tortilla option they had were these rustic flour tortillas from California for $2.59. Maybe I’ve been living in Texas for too long, but I want several different options when it comes to tortillas. They had corn and other gluten-free tortillas, too, but I wanted a couple of different sizes to choose from — or at least tortillas that hadn’t been on a truck for a few days before getting here. They were also high priced for a store trying to sell itself on value.
5) The loyalty card is promising. I am usually not a huge fan of loyalty cards. At Randall’s, for instance, the loyalty card pricing annoys me because only after the membership discount are the prices even close to what you can get elsewhere. I also don’t use the gas rewards program for that store, which I hear is a game-changer for people who do. (I promise to try to have a more open mind about it going forward.) At 365, members get 10 percent off products at the end of most of the aisles, as well as permanent discounts on some of the meat and seafood. The card also acts as a punch card for deals, like buy 5-get-1-free berries. Yesterday, they had an additional 40 percent off some of the marinated chicken and ribeye steaks for people with the card, so I stocked up. With those discounts, I spent $44 on the groceries you’ll see above, including nearly seven pounds of meat/fish. That bag of Brussels sprouts cost $2.50, which is comparable to how much they cost at H-E-B, if not a little less, and they were also offering $5 off your first $25 purchase with the card.
6) Just like the regular Whole Foods, you can find a large selection of hot prepared foods, priced at $7.99 a pound. You can also order tacos, burritos, tortas and bowls to go from the back of the store.
7) How to get there: I got lost on my first trip to the store because it wasn’t yet in Google Maps. You’ll exit off the toll road in Cedar Park at New Hope Drive and then take the U-turn under the toll road. The store is north of Whitestone, south of New Hope and sandwiched in between the old U.S. 183 and the toll road.
8) They have a nice selection of fresh pasta. It’s sold in a freezer case, but at about $2.99 per package, that’s a great deal. (I bought some of that tri-colored linguini for dinner this week.)
9) Easy Tiger breads, pretzels and other treats are for sale. Juiceland products are available, too, but that’s not quite as unique to the area as Easy Tiger’s baked goods. (There are several just down the highway, but Easy Tiger is located downtown.) Both Austin brands are part of the “Friends of 365” program, so they have satellite stores within the grocery store.
10) The overall experience is great, but not enough to draw customers from very far away. I really did enjoy the entire shopping experience at 365, but with other similar competitors, namely Sprouts and Trader Joe’s, much closer to where I live, I won’t be driving up to Cedar Park to shop. Austin is a grocery lovers’ paradise, but if you live in the Northwest region of the metroplex and like a good baguette and Meyer lemon chicken, I imagine that 365 will be part of your grocery circuit. Jeff Turnas, president of 365, says they are looking at other locations closer to Austin, and when those stores start to open, Whole Foods will really start to attract the urban millennial consumers they are seeking.
The store has been hosting opening events all week, including a VIP meet-and-greet tonight, but you can’t shop there until Wednesday at 9 a.m. when the doors officially open.
Today, my colleague Gary Dinges and I toured the store to get an inside look at how the new concept is different than a traditional Whole Foods’ — hint, you might be weighing some of your own produce — and what customers can expect on Wednesday. (We also tried out this VR simulator Whole Foods hired local developers Hunt, Gather to produce. If you’re at the store and get a chance to check it out, give it a try. I got to pretend break a bottle of champagne on the floor.)
Check out Gary’s story here (or in tomorrow’s print edition), and have a look at the video I put together after the tour was over. On Wednesday, I’ll host a Facebook livestream so you can see the store on opening day.
Here’s a handful of other healthy potato recipes that we are featuring in this week’s Wednesday food section for dishes like roasted potato salad with mustard-walnut vinaigrette; crab, spring potato and watercress salad; and a baby potato, greens, garlic and chickpea hash (above).
Italian Potato Lasagna
2 cups ricotta cheese
Zest from 1 large lemon
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces baby spinach, stems removed and leaves thoroughly rinsed and dried
Freshly ground pepper
1 (23-ounce) jar tomato sauce
12 ounces ready-t0-bake lasagna sheets
12 ounces shredded Italian cheese blend
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment or aluminum foil. Set aside.
Place the ricotta in a medium-size bowl and stir in the lemon zest, eggs, basil, red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Scrub the potatoes well under cold running water. Fill a medium-size bowl with cold water. Slice the potatoes into 1/8-inch-thick planks and immerse in water while you work with the other vegetables.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil appears to shimmer, add the onion, red bell pepper and garlic and stir-fry the medley until the onion and red pepper are light brown around the edges, 7 to 10 minutes. Add half the spinach leaves and cover the pan. Wilt for 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining leaves and wilt for another few minutes. Dust with freshly ground pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir.
Drain potatoes and rinse again. Give the colander a good shake to rid the potatoes of excess water.
Spray a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Pour in enough sauce to thinly coat the bottom. Place one third of the pasta sheets to cover the bottom. Spread half of the ricotta over the sheets. Arrange a layer of half the potatoes on the ricotta, followed by half of the vegetable medley. Pour and spread some of the remaining sauce, then sprinkle on one third of the cheese.
Place another third of the lasagna sheets on top and repeat the layering, using up all the ricotta, potatoes and vegetables, and half of the remaining sauce and cheese. Place the last of the sheets over this, followed by the remainder of the sauce.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it on a cookie sheet in case the cheese and sauce spill a bit during baking. Bake the lasagna until the sides look bubbly and the center of the lasagna, when pierced with a knife, reveals a hot, cheesy, bubbly interior, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top and return the uncovered pan to the oven. Let the cheese melt, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool for 15 minutes. Serves 8.
The nonprofit, which has a farm and an orchard east of Austin, has teamed up with the cider maker to host a grafting workshop and Earth Day party this Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at Texas Keeper’s Taproom, 12521 Twin Creeks Road, Manchaca, TX 78652.
Tickets to the workshop cost $35, but if you only want to go to the party, a ticket costs $4. You can buy them and find out more through the Eventbrite page. Participants will learn about the history and techniques of grafting and then take home some Southern heirloom apple trees they’ve grafted in the workshop and can plant at home.
Activities outside the workshop including an heirloom plant talk, seed-saving tutorials, a seed swap and live music, and you’ll get to try cider from Texas Keeper and food from Cultivo Salsa Company & Catering.
Bummed to have had to miss the kite festival last month?
Edible Austin has another family-friendly, activity-filled outdoor event with Sunday’s fifth annual Edible Austin Children’s Picnic. They are calling it a real food fair, one that celebrates the many farmers, cooks, makers and musicians who make Austin’s food scene so vibrant.
From 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Rosewood Park, 2300 Rosewood Ave., will come alive with families picnicking on the grass, listening to live music, enjoying food from local vendors and doing activities, such as planting a square foot garden, doing yoga or listening to stories from local farmers and artisans.
Some of the food businesses that are participating include Adelee’s All Natural, Bento Picnic, Buddha’s Brew, Dulci’s Milks, Rhythm Superfoods and Veggie Noodle Co.