2015 Ponchatoula Louisiana Strawberry Festival Poster Controversy

Shelley Matherne is at the center of a firestorm. Ms. Matherne is the public relations representative for the 2015 Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival which has somehow ended up at ground zero for contemporary race discussions in Louisiana.

Because of the poster created by artist Kalle Siekkinen for the event.

2015 Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival Poster
2015 Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival Poster

As you can see, the poster depicts two Black children wearing all white garb and perhaps preparing to feast on some delicious Ponchatoula strawberries.

Read into it what you will.

Tremble with outrage or tremble with outrage that anyone could be outraged.

Either way there’s no getting around the fact that the Louisiana Strawberry and Marketing Board will be having some sleepless nights ahead.

The 2015 Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival is to be held the weekend of April 10th.

There will be dozens of vendors trotting out all manners of strawberry related foodstuffs. I’ll keep an eagle eye out for heirloom varietals like Daybreak, Tangi or Headliner but I won’t be holding my breath.

Strawberries have been big business on the North Shore since the late 1800s when Italian farmers began the commercial cultivation of the delicious fruit. Back then there were thousands of acres devoted to the industry, nowadays there are only a few hundred.

With the prevalence, and easy availability of Driscoll strawberries from Mexico and California, the Louisiana varietals have been pushed aside.

Except for one glorious weekend in April when folks gather from all over the state in Ponchatoula to eat, drink, listen to live music and this year, have some intense discourse on the modern state of race relations in Louisiana.

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2015 Barbacoa And Big Red Festival In San Antonio

I live in the greatest city in the USA: New Orleans, Louisiana, but there is one city in my former home of Texas that I miss deeply: San Antonio.

The foodways of that town are unmatched, the women folk strap on their stiletto heels  just to go to the HEB, the citizens could not be friendlier and the city is beautiful in a dusty, forlorn sort of way,

And I love the “Keep San Antonio Lame” shirts that all the neo-Bohemians wear around town. San Antonio is many things, lame is not one of them.

Then there’s the barbacoa. The western and southern regions of San Antonio are littered with dozens of barbacoa parlors vending copious amounts of slow-cooked cow heads, served on handmade tortillas and garnished with some of the finest hot sauces in all of USA.

You haven’t eaten Tex Mex til you’ve worked your way through San Antonio’s restaurant and taco truck scene.

Now, 15 of the biggest heavy hitters in town are all preparing to gather in one place, at one time, to show and prove who makes the best barbacoa in all of Texas at the Barbacoa and Big Red Festival set for  May 3 2015 at R & J Music Pavilion in Thelma, 30 minutes south of San Antonio.

The event was founded by Tony Villareal in 2012 as a way for the community to gather as one under a united love for cow head meat.

There are few food and beverage pairings that can equal barbacoa and Big Red soda. Although Big Red was invented in Waco, Texas in 1937 by Grover C. Thomsen and R.H. Roark, I grew up hopelessly addicted to the stuff over a thousand miles away in the Cumberland Highlands of Eastern Kentucky.

For decades Big Red was only available in parts of Texas, Kentucky and Indiana.

Big Red also extends itself to other areas of popular culture: One of the centerpieces of my record collection is The Return of Doug Saldaña by Doug Sahm, the greatest musician to ever come out of the great state. Big Red is featured on the album cover.

And who can forget the red soda wars of the 70s when Big Red squared off with Tiger Red, a regional soda pop maker with deep roots in the Midwest and upper South?

You can guess who won that contretemps.

While the 2015 edition of Barbacoa And Big Red Festival will undoubtedly be a fun party let’s not forget that it’s also a competition. At the debut event in 2012, Rio’s Barbacoa emerged as the winner. In 2013 Pepe’s Barbacoa walked away with the title while Celorio’s Barbacoa has won the last two events.

Could we possibly see a visit from the much vaunted Vera’s out of Brownsville? They’re the only outfit in the whole of Texas still permitted to cook the cow’s head buried in the fertile soil of Texas. This is the centuries-old technique that is now largely forbidden by modern health codes.

I’ve driven to Brownsville for the sole purpose of eating at Vera’s and I can tell you there is no barbacoa finer and their dragon’s blood salsa is the apogee of Texas hot sauce.

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend this event. It’s 500 plus miles from my new home and while I would love to cue the Stone Cold Steve Austin entrance music, quit my job and rush to San Antonio in my beloved Ford Econoline van, it’s just not going to happen.

Any San Antonio bloggers reading? Feel free to write a scene report and file it through the contact button. It will probably make you famous.

Event: 2015 Barbacoa And Big Red Festival

Date: May 3rd 2015

Place: R & J Music Pavilion 18086 Pleasonton Rd, 78221

I tweet from the Upper 9th Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana, the finest eating city in all of USA @rlreevesjr

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Crime In The Bywater: Knife Wielding Madman Takes Down Jimmy’s Grocery

Anyone who thinks that the newcomers that have flooded into New Orleans over the past few years have completely taken over only need to visit the Bywater neighborhood to view things differently.

Friday February 7th 2015, Jimmy’s Grocery at the corner of Dauphine and France Streets was robbed by a knife-wielding man who threatened the life of the clerk over the contents of the cash register.

Jimmy’s In The Bywater

In a sage move, the cashier surrendered 300 plus dollars from the till and the brigand fled with the moneys.

My next door neighbors drive the two blocks it takes to traverse the distance between our homes and Bud Rip’s Old 9th Ward Bar after a friend was pistol-whipped and mugged leaving the historic tavern a month ago.

And it’s open season on bicyclists in The Bywater as numerous riders have been assaulted and relieved of their rides in addition to their wallets, keys and whatever else they may have on their persons.

Last Fall, a foursome were out for an evening stroll when a pistol-wielding mugger attacked them and demanded their belongings. One of the group attempted to reason with the gentleman and was pistol whipped for his efforts.

While muggings and property crime are abundant, murder must be figured into the equation as well. In mid-January of this year a man was found face-down on Louisa Street with a bullet in his head. He was dead at the scene.

With New Orleans’ police force at historic lows and new money surging into historically economically challenged areas, I don’t reckon that crime in The Bywater will let up anytime soon. Within 10 blocks of my home there are dozens of quick marts, bars, cafes, diners and coffee shops; each is a magnet for folks who have wallets, purses and automobiles…and targets on their backs in the view of neighborhood toughs and no-accounts.

When a friend visited in December he got all dressed up and was about to leave on a photo safari through the area when I stopped him at the door. He was wearing a nice blazer, shined up shoes and an Oxford dress shirt.

“Might want to not look like such a mark, man” I warned him. He wisely put on some old threads and headed out. And came home safe an hour or so later. I breathed a sigh of relief; part and parcel of living in The Bywater



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Watch Molly Schuyler Take The 72 Ounce Steak Challenge At The Big Texan

Molly Schuyler Takes The Big Texan Challenge In Amarillo Texas

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Appalachian Food Summit: A Celebration of Our Appalachian Food Heritage

I’d give anything to be in Hindman, Kentucky this Sunday May 18th 2014 for the big Appalachian food summit. Mountain folk’s food often gets short shrift in the national conversation but we’re predicting that will change as southern food enjoys an extended star turn via the media’s hot glare.

Eventually they’ll discover Kentucky’s mountain soul.

Chef Travis Milton will be preparing a feast Sunday night. He works at Comfort in the hills of West Virginia; our best efforts to find a menu were for naught but be careful to not catch a tablefork in the back of your wrist from Silas House when you go in for a piece of fried chicken.

Prior to the big Sunday night supper, Ronni Lundy (“Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens.”) will discourse on all things Appalachia; Bill Best, a tomato farmer from Berea will give a talk as will noted documentarian Jamie Ross  (“Appalachia A History of Mountains and People”)

The event is free and open to the public. The supper is sold out.

71 Justice Center Dr, Hindman, KY 41822

Sunday May 18th


And for good measure: Here’s how to make one of Eastern Kentucky’s classic dishes http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2010/6/7/The-Kentucky-Kitchen-Part-I-Classic-Kentucky-Recipes-The-Fried-Baloney-Sandwich

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2014 Guide To Barbecue Competitions In USA

Gas up the Jetta and hit the open road this Summer to reconnoiter your way through pick-up truck loads of smoked meats at barbecue competitions across the USA.

It’s how I’ve lived my life for over 20 years and I see no reason to stop now.

Memphis, Tennessee: Undeniably violent, hot and filled with some of the finest photo opps for urban decay in America-it also hosts a monster of a barbecue shootout called Memphis In May. Hundreds of teams vector in from all over the world to battle it out on the banks of the Mississippi.

Please be aware that teams are not allowed to dole out food. As bizarre as that seems to a Texan, this is a rule laid down by the folks running the festival so take plenty cash to buy meat from vendors.

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in NYC. This is the 12th year of the event held in Madison Square Park in Manhattan June 7th and 8th 2014. Pit bosses from Texas, the South, Missouri, the Carolinas and New York all gather in the humid concrete swamp that is NYC to determine who the king of the crime-ridden Big Apple barbecue scene is.

For over four decades the little town of Brady Texas has hosted an International Goat Cook Off on the grounds of Richards Park. I’ve been to dozens of barbecue cook offs all over the US and this is my all time favorite. Expect over 200 teams, true Texas hospitality, more free food and beer than you can wrap your mind around and multiple riffs on smoked cabrito. August 29th and 30th 2014.

American Royal Barbecue Competition. Kansas City lays claim to being the best community of barbecue in all of USA. Of course native Texans know this to be false but we allow them to have their civic pride, no matter how misguided it is. Nearly 600 teams will converge on the Stockyards October 2-5 2014 to duke it out to see who will be dubbed champion. Once again, don’t expect Texas-style hospitality with tons of free meat being doled out by the teams.

It is forbidden.

Take plenty cash as you will have to buy your meat.

Dana Point State BBQ Championship in Dana Point, California. October 4th 2014. I imagine a lot of tri-tip sirloin will be served with big glasses of earthy red wine as the Californians attempt to put on a barbecue competition.

National Championship Barbecue Cook Off in Meridian, Texas. This shootout is my 2nd favorite cook off I’ve ever attended. 20k dollars is on the line as over 200 teams compete via invitation only on the Bosque Bottom fairgrounds the fourth Saturday in October each year. As this is Texas you will be fed tons of free high caliber barbecue as you can’t walk 20 feet without somebody trying to give you a plate of brisket and a cold beer.

There are thousands of barbecue competitions held in the US each year. This little list does not even scratch the surface but as a rough guide to some of the bigger cook offs it provides a good jumping off point for a meat fueled meander across America.




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Broadbent Wins 2014 National Country Ham Association Championship

At the big 2014 National Country Ham Championship held recently in the heart of the ham belt: Paducah, Kentucky; Broadbent Hams captured the title of Best Unsmoked Ham in USA.

Ham aficionados across the globe have had Broadbent on their radar for decades as the Kuttawa, Kentucky company has routinely seen their hams auctioned off for hundreds of thousands of dollars, including their alpha ham of 2010 that sold for $1.6 million. That is correct. Almost 100k per pound.

Meanwhile in the smoked category of the same competition, Tripp Country Ham of Brownsville, Tennessee was victorious.

Tripp is old-school when it comes to technique: when the ham arrives at the facility, it’s salted down and placed in a curing vat where it relaxes for five days before being salted down once more.

After that, the ham sits at 36 degrees for seven weeks before being cleaned and rotated to the Spring room where it hangs at 45 degrees for two weeks. Finally, the ham goes to the Summer room where it’s held at 80+ degrees for four weeks, a process that is crucial to the flavor and helps the ham reduce it’s weight by a minimum of 18%.

This is the defining characteristic of country ham, and it’s been codified into law as well. If the ham doesn’t drop that weight percentage, it may not be called “country.”

When a Tripp’s ham comes out of the Summer room it’s smoked for a solid week before being deemed ready for market. That’s a grand total of about 15 weeks devoted to getting that ham whipped into shape and ready for consumption.

And that’s a fair amount of time until you compare it to places like Benton’s down in Madisonville, TN where the ham undergoes a similar process but one that takes a minimum of 52 weeks.

It all comes down to the hog. Tripp’s uses commodity ham from pigs that have  had nearly all the fat bred out of them. If they were aging their hams any longer than they are it would not benefit the final product; it would be too dry.

Benton’s is using heritage pork, a much fattier pig whose hams can survive, and indeed thrive under lengthy curing.

There is no comparison between the two. A well nurtured heritage breed pig will always trump the flesh of a commercial feed lot creature.

Any good ham competition will also have reserve champions. They say a miss is as good as a mile but don’t sleep on either of these two purveyors as they are also putting out world class meat:

Unsmoked reserve champion: Goodnight Brothers of Boone, North Carolina


Smoked reserve champion: Harper’s of Clinton, Kentucky.

Now get out there and eat a big plate of country ham and report back.

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Rest In Peace: Ray’s Barbecue In Montopolis, Texas

A morning trek through the Montopolis neighborhood of Southeast Austin yesterday brought a gut wrenching discovery.

Ray’s Barbecue has fallen.

In its stead is a muffler repair shop.

Flying under the radar for years until it became a set location for Friday Night Lights, Ray’s consistently put out some of the best brisket and smoked chicken in Austin, Texas. Sterling, a man mountain, ran the counter and made sure the guests were treated like family while Ray Williams, the patriarch, hustled the meats off the smoker out back.

Ray’s had a brief flirtation with the soul food crowd a few years back. Their Thursday blue plate was a sight to behold with giant platters of fried catfish, oxtails, collard greens, fried cabbage and a plenitude of other southern sides.

It’s hard news anytime a restaurant shutters and it’s made doubly hard when a non-restaurant replaces it. The build-out and permitting to get any type of food business off the ground in Austin is a staggering process so when we lose a structure that has all the requisite plumbing and electrics required of food service it’s a dark day in Travis County.



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East Austin Charcuterie Project: A Cured Meat Food Party At Tamale House East

Here’s the menu for our East Austin Charcuterie Project food party this weekend, Saturday April 5th 2014 at Tamale House East.

Boudin Shrimp Cake Fried In Hog Lard w/Andouille remoulade


Allan Benton Smoked Ham Hock Bean Purée w/Easy Tiger Crostini




Shrimp Boudin: Smoked Shrimp, Pork Belly, Rice, Green Onion, Pork Stock, Jalapenos, Anson Mills Jalapeno Cheddar Grits w/John Haulk Yellow Corn, Roasted Phu Quoc Brussels


36 Hour Porchetta, Anson Mills Jalapeno Cheddar Grits w/John Haulk Yellow Corn, Demi-glace, Chicharron Gremolata, Roasted Phu Quoc Brussels


Allan Benton Country Ham: 18 Month Cured Ham, Demi-glace, Anson Mills Jalapeno Cheddar Grits w/John Haulk Yellow Corn, Chicharron Gremolata Roasted Phu Quoc Brussels, Kim Chi Pickled Egg


Butcher’s BLT: Cured Legend Meats Heritage Pork Belly Slabs,  Pappy Van Winkle 28 Year Mayo, Lettuce, Ripe Tomato, Easy Tiger bread +Anson Mills Jalapeno Cheddar Grits

Poteet Strawberry Cobbler

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The Price Of Green Lawns In Travis County: Texas Rice Farmers Forced Out Of Business

Brilliant article in this morning’s Houston Chronicle on the plight of the Texas rice farmers. With the Travis County region’s population boom, and attendant thirst for water, Matagorda, and other historical rice farming counties are suffering greatly.

That pretty lawn you’re dead set on having in spite of the mercury registering 100+ degrees for three months straight? It’s taking food out of the mouth of a Texas farmer.

The tradition of rice farmers drawing water out of the Colorado River began over 130 years ago and continued apace til 2012 when the Lower Colorado River Authority shut off the taps for rice farmers in Matagorda, Colorado and Wharton counties.

The effect was immediate and stunning. 1200 jobs blew away with the Texas wind while the lawns of an Applebee’s in suburban Austin glowed an emerald green. Almost 18 million dollars was sucked out of the Matagorda economy.

read the article http://goo.gl/RP63dn

It was written by Matthew Tresaugue

Posted in FOOD, Good Food, Rural Texas | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The State Of Crispy Tacos In Austin Texas Part Two: Taco Mex

When East Austin’s La Morenita was taken down in the black market beef scandal that rocked Austin two years ago, their forced closure opened the doors for Taco Mex to break out of their tiny, take-out window on Manor Road and get into a proper brick and mortar restaurant.

The sun is beaming down on the tiny, off-to-the-side patio where I’m taking my lunch; a single crispy taco served on a sheet of Kabnet Wax.

At $2.44 there’s little value afoot in the tiny piece of real estate the taco is set to occupy in my belly. The shell is indeed crispy, and lacks the weird metallic flavor that many of its brethren around town showcase. The carne molida is lightly seasoned with a bit of chile powder but is lacking any sort of salt profile.

The menu claimed sour cream was to be served on the taco but it vanished somewhere between kitchen and table. Cheese is a blend of white and yellow; its relationship to a dairy cow remains tenuous. A few shreds of lettuce and a half handful of chopped tomatoes completes the picture.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Ambiance is quite nice. Hookers are on the stroll down nearby Harvey Street, and there’s a nice bustle afoot on 12th Street. I gaze longingly at the condo tower that now occupies the footprint where Soul Kitchen once stood.

I’ve had good food at Taco Mex in the past but sadly their crispy taco was a desultory affair. Were it not for the  fine weather and scenery afforded by their comely patio my lunch there would’ve been little more than a bad memory.

and the time a black market beef scandal rocked Austin Texas http://goo.gl/QeJnyi
The State Of Crispy Tacos In Austin Texas Part One: Tamale House East http://goo.gl/SnSNxR

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Fighting Words! Jeff Arnett Of Jack Daniels Squares Off With Diageo’s Point Man Bill Sanderson

Jack Daniels corporate master Brown Forman resides in Louisville, Kentucky but that hasn’t stopped them from defending the art of Tennessee whiskey. They’re squaring off against Diageo, the Great Britain-based conglomerate that owns George Dickel, and is currently attempting to dumb down Tennessee’s whiskey laws.

Right now if you’re going to call yourself Tennessee Whiskey the following has to be observed: the liquor must be fermented in Tennessee from mash of at least 51 percent corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, filtered through maple charcoal and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof.

Those are the rules.

Diageo, through their political operative, Republican state Rep. Bill Sanderson have introduced a bill that changes the law significantly.

The bill, if it passes, would allow the use of used, charred oak barrels during production, a move that would cut the cost of bringing the whiskey to market considerably.

Brown Foreman (Southern Comfort, Woodford Reserve, Early Times, Old Forrester, Canadian Mist) vs Diageo  (George Dickel, Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Smirnoff and Tanqueray)

It’s going to be a great battle, and as always, it begins with words; the best, funniest salvo so far has come from Diageo executive vice president Guy L. Smith IV. “This is about Brown-Forman trying to stifle competition and the entrepreneurial spirit of micro distillers.”

Oddly, in spite of Forman’s (est.1870) considerable heft, this is a David vs Goliath battle as Diageo (est.1997) is a substantially larger company.

Power rankings: 1) Diageo 2) Pernod 3)Suntory 4) Brown-Forman

Smith lumping Diageo in with “micro-distillers” is mildly amusing. Of course, genuine micro distillers have a different take on the matter entirely. Charles Nelson of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in Nashville had this to say: “If we lower the standards, it could lead to more products and brands that could lower the reputation of Tennessee whiskey.”

Jack Daniel’s macro-distiller Jeff Arnett offers this “As a state, I don’t think Tennessee should be bashful about being protective of Tennessee whiskey over…bourbon or scotch or any of the other products that we compete with.”

Truth be told, I prefer George Dickel to Jack Daniels which I’ve always found to be a bit on the raw side, flavor-wise. But I love to see a good dust-up in the liquor industry and this one’s shaping up to be a fun one.

At the end of the day I’ve yet to sample a Tennessee whiskey that can measure up to a Kentucky bourbon but that’s just a matter of what you’re raised on. I grew up drinking Four Roses, and hated to see them get bought out but their liquor is still produced in the great state of Kentucky and to me that’s a defining characteristic of great bourbon.

They may be making fine bourbon all over the world nowadays but to me if it’s not made in Kentucky I don’t want to have any truck with it.




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2014 New Orleans Roadfood Festival

For the 5th straight year the team behind the Roadfood website will take over a big chunk of real estate (the French Market) in the French Quarter of New Orleans with their oddly named Foodfest.

Admission is free.

Here’s the lineup. As you might imagine given the pedigree of the organizing website, it’s insane:

Louie Mueller BBQ (Taylor, TX)  Smoked brisket

Mahony’s Po-Boy (New Orleans, LA)  Po-Boys’s

Woody’s Fish Tacos (New Orleans, LA)  Fish tacos

Miss Linda’s Yakamein (New Orleans, LA)  Yakamein

Central BBQ (Memphis, TN)  Ribs, Pulled Pork Sandwich

Gus’s Fried Chicken (Memphis, TN)  Fried Chicken

Meltdown Pops (New Orleans, LA)  Homemade Frozen Pops: salted caramel & Louisiana strawberry lemon

Café Reconcile (New Orleans, LA)  Roast Beef Debris Po-Boy, Bananas Foster Bread Pudding

Antoine’s Restaurant (New Orleans, LA)  Shrimp Remoulade, Baked Alaska with Chocolate Sauce

Bayou Barn (Crown Point, LA)  Cajun crawfish boil – sweet corn and spicy boiled potatoes

Frencheeze Grilled Cheese (New Orleans, LA)  Grilled cheese sandwich

Dat’s Good Food (New Orleans, LA)  Philadelphia cheesesteak wit wiz, Poutine

Hot Tamale Mama (New Orleans, LA)  Hot Tamales with side of grits or salsa

Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant (Natchitoches, LA)  Meat Pie, Crawfish Pie, Plantation

Fried Bananas w/ Powdered Sugar & Ice Cream

Oceana Restaurant (New Orleans, LA)  Soft Shell Crab Po-Boy, Grilled Oyster Rockefeller Nachos

Peck’s Seafood (New Orleans, LA)  Firecracker Shrimp PoBoy, Fried Oyster PoBoy

Plum St. Snoballs (New Orleans, LA)  Sno-balls (11 flavors, sugar free & condensed milk)

Prejean’s (Lafayette, LA)  Pheasant Quail & Andouille Gumbo

Royal House (New Orleans, LA)  Char-grilled Oysters, Crawfish Cakes w/ Crawfish Cream Sauce

The Fry Bar (New Orleans, LA)  pimento cheese, thyme, & garlic fries ; rosemary, parmesan, & garlic fries

Broussard’s (New Orleans, LA)     TBD

Jacques-imos (New Orleans, LA)     TBD

Saturday, March 29 – 11 AM to 7 PM
Sunday, March 30 – 11 AM to 6 PM

Pic is of the interior of Tag’s Deli in Chalmette LA. Home of the finest muffaletta in the state.

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Perez Barbecue In Bartlett Texas Is Not Closed

I got wind of a possible closure of Perez Barbecue up in Bartlett, Texas via Twitter last week so I called the family to see if the rumor was true.

It’s not.

Family patriarch Sodie Perez is recuperating from heart surgery, and the family has left the tiny roadside building they called home for the past quarter century while they search for a new location.

In the meantime, the business is still functioning as a catering operation til they can nail down a lease on a new physical location. Victor Perez, Sodie’s son is now in command of the pits his dad formerly operated.

Perez Barbecue is famous, justly, for  handmade sausage that is herbaceous, smokey, and stands amongst the finest I’ve ever eaten.

I’ll miss that funky old pit room/roadhouse, but it’s heartening to know that the family is still in the game and will continue putting out world-class smoked meat on the Bell/Williamson county line.

Call 254-493-6921 or 254-721-2620 to place your orders and help this family get their new brick and mortar up and running.



Posted in Rural Texas | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Dolester Miles Of Highlands Bar And Grill Snags James Beard Nomination

Dolester Miles is one of USA’s best pastry chefs. Now, national media have started to figure out what Alabamians have known for decades: when you eat at Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill you’d do well to save room for dessert as Ms. Miles puts out some of the finest pastries on God’s green earth.

When I was in culinary school back in the 90s, I’d save up money from my job baking desserts, and visit Highlands perhaps two or three times a year. Even back then it was high dollar but worth every penny as you’re assured of having one of the best meals in the Southeast.

Chef Miles hangs her hat on the humble lemon, making a wide variety of sweet treats based on this common fruit. But she’s no one trick pony. Her Bailey’s chocolate cake is one for the ages, an embolism of high butter fat and cocoa. And do not, under any circumstances skip her sweet potato cheesecake.

Many contemporary dessert chefs are lost in la la land. They love to paint on plates with plastic nozzles, smoke some birch leaves, maybe deconstruct some Marlboro Reds and infuse them into gin and spew the result across their sad sack weirdness; Not Miles, she’s creating Sunday Go To Meeting pastries. Simple, rich, soul satisfying, and she’s been doing so in a temple of fine dining in Birmingham, Alabama since 1982.

I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for  Chef Miles to win the James Beard award for outstanding pastry chef, but on my infrequent visits to Alabama I make a beeline for Highlands and eat light on the main menu so I can save room for the star of the show: Mile’s ethereal desserts.



Hours of operation:

Bar Opens
4:00 pm | Tuesday – Friday
5:00 pm | Saturday
Dinner Served
5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Tuesday – Saturday

2011 Highland Avenue

Birmingham, Alabama


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Appalachia Proud: New Farm To Market Program In Eastern Kentucky

The old days when good, $15 an hour jobs mining coal were readily available in Southeastern Kentucky are long gone. Nowadays the big employers are Wal Mart, Cracker Barrel, and CSX (formerly L&N Railroad.)

You’ll work your fingers to the bone and make 16k per annum, if you’re lucky. Now the state of Kentucky is starting to come to its senses and reevaluate its natural resources in the Bluegrass state.

Earlier this week, state Agriculture

Commissioner James Comer announced the marketing initiative Appalachia Proud: Mountains of Potential. It could be big.

Eastern Kentucky has some of the richest, most fertile soil in all of the Americas. The cannabis grows strong and tall; the corn is sweet like sugar candy, and you simply have not eaten til you’ve had a plate of shucky beans that a little old granny woman has uprooted out of the black soil.

Sadly, when you stroll the aisles of a local Kroger or IGA Foodliner you won’t find a speck of Kentucky produce. It’s all brought in from Florida, Colorado or Texas. In the height of corn season all the regional grocers trumpet “Colorado Corn!” with handmade signs.

That’s about to change.

Appalachia Proud is a marketing campaign designed to coax vendors into using local farmers instead of bringing in out of state goods and vegetables. Further, the president of the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation David Ledford has discussed building a conservation and education center in southeastern Kentucky utilizing a reclaimed coal strip mine.

This would provide a venue for local farmers to vend their fresh vegetables.

There are hundreds of thousands of acres of land reclaimed from old coal mines dotting the Southeastern Kentucky landscape.

Currently, if you want fresh, local vegetables in towns like Corbin, Barbourville or London you have to go to a flea market where you’ll hopefully stumble upon a farmer amongst the coon hounds, Taiwanese hand tools and cotton candy sellers.

“Hemp will go into the ground in Kentucky for the first time since World War II this year,” James Comer announced this week.

Well, apparently Comer hasn’t visited a roller rink or a quick mart parking lot in Eastern Kentucky in a good long while as “Kentucky Bluegrass” is readily available, and freshly harvested from the good Kentucky soil in just about every town in the entire state.

Legal? Not even close, but as a cash crop Marijuana long ago replaced King Corn. If you live in a holler in Bell County, Kentucky and the only job anywhere nearby is working a quick mart for $7 per hour, you very well may head into the hills around Spring time to sow your seeds and wait for October when you can sell your product on the open market for 5-7K per pound.

Industrial hemp on the other hand is preparing to make a comeback.

Higher education is getting on the bandwagon as Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky State University, University of Louisville, Murray State University and University of Kentucky are going all in with tie-ins to research plots that will be grown state-wide.

Do not expect Kentucky to join Washington or Colorado anytime soon with legal cannabis but even the baby step of legalizing industrial hemp is a big deal in a state as retrogressive as Kentucky.

My grandmother Nellie Sullivan grew hemp in Knox County, Kentucky before the feds stepped in back in the 40s and told her to turn her attention to corn and tomatoes. She lamented losing one of her prime cash crops but did as she was told.

Can Appalachia Proud duplicate the success of similar programs like Food We Love in southeast Ohio, Appalachian Harvest in southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee, Greenbrier Valley Grown in West Virginia, and Appalachian Grown in eastern North Carolina?

Time will tell but it is gratifying to see Kentucky making attempts to rescue its moribund, coal industry-tied economy.

Everybody can’t get rich selling weed but there are plenty farmers, honey producers and ginseng harvesters in the Cumberland Highlands who could use a hand getting their goods to market.


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The State Of Crispy Tacos In Austin Texas Part One: Tamale House East

I would venture to say that 90% of all Anglo-Americans’ introduction to Mexican food is via the crispy taco.

The pleasures of an Old El Paso Taco Dinner kit to a young palate are manifold.

Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, Mexican night meant a trip to the scant Hispanic foods section at the local Kroger. Winding through the aisles of plenitude, I’d often beg my mom to let me take a crack at a rotisserie chicken from the excellent deli or perhaps spend some of my allowance on taco flavor doritos.

If I’d been on my best behavior of late, she’d allow me the singular pleasure of a trip to the nearby Lost World Arcade to have a go at the Robotron machine.

Nowadays, crispy tacos are only on my radar every so often. They are still delicious but most of my Mexican food fantasies concern themselves with barbacoa, buche or perhaps carnitas.

But recently I assigned myself the task of finding the best crispy taco in Austin, Texas. After all, we’re only three hours from Mexico where the good citizens eat their very own version called tacos dorados, golden tacos if you will.

The typical construction of a crispy taco involves a hard fried, yellow corn shell, a ladle of taco meat, and subsequent garnishes of lettuce, tomatoes and yellow cheese. Now and again, a particularly enterprising taquera will put sour cream on your taco. Just nod and dig in as the counterplay between the meat and dairy can be sublime.

If anybody knows how to make a good crispy taco it should be the folks at Tamale House East where the restaurant’s lineage can be traced all the way back to 1948 when the original restaurant opened on Congress Avenue.

The taco arrives hot as a firecracker with steam billowing off the plate. The carne molida, the most important ingredient, is well-seasoned, redolent of simmered tomato, and in need of no salsa whatever. The lettuce is fresh, and the tomatoes, as is typical in the Winter, completely devoid of flavor.

At .95 cents this taco represents a serious value in the Austin of 2014. Sub one dollar tacos have vanished with the Texas wind. In the high rent district of East 6th Street it’s almost unfathomable that a brick and mortar restaurant has  such an exotic item as this.

1707 E 6th St

Austin, TX 78702

(512) 495-9504

Get directions

Hours Of Operation

Sunday: 8am-3pm

Monday: Closed

Tuesday: 8am-3pm

Wednesday: 8am-3pm

Thursday: 8am-3pm

Friday: 8am-3pm

Saturday: 8am-3pm

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Listen Up Asheville North Carolina: Elizabeth Engelhardt Is Coming

One of my favorite food scholars, Elizabeth Engelhardt, is heading up to the rugged mountains of western North Carolina to speak at UNC Asheville.

Her lecture is titled “In Praise of the Edges: Southern Food Studies from Appalachia to Texas”

I’m betting the edges she speaks of is in reference to those glorious crispy brown edges that surround a pone of cornbread when it’s been freshly tilted out of a hot cast iron pan.

As you may know, Engelhardt is an authority on southern (and Texas) foodways having written A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food as well as Republic of Barbecue: Stories Beyond the Brisket.

Your library is a naked sham if it does not include these two volumes.

I was fortunate enough to see Ms. Engelhardt speak here in Austin last fall and she delivered a masterful lecture titled “Race, Class and Gender in Tomatoes, Biscuits, and Greens”

When this gal speaks, you’d do well to listen.

If you go:

7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 27th 2014

UNC Asheville Karpen Hall


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2014 International Craft Brews and Food Fair: Convention Centre Dublin

Pearse Lyons is a man on a mission.

After receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry, and a Master of Science degree in brewing technology from National University of Ireland in Dublin. Lyons went on to earn his Ph.D. in the biochemistry of yeast from the University of Birmingham in England.

This led to the first stage of his career where he worked in the beer and liquor industries in Ireland and Britain.

After moving to USA, the native to Ireland founded Alltech, an animal health and nutrition company based in Lexington, Kentucky in 1980.

Alltech now has 3,000 employees in 128 countries, including more than 500 in Kentucky.

In 1999, Lyons purchased the former Lexington Brewing Company in the Bluegrass State and kickstarted the craft beer movement in Kentucky. Anyone who’s sampled a Bourbon Barrel Ale from Alltech knows that this man’s bona fides are fully in order.

Now he’s back in Ireland and organizing the second annual International Craft Brews and Food Fair at the Convention Centre in Dublin. What do the Irish know about beer? Sure stodgy old brands like Harp and Guinness are still around for the old timers but last year 13 new microbreweries opened on the Emerald Isle.

That pales in comparison to USA but bear in mind Ireland is roughly half the size of Alabama.

Planning on going to the International Craft Brews and Food Fair at the Convention Centre in Dublin? Industry professionals may attend beginning Thursday February 6th with the doors being opened to the general public on Friday February 7th at 5pm

The convention centre will also be host to the Dublin Craft Beer Cup , a competition pitting the UK’s best craft beers against their counterparts from the rest of the world.

Last year’s winner was Hilden Brewing Company of Lisburn, makers of Twisted Hop.

Convention Centre in Dublin
Spencer Dock
North Wall Quay
Dublin 1


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Rodney Scott Cooks Barbecue Live At Cochon In New Orleans

Rodney Scott continues his Rodney In Exile tour tonight in New Orleans, Louisiana at Cochon. Back in November of last year, Scott’s eponymous barbecue joint caught fire and sustained serious damage in an early morning fire.

Scott, “Fire does what it wants. This is like a speed bump. You readjust and you go over it again. We gotta rebuild the building and we’re good.”

The Fatback Collective, a group of chefs, drunkards, restaurateurs and writers organized a benefit tour that has seen Mr. Scott sweep across the Deep South raising money that will be used to rebuild the pitroom at his restaurant in Hemingway, South Carolina.

Tonight’s party will feature asado cooking from Cochon owner Donald Link as well as Scott’s whole hog barbecue.

Tickets are hundred bucks.


930 Tchoupitoulas St

New Orleans, LA 70130

(504) 588-7675








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