Texas perfume: smoke culture

I drive down Manor and past Hoover's Cooking every day on my way to work. And, in recent months, I'd noticed a newer addition of a Hoover's food truck selling "Tex-Mex-icue" and wafting free "Texas perfume" to passing pedestrians and cars...

Hoover Alexander extended an invitation to the Austin Food Bloggers' Alliance to have us out and sample some of his items. And I'm glad he did, because there is a lot more going on at Hoover's than I realized! Known mainly for their delicious, but heavy, soul food (think meatloaf and fried chicken), Hoover has been getting in touch with his roots by supporting local farms and food producers. As a fifth generation Texan who grew up with a farming family, he says, "We didn't have some of the adjectives we now associate with the movement, like local, seasonal...but that's what we were doing!"

Hoover serves up a feast

He also describes what they're doing at the barbecue trailer as "smoke culture"-- as in, the meats aren't the only thing getting the Texas perfume!  Here, you'll find smoked veggies like garlic, onion, beets, mushrooms, and carrots used in sides and salsas.

watermelon and beet agua fresca

Agua fresca couldn't be more well-received on this familiarly tepid Texas evening! Frozen lemonade is also available daily.

Texas caviar, and some absolutely fantastic salsa to go with the TexMexicue wraps

The Texas caviar above (black eyed peas, Bragg's amino acids, smoked garlic vinaigrette, smoked onion, agave nectar, smoked tomatoes and chipotle peppers) was sold inside collard green wraps at Hoover's Soular Food Trailer, which is now used for special events. That trailer, which still lives on East 12th Street, was his first attempt at "utilizing culturally and regionally familiar things, things people think of as soul food, comfort food," and presenting them in healthier ways. When he realized people were coming to the truck expecting the traditional comfort food found in his well-known brick and mortar, he decided to bring all these elements together in this barbecue trailer.

pulled pork, beans, cole slaw

Hoover talked with us about ordering from urban farms like Johnson's Backyard Garden, and added "I don't want to abandon what we built our name on, but I just call it widening the embrace." I could definitely taste the freshness in the colorful cole slaw you see above!

thick-cut, tender brisket served TexMexicue style-- with tortilla and salsa-- and zesty cowboy beans

I was curious as to what made it TexMexicue.. Hoover explained that, while his mom and dad were his first culinary influence growing up, TexMex was his second. (He even remembers Green and White Grocery when you could buy tamales there! And did I mention his first restaurant job was at the historic Frisco Shop??) At his trailer, you can choose to get your barbecue tradition-style, TexMex with tortillas and several types of salsas (both the verde salsa and the smoked fuego salsa were excellent), or even TexCzech-- on kolache bun sliders-- in a ode to the sausage culture of central Texas!

smoked turkey and chimicurri

Fresh chimuchurri is another unexpected (and delicious!) option, and I loved it spread on this perfectly brined, smoked turkey, wrapped up with a tortilla! Somehow not pictured (I was in a bit of a food coma by the end of it) is the sausage Hoover customizes at super-local Texas Sausage Company on East 12th Street. It was a blend of pork and beef with garlic and black pepper-- moist but not at all greasy and completely preservative and nitrate-free. He's currently working with them to create a chicken version.

from-scratch banana pudding

We ended our feast with housemade banana pudding (*swoon*). No instant pudding here! You could taste the richness of fresh eggs and real vanilla in the base, layered with firm, cold slices of banana and a crumble of crunchy vanilla wafers. Granted I am a sucker for this dessert, but this was one of the better versions I've had. 

It would totally sit outside in the Texas heat just for this banana pudding, with a side of beet agua fresca. (That counts as breakfast, right?)