Willie Nelson adds $5,000 grant to Austin Food & Wine Alliance giveaway

The Austin Food & Wine Alliance has a new backer you might have heard of.

After last year’s fundraiser at Willie Nelson’s ranch near Spicewood, Austin’s most beloved citizen has donated $5,000 to add another grant for the nonprofit’s culinary innovation grants.

Willie Nelson has donated $5,000 to the Austin Food & Wine Alliance for a grant to support local culinary innovators. Scott Moore for American-Statesman

Over the past seven years, the food and wine alliance has granted nearly $200,000 in grants to local food businesses, chefs and food startups.

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At an awards ceremony in December, they’ll give away an additional $60,000, including a new $5,000 Luck, Texas grant from the one and only Willie. That grant will be “awarded to a chef who follows his/her dreams without compromise and whose inspiration and vision have similarly contributed to the American roots narrative by leaving a distinctive mark on culinary culture.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 12, via austinfoodwinealliance.org.

Past recipients have included farmers, artisan producers, chefs, wine/beer/spirits makers and small culinary businesses/culinary professionals, including Argus Cidery, Salt & Time Butcher Shop & Salumeria, Blacklands Malt, New Farm Institute at Green Gate Farms and Miche Bread.

In addition to hosting several high-profile food fundraiser events throughout the year, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance is hosting its annual Culinary Arts Career Conference next week, which will bring together more than 500 culinary students from the Austin area.

“Being able to support and enable the dreams of so many in our community is truly a heartfelt mission for our organization,” executive director Mariam Parker said in a release. “We are privileged to do this work and are so grateful and inspired by the many chefs, artisan producers, bartenders, wine- and spirit-makers who have contributed to our remarkable culinary landscape.”

Got an old piece of wedding cake in your freezer? We want to see it.

Earlier this week, I told you the story of Zollie and William Goodrich Jones, a couple that married in Belton in 1890 and whose legacy lives on in a piece of their wedding cake.

Beth Norvell, the associate director of alumni relations at Mary Hardin-Baylor, found this piece of Zollie Luther’s wedding cake from 1890 in the museum’s archives. She doesn’t know what the cake is made of, but she said they are hoping to use historical recipes from the era to create a similar cake for alumni functions. Contributed by Beth Norvell

This delightful little gem of dried organic material is housed in the archive of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. It’s shriveled up and brown and not at all appetizing, but it got me thinking about the other pieces of wedding cake that are housed in freezers around Central Texas and the stories they tell.

Zollie Luther married William Goodrich in December of 1890, and Mary Hardin-Baylor University still has a piece of their wedding cake. Baylor’s Texas Collection has many photos, letters and papers from both Zollie and her sister’s family. Zollie died in 1934 at the age of 69. Courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

The tradition of a couple keeping a piece of wedding cake to eat for good luck on their first anniversary dates back to the 1700s, when a cake could be preserved with boozy fruit or wine, but since the advent of freezers, we’ve been keeping them around for a lot longer than a year.

I’d love to hear stories about wedding cakes you might still have or ones you held onto for a long time, but eventually decided to toss. You can email me at abroyles@statesman.com or call 512-912-2504.

Zollie Luther, a year or two before her marriage. Courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

To get you thinking about love a long time ago, here’s a poem that William wrote to Zollie on their 40th anniversary in 1930:

Forty years we’ve garnered joy,
Along with tears that oft annoy.

Forty cycles, fulsome, sweet,
where sunbeams and the shadows meet.

Forty dividends in life,
Without regrets and without strife.

Forty stars in firmament,
Have blazed the trail to life’s content.

Forty morns of silken lint,
Have twined our lives with love’s imprint.

Forty eves of golden tint,
Coined into years, a precious mint.

Forty hills climbed in the past,
Leading upward, reached at last;

Trails the path to summits crest,
Lengthening shadows in the west.

Forty sighs at set of sun,
Comes the Master’s voice: ‘Well done’

— William Goodrich Jones (Waco, Texas)

(From Luther-Bagby collection, Accession #1337, Box #1, Folder #16, The Texas Collection, Baylor University)


Meet the color-loving Austinite who has turned her love of sprinkles into a business

Thanks, in part, to the trend of unicorn food and other “internet foods,” Austin has its own sprinkle maker.

This unicorn sprinkle mix is one of many that Austinite Rosie Pierce sells on her website, Neon Yolk. Contributed by @neonyolk

Rosie Pierce is a local baker who runs a sprinkles company called Neon Yolk, which specializes in contemporary, custom-made sprinkles that are created around certain themes or colors.

Rosie Pierce and her husband Joseph run a company called Neon Yolk. Contributed by Neon Yolk.

Like Rachel Johnson, the author of a new book called, “Unicorn Food,” Pierce says that she was inspired by 1990s designer Lisa Frank. “Trapper Keepers, stickers, pencils, I had it all,” Pierce says. “It was definitely nostalgic for me, and I wanted to invoke that same feeling of fun, happiness and playfulness in our company.”

Here’s one of her popular (and ASMR-friendly) videos on Instagram:

View this post on Instagram

Mermaid 🧜‍♀️ Dream Sprinkle Mix 🎥

A post shared by Neon Yolk (@neonyolkshop) on

Pierce says she thinks unicorns have captivated us not just because of the nostalgia. “I think everyone loves unicorns because they represent something that’s unique and special, and that’s how we see ourselves,” she says. “More than ever we’re sharing our daily lives online, and fun, colorful foods provide us the opportunity to spread some sunshine to our friends and followers.”

Pierce created a special unicorn mix for Johnson’s book, and you can buy it — as well as dozens of other mixes that cost about $5 each — through her website, neonyolk.com.

Contributed by @neonyolk
Contributed by @neonyolk

Agriculture and Art: More than 20 area farmers to showcase artwork at upcoming exhibit

For the sixth year, local farmers have created pieces of art — including paintings, photographs and sculptures — for a Farmer As Artist exhibit at Prizer Arts & Letters, an art gallery at 2023 E. Cesar Chavez St.

This photo, by Christian Sacra of ANUME Foundation Farm, is called “Larry & George” and is part of an upcoming art exhibit at Prizer Arts & Letters. Contributed by Christian Sacra.

As the exhibit has grown, so has the number of contributors. This year, 23 local farmers will show at this exhibit, which is open from Sept. 8 to 28. You’ll see works from Boggy Creek Farm, Millberg Farm, Tecolote Farm, Urban Roots, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Munkebo Farm, Farmshare Austin, Agua Dulce, Joe’s Organics and ANUME Foundation Farm.

The opening reception, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

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Carol Ann Sayle of Boggy Creek Farm painted these tomatoes for this year’s Farmer As Artist exhibit at Prizer Arts & Letters. Contributed by Boggy Creek Farm.



Fresh Chefs Society raising money to teach cooking to teens in foster care

If you’re looking for an excuse to enjoy some delicious food and cocktails while mingling with people who are involved in Austin’s food and nonprofit scene, you’ll want to know about Fresh Chefs Society’s fall fundraiser coming up at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9 at a house in South Austin. (Link for tickets.)

Fresh Chefs Society teaches youth in the foster care system basic and not-so-basic culinary skills. The nonprofit has worked with more than 500 Central Texas teens since it started five years ago. Contributed by Fresh Chefs Society.

The event, which is the wrap party for a year-long capital campaign to hire a full time executive director, will have a happy hour vibe with cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres — from Foundation Foods, Launderette, Olamaie, Bespoke Food Austin and Dos Lunas Artisan Cheeses — silent auction and music from DJ Mahealani.

What does Fresh Chefs Society do? In five years, nearly 500 youth in Central Texas have participated in at least one of Fresh Chefs Society programs. One of the organization’s primary functions is to match local volunteers, including everyday home cooks and professional chefs, with young people who are in the foster care system but are learning how to live on their own.

“Through dynamic (and edible) programming, Fresh Chefs Society is providing a new way of connecting community to youth through food and creating experiences that enrich their lives, enhance their connection to food and give them important life skills,” says founder Shaleiah Fox.

Fresh Chefs Society has an upcoming fundraiser on Sept. 9. Contributed by Fresh Chefs Society.

General admission tickets cost $50, and there are other suggested donations that will help the organization expand its support of Central Texas teens. You can find out more about the event at freshchefssociety.org/feedingtheirfuture or buy tickets here.



As Hill Country peach season winds down, Kiwanis’ Colorado peach sale ramps up

After a longer-than-usual season, the Hill Country peaches are dwindling, but there’s still a few chances to get some really good peaches before the season ends.

The Northwest Austin Kiwanis host two peach fundraisers every summer, one in July and another in September. Contributed by the Northwest Austin Kiwanis.

In Fredericksburg and Stonewall, you’ll still find a few growers selling the last peaches of the year, but if you can’t make it out to the Hill Country this week or weekend, you have a few days left to place an order for Colorado peaches that are part of the Northwest Kiwanis Club’s twice-a-year peach sale.

You’ll remember that I love these giant peaches that this civic group sells to benefit dozens of location nonprofits. They host one sale in July with Texas peaches, and in September, they sell 22-pound boxes of Colorado peaches.

This year’s Colorado peaches will be available to pick up from 8 a.m. to noon on Sept. 7 at Anderson High School, and the deadline to order them is Aug. 30. You place an order ($45) at nwaustinkiwanis.org/peaches. If you have questions, you can call Bob Kohls at 512-345-9496.

Ahead of the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, here’s the recipe for Loro’s spicy sweet green salsa

As we enter the hottest stretch of the summer — I mean, have you seen the forecast lately? — it’s also time for the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, which returns for the 28th year on Sunday.

Paul Baker samples some extra-hot salsas at the 26th Annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival at Fiesta Gardens in 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The event, which takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia Street, will include tons of live music and free samples, but you can also buy jars of locally made salsas. Not all the salsas and hot sauces are super hot, but you’ll find plenty of those, too. Admission is free with a $5 cash donation to the Central Texas Food Bank, or three non-perishable food items.

Scenes from last year’s Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Several restaurants will be selling their salsas at the festival, but to find one of my favorite salsas in the city right now, you’ll have to head over to Loro, the Uchi/Franklin hybrid on South Lamar that is becoming known for its ample parking and frozen mango sake slushies.

Loro serves a bright orange salsa with peanuts and chiles and a green salsa with Thai chiles and green tomatoes. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

I’m partial to the gin and tonic slushy myself, but it’s this tangy, spicy, sweet salsa that I keep thinking about.

The restaurant serves the bright green dip with fried wonton chips, but if you can find the Pantai soybean paste at an international market, you can make a version of it at home and serve it with whatever kind of chips you like. The pineapple fish sauce is an infused ingredient they make at the restaurant, but regular fish sauce is fine.

Loro’s Green Chili Salsa

3 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/3 cups chopped green tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup Pantai soybean paste
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup pineapple fish sauce
3 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons Thai chile peppers, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
Salt to taste

Melt sugar in a saucepan with a splash of water. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend.  Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend, or for a more similar texture to Loro’s, use an immersion blender to combine. Salt to taste.

— Loro chef Jack Yoss


HausBar Farm’s beloved goose, Gustavo, writes a children’s book about urban farming

Dorsey Barger might be the head farmer at HausBar Farm, but Gustavo is the star.

Dorsey Barger has been farming at HausBar Farm in East Austin since 2009. Gustavo the goose has lived there for seven years. Contributed by HausBar Farm.

Barger is the co-founder of Eastside Cafe who went on to start HausBar Farm in 2009. Seven years ago, Gustavo came to live on the farm when he was two days old, Barger says. “He arrived in a box from the hatchery. I had to drive to the post office to pick him up,” she says in the campaign. “When I got him back to the farm, he jumped out of the box and took over the whole farm with his enormous personality, his huge heart and his gift for making people feel loved.”

On any visit to the farm, you’ll see Gustavo following Barger around the East Austin farm, keeping tabs on the rotating seasonal crops, which are sold to local restaurants.

It’s a sweet story in real life that Barger knew would make a sweet book, so she teamed with her mother, Barbara Adams, a painter, to create “On Gustavo’s Farm,” a new children’s book coming out this fall.

The authors are hosting several events in coming months to celebrate its debut, including a private dinner at 6 p.m. Oct. 13th in the farm’s outdoor kitchen space with chefs Michael CastiIlo and Emily Davis. The first general book signing event is “Cocktails with Gustavo” ($125) at 6 p.m., Oct. 20 that will feature drinks with Paula’s Texas Spirits.

At 10 a.m. on Oct. 27, HausBar will host a kid-friendly book signing ($100 donation for 2 adults and up to 2 kids) that will include the Tiny Tales To You mobile petting zoo, a book signing and “Gustavo on the Go” coloring activity station.

Barger is selling copies of the book and tickets to the book events through Indigogo over the next month, but the book will be available in other locations in November.



What would it take for AISD to serve organic milk, produce? More kids eating school lunch

As Austin-area parents and students are getting back-to-school supplies in order, local school districts are preparing menus, placing orders and preparing staff for another school year of feeding thousands of elementary, middle and high school students.

Austin Independent School District provides nutritious lunches to thousands of children every day, but food services director Annelise Tanner says that they could serve organic milk and produce if more students ate the school lunch instead of bringing their own. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Austin ISD serves more than 73,000 meals every day, but they only serve only about third of the students at breakfast and only about half at lunch.

My kids eat breakfast and lunch at school every day. Even if I weren’t a single parent, they would eat the school lunch. From having packed countless ham sandwiches and bags of chips for myself as a kid, I know that a hot meal made from whole ingredients is better than the granola bars and cheese sticks that constituted many of my own elementary and middle school meals.

But not every parent in AISD is as big a fan of the food as I am. I’ve heard from plenty of you who have said that you’d let your kids eat the school lunch if they served organic produce or grassfed beef.

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AISD food services director Anneliese Tanner has heard that argument a lot.

In a profile of her in 2017, she explained that the school district has more buying power when they serve more students, so the more students who buy school lunch, the better quality food they can serve everyone.

Many AISD schools now have salad bars, but the district can’t yet afford to buy all organic produce. Food services director Anneliese Tanner says they could buy all organic produce if every student who is currently not eating school lunch ate it twice a week. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

So, what would it take for AISD to be able to make those changes to the menu? Ahead of this school year, Tanner crunched the numbers to find out how many students would have to start eating the school lunch to serve grassfed beef, organic produce and organic milk.

Here’s what she found:

  • If every student not currently eating school lunch made the choice to do so once a week, all beef served in Austin ISD could be grassfed.
  • If every student not currently eating lunch ate school it twice a week, AISD could serve entirely organic produce.
  • If students who aren’t eating school lunch now ate it three times a week, AISD could serve organic milk at every meal.

It’s worth noting that about 45 percent of the ingredients used at AISD come from Texas suppliers, so when AISD buys more food, they are spending it with local companies and farms, including Johnson’s Backyard Garden, which supplies several seasonal vegetables to dozens of Austin schools.

You can view AISD’s menus and learn about their purchasing program at schoolcafe.com.


Back to School: Tips on encouraging kids to make their own lunches

I recently republished a column I wrote in 2009 about why my mom and dad did not make our school lunches when we were kids. If you’re making that transition in your family, here are some tips to help you get started.

School lunches don’t have to be a pain to pack, which is why children should be involved in the process. Contributed by Shefaly Ravula.
  • Don’t dump the lunch duty on kids on the morning of the first day of school. Talk with them a few days or a week ahead of time to prepare everyone for the change. Practice making a few lunches before school actually starts.
  • Be patient with them and show them how to do the various lunch tasks. Kids can get frustrated easily if they don’t know how to do something, but parents also avoid frustration themselves by just doing it for them. Remember: Give the kid a lunch; they’ll eat for a day. Teach them how to make their own lunch; they’ll eat for a lifetime.
  • Avoid rushed mornings by packing lunch the night before. Get creative with a Thermos. It’s great for soup, but you can also keep smoothies cool or things like chicken nuggets relatively warm.
  • Look over the school’s lunch menu and pick out a few days each month to eat the cafeteria lunch. It will give your kid a break from lunch-making duties and might encourage them to eat the school’s lunch more often.
  • Some quick, easy-to-pack foods include dried fruit, cheese, crackers, lunch meat, rice cakes, yogurt, applesauce, cottage cheese and fruit, such as apples, oranges, nectarines, plums and bananas. Use a reusable container to pack them, if you can.
  • Grains such as couscous and quinoa, which can be eaten at room temperature, are a blank palette for vegetables, nuts, herbs or anything your kids like. You could make a grain salad for dinner and plan to have the kids take leftovers to school the next day.
  • Now that school lunches are significantly better than they were when I was a kid, I would definitely recommend eating school lunch on the days that the menu item sounds appealing, even if the kids are hesitant at first.

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Break out of the sandwich rut

Here are some alternatives to peanut butter and jelly from chef and cookbook author Ann Cooper, founder of the “School Lunch Revolution” campaign:

If your kids like Italian sandwiches, this one packs well in picnics and lunchboxes. Contributed by Natasha Milne
  • Cashew or almond butter and honey on 12-grain bread.
  • Add dried cranberries and walnuts to chicken salad.
  • Stuff a salad in a pita (keep the dressing on the side if it’s going in a lunch box).
  • Turkey, cranberry sauce and a thin layer of mashed sweet potatoes or leftover stuffing.
  • Grilled vegetables with goat cheese on toasted whole-grain bread.
  • Grilled portobello with melted Swiss cheese, avocado and honey mustard.
  • Instead of the standard mayonnaise or mustard, use pepper jellies on ham, turkey and chicken sandwiches.
  • Skip the bread and use lettuce leaves as sandwich wrappers.
  • How about a fruit sandwich? Put slices of your favorite fruits between thin slices of banana bread.
  • Sit down with your kids and ask them to brainstorm sandwich ideas with you. You might be surprised by the combinations they come up with.