Joel Salatin Rocked Urban Acres’ Steward’s Dinner

Mr. Salatin signing a book
Mr. Salatin signing a book

On Tuesday night, Urban Acres partnered with Joel Salatin (the monumentally celebrated sustainable farmer and author from Virginia) and some pretty awesome local chefs to present a Steward’s Dinner at Four Cornery Brewery. We entered through the makeshift barn doors and an immediate wave of camaraderie passed over us. Everyone there was passionate about food. The Brewery – with its wide open warehouse space, bright metallic brewing containers, and beer posters adorning the walls – was filled with many attractive, clean faces. I don’t know if it’s because these people eat so well or maybe Urban Acres has a Handsome Clause in its member selection, but the room was brimming with good breeders. It seemed as though we were all on some magical food team together and couldn’t wait to share our encouragement and passion for sustainable living practices.

Easter egg radishes with butter and fluer de sel
Easter egg radishes with butter and fluer de sel
Flowers and beer posters (left); utensils (right)
Flowers and beer posters (left); utensils (right)

My first bite was a delicious walnut crostini with local honeycomb and Caprino Royale chevre. Caprino Royale is just one of the farms that provided the food for the evening’s dinner, and Urban Acres selected some outstanding hands to prepare the plates. Graham Dodds (Central 214), Chad Houser (Café Momentum), and farm-to-table veteran Nicole Van Camp celebrated the efforts of clean, organic food produced by Caprino Royale, Richardson Farms, and Sand Creek Farm. We met a young lady from a little town down south who said, “This happens all the time in Austin.” I am no stranger to Austin-envy with all of its nature, weirdness, and farm-driven food culture, so it’s wonderful to see Dallas putting something together like this..Inside the bar area, Four Corners Brewing served some of their own beers on tap, and wine and freshly ground coffee were available as well. As the sun began to set and the dinner bell rang, everyone excitedly quieted down in anticipation of the coming plates, served family style. We sat next to a couple who farms in Leonard, Texas and they educated me on properly caring for my rosemary and oregano plants. Now maybe I can stop murdering everything I grow.

Walnut Crostini with honeycomb and chevre
Walnut Crostini with honeycomb and chevre
Graham Dodds and Chad Houser, twinsies
Graham Dodds and Chad Houser, twinsies

The chefs worked at the rear kitchen pulling Sand Creek Farms hydroponic lettuce from pots and plating it immediately into individual “flower pots” made from St. David’s Raclette and filled with Texas Grapefruit & Pumpernickel “dirt.” It was remarkably full of flavor with so few ingredients, but the freshness was truly the vessel providing the punch here. My favorite dish had to be the combination of the slow-cooked Richardson Farms Berkshire pork and the jalapeno Homestead Heritage cornbread in my mouth at the same time. The cornbread was so moist and supple it almost tasted like a dessert bread, maintaining that slight sweetness that marks the essence of the corn. I’ll lastly mention the braised Glen Flora green chard. I would have taken a picture of it, but I couldn’t stop eating it long enough to pick up my camera. As the drinks continued to flow, diners battled and boasted, each commenting on their own triumphant food involvements, but convivial natures prevailed throughout. I could only wait for the right moment to interrupt and ask for more cornbread.

Pickled eggs (left); one good lookin' crowd (right)
Pickled eggs (left); one good lookin’ crowd (right)
Beets and kale
Beets and kale

The real highlight of the meal was when outspoken farmer Joel Salatin, wearing a piggy tie, stood up to speak. While we finished off the meal with Larkin Farms peach cobbler, Mr. Joel Salatin himself stood and spoke to the crowd. He praised the chefs and farmers and indicted the proliferation of the big money food industry with contempt and disdain. You know you’re in a food crowd when the mere mention of the name Monsanto incites scornful boos and moans. Joel had much to say about the USDA, Monsanto, and the misappropriation of the nation’s faith in these bottom line oriented monsters of industry. He called out for a return to the majesty of the garden and discussed the equity that’s involved in a meal and event such as ours. He explained how we give equity first to the soil, an infinite community of beings that provide everything that sustains life, and then to the farmers, the chefs, the health and nutrition that comes from real food, and finally the gratitude of this visceral involvement in God’s grace of abundance and sufficient provision. Pardon my pillar talk, but it was a purposeful, impassioned discussion of the importance and necessity of genuine food more as an act of humanity rather than just something you order from a counter. Joel finished by saying, “If we ate like this all the time, maybe we’d empty the hospitals and fill the breweries.”

I am on board, goblet in hand.

One good lookin crowd
One good lookin crowd
Cornbread
Cornbread
Joel Salatin's book
Joel Salatin’s book
Lights on
Lights on