Friday, January 25, 2013

Pars Deli, 1.20.2013

R offered me a birthday lunch last weekend and I cogitated for a while before I figured out that I hadn’t been to Pars Deli in a while, and I was hankering for some of their fantastic Persian/Middle Eastern food. We rendezvoused at her place and headed on over around noonish or a little after. Here’s the weird thing. Pars was almost empty, although they had a respectable table count by the time we left, and Trudy’s right across the parking lot, was packed with a gaggle of clueless waiting out front. Nothing against Trudy’s, but weigh the two against each other and I know where I’m going, especially if Trudy’s has a wait for a table and I can stroll right into Pars Deli and grab a table.
Anyway, we perused the menu and settled on an order of hummus, a bowl of the pomegranate soup, the veggie wrap minus the wrapping, a ground meat kebab, and a bowl of the eggplant and beef stew. Their humus is great, beginning with dried chickpeas that are cooked from scratch, high quality olive oil, and ample roasted garlic; the ideal schmear with some fresh pita bread.

The pomegranate soup is unusual and freakily dynamite: a rich stock with five kinds of beans, bulgur, herbs, and pomegranate juice, producing rich nuttiness blended with a fruity tartness.


 I’m a big fan of their ground meat kebab, presented here with two swords’ worth, some onion and a grilled tomato, flatbread, tzatziki sauce, and a bowl of a crazy good but simple cucumber-onion-tomato-parsley salad on the side, all resting on a big pita. Here’s what makes it great: the meat is high quality, well-seasoned, and cooked to a perfectly juicy “medium”. Most other places overcook ground meat kebabs into rubberdom.


R wanted a spinach fix and they had their veggie special wrap, which consisted of a big pile of just-cooked spinach sautéed in olive oil with garlic, mushrooms, and pine nuts. There was probably some goat cheese in there also, but I couldn’t go back and check since the menu isn’t online. I love the owners, Kobra Kadfhar and Sam Roostaie, but come on guys, get the menu online. Fluff up that Facebook page a bit and let the public know what you have, or better yet, establish a web page! I guarantee that one of your regulars is a techie and could do all that stuff for you on a barter basis. Anyway, the spinach is delicious.


The last dish was the bademjon, a rich, garlicky stew with big chunks of smoky eggplant and chunks of tender beef. There are some lentils floating around in there, along with some herbs and spices, and it comes with their exemplary rice, with every single grain of rice a solitary soldier; no mushy rice here. This is a great dish, and one that R hogged as her own; I was offered a few bites.

We were stuffed or I would have gotten one of their yummy baklavas. Pars Deli?, it’s a top-notch spot for Persian and Middle Eastern that is way underrated, with a laid back atmosphere, delicious food at good prices, and friendly service.

Mick Vann ©

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guide to Pigs Link, 1.22.2013

I had to share this link that I was turned on to by my buddy R.L. Reeves Jr, AKA Chowpapi and Scrumptious Chef. We were emailing back and forth about heritage pigs, and I had found him some info on the Cornwall Large Black Hog, raised locally by Eden's Cove Family Farm in Cedar Creek. R.L. will soon be doing number eight in his series of  pop-up meals at our pal Ray Tatum's Three Little Pigs trailer, located behind East End Wines at the junction of Rosewood and E. 11th. The meal will be, of course, pig-centric since it is titled "Heritage Pig".

The way groovy Hezuo pig breed of Tibet....

The aforementioned link is a blog from "Professor Paul" and tells you more than you'll ever need to know about the breeds of pigs from around the globe, including prehistoric pigs. I love it when one person's obsession benefits the masses. It's a fascinating read and well worth a visit.

Mick Vann ©

Friday, January 18, 2013

Micklethwait Craft Meats 1.12.2013

So the other day I went by to sample Tom Micklethwait’s barbecue for an Austin Chronicle review, which will run on Thursday, Jan 24th. This blogpost is just a little tease before the article comes out. It’s situated in a way-cool vintage 1960 Comet travel trailer that Tom found out by the Lake and then re-did, and his vintage smoker sits in an adjacent screen trailer; look for them a few doors east of Ray Tatum’s Three Little Pigs trailer and East End Wines. I had asked Tom to make me a big plate, with everything, because I hadn’t eaten all day and was in need of a smoked meat rush.

Tom, with 2 hours sleep the night before......

the rustic menu......

1960 Comet trailer.....

Tom's smoker used to be the water boiler at Pflugerville High School before Tom and a friend welded its ass into a smoking work of art......

business end of the slicing board......

He had four sausages that day: duck with cherry, lamb with orange, garlicky kielbasa, and all-beef with jalapeño. I had them all. He stuffs all his own sausages, and the quality and taste are beyond compare. The duck was the only emulsified sausage, and it literally melted in the mouth, with waves of duck richness. When he says “with cherry”, don’t assume that the cherries will dominate. Tom is all about subtlety and building up layers of flavor. All of the sausages were exemplary; flat blew me away.

He cut me some amazing slices of meltingly tender, smoky brisket, with a nice spicy crust and a penetrating smoke ring. The smoke here is an adjunct flavor that kisses the meat; it doesn’t slap you in the mouth. The slices of smoked pork loin were superb, on a par with the pork loin that Tootsie cooks over at Snow’s BBQ in Lexington. The baby back ribs were excellent, done with a dry rub and no glops or slops. I prefer a meatier sparerib, but flavor-wise these guys were first-rate.

The chicken, which I normally pass up because it’s almost always overcooked, was moist, with a crisp, lacquered skin loaded with flavor. The barbecue sauce is perfect: garlicky, spicy, sweet, sour, and tomato-based. I loved the slaw with bits of lemon zest, and the spud salad is nice also, dressed with both mayo and mustard. Had some experimental cuke salad with yogurt and mint that could have used a touch of sweet to balance out the tartness of the yogurt, but it was fine. Bottom line, Tom Micklethwait deserves all the business he wants; this is first rate barbecue, and the best sausage in town. You’d have to drive out to Billy Inman’s in Marble Falls and eat some of his fantastic smoked turkey sausage to reach this caliber of stuffed gut. Great stuff. Eat at Micklethwait’s.

close-up of brisket... 

my delicious plate.......

1309 Rosewood Ave, ATX, 78702
(512) 791-5961

Mick Vann ©

Funeral Food 1.16.2013

Funeral Food: For some reason funerals and food always go together, perhaps because there's nothing quite as comforting as a plate full of home-style food, especially Southern home-style food.

As many of you already know, my dear mom Betsy passed away last Saturday morning, and Wednesday we had the funeral in East Texas, at Evans Chapel, a little west of the town of Leona, on FM 977. Leona is also home of the famous Leona General Store Steakhouse owned by my cousins Jerry and Mary Jane, and Jerry’s wife Cynthia. A short ways down HWY 75 to the south of the steakhouse is Pecan Grove Café, also owned by Mary Jane (AKA “MJ”). LGS serves catfish on Thursday night, and steaks on Fri and Sat, while the Café serves lunch Mon through Sat.

Anyway, MJ mobilized the family to attend a pot luck lunch at her house  before the funeral, and folks brought all kinds of stuff.

Yummy mixed green salad, and potato salad and cole slaw.

Excellent fresh fruit salad and broccoli salad.

This was a great casserole with layered mixed vegetables.

Fantastic black eyed peas and a huge mess of rich chicken and dumplings.

Sue Keeling made a huge bowl of delicious cornbread muffins. There were also loaves of cheese bread.

MJ did some of her brisket glazed with red wine and jalapeño jelly. It’s really good and (according to her) very simple to do.

Cynthia brought a mess of fried chicken. Someone made a big pot of pinto beans.

Michelle sauteed up a big batch of tender green beans and mushrooms in butter.

There was a big dish of sweet baked beans with lots of bacon.

MJ commissioned Lucie Ballard to make me a strawberry birthday cake; my traditional cake. It was good, but not as good as mom’s or MJ’s. Still, you have to love the sentiment.

Sue Keeling, the East Texas Queen of Pies, brought one of her famous chocolate pies, and a coconut cream. Both were fantastic, with the flakiest of crust.

Someone else made a big dish of pecan cobbler, which was sinfully rich.

My first plate.

The Funeral Pot Luck is the perfect way to fuel everyone up before giving a loved one a big sendoff. After the service a bunch of us went back over to supplement that fuel for the long drive home. It was all just about as perfect as it could be. Thanks to all the folks that brought grub, and to MJ, Tad, and Michelle for hosting with such open arms, and to all the family and friends that helped to usher Betsy up into the pearly gates.  

Mick Vann ©  




Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Rancho Winslow One One Thirteen: ¡Buena Suerte!

Hoping on some Southern good luck foods to boost our luck, we convened at Rancho Winslow for the annual New Year’s Day Luck Feast (me, CBoy, Di, Jules, Havie, Connor, and Scarlet -- Robert was a no-show). I got there early to chill down the Anna de Cordiniu Brut Rosé Cava and start the cooking, and Jules was there to ably assist. CBoy showed up with a ham to bake; we decided on scoring the outside and baking it at 325° for 2½ hours (the last 30 minutes would be uncovered, and it would get basted throughout the course of its ride in the oven), and I threw together a glaze of brown mustard, apple cider, brown sugar, garlic, cayenne, dry mustard, with some clove, and it turned out to be quite delicious, even if it looked a little weird from being scored with a cleaver. 

The black eyed peas had some celery, onion, garlic, carrot, thyme, bay leaf, and chicken stock, and missing the ham bone, we used some bacon and a little leftover ham to pork it up. They came out mighty tasty.


The collards were the standard issue Mick’s collards: bacon, onion, and garlic, collards, balsamic vinegar, sugar, chicken stock, black pepper; Di had some really nice thick balsamic from Spicewood Foods that was really yummy. Truth be told, collards are good luck and tasty as hell, but they are almost worth more to me as potlikker, to soak my cornbread.


Jules made the cornbread using my Mile High recipe and I had brought my two cast iron cornbread pans over with me. The cast iron gets preheated in the oven and lubed before the batter goes in, and it develops an amazingly nice brown crust; I finally remembered to get a shot of the cornbread as a slice, and tried to include a fork to show how high the cornbread rose while baking.This batch had corn, jalapeños, scallion, garlic, and month jack.

the cheese gets sprinkled on when the top is just starting to set-up..... it ends up looking like this: 


Other than some fresh strawberries and pineapple and the aforementioned cava, that was the meal. Mike dropped by with some Ranger Mesquite Porter (from San Antone) that was really nice, and a sample of his boudin balls and his seafood and andouille gumbo (he went Acadian for New Year’s); both tasty Creole nibbles, and the porter is delish.

the whole you heart out Robert, and don't blame us for any bad luck in the coming year..

Southern, simple and tasty on day one, and hopefully blessing us all with prosperity, wealth, and good health in the coming year.

For recipes, link here:

For more on good luck foods, link here:

 Mick Vann ©