“Mash In Austin: Off With A BANG!”
By Brooklyn Brewery House Chef Andrew Gerson
From food cart to farmers market to fine dining, Austin is home to a food culture that is thriving, celebrated and truly enjoyed. Coming off a whirlwind week in Houston, my energy was reinvigorated as I stepped onto Boggy Creek Farm, and was greeted by Carol Anne’s favorite chicken. A five acre spread, nuzzled in the heart of east Austin, this urban farm is home to not only happy chickens, but 1.5 acres of cultivated land ripe for the picking. And picking we did. Our first breakfast for my lucky colleague, the magnificent Meg, was tacos with earthy lambs quarter, sweet baby carrots, and leeks that our silver-haired, majestic farmer, Carol Anne, had just dug up minutes earlier (bewildered at the fact that this Brooklyn boy was walking her farm barefoot in shorts and a t-shirt while her crew of hippy sun burnt farm boys shivered in the crisp morning air). A quick trip to Barton springs on this 90 degree day and a dip in the local watering hole reinforced my growing assumption that this week was going to be one adventure to remember, even if our tipsy evenings were making it easy to forget. (Continued below slideshow.)
With the craziness of SXSW just kicking into gear the town was electric. Droves of people roamed the streets, music bellowed from open-air, string-lit, Brooklyn beer-carrying watering holes, that give German bier gardens a run for their money. This town knows how to party, but also how to treat it’s eleven month growing season with pride and respect. I spent early morning s harvesting veggies from Springdale Farm, another of East Austin’s urban gems. Springdale is one of the four farms within a 20 block radius of where we were staying. I met the chefs of the best restaurants in Austin at the crack of dawn all eager to get the best picks from Glen and Linda at the Springdale Farmers market. This is a town that cares about its sourcing, supports its farmers, and eats well because of it.
My many phone calls with chef Mat Clouser of Swifts Attic left me eager to get into his kitchen two prepare our first Local 2 Ways dinner. Not even the sheer size of his sous chef Zack Northcutt could deter me from getting my hands on some nilgai antelope and turning it into tartar with a sprinkle of pecan gremolata, my interpretation of Mat’s famed antelope steak frites (which we served side by side). What a meal! Warm oysters with compressed cucumber- fingerlime mignonette, and a lamb and fig ragu with ricotta gnocchi that left this pasta enthusiast breathless, not to mention our guests. One long communal table, big bottles of Brooklyn Local 1 & 2 abounding and loud, boisterous conversation amongst strangers is what this The Mash is all about. After many celebratory drinks and an inebriated pact to meet up with Zack Monday morning to “pop caps” and eat BBQ I felt like a girl on prom night, slightly tipsy and ready to take on the next adventure.
Next stop, Chaos Cooking, at the home of our gracious host Pablo was all it was cracked up to be as one 21 year-old adorned in anarchy patches prepared us a cheese and artichoke dip. The dip was eaten along with many other delectable morsels from our varied guests around the backyard fire pit while the chaos in the kitchen ensued as 50 people scrambled for available cooking contraptions. All this plus a canoe filled with Brooklyn beer.
Springdale Farm, the host of our first slow supper, lit in hanging lights was enchanting, an 80 person spread along 10 picnic tables under a tent with the brisk wind nudging everyone just a little bit closer. Jesse Griffiths, Marcus Samuelsson and I prepared course after course on long wooden boards as bottles of Ama Bionda, Sorachi Ace & vintage Black Chocolate Stout piled up on the tables. A mind blowing art installation from Nuit Blanche New York was the malted whipped cream to our Mast Brothers chocolate and stout bread pudding. Winter is Coming was poured, but this felt like a summer retreat, especially since New York was covered in snow.
All packed up and ready to go I had one more anticipated stop in Lockhart to fill my BBQ desires. And Zack was right, BBQ tastes better with Gun Powder on your hands. Needless to say, we left Austin with a bang.
– House Chef Andrew Gerson
[Not America, In Lockhart]
[Sous Chef Zach Northcutt]
[Getting Fingers Gunpowdery]
[Krews Market, Oldest Flame In TX]