Monday, July 23, 2012

Last Last Saturday Lunch at China Dynasty

Last last Saturday, the 14th, Artie and I were having a book meeting (we have a couple of food related books in the works) and realized that we needed some lunch. China Dynasty is in the same shopping center as the HEB on the northwest corner of Manchaca and Slaughter Ln. It's the shopping center where the over sized security guards cruise around the parking lot standing up on those little three wheel scooters. It's been there forever, and I never gave it much thought until Art convinced me to give it a try several years ago. Now it's on the regular, it's 3 or 4 blocks from Art's house.  They have a lunch menu, so we selected from that, and bumped it up with an order of potctickers.

Their potstickers are excellent, with a thin, handmade wrapper, and a plump stuffing of minced pork with garlic and scallion. The soy-ginger dipping sauce is great once you add a dollop of hot chile oil and a little soy sauce. I've been making potstickers for many, many years, as some of you know, and the kitchen guys at CD make some bodacious potstickers.

The eggroll comes with the lunch, as does a cup of soup. The eggrolls are wonderful, with a flaky crispy skin and a meaty filling. Usually they have nothing but cabbage inside, but the China Dynasty eggrolls are meatalicious and superior. 

I'm a sucker for their hot and sour's really one of the better versions in town. What sets it apart is the rich pork stock it's made from, giving it depth of flavor that the competition lacks. It also actually has strips of pork in it, unlike most of the competition. Such a simple thing, that cup of soup, but so beneficial to the whole when it's done right. I always upgrade my cup to a small bowl because it tastes so damn good.

Art went for the Lemon Chicken. Right, I know. Lemon chicken. But here it is actually fantastic, and made with boneless chicken thigh instead of breast, so it has flavor and it's moist, with a light batter. The sauce isn't cloyingly sweet either, and remains balanced. Their fried rice even manages to be less oily than most.

I went for the chicken with fresh mushrooms. Again, the rich chicken stock they add, which then gets reduced in the wok, adds a ton of depth to the dish. It tasted wonderful. They do stocks really well here, and they add so much complexity and depth to every dish.

Our waitress, whose name escapes me at the moment (she is the niece (?) of Johann, who used to be the chef-owner of Java Noodles), is absolutely, without question, one of the best servers in Austin. Efficient, unobtrusive, pleasant, attractive,....what more could you ask for. She always anticipates our needs before we realize them. The best. Really.

Here is my almond cookie fortune. Note to good luck...I am waiting patiently.

China Dynasty?....incredibly consistent and good. Love this place.

Mick Vann ©

Sunday at Sap's: Pad Gaprao


A bowl of rose blooms situated at the restaurant entrance...

Stopped off at Sap's Sunday on the way home for a quick platter of Pud Ped Gaprao Moo....Spicy Pork with Holy Basil and Fish Sauce. Here's all you ever needed to know about the dish:

Americans  might think of pud ped gaprao as the Thai equivalent of hamburger helper, meaning that it is very simple to prepare and cooks in seconds, using a short list of ingredients that are usually on-hand. It’s the kind of dish that almost anyone or any restaurant can quickly throw together, and is also one of the favorite comfort food dishes of the Thai people. If it is not on the restaurant menu, odds are the kitchen can make it, and it is often available at fast-food, curry-rice shops (rahn kao gkaeng). It can be cooked with pretty much any minced meat (chicken, turkey, pork, or beef), sliced squid, whole shrimp, shellfish (mussels, whelks, razor clams, clams, etc.), mixed seafood (crab, scallops, firm-fleshed fish, mussels, shrimps, etc.), or even tofu if necessary. The smaller the protein item is chopped or minced, the greater the surface area there will be that is coated with the flavors of the aromatic herbs and sauce, and the bigger the flavor the stir-fry has. 

It is basically a simple stir fry; one of those many dishes that originated in Chinese cuisine, and got morphed into the Thai culinary realm as its own creation. It is seasoned with lots of garlic, Thai chiles, and holy basil, with secondary flavor coming from shallot and fish sauce, a splash of rich stock, and from here, recipes diverge. Some substitute Thai basil for holy basil, but that is not the traditional preparation. After all, “gaprao” is the Thai word for holy basil.

Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) has a purplish pigment to the leaf and the leaf bract. There is also a variety of holy basil that is light green (O. sanctum), without the purplish pigment. Holy basil is always added during the cooking process, but towards the end of the cooking, so that it gets wilted and completely flavors the dish, especially in stir fries; it is never eaten raw. Using holy basil will accentuate the spiciness of chiles and aromatics used in the dish. There are three variants: ‘red’ (actually purple), ‘white’ (actually light green), and a hybrid.  

Some chefs add very finely minced Thai lime leaf; again, not traditional, but excellent. Some add a small amount of sweet black soy sauce or Golden Mountain sauce and a dab of white sugar, while the old traditional recipe adds ½ teaspoon or so of palm sugar instead, with no sweet black soy. It is all a matter of preference. Ideally the flavor balance will be heavy on the holy basil, with assertive fish sauce, and the spicy heat of the chiles nestling in just below those two; it is a spicy dish, but the heat can easily be moderated to assuage the lightweights. 

Pud ped gaprao is always served with (or over) jasmine rice, normally with some sliced cucumber on the side of the plate. Depending on how spicily the kitchen prepared it, a Thai would sprinkle on some roasted chile paste (phrik pad), dried powdered bird chile (phrik pom), or even better, some fish sauce loaded with sliced chiles (naam plaa phrik). Sap’s takes the dish further still, adding sliced mushrooms to the mix, which contrasts nicely with the minced meat texture. Ideally the dish comes topped with a kai dao, or crispy-fried sunny-side-up egg, with a crispy edge and a runny yolk that spreads out over the meat when broken, adding additional richness; at Sap’s you need only tell the waiter to add one.

We have the Chinese to thank for this dish: 1. they brought domesticated pigs, 2. they brought woks, 3. they knew how to get lard from aforementioned pigs, to stir fry with, 4. they introduced the use of chicken eggs. Before the Chinese arrived in force, eggs were a lot more valuable as future chickens than they were as a food source.

Anyway, had me an order of pud ped gaprao, with a fried egg on top, and side of nam plah phrik and it was delightful. Pure comfort food. I topped it off with a scoop of coconut ice cream resting on a warm mound of sweet-salty sticky rice topped with thick coconut cream. What a brilliant combination...I'm glad Sap suggested it.

Right before I was going to leave, old chums Cliff and Saki, and Daeng came in, so I stayed a bit and caught up on gossip, getting the intricacies of the expat life in Thailand from Cliff.

Mick Vann ©

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Smoked, Peppered Sliced Hog Jowls

Last Saturday at a book meeting at Art's we tasted a new product he had stumbled across in the bacon section at HEB: Smithfield Country Cured Hog Jowls, Smoked Sliced, Peppered. I had visions of guanciale when he emailed me about the discovery earlier, and looked forward to the sampling.

He fried up a few slices for us to taste. 

Thoughts: Love the texture, which is dense and slightly chewy, especially the crackling rind. It has deep smoky, porky flavor, but is marred by too much salt. Sticks of this in a bar, and folks would be drinking twice what they normally do. We did decide that it would be absolutely perfect for a pot of beans, or a big wad of simmering collard greens. Think of it as refined smoked ham hock...definitely superior to salt pork.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Saps on Sunday, 7.08.2012

Stopped off at Sap’s on Sunday and ate some more fantastic Thai food. We started with Ton Mun Gai, S-A6, or chicken cakes seasoned with red curry paste and Thai lime leaf. They are basically the same as Thai fish cakes, just made with chicken instead, and not quite as spicy. They get cooked to a deep golden brown and served with a sweet-sour shallot and cucumber sauce-relish with peanuts and cilantro (achat). A delightful way to get those taste buds warmed up.

We ordered “Amazing green beans”, S-P31, the green bean version of Amazing Mussels, Squid, or Shrimp; we got it with ground beef and added fried tofu cubes. The name is apropos. The sauce is amazingly complex for its simplicity, made with Thai pepper, garlic, basil, herbs, fish sauce, jalapeño slices, and an advanced degree of culinary alchemy. This is a spectacular dish, available also with bamboo shoots instead of green beans.

Pla Jian (S-P38) has become a big favorite lately. I tried it a few weeks back and became hooked. It is moist chunks of tilapia deep fried and topped with a sweet-sour tamarind sauce with palm sugar, fish sauce, shredded ginger, jalapeño chile, and green onion. When TV foodies refer to the term “fish caramel”, they are talking about this taste, of caramelized palm sugar and fish sauce together. Superb.

We wanted a soup, so decided to be unconventional and get the Guay Teaw Moo, but with no noodles, and rice on the side instead. It features a rich pork stock holding pork slices, sealeg, and fish paste dumplings (AKA “fish balls”). Mung bean sprouts, scallion slices, and cilantro round out the flavor profile. A spoon of the roasted chile sauce and a dash of fish sauce and it was ready for my gaping maw.

Someone sent over a bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream for us to try out. The texture is sensual and the taste absolutely perfect. I had fried the taste buds a tad with a fresh green chile and roasted chile paste overload, and the fat in the ice cream sucked the capsaicin right off of my tongue, offering instant relief, with great taste.


Sap's, rocking the Thai food scene in ATX.

Mick Vann ©

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sap's Last Sunday

I walked in the door and saw both Sap and old pal Tom Spencer sitting at the “owner’s table”, so I limped on in and pulled up a chair. Once I showed my scar to all, Sap got a fresh bowl of jasmine rice and asked me to try out a dish that he and his roommates used to live on back when he was going to UT, living with 4 guys to an apartment, and working every second that he wasn’t studying. The dish, which isn’t on the menu, is a stir fry using sliced garlic sausage for the protein, combined with green beans, greens, onions, jalapeño slices, chunks of mild Thai pepper, garlic, ginger, a little soy sauce, a little fish sauce, some black pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Sap says that he used to make it with Spam, which was super cheap back then. “Two cans of Spam and it fed four guys for several days”, he said. All’s I know is that it was addictively delicious, and Sap, Tom, me, and waiter Will all ate our fill and there was still plenty left over. Great, quick stir fry.

I was jonesing for some som tam, and the last time I was in, Will mentioned that they had gotten a new, larger mortar and pestle, so I figured what better time to order a shredded green papaya salad. Up north and east in Isaan, where the dish originated within Thailand,
it is known as tam bak hung. The Thai som tam is very similar to the Lao salad tam mak hung and the Cambodian salad bok l’hong so those are thought to be its origins. Papaya was brought from Latin America to the Philippines by the Spanish in 1550, and spread into Thailand from Laos and Cambodia in the northeast, by way of Vietnam, and from Malaysia in the south. In present day Thailand, papaya grows wild, everywhere. The “tam” in som tam means “to crush” or “to pound”-- a verb that is most commonly used when a mortar and a pestle are involved. Som means “sour”, so the word combination som tam refers to something sour that is pounded in the mortar. The salad is listed at number 5 on the World's 50 Most Delicious Foods complied by CNN Go in 2011.

It is made from shredded, unripened papaya mixed with tomato or cherry tomato, palm sugar or a mix of white sugar and palm sugar, garlic, shallots, lime juice, and chiles. It is very common to include sections of long beans or green beans in the papaya mix, and if you get it in Isaan, or made by someone from Isaan, it might substitute pla ra fermented fish paste, or boo kem fermented and salted land crabs for the fish sauce. The salad is usually served with a mound of steamed sticky rice on the side, to soak up the dressing. If you get it in a restaurant, it will often have the sticky rice as well as a small platter of vegetables (lettuce, cabbage leaves, cucumber slices, etc) to use as edible “scoops” when eating the salad. The beauty of som tam is that it is made-to-order by the cook, or street vendor, so it is easy to customize the salad to your own liking: number of prik kee nuu chiles, saltier, sweeter, more sour, etc. It is not unusual for a Thai open-air restaurant to have a som tam vendor as a separate operator, but loosely affiliated with the restaurant.

When you’re on the street you can locate a som tam vendor by the “pok-pok” sound of their mortar and pestle as they pound the ingredients to lightly soften them.  The mortar for a vendor is usually a concave, partially hollowed-out section of log, with a pestle made of sugar plum or tamarind wood. It is the resonating sound of pestle hitting on log that makes the echoing “pok-pok”. In the home kitchen, the salad mortar might be made of fired clay, or could even be carved granite (especially from a town called Ang Sila). On the street, the vendor will take the papaya in the left hand, held in a towel, and using a smallish machete-like knife, make a rapid series of shallow, parallel, vertical cuts. She then shaves off a layer of the papaya, revealing perfect julienne strips of green papaya. Throw those and the rest of the ingredients in the mortar, pound them vigorously for 15 or 20 seconds or so with the pestle, and you have yourself a wonderful salad. You can also find it made with julienned green mango, though it isn’t really “green” mango, but a crisp-fleshed, sweet-tart variety of mango that tastes kind of like Asian pear crossed with green apple, and a faint mango edge. 

The version served at Sap’s is known as Som Tam Thai, and is made with papaya, lime juice, Thai green chiles, palm sugar, fish sauce, garlic, tomato, served with lettuce on the side, and topped with peanuts and fried dried shrimp. This version is not as spicy as the typical versions made by cooks from Isaan, which can be amazingly, brain searingly hot. The guys back in the kitchen can certainly heat it up for you if you like. Whatever heat you like it, it’s delicious.

I had never ordered Pad Thai at a Thai restaurant before, either here in the States, or in Thailand. I’ve tasted the dish when others have ordered it, but figured that it was high time I ordered me some Sap’s Pad Thai. Pad Thai ' actually means pad , or phad or phat (‘stir-fried'), and Thai or tai (‘freedom'). The word Thai means ‘freedom', but when the name of this famous noodle dish is written in Thai script, the Thai in pad Thai is not the same spelling as the word for ‘freedom', instead, it means ‘Thai-style'. So the term refers to Thai-style stir-fried noodles. Pad Thai has been called ‘The National Dish of Thailand', although that seems to be mostly because it is the Thai dish most known by Westerners and one that they know to not be spicy; and incidentally, one of the more-ordered dishes at Sap’s. If you asked any Thai on the street in-country what their national dish was, I doubt “…pad thai…” would be the answer that you received. It is, after all, a Vietnamese dish which uses Chinese ingredients. It is rare that a Thai would ever cook this dish at home these days, choosing instead to purchase it from their favorite street vendors and restaurants that specialize in the dish. It is popular as lunch, dinner, or as a late night dining option after a night of partying.

Pad Thai is a stir-fried noodle dish with a flavor combination of sweet (white sugar, palm sugar, or in the States as a cheap and easy shortcut, ketchup), sour (vinegar, lime, and/or tamarind), and salty (fish sauce or sea salt), and a textural contrast between soft noodles, pickled vegetable, crunchy bean sprouts, peanuts, fried tofu, dried shrimps, and any meat or seafood used by the cook, if any. It is cooked on a flat-surfaced pan, and not cooked in a wok. Popular choices for additional ingredients include chicken, pork, shrimp, or tofu, but beef, squid, or cuttlefish can be used as well. Depending on the regional style, cooks might add chile powder (phrik pon) or mild paprika for color. If ordered from a street vendor, the customer will indicate which of the added ingredients they prefer. The customer will then use any of the noodle condiments to adjust the final taste to their individual preference: roasted ground chile, sliced chile in vinegar, fish sauce, fresh chile sauce, minced peanuts, or sugar.

Originally the dish was prepared for take-away dining by street vendors by placing a sheet of newspaper down, lining it with banana leaves, placing the order of noodles on top of the banana leaves, and then wrapping the package up securely before securing it with twine made from banana stalks; a method much more romantic than today's styrofoam. However, this dish is best when eaten as soon as possible after it is removed from the stove.

The History of Pad Thai:
Some culinary historians attribute pad Thai to Vietnamese origins, probably based on Banh Pho Xao Sate or a derivative, a dish of stir-fried rice stick noodles with sate (garlic, peanuts, and chiles), mung bean sprouts, meat of some sort, scallions, and fish sauce, often served with pickled vegetables. The dish was said to be imported to the ancient Thai capital city of Ayuthaya by Viet traders, and was then altered to reflect the Thai flavor profile and assigned a name reflecting its newly acquired Thainess.

Although variations of the dish existed hundreds of years before, pad Thai was formally promoted as a culinary entity and made popular by Prime Minister Luang Pibulsonggram (also transliterated as Phibunsongkhram) during WW II. He wanted to reduce rice consumption during the war (the Thai economy was based largely on rice exports), and there were serious budget constraints at the time. He launched a massive campaign to teach the poor how to manufacture rice noodles, and how to open noodle establishments (shophouse cafes and hawker carts), while using the dish as a tie-in to his campaign for quasi-fascist ultra-nationalism. Phibunsongkhram was the leader of the military revolt which toppled the absolute monarchy in 1932, launched a campaign to introduce western attire, and consolidated the language to promote the Central Thai style and exclude regional dialects. He danced a pragmatic line between appearing to aid the Japanese while maintaining some semblance of Thai independence. After watching Japan destructively blitzkrieg their way across Malaysia, he declared Thailand an ally of Japan. He was forced to resign by the nationalists after Japan’s defeat, but carried out a coup a few years later to regain control, this time under a façade of democracy. After a relatively lengthy and rocky reign, he was forced into exile in Japan after a coup in 1957. Pad Thai lived on.

Companion Dishes:
Although many pad Thai vendors concentrate solely on making this single dish, a large number of pad Thai vendors will also offer companion dishes, since they are mostly made from the same ingredients: Khanom phak gad (white radish [daikon] cakes tossed with chile flakes, bean sprouts, and Chinese leeks with a light soy-based sauce) and Hoi tod (a thin mussel omelet with bean sprouts, served with chile sauce) .

We should warn the reader against restaurants or vendors who cook huge batches of pad Thai and hold them to be dispensed when ordered. The informed diner should deal only with a cook who prepares a single serving of pad Thai, cooked-to-order, which is how Sap’s cooks the dish…one order at a time. A cook who specializes in pad Thai will often use a measured amount of a pre-combined ‘mother' sauce rather than add each seasoning ingredient sequentially in a step-by-step process. This is done to speed up the cooking time and produce the dish quickly and with efficiency, and also guarantee consistency from plate-to-plate. Thai bottlers sell commercial versions of this pre-mixed sauce for cooks who want to make pad Thai at home and don't have the training to do so.

Regional Styles of Pad Thai:
Pad Thai Ayuthaya: The accepted style of Ayuthaya uses a relatively sweet mother sauce made from palm sugar, white sugar, tamarind juice, sea salt, and fish sauce. The components of the dish are: wide rice noodles, mother sauce, crispy garlic, salted and preserved Tien jing cabbage, tiny dried shrimp, Chinese leeks, roasted and ground peanuts, and roasted chile powder. If egg is desired, the dish is pushed to one side of the pan, an egg is added and scrambled, and then combined with the mixture. Since the sauce is so sweet, this version relies on balance of taste by using sour fruits as part of the garnish: slivered starfruit, banana blossom julienne, peanuts, pennywort leaves, Chinese leeks, and chile powder.

Pad Mii Korat: This is a spicy version of pad Thai from Korat, also known as Nakhon Ratchasima, ‘The Gateway to Issan'. It uses shredded cabbage or pak boong (water spinach), chiles, fish sauce, vinegar, sweet dark soy, tamarind, sugar, pickled garlic, pickled ginger, scrambled egg, and round egg noodles called sen mii, garnished with cucumber slices and cilantro leaves. It is usually eaten at lunch, often accompanied by som tam (spicy green papaya salad).

Pad Mii Krathok (from the Chokchai region): A specialty version from west of Korat, using minced garlic, minced onions, minced chilles, minced peanut, coarsely-chopped pork, sugar, fish sauce, and raw fresh noodles, garnished with chives and mung bean sprouts.

Pad Thai Krung Thep : Bangkok-Style Pad Thai: This Central-style version uses garlic, Chantaboon sen lek rice noodles, rice vinegar, fish sauce, diced fried tofu, tiny dried shrimp, salted and preserved Tien jing cabbage, roasted and ground peanuts, roasted chile powder, sugar, mung bean sprouts, Chinese leeks or chives, scrambled egg. Garnishes include: mung bean sprouts, Chinese leeks, banana blossom julienne, and lime wedges. Housewives in the countryside say the name, Pad Thai Krung Thep, with disgust and consider it overly elaborate and think of it as rich people showing off. They don't realize how competitive the pad thai street vendor scene in Bangkok really is, and how demanding the vendor's customers can be.

Woon Sen Pad Thai: This is an alternate style which became popular in Bangkok in the early 1990's, using thin, translucent woon sen noodles made from mung bean starch. This version uses thick tamarind juice in place of vinegar, combined with the standard ingredients. It is a bit spicier, using dried and roasted, ground phrik kii nuu chile powder both as an ingredient and as one of the garnishes.

Pad Thai Mangsawirat: A vegetarian version of the classic Bangkok style, using tofu and beans (black eyed peas, mung beans, soy beans, green beans, long beans, etc.) or other vegetables while omitting the dried shrimp and egg, as well as any added meats or seafood.

Pad Mii Rayong/Chanthaburi: This version is the basis for the pad Thai cooked at Sap’s. Originally it is made with crab: claw and lump crab meat in the expensive version, hacked-apart crab in-the-shell for the home-style version. The sauce is sweeter than the Central styles, using shallot, palm sugar, tamarind, vinegar, fish sauce, and scrambled egg. It uses a red chile powder made from the milder long, red Thai chiles which are de-deeded, dried, and ground; it adds chile flavor fruitiness without the piquant heat.

At Thai restaurants in the States pad Thai is generally cooked with added meat or seafood, changing what is normally an inexpensive vendor dish into a full-blown entrée; this is seldom seen in Thailand, except in middle to upper class restaurants. Ketchup and vinegar are used much more widely here than is tamarind, and except for rare occasions, the dish is cooked only in restaurants; street vendor versions only appear at special occasions in the States, such as temple fairs or food fairs.

With any of these versions Chinese leeks are preferred, but can be substituted with chives or scallions. Salted and preserved Tien jing cabbage can be substituted with preserved turnip (the sweeter version of the pickled vegetable is preferred over the saltier version). The standard condiment used on pad Thai in Thailand is Siracha sauce.

Naam jiim Siracha: Siracha (Sriracha) sauce is a bottled table condiment originally made in Siracha, a coastal town just north of Pattaya (down the coast south of Bangkok). It's a reddish-orange sauce made from pureed and aged-fermented ripe chiles, salt, vinegar, garlic, and sugar, which is used especially with egg and noodle dishes. Thai brands are preferred, since they have the true Thai taste, which balances sweet and sour with the heat (and there are some Thai brands that also offer a mild version if you prefer less heat). Vietnamese brands, such as the common Huy Fong (‘Rooster Brand') are spicier, with more garlic, vinegar, and little sugar. Huy Fong, by the way, is made in Los Angeles, from ripe jalapeños and garlic powder. ‘Sriracha Factory Brand', ‘Grand Mountain', and ‘Golden Mountain' are all good Thai labels of a proper Thai Siracha sauce.

Originally Siracha sauce was made with Thai yellow chiles (prik daeng), which many feel results in a richer, deeper-flavored sauce. ‘Golden Mountain' brand still produces a version made with these yellow chiles (which can range in color from bright yellow to medium orange), although it is hard to find. You'll recognize the lighter color of the sauce inside the bottle, and if you ever find any on the shelf in your local market, you'd be wise to stock-up. Siracha sauce is used especially for omelets (kai jaew), for general-purpose spiciness with noodles, and grilled and deep-fried items, and, only in the East, with lard na.

A scene from a sauce factory near Chonburi, not too far north of Si Racha. These cases hold oyster sauce.

Okay, so I loved the pad Thai at Sap’s, as much as I resent folks ordering it repeatedly and never experimenting with the rest of the menu. I finished up the meal with a bowl of the new pineapple sorbet, which was aromatic, sweet and tart, and the perfect way to end a Thai meal. It tasted like frozen ripe pineapples (sorry, forgot the photo). Good grub, as always.

Mick Vann ©

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fourth Feast at Rancho Winslow

So yesterday for the Fourth we got together at Rancho Winslow to strap on the feedbag and chiilax. Plus everybody's favorite Kiwi, George Carter, was in town visiting on his annual trip to the States, and he looked a little peckish.

I made some queso, using Velveeta, Asadero Mexican Cheese, and Queso Fresco Mexican cheese. I added some fresh garlic and garden onions sauteed in butter, some half and half, and a big wad of chipotles in adobo. The chips used are the wonderfully crunchy and flavorful totopos from Tortilleria Rio Grande II. Love those chips.

Queso, pre-melt:

Queso, post-melt, with CBoy hand holding a dipped chip from Tortilleria Rio Grande II.

To snack on, I opened a couple of cans of San Marcos brand Zanahorias Escabeche. That's right folks, you can get JUST the carrots (although it does include some quarters of pickled serranos, onion, and garlic). I also opened a can of San Marcos Chipotle Salsa, a tasty little dipping salsa.

La Morena Chipotles en Adobo....the BEST and most flavorful brand of chipotles.

So Princess Di had made a big old batch of the sweet-spicy dill pickles and jalapeños we love so much, and we had some sweet-sour-spicy homemade BBQ sauce.CBoy insisted on using that salad dressing that the Salt Lick calls BBQ sauce on his 'cue...


CBoy cooked up a brisket, and some nice beef sausage.

There were some fineass ribs that CBoy smoked and glazed.

Di had made some baked beans, and some spud salad (paprika sprinkled) with hard boiled egg.

There were ears of super-sweet Silver Queen corn on the cob (and one bicolor), with some lime-chile butter to slather on top.

There was a nice green salad with garden tomatoes and cukes, and Di's homemade croutons.


Jules made some excellent cheese biscuits.

Shown here slathering the top of same with garlic butter prior to browning-off a batch.

For dessert there was a lemon meringue pie courtesy of George, and Nancy made a cake with apples, pineapple, and pecans (spectacular with some Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla).

It was a little humid and hot, but when is it ever cool and dry on July 4th? GREAT FOOD, GREAT FRIENDS. We were all as full as a tick!...and even better, the miscreants out by me managed to NOT burn down Rolling Oaks with their barrage of fireworks.

Mick Vann ©