Thursday, May 1, 2008

My Dinner at Catalan

So...for three weeks in a row now we have sold cheese to Chris Shepherd -- the Executive Chef at Catalan. The first time, he bought three containers of feta. I guess I am a little slow, being new to all of this, but I thought he was doing a little personal shopping. I mean...chefs eat at home, too. And it wasn't like it was a ton of cheese.

After that, he went over to the Dairymaids booth and tasted our mozzarella (We didn't have any in our booth that week - just didn't have time to get it made.) He came back to our booth and asked if he could get ten of them the following week. I said sure, but must have had the panic look in my eyes, because he said he could take the feta if not. I assured him we could hook him up, but took his number just in case we had some kind of farmageddon. Whoa. We got an order from a chef. For his restaurant. (I was pretty sure he wasn't going to need 5 lbs at home!)

Cheesemaking went well, he picked it up the next Tuesday and we sold out again. Yay, Houston Farmer's Market.

So this past Tuesday, we saw him again. Christian decided to ask him if it worked out OK and he said yes. Excellent news. I don't know if you clicked the link, but Catalan is a really, really nice place. That he liked our cheese enough to try it made us incredibly proud. That he had good feedback for us, well... we were ready to burst. It felt amazing.

Later he came back again and bought the rest of our feta - only 2 lbs. (We sold out again...surprise!) Anyhooo....he mentioned that he was going to make a salad with greens and nectarines from the market - plus our cheese. I told him I might come after the market to try it and he said I should if I could.

Christian leaves the market at 5:00 to go milk goats, but two of my friends came to help me shut down and to go get a drink and a bite. I asked them if they would mind going to Catalan and they were game.

Catalan is in our old Houston neighborhood and when we still lived there, I got REALLY excited when I saw it going up. I am a huge foodie, I lived in seemed like it was fate. Unfortunately, we moved out to the farm right about the time it opened and I had never had the chance to try it.

Oh, man...I missed out. The food is SO incredible. Fresh, innovative and local. What more could you ask for?

Our waiter told us the specials and I literally squealed, "That's my cheese!" when he got to the salad. We ordered (Yes, I got the salad) and enjoyed the lovely wine selections and the amazing food we had selected.

...and then the chef came to say hi (I swear...I felt like a rock star!) and then he sent out a few extra dishes. Everything we ate was better than the last thing and the absolute show stopper was a caprese salad that used a buffalo mozzarella ice cream, instead of cheese. Yes. You read that right. Mozzarella ice cream. It was, we all agreed, the best, most surprising thing we had ever had. I know it sounds strange..all I can say is go try it if you ever get the chance.

The restaurant operates on a fresh, seasonal backbone, so it is not always available. All I can say is keep going until you can get it. You won't be sorry.

I am still bursting at the seams with excitement over our being included on the menu at Catalan. It is beyond what I could have dreamed for us in our first year. I hope we can continue to make him happy and I hope the other diners loved my cheese as much as I love making it. And I hope you all get the chance to check out the restaurant. Local food is a good thing. This is an excellent way to sample it at its best.

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