[Photos: Kyle Pennington]
If you found yourself at a way-more-empty-than-usual restaurant on Sunday afternoon, it was likely because the who's-who of the city's chefs, bartenders, artisans, farmers and diners had descended upon Lee Park for the fourth annual Chefs for Farmers event.
The fourth edition of the event dreamt up by Matt and Iris McCallister was bigger than ever, with some 1,500 people eating, drinking, and schmoozing amongst a sea of brightly colored picnic blankets.
With more than 30 different chefs and restaurants from all over Dallas and Fort Worth — including locals Bruno Davaillon, Andre Natera, Abraham Salum, Graham Dodds, Kyle Barham, Nathan Tate, Omar Flores, Chad Houser, Brian Luscher, and Patton Robertson, just to name a fraction — and several out-of-towners including D.C's Jeremiah Langhorne, Jodi Elliott of Austin's Foreign & Domestic and Uchi's Philip Speer representing with an array of dishes, it was easy to get full before even making it halfway through, but true die-hards pressed on, sipping on Veuve Clicquot and local brews from Four Corners and Deep Ellum Brewing Co. There was also plenty of liquid talent on display, with mixology pros Amber West, Eddie Eakin, Brian McCullough, Eddie Campbell, Michael Martensen, and Justin Burrow from Houston's Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge all shaking up cocktails.
Of course, the aim of the event was to raise awareness and show appreciation for the area's local farmers and artisans, and they were certainly in no short supply: Dozens of farms and purveyors were in attendance including Local Yocal, Burgundy Beef, Caprino Royale, Noble Coyote Coffee, Windy Hill, Eagle Mountain, Tassione Farms, the Texas Honeybee Guild and Spiceman's FM 1410. Also being honored at the event was dearly departed chef Randall Copeland, Edible DFW publisher Nanci Taylor, Fresh Point's Lucian LaBarba, former York Street chef Sharon Hage, and more. Below, a few highlights from the event:
· The official award for best dish of the day went to Fearing's chef Eric Dreyer for a braised rabbit enchilada, but the fried pumpkin fritter served with a smear of rich bacon aioli from chef Jon Stevens was in close contention (and is clearly a harbinger of good things to come from Stevens' upcoming restaurant Stock & Barrel).
· Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare of Good 2 Go and Mot Hai Ba fame had one of the only vegan offerings, a spiced roasted pumpkin soup studded with tofu with an aroma that drew in even the most steadfast of carnivores.
· Said carnivores waited in a long line to hit up the table where FT33 and visiting chef Andrew Wiseheart from Austin's Contigo offered up a killer spread of charcuterie including "face bacon" and some incredible pancetta.
· The longest line we encountered was at the booth for soon-to-invade Dallas Uchi, where chef Philip Speer was dishing up charred winter squash filled with a goat's milk yogurt.
· Props for adorable presentation goes to Robert Lyford of Patina Green Home & Market in McKinney, who served up Wagyu brisket and blackberry-jalapeno preserves on cheddar biscuits that were wrapped up in paper printed with the restaurant's logo — sort of like a McDonald's breakfast sandwich given the local/seasonal treatment.
· Instead of the expected barbecue or burger that folks would expect from Jack Perkins of Slow Bone and Maple & Motor, he instead doled out little paper cups filled with maple bacon ice cream.
· The unofficial award for most delicious dairy product was a toss-up between Perkins' ice cream and an incredibly rich caramel Greek yogurt from local purveyor Three Happy Cows.
· While there were definitely a couple kids running around, the mostly-21-and-up crowd made for a welcome adult atmosphere, with the last band on the ticket even offering up a raucous cover of Sublime's stoner classic "Smoke Two Joints."
· It was easy to spot the food festival pros in the crowd, as they came armed with their own plates with a built-in wine glass holder to simplify the boozing-and-schmoozing process.
· Chefs for Farmers [Official]