Farming for Flavor in Houston Texas

Recapping "Ready Fire!", a live fire event, at The Barry Farm 

This past Saturday at the farm a small but powerful shift occurred.  A young man's fascination and a community's potential collided over both pasture and fire.  The event entitled "Ready Fire!" was intended to bring people together around food, remove the typical restaurant cues that dictate hospitality and to hi light the people that make the process possible.  I'm fairly certain that all that was accomplished and much more for those in attendance. Quite possibly when reading this you're own curiosity may be peaked to what is happening in the small town of Needville, Tx encouraging you to join us next month.  

Farmhouse table built by the farmer and made ready by the farmers wife.  Set for guests to arrive shortly.  

Farmhouse table built by the farmer and made ready by the farmers wife.  Set for guests to arrive shortly.  

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First course served after the farm tour. 

Houston's best pork (Heritage breed Red Wattle) fire and smoke.

Houston's best pork (Heritage breed Red Wattle) fire and smoke.

The inspiration for this event was an episode of "Mind of a Chef" featuring Edward Lee.  We watched an episode together as a family in which Chef Lee went to Patagonia to cook with Francis Mallmann over his storied 7 fires.  Something sparked in Seamus' (our 9 year old son's) mind that delighted his fascination and prompted the journey that ended with "Ready Fire!" on Saturday night.  Our family and farm chose this event not to celebrate meat and fire, but to pay honor to the people throughout the process that make food such a special ingredient in our lives.  

Fire as an ingredient a flavor and a place.

Fire as an ingredient a flavor and a place.

 "Being here is kind of like a dream. And like most dreams some of it makes sense some of it doesn't.  At some point I'll wake up from this dream and see what I'll remember." - Chef Edward Lee

That quote struck a cord with me as I listened to him speak because it reminded me of Barry Farm dinners.  It is a lot to ask of guests to be able to soak in the entire process from pasture and farmer and ending with plate and chef.  So much is pulling at our thoughts and senses that to take it all in, isn't really a possibility.  To kick our dinners off we take a tour of our 18 acre farm.  New friends see the farm in all her glory and in a major step of vulnerability we also reveal her flaws.  Our family tells the story that intertwines our labor and and care we take with our animals and our plants.  Product and process make much more sense while standing in the blackberry orchard or holding baby lambs in the barn.  As the veil lifts on what it takes for food to make it to a chef's hands, it becomes time to partake in his craft. The sun begins to hang gravid behind the tin buildings that line our farmhouse front while we attempt to reconcile all that we have just seen from the farmers. As dreamers still, we move on from the farm process to a culinary one that has stripped away the last vestiges of the alchemy that is cooking.  For "Ready Fire!" there is no back of the house.  Chef is one of us orchestrating heat, salt, meat, and flavor as the crowd gathers.  As the farm has become transparent and vulnerable the chef too has displayed all that is normally hidden.   His art is live and on display.  On purpose we have omitted many of the things from the restaurant process that encourage and que you to critique the food, ambiance and hospitality.  Instead in this space and in this way we can remember when company and food were inspiring and facilitated the best in us.  We linger.  Without being instructed to do so, or moving service to another place, guests move hay bales to sit by the fire.  They eat with and strike up conversations with strangers and to my continued surprise, love every second of it.   You see farms own a special place that cannot be transported and replicated.  Farms do need people but, I would pledge that people need farms to fill a spot where something was missing but was difficult to diagnose.  That spot is community.   Lets change that, shall we?  Take a gamble on us next dinner and I promise you too will be waking from your dream grasping at good things to try and store away in your heart.  You will be remembering the people that shared that journey with you in a new way.  They are hidden from your view for lots of reasons, but when we finally see food for what it is, it will not be possible to ignore the people who farm, cook, serve, host and eat it.  Food does that and we won't be the same.               

Rotating and Roasting

Rotating and Roasting

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Barley Fed Red Wattle and White Dorper Lamb 

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Chef Chris doing the "chef pose".  Ever notice most pictures of chefs are of them standing this way?  

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Pasture raised barry farm chicken, charred slaw, Alabama white sauce.

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Chef Ben Mcpherson was kind enough to join us.  I think he looks like a natural in a Barry Farm apron. 

Lamb asador charred vegetables and sauces.

Lamb asador charred vegetables and sauces.