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Archive | May 28th, 2010

Restaurateur Eva Voelkel Dies

Restaurateur Eva Voelkel Dies

Eva Voelkel, owner of Voelkel Wood Crafts, Gifts & Eats, has died at age 57.

The restaurant and gift shop at 317 Probandt has been enjoyed by many for its home cooking – fideo, burgers, chalupas, grilled cheese and daily specials – as well as the house-made ranch dressing that she used on her salads.

The restaurant was also filled with plenty of gifts as well as family keepsakes that gave the eatery a friendly atmosphere. But it was Eva Voelkel, ever smiling and cordial, who made the place special.

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Happy Burger Day: Check Out Our Favorites

Happy Burger Day: Check Out Our Favorites

A burger satisfies the primal hunger pangs I get more completely than most foods. I love the tactile nature of picking up the bun and feeling it give a little at the touch. I love the aroma of freshly cooked meat that greets me before I bite into a sizzling patty. I love the layering of pickles, onion, tomato and lettuce piled high, adding textures and flavors, and I love a smear of mustard and mayonnaise on both sides.

Big Bob's Burgers manager Joe Balderas flips burgers over a steaming heat hotter than the thermometer has been reading outside.

But there the generalities end. Each of the following burgers is unique in its own right, and yet all five make me feel glad to be alive.

  1. Bunsen Burgers, 5456 Walzem Road, 210-590-6066.  What a burger! Start with the beef, ground in-house, then move on to the flaxseed bun, also made in-house, and crown it with a series of crazy good toppings. The Stehling Experiment, a take on the bean burger, is a personal favorite, but I also have a soft spot for the Bikini Atoll, with its teriyaki pineapple ring. The batter-dipped sweet potato fries are spectacular.
  2. Bracken Store Cafe, 18415 Bracken Drive, 210-651-6515. It’s worth the drive. Seriously. The menu isn’t greatly varied. There’s a plain burger, a cheese burger and a bean burger, that’s it. But it’s the flavor of the patty that makes this a real winner. Each big burger is made to order, so give it some time. You’ll be richly rewarded. Go at lunch or on Friday, the only evening it’s open.
  3. Big Bob’s Burgers, 2215 Harry Wurzbach, 210-832-8885. The building is nothing to look at, from the inside or the outside. But that doesn’t matter one bit. The secret here is the flame-broiling, which adds texture and flavor. So, grab a beer and enjoy a messy burger heaped high with your choice of toppings. An order of the crisp onions rings with a touch of caraway seed in the batter are great to share with a friend.
  4. The Lord’s Kitchen, 118 Seguin St., 210-354-3888. This is the place to visit if you want ground sirloin in a hand-formed patty, whether you only want one that’s a quarter pound or you are in the mood for a hefty three-pounder. And talk about juicy. The many choices includes the winning Ghetto Burger, with its winning mix of chili, cheddar cheese, mustard and pickles. A turkey burger is also available.
  5. Casbeers at the Church, 1150 S. Alamo St., 210-271-7791. The music in the church feeds the soul, while the burgers feed body and soul. The King William is topped with Swiss and ’shrooms. The Lavaca-Guaca has cheddar and guac. Both excellent, but the real winner is the Utopia Kinky Burger, far more successful than the namesake’s political career with its heavenly mixture of cheese, grilled onions and Jewish rye.

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Caveman Cooking Courtesy Steven Raichlen, King of Barbecue

Caveman Cooking Courtesy Steven Raichlen, King of Barbecue

From the man who wrote the “Barbecue Bible” comes a new-old style of grilling steaks.  Caveman cooking, where meat is laid directly on burning hardwood embers, isn’t for the faint of heart, but we’d expect it to catch on like wildfire in Texas.

Steven Raichlen checks his ingredients as his grills heat up for KLRN's Monday night Chef's Series event.

Steven Raichlen was at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort Monday night, the latest appearance in the KLRN-TV Chef Series. The author and television personality demonstrated his primordial Caveman T-bones, and made a multi-course meal on two trusty Weber kettle grills.

With Memorial Day weekend and Father’s Day fast approaching, his tips were timely. The audience not only liked their food, prepared by the staff at the Hyatt, but were obviously curious about Raichlen’s methods and theories of live fire cooking. The show was set up under the air-conditioned pavilion at the Hyatt, with the author’s food, grills and other equipment set up on a platform, safely just outside the front of the tent.

He also promoted his latest cookbook, “Planet Barbecue” (Workman Publishing, $22.95). In it he mentions the traditional Texas “barbecue” as being pit smoked meat. His book, though, focuses on direct grilling over a hot, live fire — the way that most barbecue is done in the rest of the world.  In addition to having more than two dozen books to his credit, he has won five James Beard Awards and hosts “Primal Grill” and “Barbecue University” on PBS.

The meal was a global feast. The Coconut Grilled Corn came from Cambodia. Grilled Potatoes with Herbed Cheese were smoke-roasted and topped with a German cheese called quark. Grilled poblano peppers were seared, then scented with sesame oil for an Asian flavor. The stars of the show were the right-on-the-embers-roasted Caveman T-bones. The romance here was that this could very well have been how early man, some 1.8 million years ago, might have cooked an (early) steer. A spit-roasted whole pineapple was dessert and was credited to Brazil.

Raichlen tossed out three initial tips from his PBS show, “Primal Grill.”  “First, you have to keep the grill hot,” he said. Raichlen held his hand a short distance above the grill and said, “San Antonio one, San Antonio two … ouch!” As he pulled his hand quickly away, he added that the grill needs to be scrupulously clean, brushed well before the grilling begins. Finally, “Keep the grill well oiled or lubricated.” He demonstrated by drawing a thick, oiled pad of paper towel over the grate.

“Barbecue was the first brain food,” Raichlen said.  When early men had to eat raw meat to get their protein, it involved a lot of heavy chewing. Their jaws were huge; their brains small. Cooked meat allowed them to attain maximum protein intake in a shorter time, hence encouraging the growth of the brain.

Cooking was also the beginning of man’s socializing, of eating together around a fire. It marked the beginning of the division of labor, he said, as some went out to hunt for meat and others kept the fires back at the cave burning. The way we eat, preparing food, seasoning it, is what separates us from other animals, he says.

“Why do we have such a passion for barbecue?,” he asked, rhetorically. “Because we remember, in some primordial way that this is what made us human.”

Grilled corn, done directly over the hot coals and basted with unsweetened coconut milk.

Other tips from Raichlen’s appearance:

  • Keep part of the grill coal free. This is the safety zone (place to pull food that is in danger of overcooking).
  • Don’t crowd the items on the grill. “Every grill has hot spots and cold spots. You gotta keep the food moving.” Also, you need to leave room for maneuvering.
  • Turn steaks once. When little pearls of liquid begin to appear on top, it’s time to turn.
  • Raichlen uses lump charcoal. It’s made from whole trees and branches that are partially burned.
  • When broiling, have a three-zone fire: hot, medium and the safety zone.
  • Give meat a rest. After it is cooked to the doneness you desire, set it on a plate and cover with foil, and let it rest a couple of minutes. The juices redistribute and won’t all flow out when you cut into the meat.
  • When grilling corn, he doesn’t enclose it in the husks — this way it steams rather than grills. He puts it directly on the grill, pulling the husks up above the corn and tying them to form a handle. For the Coconut-Grilled Corn grilled the corn partway before brushing it with unsweetened coconut milk.
  • The best way to start the fire? Use a chimney, a cylindrical metal canister with a handle that holds the coals while they catch fire. These are sold with most grilling equipment.

Photos by Bonnie Walker

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Caveman T-Bones with Hellfire Hot Sauce

Caveman T-Bones with Hellfire Hot Sauce

As Steven Raichlen describes these in “Planet Barbecue,” Caveman T-Bones represents “The ultimate primal grilling — T-bone steaks charred directly on the embers and topped with an incendiary sauce of jalapeños, cilantro and garlic.”

Steaks cooked directly on the coals give new meaning to the word "charred".

Caveman T-Bones with Hellfire Hot Sauce

Steaks:

4 T-bone steaks (each about 1 1/4 inches thick and 12-to-14 ounces)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
Cracked black peppercorns

Hellfire Hot Sauce:

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
10 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced crosswise
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Also:

You’ll need an 8 to-10-inch cast-iron skillet

To grill the steaks: Build a charcoal fire (with hardwood charcoal) and rake the coal into an even layer (leave the front of the grill free). When the coals glow orange, fan them with a newspaper to blow off any loose ash.

Generously, and I mean generously, season the steaks on both sides with salt and cracked pepper. Place the steaks directly on the embers, about 2 inches apart. Grill steaks until cooked to taste, 4 to-6 minutes per side for medium rare. Turn once with tongs. Test for doneness.

Using tongs, lift steaks off the fire, shaking each to dislodge any embers. Using a basting brush, brush off any loose ash and arrange steaks on a platter. Cover steaks loosely with aluminum foil and let rest while you make the sauce.

For the Hellfire Hot Sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet directly on the embers, on the side burner of a gas grill or on the stove. When the oil is hot, add the jalapeños, garlic and cilantro. Cook the sauce over high heat until the jalapeños and garlic begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Immediately pour the sauce over the steaks and go for it.

From Steven Raichlen, “Planet Barbecue”

Photo by Bonnie Walker

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