Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rio Brazos Distillery

I've already posted about College Station's brewery and brewpub, but did you know that College Station now has a commercial distillery? It's totally true.

Rio Brazos Distillery took over the location formerly occupied by New Republic Brewery (NRB moved to a larger space in the building next door).  To get there follow the directions for my previous post on New Republic Brewery.

During one of my visits I got to see how some of the magic happens. In this case he was sealing bottles.
Owner Nathan Barkman distills a very smooth Whistlestop white whiskey that has a character similar to fine vodka.  It has a very, very smooth finish and mixes well.  I've had it in a Moscow Mule (mixed with ginger beer - mmmmmm...Bundaberg), in a Manhattan, and in a whiskey tonic.  Each time the whiskey blends perfectly with the other ingredients without being too obtrusive.

Tours and explanations of the facility will be given upon request. Distilling is a bit different from brewing.

Right now the distillery is only producing the Whistlestop whiskey, but has plans to expand to produce a rum and a longer-aged whiskey that will have characteristics more commonly associated with whiskey: caramel color, barrel-aged flavors, etc.

My picture is a few months old.  The bar looks a lot nicer these days. 
The distillery is open most Fridays and Saturdays 5 - 9 pm and offers free tastings (must be 21 years or old) and cocktails are available for sale. Bottles of the whiskey are for sale, with limits on the quantities you can purchase. It is also available at Spec's in College Station.  If you visit, say hi to Nathan as he's a very nice person. Bonus points for making him smile.  The product is also delightful.

If you drink, designate a non-drinking driver or take a taxi.  Get home safely.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Blackwater Draw

Good news!  College Station now has a brewpub!  Alright, so it's only good news to those of us who have been wanting even more good, locally produced beer.  

Those are some distinctive tap pulls.
2 sizes of growlers for those who wish to take the beer with them.

Blackwater Draw is located at the corner of Boyett and Church Street in College Station, right behind Northgate, or about a block from O'Bannon's.   They have daily specials listed on their facebook page and recently have been having events, including a Northgate pub crawl that will occur tomorrow.

Beer Cheese Soup. Delicious, but found out the hard way it contains garlic.
The beer menu is a mix of their in-house brewed beers and Texas craft beer.  They also have a selection of wines and soft drinks for non-beer drinkers. The food menu features a selection of sliders as well as high quality burgers.  I've visited a few times and so far my favorites are the Contract Killer Coffee Porter, which has a wonderful coffee flavor, and the short rib sliders.  Several friends swear the burgers are in competition for the best in the region.  Given the competition in the area, that's high praise.
Mmmmm...sliders. These were very messy, but totally worth it.
The nachos are a popular menu item. I found them to be alright.  The short rib sliders were, in my opinion, far better.
The Grown Up Grilled Cheese was alright, but not up to the standards of those I make at home. I suggest having the burgers or sliders instead.
The Lovely Spouse loves their parmesan truffle fries. Truffle oil smells and tastes bad to me so he's welcome to them.
The price are very reasonable and dinner for 2 can easily come in around $20, including beer.  We'll definitely be back.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Getting my AgNerd on at the Houston Rodeo

Most people wouldn't guess this by meeting me now, but I grew up in an area of the country that was, and remains to be, tied to an agricultural identity.  We had an annual census and usually cows outnumbered people.  These days urbanization and suburban creep are moving in and it's doubtful that cows still outnumber people, but my former high school still boasts one of the largest FFAs in the state. This is especially impressive considering the high school is one of the smaller ones in the state.

I've written before on the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, but focused mostly on what you can eat while you're there.  So much more goes on at the Rodeo, even if you don't bother to purchase the concert tickets (you must purchase the concert ticket to see the bull riding, bronc busting, and other events typically associated with a rodeo).  

First and foremost the show gives city dwellers a chance to connect with where their food comes from. This year there was a new exhibit that showcased the foods that are produced in Texas and highlighted the specialties from each region of this very large state. Most people are aware that beef, grapefruit, and cotton are produced in Texas, but did you know that peanuts and rice also are grown in Texas? And that the state is a major producer of chicken and angora goats. In addition to beef, Texas has a number of successful dairies, and not just with cow's milk, there are goat milk dairies too. Texas is also a leading producer of sorghum, a grain that is often used to make gluten free beer, in addition to cereals and animal feed.

You simply can't have an ag show without having a chick hatchery. 
You also must have a milking demonstration at every ag show.
The Tour of Texas was new this year.  And, yes, Texas is a wine producer.

Texas has a number of different geographical and temperate regions.  The climate and soil are different in each region.  I live in the Prairies and Lakes Region. There are cotton farms and beef cattle ranches all around, and people grow pecans here, including the ones we grow in our yard. We also grow pomegranates, figs, olives, and Cabernet grapes in our yard.

You can also cultivate bees in Texas. Our yard is not ideal for them, however it would be if it was just a little bit larger.
This is part of a much larger display explaining how insects and arachnids contribute towards Texas agriculture.
Texas has a number of different soil orders. Knowing your soil order will help you select crops that are most likely to succeed on your property.
The show is also a scholarship contest for Texas children. The children raise animals for the show, transport them to Houston and the animals are then judged according to how they meet a breed standard.  At the end of the show the animals are auctioned and the proceeds go towards a college/university scholarship for participating children. The grand champion and reserve grand champion animals are put on display following their auctions.

This is the grand champion hog from the show. She sold for more than $200,000 and set a world record. 
Reserve grand champion goat taking a nap.
Reserve grand champion heifer resting.
Most people associate branding with ownership.  For centuries American cattle producers have branded their animals to make it obvious who owns which animals on free ranging properties.  Brands are also used for traceability.  Animals at the Houston Rodeo are branded to show they came from the Houston Rodeo. In the unlikely event a disease happens in animals at the Rodeo, all animals leaving the Rodeo can easily be recognized by their brands and the disease could be traced back.  In addition to the brands there are electronic records for transport and sale/exchange of the animals.
There are shows for non-livestock animals as well. Llamas and alpacas participate in a number of competitions including the quality of their fleece and the round out the show with a costume contest. Weeks earlier in the Rodeo there were horsemanship competitions and a donkey and mule show.  There are also shows for rabbits, herding dogs, FFA mechanical groups (that teach how to build the items used on the farm/ranch), and many other events related to all things ag.

How often do you see a llama dressed as a tractor?
Alpacas are just so  incredibly cute.
Llamas checking out the action in the arena.
The show also gives all attendees a chance to connect with rodeo, Western, and Americana culture.  This year there was a new rodeo event called cowboy mounted shooting.  The name is quite descriptive.  The competition involves a person riding a horse while shooting at targets.  In the case of the competition I watched they shot at a round of balloons with a pistol, then rode to the end of the arena and shot at a line of balloons with a rifle The person who completes the course the fastest with the fewest misses wins the round.  The ammunition was theatrical blanks so there was little risk to the audience.  The Lovely Spouse, who was born in the big city and has only been on a horse once, got so fired up about it he now wants to try it. [If anyone knows how to make this happen, please let me know.] The competition was exciting and quite easy for the audience to get interested in the action. I hope this event come back next year. And I predict it will eventually be part of the large stadium action and will be televised.

There's also shopping and a bit of an agricultural trade show at the rodeo. Things that I didn't get pictures of include some of the most beautiful horse trailers/RVs I've ever seen, gorgeous farm/ranch gates, and some of the latest farm/ranch technology.

Shopping.  Lots and lots of shopping.
John Deere representing.  And, no, I didn't see anything similar for Kubota or any other tractor company. 
My readers are accustomed to me showing what to eat in every post, so here's a little summary of what was new for this year.  First and foremost my little Polish heart was all aflutter to find a Polish restaurant at the Rodeo.  This is the same restaurant that has a shop at the Texas Renaissance Festival and they had many of the same options, including perogi (fried dumplings with a variety of fillings) and golabki (stuffed cabbage).

Polish food at the Houston Rodeo. At some point I will make it to their restaurant in Houston.
I also saw something new...on a stick.  In this case it was Texas steak dinner...on a stick.  The Lovely Spouse had this for his dinner and it should have been called steak kabob with a dinner roll on a stick. Still, the marketing was cute.

So much to choose from.
If it can be fried, it will be. I was amused to see one vendor dedicated to the fried pickle.
And, yes, they really did have a Texas steak dinner on a stick. 
The results, as presented by The Lovely Spouse.
My favorite place for smoked boudin had a longer than normal line...
Turns out they won a well-deserved Gold Buckle Foodie award. 
More food options indoors, where you can enjoy air conditioning, even if there is no available seating.
Really, there is so much STUFF to choose from.
And a carnival for kids and kids at heart.
And, finally, I managed to get 2 interesting shots of the Astrodome and Reliant (soon to be NRG) Stadium so I thought I'd share 'em with y'all. 

Reliant (soon to be NRG) Stadium
The Astrodome. The staircases were recently imploded. In the foreground is one of the massive food tents put up only for the Rodeo.
The Houston Rodeo has finished for this year.  This means you have until next March to plan your trip there so you can get your AgNerd on.