1) Breakfast tacos from a roadside trailer;
2) A farm dinner where everything is locally produced, right…over…there.
We went with the latter for a singular — and delicious — experience of the city.
In the last year, the Slow Food movement has increasingly become a part of our lives. At home, we seek out food that’s been sustainably produced, but when we travel, we’re also looking for food that’s local — specific to its place in the world.
I read about Dai Due Supper Club in the July 2008 Food + Wine; having a community meal set right in the midst of the farm where the food is harvested seemed both gastronomically altruistic and pretty darn romantic. When a trip to Austin turned into a chance to meet up with my parents and collectively skip Passover, a farm dinner seemed the perfect seder replacement.
Dai Due is the husband-and-wife team of Tamara Mayfield and chef Jesse Griffiths. To set up our dinner, I contacted Tamara by email shortly after booking our trip to Austin. She soon sent their schedule for our chosen weekend, and I pre-booked by sending a $50 per-person deposit by check. Dinners average $75 per person and are BYOB.
We attended the Farmhouse Challenge Dinner at Rain Lily Farm, which, I was surprised to discover, was in Austin proper…albeit on the economically depressed east side of town. My parents can attest to the crestfallen look on my face when we pulled up to what looked like a funky old shack and a scruffy lawn — but I’d been too quick to judge.
Nestled beside garden rows bursting with spring produce and flowers, not far from an oil drum barbecue, fenced-in goats, and an eclectic scattering of chickens, were long tables set with oil lamps and glassware. A folk/jazz duo, featuring guitar, clarinet and a moonshine jug, serenaded the evening. We were greeted with a grapefruit cocktail and encouraged to ice our wine and wander the fields.
About 500 feet from the street, we’d entered a whole other world.
As our 32 fellow diners began to arrive, we visited fluffy chicks in the tiny greenhouse, strolled along the edge of Austin’s concrete “river,” and said hello to Twig, the farm’s resident tabby cat. We marveled at beet greens, plump onions, spiky artichokes, mint, and a hodgepodge of lettuces, all thriving together.
The produce here made up only part of the challenge, designed to promote Farmhouse Delivery, a new service that sources Austin-local foods. Every element of our 11-dish dinner featured products from nearby farms and businesses, down to butter, honey, and even bison (the latter of which were turned into truly gorgeous meatballs).
Our early April dinner proved especially exciting for Jesse, as this was his once-a-year chance to harvest enough fava beans (served pureed with green garlic) and artichokes (paired with lamb in a flaky pot pie) to feed a whole crowd.
Meeting a bunch of strangers while gorging ourselves on the fat of the land proved a fascinating study of Austin. We were seated with a pair of middle-aged, conservative Republicans on one side, a bi-racial lesbian couple on the other, and a stylish young family across from a group of gay male friends. The early 30-something lesbians proved the most intriguing, as they’re just about to leave the city for a new life on a South Dakota farm; to them, Dai Due’s mission isn’t just a dining concept.
After four fun hours, the evening wound down with poppyseed pound cake, Third Coast Coffee, and a bluesy song of love. We’d eaten ourselves silly and discovered that:
Farm dinner = truly wonderful idea.
For farm dinners in other parts of the country:
Portland, OR: Plate & Pitchfork
Old Lyme, CT: Dinners at the Farm
Champaign, IL: Prairie Fruits Farm
Boulder, CO: Meadow Lark Farm Dinners
The entire US and beyond: Outstanding in the Field