Introvert confession: I am not a fan of food festivals. They are usually sweaty, awkward affairs full of stumbly drunk people who knock food out of my hand that I wasn't really going to eat anyway because who the hell even knows what's in it?
But Chefs for Farmers has made me love food festivals again. The annual Dallas event feels like a fun backyard barbecue at a friend's house, but your friend knows some seriously talented, hard-working chefs who are definitely not going to phone it in on this one.
And there is food -- creative, well-executed dishes -- that you actually want to eat. I've left this event two years in row feeling full and ready for a nap instead of hangry and jonesing for Whataburger on the way home. You even know what's in the food and who grew it or raised it, because the chefs are paired with local farmers and ranchers who are standing right there to answer your questions about pig diets and hydroponics.
Chefs for Farmers was founded in 2010 by Iris Midler and chef Matt McCallister of FT33 to celebrate our local food systems and bring attention to the Texas farmers who supply chefs with quality meats, produce and other artisanal goods.
This year, Chefs for Farmers included five events over four days, including a Street Food Night Market, a Know Thy Farmer Dinner at The Adolphus, and Bite Night at the Dallas Farmers Market. The Main Event was held Sunday at Oak Lawn Park. And while it was a warm day, the booths were spread out nicely, in and out of shaded areas, with plenty of room to mingle or lounge on a picnic blanket while you enjoy your food and drink. Chefs for Farmers is like a food festival for actual adults but without any pretension.
There was a Southern, comforting slant to the dishes. Lots of grits, gravies, bacon. Jeffery Hobbs of Slow Bone set up his Biscuit Bar again, with biscuits, fried chicken, bacon, honey butter and "Double Secret Probation Gravy." The only thing missing was a nap station.
McCallister of FT33 paired up with Robert Lyford of Patina Green and Matt Pittman of Meat Church BBQ with a pork carnitas taco with smoked kale crema and a brined green tomato salsa that I could eat by the bucketful. Chubby Dog Farm in East Texas provided the pork for their dish as well as for Matt Balke of Bolsa's smoked pork rillettes with dates, shiitake and candied pecans.
Pork made another appearance, with chef Sharon Van Meter's dish: smoked whole hog leg from Black Hill Ranch with loaded grits, Dijon glace and pickled mustard seeds. Chef Janice Provost of Parigi also went with grits featuring shrimp and house-made tasso from South Texas Heritage Pork in Floresville.
One of my favorite dishes was the Wagyu beef with polenta, carrots and sunflower from Josh Sutcliff of Mirador and Junior Borges of the Joule; they paired up with A Bar N Ranch in Sherman and Pure Land Organic in McKinney.
There were also plenty of sweets to head off the looming meat coma. Andrea Meyer of Bisous Bisous Patisserie had coffee and passion fruit macarons, and La Duni had "jarcakes" in German chocolate, cuatro leches, Boston cream pie and milk chocolate Nutella. La Duni also won the People's Choice award, which festival attendees voted on.
The Media's Choice winner was actually from Las Vegas: Nicole Brisson of CarneVino with her dish: pork belly with apple reduction and cucumber chile salad.
I can't wait to see what they cook up next year. I'll see y'all there.