The chili cook off has ended. Today we can see streams of RV’s heading north. What a week we have had. We saw lots of old friends. Some who have followed us on this blog, some who called in while we were still closed, some who dropped by last year when we were newly opened. Thanks to all of them and all of you for the encouragement. Thank you all for your unfailing good humor and the many laughs you gave us this last week.
In general our visitors have liked what they have seen and it’s really nice to be getting to know people that come back year after year. We have been told repeatedly that the chili people won’t come to La Kiva because they won’t drive during the cook-off. Wow. Is that wrong. We were mobbed night after night. That’s hard for us. We can’t go from one bar person and one server to three bar keepers, three servers and a bus boy for one week. The people just aren’t here and every other business in town want’s to increase staff at the same time. We loved having everyone but sometimes our service was slower than we would have wanted. Sorry about that. We are already working on strategies to improve the wait times for next year.
I think it is about time we added a championship chili to the menu. It’s coming up to the winter season and the cooler weather. Perfect for a good bowl of chili. I wonder what put that into my mind? You don’t think that it could be the fact that we just had over 300 cooks making fantastic chili just a few miles from our door do you? Grin. We did have a few people who came in demanding anything BUT chili.
The image at the top of this post show the state of La Kiva just over one year ago. Mere weeks before the 2015 Cook Off we finished the floors but we still had not completed the kitchen. Time passes so quickly. We survived our first year and we got through our second chili cook off with a working kitchen turning out good food at a prodigious rate. We are already looking forward to 2017 and planning to handle the crowds better than we did this year. We hope you all enjoyed our menu. See you next year.
Today is St. Patrick’s day and it is also the day that the great people at Dellco completed the ductwork they were building for us and came to complete the installation of the hoods. While delivering the ductwork they brought with them most of the remaining items to complete the equipment line up. That leaves us with two more steps to final completion of the kitchen. Step one is to get the ANSUL system installed (that’s the fire suppression system and is essential if we are to have insurance on the property). Step two is to get the approval of the health inspector. We have been very careful to work with the inspector at every step of the way and expect this to be both simple and easy. All in all, we feel are now in good shape.
This morning I was in the kitchen making sure that everything was on track. We had three kitchen installers, two electricians, one cook, one handyman, one cleaner, myself and three dogs including a Great Dane in the kitchen at one time. If we had any more help we would need a bigger kitchen.
The ANSUL installers are the last delay and they are scheduled to be on site on the 28th, 29th and 30th of March. That means that we are really close to being fully functional.
The next big thing is to have you sample our food. I get a LOT of questions about the menu. Let’s look at what we know we will have. First of all will be pizza. The intent is to provide you with Great pizza on a homemade crust. We may not be able to come up with a homemade gluten free crust that can compete with the frozen gluten free offerings but we will keep working on that. Initially we will be working on simple toppings such as cheese (Margherita pizza), pepperoni, sausage, mushroom and a meat lovers for example. We are going to be emphasizing quality. Home made crust and top quality ingredients. We want to take care of our vegan and vegetarian customers as well as those of you with gluten sensitivity. A major frozen pizza manufacturer was caught selling sausage pizza that contained no sausage (textured vegetable protein or soy) and no cheese (synthetic cheese) and as a final insult the crust had an inert filler that was made from a waste product from the paper making industry (sawdust). We will be going in the opposite direction and will make every effort to provide premium ingredients resulting in a pizza that is memorable and worth eating with absolutely no synthetic ingredients at all.
The next food group that we will be doing will be barbecue. We have gone to considerable trouble to locate and then buy and transport back the best barbecue cooker we could find. There is much mystery and black art to barbecue cooking and the basic rule seems to be that if you cook something and you describe it as barbecue, then it is barbecue. We do not mean that. When we cook barbecue we mean West Texas barbecue. We do not “mop” our meat with mystic ingredients nor do we pour a sweet and or vinegary sauce over the meat. We rely on the following four ingredients for flavor. Meat, smoke, salt and pepper. The meat should be good quality and if it is brisket, then it should have a good fat cap on it. Brisket can be tough and to get over that you have to cook low and slow so we have a fourteen hour cooking time using the finest ingredients and we use pecan wood for smoke. We do not use gas, electric or woods other than pecan for our cooking. Personally I prefer post oak but the current consensus is that pecan is preferred by more people than the oak. I want to do some taste testing and see if I can’t change some minds. It may be as simple as the people from West Texas have easier access to pecan and have developed a taste for it and post oak is more prevalent further east. Mesquite is for grilling and it makes barbecue too bitter and strongly flavored There have not been a lot of barbecue options in Terlingua for a while, but suddenly we had four options and that was before I started cooking. I think that one of those options has already closed and some of the others don’t have barbecue available every day. We plan on barbecue every day. I love it that we have got some serious competition. The poorest will not survive long and what is left will be really good barbecue. Right now we have some serious competition and that has to be a good thing.
The last food grouping will be the non pizza, none barbecue foods. steak, chops, pasta, fish, sandwiches etc.. Many of these items will only ever appear on the chalkboard. Corned beef and cabbage on the board for St. Patrick’s day, turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, a special Christmas dinner, fish and fries because chef found some great Atlantic cod or several pasta specials because we have a group of cyclists in town needing “carb loading”. Of course that is also where are chefs can “strut their stuff” and put on Boeuf Wellington or Duck a L’orange or whatever else they feel impelled to make.
The future is exciting and we are looking forward to it with anticipation.
This week on Saturday, 19th of March we will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. We have “The Battleground” from Los Angeles playing for us up until 10:00 and then our own Moses will be entertaining from 10:00 until 1:00. Come and join us and help us celebrate this once in a lifetime event.
We are in our seventh week since our opening and it has been busy. We survived the Chili Cook Off, both of them (yes there are two chili cook offs that occur simultaneously). The main feature from the chili heads was the praise we have received for the upgrades. Thank you all and we will see you next year.
We have lost both of our chefs. Chef Greg decided to invest in a food truck making Cuban food in Alpine, Texas. That’s different! While I have not yet had a chance to sample the food, I am certain that it will be good. If you see a large red bus with Cuba on its side, in Alpine, give it a try. From what I know of chef’s Greg and Anna you will not be disappointed.
Chef Elton decided that he had to join his wife in the frozen north. No word on what he will be doing yet. We wish him well in his new endeavours and offer our sincere thanks for the work he did on kitchen design and menu planning while he was with us.
The person who had agreed to install our hoods eventually had to back out, due to pressure of work on both him and his crew and the lack of availability of his mentor due to family issues, so we were once again back to square one. A visitor to the bar told us of someone who had recently had a similar style of hood installed. Josie and I took a road trip to see the hood and find out who the installer was. It was a little involved but we eventually found someone who can do the work. It’s a company in Odessa with 35 years experience in installing this style of hood. Our hood problems look as though they will soon be over. Keep your fingers crossed because the new kitchen will then soon be completed and we can finally start serving food.
The 17 year tradition of Wednesday open mic nights has been restarted and the word is spreading. We are seeing an uptick in the number of musicians who turn up wanting to take part. This week we had a singer who came out of a 20 year retirement, a grade school violinist who wowed us all, a banjo player, a group of lady entertainers who rotated through the stage, a couple of guys with guitars serenaded us, a musician playing a set of Scottish Smallpipes played some Ewan MacColl and Jack Night hosted the evening. Wow. That was just spectacular and part of the fun is that we didn’t know what was coming next. We hope every one of our entertainers comes back and gives us some more. The audience responded enthusiastically. By any measure it was a spectacular event.
Today, Friday the 27th of November, we have Hogan and Moss playing, starting at 7:30. You’re in for some great music.
La Kiva opened after a fourteen month long refurbishing. The sale of La Kiva triggered a number of things. A totally new sanitation system, new restrooms and a new kitchen. While the bar is now open and working the kitchen needs some finishing off. It will be a few more weeks before we can provide great food to everyone.
The delay with the kitchen is that we have been unable to get anyone to travel to Terlingua to install our vent hoods. It’s as though when you looked up Terlingua on the map it was one of those very old maps that said things like “Here be dragons.” and then following it up with drawings of fearsome sea creatures. Help is at hand though and I think I have found someone who can do the job. Fingers crossed.
The bar opened on Monday the 12th of October and it has been an eventful week. The usual crop of opening problems. Who does what and when do they do it? We should have a system for that and where do we order Tonic Water from? Really, it was not bad. The staff have all been great and have put in many extra hours to try and get things done in a timely manner. Overall, I am very satisfied. We got great comments from almost everyone who visited. Sure, there were a couple who bemoaned the fact that it “was not the same”. That is part of the problem. It could never re-open as it was. If it did we would be immediately closed down because we are not grandfathered. That and the fact that it lay empty and unattended for six months meant that the infrastructure degraded even further making major repairs necessary. Thank you all for the encouragement and support. It means a great deal to know that the vast majority of you like what we did and are encouraging us to keep on improving La Kiva. I think we are satisfied with the interior so once we have the kitchen sorted out we can refurbish the cave room. After that we will work on the patio and the stage area. Lots still to do so we won’t get bored anytime soon.
This week was marked by appearances of Al Barlow and friends on Tuesday night, The Bartons with guest Jack Plat on Thursday night, the Doodlin Hogwallops on Friday night and Alex and Marti Whitmore on Saturday night. It’s nice to hear music in La Kiva again.
Next week La Kiva will be restarting the 17 year tradition of Wednesday night open mic.. The open mic night this week will be hosted by Mike Casper “Dr. Fun” and will run from 8:00 PM to 10:30. We would love to see you there.
La Kiva is planning bringing back Karaoke on Tuesday nights. Watch for more information on this in the next few days.
To end the first week of operation for La Kiva there was a wedding. Carmen Gonzales, the manager of El Conquistadore, a restaurant in Waco, Texas was married to Wayne Mays, a brick mason also of Waco in a quiet and touching ceremony on the patio of La Kiva in Terlingua, Texas. The ceremony was performed by Jeff Haislip who went on to entertain the guests with his music. Wow. What a great way to end our first week and all our best wishes to the young couple.
Friday the 16th of October we have the Doodling Hogwallops playing at La Kiva. That is this week!!!!
Chef Elton of La Kiva in front of a pirate ship that has the “Doodlin’ Hogwallops” playing the Rocket Fuel Party in Terlingua Ghost Town for the Fire and EMS fundraiser. Now beat that for an improbable caption for a photo’?
After 14 months of seemingly endless setbacks we opened La Kiva last night. We were full from opening to closing. I have never seen more cars in the parking lot. We were visited by Big 2 Television out of Midland Odessa.
We received loud praise from all and there were many smiling faces. It gets even better tonight when “Al Barlow and Friends” put on a show for us so live music tonight at La Kiva.
We have a full week of music. Tuesday night we have “Al Barlow and Friends” from eight to 10.
Thursday we have “The Bartons” with guests including Jack Platz, an Australian. They will be on from eight to ten.
Friday. Nothing scheduled but we are working on a booking for Friday, more news to follow.
Saturday we are to be serenaded by “The Whitmores”. Alex and Marti will entertain us from 7:30 until 11:00.
On Wednesday of next week we are going to try for the first open mic. night at the new La Kiva. This is a Kiva tradition that we simply can not lose because it was so important to Glen and to so many of you. That’s right. Open mic is coming home. I think the last run was 886 consecutive weeks (if I am wrong I would love to hear from you). That’s 17 years without missing. We will be starting out at 886+1 and we hope it will all come together for next week, October 21st.
This day has been long in the making but we are finally able to give you an opening date. The bar will be open for business on the 12th of October, 2015. That’s Columbus Day. We will have COLD beer both long necks and draft. This is not the grand opening but it is a start.
While the bar will be open the kitchen will not. We still have some finishing touches to do in the Kitchen. We are waiting for equipment to be delivered, the exhaust hoods to be fitted, the outdoor walk in to be commissioned etc.. I am not even hazarding a guess for when we can call ourselves a restaurant again.
I know this is short but I am being pressed for time on all sides. I am trying to find a good band for the Saturday night following our opening and I must also get a TABC licence for another event off site. That and a host of other things so goodbye for now and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
It has been a long time since I posted an update and I have been waiting until I had something of importance to say. It seemed for a long time that I was simply posting to tell you all what had gone wrong or was delayed or what new disaster had befallen us. I am delighted to say that I not only have no bad news but I have some good news. La Kiva opened for the Viva Terlingua music festival running from August 20th through the 23rd. We enjoyed four days of fabulous music that was an absolute delight. During the festival we met an amazing number of wellwishers. Thank you all.
On opening night the bar was staffed by three old friends of the community. We had our prime contractor, Jack Sullivan, our amazing bulldozer driver, Fred Porter and Jimmy from Passing Wind (the pirate ship on FM 170). These three got us off to a fantastic start and we could not have had a better crew to get us going. They laughed and joked their way through the entire evening on the first night and somehow managed to keep everyone served. Truly some great talent. I just wish I could find a way of keeping all three behind the bar. That would be a riot. As some wag noted, the bar at La Kiva was staffed by a blind man, a deaf man and a drunk. I leave it as an exercise for you to figure out which was which.
We got a few criticisms on the new La Kiva and I mostly agreed with the people criticising us.
First, the bar was too bright. True. It may have been the bright sparks we had behind the bar or it could be that we had temporary lighting up over the bar and buffet. When we get the final lighting in place we will be far less bright and it will be on a dimmer and we won’t have our stars behind the bar so it should back it off quite a bit.
Not enough bar stools. True. We only had three. We will fix that.
It was too hot in the kitchen. True. It was infernally hot but the reason is that there was a minor power outage. In recovering from the outage one of the three large AC’s tripped over into heating mode and pumped a LOT of hot air into the kitchen before we figured out what was happening. Ooooops.
The rumor mill was in high gear and a number of new rumors surfaced. I am not going to run over the satellite dish with a bulldozer or anything else by Wednesday, I never was going to and I certainly never threatened to do so. I promised it to Anna almost a year ago and it is being held in safekeeping for her. Other rumors included large quantities of MJ and racists and I may be the first restaurant ever to get a health complaint BEFORE OPENING. When you hear one of these rumors consider the source and the motivation. We have a small group of mischief makers out there and nothing seems too outrageous for them. Many years ago I had a bar in England. One night a very upset lady came blasting into my bar demanding to know what I was going to do about her Fred. It seems that Fred had absconded with the payroll from the nut factory taking my wife and the company Mercedes with him. I was astonished and in frank disbelief. I walked into our adjacent living quarters and invited my wife, Josie, to join us in the bar and to hear the story first hand. Whilst the rumors about Fred proved to be true, the ones about my wife did not. On yet another occasion I was reputed to have a string of hookers working for me in London. If I did, they weren’t very good because I never got a penny from any of them.
The problems we had with the opening were minor, the food was great and despite the fact that it was a simple buffet we got rave reviews across the board. I may be biased but I greatly enjoyed the food myself and if this is a sample of what our chefs can do we will be in for some treats.
The new location for the indoor stage worked well and both musicians and audience were happy. The sound quality and the ability to watch the band were vastly improved.
The old restrooms were replaced by new facilities.
What you can’t see is that there are two new waterless urinals. That saves around 4,500 gallons each per year and in the desert that matters.
None of this is quite finished but we have made huge progress. Now that the Viva Terlingua festival is over, we are closing again for a few weeks while we finish off the kitchen and a few other odds and ends that need attention. If everything works out the way it should, we will be opening up for good towards the end of September. In the meantime, laugh at the rumors but don’t get too irritated at the rumor mongers. Generally their intention are thoughtless , not unkind.
The La Kiva flirtation with being a topless bar has come to an end. Jack Sullivan, (Porter Construction our long suffering prime contractor) in a desperate attempt to avoid being thrown under the bus again, (private joke but Jack knows what I mean) decided to put some tin on the roof. When the tin was half on and the other half just had a waterproof membrane we had a spectacular, if brutal, hail storm. Inside, La Kiva stayed mostly dry. True there was a bit of wet inside, at the ends, but considering the beating we had just taken, it wasn’t bad. The very next day Jack and his crew put the other side of tin on as well as the cap over the ridge. Wow. That night we had heavy rain and there was not one spot on the main body of La Kiva that let in rain. That changes the game considerably. Diners will no longer have to complain about watery soup. People at the bar will get full strength drinks, all the time. Water will be upon request rather than dependant upon where you stand. This is truly a new era.
Friday, the new air conditioning units arrive. I studied air conditioners carefully before I decided on a course of action. I then went out for quotes. One quote was ridiculous, $65,000, and then, without me saying a word I got a new quote for $10,000 less from the same guy. Wow, thought I. He can knock $10,000 off without me saying a word? Hmmm. I think someone thought they were going to the Bahamas for Christmas. To keep everyone honest I got a second quote from a highly recommended vendor. This quote came in at $85,000. It seemed to me that this one was not only going to the Bahamas for Christmas but he was spending the whole winter there along with his extended family. I got annoyed and did the calculation for the heat load myself. It came to 10.5 tons of cooling.
You may be wondering what a ton of cooling is. I found out. It is the amount of cooling that would be provided by a ton of ice over a 24 hour period and it is equivalent to 12,000 B.T.U’s per hour(if you really want to know what a B.T.U is come into the bar some time and I will give a physics lecture that explains it all). So, to cool La Kiva down on the hottest days, I would need 10.5 tons of ice per hour or the equivalent. Looking at the hottest time of year being any month where the average temperature is above 80 degrees that takes us from April to October or 210 days. Now 210 days times 10.5 tons times 10 hours per day is 22,050 tons. Calculating the cost of shipping that much ice down from Wisconsin (where the ice is free, in fact they will load your truck for free if you will just haul it out of there) I concluded that we couldn’t afford to use ice as the cooling medium.
Swamp coolers are cheap and they work great. Except when it gets hot and the monsoon starts (so when you really need them) they quit working. They do add to your misery by ensuring that it is so humid you can’t evaporate sweat. Instead, it just sits on you making you wetter and more irritable and encouraging mould to grow on you. I found the most modern air conditioning units out there and they sure aren’t cheap. They are called mini split heat pumps. Buying three of these beasts and having a local guy install them, I discovered that I can get my 10.5 tons of cooling bought, paid for and installed for just about $20,000 dollars. OK so that is still a lot of money but that includes reverse cycle heating in the cooler times of the year and it less than half the price of the cheapest quote I got and less than a quarter of the more expensive one and a great deal cheaper than hauling free ice from Wisconsin.
The walk in coolers and freezer were ordered on the 14th of April with a five day shipping. So they should have been here a long time ago. Yesterday I got irritated and pulled up my purchase order and was about to call the manufacturer and have a very serious discussion with him when the phone went. It was Old Dominion Trucking in Billings, Montana. The dispatcher had figured out that Terlingua was on the Mexican border not the Canadian border. Yeh well, that was an oopsy for someone. They are now enroute to Dallas and then on a different truck to Terlingua. Finally. Then, on Friday the 15th of April, long after everyone had gone home, a truck arrived. It was too soon to be a truck from Billings but it did contain a cooler. There was no heavy piece of equipment that I could use to help unload this 2,000 lb behemoth. I rushed next door to my friend Lico’s establishment and found a lone person, just getting ready to leave for the weekend. He came round with a large forklift and unloaded my cold room (this is the important one, it’s the beer cooler). Thank you Lico Miller and thank your driver as well.
This gets monotonous. I called the people supplying the exhaust hoods for the kitchen. When I finally got through to the right person he acted as though I was from Mars or something. He tried to tell me that I hadn’t ordered anything from them so I gave him the invoice number and explained the money went from my account weeks ago. “Ooops”. He actually said that. So that’s another snafu that is now, hopefully, fixed.
This is beginning to get interesting. We have most of a waterproof roof with gutters, a cold room with another one on the way, the AC is en route, the hoods for the kitchen will soon be en route, the electrics are coming together, the final structure for the bathroom is being completed, the ceilings are being sheet rocked in the kitchen and bathrooms. We are almost ready to finish off the septic system. Looking promising.
If you can remember the St. Patricks day Rocket Fuel Party then you weren’t there. That is a bit of an exaggeration but there were a couple of people who should have had a notice put round their necks. “FUELING COMPLETE. NO SMOKING.” They were obviously tourists.
WOW. That was Terlingua in full force. The party was a fundraiser for the Volunteer Fire and EMS. When all of the commitments are in we expect to squeak just over $5,000.00. We have already handed over $4,800.00 to Greg Hennington, our fire chief. I think the community should be proud of that achievement and I mean the winter Texans as well. Thank you all.
This was the first chance we have had to cook on the new barbeque pit so we were a little nervous. Would everything work OK and would the BBQ be top quality?
The first problem was that the pile of “Oak” turned out to be anything but. We weren’t going to cook with mystery wood. The panic was on. No suitable wood and only one day to go. By a strange twist of fate I had just met Don Baucham of the Rustic Iron BBQ rusticironbbq.com Don stepped in and donated some wood to the cause. He delivered it and stacked it and it was Oak and Mesquite and I was smiling again. Thanks Don. It is just possible that Don will be setting up a BBQ trailer somewhere in Terlingua/Study Butte. That will be great. This is Texas and we are supposed to have barbeque joints. Until La Kiva opens the closest one is “Come and Get It “in Fort Davis. “Friday and Saturday, 5:00 p.m. ’til it’s gone
Sunday, 11:00 a.m. until we run out” so hurry up and join us Don.
Wood problem solved, we prepped the meat and did a test firing of the BBQ. It worked and the dampers all worked properly. Smoke came out of the HUGE smokestack, it filled the main chamber and the monster rotisserie rack went round just the way it was supposed to. Smiles all round. We set the temperature and watched the needle creep ever closer to the set temperature and when it reached it all sorts of servos kicked in and flaps closed over air vents and the temperature stopped dead on the correct temperature. We watched it for a while and it stayed rock solid where it was supposed to so we went home.
At ten o’clock Elton and I headed for passing wind. Elton loaded the BBQ while I loaded the firebox. Two slightly smug individuals added the last touches and prepared to leave. Elton called “I am setting it going.” and then there was a flash and a bang and everything stopped. Elton looked devastated. I think he had visions of us staying up all night feeding the fire with one stick at a time and trying to control the temperature while robbed of our automation and with no backup manual control. Ouch. What Elton didn’t know was that I am not only an engineer that does abstruse calculations while someone else executes my designs. I can actually fix stuff. I headed back to La Kiva and grabbed my tool kit. Within half an hour I had the front off the machine and the problem fixed. It took me a little while to track down the breaker which had blown when we had our problem but once I had done that we were golden. We hung around until it reached temperature and then we stayed on until it had gone through a couple of cycles of temperature adjustment just to make absolutely sure it was working and we went home to bed.
Next morning we headed for passing wind to find the smoker had maintained the temperature within two degrees of where we had set it the night before. It smelled great. We wrapped the briskets and turned the temperature down to the holding temperature. While Elton prepped the beans and baked potatoes I got the fire going in the small smoker so that we could do baked potatoes and authentic Ranch style beans. To make a long story short the potatoes came out with just enough perfume from the smoke to make them interesting, the brisket was great and the beans were the best I have ever had.
The party got started when the Doodlin Hoggwallops tuned up. The weather was a little spotty but it didn’t stop anything. The Hoggwallops played through a rain shower and got a cheer for that. The music was good the food was good and the company was fantastic.