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Philanthropy in the Roundtopolis™: The True Heart of Round Top

The True Heart of Round Top

Author’s note: On many a night, the philanthropic heart of the Roundtopolis™ throbs strongly. Galas large, or soirees small are hosted to underwrite area non profits that serve the community. Everything, from the local volunteer fire department, library, music and arts programs to the area animal shelter, receives the love, embraced by those who call Round Top home for all or part of the time. Sometimes the venue for these fundraisers isn’t a local hall, but one of the homes that dot the landscape, their broad country porches becoming platforms for shoring up the coffers of needful organizations. These charitable “dos” are an integral part of a very full social calendar that reflects this rural area’s soul, even more so than its well known joie de vivre.    

On a recent fall evening, a “mini-fundraiser” was held at Huckleberry Farm, the stunning Round Top home of Ann and Bobby Rauch, named after their beloved canine guardian and friend who lies at rest in the woods. The event supported The Bugle Boy, a non profit listening room in nearby La Grange. Ann and Bobby, who also own and have redeveloped Round Top’s historic Bybee Square into a top-end shopping, gallery space, and dining venue, are ardent supporters of Lane Gosnay’s brainchild “listening room” that highlights regionally and nationally known singer/songwriters and musicians. Close to the Rauch’s heart is the music, and the Bugle Boy’s various outreach programs including “Swan Song” a Bugle Boy Foundation project that answers calls for musical visits and requests from local nursing homes and hospice care situations throughout Fayette County. 

“Music is so powerful,” Ann says, “It can bring joy and uplift failing hearts, as little else can, when life ebbs.”    

Joining the Rauch’s in the evening’s goal of raising $5,000 for the Bugle Boy Foundation’s work were two top Houston restaurateurs: their sons-in-law Shawn Virene and Travis Lenig, who volunteered their time and talent, along with the Rauch’s daughters Stacey Lenig and Shelley Virene, to create an extraordinary menu. 

“The boys are such good friends and amazing chefs who never tire of putting on a feast, either in or out of their restaurants,” Ann says. “Sharing their culinary skills with our friends, for this cause, has been delightful.” 

A’Bouzy, in River Oaks, is Shawn’s popular creation with its focus on champagne-accompanied French-inspired menus.  Field & Tides in the Heights is Travis’ more casual and equally sought after Southern fare bistro. 

The event was held on a Thursday night, because of the need to be in their restaurants on weekends. Shawn and Travis outdid themselves with a bountiful harvest-worthy menu. 

Beginning with house-made and cured sausages on the antipasto misto (a specialty at A’Bouzy) to Lenig’s 72-hour sou vide short ribs, famous mashed potatoes, and pork belly topped deviled eggs. to Virine’s boudin-stuffed Texas quail, the veritable feast was a culinary adventure for the 50-plus who attended, each contributing $100 to the Bugle Boy for the opportunity to do so. 

The night unfolded on the Rauch’s broad front porch. As is typical on the 100-plus-acre farm, guests received a rousing welcome from the Rauch’s beloved Beagle and Golden Retriever – Bailey and Lucy, well before the front door opened, portal to a custom home they designed from the ground up, and completed in 2015. 

The Backdrop for Entertaining

The home encompasses the Rauch’s vision for a place to surround themselves in casual elegance and total comfort. The resulting design lives as well as it entertains. 

From the entry, one enters a wide open space with 30-foot ceilings secured by antique barn wood beams and reclaimed wood. A rear-facing wall of windows allows one to view the forest and pasture beyond, as well as the lap pool, porches and patio nearby. The home’s massive center could have, in other hands, felt cavernous. Such is not the case here where the richness of wood abounds and the resulting coziness belies the actual space at hand. 

The home’s core was designed to comprise the living room, a stone fireplace-appointed sitting area, dining room, bar and kitchen, with the placement of special pieces of furniture collected through the years that alone define the spaces. Inherited and found antiques from the antique shows, and the artwork of local artists and artisans adorn the room in gallery-like fashion. 

Many of the home’s architectural elements – doors and windows – were sourced long ago and stored until this home could be fashioned around them. 

“We have haunted the antique shows and fields, and all of our fine art galleries in Fayette County for years, beginning with the Gallery at Round Top in Bybee Square, even before we bought the square,” Bobby says. 

The home’s walls and surfaces speak the names of the robust talent to be found in galleries from Round Top to Fayetteville: Karen Vernon, William Anzalone, D Little, Lenore Prudhomme, Lebeth Lammers, Gerald Tobola, Art Stokes, Bo Newell and numerous others. Even the home’s fireplace mantel, dining table, coffee table and entry bench were created by local artisans from one live oak tree that succumbed during the last drought.

“As sad as the loss of that big old tree was,” Ann says, “we love how it has been given new life in our home.”     

While most visitors to Huckleberry Farm are accommodated in two outlying guest houses, adjacent to the grand living space is a study that can also serve as a second bedroom, its bookcase a creative disguise for a “Murphy Bed.” The study is served by a powder room and separate large bath. The main home’s master suite features a lovely ensuite bath that feels a part of the garden beyond. Just outside the window is a tree that Bailey the beagle often climbs and uses to peer inside.

“It can be a bit unnerving sometimes,” Ann says. 

The laundry, mud room, and pantry are immediately off the kitchen. And, that pantry is big enough to handle all the cleaning and sorting of Ann’s passion – her vegetable garden. Spring, summer and fall her garden delivers enough produce to regularly supply both Houston restaurants, including ingredients for the evening’s meal.

“I’m at the tail end of the season, but my garden contributed shishito peppers, herbs, eggplant and a variety of other tidbits that the boys have included in the menu. It gives me such joy to share my garden, our home and the blessings of family with so many good friends in support of Bugle Boy, tonight,” Ann says.      

Indeed, the evening was synonymous with everything this home is about and means, in its entirety, to the Rauch’s: warmth, love, giving, peace. All this writer will add is ‘merci beau coup’ for sharing. 

 Travis Lenig’s Short Ribs

Ingredients

Boneless short rib or chuck flap
Salt
Pepper
Worcestershire Sauce

Preparation

Salt and pepper beef. Place in sous vide bag and add a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Seal bag. Place in 140 degree F thermal circulator for 72 hours. Remove and cool. Prior to serving heat on charcoal or wood grill, slice and serve.

by Kathleen Johnston

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