Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dai Due at Montesino Farm

I've long been wanting to try one of the Dai Due dinners, but was having difficulty justifying the cost to myself. So I was thrilled when the opportunity arose to attend one of their dinners in conjunction with our friend Greg's birthday celebration. I love it when my friends give me an excuse to eat well.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Dai Due, it's a supper club run by a young couple, Jesse Griffiths and Tamara Mayfield. Attendees pay a per-head fee which varies depending on the dinner; in exchange, they get a 4-10 course meal made from locally produced, sustainably-grown, seasonal ingredients + an aperitif to kick things off. This particular dinner was to be held at Montesino Farm, an organic CSA farm near Wimberly, Texas.

Montesino is about an hour's drive from Austin, so four of us set off early, toting four (!!) bottles of wine selected by my favorite retail wine expert, Michael McGovern at Central Market North. If you live in Austin and need a wine pairing, go see Michael - he can nail a pairing like nobody else, and he is a super-cool guy, to boot.

About an hour later, we arrived at our destination.


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We pulled up to this pretty little barn and tumbled out of the car.


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OK, maybe "pretty big barn" is a more apt description.


Almost immediately, we were offered our aperitifs. This one was made with fresh strawberries, fresh blueberries, brandy, and um...something else that I don't remember. I do remember that it tasted really good, though.


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Refreshing and light; a perfect preview for our meal.


Before dinner, we took the opportunity to wander around the farm a bit.

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A few of the farm's Rouen ducks - love their little mohawks

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Onions hanging to dry

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I found these paintstick-like markers charming.

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The resident cow, Belle, came to greet me.

After a bit of wandering, everyone congregated around the giant table that had been set in the barn. The setting was absolutely fantastic; it was a lovely, cool, spring evening, the air was fresh, and there was a nice buzz as everyone looked forward to sharing a meal.

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This dining table would have given the one in "Batman" a run for its money.

The menu actually listed 12 courses, but they were served in waves. The first thing that arrived at our table was a wonderful plate of cheeses and housemade meats. There was a Baby Caprino from CKC Farms, a Farmer's Cheese with guajillo honey and thyme, three types of saucisson sec (dried sausage), an antelope sausage, and a duck blood sausage and duck liver mousse, both made with ducks dispatched specifically for this meal.


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Next came a salad fashioned from artichokes, goat's milk feta, and some absolutely fantastic Arbequina olives from Sandy Oaks Orchard:

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Followed by these delicate and beautiful fried squash blossoms, served with marinated onions:

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They gave us a little space to give us time to finish this round before bringing out the soup course. The soup was made with wild redbreast sunfish, bluegill, Rio Grande Cichlids, and channel catfish that they had caught themselves for the occasion in Cypress Creek. The preparation was wonderful; there was a substantial piece of fish in each bowl, and I think it had been pan fried, as the texture had a bit of crispiness despite the fact that it was soaking in broth. The fish was topped with a bit of aioli, which was an unexpected - but delicious - surprise in the context of soup.

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Following the soup, another break before round three. I wandered outside and watched the sun setting over the fields for a few minutes.

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And then the dishes started coming again. Bitter greens topped with grilled duck breast (again, Rouens from Montesino) and fresh blackberries. A duck confit tossed with potatoes, green beans, and grilled onions. Boudin blanc and wild boar sausage over a sauerkrautish braised savoy cabbage. A vegetable tian made with squash and tomatoes. And a heaping pile of dinosaur kale with elephant garlic. It just kept coming.

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For dessert, a duck egg and myrtle custard with blackberries. I think these folks secretly had an Iron Chef competition going, here, with duck as the secret ingredient. Fortunately, I LOVE duck.

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Based solely on the food, I don't know that this Dai Due supper quite stacked up to our Sushi Samba splurge just a week earlier - and Dai Due was actually slightly more expensive. But the experience of eating so simply yet so well, in the heart of this charming little farm with a little barn cat peering at us from the stairs and the air whispering of spring, made it worth every penny.

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Sometimes, a little step back in time is good for the soul.

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