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Food Matters: Rebuilt Barr hosting Farm to Plate

Staff Writer
Austin 360

When lightning struck the ballroom at the Barr Mansion in Northeast Austin in 2010, the resulting fire burned the longtime event facility to the ground.

But within a year, owner Melanie McAfee had teamed up with architectural artisans and Homestead Heritage near Waco to rebuild the ballroom using timber from a barn originally built in rural New York in 1790. The resulting building looks much like the old one, including the striking glass wall that faces the old house on the property, and the zero-waste facility, which is considered the nation's only certified organic event venue, is even busier than before. (Need proof? Check out their beautiful Pinterest boards at pinterest.com/?barrmansion.)

More than 100 weddings and events take place at the Barr Mansion, 10463 Sprinkle Road, each year, including the Sustainable Food Center's annual fundraiser Farm to Plate, which is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. (Tickets cost $125, including craft beer and cocktails, and are available at sustainablefoodcenter.org or by calling 236-0074.)

More than 25 chefs, including Charles Bloemsma of Green Pastures, Jason Donoho of ASTI Trattoria and FINO, John Bates of the Noble Pig, Rob Snow of Judge's Hill Restaurant and Shefaly Ravula of Shef's Kitchen, had to meet SFC's challenge this year: create a no-waste dish that doesn't require a plate, utensil or paper to serve or eat.

Ben Huselton of Paggi House decided to create a bite-sized serving dish out of a hollowed-out cucumber, which he'll fill with an avocado puree and a ramp and crab salad. Ramps, small wild onions that grow better in cooler climates and have created a bit of a frenzy in the Northeast in recent years, are a little hard to find in Central Texas, but some farmers at local markets have them, and they grow wild in many yards. If you can't find ramps, you can use green garlic, green onions or leeks.

Salt & Time charcuterie to open up shop this year

Salt & Time is getting a storefront.

The charcuterie company that started selling fresh sausages, pickles and dry cured meats at area farmers' markets in 2009 announced recently that it plans to open a brick-and-mortar store at 1912 E. Seventh St. this year.

Salt & Time Butcher Shop and Salumeria will allow owners Ben Runkle and Bryan Butler to expand their offerings to include sandwiches, soups and salads, as well as fresh cuts of meat from local and sustainable farms. Runkle says they hope to open the shop sometime this summer.

Eat tacos, support a good cause at tacorama

To help promote its new website, Latinometro.com, Latino magazine is hosting a series of free events starting Saturday to raise awareness about hunger in the community while celebrating one of Mexico's most iconic exports: the taco.

"Everyone in Austin loves tacos, but it's also important to help those in need," says Alfredo Estrada, publisher of Latino Magazine and founder of Latinometro. "Nearly one in three Latinos face hunger, but it's a problem that can be solved if we all get involved."

Tacorama kicks off with a festival from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center that will feature free tacos, refreshments, music by A.J. Castillo and TRAMPIA and kids' activities. Admission is free, but organizers are asking people to bring nonperishable food items for the Capital Area Food Bank. From 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, community leaders and Austinites will gather at the MACC for a town hall meeting, and author Gustavo Arellano will read from his new book "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America" at 7 p.m. May 9 at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. Cine Las Americas will screen two short films at 6 p.m. May 10 at Mexic-Arte Museum, with local chefs providing tacos for the cocktail reception beforehand. There will also be a silent auction at this event. Throughout the week, restaurants including Takoba, El Alma, Garrido's, Papi Tino's, Casa Chapala and Juan in a Million will feature a special taco on their menus, and people can vote for their favorite, which will be announced at the Pachanga Festival on May 12 at Fiesta Gardens. You can find more information at latinometro.com/tacorama.

Author shares her story of 'Love, Loss and Pie'

Beth Howard was taking a writing sabbatical in Terlingua in 2009 when she got the call she never imagined she'd get. Her 43-year-old husband had died just hours before signing the divorce papers she'd reluctantly filed.

The news sent the journalist and former Web producer into a downward spiral that took her across the country in her husband's RV, which she had always hated. She eventually landed in Eldon, Iowa, where she now lives in the famed American Gothic House.

Howard chronicles her story in "Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie" (Harlequin, $24.95), and she'll explain why her favorite dessert has helped her deal with life's hardest lessons at a free event at 7 p.m. Tuesday at BookPeople.

Lana Ross' Better-Than-Sex French Silk Pie

This pie won second place at the Iowa State Fair in 2010, which is the year Howard moved into the house made famous by artist Grant Wood's iconic painting.

For crust:

1/3 cup lard

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

Scant 1/3 cup water

For filling:

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups extra fine sugar

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

4 eggs

For topping:

2 cups whipping cream

4 Tbsp. powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. vanilla

Prepare crust by cutting the lard into the flour and salt. Gradually add water until all is moist. Roll out and place in a 9 or 10-inch pie pan. Blind bake for 15 to 20 minutes, then let cool.

For the filling, beat butter and sugar with a stand-up or hand-held mixer until light and fluffy. Blend in chocolate and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed for 5 minutes after each. Pour into cooled pie shell. Chill at least 4 hours. Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until thick. Pipe onto cooled pie. Garnish with chocolate shavings.

– From "Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie" (Harlequin, $24.95) by Beth Howard