Friday, August 13, 2010

Diary Of A Daycation

A few weeks ago Sevy mentioned he wanted to drive out to East Texas to pay a visit to Strube Ranch, producers of Wagyu beef, also known as American Kobe.   Their ranch is near Pittsburgh, and we decided to make it a scenic day, driving out on Highway 80, sticking to the small towns like Terrell, Wills Point, Grand Saline.  Eventually, when we hit the piney tree forests of East Texas we were going to cut north, skirting the west edge of Lake O' the Pines.

Chefriend Samir was having a birthday in a few days, so we decided to stop at Bob Well's Nursery in Lindale to pick up an olive tree as a gift.  Nobody was there when we arrived, so we called the phone number on the door.  Bob remembered us!  But he'd just had shoulder surgery and was laying low, so he told us to just take the tree we wanted and leave a check on the desk.  That's good country friendly.  He had many varieties of fruit trees in stock if you're looking, his prices make it worth the drive.

We arrived at Strube Ranch offices, located in a tidy metal barn surrounded by pastureland and encircled by miles and miles of red fencing.  And cows, lots of cows everywhere.  Meeting us was Tia Strube Ables, daughter of the founder, J. Larry Strube a "wildcatter" of wagyu when it was first developed in Texas, going to Japan and bringing back full-blood Wagyu semen during a window in time when exports were allowed.   Tia drove us all over the ranch in her truck, she was good country friendly.

They carry two grades of meat, Mishima and Gold,  scored using a Japanese BMS system grading the visual marbling of each piece of meat.  On their 2000 acres at any one time there is typically upwards of 5,000 cows, calfs and bulls.  They are fed minimally processed grains with no hormones or antibiotics, and are allowed free roam of the countryside, not caged inside barns during Texas heat.  About a year before they are to be butchered they are shipped to "select Iowa feedlots to be fed for 350 to 400 days in an all-natural, sheltered, low-stress environment".

About 80 percent of their product after processing is sent to the Chicago and New York City markets, including Kosher.  The 10 percent that does not grade "Prime" is shipped to different processors, but not sold under the Strube name.  According to Tia, a few years ago her dad was convinced that there could be a strong local market for his excellent beef, so he invested in a refrigerated truck and started visiting chefs and restaurants.  They do not use distributors, and supply a number of area buyers, including Rosenblatt Meats, Bonnell's in Fort Worth, and Chamberlain's in Addison. 

And now at Sevy's as well.  What can I say, good is good.  We've switched to their all-beef hot dogs for our All-American Kobe Beef Corny Dogs on our bar menu, we've switched to their tri-tips for our Kobe Skewers and inside round for our Pot Roast. 

So finding our way home required driving on several county roads before we came to Winnsboro, a charming town that Tia told us included a small pub tucked behind a bakery.   Hot day, cold beer, that sure sounded good, so we stopped for a snack and a couple beers at Brewbaker's Restaurant & Pub. 

We must have screamed "city folk" because owner Jeff Heath came by and introduced himself.  Formerly from the Dallas area, he bought a bakery and added the pub on the back.  On the weekends they feature live performers and bands.  Anyhow, Jeff was sure good country friendly, he sent Sevy and I some Bacon Wrapped Shrimp to go with the Pork Shank Ribs (excellent) we'd ordered. We'd put this on our "go back" list next time we're in the area.  

Continuing westward, facing the setting sun, we crossed Lake Fork, then a few miles down the road passed through East Tawakoni and West Tawakoni.  Twenty minutes later we were at I-30 and LBJ, another 10 minutes and we were pulling into the driveway.

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