Monday, November 22, 2010

Killer in the Big House

As many concerts that I've attended over the years, the ones that made lasting impressions are a handful. In fact, some of the best musical experiences I've had weren't even concerts at all but just me being at the right place at the right time.

From a very early age, I knew I loved rhythm and blues music. I had discovered my father's 45 collection from his high-school years and that's what I listened to all the time. In fact, I didn't receive a new record until 1972 when my mother brought home "American Pie" neatly tucked in it's white sleeve protecting that brand new untarnished vinyl.

There was nothing quite like getting a brand new record. I know I sound like some old man but music is too easy to buy these days. Hopefully some of you will remember the anticipation of a new record coming out. Now it's just click and download whatever you want and as novel as that is, I think it takes the fun out of it.

Regarding one of those musical experiences that not only made an enormous impact on me but the memory will remain etched in my brain for all eternity, the year would be 1973 and I was six years of age. My mother received a phone call from her brother who was a prison guard in the Huntsville prison system. I remember seeing him at holidays from time to time as well as transporting prisoners through Kilgore while stopping to eat lunch at the Community Inn.

He called my mother to invite the entire family to see Jerry Lee Lewis perform live in an upcoming concert. And where would this concert be? Well the Huntsville prison system...of course.

I think it's safe to say that my parents might have been just a little liberal when it came to what they would expose me to. Not that Jerry Lee was questionable, although there were some that would argue that, but the idea of taking a six year old to a prison concert was a little out of the box.

So there we were. The Cleaver family showing up in one of the toughest prison systems in Texas. Surrounded by guards, we were all escorted into a large open room that had a stage. Behind me were convicts as far as the eye could see and all of them were chained leg to leg shrouded in cigarette smoke. It was a Shawshank moment for sure.

When the "Killer" walked out on stage, the whole room went into an uproar and he proceeded to tear that piano down from top to bottom. You couldn't imagine the scene if you tried and if I ever get to Heaven, I'm hoping God has it on DVD. Being a kid, you remember bits and pieces but the what pieces.

Jerry Lee hails from Ferriday, Louisiana. His parents mortgaged their farm to buy him his first piano and if you've ever seen the movie featuring Dennis Quaid, you know his influences came straight out of the juke joint across the tracks. In fact, the primary joint was called Haney's Big House. Kind of ironic that the Killer came out of the Big House...don't you think?

Here's to the Killer. Keep on thumping those keys my brother.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Perfect Margarita

Tequila. Just the word will make the biggest man in the pack coward into fetal position. It is a word that by definition deserves respect and by no means should be taken lightly.

I say this as margaritas are my favorite of all beverages. For you Yanks that read my blog, we have a phrase down here next to the border. "Frozen or on the Rocks?"

What I'm about to give you is a working recipe. It has been given to me three times over these many years and each time it has been a little different. There is a margarita scientist behind the madness and his name is J. Eric Lawrence. He has been mixing and tweaking on this beverage for the last 15 years and it is by far the best margarita I've ever had. Even if the concoction varies from time to time.

Now I will warn you. Like I said in my opening paragraph, this is not some lemonade drink. I've seen this beverage do some amazing things to some straight and narrow people. And the folks that ain't so straight and narrow? Man I'm not even going there.

 J. Eric Lawrence's Margaritas

For approximately 4 margaritas:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (3-4 ripe limes)
2/3 cup premium tequila (Patron, Don Julio, etc.)
1/3 cup Cointreau
Splash of Agave Syrup (or simple syrup), about a teaspoon or so.
1 egg white (optional, but this is the old school way mixologists "stepped up" the feel of mixed drinks)

Pour in shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 15 seconds or so.

Pour in salted glass with ice.

Top with a heavy splash of Grand Marnier and a lime wedge.

Enjoy yourself.

Illustration above titled: Bar Shrine by Dan Witz

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You Want Hot on That?

I suppose that my culinary tastes must be written on my forehead. Either that or there are certain guys that have telepathic powers capable of detecting a brother in the bond who may have an appetite for down home cooking.

When we moved back to East Texas a few years ago, my real estate agent who also tends to indulge in the finer foods made great efforts in telling me about Pat Gee's. He kept saying, "It's your kind of place Holt. You want hot on that?" I had no idea what he was talking about.

Now it is true that I am weak when it comes to solid down home cooking. When we lived in Dallas, I would troll the ghettos in search of cafes and dives that served the food I missed so much. The food that when eaten, my father defines as a Lay Down Meal. Because when you're done, you'll damn sure want to lay down.

It wouldn't be for a few more years when one Tylerite would grace me with the venture deep in the woods of East Texas to the crossroads of culinary delight. The crossroads that held a small shack breathing smoke and about fifteen oil field trucks parked outside. Held in close confidence about like the Salesmanship Club in Dallas, I felt like I was now part of the club.

Pat Gee's has been around since the 70s and was owned and operated by it's name sake. That of course being Pat Gee.

Pat passed away in 1999 leaving his family members to take the reigns over the place. It's nothing fancy. A wood-framed building with a few tables and a separate room on the side that houses about a six foot pit that tends to fill the entire structure with smoke. The only air-conditioner in the joint is the one operated by God who from time to time will offer up a nice breeze that moves through the small holes of the screened in windows.

And the food? Well I'll make this easy for you. Order brisket, hot links and bone-in ham.
If you're brave, have him mix the ham with the brisket and chop it up. This should be placed on a piece of white bread and drenched with sauce. That being the "Hot on That" which is homemade.

And the review? I've since taken my youngest there during the Summer months when he didn't have school. A small face covered in barbecue sauce while holding  a white plastic fork in the air told me, "This is the best day I've ever had."

Take it from a six year old. You won't get a more honest opinion.

Pat Gee's is located at 17547 Jamestown Road which is off of Highway 31 between Kilgore and Tyler. If you're coming from Kilgore, it's after the Tavern. If you're coming from Tyler, it's after the Apache. It's only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until the meat runs out.

Always yours in smoke. Peace out!

Photographs taken by Guy Reynolds