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Dallas Chef's Farm Brings Home Slow Food

 Dallas Chef's Farm Brings Home Slow Food

Christopher Wynn | The Dallas Morning News

LONE OAK – Supper is an all-day affair at Hedda Gioia Dowd’s farm, a brisk walk from Lake Tawakoni. The eggs need collecting from the henhouse. Fresh hay must be cut to line the roasting pan. And the poussin is already on the spit by 8 a.m., making the first of many turns in the living room hearth.

This is slow food from a woman who deeply understands what nourishes body and soul.

Dowd, along with chef, business partner and longtime friend Cherif Brahmi, owns Rise No. 1 in Inwood Village. The chic souffle bistro celebrates unhurried dining, but its success has put this duo on the fast track. Their not quite 2-year-old venture earned a recommendation from The New York Times, and the pair is working now to open a second Rise (No. 2?) in a turn-of-the-century building in Chicago’s trendy West Loop neighborhood.

Dowd is more than well-versed in table talk. She also deals in it, having turned a lifelong passion for vintage linens, silverware and utensils (“the French have a tool for everything”) into the 15-year-old company Antique Harvest (antiqueharvest.com). Dowd hand-picks each piece during trips abroad; many come from private chateaus, whose owners are discreetly divesting. The shopping venture began as a hobby when American-born Dowd would visit with her French mother, a lifelong cook whom Dowd also credits for sparking her love of food.

“I grew up in Memphis, where it’s all Southern food, fried chicken and ham with honey all over it. … But my mother would be in the kitchen making souffles,” she notes with no small pride.

On this day, Dowd is cooking with an 18th-century tournebroche, which rotates a spit in the living room fireplace. The iron device clamps to the mantel and recalls the guts of a clock with its toothy gears and elaborate mechanisms. “It took a retired Texas Instruments engineer, my brother, my late husband and so many arguments I can’t even tell you to finally get this thing going again,” Dowd says.

She brushes aside blond bangs and uses both hands to wind the apparatus in a series of loud cranks, finally locking the handle with a clang: “Now, we wait.” The room fills with a steady tick, tick, tick as the mechanism slowly rotates the fireplace spit. Guests are given the job of helping to monitor the tournebroche and rewinding it as needed. “It gets everybody involved, and I love that,” says Dowd.