Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Jack Rabbit Stew"

There is something about traveling the open road that can open your mind to all the possibilities outside the cast iron skillet. My road trips or culinary escapades have gone from cross country vagabond; desperado-camper; hot springs hopper; dessert moon dancer; macrobiotic burning man; cars without lights at night in Cairo; Winnebago- commercial chef in the Utah cliffs to the more current- motoring around two fabulous little whipper snappers to and from school, ballet; grandparents’; Magnolia Springs, and “ How much further?” and “Please, don’t open the door while we are driving”, “Almost there”, and “I’m going to turn this car around.”

As a traveling chef I find much inspiration in the people I meet along the way. I’m still cooking fancy California cuisine with a twisted Texas/Louisiana flare that always lights up a plate and a palate. However, what most excites me, is what other folks are cooking; eating; hunting, etc.
My last gig took us to the end of the road somewhere in Texas close to the Louisiana border by way of the Sabine River.

I was lucky enough to have two of my closest associates from the,“Road", join me and help me cook up some fine fare for about 15 people. We stayed busy morning to midnight cooking and serving. We settled into our bunk house porch after midnight and unwound under the wide Texas night sky by rehashing tales from the long day. Food and the creation of food brought us together and provided a sense of common ground and safety in knowing that we had worked hard for food.

Many songs were sung and tales were told but the best one was, “Jack Rabbit Stew".
J.R. met his demise on a dark Taos road by an old faithful VW Van. The driver- with his Indian spirit, took the road bumped J.R. on home to a pot and made a hearty stew that tasted better on day three.

In honor of the road; I salute the weary travelers stricken with high voltage wander lust and lonesome cowgirl blues. Happy trails and happy meals!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jack's Pak-It----Corner Meat-ing Spot!!!!

Men + Knives + Butcher Block + Raw Meat = Butcher Shop

Jack’s Pak-It is my saving grace on a daily basis. As a private chef I find it very important to be able to forge and sustain a valuable relationship with a butcher and grocer. For five year’s I have been working with the Blanda’s at Jack’s.

Jack’sPak-It it is like a neighborhood pub where everybody knows your name. Instead of the bartender knowing your signature drink the Butcher knows your exact cut of meat.
I love to watch John french an entire rack of lamb into perfect little lollipops or Louis take an entire rack of ribeyes and cut into perfect two inch thick goodness.

On a sunny gorgeous day I like to ride my bike to Jack’s. (It’s about a mile from my house) I like to fantasize about being in the old world where everything is slower and more simple. I peruse the market for inspiration-usually my sense of smell gets the best of me and I make way for the meat counter. I may get a whole fresh young chicken-of course hormone & antibiotic free, a freshly baked Le Brea Bakery baguette, a simple bottle of Red-usually a Malbec, something sweet that Cathy just pulled out of the oven and the local newspaper. I love to see how I can make all of this fit in my over the shoulder pack!

I may pay a bit more at Jack’s than I would at the chain grocery stores but the price is well worth supporting our local small business owners. Our family is the most important part of our daily routines and with out these small family owned shops, what will our children gain from corporate run; chemically-laden; neon lit isles of high fructose corn syrup and shelved customer service.

Hopefully, when my children are adults and come home after college or the circus they will still be able to go to our beloved local Butcher- Jack’s Pak-It and there they will have a sense of familiarity that reminds them of days when life was much simpler and sometimes all you need is a cup of joe, a quick chat over bone-in ribeye and a sincere smile and hand shake.
Jack's Pak-It 409.892.6345 4505 CalderBeaumont, TX 77706

"The Blandas are Sicilians with roots in the cities of Corleone and Bisacquino near the capital city of Sicily, Palermo. In the early 1900's, the Blanda's ancestors began migrating from Sicily, Italy to the United States. Much of the family ended up in Southeast Texas and in particular Orange, TX. Most of the Blanda family remains in the Southeast Texas area.
The Blanda family’s tradition of the grocery business started in 1917 when Grandma Blanda opened the first grocery store in her home in Orange, TX. The Blandas are well known for their Italian culture. It shows in many of the foods they offer as well as how customers are embraced and welcomed as extended family. The Blandas also appreciate the way the customers in Beaumont and surrounding areas have taken them in as extended family as well.
In the family tradition, each day when the doors open for business, an owner is on site to welcome the customer. On any morning the "coffee crew" gathers to share stories and good humor before heading off to work."
“A Beaumont Tradition in Service” is the store’s motto and the Jack's Pak-It staff enjoys meeting their customers and providing personal service. Owner John Blanda says, "We want every customer to feel welcome and leave our store completely satisfied."