Let them eat brisket
The Cakery: I dropped by the open house for the new cake decorating salon at Quack's 43rd Street Bakery (4224 Duval St.) on Sunday afternoon. Enthusiastic Hyde Park neighbors were sampling cake flavor slices while kids tried their hands at decorating sugar cookies. The new space provides pastry chef Rachel Larsen and her team a climate-controlled, sunlit area in which to work their magic with frosting and chocolate. All the cake baking will be done across the parking lot at Quack's by a new overnight cake shift, allowing the flexibility to fill last-minute orders and providing Larsen and her team the freedom to create without having to keep an eye on the ovens or listen for the timer. The salon even has a comfy spot where Aaron Frausto can interview brides and other cake customers about how Quack's can fulfill their cake desires. "It's exciting to finally see people working in here after carrying the images around in my head for so long," said general manager Heather O'Connor. She went on to tell us that long-range plans include the possibility of using the Cakery space for teaching adult classes in decorating techniques and hosting parties for kids' clubs or birthdays.
Pit whisperer John Lewis was in town last week representing la Barbecue at the Austin Food & Wine Festival and we chatted about his two other business ventures. Austin's barbecue cognoscenti already know about Lewis Barbecue, coming later this year in Charleston, S.C., but there's also Austin Smoke Works, the new custom pit building company he's founded with his buddy Jim Glass and with his dad, retired IBM man John Lewis Sr. They're working out of the barn machine shop at the Glass farm east of Austin. Lewis Jr. says these pits are the next generation of the custom smokers he built for la Barbecue in 2013, and they'll construct them for folks "who want to produce craft barbecue as long as they're not in Austin or Charleston." They offer two versions, a 500-gallon portable road pit and the 1,000-gallon tank stationary pit. There's no mass production going on out at the shop; these smokers are hand-crafted one at a time. This week, they're finishing up orders that will go to Richmond, Va., and Canada. Lewis Sr. tells us he's always been a handy guy who built stuff, and he started working on the pits a few years back as "a way to spend time hanging out with my son." Now the proud father is part of his son's expanding career in the national barbecue arena. He recounted how a single mention of the company website by Texas Monthly Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn resulted in more than 300 calls from potential pit buyers. "We want to make sure we're the right fit for the people who order them. Folks who just want to load up the meat and push a button, we're not for them," the elder Lewis explains.