East Austin’s longest running pop up restaurant series put another one in the books Saturday night at Tamale House East. Our normal Scrumptious Chef events are wild and wooly affairs, but when we put the Smiling Tiger designation on one of our food fetes, things can get out of hand quickly. Our next Smiling Tiger-branded food party will be in February of 2014. It will take at least that long to regroup from Saturday night’s feast.
The run-up to Saturday’s bacchanal was particularly eventful. We rambled across the internet for a good week attempting to find a dj who was immersed in the ancient art of spinning vinyl records of Texas origin. John Wesley Coleman III of Golden Boys and Eric Static were finally contracted and they brought a solid 100k worth of collector vinyl to the affair.
As is our custom we spent another week securing our food purveyors:
Peeler Farms Chicken: a full truckload of sustainably raised heritage breed poultry
Sun Noodle Co: if you’re going to do ramen you may as well use the best in the world
Johnsons Backyard Garden: organic sweet potatoes and rainbow chard
Anderle Farm sorghum: molasses from the kings of Texas sorghum
Antonelli’s Cheese: mind-bendingly delicious dairy from the best purveyor in Texas
Easy Tiger Bread: there are pretenders and then there’s David Norman
Wagyu Beef fr. Heartbrand in Yoakum: Akaushi y’all
Legend Meats Heritage Pork: how we made our Tonkotsu broth
Boggy Creek Farms: the backbone of our strawberry cobbler
That was the fun part. Once we get our trucks off-loaded at Tamale House we have to start the cooking process. For a Saturday night event we start prep on Wednesday. After 4 ten hour days, we’re reasonably certain that we’ll be able to feed the crowd in a timely manner.
The Scrumptious Chef cooking brigade swelled to 7 for Farm to Turntable. Our cooks were grinding sausage meat, blanching ramen noodles, baking cobblers, stuffing hog guts, circulating meats through the sous vides and attending to dozens of other tiny cooking tasks that contribute to the success of the event.
Once service began at 7pm, one thing became clear. The quality of the food was off the charts. Diners repeatedly came back to the counter to claim that this event was rivaled only by our now-legendary Cajun feast we threw way back in 2012.
The eaters came in waves, til finally 3 hours into the party they waved the white flag and surrendered. We ran short ticket times. and managed to have enough food on hand to get everybody fed without having to turn people away hungry as we had (ashamedly) had to do at previous shindigs.
It’s a balancing act.
We’ve had as few as a hundred diners at some of our parties and over two hundred at others. There is simply no way of knowing how many people are going to attend nor what time they will arrive. Just like a restaurant proper, every night’s a crap-shoot. We’ve strolled right into a great cafe on a Saturday night and found a killer table, and had to wait on a Tuesday night at a taqueria.
It’s part and parcel of the industry.
Watch this space for news on our next event. We’ve all been rode hard and put up wet for the last couple weeks so we’re going on hiatus til we can marshal our reserves and wade back into the fray.
photo credit: Ryan Schierling