Taking the buy-local imperative seriously, East Dallas restaurant Garden Cafe unveiled a limited-edition menu featuring Israeli melons grown in Waxahachie by farmer (and CultureMap columnist) Marshall Hinsley.
Garden Cafe chef-owner Mark Wootton will spotlight the melons in a number of dishes over the next two weeks, including a chilled melon soup and an agua fresca drink. The soup is $3.50 a cup or $5.50 a bowl, and it can be ordered in two options.
"The soup is vegan, but if you want, you can add crispy prosciutto, similar to the classic prosciutto e melone appetizer," Wootton says. He's also created a special fruit salad starring the exotic gourd.
He took possession of 40 of Hinsley's melons on Saturday. "I'll take pretty much anything," Wootton says. "If anybody has anything and I know them and I know it’s grown responsibly, I try to take as much as I can."
His first encounter with Israeli melons came via Comeback Creek Farms, an organic grower in Pittsburg and one of his favored vendors.
"They brought by one of these melons; I tasted it and fell in love with it," he says. "The color and the texture are unique. The flavor, I've tried to describe it as a mix of honeydew and cantaloupe, but that's not quite accurate. I was shocked when I first had a local melon grown organically and picked when ripe, at how much different it was than what you buy at the store."
As Hinsley described them, Israeli melons can grow as large as a bowling ball, and their peel turns bright orange when they ripen. Their flesh is creamy, with a floral flavor and distinctive, almost waxy texture.
The arrival of 40 Israeli melons is a blessing but also a challenge.
"I gotta come up with something quick," Wootton says. "The soup is a good way to highlight it. It's a great thing for a summer day. I put in a little allspice and lime. It's a little like a smoothie, but more savory. We'll do the agua fresca, the fruit salad and something else I haven't figured out yet.
"I have it in my mind that I want to try torching it with something. Comeback Creek has some good watermelons. Maybe do a melon salad with goat or feta."