Autumn Feasting at Animal Farm Center

Halloween night, while most Houstonians were busy trick or treating, a few gathered at Animal Farm Center in Cat Spring for a decadent afternoon and evening. Jason Kerr (a chef and an EOW contributor) was on hand to serve up food brought in fresh from local vendors, including produce harvested that very morning from Animal Farm.

The event began at 2 p.m. with a trek through the sandy slopes of the eco-friendly Animal Farm Center. Once guests arrived at the house, they sampled freshly made pizzas that were baked one at a time in an outdoor open flame oven. The amazingly crisp, yet chewy dough was from Slow Dough Bread Co., the cheese was an intensely soft and mellow goat cheese feta from Blue Heron, and the changing array of vegetables, such as yellow cherry tomatoes, tender baby spinach, and woody mushrooms, were grown on site. The pizza was exceptional.

After an hour or so of nibbling on pizza, indulging in too many glasses of St. Arnold's Brown Ale, and listening to live guitar music while basking in the sun, Animal Farm Center proprietors Gita and Cas led eager guests on a tour of the stunning 70-acre farm. When this place says it's green, it's not just talking about the rows and rows of peas, spinach, and lettuces that are growing everywhere. From the vast number of solar panels to the overhangs designed to shade the buildings from the sun, Animal Farm is environmentally sound.

After the exploration of the buildings, animals and gardens, everyone gathered in the event pavilions for a dinner under the setting sun. A whole pig that had been humanely raised at Harrison Hog Farms was roasted in a large coal pit. Kerr and others were hard at work pulling apart the tender meat and separating the cracklings.

The dinner was served family-style and began with a farm-fresh salad composed of greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and cheese, everything light and deliciously fresh. Next was an extraordinary ceviche made from snapper caught that morning and sweet pink shrimp. There was just enough lime, cilantro and jalapeno to perfectly season the dish without overpowering the delicate seafood. Next came huge platters of roasted pork, crispy cracklings, and tender mushrooms. There were also artfully arranged dishes of roasted vegetables, including purple carrots, Jerusalem artichokes and haricots verts, plus a large bowl of truly the best sweet potatoes I have ever tasted.

Dinner concluded with an amazingly creamy cheesecake served on a bourbon cajeta/ fresh strawberry sauce accompanied by sweet figs. Katz Coffee was served with a generous pour of the cajeta. Every dish was spectacular, and enjoying it in the heart of a breathtaking natural epicenter made for one of the most memorable meals of my life.

Animal Farm will be doing more seasonal dinners in the coming months; check www.animalfarmcenter.com for information. $100 per person.

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