Welcome to another installment of Travels with Frenchie, the monthly food series in which a trio of culturally mismatched San Antonians explores our city’s culinary nooks and crannies. As before, the team consisted of: Frenchie (aka Fabien Jacob, sommelier at Le Rêve), Carlos the Bike Mechanic (aka Carlos Montoya, informal taco scholar), and me (recovering vegan and occasional taco-truck stalker). Frenchie brought this month’s guest, Mat Kubo, a Hawaiian performance artist who recently moved to San Antonio. Mat is also quite a foodie, and I don’t say that just because he was able to explain to me the intricacies of the Hawaiian fascination with Spam. For a brief background on Mat’s artistic work, check out his blog — matkubo.blogspot.com.
This month we decided to get in on the Tuesday grill-night action at Tucker’s Kozy Korner. The premise: People bring their own food and Robert Smoots, Tucker’s master griller, cooks it for them. For those on a budget, this concept is like the best of both worlds: You get the feeling of going out to dinner without the typical expense. Whereas most customers brought burgers or steaks, Frenchie pulled some connections and got a rabbit flown in from Oregon. We considered asking him for more details but decided it was more interesting not to know.
According to Frenchie, when rabbit is served in France it is customary for the restaurant to show you the head of the rabbit — not to get all “Ted Nugent” about the death, but to confirm to the patron that they aren’t eating cat, which evidently was a rampant fraud during the lean years of World War II. Frenchie forgot to bring the rabbit’s head, which resulted in some sarcastic whispering and another layer of complexity — for those who are turned off by the thought of eating a rabbit, the idea of eating a cat makes that rabbit seem a lot more enticing.
Frenchie considered a mustard and white wine marinade but instead went with this simple but effective recipe:
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Several fresh cloves of garlic
• Bay leaves
• Mesquite-smoked sea salt
After marinating the rabbit all day, we arrived at Tucker’s at 7 p.m. I went to the Central Market deli beforehand and picked up a few more items: carrots and snap peas, wilted spinach, and rice. You can’t have rabbit without rice.
After the rabbit hit the grill we were able to enjoy the timeless style of Tucker’s, a historic nightclub on the near East Side. The new owners remodeled about three years ago and have maintained the club’s Eastside roots while accommodating the occasional downtown hipster.
We enjoyed several Shiners while the the rabbit cooked low and slow for about 50 minutes. If the coals had been super-hot, the rabbit could have been ready sooner, but no one complained with the final results. The taste brought comparisons to, of course, chicken, but the meat was much leaner than that of a typical chicken raised in dreary prison-like conditions. No, this rabbit had a life of freedom before crossing paths with some Northwest fur trapper.
The rabbit-chicken conversation proceeded like a Seinfeld script. We wondered if some restaurant in town should consider chicken-frying a rabbit. We’re convinced it could be a hit as the combination would be familiar but strange.
Tucker’s grill night was a solid success. As the weather improves, you can enjoy sitting outside on the patio by the grill with a cold drink and the sounds of the amazing juke box. If we had known Tucker’s had a freezer we would have brought our new favorite dessert to end the night: ice cream sandwiches dipped in brandy. But it was time to move along, and so the travels continue … •
Travels with Frenchie appears the last Wednesday of every month.