Coming from the Midwest, where "crawdads" were something you marveled at in creekbeds during grade-school field trips, a visit to the Texas Crawfish & Music Festival in Old Town Spring last weekend was a revelation.
The festival, now in its 24th year, will run each of the next two weekends: from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, noon to midnight on Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. We'd recommend the drive up I-45. Homey, pleasant setting aside, the grub was great. We picked up our three pounds of mini-lobsters (plus two boiled redskin potatoes and a chunk of corn, for $13) from a guy with a floppy, basset hound face who extolled the virtues of his approach but refused to elaborate. The little crustaceans were clearly hanging out in a simmering brine of cayenne, salt, lemons and onions, but beyond that we can't be sure.
Regardless, these were big 'uns, and they were good. The gritty sea salt and cayenne mixture had worked its way into every crevice. The whole, wonderful experience was like sucking on the spicy sea. Look for our hound dog buddy next to Mystic India Bazaar at 324 Gentry.
In comparing our catch with fellow Eating Our Words blogger Ruthie Johnson's (she grabbed a $15 plate from The Loose Caboose, at the corner of Gentry and Preston), there were a few discernible differences.
Our crawfish were bigger and boiled longer, we decided. A darker shade of red in color, they shared far less juice from the head, and -- it seemed -- were a bit milder than the offerings from the 'Caboose Crew,' as the T-shirts put it. Pick your poison; both were good.
Having burned off half the calories of our feast thanks to an amateurish shelling style, we wandered up to the corner of Main and Preston, where we found John "JP" Price selling Crawlinks, his trademarked one-third crawfish and two-thirds pork sausages. We thought $6 a bit steep ($7 if served in a lightly toasted pita), and the casing a bit thick, but we're suckers for a good sausage, and Price's The Texas Cajun Sausage Company carries a solid product.
The sweet crawfish hint followed by the salty fattiness of the pork, with some cayenne kick, was a welcome combination. Price, who hails from Leakey, said he's proud the spice appeals to many palates, building only so far and then stopping.
We should note the sausages are bigger than a standard hot dog, so $6 isn't highway robbery.
Tickets for the festival are $10 at the gate; we found parking for $5 at Immanuel United Church of Christ (26501 Border Street).