Friday, October 14, 2011

Just the Tip?

What ever happened to baby king cake?

The Austin Chronicle's Best of 2011 came out yesterday, and we are honored to have received an award from the critic's pick: Best tipping policy.

You read that right. Best. Tipping. Policy. We don't take tips. Years ago, Steven Yarak and I were sitting at Spiderhouse debating this concept (as we did so many other topics), and how restaurant owners had used this institution to bypass having to actually pay their servers (read: the people who make them their money), and let that obligation fall on their patrons by means of supplementing their $2.13 an hour wage in the form of gratuities. We thought it was shitty. I still think it's shitty. I worked for tips for years, as did many of you, and you know that there are those who tip no less than twenty percent at all times (industry folk) and those who tip between ten and fifteen percent. It's the worst type of prostitution. In fact, hookers get a flat rate regardless of performance, so when bartenders and servers go the extra mile and take a load in the face, they have to smile and act like their eyes aren't on fire, and their hair isn't fucked.

Anyway. Our system isn't perfect, but since we are a member-owned business and they already pay us our salaries, why charge them a double tax? Granted, we have plenty of non-member customers that benefit from this system, however, I would argue that you can't change the system by falling in lockstep with the dominate paradigm. Hooray for pseudo-socialist poserdom!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Proof of Concept

It was in the middle of the night in September of 2008 when I first learned of the existence of bacon toffee. I was in the depths of a Master Cleanse. Not eating had me thinking of nothing but food. That was when I stumbled upon Derrick Schneider's An Obsession with Food, and with it, bacon toffee.

I had somehow linked to An Obsession with Food from another blog that I had completely scoured, Butter Pig. I had been staying up until five in the morning for several nights, incessantly reading food blogs and thinking of all these things I would make when I started eating food again. When the ten day fast had ended, I set out to knock things off my list.

The idea of a bacon candy intrigued me. I had had bacon and chocolate, and it was as good as it sounds, but bacon and toffee!? I made a few batches, some sucked: not reaching the right temp, not cracking, pulling fillings out, leaving napalmesque wounds on extremities, etc.—all the good stuff that can happen when making candy. Then I found my stride. It was about that time that I decided that I wanted to make cookies with chocolate chips and bacon toffee.

Nearly three years later, this idea has finally come to fruition. Since I now work in a kitchen, this idea has become more and more nagging in my mind. The idea was poo-pooed by a co-worker a few times, but now he's gone. We have a burgeoning ice cream program, too. The Universe spoke to me, and it said: "Flapjacks, you must make bacon toffee chocolate chip coffee ice cream sandwiches, it is your destiny."

I listened.

This first batch was a small batch, but they will return soon. The cookies are pretty damned amazing (think heath bar chunk cookies, but with bacon goddamnit), and mixing them with thick, custard based coffee ice cream creates the richest shit you can put in your mouth besides Warren Buffet's penis. I win! Wait, or do we all win?

Maybe we should dip them in chocolate next?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Too Many Maters

It's not even June yet, and here at the Shortcake-Flapjacks estate we've been eating homegrown tomatoes for a month. It seems, as with our wars, there is no end in sight. Those crazy winds from earlier in the week broke the better part of my black cherry and yellow pear plants, and today it seems that spider mites are taking care of the rest of those two former belles-of-the-garden-ball.

Annoying? Yes. Yet, if the Mr. Stripey, sungolds, purple cherokee, romas and early girls can hold out a little longer, we could be harvesting deep in to the fall. Here are some photos:

Sungolds are the bomb.

One day's worth. This was all turned into pico.

Cucumber, cherry tomato salad.

Gluten-free pasta primavera with poached eggs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This Must Be the Place

Either the cat or the heat had put me in a bad mood. It was way too early to be that aggravated, but I was and it was annoying. Blackberry Shortcake's car had crapped out and it was only day two of the summer class she was teaching in San Marcos. I had a meeting, cancelled it and volunteered to drive her down there. I needed to get out of Austin. I needed to be healed.

When I was just a boy, we briefly lived in San Marcos, in an old, creepy, high ceilinged house on Belvin St. Our short time there was very memorable: I burned myself badly on a cast iron skillet reaching for johnnycake, fell from the top bunk to the floor, got a pebble stuck way up in my nose from making a snow angel (think winter of '84, the year it snowed in Texas), and almost choked to death on a bite of Rainbow Brite cereal. I also strongly believe I saw a ghost, or something, and still think the house was haunted.

It was in this house that my mother believed she had killed my grandma on Thanksgiving—she'd had put an ounce of pot in the stuffing and grandma was out cold for an uneasy amount of time. Story goes, that mom was continually sneaking into her room and checking to make sure she was still breathing by placing a mirror under her nose, waiting for the steam to come. Sounds like she was paranoid. Must have been good shit.

My favorite swimming hole in the entire world also happens to be San Marcos. We call it the Icehouse. It is a magical place, a convergence of two waterfalls of crystal clear water flowing straight out of Aquarena Springs. This is where I would go to be healed. Times had gotten rough for my future bride and I. Not between us, just that our recent job changes had us shaken a bit, and this car breaking down bullshit had spurred talk of money.

I had realized during this money-talk that my new found bill laden life linked directly to my purchasing a car last year. A double-edged sword of convenience and sloth. Now, with the gas prices shitting on us, and my heavy footed driving shooting my insurance rates skyward, I was annoyed with my situation. Not worried, just annoyed. I plot, plan and scheme, but I don't fret or worry. Things have a way of working themselves out and I believe that sometimes it is just better to wait and see what happens rather than making up what will.

I was excited to go to San Marcos, even if only for a few hours. After the sting of fueling up, we were on the road and ready to rock. After dropping off the Shortcake, I made my way into town. I drove to the swimming hole and saw that no one was there and decided to go down to Belvin St. and find the creepy house we'd lived in back during that winter that it had snowed in Texas. I drove up and down the street, but could not find the house.

Amityville borer.

I was looking for a house with a porch and a little balcony on top that you could only access from the roof. It wasn't there. More accurately, the porch and balcony weren't there—they'd been removed. The house sat there boarded up and looking forgotten. I walked around and looked in the windows to make sure it was the same house. I saw the high ceilings I remembered as a kid, and found my old room. It was creepy, too. In a bathroom, a lone, beautiful claw-foot tub sat waiting for a naked cowboy that would never come.

I split.

That place always freaked me out.

I thought that I would find a cheap beer and finish this Bukowski story I had started that morning. I struck out at the first two places I tried. It was one in the afternoon and it seemed most bars opened at either three or seven. I found a book/comic/collectibles store and was lured inside by some Star Wars toys. They had a lot of them. Even the super rare Amanaman. I looked around for a bit after announcing that I brought in a book. They had an awesome selection of books and games and comics and toys. Seeing the Star Wars toys reminded me that mine were all stolen a decade ago. That always pisses me off.

I asked about the bar and they said it was happy hour right behind there at the Tap Room. It was dark in there and smelled like old beer and cigarette smoke, something you can only find at a few places in Austin these days. Atop the tap wall was a scene made of out old toys, ships, trophies and other nostalgic ephemera. Years of smoke and grease and dust had formed beards and stalagtites on the items. It seemed a fitting place to finish the short story. The beer cost less than a gallon of gas and I enjoyed that.

As I read, I looked around at the crap. I found the Beatles. Three of them, but not Ringo. John was missing an arm. I asked about Ringo, and the bartender said he was behind a trophy, which he was. I commented on the ship and how it's dust compared to the ship from the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (est. 1189) in Nottingham. We both decided that it would need more time to even be comparable. I finished the story and the beer and emerged back into the sunlight.

Above the Icehouse is a restaurant that has changed many times over the years. It was "Pepper's on the Falls" when I was a kid. Then a Joe's Crab Shack, and now it's a Salt Grass Steak house. I parked in the far corner of the lot. I could not get towed. That would seriously fuck me. You used to be able to park in a lot behind the tennis center, but that now required a Texas State parking permit. I've never been towed there, but it would really be inconvenient.

There it was, the Icehouse, shining like a beacon. The waterfall chugging away with it's load of airy whitewater. You could see every stone on the bottom and each fish. It was like a painting. I laid my book and towel and crap on the ground and striped down. A few years back the retaining wall was washed away by an epic flood and it was replaced with some fairly safe, fairly modern version of its former self that stepped down to the water.

Holy water.

I stood on the bottom step and stared into the center of the center of the pool. It bubbled and festered where the fall and pool met, as if someone had thrown a hundred billion alka-seltzer tablets in there. The words THANK YOU JESUS went through my head. Probably what my dad said every time right before we dove in. It seemed appropriate as I was seeking salvation. I thought that it was amazing that I'd been swimming in that same spot since I was at least three. Maybe four.

I dove in and was enveloped in what felt like champagne. I swam across and sat on this large cement wall portion that juts out of the water near the fall. At this point I had had a rather heady day; my annoyance from the morning had dissipated, and I was feeling quite healed, yet the strange record of "who are you? what are you doing?" was playing in my head. I sat on the wall and contemplated. The sound of the fall roared like a freight train beside me.

A young couple swam up and chatted with me about whatnot. They were moving to Austin. They'd graduated a few years back and never made it out. I could see that about San Marcos. The river. It could pull you in, keep you there. They were nice and after a few minutes they swam away leaving me alone again with the thoughts of who I was and what I was doing.

The alka-seltzer pushed my feet around. After a while, I stood and dove right into the heart of the maelstrom. It felt so good, like a thousand feathers cascading up and down my body. I came up to the surface, washed my face and slicked back my hair, just before dunking myself again like I was John and Jesus at once. I came up for air and had the answers: I AM LOVE, I AM LIVING.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tasting Notes: On the Wagon

Ever since the first time I woke up in a pool of my own vomit, I've known drinking was for me. I was to join the ranks of hardened men and women who sat at the ends of bars as dead as their lives, chain smoking Marlboro Reds and swilling Gilbey's Gin. This was my future ilk. Each one of my neighbor's mother's Coors Light I stole and chugged put me that much closer towards my destiny. Every shot of 151, another step on the path.

I've had some good times drinking. I've even had some bad times. I've had a lot of bad times the day after drinking. Heavily. All this being said, this April I took a break from the sauce, not knowing if I would find something, miss it, care, or anything really. Sometimes you just know you should take a break.

Now, don't let this lead you to believe that I'm a drunk or anything, or that I had to intervene on my own party. No way. More that I work in a bar, and it's good to know where you and your vices stand. Is it an amiable relationship, or is it destructive; Paul and Linda or Ike and Tina? I thought going into the month that I would really miss my shift beer at work. There is something about that first sip of a beer after you've busted your ass on the line that is truly special, much like a large belch after a fine meal, only more refreshing and lacking humidity.

What I found surprising was—it didn't really matter. I did, once, strictly out of habit, order a drink during brunch. A greyhound. I took a sip, the vodka lighting up my mouth up like Clark Griswold's house, and I remembered that I wasn't to do that. I passed the tasty beverage over to Blackberry Shortcake, and resumed my drinking of virgin grapefruit juice. It didn't matter.

May is back, and with it the alcohol. I have put some time in reflecting on this month of sobriety, and found that if I ever was to walk away from delicious libations, I would probably be okay. However, I do not generally believe in placing such longterm limitations on oneself, and would probably always allow for the enjoyment of Scotch or good beer and wine on a special occasion, like a wedding, a feast in my honor, or a Saturday.

I saved some money by not drinking, yet had to give that to the city for speeding on Lamar like a dumbass. I didn't lose any weight, nor did I drink soda to compensate or start huffing computer cleaner. I drank a billion Topo Chicos. I continue to swill them with abandon. All in all though, I felt good. Clear head, deep, dark dreams, a little more energy, and I ate more. I think I was replacing a good amount of my calorie intake with beer rather than food prior to the month off.

I do recommend this practice to you all, even if it is just once in a while. Just to remember that you can. To see that you don't have to drink when you go out to have a good time. In fact, if you're not drinking, and everyone else is, trust me, you'll have a great time. People are dumb when they're drunk and dumb people do funny things they won't remember, but you will. These are good odds.

As I sit here, drinking this fine IPA, I feel good knowing that at anytime I could close up shop, and move on. Chances are, however, that that won't happen and the bottle and I will live happily ever after in a castle on a hill surrounded by a magical forest of liquid delights. Cheers!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Get Sprung

The ol' timers around these parts have a saying: "If the redbuds are bloomin', the white bass are runnin'." If you've looked around in the past few weeks, you can see that the redbuds are in bloom, and I can assure that the white bass are biting, even if a bit more discriminately than I may like. Does this mean it's Spring?

Where do trees come from, mommy?

Look at that fat sow.

Technically, no, not until next Monday, but I say fuck it, it's close enough. The winter garden has come and gone, those wonderful four days below freezing in February did a wonderful job of getting rid of some plants that I would gladly have eaten; no joy was derived from pulling their goopy, burnt carcasses from the soil. Bummer. This decimation left ample room for Spring crops to rise up and take over. This year, we've planted a good variety of tomatoes (early girl, purple cherokee, mr. stripey, viva italiana, sun gold, yellow pear, and something else that I can't recall), a few strains of beans, some carrots, radishes, and herbs.

Little maters.

One week of molasses fertilization later. . .

Thumbs up from this guy.

With the weather getting a little warmer at night, I've started germinating seeds for chiles and basil. I am hoping to over produce and can, a dream that never reaches fruition for me, due both to crop loss, and improper canning equipment. Yet, with this many tomato plants in the ground, and them already bearing some fruit, it may happen this year. I long to reach for my own jar of strained tomatoes, or tomato paste, or just whole tomatoes. I also want to pickle some beans and peppers, preferably together, as Blackberry Shortcake loves a spicy green bean in a well deserved bloody mary.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Week in Review

We've been open for just over five months now and the reviews have finally come in. Things are favorable for the kitchen team and that makes me happy. We are definitely helping to bring people in to drink beer and we need that.

I'm glad people are out there eating, and enjoying, the food we are putting up. We're having a good time doing it, and the business is steady and increasing at all times. We're able to deal with it in a manner that wasn't possible at the outset, and that makes me feel good. And that's the point, right—pleasing others while doing something you love?! That's like a double super buzz.

In one week we've gotten some love for our bacon toffee, and larger, favorable reviews from the Statesman and the Chronicle. Someday we'll figure out the music thing, and people just might have to live with the modernity of the place until it gets a little more character over time. Yet, all things take time and we'll get there when we do. Until then, we'll keep up the hard work, and sacrifice that makes it all happen and love every minute of it.

Thanks y'all.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Garden Comes Along, You Must Pick It

After about a year and a half of back and forth, home, girlfriend's, home, girlfriend's, a garden can severely fall to the wayside. A return to stationary, sedentary living and a pre-existing raised bed are highly conducive to planting and reaping the benefits of a small, high-performing, backyard vegetable garden.

Only the beginning.

I love gardening. Two reasons: nostalgia and bridging the gap. We had a garden growing up, and my mother would pick the goodies and cook them. I thought that was pretty cool. As someone who loves food, has worked with food forever, and has gained an assload of knowledge about the woes of the industrialization of the food chain and all of the bullshit related to that, it just makes sense to turn eight by four feet of yard space you aren't using otherwise into something that can feed you. Healthily.

What I mean by bridging the gap is simple: the end user is the producer. In most cases where end user is also producer, the product is better. People want good shit, that's why they do it themselves. Gardening is no different. It's your garden; grow what you want to eat. I like greens, so that's what I've got right now. Plenty too, and some broccoli, radishes and snow peas.

Best garden gnome ever!

Pea shooter.

With spring coming soon, I'm getting excited about starting seeds indoors for all the chiles and tomatoes I'm going to grow, and plans for my new compost bin are in the works. As for now, it's all brassicas and lettuce. Perfect for a salad. Poach a few farm fresh Alexander Family Farm eggs and you're in business.


Money shot.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What We Talk About When We Talk About Communication

"Will you drop for two burgers medium and a grilled cheese?"
"Is that going with your fish and chips. . .what's that going with?"
"Drop that too."

"New in. . .burger, well done, no cheese, no mustard, no lettuce, no tomato, no onion, on a wheat bun."
"The wheat bun makes it healthy."
"Is that for a child?"
"Hockey puck."

"It's just for decoration, man, that's it and that's all."

"Are you putting lime juice in the chili? There's no lime juice in the chili. Apple cider vinegar."
"Sorry I like to party."

"From where I'm standing, it looks like you're masturbating behind that wall."
"I'm peeling the fuck out of these potatoes."
"Cranking out the chips."
"Best euphemism for masturbation. Ever."

"Go fuck yourself."

"Chicken pot pie. . .[sung to the tune of Live and Let Die]"

"Are you ready for chips for those two burgers medium?"
"Cheesing them now."
"Run tell that."

"What's going on?"
"I broke another fucking yolk. What the fuck? I can't flip a fucking egg?"
"That's the third one tonight."
"You want me to flip that for you, papi?"
"Fuck you."

"That salad was really good. It could have had more of that cheese, though."
"What cheese?"
"The cheese on it."
"Dude, that's avocado."

"When no one is looking, I put bacon fat in the hamburgers."

"Drop that fish and chips for my bar steak."
"Heard, papi."
"Thanks, papi."
"Run sell that."


"Can I get a coldy?"

"Snack plate. New in. . .Snack plate."
"Must be Friday."
"New in. . .snacken platen."

"Fuck me (sound of a ticket printing)."
"Right now, that is the most demoralizing sound I've ever heard."
"It just doesn't stop."
"I guess that's the point, right?"
"Run tell that, homeboy."

"The whistles go woooooooo."

"Hey, y'all. This pork roast was supposed to be a roast chicken."
"Ticket said pork."
"I know. I need it on the fly."
"That's a ten minute pick-up? On the fly my ass."

"What do you want?"
"High Esteem."
Time passes.
"Where's my beer?"
"I got you an iced tea?!"
"Iced tea?"
"That's what you said."
"High Esteem. Why the fuck would I want an iced tea right now?"

"I'm going to the walk-in, y'all need anything?"
"Right, thanks."

"86 the will to live."

"Wings in a bar? Who knew!?"

"Is there anything else y'all need from me?"
"Yeah, get the fuck out of here."
"Ok, papi."

"New in. . .fish and chips, fish and chips, fish and chips. FUCK."
"There's a new ticket."
"New in. . . fuck me. . .fish and chips, mixto, fish and chips, burger medium, bacon, fried egg, add chili."
"Whoever ordered that is my hero right now."

"I'm out of saut├ęs."

"What the fuck is that?"
"Pig face."
"That looks disgusting."
"Wanna try some?"
"Fuck no."
"It's really good."
"I don't care."
"You vegetarians are all the same."


"New in. . .wedge salad, sub cheddar, and ranch."
"Is that necessary?"
"I didn't think you could make a wedge more white trashy."
"Whoever that was just did."

"These fucking eggs are killing me. Why can't I flip an egg?"
"You have to be more confident. The eggs sense your fear. Just like a dog."

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