Sarah West: Farm to table: Texas Flavor, Alabama Chef Part 2
It’s Friday evening. The crowd assembles, a line forms, zigzagging ‘round Bow & Arrow’s entrance. An eclectic blend of old country, folk, and newer grooves render the soundtrack for the staff who usher butcher trays down the line adding farm fresh soul-food sides to smoking cuts of brisket, and ribs. Tonight is Friday, this means, it is also fried catfish night.
While the crowd sways, peering to read the listed specials in advance, I’ve already made my decision. Who can resist the best catfish around? Light, flaky and hot, right out of fryer and brought to my table with a refreshing spoonful of house made tartar sauce, my mind was made up. Then David appears asking enthusiastically “have you seen my post on Instagram?” Surprised to see this busy Chef in front of house, boosting a jubilant social atmosphere along the line, I pause, reach for my phone and scroll. It has been a busy day, with little time for media. As I search for the insta-news, he can’t resist sharing with us his new dish. I toss my previous decision aside. About the time I find the post, we’ve already heard first hand, the delicious works that his team have been smoking for us all day.
Double cut, dry aged and smoked short ribs from Gold Hill Cattle Farm, paired with collard green colcannon, and PBR onion rings, with butter barbeque sauce. The chef proudly proclaims “I promise these are the best smoked short ribs in the state of Alabama at this very moment.” Like a miner who has just struck gold, or the all too familiar moment an artist paints with a stroke of genius, his enthusiasm for his work lights up the room. His staff shine with pride and the exuberance among the line spills forth. It is contagious and we are all overwhelmed with delight, eager to try his latest creation.
From my table, I can see into the kitchen. Two chefs stack and carefully arrange the components to this dish on a butcher tray. They pause for a photo opp. Although I’m anxious with anticipation, I wait somewhat patiently hoping they catch the right lighting, to share this image with fans and followers far and near. When David arrives, I ask if they captured a picture. In the current age, there is a benefit to imagery, affording all the opportunity to savor the memory of such extravagance long after the occasion. Aside from their intent to share, I too have my intentions. Anything worth writing about should be written, and accompanying pictorial content makes for a pleasant addition.
This occasion calls for special dishes which David pulls from the kitchen. We chat a moment about cutlery, and then retract any statement about it, as for this, none is needed. The meat falls from the bone with savory drips onto the pan. Rich and hearty collard green colcannon pair brilliantly with the butter barbeque sauce. PBR onion rings are a perfect accompaniment for this chef curated meat and potatoes concoction that is simply satisfying.
Following a dinner of this magnitude, dessert is out of the question. However, recent visits to Bow & Arrow have provided opportunities to pair lighter fare with locally roasted Mamma Mocha’s coffee served conscientiously in your choice of unique coffee mug. Bow & Arrow in their continued endeavors to be respectful stewards of people and planet, they have eliminated paper coffee cups, and offer straw alternatives.
The dessert menu reads like a grandmother’s well-worn, cookbook boasting selections fit for any luncheon on the grounds or lakeside picnic. When looking for the best pecan or lemon meringue pie, you reach for the heirloom recipe box in the cupboard and you set to work making the faithful recipe passed down through time.
The only other way to experience something of worthy resemblance is to make your way to Bow & Arrow and try whatever Chef Caleb Fischer has added to the menu. His banana pudding with homemade vanilla wafers is second to none. Refreshing as the rain, and as honest as the farm harvest, the work of these Alabama chefs raises the bar.