Holiday Sauce

It was Christmas week and I went about the days savoring the sauce of the holiday season. Christmas music streamed, good food was served, beverages were sipped, and man hugs were given.

I’m a first born, independent, mostly low affection, stop touching me kind of guy, but I will dish out or accept a man hug based on sound man logic. Packaging a slow smoked 15 LB 7 bone whole Chairman’s Reserve Prime Rib into a man’s Houston Texans travel cooler for safe transport to a family Christmas gathering is on that short list of man huggable moments.

Even still, I let Greg and Chris exchange the customary smoked meat man hug. Smoked prime rib in a beer cooler is a carnal moment not to be taken lightly. Hugs, smiles, and beer toasting should always spontaneously happen during these barbecue rituals.

Man hugs should be reserved for extraordinary times like celebrating smoked meats, weddings, child birth, and gifts of barrel aged bourbon. A winning touchdown during a football game of significant importance is an optional occasion when a man hug would be appropriate. Special grievance exceptions may apply. Otherwise, I do prefer to use a gentleman’s fist bump as a virtual man hug in most other situations where some men will hug. But that’s just me.

I’m usually slow to warm up on the Christmas Spirit. There are somethings about Christmas that I used to feel like I’d rather pass on.

But nowadays, I enjoy torturing my children with Christmas traditions they’d rather bypass.

The thrill of jerky snacks, and the agony of Santa hats.

As Ralphie, Cooper Brown Dog, and Handsome Gus would say: “This is so embarrassing”. But these moments are what it takes to fully appreciate Red Ryder BB guns and chicken strip treats. Even at Christmas time there are things that need to get done that one would rather not do that makes the good stuff that much better.

Holiday Sauce is the stuff that makes the holidays complete. When I was a kid I used to think that Holiday Sauce was the yellow stuff you put on fancy egg dishes.

Michelle makes these for me once in awhile. She’s got a killer scratch hollandaise recipe she does in a home food processor. It’s just a few simple ingredients that go into this delightful sauce. Some of the ingredients ain’t much on their own, like lemon juice for example. Lemons are good over fish, for making lemonade, and a great accent in a rich breakfast sauce that I can now properly pronounce. Lemon juice is a hard sip on its own, but a perfect addition to some great cocktails.

Holiday Sauce is made of all ingredients that make Christmas time special. Family, friends, good neighbors, shopping, traffic, and other forms of extra special Holiday cheer.  Nothing says Merry Christmas like a tired and hungry shopper.

Sorry Mike. This picture is the gift that just keeps on giving.


There is a long and difficult struggle currently taking place on N. Elm Street and the alley behind. It’s the battle of the fallen leaves.

Falling leaves seem to be a renewable resource that I must take the time to harness. I keep talking about building a compost box for leaves, fire box ash, cocoa bean shells and coffee grounds. I think we could make a pretty unique high octane compost if we set our mind to it.

After a cold wind storm earlier in the week leaf drifts were everywhere and piling up at alarming rates.

In our back alley there are little leaves, medium leaves, giant leaves, and leaves that crunch extra loud when you step on them. You couldn’t sneak up on a freight train when walking in these leaves. Leaves were being blown and piled over there and everywhere. It looked and sounded like the leaves might be winning.

Last Monday I could hear the buzzing of leaf blowers in Old Town. The battle of the leaves was on all over the place. Merchants, shop keepers, and hired guns were using up valuable resources dealing with winter leaves.

I could hear one leaf blower just down the alley from us. Later that day when I went down the alley to get something out of my truck I found the handy work of the nearby leaf blower.

All the leaves were piled onto our parking area. A battle line had been drawn by a neighbor down the alley.

Oh man…Game – Is – On.

That’s what I was thinking while capturing photo evidence of Leafgate. A devilish laugh bellowed down the alley as I organized my thoughts on a counter strike. I knew that there were plenty of hours in the day and night when we have the back alley of Old Town to ourselves. They’d never know what hit them. One never wants to try outlast a barbecue joint. Someone is always there.

It looked like we were someone’s leaf pile dumping station. When Chris, our second shift pit tender, came into work on Tuesday we talked about retaliation strategies regarding Leafgate. We discussed a plan where after the last brisket came off the cooker that night when Old Town was sleeping he could use our leaf blower to pile all the leaves onto the adjacent parking area in a manner the clearly stated…take these leaves and shove them. Clearly, The Christmas spirit was yet to grab a hold of me.

I daydreamed about using a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model air rifle with stock compass to take out back alley burglars holding leaf blowers. We have been living out the Christmas Story this season after all you know.

The next morning when I got to The Craftory the leaves were still in the same giant pile where I like to park. Operation Leaf Blow Back misfired during the night. I knew that I hadn’t sold Chis on the leaf blow back retaliation plan. I didn’t have his buy in fully on the operation. He felt like I didn’t really mean it, and that I was just imagining about stirring leaves up. Chris must of thought that Leafgate was something that I was just making up in my head.

Later that morning I could here a lawnmower running around in the back alley.

A man on a riding lawnmower made our leaf drift disappear. Clearly he was catching up on the previous days work. I felt a little foolish about having the feelings inside me that inspired operation Leaf Blow Back. Leafgate was now over. The fantasy of shooting an ornery neighbor with a BB gun and the feeling of disappointment in knowing that all our neighbors are too pleasant to shoot was all that was left for me.

When Chris showed up for his shift, I acted as if I was upset that we missed our chance to aggravate the neighbors by blowing the leaves into their yard before they had a chance to clean them up, but Chris knew I was kidding about that too. He’s too nice for such sinister work in the middle of the night. I Guara-Damn-Tee you that had I been there late that night properly sauced those leaves would have been on someones front yard by the time I would have gotten to the end of my extension cord.

The proper response from a man to express his gratitude towards another man for getting rid of his leaves is a gentleman’s fist bump in case you were wondering. I don’t see that as a huggable moment unless it is a weekend afternoon and everyone is sensibly sauced.

Later in the week the southern winds brought back unseasonably warm damp weather. Water droplets glued leaves to everything. A leaf blower is defenseless in the face of such wet leaves.

Once crunchy leaves now lay silent under foot steps.

The dampness muffled the sounds of everything. It reminded me of times out hunting in the woods when everything was still and wet making you feel like you could sneak up on deer. I got to watching the smoke from the cooker mix with the fog and drift off towards the baseball field. I imagined an innocent morning jogger getting side swiped by a smokey water droplet that would subliminally bring them over for lunch. That’s Aromamarketing with moisturizing relief is what that is. There might be some chicken on the bone with that idea.

Home Stretch

Barbecue plates, chocolate truffles, and carrot souffle’s were being assembled at a brisk holiday pace.

Photo by Scott Sandlin

We have some people on our team that can dip chocolate truffles, cut meat, and peel carrots like nobody’s business. Last week they put all their talents into warp speed. We were all feeling fortunate to have such great support from our customers. A hurried pace is met with a warm embrace at The Craftory. I’d fist bump work to be done it if I could.

Michelle captured this young lady making a clear statement about her priorities.

The Tejas truffle making team of Michelle, Janie, and Courtney made a little over 1,500 hand rolled and coated chocolate treats during the holiday home stretch. We sure do like having Janie on the team. She just made her one year mark with us. She’s the first employee to put up with Greg, Michelle, and I for a full year. Imagine that.

Another addition to The Craftory this week is Clementine. She’s a gift from Chris Clements.

I think we should put Clementine on the display counter over a sign that says eat more Brisket and Turkey. We shall see how that conversation goes.

The entire week was hectic, fun, and rewarding. It was our highest revenue week to date. We are grateful for that. In the middle of the controlled chaos we discovered that our little joint was listed as #2 on Houston Food Finder’s best barbecue of 2016. That’s a pretty sweet Major Award is how we felt about the accomplishment.

Saturday we shut down a little early just in time for Michelle and I to catch Christmas Eve service at our church. Celebrating the true meaning of Christmas was a perfect ending to our business week.

Merry Christmas to all.

We hope to see you this week. Normal hours all week except that we will close at 3:00 PM Saturday New Year’s eve. Then we will remain closed until Friday January 6th.

Cheers! Scott

PS. Michelle made a deep dish quiche on Christmas Day worthy of a less French name. Except that it would be fun to watch a French Gourmet’s head explode by calling this dish a quiche.

This was a savory breakfast pie worthy of a barbecue joint. She made the crust and everything else from scratch. Michelle can bake your socks off when she’s got the time for it. It was a substantial and tasty slice of pie filled with our smoked pork belly, uncured bacon, eggs, and herbs sitting on a wonderfully crispy crust.

Its a sizable hearty slice of early morning pie. We’re thinking of adding one of these to the Saturday AM breakfast rotation. I certainly enjoyed this very last slice just today.






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