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Food Matters: Thirsty Planet joins growing Austin brewing scene; plant sales abound on Saturday

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Local brewer ready to roll out barrel

A lot of local craft brewers' businesses still reside mainly in dreams and notebooks, but the owners of Thirsty Planet Brewery in deep Southwest Austin have successfully flown under the radar, raising more than $1 million, building a facility near the Austin Zoo, shipping in a 30-barrel brewhouse and more. The big news: They're maybe five weeks from shipping beer out the door to area bars.

Owners Brian and Tammy Smittle are set to roll out an amber, a wheat and a big India pale ale (75 international bittering units - that's a lot) with more specialty beers to come. "I like IPAs that take the enamel off my teeth," Tammy Smittle says.

Brian Smittle has a business degree and experience brewing in Vail, Colo., and Norman, Okla. They'll be self-distributing to start and aim to turn to a pro once they've got 100 accounts. They've already received more than 200 kegs, as yet empty, and a bottling line will soon follow. Check out thirstyplanet.net for more.

- Patrick Beach

Blogger pushes for higher food awareness

"Eat as though your life depends on it." That's the short, but to-the-point bio on Ren LeVally's Twitter page. LeVally is part of a growing online movement of socially conscious cooks who use their blogs to spread awareness of organic, raw and local foods, as well as the negative effects of processed and genetically modified foods. LeVally, who works as a systems administrator during the day, says Edible Aria (www.ediblearia.com) is a way to record his own food journey and connect with people who are trying to do the same. "Personal health and well-being are a major motivator, but I wouldn't give up on all the new friendships for anything," he says.

In his personal attempt to eat healthy and sustainably, he's creating - and chronicling - vibrant, sophisticated dishes, including this rabbit pan-fried in duck fat with creole mustard cream sauce. In just more than a year, he's built up a healthy following of readers who come back for outstanding recipes, as well as tips on creating "interesting food on a reasonable budget," he says.

- Addie Broyles

Pan-Fried Rabbit with Creole Mustard Cream Sauce

For the rabbit:

1 fresh pasture-fed whole rabbit, with giblets

1 cup sprouted spelt flour

2 Tbsp. Cajun-style seasoning

2 tsp. half-sharp paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rendered duck fat

For the sauce:

1 Tbsp. duck fat

1/4 cup yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup celery, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, slivered

1/2 tsp. champagne vinegar

2 cups light game, chicken or vegetable stock

1 sprig each of fresh bay, thyme and oregano, tied in a bundle

1/2 cup fresh cream

2 Tbsp. Creole mustard

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the rabbit: Cut up rabbit into serving-size pieces (2 forelegs, 2 back legs and 2 thighs), reserving the loin for another recipe. Rinse in plenty of cold, fresh water, then pat dry. Season liberally with salt and pepper, wrap in butcher paper and refrigerate 2-4 hours. Remove from refrigerator and wipe away salt, pepper and any accumulated moisture. Dust with flour mixed with Cajun-style seasoning and paprika, shaking off any excess.

Melt duck fat to a depth of about 1/2 inch in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add rabbit to the pan and fry as you would chicken, turning frequently until golden brown and the juices run clear. Transfer to a side dish, then sauté liver and kidneys in the same pan.

For the sauce: Melt the duck fat in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and celery and sweat until slightly softened. Moisten with champagne vinegar, then add stock and herb bundle. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced by about a third. Add cream and mustard and continue to simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Discard herb bundle and season to taste with salt and pepper.

- Ren LeVally, Edible Aria (www.ediblearia.com)

Talking local food on Austin airwaves

For more than 20 years, John Demers has been conveying his passion for food and travel over the airwaves in New Orleans and Houston, and now he's brought his radio show "Delicious Mischief" to Austin. The hourlong show, which already has featured chef Tyson Cole of Uchi and a trip to Lockhart for barbecue, airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on TalkRadio 1370. The radio gig is one of Demers' many food projects, which has included 40 books on everything from Mardi Gras (he's a New Orleans native) to "Marfa Shadows," his first novel, which comes out later this year. In between food segments, Demers talks wine and spirits in a segment called "Grape and Grain," which is hosted at the show's sponsor, Spec's. www.deliciousmischief.com.

- A.B.

Openings, closings & coming soon

Moved: Austin Homebrew Supply, which has a habit of changing locations almost as often as the Cedar Door, has moved once again from its Burnet Road location. You now can find it at 9129 Metric Blvd., on the east side of Metric between the U.S. 183 access road and Rundberg Lane in North Austin. 300-2739.

- P.B.

Food briefs

• Two Hill Country farms have banded together to form one of Central Texas' newest community-support agriculture programs. J.W. and Marion Ottmers and their son Kevin have farms near Stonewall that are less than 15 miles apart, and starting in May, the Ottmers will be offering weekly CSA boxes full of in-season produce. A 14-week membership costs $420, and subscribers need to pay a minimum investment of $210. (You can add a dozen farm eggs every other week to the subscription for an extra $28.) Austin subscribers can pick up their produce boxes at the Triangle farmers market on Wednesday afternoons or the downtown market on Saturday mornings. www.austincsafarm.com.

• At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Café Josie, 1200 W. Sixth St., will host a six-course `Wine Me Dine Me' dinner featuring Bin 36 wines. $55. Reservations at 322-9226 or winemedineme@cafejosie.com.

• On Thursday, cookbook author Tal Ronnen, who gained national fame by putting Oprah Winfrey on a 21-day vegan cleanse and catering the vegan wedding of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, will be signing copies of his best-selling book "The Conscious Cook" and demonstrating a recipe at Whole Foods Market downtown from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

- A.B., Mike Sutter

Get jump on vegetables with spring plant sales

March is a big planting month for Central Texas vegetable gardeners. You can start many plants from seeds, but often gardeners get a jump-start by planting transplants that have been growing in area greenhouses in recent weeks. On Saturday, three plant sales offer a large variety of heirloom and organic plants ranging from tomatoes and peppers to tomatillos and eggplant.

• From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, browse organic vegetable transplants and herb seedlings. Free. www.zilkergarden.org.

• From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sunshine Community Gardens, 4814 Sunshine Drive, get a tour of one of the largest community gardens in the city, enjoy live music, shop from local artists and pick from a large selection of plant varieties, including heirloom tomatoes. Free. www.sunshinecommunity gardens.org.

• From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the next three Saturdays , you can buy heirloom vegetable transplants from Johnson's Backyard Garden, 9515 Hergotz Lane. This Saturday, Slow Food Austin also is hosting a farm tour. Free. www.johnsonsbackyardgarden.com.

- A.B.