February 28, 2012

Let's Build a Better Block

Team Better Block Community Build
Maverick Park (corner of E Jones and Broadway)
March 3rd (5-10p) and 4th (7a-3p)

contact Jason Roberts, Volunteer Coordinator [jason@teambetterblock, 469/487-6263]

February 20, 2012

Smoked & Pulled

"Feed your fire and quit liftin' the lid." Sage wisdom from Bobby Mueller, son of Louie Mueller, founder of the eponymous Louie Mueller BBQ in Taylor, which is a perennial contender for top-spot in the state. The current Texas Monthly feature covers Bobby's son, John, and a former employee of his, Aaron Franklin; each has opened a new joint in Austin recently (respectively, J Mueller BBQ and Franklin Barbecue) and in the process seem to be remaking the landscape of this fine smoked foodstuff. I read the article a couple Saturdays ago and immediately started itching to smoke a little something of my own. At last, this weekend, the itch was scratched.

Our pit has been dormant for a period long past which I'm comfortable admitting. Out of practice and a healthy dose of rain (soaked wood and soggy air) dictated I start back with a more forgiving cut. Brisket is delicious, but you can charcoal it real fast and without warning you're tearing at cheap shoe leather. So I went with swine... a good fatty shoulder cut, used the South over for pulled pork sandwiches and (closer to home) in tamales and tacos. 

My protein dealer of choice, per usual, Bolner's, a 98 y.o. meat market that'll satisfy most any butchery need you've got. Cabrito, whole hog, Akaushi if you're feeling confident. En route the Z and I dropped by Triple J's for a mid-afternoon michelada. Each of these establishments and the service they deliver deserves its own space here, but I mention it in passing merely to illustrate the impressiveness of my meat-and-vegetables-in-one-go errand running... there's a lot of tomato in that Shiner.

So back at the house, I rubbed my 8.59lb pork butt with a liberal dose of cayenne, black pepper, and salt. Trimmed a little fat off in hopes of rendering some lard though maintained a good cap for cascading flavor. 

By 9:30a the wood was cooking, fire box was hot, and the meat went on fat side up. Babied the box constantly, cooking initially for three hours. At the turn I mopped it with brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. Two more hours in the smoke, then we triple foiled it to steam for three more hours. At last, and for good, we lifted the lid. Eight hours on the pit and we got it to 180^. In the money. At 190^ it'll fall apart in your fingers but I didn't have the fortitude to wait any longer, not with that crust. 

Snagged a cole slaw recipe from one of the Z's go-to's, charred some buns and enjoyed a warm February afternoon with friends... when the backyard smells of smoke I always expect a few folks to waft through the front door, just to see what's worth seeing, and to maybe take a pull of their own. 

well aware that this is far-too-hot 

February 14, 2012


 ca. 1968 (via)

February 11, 2012

Jazz a la Miles

When Trinity University's KRTU kicked off its Year of Jazz in October, the station and its community organization partners aimed to stage a well-rounded concert series to showcase the station, the city's nonprofit organizations and a whole lot of varied jazz. The aim has been true.

Saturday the Year of Jazz moves to the East Side, to the Jo Long Theatre in the Carver Community Cultural Center, a building that has been a hotbed of jazz for decades. Austin trumpet ace, composer and bandleader Jeff Lofton will present his tribute to Miles Davis and the trumpet legend's '50s-era music.

Back in the day, when Jo Long, the theater's namesake and the Carver's founding director, was on the job, she tried to book Davis at a Carver jazz festival. Long tells the long story well, but the upshot is complex negotiations with the trumpeter broke down for good when Long refused to rent a forklift for Davis.

It's unlikely a forklift will be part of Lofton's requirements. The much-heralded Lofton and his band, Ray Charles Orchestra alum, noted player and educator James Polk (piano), Ed Friedland (bass) and Steve Schwelling (drums), will play Davis compositions and other songs made famous during the 1950-1959 part of Davis' career.

226 N Hackberry
San Antonio, TX 78202
$15, 8p to-night

February 8, 2012

Repurposed (with a Purpose)

In 1990, Levi Strauss & Co. shuttered one of its manufacturing plants on the south side of San Antonio. As the story goes, as it always goes in cases like this, production was moving overseas, and with it more than 1,100 jobs. You can make it here better and have it sooner to boot, but what's all that when the third world'll give it to you cheap and easy? Not making a statement, just stating the case.

In any event, these newly unemployed, predominantly female seamstresses organized themselves shortly thereafter into a cooperative of sorts: La Fuerza Unida, which exists to this day. Their scope: "empowerment for self-sufficiency, women's and labor rights, immigration, environmental issues and health education." That’s a full plate, and all at first world wages.

Now, I've espoused here before my affection for the hand-made guayaberas coming from Caroline Matthews and her Southtown studio, Dos Carolinas. In an ocean of Mexican wedding shirts you'd be able to recognize her handiwork, such is the level of craftsmanship. So a couple months ago, my brother and I were in for measurements when we noticed a heap of bags of cotton and linen fabric scraps, each destined for the garbage. Being the shameless optimist that I am, I asked if I could rummage through them to see what might be repurposed into… who knows what.

Caroline was kind enough to oblige, and what came of that is the first in a series of pocket squares and cocktail napkins, sewn by hand at Fuerza Unida. The cocktail napkins are pretty uniformly 5”x5”, and the handkerchiefs are around 10”x10”, some larger (to show), some smaller (to blow).

If you’re interested, comment with your email address or shoot me a note and we’ll figure something out. $20 for the squares, $24 for six coasters to hold your bourbon, and if there's enough demand we'll work on a more regular production schedule. We’ll also be donating a good portion of the proceeds back to the cooperative.

February 7, 2012

One Stop Shop

It's good to get out to the south side every now and again, just to see what you're not seeing every other day...