With the help of a creative chef like Randy Evans (the executive chef of Brennan’s before Ike) and several other remarkable artisans who are mentioned below, close to 200 eager participants feasted on delicious local, organic and seasonal produce from Animal Farm and the surrounding area. A flight of tasty wines from Flat Creek Estate near Marble Falls accompanied every course. With a glass of their 2008 Pinot Grigio in hand and being surrounded by calming woods, it was easy to forget the bustling city only sixty miles away.
Gita is a pioneer in many ways. The farm is “off the grid” and gets all of its electric energy from solar power. Designing their home without air-conditioning and central heating was the main challenge for their architect. I wonder if the parameters were met considering our temperatures during August? Transportation on the 78-acre farm takes the form of golf carts which are battery operated. The batteries are re-charged every evening. Independent of outside water supplies, the farm relies on an 180’ deep well which supplies the intricate water system.
Of several varieties of eggplant harvested on the farm, Gita’s favorite is the Cambodian Green Giant. It is green when ripe. With a sandy soil rich in minerals (composting puts nutrients back into the soil), it’s not surprising that the gardens produce superior tasting and nutritionally balanced vegetables. The vegetables are sold to several restaurants in Houston and Austin and at many markets, including the Bayou City Farmer’s Market.
The Yoga Retreat below is elegant and functional. Open on one end (remember, no air-conditioning) and with large windows and pleasing stained-glass and furniture, who wouldn’t be ready to don yoga pants and begin the ‘Salute to the Sun’?
Here’s the outstanding top half of the menu. All delicious; thank goodness I didn’t have to pick a favorite! Purple hull peas were transformed into a hummus and then spread on flatbread that was baked in Gita’s wood-burning oven. The wild boar terrine was hearty with an additional flavor punch from the mustard and relish. And the free-range devilled eggs from Gita’s roaming chickens – heavenly!
Here’s Lisa Seger, a goat cheese making wonder. You know she must turn heads everywhere she goes with her fiery mane, especially in rural Waller, Texas! She and husband Christian, tend to many amusing Nubian goats on their Blue Heron Farm. Chosen for their high protein, high fat and mild flavored milk, Nubian goats’ cheese is not gamey or dry. Don’t walk… run to the Bayou City Farmer’s Market to try her chèvre.
We enjoyed Lisa’s mild and creamy goat feta on the spicy arugula photographed below. She also provided a phenomenal cajeta we drizzled on the pound cake biscotti. Yes, I brought some cajeta home and have been snacking on it since……what diet? Swede Farm (also in Waller) provided the goat buttermilk for the lovely pecan pie I slathered with cajeta…
And you never know who you will bump into! From a city with over 4 million people, I reconnected with a friend I had met in the early 80’s, when I first moved to Houston. This is Diane in her cool I.M.Pei glasses.
Reluctantly, we walked to the car down the sandy path following the softly lit paper lanterns; the cool light of the half moon peeking through the trees. My friend, Barbara and I, joked about what we would do if we got lost. We decided that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to just bed down on the thick, lush pad of leaves and enjoy Mother Nature’s generosity! The pioneers did it, so why shouldn’t we?