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GO LOCAL. GO TEXAN. TEXAS FOOD, WINE, RESTAURANTS, RECIPES, GARDENING, STYLE & MORE APRIL 2017 EDITION

BLANK & SONS:

TEXAS, FAMILY AND JERKY

TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE O COMMISSIONER SID MILLER


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WELCOME TO THE APRIL 2017 EDITION OF THE GO LOCAL. GO TEXAN. E-ZINE. There’s nothing better than seeing wildflowers blooming all across the Lone Star State. We are blessed with an abundance of spectacular wildflowers and now is the season to get out and soak up the views. You can find great wildflower trails in Ennis, Washington County from Brenham to Chappel Hill, La Grange and the Hill Country, and in Northeast Texas around Avinger, Hughes Springs and Linden. Get out and take a look. Don’t forget to take bluebonnet pictures with the kids or grandkids! We have some great articles for you in this issue, including an interview with Damon Blank, who runs a family business selling beef jerky with his

wife and three sons. There’s something about a good piece of seasoned beef jerky that just says Texas. It’s a tasty snack with plenty of protein. For a good laugh, be sure to watch the video they produced for Blank and Sons. It’s a real hoot. There are also articles on a delicious margarita mix, peanuts, a restaurant with special outdoor seating and a marketing coalition from West Texas called the High Ground of Texas. Once again, we’re happy to show off the wide diversity of our GO TEXAN members. We hope you enjoy this issue. Be sure to share it with your friends and remember, Texas

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BLANK & SONS: TEXAS, FAMILY AND JERKY STARTING A BEEF JERKY BUSINESS JUST KIND OF HAPPENED FOR DAMON BLANK AND HIS FAMILY. AFTER TRANSITIONING OUT OF A RESTAURANT BUSINESS RUN THAT LASTED 14 YEARS AND ANOTHER 8 YEARS IN THE FOODSERVICE INDUSTRY, BLANK TALKED TO HIS WIFE, TAMMY, ABOUT THE NEXT STEP TO TAKE. HE JUST HAPPENED TO BE MAKING SOME BEEF JERKY THAT WEEKEND IN THE KITCHEN.

“Why don’t you make and sell beef jerky?” Tammy said. “Everybody likes it.” At first he found it hard to believe it would be a worthwhile decision, but the more Damon and Tammy talked about it, the more it made sense. Eventually they talked themselves into it. “We talked to our sons, Danton, Dalton and Dagon, and they were all in,” Damon said. “So we developed a plan, began to work that plan and here we are.” 5


Now Blank and Sons is sold in H-E-B stores all over Texas. They were a finalist in last year’s Quest for Texas Best contest and recently sent their first truckload of products to the H-E-B warehouse. This was a big moment for the family business.

Blank and Sons is ready for the challenge, and they can’t imagine running the business anywhere else but Texas.

“Texas is all about independence and so are we,” Damon said. “GO TEXAN is a great program. It made us aware of the Quest for Texas Best competition. It also provides “Loading that truck was awesome and exciting,” Damon opportunities and discounts to attend and showcase your said. (See photo at right) “It was especially rewarding in the product at events that you sense that we took an idea from otherwise would not have. It also provides networking nothing and made something opportunities with other small out of it.” businesses and support if you While it was a high and exciting have questions.” point for Blank and Sons, it was This Nacogdoches-based also sobering. company is truly family-owned and run. “With this moment also came the realization that the easy part “There is nothing more rewarding was over. Now we’re in stores. than working with my wife and Now we have to move product sons,” Damon said. “Working off the shelves to have this be closely with my family allows me sustainable. That’s where the the opportunity to teach them real work comes in.” what I know and learn from 6


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them. I learn new ways to look at things from their prospective — it can sometimes be very eyeopening. They take the lead in our social media marketing and promotions. We all bring different strengths to the table that are beneficial to the business.”

• First Beef Jerky: The original recipe — a traditional beef jerky. Good, clean, bold beefy flavor. • Alamo Black Pepper: The original flavor with the addition of some nice black pepper spiciness. • Texas Heat: Bold, with some mild heat that will give you just a little tingle on your tongue. • Texan Spirit: Unique flavor If you like beef jerky — and who different from the other three. doesn’t? — Blank and Sons has Enjoy the depth of flavor while a four distinct flavors to choose gradual heat builds as you chew.

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The company also branched out and now produces a brand of salsa called Raging Rooster Salsa.

specific recipe until now. Damon believes it’s the best salsa out there.

“First you will notice the “Beef jerky is kind of a personal smooth texture, without any big thing,” Damon said, “but salsa chunks,” Damon said. “Then up and chippin’ and dippin’ is more front, you get a fresh and garlic flavor. As you swallow, there of a social thing.” will be a nice little kick of heat The Blanks have been making in the back, nothing painful though. Then you’ll notice some it for family and friends for hints of citrus in the middle. a while, but they never had a 9


We provide a nice balance of flavor and heat in this salsa, and we are more about the flavor than the heat.”

turf from beef jerky thieves.

“We are big fans of the spaghetti westerns, and we wanted that to be our theme If you’d like more in a tongue-in-cheek sort information on the Blank’s of way,” Damon said. “My beef jerky or salsa, visit their son, Danton, did all of the website. One thing you’ll find directing and filming. We there is a funny video that had a lot of fun making it. As shows Damon defending his for the message, we wanted 10


to let people know that we are making beef jerky and thought that would be a catchy and fun way to communicate that fact.� What could be more Texan than celebrating this entrepreneurial and funloving spirit?

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CACTUS MARGARITA: THE FRUIT OF THE DESERT LIKE MANY GREAT SUCCESS STORIES, THE IDEA FOR CACTUS MARGARITA WAS BORN OUT OF FRUSTRATION. “Every other year it seems like either the various fruit would freeze or there’d be a drought and there’d be no fruit,” said Beth Zies, owner of Cactus Margarita and the Prickly Pear Saloon. “You can’t have fruit when there’s no water and no rain.”

“Okay, do you have a recipe?” Garcia said. “I said, ‘No. That’s where you come in!’” Zies said. “I went to get the name trademarked and made sure there was nothing else out there like that. Rocky said he’d work on the recipe.”

Zies went to her long-time friend, Starting with a loan of only about Rocky Garcia, for help and $3,000, Zies commissioned an advice. artist to come up with some delightful and very Texan “I want to develop something images for the labels. This label that doesn’t depend on the rain pictures an armadillo holding a so much and that I can make margarita, garnished with a lime. every year,” Zies said to Garcia. The armadillo mascot is wearing “The only thing I can think of a badge, is packing a holstered is cactus. I also want to make gun and flanked by prickly pear something everybody likes.” cactus, one of which has a tap dripping the juice right into a Her friend heard her ideas, but asked that one essential question: bottle of Cactus Margarita, which 13


is held upright by a rattlesnake. “I had so much fun designing these labels,” Zies said. “When I hired the artist, a cowboy cartoonist, I told him I wanted it to scream Texas. ‘I need a rattlesnake, a good looking cowboy and a Texas flag.’”

and make sure that somebody is not stealing my name.” Zies admits that running your own company is not easy — especially the start-up days that went from idea to having a retailready product in her hands. “It was a pain in the tail, I tell ya!” Zies said. “It’s hard to start a company. I think that is why many people don’t do it. It’s a leap of faith, but it was also fun. It was a new challenge for me. Coming up with the idea and the art and staying ahead of whatever the next phase was — it was all a challenge. I just enjoyed it.”

The Cactus Daiquiri label shows a feminine armadillo with eyelashes and lipstick, holding a cold daiquiri with a dainty umbrella, surrounded by cactus. The Cactus Sour Mix features a bandit armadillo that’s weary and worse for the wear, an eye patch, torn up ears and a bandolier slung over its shoulders, but it’s more alive than Once she had a tasty finished the steer skull at the base of the product, the hardest part was cactus pile. over. For her, selling into a retail These detailed and fun labels market is as simple as giving them show the marketing power of a sample to taste. branding and design. “If they like it, they buy it,” Zies “This product is kind of goofy,” said. she said, “but every year I’ve sold better than the year before. After For more information on Cactus I got to be kind of popular, I had Margarita, visit their website here. to spend time going around to try

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PICOSOS PEANUT COM

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MPANY: NUTS FOR YOU Some people say, “Never judge a book by its cover,” but those people must have never walked into a large retail bookstore and seen all the hundreds and hundreds of books hoping for just such judgment. The packaging often sells the contents. Picosos Peanut Company goes the extra mile with their packaging, but it’s not just because it looks nice. “We spend a little bit more money on our packaging,” Sylvana Mery said, the company’s general manager. “You can get cheaper packaging — a corrugated can — but you have to flush it with nitrogen for freshness. Our can is a vacuum-packed metal can.

They are bright red and yellow and should be very noticeable on the shelves.” The products inside are what keep people coming back for more, though. Sylvana’s father started the company in 1977, after retiring from 26 years of Army service. He purchased a recipe from Sylvana’s aunt and uncle on the other side of her family. They all thought this might keep him busy for a while, but they didn’t expect his one recipe to grow from a few accounts to several business owners wanting to sell his peanuts. It is now a woman-owned company, but still familyoperated, with Sylvana, her parents and siblings all helping

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customers. That’s our niche: we out. They bring in the raw products to their manufacturing roast the product according to plant in Helotes. the customers’ specific dietary needs. If they want raw or “We get our raw, Texas-grown roasted with no salt, we can accommodate that. Lightly peanuts from Wilco Peanut Company in Pleasanton and we salted, hot chili spice or superroast in pure coconut oil,” Mery hot — we sell it in a variety of said. “Then we salt or spice it forms.” and package it in a variety of forms to meet the specs of our Picosos Peanut Company has 18


12-ounce cans sold at H-E-B stores, as well as institutional sizes sold to businesses like bars, country clubs, restaurants and military bases. While the company started with just one roasted peanut recipe, they have since expanded to a wide variety of nuts. They now produce walnuts, dried edamame, hazelnuts, pine nuts,

pistachio, macadamia, almonds, Brazil, corn nuts, pecans, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sesame and sunflower seeds. For more information, visit the Picosos Peanut Company website.

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RONIN COOKING: BRINGING FRANCE AND JAPAN TO TEXAS RONIN IS A JAPANESE WORD FOR “A SAMURAI WITH NO MASTER.” THERE’S NO BETTER WAY TO DESCRIBE BRIAN LIGHT’S JOURNEY. HE STARTED WORKING AT THE DISTINCTLY FRENCH RESTAURANT ARIES AND STUDIED ABROAD IN JAPAN, WORKED FOR MASTER CHEFS MASAHARU MORIMOTO IN PHILADELPHIA AND RICK TRAMONTO IN CHICAGO AND THEN VENTURED OFF ON HIS OWN. HE LEARNED FROM SOME OF THE BEST, AND NOW HE’S A CULINARY SAMURAI WITH NO MASTER. 20


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husband and wife team, Brian and Amanda Light opened Ronin Cooking “on a wing and a prayer” at a farm they purchased in Bryan.

of Ronin Cooking’s growth. Later this month or next, they plan on opening a restaurant in the historic Ice House on Main Street in downtown Bryan. There, the restaurant will be connected to “We opened on the premise of a 500-guest event hall, a music catering offsite, as the farm is venue, a brewery, bridal changing our residence as well,” Amanda quarters, a chapel and a catering said. “There’s a saying about what kitchen. This 22,000-square-foot happens when you make plans. The building will turn into an anchor farm has organically grown into for the downtown Bryan area. something way more.” This kind of growth thrills the Besides living on the farm, the Lights, but the local area will enjoy couple built a commercial kitchen their success as well. One reason in 2012 inside one of the old is that they are big proponents of barns on the property, where they sourcing locally. currently still operate. “It started with just wanting to In January 2013, they held their support local farmers by purchasing first “Full Moon Dinner,” a ninewhat they had,” Brian said. “I had course dinner served outside in a heard over the years that the best cozy little clearing in the forest. chefs made the best food with the Guests arrived about an hour best local ingredients available, so I before sunset, took a guided tour thought we should head in the same of the farm and then sat down for direction. Once we started buying the meal. Then guests walked down food and products that way, we a candlelit path to a garden for the never looked back.” dessert course, served with coffee and tea, underneath the full moon Going local is not as easy as it may rising in the sky. sound, though. Sourcing locally comes with its own set of demands. There were 17 people at that first dinner. Now they usually host 65 “It challenged us as cooks to move guests. This is only the beginning with the seasons, cooking whatever 21


it is that the farmers have available any given week,” Brian said. “We also have had to learn how to expand our cooking repertoire. For example, three months of nothing but eggplant parmesan can make for a dull season. Microand macro-economic factors come into play, too. So does the freshness, the quality, and above most anything else, the taste.” Light has also relearned what some certain foods are supposed to taste

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like, because what they get from a farmer or their own garden can taste worlds away from what is commonly available at the local grocery store. Having children has also given the Lights reason to source locally. “We have two daughters,” Amanda said. “The food is vastly more nutrient dense and flavorful. It’s also beneficial to your local farmer and rancher. Eating seasonally has


been lost on modern society, and it’s important to re-learn where your food comes from.” Being small business owners and part of a community is also very important to Amanda and Brian. “We are thankful to know our farmers,” Amanda said. “We are grateful to be able to grow our own vegetables and raise our animals here in the sunshine and on the pasture. Seeing the tangible growth of our own family and

business, as well as the growth of the community, has been by far the greatest privilege of operating Ronin.” In addition to providing their own produce and livestock, Ronin Cooking also sources several other GO TEXAN members like: Augustus Ranch, Honey Doe Farm and Ideal Poultry, just to name a few. For more information on Ronin Cooking, visit their website. 23


HIGH GROUND OF TEXAS: PROMOTING THE WEST Kevin Carter, the executive director of the High Ground of Texas, said that the group’s mission is to help cities in the High Plains of Texas market themselves for economic development in their region — what a perfect fit for the GO TEXAN program! The scope of their region stretches from Abilene to Odessa and from Dalhart to Perryton. The coalition is made up of over 75 members and focuses on six different industry aspects: manufacturing, energy, food processing, distribution, aerospace and aviation, and agriculture and technology. Carter said that his journey to the High Ground of Texas began when he was a coalition 24

member himself. Now, his role focuses solely on marketing and distributing the High Ground of Texas’ name across Texas and the nation. “I’m always looking for leads and trying to get our name out there,” Carter said. “We really want to give support to our member cities, and utilizing our website and programs like GO TEXAN makes it easier.” Carter said that the friendships formed within the West Texas region are like no other. Even though a major challenge of the High Ground of Texas is that the members are spread out, the comradery between the cities makes that burden a little lighter.


“The helping hands and the West Texas mentality is truly something special and unique to this region,” Carter said. Carter said that he’s lived in Texas for the last 30 years and is so grateful to call it home. “It’s a great place to live and raise your family,” Carter said. “And there’s not a lot of traffic in West Texas, so that’s a plus.” Want to know more about the High Ground of Texas? Click here. 25


GARDENING TIPS 26


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pring is in full swing in Texas and there’s plenty to be done in your garden, but hopefully graced with bright and sunshine-filled days and nice, warm temperatures to make it pleasant. Our friend Neil Sperry has some good tips to share for this month and going into May.

Hand-water every couple of days for the plants’ first entire summer, as sprinkler irrigation will not be sufficient. Perennials are a good option — especially if you mix many types for a spring-until-fall blooming season. Be sure you know their mature sizes, colors and blooming times to ensure the most attractive arrangement.

It’s a good time to plant trees, shrubs, vines and groundcovers, which If you’re up in the should all be in plentiful supply now. Panhandle, this

is a good time to plant warm-season vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, squash, cucumbers, melons and eggplant. For the tomatoes, however, think small and mid-sized varieties, as large-fruiting tomato varieties do not produce well in Texas’ weather conditions. Early May is an ideal time to start planting summer vegetables, like sweet potatoes (in sandy soils only), okra and southern peas.

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Planting is not the only recommended activity for your gardening. Be sure to prune fall perennials, like Mexican bush salvia, fall asters and chrysanthemums. Once your springflowering shrubs and vines finish blooming, prune them. These plants all flower on growth they made the prior year, and that growth begins anew each spring. Use hand shears, instead of formal shearing, to maintain natural form to the plants. Pinch the growing tips out of new blackberry canes 28

that are developing. They will be next year’s fruiting canes, and the tip-pruning will encourage more compact plants with better branching.

The result will be larger fruit of higher quality.

Be on the lookout for black spot on roses. The lower leaves will yellow and then develop brown spots It’s also a good before the leaves idea to remove low fall entirely. Apply branches on shade labeled fungicide and trees that cause repeat every 7-to-10 visibility problems or that cast excessive days until summer. shade on turf. Wait until mid-summer to Get out there and prune oaks, however, enjoy your garden! to lesson likelihood Don’t forget the of spreading oak wilt real benefits of shopping at a local fungus. independent retail garden center. They If you have peaches know gardening in or plums, thin the fruit early in May to your local area the be 5 or 6 inches apart best. Go Local. GO TEXAN. on the branches.


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RECIPE: TEXAS SHRIMP AL MOJO DE AJO Here’s another delicious Texas Gulf shrimp recipe from Chef David Garrido. It serves four.

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s like e p i c re ther ex an. org o d n Fi t got th is a

Ingredients: 12 Texas Gulf shrimp 5 Garlic cloves, sliced ¼ cup Brandy 1 Bay leaf ½ cup Texas olive oil 1 quart Spinach 1 cup Tomato, small diced ¼ cup Olives, Manzanilla ¼ cup Parsley ¼ cup Lemon juice To taste Salt Directions: 1. Add olive oil and garlic at low heat in a sauté pan. Keep heat low without getting any color. 2. Take off heat, add the brandy and return to stove. Be careful. It will flame. Cook for 2 minutes to burn alcohol off or until all the flame is gone. 3. Increase the heat to medium and

add the shrimp. Cook halfway. 4. Add tomato and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 3 minutes or until shrimp is full cooked. 5. Season with salt to taste. 6. Divide shrimp and sauce onto 4 plates. 31


SPOT THE GO TEXAN MARK CHALLENGE Want a fun way to share the best of Texas with the world? It’s easy! GO TEXAN uses social media tools like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to post GO TEXAN events, share member news and increase awareness of the wide variety of products grown and made right here in the Lone Star State.

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Challenge: If you spot the GO TEXAN mark, let us know. Send us a picture of the mark on a product, sign or printed materials, and tell us where you saw it. Be sure to use the GO TEXAN hashtag (#GOTEXAN) when you post, so we can easily share your message, or send us an email.


UPCOMING TEXAS EVENTS March 31 - April 16: Wine & Wildflower Trail, Texas Hill Country wineries April 8-23: Wildflower Celebration at Wildseed Farms, Fredericksburg April 15: Easter at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, Stonewall April 15: Groovy Grapes Wine Walk, Navasota April 27-30: Hill Country Film Festival, Fredericksburg April 28-29: Granbury Wine Walk, Granbury April 28-30: Chicken Fried Steak Festival, Lamesa April 29: Tatum Pecan Pie Festival, Tatum May 3: Wine & Chocolate, Grapevine May 6-7: Lavender Fest at Becker Vineyards, Fredericksburg May 26-28, National Polka Festival, Ennis View more Texas events here. 33


About GO TEXAN

Launched in 1999 by the Texas Department of Agriculture, GO TEXAN, with its signature mark in the shape of Texas, celebrates, promotes and supports the business savvy and plainspoken grit Texas agriculture is known for throughout the world. Whether it’s grown, sewn or served up on a plate, nearly 27 million Texans shop, travel and dine out in support of Texas businesses, agriculture and communities, looking for the GO TEXAN mark to light the way. To learn more about the GO TEXAN program, call (877) 99-GOTEX or visit the GO TEXAN website. Tell others about GO TEXAN! One great and easy way is to forward them this publication. All your friends have to do to is click here to subscribe, and they’ll start receiving the Go Local. GO TEXAN. free monthly e-zine.

About the Texas Department of Agriculture

TDA’s mission is to partner with all Texans to make Texas the nation’s leader in agriculture, fortify our economy, empower rural communities, promote healthy lifestyles, and cultivate winning strategies for rural, suburban and urban Texas through exceptional service and the common threads of agriculture in our daily lives. 34

Go Local. GO TEXAN. e-zine April edition  

The latest on Texas food, wine, restaurants, recipes, gardening, style and more.