Toward the end of the tour, Lisa, one of the owners of the farm, confided in me: "You know," she said, "occasionally we have small events here at the farm -- and we have one coming up. Benjy Mason and Richard Knight will be doing the cooking, we'll provide cheese, you BYOB. Tickets sell out fast, but would you like to come?"
I couldn't imagine a better experience. Benjy and Richard are two of Houston's top chefs, and Blue Heron makes the best goat cheese on the planet. I said yes without hesitation, and a few weeks later, I bought tickets and informed Marcus and Alex that we were going.
This weekend was that event. We arrived at 2 pm on Saturday (Marcus and I bringing a bottle of our favourite local wine), and walked to the back of the farm, where picnic tables were already set up. People arrived in couples and trios, and because none of us knew each other, we began to introduce ourselves.
At first, we made small talk, but after about 30 minutes, Benjy and Richard began bringing out trays of the most amazing food -- all locally sourced, and organically grown. As we began passing around the platters of food, conversation become more animated -- we learned about each other's jobs, neighbourhoods, pets ...
... strangers became friends.
And this, this is what I love about food. I mean, I love the flavours and the artistry of creating a wonderful meal (and Benjy and Richard are really true talents when it comes to doing this), but for me, a great meal is less about the food, and more about the connections that happen in its presence. Place amazing food in front of strangers, and suddenly they all have something in common: they're all sharing something beautiful with each other, and it necessarily creates a bond.
Of course, having baby goats born while we were enjoying our wonderful day at the farm probably helped.
It was an absolutely wonderful time, and we're so totally grateful to Lisa and Christian for letting us know about this event. (And if you're in the Houston area, and this type of meal sound amazing to you, be sure to like their Facebook page to keep up with when they might have another.)
speaking of amazing food ...
My friend Shauna Ahern (aka Gluten Free Girl) contacted me last week. Shauna is one of my favourite people I've ever met online, and I had the opportunity to meet her officially a couple of years ago at her hometown near Seattle. She has become a dear friend, and has provided invaluable advice to us over the years: both Marcus and Alex have mild-to-moderate sensitivities to gluten, and as a result we've drastically changed how we eat in our home. Thanks to Shauna, we've been able to do it relatively painlessly, and eaten really, really well, to boot.
Shauna's first book, Gluten Free GIrl and the Chef, was named by the New York Times as one of the best cookbooks of 2010, so I was thrilled to learn that her second book, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, is being released this month. The book is all about how to cook gluten-free every day, making delicious meals that everyone -- including those who don't have gluten allergies -- will love.
I was so thrilled about this news, in fact, that I ordered two.
One of them is for me, but the second one is for one of you: simply leave a comment below telling me what your favourite food/meal is, and I'll pick one person at random to win a copy of Shauna's book. Easy-peasy, right? One comment per person, please, and I'll announce the winner on Wednesday.
UPDATE: Shauna wrote extensively about her new cookbook here -- and it's chock-full of images from the book. Sorry, in advance, for making your mouth water.
UPDATE #2: Thanks to Random.org, Christine, who said: "Gluten free now for 17 months, and yet somehow I don't have any of these
books in our cooking library. Thanks for tipping me off to them - I
would love to win a copy!" is the winner of Shauna's new book! Congratulations, Christine! Look for a snail-mail message from me to get your address.
And thanks to everyone who shared their awesome meals. You made me very, very hungry.