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Food-O-File

With so many freezes, Fredericksburg's not looking so peachy-keen this year

By Virginia B. Wood, Fri., May 17, 2013

Food-O-File

News about this year's Fredericksburg peach crop is not good. Gillespie County Agriculture Extension Agent Brad Roeder estimates there will only be a 5% to 10% peach crop. "The late freezes in March got most of the early varieties, and the one in April got later varieties," Roeder said Monday. He also directed me to longtime peach grower Jamey Vogel, who reports that his family's popular fruit stand on Highway 290 West will have vegetables, blackberries, and preserves (put up from last year's bumper crop of peaches) but very few peaches. "If people want the taste of real Fredericksburg peaches, they're going to have to come over here for what little we've got this year," said Vogel. My favorite Hays County grower, Cliff Caskey, says he lost some fruit to last week's hailstorm but will have some cling peaches for sale this weekend at the Barton Creek Farmers Market, and some of his later-ripening varieties are still looking good. I'll be buying some of those clings for pickled peaches. All this is not to say that your favorite grower may not have some peaches this year, just that pickings will be slim.

A soaking rain before and during the Sustainable Food Center's annual Farm to Plate fundraiser didn't dampen appetites for the array of dishes presented in the Artisan Ballroom, though why organizers insisted the chefs be ready to serve at 6:30pm and then held the crowd outside for an hourlong program in the rain didn't make much sense. The Tipsy Texan guys were showing off an advance copy of David Alan's new book, Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails From the Lone Star State (out June 11 from Andrews McMeel Publishing) and kept long lines from forming at their cocktail table by premixing drinks in large batches and serving out of a tap. It was good to see several chefs working local goat into dishes, such as the goat tartare by the new Say laV trailer (and eventual restaurant) and a goat curry from Congress. There were also some delightful desserts: tiny squares of orange marmalade chocolate ganache topped with Tito's Vodka-spiked orange gelées from Cocoa Puro, tangy little lemon panna cottas from Lenoir, exotic truffle flavors from Delysia Chocolatier, and a delectable pink grapefruit budino topped with tiny fresh pansies from Trace. John Bates of Noble Sandwiches told me his group is working on a more central second location for their business, while Robert Mayberry, executive chef of food services at the University of Texas, told me his kitchens are one of the biggest buyers at the SFC's Farm Direct program and invited me to see some of the herb and vegetable gardens students are growing in the campus area.

Restaurant critics and barbecue fanboys alike cried foul when POTUS dropped into Stubb's for lunch last week. While plenty of people had alternative suggestions, the irony for me was that just a few weeks ago, one of the best things I ate in the Grand Tasting tent at the Austin Food & Wine Festival was a moist piece of brisket with a respectable smoke ring and a layer of well-caramelized fat under a crisp bark, served by old man Stubblefield's grandson and his partners in the barbecue sauce business. Could the quality of Stubb's barbecue have appreciated recently? Time for blind taste tests, anyone?

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