Houston's Food Community Steps Up to Help Wildfire Victims

Although the wildfires in Bastrop have been getting the lion's share of media attention, fires are burning all over Texas right now -- including in our own backyard.

And Houston's food community has stepped up to help, in as many ways as they can possibly conceive. Whether it's a food truck caravan or special Texas wildfire goat cheese, everyone from restaurateurs to food producers has stepped up to the plate.

Last Friday, chef Chris Shepherd partnered up with Josh Martinez and Lyle Bento of The Modular and Party Fowl to drive a wagon train of food up to the victims and first responders just north of Houston in Waller and Montgomery Counties along with fellow food truck Phamily Bites.

And the men weren't alone; a call on Twitter for support led to a small army of volunteers showing up in the Central Market parking lot, ready to roll and lend a hand where needed. Other local businesses got in on the action, too: Cactus Music generously covered the fuel costs for getting all of the food trucks on the road.

Shepherd updated his Twitter followers on the progress of their journey that day, sending out photos of the firefighting battle as well as scorched land and thick plumes of smoke.

"This is real man, this is a life changer," he wrote along with a photo of firefighters eating from one of Bento and Martinez's food trucks.

Meanwhile, back in Houston, restaurants, purveyors and markets were busily organizing their own relief efforts.

Blue Heron Farms, which produces several popular varieties of goat cheese, opened its pastures to evacuated goats from Waller and Montgomery Counties. The goats have to be milked, and Blue Heron took on that responsibility as well. The result is a limited-time goat cheese called Fieldstone Fire Chevre, which is being sold at Revival Market as well as the City Hall Farmers Market tomorrow afternoon.

A large quantity of the chevre was purchased by Backstreet Cafe, which is incorporating the cheese into an upcoming series of charity dinners. The restaurant's regular Sunday Suppers -- $35 for three courses, which all feature the chevre -- will donate $5 of each dinner to the farms affected by the wildfires.

But that's far from the only charity dinner in town.

Tonight at 7 p.m., El Real Tex-Mex Cafe is hosting a Pray For Rain dinner featuring food from owner Bryan Caswell as well as neighbor Chris Shepherd, cocktails from Kevin Floyd and an opening prayer by Windsor Village United Methodist Church's pastor, Kirbyjon Caldwell. The cost is $85 and all proceeds will go directly to Society of Samaritan to assist victims in Waller and Montgomery Counties.

And this coming Saturday, Cork Cafe at Highway 290 and Spring-Cypress will host its own fundraising raffle for the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department (CFVFD). The firemen were instrumental in fighting the Riley Road/Tri-County fire over the weekend. Along with drink and appetizer specials, Cork will be selling raffle tickets for $5, with all proceeds benefiting CFVFD. Raffle prizes include high-end wines from Cork's own cellar.

Those who want to donate to relief efforts but can't make the charity dinners are encouraged to contribute to the Wildfire Farm Relief Fund (WFRF) set up by Urban Harvest, the organization that runs many of the farmers' markets in the city. Farmers affected by the wildfires are in desperate need of cash to fund their day-to-day operations, and the WFRF will give 100 percent of its proceeds directly to those farmers. Checks can be made out to Urban Harvest and earmarked "WFRF" at any of the Urban Harvest farmers' markets.

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