Category: Food and Culture

Kula Revolving Sushi Bar

The People of Austin Embracing Eastern-Based Cuisines

By: Ross Milvenan and David Lopez

Kula Revolving Sushi Bar is now the hottest restaurant in Austin, according to Eater Austin.

Traditionally, Tex-Mex and barbecue have dominated Austin cuisine, but the success of new restaurants offering more eastern-based cuisines show the people of Austin’s shifting culinary needs and desire for authentic dining experiences. The recent success of Kula Sushi and Ramen Tatsu-ya displays this shifting appetite.

Kula Sushi brings freshness and flair to Austin sushi

Kula Sushi opened its first location in Irvine, California in 2009. Since then, they have opened 13 locations across the United States. The Austin location was opened in May, and has been the most popular location despite being in its early stages.

“Everyday we are busy,” said Joyce Rivera, head server at Kula. “We have regular customers that come three to four times a week. They just can not get enough.”

The Kula Revolving Sushi Bar Logo  Photo: kulausa.com

The Kula Revolving Sushi Bar Logo
Photo: kulausa.com

Austin is currently the 16th most healthy city in the United States, according to Forbes.com. Kula’s success could be partially due to the emphasis they put on healthy ingredients. Kula proudly states that they are part of the “food revolution”, aiming to provide natural, organic and additive-free food.

It has been our fundamental principle to prioritize customer’s health over anything,” according to Kula’s website. “We are proud to say that all foods are served fresh and safe at our restaurants.”

“Everything you see here is fresh,” Rivera said. “We don’t use any chemicals or imitation crab or shrimp … It’s all real.”

Rivera also said she believes one of the reasons Kula has been so successful is because the people of Austin now want uniqueness in their dining experience. Kula serves “kaiten-zushi”, or rotating sushi, on a conveyor belt that wraps around the restaurant.

“People in Austin are always looking for something different,” Rivera said. “Kula is different from even other sushi places … We are very unique.”

Each seat has access to the two levels of the conveyor belt, the ordering panel and the Bikkura Pon game.  Photo: Kula Revolving Sushi Bar/Facebook

Each seat has access to the two levels of the conveyor belt, the ordering panel and the Bikkura Pon game.
Photo: Kula Revolving Sushi Bar/Facebook

Kula offers food in a way that may be unique in Austin, but in no way unique in Japan. In fact, “Kaiten-zushi” is a subset of Japanese cuisine common throughout Japan. Kula aims to give an authentic Japanese dining experience and believes this element allow customers to have an experience that they will not find in other places in Austin.

“We have a Kula culture,” Rivera said. “We want people to enjoy the Japanese environment … We want them to feel like they are in a Japanese sushi bar.”

Local Ramen restaurant gives authentic Japanese experience with every slurp

Ramen Tatsu-ya has recently been named one of the 12 best new restaurants in America, according to eater.com. Ramen Tatsu-ya is another restaurant offering eastern-based cuisine in Austin that has become very popular, even having a long line out the door on most nights.

However, founder Tatsu Aikawa was initially unsure of how an exclusively ramen restaurant could do in a Austin market dominated by Tex-Mex and barbecue.

The Ramen Tatsu-ya Logo.  Photo: ramen-tatsuya.com

The Ramen Tatsu-ya Logo.
Photo: ramen-tatsuya.com

“When we opened Ramen Tatsu-ya in Austin in 2012, we were the first ramen shop in the city, and we didn’t want to Americanize it,” Aikawa told Bon Appétit magazine. “Austin’s preconception of ramen was ‘Oh, the packet stuff?’”

However, in due part to a Austin market that was lacking in eastern-based cuisine options, Ramen Tatsu-ya began to generate a lot of buzz and popularity.

“The business is beyond our expectations. We were thinking like a hundred bowls for lunch and dinner. We’re doing two to three hundred at dinner,” said Aikawa in an interview with eateraustin.com.

Aikawa also wanted to give the people of Austin an authentic eastern-cuisine. Aikawa said when he started the restaurant there was a definite need for ramen in Austin and he wanted to help expand the people of Austin’s global palate.

“We want to educate people on what ramen truly is,” Aikawa wrote on ramen-tatsuya.com. “It’s the soul food of Japan.”

The “Ol’ Skool”, one of the seven bowls of ramen on the Tatsu-ya menu.  Photo: ramen-tatsuya.com

The “Ol’ Skool”, one of the seven bowls of ramen on the Tatsu-ya menu.
Photo: ramen-tatsuya.com

The Asian population in Austin is also growing. Currently, the percentage is just under 7% of the population, but this population is doubling every ten years, according to austintexas.gov. As Austin continues to diversify, it is likely that more and more people will crave cuisine that gives them a sense of sentimentality to their original roots.

Aikawa believes one of the best parts of cities offering dishes from across the world is the impact that these dishes can have on people.

Anywhere you go in the world, there’s a certain dish that evokes an emotional or nostalgic response,” Aikawa said.

What’s next?

Both Kula Sushi and Ramen Tatsu-ya have plans of expanding into other cities in the near future. Hopefully, other cities are as willing as Austin is to embrace these eastern-based cuisines and enjoy an authentic Japanese dining experience.

 

Sushi Graphic

Texas Chili Queens

Texas Chili Queens: Adding Flare to Stand Out in Austin’s Crowded Food Truck Scene

By: Ross Milvenan

Austin now has the fastest-growing food truck industry in the United States, with over a 600% growth in food trucks since 2010, according to a report from the Economist.

With nearly 4 food trucks per 100,000 people in Austin, the novelty of these mobile eateries seems to be vanishing. With this abundance of food trucks in Austin, food truck owners like Ed Hambleton of Texas Chili Queens are bringing a unique spin to their businesses as they try and stand out in a saturated Austin market.

Ed Hambleton is the owner of Texas Chili Queens food truck, but his drag queen persona Edie Eclat runs the day-to-day operations. This involves interacting with customers, cooking the food, and serving up innuendos.

Edie Eclat working in the truck. By: David Lopez

Edie Eclat working in the truck. By: David Lopez

“I am not attacking anyone, I am not making fun of anyone, the drag queen does not harass you, but just lightly plays with you,” Ed said. “It just allows people to spice up their day, both figuratively and literally.”

Ed said he incorporates this twist into his food truck because it is good for business. He believes a key to success in this market is to get people excited about more than just the food.

“This makes it more memorable and generates buzz, traction and interest,” Ed said. “People will remember you based on the experience they had, and we definitely give people a memorable experience.”

Ed chose to serve a food that he believed was “lacking in the culinary landscape of Austin.”

“A lot of the food trucks in Austin have forgotten we are in Texas,” Ed said. “I get it, Austin loves to be healthy, but we need to go back to Texas roots.”

Ed also believes serving exclusively chili gives his food truck an advantage over others in Austin.

“It is the perfect food for a food truck,” Ed said. “One of the geniuses of it is that the chili is already made, and wait times are super low.”

Ed wants to eventually grow out of his food truck and enter into a brick and mortar establishment. He also believes that his restaurant could expand to other places as well.

“Since Texas is such a culturally distinct thing in the U.S. and the world, this could have global appeal,” Ed said. “You may see a Texas Chili Queens restaurant in Berlin, Tokyo, or Tel Aviv.”

While Ed believes the uniqueness of food trucks may be fading, he does not believe the era of food trucks coming into Austin is over.

“The glory days are over and the novelty of the food trucks are starting to wane,” Ed said.

“I think food trucks will continue to roll into town,” Ed said. “But they won’t have the same cachet as they once had.”

Chili Dishes available at Texas Chili Queens. Photo: Texas Chili Queens/Facebook

Chili Dishes available at Texas Chili Queens.
Photo: Texas Chili Queens/Facebook

In 2016, 61 Austin restaurants, bars, and food trucks closed their doors, according to Eater Austin. While many food trucks in Austin have been forced to shut down, others have been able to sustain their success despite the increased competition.

UT alumni Edward Sumner and his lifelong friend Bernard Goal opened The Don Japanese food truck in the summer of 2015.

Despite struggling at the beginning, Don’s became very popular among UT students and frequently had a lengthy line and would run out of food. Last April, due to the restaurant’s popularity, the restaurant upgraded to a brick and mortar facility.

Co-owner Bernard Goal does not believe that a twist is necessary for food trucks in Austin to be successful. He believes the key to success in the food truck business depends on three important principles: product, service, and economics.

“You must have a good product, provide good service to your customers, and do so at a price that appeals to them and at a cost that is sustainable for you,” Goal said.

“Excelling in all of these will help a food truck stand out from the others in Austin.”

 

The Texas Chili Queens food truck offers five menu items. All inspired by these 5 cities in the state of Texas.

The Texas Chili Queens food truck offers five menu items. All inspired by these 5 cities in the state of Texas.

 

Austin making a name for itself in craft beer scene

Photos by Courtney Runn

 

 

Austin making a name for itself in craft beer scene

By Noelle Darilek

Whether the trend is here to stay or not, the popularity of craft beer in Austin is beginning to brew again.

Since the revival of the craft beer scene in Austin around 2011, the trend is beginning to gain further momentum as more locals take to and embrace the movement.

Besides other local breweries, the Austin craft beer culture competes against large cities such as Portland, Denver and Boulder where the craft beer scene is more developed. According to the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, 56 percent of central Texas craft breweries can be found in Austin. This is based off their list of over 180 breweries out of the 189 statewide.

Local breweries such as South Austin Brewery are just one example. Celebrating its three-year anniversary this month, the brewery coined and trademarked the first Texas pale ale with their TPA beer.

General Manager Martyn Buffler describes South Austin Brewery as one that stands out from others.

“We’ve kind of taken a different approach to all of this. We wanna make beers that we enjoy and that we like enjoying with our friends and family. We’re into good Texas beer,” he said.

The brewery works to research and craft the perfect beer when introducing a new one. Their newest beer is the Austin Bock, a traditional chocolate, malty, German bock, but is something you don’t tend to see in the marketplace. It also produces a beer mixed with cold-brew coffee, which further highlights the idea that the craft beer scene is one that lends itself to creativity and experimentation.

Brewmaster at South Austin Brewery, Rus Hall, has been working with beer for over 20 years. From cleaning the brewing tanks in Alaska, to working at a Portland bottle shop and later as a brewer, to today brewing in Austin, he said he enjoys doing it and that, “As long as the beer is good, I know that I’ve done my job.”

Compared to other popular craft beer cities, Hall said thinks Austin is the perfect place for craft beer because of its quirkiness and variety of personalities, which the craft beer industry is perfect for. Texas is ranked 7th nationwide with its number of craft breweries, which has increased from 59 to 189 since 2011. The state produces over 1.1 million barrels of craft beer per year, ranking it number six nationwide.

Hall notes that when he moved away from Austin in 2008 to go back to Alaska, the craft beer scene was fizzling out. He had been working at one of the last craft beer pubs, which later closed. Hall returned to Austin a few years after and was surprised to see craft beer breweries everywhere. Today, he feels like he hears of a new one opening every day.

However, Hall also questions the longevity of the popularity of craft beer in Austin.

“I don’t know how long this is gonna last, this upward trend, but I’d like to think it’s good for us because people are always out there looking for new stuff,” he said. “I think on the national scale, craft brewing is huge and Austin is still pretty tiny compared to other places like Portland as far as beer goes.”

Other states indeed do prove to be competitors, such as Oregon. The state ranks 4th with 228 craft breweries. Yet, compared to Texas it produces slightly fewer barrels of craft beer per year at just over 1 million.

Buffler notes that in the past three to four years, he’s seen 12 new breweries in the area. However, he said South Austin Brewery sees many new faces every weekend and that their customers are from all over. The company works to get every demographic to come by to spread the craft beer trend. It does this through featuring different types of music genre performances and events, even including stand-up comedy.

At a different Austin brewery, Independence Brewing Co. bartender and volunteer Jenny Deering said that over two years of working, she’s seen a boost in business as the craft beer interest has increased over recent years.

Deering thinks the sense of community in the craft beer industry in Austin is what helps drive it, noting that there are a lot of talented people in craft brewing who all support each other. She also said that since moving to Austin five years ago, she “rarely drinks beer from other states” and “only drink[s] Austin beer.”

“I think people drink local and they support local and it’s helped expand craft beer in Austin,” she said. The Texas Craft Brewer’s Guild reports that 17% of new craft breweries being planned will be located in Austin.

“Craft beer has turned into a very trendy thing,” Deering said. “I don’t know if there’s gonna be a bubble where it dies off, but I hope it doesn’t.”

At Wishes and Dishes, Hope is Served

By: Kate Bartick, Julia Bernstein, Anthony Green

Legos, dinosaurs and Disney are among 7-year-old Owen Sirmons’ favorite things, and this past March, Owen had the opportunity to experience his favorite things up close and in person. Thanks to the efforts of Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas, Owen, who has a rare genetic condition called Escobar Syndrome and scoliosis, was able to go to Legoland, Universal Studios and Disney World in Florida.

“He is the most adorable, creative, smart, funny, compassionate, strong, amazing little guy and I couldn’t think of a better person to get this Make-A-Wish experience. He loved every second of it,” said Erica Sirmons, Owen’s mother.

According to Sirmons, Owen’s favorite part of the trip was going to the Jurassic Park-themed area of Universal Studios.

“He got to have his picture taken with a raptor and that to him was like the best thing ever,” Sirmons said.

Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas is an organization dedicated to granting wishes to children, such as Owen, who are diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. Fulfilling wishes would not be possible without the fundraising efforts of Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas and its supporters in the community.

According to Kathryn Draper, director of special events for Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas, there are two different types of events that raise funds for the organization. The first are internal events, which are put on by Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas.

“We fund them, we market them and we coordinate them,” Draper said. “Our biggest internal fundraiser is Over the Edge. The first 200 individuals who raise the minimum of $1,500 will get to rappel down the W Austin. That is this June 11 and 12.”

External events, which are hosted by outside entities, are the second way Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas makes money. Draper said the organization relies heavily on external events, such as Wishes and Dishes. Wishes and Dishes is an event fundraiser held for the past two years in which people buy tickets to dine on meals from around the world and participate in a silent auction with proceeds going to Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas. Early estimates put funds raised from this year’s Wishes and Dishes at $52,000.

The funds raised from both internal and external events go a long way in helping Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas grant wishes.

 

 

According to Draper, since the inception of Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas in 1984, the chapter has granted over 4,200 wishes, with a milestone of 238 wishes granted this past year.

“We’ve never granted that many wishes before which is great for us because we are starting to reach our goal of reaching every eligible child in our territory,” Draper said. “This year we are set to grant 260 wishes which is even better and it can only go up from there.”

According to Draper, the average wish costs approximately $5,000 but for top-tier wishes, such as international wishes and celebrity wishes, the cost can be a little bit more.

As for the most popular wish, a trip to Disney World is number one.

“Disney World makes up over half of all of our wishes. Our kids get to stay at a great place called Give Kids the World,” Draper said. “It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and they get some very special treatment at Disney World.”

The ability to grant wishes for children and teens dealing with life-threatening illnesses leaves a remarkable impact on all persons involved in the wish experience.

Estela Bonacci, a Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas board member and organizer of the Wishes and Dishes event, said having the opportunity to actually meet the children and their families is what drew her to the organization.

“It truly puts perspective in your life and shows you where your priorities should be and it’s just a very rewarding, I can’t even describe it, experience. You really get a connection with the children, the siblings, the parents. It’s an amazing journey,” Bonacci said.

Draper said she believes one of the most rewarding parts about working for the organization is “hearing how much hope, strength, and joy [they’ve] brought not only the child, but the whole family.”

Sirmons said, for her, the best part of the wish experience was that Owen was celebrated by every person they met, whether the family was on the airplane traveling to Florida or at Give Kids the World or Disney World.

“The whole experience celebrated Owen every step of the way,” Sirmons said. “That, to me, was priceless.”

makeawish

 

Mental Health Week Seeks To Promote CMHC Services

Story Package By Will Cobb, Marysabel Cardozo, and Trisha Seelig

This spring, The University of Texas’ Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) hosted their first Mental Health Promotion Week. The campus-wide event offered many activities to help create awareness for mental health issues and promote emotional well-being.

Last week’s events included: interactive tabling, documentary screening, a mobile mind body lab, glow-in-the-dark yoga, panel discussions, sports, sugar scrubs, and an unplug campaign. Students who attended these events received a T-shirt that read Be Kind to Your Mind, promoting the event.

In their panel discussion on diversity and mental health, Kimberly Burdine, a Diversity Coordinator and Psychologist for the CMHC, said that therapy is unique in that the focus is on you.

“What I really want to do is reduce any stigma associated with mental health,” she said.  

Every fall semester, CMHC hosts Suicide Prevention Week, but historically they have not done big events in the spring.

Linda Serna, a senior Women’s and Gender Studies major as well as a Voices Against Violence Peer Educator said that accessibility and safety are factors in students pursuing mental health services.

“You deserve to be in a place where you don’t feel like you have to justify your identity,” Serna said, “In a system that isn’t built for certain people, seeing yourself represented is so important because it also says, you belong here and you can make it.”

With the semester winding down, students’ feel more stressed over approaching finals. Alyssa Mastronardi, a junior psychology and Spanish major and CMHC Peer Educator, said that they decided to host Mental Health Promotion Week now to give students ways to cope with that stress.

Coping with stress looks different for everybody. For Mastronardi, it looks like Yoga and conversations with her mom.

Mastronardi said they’ve had good turn outs, especially to events like their play day and glow-in-the-dark yoga, but will be improving the times they host certain events next year.

UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center has a record number of likes on Facebook right now from the promotion of this week’s events. Mastronardi feels they have met their goal of spreading awareness throughout campus.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, Mastronardi said, “It’s not just about preventing tragedy, but helping everyone live better.”

Israel Guerrero, a sophomore Psychology major, said that he has found the CMHC counselors to be relatable and that students have a voice in getting their needs met here at UT.  

“The staff [of CMHC] really care and would be more than happy to chat with you at any time,” said Mastronardi.

Going forward the CMHC plans to hold a Mental Health Promotion Week annually, with a different tagline each year, Mastronardi said.

 

Photographs by Trisha Seelig

 

Infographics by Will Cobb

 

Texas Bike Tours

 

Photo: Texas Bike Tours Website

Photo: Texas Bike Tours Website

Whether you consider yourself an ‘Austinite,’ or you spent some time visiting Austin, you can always find something new and fun to do in the Capitol of Texas. The city boasts of a plethora of sites to see. Maybe you want to grab a bite at popular food trucks or take memorable pictures at some of Austin’s major landmarks. Seek adventure with not only family and friends, but with an experienced pathfinder to guide you along your new adventure.

Ride with Texas Bike Tours, a company that can match you up with a tour guide to follow along with on your own bike! Listen to the pathfinders explain Austin history as you bike along the new boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake and continue strolling through downtown, gaining knowledge about Austin’s “weird” culture.

Tourists enjoy the engaged and interactive nature of the bike tours.

“I’ve been on bus tours in Europe, but to be out, and to see people and smell things was just super cool,” said Tracey Maloney, Texas Bike Tours customer.  

The company also personalizes each tour to the interests of the group, so every tour is unique and just how you want it. Enjoy a fun and personalized adventure in Austin’s city limits and continue to explore more of Austin’s historic or newly created sites with unforgettable bike tours.

Texas Bike Tours from Selena Depaz on Vimeo.

Still looking for more creative ways to see the city? Here are some other ways to tour Austin:

PubCrawler of Austin

  • Keep Austin Weird by pedaling on the newest mobile unit — a pub on wheels! This bar on wheels explores a variety of popular drinking establishments based on tour routes around the Capitol, the market district, the warehouse district and Barton Springs.

Austin Detours – Ultimate Austin Scavenger Hunt

  • If you like to have fun exploring and also enjoy a good team challenge, then this part-city tour part-energetic competition is for you. This tour stops at major landmarks while playing games and gathering items, and ends with tallying up of scores for the scavenger hunt awards ceremony.

Austin Segway Tours by Gliding Revolution

  • Want to rest your feet, but still take a tour? Glide your way around the Capitol and major downtown areas on Austin’s Segway Tours, which provide the history of the city and fun sites to stop and take photos. Just be sure to keep your balance and avoid the potholes.

Live Love Paddle

  • If you want to still rest your feet but get a killer arm workout, you can paddle your way through downtown via Lady Bird Lake with this kayaking tour. Learn some local history and interesting facts with this tour while floating on downtown Austin’s beautiful body of water.

In true Austin fashion, the city keeps its tours weird, so get out and explore!

 

 

Photos courtesy of Texas Bike Tours

Johnson’s Backyard Garden: Keeping Austin Fresh

Filmed and Edited by: Alejandra Martinez, Kristen Hubby and Taylor Villarreal

Photos by: Alejandra Martinez, Kristen Hubby, Taylor Villarreal

Infographics by: Marysabel Cardozo

Story by: Taylor Villarreal and Marysabel Cardozo

 

Twelve years ago, a man named Brenton Johnson converted his family’s backyard garden in Austin’s East Side into a million dollar business.

“Pretty soon I was growing more produce than our family could eat, so I started selling at the Austin Farmers’ Market,” Johnson said in an interview with Find Farm Credit. “We didn’t even know what to charge the first time we were there.”

Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Backyard Garden, who formerly served as the Program Administrator for the Water Conservation Field Services Program in Austin, and says he has always believed that “human energy consumption practices need some serious reconsideration.”

Inspired by a Japanese farm that fed its’ community through a prepaid service, Johnson set out to kickstart one of Texas’ first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations: Johnson’s Backyard Garden.

A CSA operation gives members of a community direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers. They are also often referred to as personalized box subscriptions.

To Johnson, CSA’s are “a relationship between the farmer and its customers. And essentially, the customers share in the risk of the farm by prepaying for a portion of the harvest.”

When you become a member of a CSA, you are purchasing a “share” of the crops. JBG offers CSA memberships in over ten major cities and suburbs across Texas. Austin members can pick up their food at one of 24 locations throughout the greater Austin area, and new pick-up sites are being added as needed.

“Through my work with JBG, I have aimed to strike a balance between these challenges and the resource-consuming aspects of food production,” Johnson says on his LinkedIn biography. “I continue to strive for constant improvement and community involvement through the most earth-friendly, biodynamic-conscious, organic farming methods.”

To date, JBG employs 20 workers, feeds over 1,000 consumers and grosses over $1 million in sales annually. The farm welcomes volunteers five days out of the week at either of their two locations, The Garfield Farm, where all of their produce is grown, or the Hergotz Packing Shed (better known as “The Barn”). A half-day of volunteering gets the workers one CSA share of seasonal vegetables.

Lyndsie Decologero, a Post Production Manager, started at JBG three years ago as a volunteer at Garfield Farms where she planted and picked produce to be transported to The Barn. From there she was promoted to manage accounts with wholesale retailers, such as Wheatsville Co-Op and Whole Foods Market.

“My first day volunteering we were harvesting sweet potatoes and digging through the soil. By the end of the day I had dirt crammed so far into my fingernails,” Delcologero recalled. “It was such an amazing experience because people really don’t realize just how much work goes behind getting their food to the table. It was truly an amazing and inspiring moment for me, and I hope more people start to learn about what it means to buy locally and organically.”

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UT Microfarm: Sustainable Vegetables by Students for Students

By: Julia Bernstein, J.D. Harris, and Jessica Jones

The UT Microfarm table located in the West Mall plaza on campus last Monday afternoon.

The UT Microfarm table located in the West Mall plaza on campus last Monday afternoon.

Fast food restaurants dominate the University of Texas area. Whether it’s on campus itself or right across Guadalupe, it’s not difficult to eat poorly while in college. A healthy alternative is now available every Monday afternoon on the West Mall plaza right in the heart of campus.

This Microfarm is the first of its kind on the University of Texas. They rotate crops throughout the year so there is always something fresh and in season to try. In the current season of winter, greens and root vegetables are most easily grown and available. As spring and summer approaches, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables will be up for sale.

This practice of sustainable farming is not information solely kept by the farm’s staff. The farm hosts open workdays every Thursday and Sunday. With no RSVP or experience required, this allows anyone to work as a volunteer and learn about the farming practices used at the UT Mircrofarm.

Candice Lu, a UT student, spent a Thursday afternoon at the farm with her Greek life leadership class giving back to the community. The Microfarm staff focuses on educating volunteers on the practices that takes place on the farm in order to grow sustainable crops.

“I think it’s important that we came out here today because living in a big city where we sometimes don’t even have an easy way to recycle, it’s very informative to find out about all these different processes especially composting,” Lu said.

The UT microfarm has a goal to “grow food for our local community, while creating and facilitating a number of opportunities pursuing innovation, education, sustainable systems, and interdisciplinary collaboration,” as stated by their website. This is what gives the farm its unique mission- not only to grow organic and sustainable crops, but to educate the surrounding community about these processes as well.

“We hope to connect the community to their food by emphasizing what is in season, including giving out recipe cards using in season produce,” Mircrofarm co-director Stephanie Hamborsky said. “This really draws people in and shows them that it is not difficult to eat seasonally and to buy local.”

Hamborsky also mentions water conversation and healthy soil structure through composting as key factors when it comes to sustainable farming. These are the two processes that are usually taught to volunteers in hopes that they will take this knowledge and make it better known amongst the community.

The UT Microfarm also works closely with the University Food & Housing Services (UFHS). According to Hamborsky, when the farm produces large quantities of vegetables, they sell them to UFHS. This partnership not only benefits the Microfarm, but also allows locally grown produce to be made more widely available to students on campus.

Kinsolving Food Service General Manager, Christine Jenner, believes that this partnership is one of the things that makes UT’s food service an educational experience. Locally grown produce is not only used in food preparation for the Kinsolving Dining Hall, but it’s also available in a fresh produce section within Kin’s Market, a small store right inside the doors of the residence hall.

“At a University as big as ours, attempting to feed tens of thousands of people a day, the fact that we can have locally grown options really sets us apart,” Jenner said. “My goal for Kinsolving is to move toward all of our produce being locally grown, and we are helping the cause with our own mini garden on the patio outside the dining hall.”

The Microfarm doesn’t seek to be profitable. As a grant-based program through the university, the goal is not to make money. Community outreach and education prevail as the number one goal for the Mircrofarm.

“I would encourage everyone to come out to volunteer on work days and gain a deeper connection with the food you eat,” Hamborsky said.

**NOTE: To learn more about the UT Microfarm, visit their website at: https://utmicrofarm.wordpress.com/


Map of Organic Grocery Stores & Farmers Markets in Austin, Texas

UT Microfarm

The Wurst Festival in Texas

It was the best of times, it was the wurst of times at this year’s 52nd annual Wurstfest, a celebration of all things German.

A group of friends joins in with the rest of the crowd by holding their cups in the air to make a toast while singing along to the traditional “Ein Prosit” song. Photo by: Erin MacInerney

A group of friends joins in with the rest of the crowd by holding their cups in the air to make a toast while singing along to the traditional “Ein Prosit” song. Photo by: Erin MacInerney

By: Morgan Bridges, Erin Griffin, Erin MacInerney, Jamie Pross

(Click to listen to the Chardon Polka Band perform live in the Stelzenplatz Biergarten at Wurstfest)

(Click to watch a first-person view of the festival)

NEW BRAUNFELS- Sprechen sie fun? Hint: say yes!

Don’t worry, you needn’t speak German to enjoy the revelry of Wurstfest, the 10-day salute to sausage.

But if you really want to delve into the culture that makes up this Oktoberfest- inspired event, knowing a few phrases will help you to fit in among the lederhosen clad festival-goers.

The small town of New Braunfels, Texas welcomes over 100,000 visitors to the festival each November.

Wurstfest Lingo-FinalThe smell of kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), strudel, schnitzel, and other dishes you may have a hard time pronouncing, waft throughout the tents of the festival grounds.

For people like Sammi Guerrero, Wurstfest is an annual family tradition.

“I have been going every year since I was born,” says Guerrero. “My whole family goes at least three days out of the ten days it is held each year.”

Guerrero’s 21-year streak (or 22 if you count the time she was still in her mother’s belly) is nothing compared to her father, Roland, who has been going every year since the early 1970’s.

Roland’s father, Larry Guerrero, has been joining the family for as long as he can remember. Larry may use a walker but the minute Grammy Award-winning polka artist Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra start playing, Guerrero can’t help but get up and dance.

“Everyone loves my grandpa and when they see him dancing, they can’t help but join,” says Sammi Guerrero. “I love getting to come with him each year and watch him make people smile.”

One of the Guerrero’s favorite parts of the festival is sharing a pitcher of German lager. Roland recounts when a pitcher of beer was a dollar compared to the now almost 30 dollar pitchers being sold.

While grandpa dances to the polka music, the rest of the family heads to the biergarten, part of the newly renovated Stelzenplatz hall.

With more than 30 craft beers from all over the nation and a few specialty German beers, Wurstfest is known for drinking.

Guests make it a point to collect as many plastic beer pitchers as they can down, and that crashing sound you just heard? It was a pyramid of pitchers stacked up falling to the ground, a common sight among the beer hall.

Despite the vast alcohol consumption, Wurstfest Associations members make sure that the fest is centered around good family fun.

Another important part of the festival are the traditional German clothes, lederhosen worn by men and dirndl’s worn by women.

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Click here to learn more about the history of Wurstfest

 

“A lot of people want to be dressed up for the event,” says Paula Kater, owner of the Kuckuck’s Nest in Fredericksburg, Texas. “Every year, sales pick up and people want to get more and more into it. Even the younger generations want to dress up.”

Kater emphasizes that the outfits she dresses her customers in are not costumes, but authentic clothing of her heritage.

“Every one is an original straight from Germany,” says Kater.

Kater was impressed to find such a large German influence in the Texas Hill Country when she arrived here from Ludwigshafen, Germany 15 years ago.

She travels all over the nation providing outfits for people attending Okterberfest events but says Wurstfest has always been her favorite.

“Wurstfest is one of the biggest,” says Kater. “It is the elite of all of them, even the ones up north.”

Lederhosen & Dirndl-Final

 

(A supplementary video from Wurstfest. How to sing one of the favorite songs, Ein Prosit!)

 

 

Off the Stage: Life After “The Voice”

Cassandra Jaramillo | Jade Magalhaes | Sandy Marin | Jan Ross Piedad

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Luke Wade, season 7 contestant of “The Voice,” takes the stage at Stubb’s Barbecue in Feb. with single “Doctor Please” from his album “The River.” [Photo by: Jade Magalhaes]

After the curtains closed, the spotlight stopped shining and the microphones switched to silent on set of one of the most popular talent television shows in America, what stayed behind was a musician’s desire to share his art in its purest form. 

From season 7 of hit NBC show “The Voice”, a soulful artist from a farming community in Dublin, Texas landed a spot among the show’s Top 8 singers. Lucas Anthony Wade, the so-often labeled soulful singer-songwriter has no desire in being classified by such conventional categories, he just wants to be known as Luke Wade.

 “The best thing an artist can do for themselves is make their names a genre,” Luke said. “Look at Ben Harper, Dave Matthews and Incubus. They use their names to describe other people’s music and to describe genres.”

In his 2014 blind audition, Luke turned four chairs and impressed superstar coaches Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton with his version of Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” Luke ultimately chose singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer and fashion designer Pharell WIlliams as his coach. The duo fought through the battle rounds, the knockouts and the live playoffs, but Luke did not come out as the victor.  

Throughout the television journey, Luke did not lose sight of his roots. Music is Wade’s sole focus, but according to the artist, singing and songwriting wasn’t necessarily part of his original life-plan. It was something he stumbled upon.

 “It’s so much more complicated than a year or a time,” Luke said. “I accidentally became a singer, songwriter and musician. All of the music stuff came after my story and my need to find a common thread with other people to make myself feel less alone.”  

In a candid attempt to psychoanalyze himself briefly, Luke describes his young self as the sore thumb in a small town, population 200 at the time. Mom was a dancer, dad was a painter and due to health problems, Luke was a wisp of a little kid.

 “I just wanted to be like everybody else, but I just wasn’t,” Luke said. “I was told to be myself, but there was no middle ground. If I was myself, I would never fit in.”  

Luke’s struggles were amplified in a hot Texas summer at age 13, when his right eye was hit by a paintball. The accident took him out of contact sports, made his physique scrawny and left him half-blind. With the feeling that he had something to prove, Luke took up running. But he ran until he gave himself a heat stroke.

The stroke left emotional scars, but also literally left young Luke without the knowledge of who he was. Or who his parents were.  

“I came back to school and that’s whenever I found art, whenever I found self expression and when I started of instead of looking at everybody else to try and be happy, I started looking at myself,” Luke said.

That turning point led Luke to music.

 After getting his feet wet with writing and performing, the aspiring artist formed the band Luke Wade & No Civilians, with whom he still performs. Together, they produced two albums: “Tomorrow’s Ghosts” and more recently “The River.”  

Many things came out of ”The Voice”. It gave Luke the perfect platform to expose his art,  gain more followers and get invaluable training from coaches and advisors who have, once upon a time, been in his same shoes.

“I learned how to respond to pressure,” Luke said. “No matter how tough things get, ultimately everything is going to be OK. There is no reason to worry about whether you messed up or what someone thinks about a thing that you did, it will all be OK.”

 This November, over a year after walking off “The Voice” stage, Luke found himself in the live music capital of the world while touring the country with his band. After a performance at The Parish, he walked a crowded 6th street and took shots with friend and season 5 contestant Jonny Gray.

There’s no longer thousands of people watching Luke take the stage. But he performs as if there were a million.

Data on Google Searches of First 5 Season Winners   Editor’s Note: The numbers that appear show total searches for a term relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. A line trending downward means that a search term’s relative popularity is decreasing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the total number of searches for that term is decreasing. It just means its popularity is decreasing compared to other searches.
 

Interest Over Time on American Music Talent Shows Editor’s Note: The numbers that appear show total searches for a term relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. A line trending downward means that a search term’s relative popularity is decreasing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the total number of searches for that term is decreasing. It just means its popularity is decreasing compared to other searches.