It’s the end of the month and therefore time for another installment of Travels with Frenchie, the monthly food series in which a trio of culturally mismatched San Antonians explores the city and beyond in search of dining adventure. As always, the culinary vice squad consisted of: Frenchie (aka Fabien Jacob, sommelier), Carlos the Bike Mechanic (aka Carlos Montoya, a man who eats only obscure fruits and grilled meats), and me (a physician-assistant student and known taco-truck stalker). This month’s special guest (an indie-rock drummer and aspiring vintner) canceled, so we happily brought back last month’s guest, Carlos Matutes, the Other Bike Mechanic.
Through his work as a massage therapist, Matutes has inside knowledge of New Age dietary habits, as funny as that sounds. I wouldn’t have thought this would be important until we met him 10 a.m. Saturday morning in the Current parking lot and headed off for our most mysterious destination yet. He took us towards Seguin in search of the little known Farm to Table Gospel Café at the Everything Jesus Ranch.
I perused the MooJesus website on my iPhone as we hurtled past fields of wildflowers, and noticed they espouse an environmental appreciation for the Earth and critique the corporate food industry. The owners also claim that the Everything Jesus Ranch (aka the MooJesus Dairy Farm) is the only raw dairy farm in Texas where the cows are still milked by hand.
Raw dairy exists on the fringe. The FDA enforces pasteurization with few exceptions because it “kills harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses.” Advocates for raw dairy, on the other hand, argue that pasteurization also kills much of milk’s health benefits and flavor. I’ve heard humorous stories of under-the-table raw-milk transactions occurring on the periphery of farmers markets. I imagine illegal raw-milk deals have their own coded language, just like the drug trade. (“You got the Hill Country White? You know, the kind milk? I’ll meet you underneath the oak tree in 30 minutes … ”)
Everything Jesus ranch produces grass-fed cattle, free-range chickens, naturally grown produce, and a variety of raw dairy products, which they sell, including, milk, butter, whey, and sour cream. Once we were seated in the café, our vivacious waitress brought us a pitcher of fresh milk, which in this context worked sort of like an aperitif. None of us are big milk drinkers, but this milk was exceptional: full, rich, creamy, but without any of the queasy side effects.
We were encouraged to take a hike down to the dairy farm to see the cows while our meal was being prepared so we could develop a connection to the milk’s source. People come here to camp, fish, tube the river, and ... milk the cows! I imagine families and kids would absolutely love this experience.
About 40 minutes later we hiked back to the café for brunch, which consisted of several small courses. A pineapple-ginger-whey smoothie came first, and we appreciated its freshness, simplicity, and unexpected combination of ingredients. Next came a side of raw yogurt with peaches and sprouted granola. Matutes thought it was the best yogurt he’d ever tasted. Frenchie, too, raved about the quality of the dairy products. The yogurt has a sharp, tart flavor. Being a former vegan, I’m still hesitant to dive into a bowl of squirmy dairy, but it began to win me over.
The final round consisted of a frittata with grape tomatoes, crème fraiche, and a garlicky avocado spread. Montoya was a little disappointed, only because he thrives off of beef and was hoping to taste some of the ranch’s grass-fed cuts. The farm-fresh eggs were cooked wonderfully — firm enough to hold together, but soft enough to dissolve in our mouths. The frittata was served with a blue-corn cracker lathered in raw butter, which has quite a strong flavor as well.
The quality of ingredients at Everything Jesus is incredible, and in some ways we kind of expected this. What I didn’t expect was the skill and originality of the cook. Very few ingredients were used, but everything had an interesting twist.
Frenchie had to rush back to work so we weren’t able to stick around as long as we would have liked. A trip to the MooJesus Raw Dairy Farm is much more than a meal. We left with full stomachs and a box filled with ice, raw-dairy products, and grass-fed beef. Though we were probably just as cynical and sarcastic as when we arrived, everyone seemed slightly more enlightened by the end.
Frenchie: This is a great place for the family. Excellent dairy products. I’d love to go back to camp.
Carlos the Bike Mechanic: I overheard one of the other diners say “this is the best-kept secret in San Antonio.” Technically, it’s in Seguin, but I see what they mean.
Carlos the Other Bike Mechanic: The bone-in ribeyes that I brought home were beautiful cuts, and grilled up tender and full of iron-laden beefiness.
Me: A true dining adventure, both geographically and enzymatically. Leave SA by 10, get there for lunch, and make sure you have time because the EJ Ranch is on “country time.”