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Rickshaw Stop Sizzles for the Camera

Rickshaw Stop Sizzles for the Camera

You might have thought it was hot today, with the thermometer reaching past 100 degrees. But that was nothing compared to what Sameer Siddiqui and the crew of “Eat St.” faced when they filmed at Boardwalk on Bulverde Sunday.

“Eat St.” interviews a Rickshaw Stop customer about the samosas.

As Siddiqui says in the video above, temperatures on the thermometer inside his truck hit 125 — because the interviews took place while the vents and the air conditioning were off as they made too much background noise.

Yet Siddiqui and his wife, Meagan, were so excited at being selected to be featured on the Cooking Channel show that they gladly braved the heat for a few hours. The same could be said of Rudolfo Martinez at Tapa Tapa, Jason Dady at DUK Truck and Brandon McKelvey and Drew Alan of Say.She.Ate.

Plenty of Rickshaw Stop fans were also on hand to enjoy the truck’s Pakistani beef kebabs served “taco style,” as the menu board says, in a pita bread or assorted styles of samosa, not to mention the kheer, a rice pudding delicately scented with a slight touch of rose water.

Samosas from Rickshaw Stop.

There were also plenty of diners at Boardwalk on Bulverde for the second annual Food Truck Thrown Down, in which about 20 food trucks gathered to offer everything from Stout’s Pizza to Belgian Waffle Co’s sweet confections to wacky drinks from Wine on Wheels and most welcome iced treats from KC’s Cones. Funds from the sales of drinks, of which plenty were needed to stave off dehydration, benefited the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Among the new trucks was Primo Passo Pizzeria, which has only been in business for three weekends. From an array that included Pork and Peas (applewood-smoked bacon and English peas), Funguy (pan-roasted oyster mushrooms and porcini-dressed watercress) and Sausage (lamb Merguez and Italian), I chose a Roman with white anchovies and mozzarella. A great to finish off a fine day of eating.

“Eat St.” finishes filming Monday at Boardwalk on Bulverde, 14732 Bulverde Road, with a focus on Society Bakery. Filming is open to the public at around noon.

It’s not too hot for a brave one to ride the mechanical bull at Boardwalk on Bulverde.

 

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Griffin to Go: Italian Leftovers

Griffin to Go: Italian Leftovers

When I was in Italy recently with friends, we had duck on our first night at our home for the week. There was so much, that Cecil used the rest the following night with rigatoni. Then there was so much of that dish left over that he eventually turned it into a frittata for breakfast.

That’s the beauty of leftovers. They don’t have to appear or taste like leftovers. They can be special creations in their own right.

Here are a few leftovers from the trip that I haven’t written about yet, miscellaneous ideas on food that will work in your kitchen and hopefully set you out on your own food journeys.

Sandy spreads out dough for Focaccia Bianca.

Versatile bread

It’s great to have a versatile dough recipe that can work for just about whatever you need. It’s even better when the recipe is easy.

We learned one while taking a cooking class from chef Lorenzo Polegri of Zeppelin restaurant in Orvieto.

The dough served as the basis for a thick pizza that we topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil and garlic. We also made a focaccia with rosemary and anchovies, and snails rolls with guanciale, grana padana and more garlic inside.

When the pizza came out of the oven, all airy and hot with cheese melted all over the top, Lorenzo just ripped off slabs with his hands rather than using a knife. Though I generally prefer thin-crust pizza, that ragged slice, so fresh and steaming to the finger tips, was as good as it gets.

Pasta paradise

Rolling pasta through a machine.

The fresh, handmade pasta we had in Italy was the best I’ve ever eaten. It was a deep yellow color that appeared to have been painted in butter. Credit most certainly goes to the egg yolks, almost orange in color, and the flour used.

Twice at Zeppelin, I saw someone making the thin noodles by hand. One rolled the dough out by forcing it through a pasta maker. With speed  that suggested plenty of practice, he pressed the dough through the machine over and over until it was almost paper thin.

We also got to watch a pasta maker who introduced only himself as Maurizio (video above). Armed with only a rolling pin, he took a clump of dough and rolled out his pasta also to a near-impossible thinness. He stretched the dough out on the pin without letting any of it tear.

We happened to be in Italy during fresh porcini season, and for my money, there was no better accompaniment for the pasta than those mushrooms with a texture so voluptuous that it was almost like eating foie gras.

The porcini were the size of softballs, and restaurants would proudly display how fresh and large their supply was. In the United States, we like to do that with steaks, thick and juicy, or lobsters fresh from the tank. In Germany, it’s the white asparagus that ripes in May. In Italy, it’s the porcini as well as the white truffles, which were not in season while we were there. That will have to be another trip.

Making do

Wild fennel grows alongside the road.

The kitchen of the house we stayed at offered a few items we weren’t expecting. Instead of drying the dishes, for example, you could arrange them in a cupboard over the sink that had a draining board instead of a bottom, so any moisture just dripped back into the sink.

I also discovered a blender, which proved to be a big help with a snack one day. We had some leftover chicken that we needed to eat, which led me to think of chicken salad. But we didn’t have any mayonnaise. Rather than buy a jar, the majority of which would be left in the house, Sandy and I made our own mayonnaise. Neither of us had done this successfully before. Yet we blended egg, lemon juice and salt with a steady of stream of olive oil, and it all came together.

Then we added wild fennel that Pam and I had foraged on our walk that morning as well as celery and a few other ingredients that also needed to be eaten. Large leafs of butter lettuce made great cups in which to serve the salad, and we managed to make a bit more room in the refrigerator.

Cherries everywhere

Rum-soaked cherries with raspberry whipped cream.

I’m a cherry fanatic. It doesn’t matter the level of sweetness, either. If it has a pit, it’s likely to end up in my mouth.

In the yard of the house where we stayed stood a tree was covered with tiny, tart berries while other trees in the neighborhood offered both tart pie cherries and sweet Bings. No one minded if passersby picked one or two from the branches that hung over the road. The markets were also filled with the fruit, glistening in the morning sun.

Perhaps that explains why I appreciated the simplicity of a recipe that Lorenzo taught us in our cooking class. He took more than a pound of those beautiful  bing cherries and had us cut them in half to remove the stones (OK, so Steve pitted most of them). After that, they were marinated in rum and sugar for more than an hour. We then spooned those beautiful bites into nests of whipped cream that had been flavored with raspberry syrup  before being piped into serving dishes. A little of the sweetened rum was drizzled over the top.

I’ve made this simple recipe once back home, now that cherries are in season here. But I’ve played around with the idea. I used sour cherry syrup with the whipped cream. I also plan on using almond extract, another flavor that goes great with cherries. I may also give it a whirl with peaches instead of cherries.

Amore for amaro

I’m not a big fan of sickly sweet cocktails, so the Italian love for amaro, Campari, Fernet and other bitters was a real treat. A Negroni made with Campari, vermouth (I prefer dry to the traditional sweet) and gin is a particular favorite, but I also enjoyed shots of herbal amaro by themselves.

If you look for amaro cocktail recipes online, you’ll find discussions about various types, light and dark, all made with family-held recipes. So, I asked Lorenzo if there were a way to figure out beforehand what type of amaro to buy; my question was dismissed without answer. Don’t be such a stickler that you can enjoy what’s in front of you, he seemed to say.

I discovered a new love in the kitchen cupboards: Cynar (CHI-nar), which is a bitter liqueur made from artichokes. It was great with a touch of peach soda mixed in or a little soda with a twist of lemon. You can find this at both Twin Liquors and Saglimbeni for about $27 a bottle. It’s yet another taste of Italy I’m glad to be able to enjoy back home.

A basket of fresh porcini.

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Olive Orchard Chef Shares Delicious Plans for Weeks Ahead

Olive Orchard Chef Shares Delicious Plans for Weeks Ahead

Chef Scott Grimmitt and his son, Salem.

W. Scott Grimmitt, the new chef at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, has some great things planned for visitors this summer, including a new series of lunches in July, which will be offered Wednesday-Saturday each week.

Working at Sandy Oaks has been good for the chef, who loves being able to use the wealth of ingredients grown and raised in the area in his cooking, including Sandy Oaks’ robust, aromatic olive oil.

In the video, he talks about his first Passport dinner, with an Australia theme, at Sandy Oaks, the setting and his plans for the future.

For the first dinner, he got some support from a chef-in-training, his son, Salem.

The next time you visit Sandy Oaks, 25195 Mathis Road, Elmendorf, you can check out the new gift shop as well as the array of olive plants for sale and the livestock, which include a new baby calf.

A young calf at Sandy Oak is curious about the camera, but not enough to stop drinking.

 

 

 

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Casa Hernán Brings a Rustic, Hacienda-Style Elegance to Catering Scene

Casa Hernán Brings a Rustic, Hacienda-Style Elegance to Catering Scene

Nothing says San Antonio hospitality quite like a freshly made margarita.

San Antonio chef and caterer Johnny Hernandez is inviting people into his home.

Bistec tacos are one dish available at Casa Hernan.

Casa Hernán, just off Southtown at 411 Cevallos, is a catering venue that is now open to the public for private party rentals. The opulent space reflects the hacienda style of interior Mexico, from the koi pond at the front entrance to the colorful dining area with room for several food stations.

The dishes at Casa Hernan.

Hernandez, who also operates La Gloria Ice House at the Pearl Brewery,  has had the place decorated with an elegance mixed with a bold, traditional color scheme that is both energizing and tranquil and makes you feel far from the neighboring railroad tracks and right at home next to La Tuna Grill.

At the opening party, the chef and his catering company, True Flavors, put on a spread that included samples from the various menus clients can choose from. Dishes included fish in an hoja santa sauce, several ceviches, bistec tacos, sopes and cochinita pibil as well as tres leches cake  shooters for dessert.

You don’t have to wait for an invitation to a private party to see Casa Hernán. Come September, Hernandez is opening the space for a monthly Sunday brunch with each focusing on the regional foods of interior Mexico.

For more information, visit trueflavors.com.

The main dining area at Casa Hernan.

 

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The Chow Train Rolls In to Feed the Hungry

The Chow Train Rolls In to Feed the Hungry

“It takes a village to feed a village.”

Joan Cheever prepares roasted carrots in the Chow Train.

Joan Cheever prepares roasted carrots in the Chow Train.

Joan Cheever has learned that in the past year. The founder of the Chow Train food truck has relied on many to help her in her mission to feed San Antonio’s homeless and hungry.

The chef, who is also a student at St. Philip’s Culinary School, needed a corps of volunteers from Broadway Bank Sunday as she made food for more than 150 military men and women who were part of the crews building a home for a Wounded Warrior as part of the TV program, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The Floresville home for the Shiloh Harris family was co-sponsored by Morgan’s Wonderland, through the efforts of Gordon Hartman.

Hartman’s involvement was what got Cheever out to the site twice recently. The first was on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the second was this past Sunday, as the crews finished work on the house.

Cheever planned an elaborate dinner for these volunteers, a plate laden with a garden salad with cherry tomatoes and roasted corn, Coca-Cola braised brisket, roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, roasted carrots with parsley and mashed potatoes. Pan dulces donated by Don Strange Catering crowned each plate.

To get each plate to a worker in quick time required about a dozen workers adding the food in an assembly line that had the workers getting hungrier with each addition.

Volunteers from Broadway Bank help set up the serving table.

Cheever gets the same response most every day from the people she feeds. Part of it is because she caters to the needs of the people she feeds. She makes sure that those with diabetes have low-carbohydrate dishes and those who are vegetarian are given meat-free dishes. She even feeds someone she calls “Vegan John,” who always asks if the food on his plate is made without meat or dairy products.

You might expect such treatment if you were paying for your meals, but most of these people are either homeless or unable to pay for a meal.

“I’m not going to let anybody go hungry,” Cheever said.

“She’s like a woman for all diets,” said Chris Plauché, who works with Cheever regularly at the Catholic-sponsored soup kitchen downtown and is in awe of her dedication.

“You do what you can,” Cheever said, adding that she’s learned a great deal from dealing with people with special needs that extend beyond normal kitchen concerns, such as the dental condition of many of the homeless creates an added challenge.

Dennis Quinn helps wife Joan Cheever prepare the meal.

“When you’re doing a garnish, you need to be thoughtful about it,” she said.

Cheever also wants to make sure her meals are well-balanced and nutritious as possible, which means that though her food truck came equipped with a deep-fryer, she has yet to use it.

She does use items like bacon to help make some taste foods as foreign as brussels sprouts, soups or salads more appealing. “They know by now that if they don’t eat the appetizer, whether it’s a soup or a salad, Chef won’t give you the main course,” she said. “But I tell them, ‘Try it. You don’t know it, but you’ll really like it.'”

Her non-profit mission, which was registered as a 501(c)3 last summer, has grown because of the contributions of area farmers, who donate what they don’t sell at the end of their market day at Olmos Basin. She’s also been getting donations from Broadway Daily Bread. Kiolbassa donated sausage for the “Extreme Makeover” meals, and Saweet Cupcakes offered dessert for the first meal the chef provided.

Cheever juggles her truck duties with her classes at St. Philip’s, which should conclude in May.

This isn’t Cheever’s first career. In a former life, she was a New York attorney and a journalist. She’s also the author of the book, “Back from the Dead: One Woman’s Search for the Men Who Walked off America’s Death Row,” which is used as part of the curriculum at Incarnate Word.

The volunteer builders line up for a Chow Train meal.

Cheever’s family drew her and her husband, Dennis Quinn, to San Antonio, and she decided a couple of years ago to pursue a culinary degree. Out of that, the Chow Train was born. “I love to cook — and I just wanted to be a part of something,” she said.

Her truck doesn’t feed only local people. She took the truck to Joplin, Mo., last year right after the tornadoes, so she could feed the workers who were helping with the cleanup efforts there.

Cheever also plans on going across the country on what she calls a Hungry America tour, in which she would visit the most poverty-riddled areas of the country. “We would do a fabulous meal for people with local ingredients,” in order to bring them some information about nutrition and eating better, she said. She’s hoping to have other trucks offering medical screenings and advice where needed.

But she has to learn how to drive a pickup first — and a pickup with a food truck hitched to it. Until then, her husband has been helping out, both behind the wheel and in the mobile kitchen.

The finished house for Wounded Warrior Shiloh Harris.

In the meantime, she’ll continue feeding the people who show up wherever the Chow Train kitchen rolls to next.

As Cheever said, “What does the Bible say? The poor will be with you always, so we need to do something.”

For more on the Chow Train, click here.

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Beer of the Week: Party Favorites for the Big Game

Beer of the Week: Party Favorites for the Big Game

 

 

Beer of the Week is sponsored by the Lion & Rose. Each week, we introduce you to a wonderful brew that’s a little bit different and well worth seeking out.

 

 

 

There’s always a soccer game on one of the TVs at the Lion & Rose, and the football game of football games — the Super Bowl, that is — is fast approaching. So, I felt it would be a great time to talk about beer and sports pairing this week, in case you wanted some tips for getting ready for the next game.

Get some good beers together for the big game.

Downing a pint or two during a game has been a tradition ever since the Sumarians and the Egyptians developed something to drink after a long day of building pyramids or towers to the heavens.

The Sumarians, who eventually became the Babylonians and later the Iraqis, once had about 20 varieties of beer on tap in their repertoire. But what did they down on the weekends?

We’ll never know. But we do know a few rules that are good to follow.

One: Put away the ultra-fancy stuff. You don’t want to waste your best beers on an occasion like this. Why? Because your attention is going to be on the game. No focusing on bitter hops finishes or caramel tones allowed. It’s all about what goes down smooth, clean and nice.

Two: Don’t skimp. If you like your friends, get something better than a few 12-packs of canned water that passed through an idle horse. If you don’t have the money to buy decent beer in quantity, then ask people to bring a six-pack for a shared tasting. You’ll never know what you’ll end up with.

Three. Think fun. Crowd-pleasers we’ve written about in the past include:

  • Newcastle Brown Ale — The perfect beer for hot wings. Any questions?
  • Redbridge Beer — This gluten-free beer is great to keep on hand in case any of your guests is living with celiac. But it tastes good, regardless, and would be great
  • Red Stripe — The most popular Super Bowl food seems to be guacamole, which would be great with this light lager. But then again, so would chili, fried onion rings with ranch dressing, or chips with onion dip.
  • Smithwick’s — This Irish beauty is great if you’re serving up grilled sausages, bratwurst or bangers of any sort.

We’d also recommend a specialty drink or two, such as black and tan, which you can learn how to make by watching the following video:

 

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Working in a Chocolate Wonderland

Working in a Chocolate Wonderland

For the past 25 years, Sharon Loren and Anne Georgulas have marked off several days during the busy holiday season to make chocolate treats for their friends.

Sharon Loren dips a dried apricot into chocolate.

They started small, with Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Balls that Loren had made as a child with her mother. But there was one problem: Georgulas doesn’t like coconut. So, for her sake, the repertoire began to grow.

What a tasty gift!

Soon, dipped pretzels and dried apricots joined the lineup. Chocolate-covered raisins and peanut butter cups were added to the mix. Then came truffles flavored with liqueurs such as Chambord for raspberry, Cointreau for orange, Kahlúa for coffee lovers and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Now, there are dipped mini-Oreos and rocky road with marshmallows in the mix as well as nut clusters made with cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans and peanuts.

The pair make so many chocolates that Loren’s Bergheim home over Thanksgiving weekend appeared to be a candy factory with an enormous dining room table covered with sheet after sheet of candies arranged by type before being packed in gift tins.

The women started after the remains of the Thanksgiving dinner were cleared away. On Friday, they worked from about 8 a.m. until late in the night. And on Saturday, they did whatever they needed to finish up by late afternoon so the packing could begin. That lasted until late in the evening. Sunday is indeed a day of rest.

By the time the last candy has dried, each had anywhere from 50 to 60 pounds of chocolate to give to family, friends and co-workers, all packaged in bright holiday tins.

Anne Georgulas dips chocolates.

Such an undertaking wasn’t accomplished alone. The greater families of both women, which have grown from infancy to near adulthood over the years, pitched in to help here and there. The children have always done their part, taking care of the candies that were a little less attractive than the others. You know, some children are like that. They become magicians when it comes to chocolate, making as many disappear as they possibly can.

Yet the vast majority was made by Loren at her tempering machine filled with dark chocolate and Georgulas at hers handling the milk chocolate. “We just keep dipping until we’re done,” Loren says.

Milk chocolate in the tempering machine.

If all this seems like hard work — not to mention messy — when compared with making Christmas cookies, then look at it this way: Neither woman finds making cookies all that easy. As with any such endeavor, practice makes the procedure easier, and it has simplified over time. For example, the women used to use a double boiler to melt the chocolate before they bought the tempering machines. Tempering the chocolate gives the candies a shine and even color. Untempered chocolate, by contrast will be dull and could appear splotchy. Yes, the candies would taste the same, but the tempered chocolate is certainly more appealing to the eye. The machines are also easier to work with, as Loren dipped dozens of dried apricots and Georgulas made pecan clusters while talking and catching up.

Samantha Hodo and Anne Georgulas roll truffles. They use cornstarch on their hands to keep the soft chocolate from sticking.

Georgulas, a pediatrician, lives in Coppell, a Dallas suburb, so the two use this weekend each year to reconnect. They swap locations every time, and last year, when the candy-making show was up north, Georgulas used the get-together for the dual purpose of candy-making and her wedding. A year later, she’s pregnant with twin boys, who will add new life to next year’s event.

A few of the recipes have evolved over time. The women decided the chocolate-dipped candied orange slices were a little too unbalanced in favor of the orange, so Loren’s husband, Bill, offers his services each year by cutting them in half. Now, there’s a just enough orange to match the dark chocolate.

Because the tradition of making candies has gone on so long, both women have been asked repeatedly if they’ve ever wanted to open their own chocolate shop, but the answer is always the same.

Chocolates dry before being packaged.

“We’re not in the sell mode,” says Loren, who works at USAA. “We’d have to charge an awful lot for the chocolates.”

That includes customizing a few tins for special people in their lives. Loren’s brother, for example, gets a regular tin and an extra filled with nothing but coconut balls.

Working with so much chocolate has taken its toll on the two women. Neither eats much during the process, and Loren confesses she’s had her fill. “I can’t really eat chocolate any more,” she says.

But that won’t stop the tradition from going on. There are too many grateful recipients on each woman’s list. As Loren says, “It’s a labor of love.”

 

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Beer of the Week: Beer Drinks to Enjoy During the Holidays

Beer of the Week: Beer Drinks to Enjoy During the Holidays

 

Beer of the Week is sponsored by the Lion & Rose. Each week, we introduce you to a wonderful brew that’s a little bit different and well worth seeking out.

 

 

 

 

Beer Drinks

In pubs, it has long been popular to layer Guinness or your favorite stout on top of a lighter beer, creating what is known as a black and tan. At the Lion and rose, the bottom brew is usually a Bass Ale, though Newcastle could be used as well.

There’s an art to pouring a proper black and tan, as Cara Anderwald of the Lion and Rose tells us in this video. And the art is the proper use of what is known as a Guinness Pouring Spoon, which you can order online at Amazon.com.

Or you might want to call any of the three San Antonio beer supply stores to see if they carry the magic spoon:

  • Home Brew Party, 15150 Nacogdoches Road, 210-650-9070
  •  San Antonio Homebrew Supply, 2809 N. St. Mary’s St., 210-737-6604
  •  Home Brew Fetish, 6533 Bandera Road, 210-680-1877

Once you have the proper equipment, you could try any of the drinks Anderwald mentions in the video. Or you could go to the Lion and Rose at 700 E. Sonterra Blvd. and have her make one for you.

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Sip Away at the Boerne Wine Company

Sip Away at the Boerne Wine Company

A customer fills his glass at the Boerne Wine Company.

If you haven’t been to Boerne in a while, you might not know about a great wine bar in the heart of Main Street. It’s called the Boerne Wine Company, and it’s managed by sommelier Jean-Yves Ferrer and a team of wine-knowledgeable people.

The setup is fairly simple, even if the gorgeous, grandiose interior seems anything but. You buy a card in increments of $25 and you go around the rooms, sampling the various wines in any of four coolers. Just insert your card into the machine and select the size pour you wish to purchase. Pours are available in 1.5, 2.5 and 5 ounces, and the amount of your selection and size will be deducted from your card.

The cellar at the Boerne Wine Company.

If you can only go in for a glass or two, save the balance on the card for your next visit. You can also add money to a card. The wines within the coolers are kept at the appropriate temperatures and are also airtight, so they don’t age after having been opened. The selection changes regularly.

This week, a few of the featured bottles included the Alsatian Hugel Gentil, Chateau Magrez Fombrauge from St-Emilion in Bordeaux, Raymond Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley and Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, also from Napa Valley.

You can sip your wine around the bar in the great room of the shop, on the stone patio out back or in one of the cozy niches set up.

Patrons share some wine at the Boerne Wine Company.

You can also buy wine to take home with you or shop the massive humidor that stands to the right of the door as you enter. If you buy a bottle and don’t finish it, one of the staff members will gladly put a cork in it, so you can enjoy the rest later.

In the accompanying video, Ferrer offers a tour of the shop. For information, call (830) 331-9424 or click here.

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‘Farmer Bob’ Mishler Grows His Business in an Uncertain Climate

‘Farmer Bob’ Mishler Grows His Business in an Uncertain Climate

Robert Mishler and his friend, Caroline Cullom, at the Legacy Farmers Market.

“This has been a brutal year for a farmer,” says Robert Mishler, known as “Farmer Bob” to many of his clients.

The drought and excessively high temperatures have destroyed crops throughout the state, leaving farmers with nowhere near the harvests they’ve produced in the past. Some of the fruits and vegetables that do make it to market have been stunted, though no less flavorful.

No one knows what Mother Nature is going to dish up from season to season. So, is it any wonder that Mishler has named his spread of land in Seguin Uncertain Farms?

Mishler had to take up most of his summer plants in August. That was when he wanted to begin fall planting. Now, that is on hold until later this month as the heat and dry weather persist.

Yet Farmer Bob has been at the Legacy, north of Loop 1604 at U.S. 281, every Sunday morning for the weekly farmers market there. He offers some fresh produce provided to him by other farmers he works with, all sold from his tricked-out truck that resembles an old-fashioned roadside fruit stand. He also sells his extensive series of canned goods, ranging from his extremely popular Candied Jalapeños to jellies and Peach Butter to Onion Garlic Glaze, which is perfect on sandwiches. These products are all sold under the McircleM label. (In the center of the logo is a picture of Mishler’s mom, Carol Mishler, who lives in Cibolo.) New this year are chutneys, which have proven popular alongside the more traditional mix of salsas, relishes and chowchows.

“I want to start doing some mustards,” says Mishler, who has a generous supply of energy and creativity for coming up with new products.

Mishler can also be found at the farmers market in Corpus Christi on the first Saturday of the month and Goliad on the second Saturday for their markets. The new market in Corpus was so welcomed by the locals that on the first Saturday they bought every last jar he had brought with him.

Farming is not an easy business, and it’s more than a matter of growing good fruits and vegetables. You have to be a salesman to attract customers great and small. Mishler has joined forces with several other farmers to provide area restaurants with fine, locally grown products.

“We’re probably 50 percent chef-driven,” he says, adding, “That doesn’t mean they purchase 50 percent of everything I grow.”

But if a chef likes his product, he or she could buy most, if not all, of Mishler’s crop. This year, he sold 90 percent of his heirloom tomatoes, as well as other fresh produce, to the Westin La Cantera and its fine dining restaurant, Francesca’s at Sunset. The restaurant, in turn, mentions Uncertain Farms on the menu. This lets customers know the flavorful food on their plates is regionally produced and brought to the table with as small a carbon footprint as possible.

The resort’s chefs, including Ernie Estrada at Francesca’s, also know they can go to Farmer Bob and ask him to grow something especially for them.

The Westin also uses Mishler’s Candied Jalapeños in a cocktail made with sparkling wine that provides guests with a sweet-hot kick to match the effervescent nature of the wine.

Robert Mishler moved to Seguin in 1989. After years of driving 18-wheelers, he bought his current farm in 1998. It’s a 17-acre spread with only five acres currently being farmed.

Part of that property features a new greenhouse that uses its space economically by growing plants in tiers, starting with baskets hanging from the ceiling and cascading down to the floor.

“We did real well with greens last winter,” he says, adding that he grew a lively mix of bok choy, mixed salad greens and arugula among others.

Each row is a different variety of green, with names like tatsoi and red Russian, that people like in a loose leaf mix.

The public doesn’t know what to do with every plant that Mishler has brought to market. Last fall, he had to get them used to bok choy, a type of Chinese cabbage. “They didn’t know what it was,” he says, adding that he only sold four or five plants the first weekend he offered them.

“I can’t take that loss,” he says. So, his answer was to take the entire plant, roots and all. That way, if some didn’t sell, it could continue to grow. The plants grew, and so did many customers’ taste for the tender green. Bok choy is delicious steamed by itself or in stir-fries with other vegetables. (If you don’t know what to do with something you see at a farmers market, just ask the vendor what to do with it. Chances are, the answer will be simple and designed to showcase the item’s flavor at its freshest.)

This fall, and water willing, Mishler will be trying his hand at hydroponics. “I’m looking to do Bibb and small head lettuces,” he says.

In the meantime, he’s gotten his land ready for planting, and the break in the heat that swept over the area this week has him raring to go. “I have held off planting as yet, but this cool down for the last few days has got me ready to plant,” he says. “I have prepped some beds and have the seed on hand. I’m hoping for a good fall-winter harvest.”

For more on Uncertain Farms or McircleM products, click here. The Legacy Farmers Market is in the parking lot of the Legacy plaza at U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 from 10 to 3 p.m. Sundays.

 

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