It wasn't too long ago many Houstonians figured meat just came from convenient Styrofoam packages instead of living, breathing animals. Too many of us still do. On October 9, the Butcher's Ball will bring city slickers right to the farm, specifically Rockin' Star Ranch in Brenham, to celebrate the best of sustainable ranching practices.
The first-time event is a collaboration between Elaine Dillard, director of development and sponsorship for the Orange Show (Rockin' Star is her family ranch) and chef Jason Kerr. Kerr is currently working as operations manager for the Houston branch of Farm to Table, a locavore food distribution company started by John Lash in Austin eight years ago. The business already brings food to a few Houston eateries including Uchi and Snooze, but will expand operations now that Farm to Table's first Houston warehouse, at Beechnut and Hillcroft, passed inspection earlier this week.
Clearly, Kerr is passionate about local food. For this event, he and Dillard are focusing on meaty bits, inspired by Josh Ozersky-founded international event Meatopia. The centerpiece is a grand tasting of small plates created by 14 chefs from the Houston and Austin areas that border Brenham. Kerr says that he consciously chose a diverse group to represent many strata of dining. "They're all supporters of 44 Farms and Foodways Texas," he says. "If you think about Willow [Villareal, of Willow's Texas BBQ], he’s this up-and-coming barbecue chef, all the way up to David Cordúa, who has however many restaurants now."
Top Chef alum John Tesar will make the trip from Dallas, while Houston-area meat specialists will include Antoine Ware of Harold's; EJ Miller, late of Down House; Tommy Elbashary of B&B Butchers and Stefon Rishel of 51fifteen. Sweets will be provided by two pastry chefs, both Houstonians: Oxheart's Karen Man and Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar. Guests will vote on their favorite by tossing a wooden nickel in a jar at their preferred chef's station. The cook with the most coins at the end wins the "Golden Cleaver," an award which Kerr says he hopes will be functional.
The food on those plates will already be broken down long before visitors arrive at 2 p.m. But around 2:30, Felix Florez of Black Hill Ranch will take apart an elk from the Rockin' Star herd. Not enough whole animal goodness? An entire pig will be roasting, too. And no pig pickin' party is complete without beer. In this case, it will be regional suds from Karbach Brewing, Pedernales Brewing Company and Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Lindsay Rae of Grand Prize Bar will sling cocktails.
A mini farmers market organized by Urban Harvest will focus on its favorite meat purveyors. Elements of the festival will be set up all over the ranch, under tents. But as the name implies, parts will be in Rockin' Star's upscale ballroom. Live music will play throughout the day, ending with headliner Leopold and His Fiction. Artist Galina Kurlat will show tintypes of Houston chefs, including some cooking that day.
All that meaty partying might be exhausting. The Butcher's Ball is way ahead of you. Buses from Houston to Brenham will be available to protect the meat drunk (or just drunk) from a risky drive home.
For more information and to buy tickets, click here.