A casual greeting among men often goes like this:
Man 1 – “what’s up?”
Man 2 – “Living the dream brother, just living the dream”.
I’m living my very own version of the American Dream, and I feel pretty fortunate about that fact. I was born in Dallas, TX in 1964. My dad loved me as much as love will allow until he passed in 2008. I miss him everyday. My dad, two grandfathers, and four uncles influenced so much of who I am today. When I think of these men I feel a great deal of comfort, joy, and gratitude. I was a lucky kid to have so many father figures while growing up. They all wanted to know what I was up to. It was genuine, sincere, and loving. I appreciate their influence on me more and more all the time.
My wish on this Fathers Day is for all children to feel the deepest love possible from great men like I did. Happy Fathers Day to all the dads, grandads, and uncles of the world. Your fatherly touch travels far.
The Early Days
One of the questions asked of me most often is when did the Tejas Chocolate Craftory begin. The chocolate business began June 2011. How about that. Tejas Chocolate is 5 years old now.
The plans were originally set in motion in 1962 when Mom & Dad met at The University of Texas.
That’s mom and dad on the right. They made me.
Dad was a natural born peddler.
If my dad were still with us, he’d be sitting at The Craftory charming your socks off. Dad would have made you late getting back to work because you couldn’t stop visiting with him. If he were running the cash register, he’d drop your change on the floor, spill a cup of ice on your shoes while making you feel pretty good about it all. I’m not sure our POS system could have survived him. Certainly the row of beer cans in front of the check out counter would have needed relocating. I learned to make messes from dad. He couldn’t help it. Messy is genetic.
That is my Grandad standing in the back watching dad being annoyed with picture time. Even though Grandad was serving in the Coast Guard during WWII, military tidiness didn’t stick. Grandad’s desk top at his store was a giant pile of papers that he claimed to be his air tight filing system.
This my other grand father Colonel McDaniel. We called him Moc.
He fought in the Pacific in WWII. He tragically died in a car accident on leave in LA when I was 8, but I still have some vivid memories of his loving hand. He let Greg and I nail down boards for the boat dock he was building only to pull them up at night to fix them while we were sleeping.
I’ll say it over and over again. I am a fortunate son.
The Week in Review
In the present, we’re cooking on Monday’s so we can serve food on Tuesday. No complaints here. On my day off I barbecue anyways. Might as well do it for you too. Late Monday afternoon Tomball was a chosen one for a summer shower.
About the time I’m gonna leave the day to my brother Chef Greg a brief intense rain shower gave me a flashback to weeks previous. But it turned out to be that the weather story of the week was getting freight trained by hot humid summer summer summer time.
When the temperature is 82 at 5:20 in the morning, you know you’re in Houston, TX. The heat index was 110 three days in a row. That’s just uncalled for after an extra long spring time lulled us into a false sense of cool temperature security.
The relative humidity can make it relatively difficult to stay comfortable. Inside or out.
Condensation created circles in the glass window of our side door that greeted me everyday this week. There are several of these circles on the side doors. I’m still searching for an explanation on these perfect little water droplet circles.
Maybe its all the trains with their sounds and vibration.
A really long one caught me on my way home one evening. I was in the rail industry for 25 years. Moving trains means the wheels of commerce are moving. I love trains.
When you come to conduct commerce at our place of business you might be greeted by Kristine. She is an official non compensated Craftory Greeter.
Kristine likes good exercise, cryotherapy ( she likes to say squashed and froze, and says it does wonders for her), and fresh barbecue done right. She’ll welcome you to The Craftory when she’s at her table on the front porch.
Phaedra Cook greeted us this week with her review of The Craftory in Houston Press. Then we were listed in the top 10 hottest new places to eat for June 2016. This was great to see. Several new and old customers told us they saw the publicity.
Phaedra covered a lot in her review and sparked a mild debate among some of our Facebook fans about salt in food with her own impression of too little or too much salt in particular dishes. I thought her review was complementary of our food overall and at times she gave us high praise on dishes like beef short ribs, pulled pork, and carrot souffle’. Phaedra framed her review around the three signs out front: Chocolate, Barbecue, and Craft Beer. We appreciate the review and exposure very much. One element missing in our presentation out front and from Phaedra’s review is our coffee. We are proud to use our local coffee roasters exclusively in producing great coffee and coffee drinks. Perhaps I need to tell the coffee story a little better.
Our seasoning for meats is fairly simple. Kosher salt and black pepper is mostly what we use, and we don’t rub. We sprinkle and pat to encourage seasoning adhesion. I love patting briskets. On beef short ribs we kick in ancho chile, coffee, and cocoa.
A closer look in the natural light outside right before loading into the cooker.
Pork Belly 2.0
While our pork bellies were great the first week we did them, we went ahead and decided to upgrade to a better fresh product. Pork Belly 2.0 is better. It is thicker, meatier and tastier. Our pork belly is so good it scares me to be near them. I can’t stop snacking on the pork belly. Thankfully, our customers took care of that for me as we sold out of pork belly everyday.
I went to check on the cooker Friday afternoon to see how the pork bellies, burnt ends, and beef short ribs are coming along. For about 15 minutes a day the sun finds its way past the trees and down the smoke stack. The barbecue solstice is next week.
I love the way the sun light beams through the smoke and diffuses past a grate before putting the spot light on a piece of burnt end.
Angelic music bellowed from the cooker.
Burnt ends have special powers. When we open the barbecue line the count down starts.
Sometimes negotiating for better line position happens.
Eric was in line behind Adam and asked if their were any orders of burnt ends left. Adam looked over at the board and saw me gesture that there was 2 left. Adam turned to look at Eric with a smile and negotiating leverage. Eric then offered Adam $20 to move up one spot. Adam was kind in the end clearly seeing that Eric had needs.
Eric was not alone with needs. Some kids brought their fathers in so dad could buy them some chocolate.
Getting chocolate work done this week was challenging. One of our tempering machines went down with a gear box failure. Since the part we need is in Italy, this machine is going to be out of service for a week or two. You guys have a big truffle appetite so I jumped in The White Room to table temple some chocolate.
It pays to be poor. When I started making chocolate I couldn’t afford to buy a decent tempering machine so I learned how to table temper chocolate and fill molds by hand. Tempering chocolate on a marble slab is a technique used by pastry chefs and confectioners. It’s a process of melting chocolate, lowering the temperature, then raising the temperature of the chocolate to set it in temper. This give chocolate its glossy appearance and snappy texture. Making the tempering process very hard was the temperature and humidity in the building. Hot humid days like this last week are challenging for chocolate work. My tempering was mediocre, but got the job done. The marble slab was 81 degrees and I need to lower chocolate to 84 so it took a long time, but there is something very therapeutic about spreading and scooping melted chocolate.
Bringing The Heat
I like to call our green sauce Verde Q. It starts with roasting Poblano and Jalapeno peppers.
Verde Q sauce has a nice light heat that compliments the bright flavors of the peppers and tomatillo. I like it best on pork and turkey but it’s also great on brisket which reminds me a little of a good enchilada verdes.
Saw this family avoiding the heat by enjoy the shade out front along with some barbecue and a board game.
It was hot enough in the shade making the gang hit up Norman for plenty of cold beverages.
We were able to fill this nice lady’s list so she could avoid heat from the gang she was feeding. Happy campers is what we’re aiming for.
Walking back from Joe’s Barber shop on Wednesday I came past pizza man on a stick enjoying the heat.
After several visits enjoying our mint syrup I was gifted a Lebanese Mint plant.
This mint variety is supposed produce a delightful smooth mint flavor. Once we get this mint plant going we shall see. It needs a mostly shady spot to be happy.
Thank you all that came to visit us this week. It feels great to see people taking pictures in front out by our sign. It’s a compliment that we all appreciate very much.
Chocolate truffles made their way into the picture of the week by @thekenyagurl on Instagram.
Happy Fathers day everyone.
See you around the hood.