Food Matters: 5 Mile farm CSA goes extra mile; Independence Brewing's Convict Hill Stout and Balcones Distilling's Rumble Cask Reserve receive Good Food Awards
5 Mile farm CSA goes extra mile, lets you choose produce
January seems like an odd time to launch a community-supported agriculture program, but not in Texas, where garden beds and local farms are full of winter crops that can withstand our relatively mild winters.
For the past three years, Resolution Gardens has been helping people start gardens in their yards, and just this month, the nonprofit launched 5 Mile Farm CSA, which distributes the produce from nine of the local yard-farms that are part of the program to CSA members. Instead of getting a box of pre-selected produce each week, which is typically how CSAs operate, 5 Mile members can pick which produce they'd like to take home for their weekly allotment, says Resolution Garden founder Randy Jewart. (HausBar Farm in East Austin will provide some produce, eggs and chicken for CSA members to choose from, as well.)
"We've never had any trouble finding people who would like a farm in their yard," Jewart says. "It's the couple of thousand dollars in compost, irrigation and grass removal to turn that yard into a garden that we often need."
The money from the membership shares, which cost $20 a week for 13 weeks, will help the nonprofit turn more yards into gardens and to maintain the current gardens, including the home farm at 5213 Jim Hogg Ave. Members can pick up their produce from 10 a.m. to noon and 3 to 7 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the farm or on Sundays at the HOPE Farmers Market at the corner Waller and East Fifth streets.
Jewart says that although we've come to think of CSAs as buying a box of produce, the 5-Mile membership not only involves produce, but also monthly dinners and educational workshops, which are a chance for CSA members to get to know the Resolution Garden staff and people who are hosting gardens on their property and vice versa.
Each month, members can gather for a shared meal, prepared by a guest chef or a member of the farm team who wants to show off his or her cooking skills, and an education workshop about things like canning produce or building a vertical herb garden. "We want to share with members the things we are learning," Jewart says. The dinners and workshops are free to CSA members, and $5 for nonmembers.
Nonmembers can also buy produce from 5 Mile by stopping by two weekly farmstands: 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays at the Whip In, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the farm in North Austin. Nonmembers are also welcome to learn about farming during volunteer hours every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the main farm.
For a schedule of upcoming events and information on signing up, go to 5milefarms.com or call 743-4245.
Local brewery, distiller make their marks at Good Food Awards
Independence Brewing's Convict Hill Stout and Balcones Distilling's Rumble Cask Reserve both received Good Food Awards last week , as did Austin's Confituras, which makes jams, jellies and preserves.
The second annual Good Food Awards honor food and beverages that are "exceptionally delicious" and that also support "sustainability and social good," from five regions in the U.S.
Independence Brewing was one of 19 finalists and 12 winners in the beer category. Finalists were judged by a panel of brewing experts on their level of support for the local community, sourcing local ingredients and other criteria. Independence was the only Texas brewery represented in the category, alongside nationally acclaimed craft breweries like New Belgium from Colorado and Victory from Pennsylvania.
The Good Food Award also represents one of a number of prestigious awards Balcones Distilling has received over the past few years.
The Rumble Cask Reserve was one of 14 finalists and 11 winners in the spirits category, and also the only Texas distillery to make the final cut.
Finalists needed to "be able to trace all of their ingredients, from base distillate to added ingredients, without the use of genetically modified crops and without artificial additives," among other criteria to qualify for an award. Like the beer category, a qualified panel of industry experts chose the winners.
Death's Door spirits from Wisconsin, Leopold Brothers from Colorado, and Square One Organic spirits from Idaho were also winners.
- Emma Janzen
Food and wine briefs
• Austinites will finally get a chance to see what happened when Gordon Ramsay came to town last year to try to revive El Greco, the Greek restaurant near the University of Texas campus that now appears to have closed. The El Greco episode of "Kitchen Nightmares" is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. Friday on FOX. The episodes usually end with Ramsay revisiting the restaurant to see how it's done after he stepped in to help. It's rare, but not unheard of, for him to come back to find a restaurant closed for good.
• For years, Hudsons on the Bend chef Jeff Blank has taught monthly cooking classes out of his home that overlooks Lake Travis not far from his longtime restaurant on RM 620, and the classes are still going strong. At each class, he teaches students how to cook various dishes from the restaurant in either an indoor or outdoor kitchen space that was built for these kinds of classes. You can also hire him to teach a private class in the same format. Tickets for the classes cost $135, which includes wine and a full four-course dinner of the dishes he's taught. The January class takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday , and the February class is slated for Feb. 19. E-mail or call Sara Courington at email@example.com or 689-0133 to make your reservations. You can find the full class menus at hudsonsonthebend.com.
• Starting today, hundreds of Girl Scouts of Central Texas will kick off their annual cookie sales. Because this is the 100th anniversary for the nonprofit, the girls will sell a commemorative box of shortbread cookies in addition to the traditional cookies such as the peanut butter sandwich cookies, Lemonades, Thin Mints and peanut butter patties. They'll sell the cookies through Feb. 24. gsctx.org.
Turn canning jars into travel cups with lids
With the resurgence of canning in recent years still going strong, I can't be the only one with more Mason jars than I know what to do with.
We've started using some of them as drinking glasses, and now there's a product to make those glasses more portable. Two designers in Massachusetts just last week launched Cuppow, a plastic lid with a small drinking hole that fits on a wide-mouth jar in place of the canning lid and is secured in place by the metal canning ring that screws on to the jar.
Cuppow lids, which are made with BPA-free plastic at a production facility in the U.S., cost $7.99 each (plus a pricey $5 for shipping) and are available online at cuppow.com right now, but co-founder Aaron Panone says they are working on getting the product into regional retailers around the country.