There’s farm to table… and then there’s Eden East, where acclaimed Austin chef and restaurateur Sonya Cote puts the table on the farm. The outdoor resutaurant is a magical dining experience: nestled among lush fields on an urban farm, with reclaimed wood tables under dusky skies and twinkling fairy lights, diners enjoy a sumptuous meal closer to the source than they have perhaps ever been. In the dreamy twilight haze, food tastes more alive, conversation is more real and somehow more intimate, the sounds of the farm seduce, and it all just kind of goes to your head — this is dinner in paradise.
We stopped by recently for a visit about what keeps this busy lady inspired and left with a hunger for freshly harvested late-summer produce and a recipe for Vodka Tempura Okra.
Your earliest cooking or food memory:
Making breakfast with my grandpa on Saturday mornings – a big bowl of garden tomatoes with salt and pepper!
Where do you get culinary inspiration?
From looking at ingredients and figuring out how to put them together in cohesive ways.
If you could pass on one trick or technique to our readers, what would it be?
Favorite food and drink pairing:
An Old Fashioned and a crème brûlée.
Your favorite cookbook:
The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Favorite quickly assembled appetizer:
Seasonal bruschetta or a local cheese plate with pickles.
What does the table look like when you host a dinner party?
I care more about the food than the table… but I always like to incorporate animal bones & lots of bottles of wine.
The meal you will never forget:
I’ll never forget a dinner I had at a place called Supper Club in Amsterdam. It was a four course meal served by drag queens, and at the end, the walls came up and the dinner became a disco dance party!
What makes a meal romantic?
Sonya’s Vodka Tempura Fried Okra
1 cup flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 cup Topo Chico (or other sparkling water)
Salt and pepper to taste
A pinch of black sesame seeds
2 oz ginger vodka
1 quart of fresh okra, rinsed and dried
Peanut, canola or grapeseed oil for frying
Heat oil in a large, deep pot to a depth of 3” to 350 degrees. While oil heats, combine flour and
cornstarch in a medium bowl, then pour in Topo Chico, black sesame seeds and vodka and whisk until batter is the consistency of pancake batter. Season with salt and pepper. Dip okra in batter and fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain briefly on rack, paper towels or a repurposed brown paper sack. Serve garnished with whole grain mustard and quick-pickled onions or your favorite buttermilk herb dip.