Well, I’ll be a Crawdaddy’s Uncle!
May 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
The first 2/3rds of this weekend was spent at Fredericksburg doing some day-job outreach work at the Jaycee’s annual Crawfish Fest at the Marktplatz. Now, anyone who has been to Fredericksburg knows that mudbugs and Zydeco music are things not normally associated with the Deutscher-Tex ambiance (or should we say “pretense”) of this still-charming town. The closest thing to crawfish that the early German settlers ate were orach mussels from the Llano River, and that because they were starving to death and cannibalism was not a viable option. The food had its ups and occasional downs. The home fried potato chips were worth coronary bypass surgery, and the shrimp and oyster po’boys and such were enjoyable enough. The ‘bugs were beer-relief spicy, although I have sucked juicier heads. The one clinker was a cup of etouffe that had never been within a mile of a proper roux. But enough of relatively minor quibbles. Overall, the grub was worth the reasonable (for festival food) prices. But the big value was beer. Where else can you get $3 Modelo Especials? Shiner Bock was $4 a can. But to my mind, the music was the spiciest dish of all: a baker’s half-dozen of imported Louisiana bands, plus Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition for the western swing crowd and Little Texas for the little folks. As a western swing fan, I cannot say enough about Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition. Billy can sing like Johnny Bush and Tommy Duncan reincarnated and the band swings as well as the Playboys ever did. Just google Billy Mata to find out more. There wasn’t a clinker of a note the whole set. Out Zydeco way, Mary Broussard and Creole La La, and T-Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers almost made me feel like I was back at Soap Creek Saloon and Antone’s sweating it out with Clifton and Cleveland, Buckwheat, Good Rocking Dopsie, et al.
Being stranded at the La Quinta on the Johnson City side of town, way out Fort Martin Scott way, we availed ourselves of all, at one time or another, of F’burg’s several reasonably priced taxi services. It is a small price to pay to avoid a tete-a-tete with one of F’burg’s finest. And if they don’t catch you from one of their Crown Vics, there is a fleet of nimble bicycle cops to attend to your indiscretions. So have your son-of-a-gun fun, and take the Stagecoach home (the name of one of the taxi services).
I started Saturday morning off with a bicycle ride out to Cain City and the beginning of “The Divide,” between the Pedernales and Guadalupe River watersheds. I did not have the time or legs to make it all the way out to the old tunnel/bat roost. I took Old San Antonio Road, whose roadsides were still awash with wildflowers, all the usual suspects for this time of year, plus some hold-over paintbrushes. Most of the original 1920s-era bridges and river crossings are still in service, except for the low water crossing at Barons creek, which is in the process of being replaced. perhaps they will leave the old one in place, if not in use.
I had my tastebuds set for BBQ from Cranky Frank’s for Saturday lunch, but found out from one of F’burg’s finest (firefighters, that is), that Frank’s cookhouse had suffered a structure fire just a few hours earlier; but they will be up and cranking out good ‘que again in the not too distant future.
I assuaged my thirst for smoky goodness at David’s Old Fashioned BBQ (nee the Peach Pit), 342 W. Main, open daily. My fire service colleague recommended it as an acceptable alternative to Frank’s. Except he referred to it as the peach Pit, which it ceased being over a year ago. Which brings me to another point. And the reason why I don’t make many specific shopping and dining recommendations in Hill Country about Fredericksburg. Places go out of business (or if they’re lucky enough to stay in business) or they move about as often as some people change their underwear.
Back to David’s. The name has changed, but the food hasn’t. I splurged for a 3-meat plate of brisket, ribs, and po-ro (pork roast for those of you who don’t know me and my penchant for trivializing the English language). The brisket was good and fork tender, but had been off the pit too long, so it tasted like good roast beef. The pork roast had fared better, given its more generous fat content, and the ribs best of all (Fat, especially pig fat, is the prime smoky taste retainer). The mayonnaise-based potato salad was enjoyable, but the pintos need salt, pepper and pico de gallo to bring them up to snuff. The sauce, being sweet and thick, stayed in its crock. I opted for some Tabasco-type picante sauce I have never heard of and hope never to encounter again. Two spoiled bites of meat were enough to teach me my lesson. There were no crackers, and passed on the bread, as I always do. To their credit, David’s uses Dutchman’s Market Sausage, which I prefer to the finely ground (almost hot dog consistency) Opa’s filling.
There I learned of Lobo Beer, F’burg’s newest brew, and available by the seis at local stores. Brewed by Pedernales Brewing, there are currently two flavors: a Lager and Negra. We chose Lager, which was hoppy pert near to an IPA. Very enjoyable on a hot Hill Country afternoon.
Now, normally, my idea of dessert is an extra pork rib or slice of brisket, but when I stopped to chat with Charley and Betty Wanner, I looked with unabashed lust upon their plate of David’s in-house peach cobbler. Charley does interesting things with antlers, horns and flint, including bottle stoppers that are available at Fredericksburg Winery at 247 W. Main. He speaks German, so if you sprechen ze deutsch, Charley (617 W. San Antonio, 830-997-4007) will be glad to accommodate you in some lively conversation.
Charley filled me in on the latest peach news. A rain storm several weeks ago, produced hail in some places that totally destroyed some orchards’ production, while blessing most of the rest with the rain necessary to plump out this year’s crop to perfection. The season is about two weeks earlier than normal this year, which means the semi-freestones are already in plentiful supply with the freestones close behind. We chose to stop at Berg’s Corner at Stonewall, our favorite, faithful old standby. Even if no one else has peaches, Berg’s will always have some, even if they are at platinum prices. I came home a hero, with 1/8 bushel.
Bottom line: There are far worse ways to spend the Memorial Day weekend than at the Crawfish Fest, and not too many better, if the Hill Country on Memorial Day weekend is your cup of meat, or gumbo.
My thanks to the Fredericksburg and San Marcos Fire Departments, the Jaycees, and Jeremy and his better half (Y’all know who you are) for making our work and weekend fun as pleasant as possible. You keep the “Willkommen” in the Fredericksburg lingua franca.