Eat Your Way Around the Mediterranean

It has gotten a little boring around here so we decided to fire up the place with our favorite Mediterranean foods and some hot music and dancing. Be here July 29 and 30, 2011 6:00 pm-9:00pm for food, music and dance. At 9:00 plus a few mintues for set up and $10.00 Samara will perform her fire dance on the patio. Drinks and small plates will be available on the patio and in the bar from 5:00 pm - 10:30 pm. Call 325-646-8200 for reservations or on line here

and don't forget about the flaming saganki!!!!!

Rattlesnake As Food

Before you start cooking rattlesnake, it would be a good idea to have a Waco Rattlesnake Cocktail to fortify yourself. This rattlesnake species is found under the bridge at 314 17th Street, Waco, TX.

1 1/2 oz Balcones True Blue Whiskey
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp Absenthe
1/2 tsp powdered sugar
1/2 egg white

Hard shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and sip.

Rattlesnake meat can be prepared just about anyway you fix other meat. You can use it like chicken, bread it, fry it, put it in pasta dishes, chili, fajitas, really any way you would use chicken or pork. The main way people ruin rattlesnake meat is by over cooking it. For health reasons, you do not want to serve it rare, cook just until tender.

Where do you get rattlesnake meat? You can buy USDA inspected on line and have it next day air shipped to you frozen. It is very expensive. Or, you can catch your own. I have never done this so I will tell you the method described at

Make sure your rattlesnake is dead before moving forward with the skinning. Also be sure the time between the time the snake has been killed and butchering is short otherwise do not eat it. Put on latex gloves. Cut off the head with a cleaver or meat saw at least 1/2 inch behind the head. Use extreme caution as the venom is inside sacs in the jaw. You do not want to accidentally pierce a finger with a fang or open the venom sacs. The venom remains dangerous even after the snake is dead. Dispose of the head by burning it or in another safe and secure way. You do not want your garbage man or neighborhood dumpster divers getting bit by a poisonous decapitated snake.

Turn the rattlesnake belly up. Starting at the head end, make an incision with a sharp scalpel down its stomach to its tail where the white and black colorings meet. Cut through the tail meat and peel away the meat from its skin. Gut your rattlesnake meat and wash it off with cold water just like you would a long fish. Cut the rattlesnake meat into three-four inch pieces with a sharp knife. Soak in brine then freeze in water if you are not going to cook it immediately. I recommend freezing the meat in baggies filled with various marinades.
Rattlesnakes can carry many pathogens on their skin such as salmonella, they slither on the ground through some gross stuff. Food safety first. After you are finished butchering the snake, remove your gloves and wash your hands with plenty of soap and hot water. Timely butchering, soaking the meat in salt brine, refrigeration and good hygiene will insure that your meat is safe for consumption.

Rattlesnake Chili is what you find for sale at many rattlesnake roundups. Brownwood's Rattlesnake Roundup is March 18-20 at the Brownwood Coliseum, hosted by the Brownwood Jaycees. Contact 830-646-3586,
There is valid criticism for stopping these round ups. It has been reported that up to 1% of the Texas' snake population has been caught for a single roundup. Rattlesnakes are relatively slow to mature, have only modest litters, and are already adversely affected by habitat destruction and persecution. These events remove thousands of snakes, including large numbers of reproductively mature animals. Since rattlesnakes are an apex predator, a sudden decline in their population could have ecological consequences, particularly for the rodents on which they typically feed. Anything that reduces the rodent population and keeps the plague away is our friend. However, if you are gonna kill an animal you ought to eat it and wear it.

Here is a common recipe for Rattlesnake Roundup Chili. I don't think you'll find Rattlesnake Chili at Brownwood's Roundup because as I wrote earlier, rattlesnake meat is wildly expensive. Even at wholesale, with a 100 pound minimum order, it is $18.95 a pound plus overnight shipping. I would only eat rattlesnake meat that I killed and butchered myself or was USDA inspected because the danger of contamination by bad handling is too great. For one thing, many rattlesnakes are chased out of their hiding places by gasoline and who wants to eat gasoline. The other reason is you can get really very sick, even die, by eating salmonella contaminated meats and God only knows how long it was before Billy Bob killed that snake and he finally put it in the refrigerator. So you won't see me eating snake at fairs or Roundups unless I see a USDA sticker and a Health Department permit.

2 medium onions, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
4 fresh jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 15 oz. can tomato paste
1 28 oz. can chili beans
¼ cup chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 lbs. rattlesnake meatJuice of ½ lemon

Saute the onions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapenos in some olive. Remove from pan toss into a into 3qt sauce pan. Add paste, beans, spices to sauce pan and slowly simmer for 40 min. You may want to add a little water if it gets too thick. Meanwhile saute the rattle snake chunks in the oil and juices of the vegetables until the meat is tender to the fork. Cool, then remove the bones, chop and spritz the lemon juice over the meat. Add the sauteed meat chunks to the chili a few minutes before the chili is ready to serve. You don't want the meat to become tough by over cooking.

And here is a recipe more appropriate for a meat costing $18.95-$60.00 a pound delivered.

Pistachio Parmesan Crusted Rattlesnake

2/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup crushed pistachio nuts
1/4 cup beaten eggs for wash
1/4 cup buttermilk
6 4" long sections of snake (cleaned of course)
1 1/2 ounces butter a a few teaspoons of olive oil for sauteing

2 artichoke hearts per serving, quartered and sauteed in butter and wine Coarsely chopped fresh basil for garnish

Combine white wine and lemon juice in a saucepan. Let simmer until reduced in volume by half. Add heavy cream and let simmer until thick but not brown. Add salt, white pepper and sugar.
Whisk in 1 pound of cold butter pieces slowly over low to medium heat. You will probably have more sauce then you need, left over can be saved for another dish.

Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan and pistachio nuts in a shallow pan. In another shallow pan, mix eggs and buttermilk. Lay snake meat, flesh side down, into the wet mixture, then roll snake in the breadcrumbs.

Heat butter and in a saute pan into which you place breaded snake breading side down. Adding the oil to the butter helps to prevent the butter from burning. Saute for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan so the breading doesn't stick to the pan. Flip and finish cooking in a 350 F oven for about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the snake.

Plate with artichoke hearts and basil decorating the snake pieces and drizzle with lemon butter sauce.
Yield: 6 servings

A side of rice would be a nice touch.

Snake meat contains roughly 93 calories per 100g (3.5 oz) of raw meat, depending on the type of snake. This is roughly half the calories and one third the amount of fat of a similar amount of sirloin beef steak. So if you are on a diet, leave off the lemon butter sauce!

Wine Dinner with Fall Creek Vineyards 3-10-11

We haven't had a wine dinner for nearly nine months. Beer Dinners, a whiskey dinner, but somehow we neglected wine. So, now is the time to polish the wine glasses and set the table.

My friend, Suzanne Fain, owner of the restaurant A Moveable Feast in Houston is cousins with the owners of Fall Creek Vineyards. Suzanne told me about Fall Creek wines several years ago when we met through the Slow Food movement, but The Turtle had been working with vineyards closer to home and I hadn't had the chance until a few months ago at a fair in Marble Falls to taste Fall Creek wines - nice, very nice.

The Turtle's Chef, Curt Sassak has been preparing for a wine pairing contest sponsored by Edible Austin. During our research we read about the first-ever Texas Sommelier Tasting during which nearly a dozen sommeliers and wine experts blind tasted more than 100 Texas wines to select their favorites that best represent Texas and its terroir. The tasting took place in Austin on Jan. 17. This information definitely influenced our Texas wine picks for the competition and for the restaurant. Tex Soms, the guys and gals wearing dark suits and Master Sommelier pins on their lapels are the creme de la creme of wine "tasters." They go through years of training and testing to achieve thir status. So, this really caught our eye, not one but two of Fall Creek's bottlings appeared on the Texas Sommelier Tasting list of Top Texas wines. Friendship aside, this is the best reason ever to show case Fall Creek wines with our food.

Here is the menu:

Chef's selection of canapes with Fall Creek 09 Chardonnay

First Course

Goat cheese panna cotta with pine nut tapenade, basil and balsamic reduction with Fall Creek Savignon Blanc

Main Course

Pan seared beef tenderloin medallion on an osso bucco ravioli, red wine jus and braised mushrooms with fresh thyme with Fall Creek 2006 Meritus (not on their web site and one of the Texas 100)


Muscat (Fall Creek Muscat Canelli) poached pear with pecan baklava and caramel gelato.

$45.00 per person including 3 glasses of wine, excluding tax and tip. Please make reservations by calling 325-646-8200 or on line at for March 10, 2011, 6pm - 8:00 pm.

David Alan to be guest Bartender at The Turtle Enoteca February 17, 2011

Each year, the 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup attracts teams of the world’s best bartenders to Queenstown, New Zealand for a week of intense competition. Our regional qualifying round for the 42Below Cocktail World Cup took place Sunday January 23rd, 2011 at Lustre Pearl in Austin, Texas.

What’s on the line:
- The top two winners of this competition will be flown to New York City to compete in the semi-finals.
- The winners of the semi-finals will then be sent to New Zealand where he/ she will represent the United States in the finals.

Click here for an in depth break down of the World Cup. Why are we posting about the 42Below World Cup? Because....

We just recieved word that our guest, David Alan, The Tipsey Texan, placed Gold in our division of the 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup in Austin, Texas, and is on his way to New York City!!! BUT before he leaves, David is making an appearance at The Turtle Enoteca, in Brownwood, Texas as our Guest Bartender. If you ever wanted to see a master mixiologist at work or taste some of the more estoeric and historic cocktails of our time, this is not a not to be missed opportunity. So be here - February 17, 2011 5:00pm - everyone leaves or closing time. The Turtle Enoteca, 510 Center Avenue, Brownwood, Texas 325-646-8200. Show David some Central Texan love.

Championship Punch

Alan created this burnt orange punch for New Year’s Eve and a certain national championship football game that took place on Jan. 7, 2009. “What’s cool about punch is that you’ve got something already prepared to give guests, which frees you up to be with them instead of mixing drinks,” he says. Not only can you make punch ahead of time, punch can also be cheaper than buying bottles of wine or enough spirits to make a variety of drinks.

Punch, which predates the cocktail, was originally made with rum or brandy mixed with citrus juice, tea or spices and was a communal drink at taverns. (That was a question on my final at Tipsey Tech) Alan says. “Instead of ordering a drink at a bar, you walked in and had whatever they were drinking and dipped a ladle out of the communal punch bowl.”

Uuse an old Jell-O mold or silicon Bundt pan to freeze a block of ice. A big piece of ice is better than smaller pieces because it will melt more slowly.

3 or 4 tangerines, Meyer lemons, oranges or lemons
1/2 cup demerara sugar (or white sugar)
6 oz. strong green tea, warm
24 oz. (about one 750 ml. bottle) Flor de CaƱ a 4-year Aged Rum (or other aged rum, such as Mount Gay or the Texas-made Railean )
6 oz. fresh squeezed tangerine juice
6 oz. fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
6-8 dashes Angostura bitters
1 oz. St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram (available at The Depot in Brownwood and fine liquor stores)

Over a punch bowl or glass pitcher, remove the zests of several tangerines, Meyer lemons, oranges or lemons. Be careful to remove only the outer zest and not the white pith, which is bitter. Leave the zests in the bowl and add sugar and warm green tea. Stir to dissolve sugar and allow to steep a few minutes.

Add rum, fruit juices, bitters and allspice dram. Strain mixture into a punch bowl. Add a large block of ice, which you can make by freezing water in a Jell-O mold, Bundt pan or half of a paper milk carton. Makes about a dozen 4-oz. servings.

—David Alan,

Balcones Whiskey Dinner February 12, 2011

Chip Tate in front of his hand built still at Balcones Distillery, Waco, Texas

Texas is the home to a number of new craft distillers of high quality spirits, Tito's Vodka, Paula's Orange to name a few. The Turtle Restaurant and Enoteca make a point of serving our great state's home brews, wines and spirits. We're here to help you discover the best that Texas offers in the way of food and drink as we welcome Balcones Baby Blue and Rumble to our spirits of Texas shelf.

Balcones Distillery is located under a bridge in Waco, Texas and is the closest distillery to Brownwood. Released in 2009, Baby Blue not the moonshine often associated with corn whiskey in the little brown jug. “Most of the stuff that’s marketed as corn whiskey on the shelf is junk,” Tate says during an Edible Austin interview. “We’re not just trying to make whiskey in Texas; we’re trying to make Texas whiskey. We are trying to create a tradition.”

Chip built his distillery system from scratch with a two-person crew in an old Waco warehouse under the shadow of the 17th Street railroad bridge. His stills are self built instruments with which he creates his spirits as a composer creates a symphony, layers of taste evoking memoeries and emotions. Chip was a dedicated homebrewer for 18 years then spent two years learning the art and science of distilling, including an apprenticeship in Scotland. His philisophy is learn from tthe best, use the best ingrediants, make the best spirits, do your best.

To make a unique and outstanding product, Tate imports Hopi blue corn from New Mexico. While he could purchase generic corn for 15¢ a pound, Tate insists the blue corn is worth the $1.60 price tag. “I just wanted the best corn,” he says. “It’s a question of flavor.”

Tate speeds up the maturation process by using much smaller barrels than other distilleries. “Our stuff is typically about four months old,” he notes, “which is about the equivalent of five to seven years in a larger barrel.” This is because there is more barrel surface available to each cubic centimeter of liquid and because of the atmospheric conditions in the distillery. For a more detailed explination, talk to Chip.

Baby Blue customers can be found coast to coast and in London, surrounded by coasts. Balcones Distillery won a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition which just confirms what we already know, that Baby Blue, Texas first whiskey since prohibition is first in taste.

Baby Blue, as well as their small barrel-aged fruit brandy, Rumble have become staples for bartenders in Texas' capital, like Tipsy Texan’s David Alan, who says that Baby Blue’s unusual flavors make it fun and challenging to work with. (Attention! David Alan will appear at The Turtle Enoteca on February 24 as a guest bartender. David is a master bartender and teacher) Lara Nixon, also a member of the Tipsy Tech teaching team and Balcones Distillery brand ambassador agrees. “The blue corn is delicate and complicated,” she says. “I like bright flavors and products that build on, and enhance, the blue corn properties. For example, lemon, cherries, oranges and blueberries . . . those are bright, fresh flavors that open up the blue-corn taste.”

Lara won the 2009 Edible Austin Drink Local Cocktail Contest with her Baby Blue-infused entry, We’re in It for the Corn (click to see the recipe). We are considering serving a taste of her cocktail with the chef's canapes as guest arrive or perhaps something new. Lara will be here at The Turtle along with Chip and his wife to meet and educate our guests about Balcones Distillery spirits. You will get to taste an early version of Baby Blue to compare with the significantly improved Baby Blue being bottled in 2011. Chip will also bring some Brimstone, a newly unvailed smokey whiskey to taste as a special bonus. This is Chips' version of "scotch" only instead of peat smoke we taste bar b que smoke destined to become an iconic spirit for Texan cuisine. (At least that's my thought)

We'll finish up with a taste of Rumble with or after dessert. Rumble will most certainly be IN the dessert. Dessert makers out there listen up, Rumble is a wonderful flavoring agent for all kinds of sweets. “It’s a play on rum but not really a rum,” says Chip. “It’s between rum and brandy, with single malt and tequila notes.” Rumble isn’t overly sweet but has a honeyed and slightly smokey aroma. “We sell a consumable fragrance,” says Tate. Smell is in fact the major part of the way something tastes. We eat with our eyes first, then our nose while our taste buds just confirm the first two senses. Rumble is in a category of it's own. Not a rum but almost a brandy. Rumble is distilled from Texas Wildflower Honey, Mission Figs and Demarara Sugar.

Here's the menu:

Chef's choice of canapes

First course: Chestnut gnocchi with smoked bacon, roasted garlic, wilted greens and veal jus (vegetarian option available)

Main course: choice of - Steak au poivre with potato and fennel gratin, wild mushrooms and brandy-mustard sauce
Duet of roasted duck breast and duck confit with mole sauce, wild rice pilaf

Dessert: assorted whiskey filled chocolates and Balcones Rumble Cake

$65.00 per person includes approximately four shots of various styles of distilled spirits from Balcones Distillery, a cocktail taste, coffee and tea. Plan to spend at least two hours over dinner and tastings. Seatings at 6:00, 6:30 and 7:00. Dinner without spirits is $40.00 Reservations can be made over the phone 325-646-8200 or on line The Turtle Restaurant is located at 514 Center Avenue, Brownwood, Texas


A Revolutionary Way To Make Spaghetti

Last night as we were getting ready for bed my husband sighed a long long sigh which was followed by, "Two years ago we were walking in the snow all over Bologna." Before I left the restaurant that evening, I had surfed the net late into the night looking for ideas for our next trip to Italy revisiting the website of the cooking school we previously attended and the variety of pastas we ate. I had looked at The Geomoetry of Pasta's web site . My mouth watered. I had ordered a garganelli board as my Christmas present and used it for the first time earlier that day. The curled garganelli tubes lay drying on the bread rack. We had the Bolognese pasta blues bad. I kept surfing for a taste of pasta. Another cooking blog suggested I watch a revolutionary way to make pasta. I did and it was.

This PEZ fellow is a genius. Andrew Pesapane gives alternative multiple lives to objects which then participate in a revolutionary way to make spaghetti.