Friday, September 5, 2014

Grover’s Paradise: A Sausage Odyssey

Grover, left, Chris "C-Boy", right

Sunday the 31st was a big day. My old chum Michael “Mickey” Corenblith was in town from a film site on the Eastern Seaboard to help celebrate his dad Louis Corenblith’s ninetieth birthday. Louis and Lois are like my second set of parents, so I’d never pass up the opportunity to drop by and BS with Mick, catch up on the happenings of the big time motion picture scene, congratulate Louis on his circle around the sun for another year, and give his beautiful bride Lois a big, sweaty hug. And as much as I’d have loved to stay well into the evening, there was smoked sausage waiting for me in deep, deep southwest Austin.


The Appetizer Swirl

Grover Swift is a bear of a man with a raucous laugh that registers on the Richter scale. He and his long-suffering wife Jill, own and operate Johnny G’s Butcher Block, the premier butcher shop in South Austin. They make some of my favorite sausages, as well as steaks, and all the rest, and I keep hoping that when he gets sick of venison this deer season, he’ll throw some love my way in the form of surplus deer links. The dude knows meat. Plus, he sells a damn-fine custom grind of hamburger meat that he named after me (“Mick’s Mix”). Grover and his crew keep a big chunk of South Austin’s carnivores fat and happy, as well as the customers of a whole bunch of restaurants around town. 

Jill, left, Princess Di, right

Several weeks back, when Diane “Princess Di” Winslow’s brother Jeffrey was in town from Little D, and partying at Rancho Winslow to celebrate his birthday, Jill and Grover had stumbled over from Rancho Groovo, immediately to the south; Ranchos Winslow and Groovo share a common back fence. The Swifts slurringly alluded to a future sausage fest that they wanted to host at Rancho Groovo, and the date was likely gonna be Labor Day, so half-assed commitments were made over a rousing game of drunken moonlight bocce ball, for not only the Swifts to host, but for all of us to attend.

Couscous and spinach salad

I pulled into the drive of Rancho Groovo and the festivities were barely underway. A few guests still hadn’t arrived, but most were there already, and the bar was definitely open. I can tell when Grover has downed a few brews, because his infectious laugh gets even louder and more frequent than it normally is. Havalah was there with not one, but two guyfriends, one of whom was a newbie, a classical guitar artiste I’m told. We all passed judgment and declared him suitable, not that she would care what we thought, one way or the other. They were all liquored-up on Rosé Champagne. Chris Winslow and Grover were knocking back the beer, Scott and Rose were doing fine with sodas and the occasional beer, Jill and Diane were sucking down Wolfberry Rum and 7’s. Di said that when she asked the clerk at Spanky’s Liquor Store in Rockport if the wolfberry rum that was on sale was any good, he replied that he couldn’t personally attest to it one way or the other, but that 1,000 sorority girls couldn’t possibly be wrong. So a new summer drink for the gals was created.

This shit is tasty!

 I had brought a bottle of something that the FedEx driver delivered to me out of the blue. It was a bottle of Jimador Tequila Lime Liqueur with Silver Tequila. I vaguely recall telling someone I’d be glad to taste it, but didn’t expect to get a bottle delivered to my door. Jill got out a pile of tequila glasses, and I cracked the bottle open, and we all decided that it was pretty damn good; so good that we kept pouring. Lime-forward, sweet and tart, with a thick texture that coated the throat with a nice tequila taste, and cradled the cranium with a nice tequila glow. I could see where having a bottle or two of this stuff around could lead to all kinds of trouble. Recommended. It went great with the Hatch green chile queso, and the three different salsas to slather on the white corn tostados and the jalapeño potato chips. 

Fresh mozzarella, basil, and cherry tomato salad

But I was there for some smoked sausage, and Grover came through, with big batches of his Bratwurst, his Andouille, and his Spicy Hot Gut-style, all slowly cooked over oak coals to smoke-kissed perfection. The aroma was driving everyone nuts while we waited for the German potato salad to heat up. Di had done a pot of Golden Triangle-style red beans and rice, following her dad Surly Earl’s recipe. Earl’s Beaumont buddies were all Coonass good ole boys, and they taught him that a proper pot of red beans needed a tiny soupçon of allspice to make it right with God. Di’s batch was loaded with hambone goodness and Andouille; a superlative batch that would have made Earl (and his Cajun buddies) proud. It may just have been Earl goofing around, but for some reason the camera gods were angered and 86'd my picture of the red beans. 

Ginger-lime slaw

She also made a crisp slaw that had a sweet-sour lime and ginger dressing that was big fave of the crowd. Mike and Teresa had brought a really nice couscous and spinach salad, and Jill made the potato salad, assembled all of the accoutrements (pickles, mustards, pickled chiles and onions, dips, etc.), and herded dogs around, put up with Grover, and all the rest. Rose helped ramrod the kitchen operation and made a delish mozzarella, basil, and tomato salad, and Scott asked when the food was going to be ready; dude was seriously peckish and his back was on the fritz. Rose also made some addictively-good egg-free chocolate cookies that just melted away in your mouth like cocoa clouds.

Andouille on top, hot gut below

Bratwurst world

The sausage was sublime: a nice snap to the all-natural casing, the texture of the meat was medium coarse to coarse, depending on the variety (as it should be), and the smokiness perfectly balanced with the flavor of the meat and the zippy spice profile. Excellent, excellent sausage. My favorite was the Andouille, followed by the Hot gut, which tied with the bratwurst schmeared with some hot mustard. All of the food was fantastic, the lime-tequila liqueur was great, and the crowd was a bunch of old pals that really enjoy hanging out together, with no pretensions whatsoever. It was our own little South Manchaca Grover’s paradise (with apologies to Doug Sahm).

My (first) plate

Mick Vann©

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