Willow villarreal s table   photo by emily jaschke l4kgqd

Willow Villareal's table at the 2016 event.

Image: Emily Jaschke

You probably eat meat every day. But do you know where it really comes from locally? No preachy factory farm lectures, here. Instead we recommend heading to Brenham, about halfway between Houston and Austin. It's the home of Blue Bell Creamery headquarters and the location for the second annual Butcher’s Ball

The event is a learning experience cleverly disguised as an all-out cooking competition showcasing some of the best chefs across the state. The purpose of the event is to pay homage to local ranching partners, who will be displaying their beef-cutting prowess throughout the day. The ball will take place this year, as it did last year, at the luxurious Rockin’ Star Ranch. Coordinators have partnered with Urban Harvest and Food Gateway.

This year’s list of chefs set to compete for the “Golden Cleaver” award has some repeat contenders (including last year's winner, Willow Villareal of Willow's Texas Barbecue) as well as some newcomers, including highbrow entries like the chefs from Kiran's, Riel and Artisans. Each dish will be prepared to use as much as possible of one of the five most common proteins: beef, pork, chicken, lamb and fish. The winner will be chosen based on who receives the most audience votes. 

Despite its carnivorous namesake, the event isn’t only about food. Cocktail demonstrations are included with the ticket price. So are two panel discussions, on the subjects of disaster response and sustainable ranching. There will also be a farmer’s market, a silent auction, and live music from some major players in the area, including headliner Dale Watson and His Lone Stars.

Texas Beef Council’s 2017 Butcher of the Year, Bryan Butler will show how to take apart a beef hindquarter. Later in the day, Breaking Bread Pop-Up Series, Richard Knight, will each demonstrate how he breaks down a whole lamb. Need a stiff drink after that? Alba Huerta of Julep has curated cocktails for the event, and Robin Berwick of Double Trouble Caffeine and Cocktails and Lainey Collum of Yauatcha will be present to provide and interactive drinking experience for the guests.

Another competition has been added to this year’s Butcher’s Ball titled “La Boucherie vs. La Matanza,” and can be purchased as an add-on to the Butcher’s Ball tickets for an additional $50. As the name suggests, La Boucherie vs. La Matanza will display French and Spanish techniques (respectively) of butchering and breaking down a hog. Then, they'll make a meaty feast from every part of the animal. Two teams of six, comprised of Houston talents, will compete early in the morning on the day of the event, while spectators munch on breakfast and sip morning cocktails and juices. A portion of every “La Boucherie vs. La Matanza” goes to the Piggy Bank, an open-access agriculture association for farmers of heritage hogs.

Tickets for adults are $100 and $25 for children 12 and under, while reserved tables for 10 people will cost an even $1,500. In addition to the event, transportation from Houston to Brenham can be purchased for $30.  

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