Asked for recommendations, Troy Witherspoon’s first words to me were “oxtail empanadas.”
Then the co-owner and chef of Craft Infusion rattled off three more dishes, each sounding more interesting than the one before.
He had my undivided attention.
Witherspoon is a beer geek. In addition to being a home brewer, he loves to cook with beer, especially local craft brews. That said, the cook also will feature specialty brews from around the country, if the beer has something unique to offer.
Take, for example, the Raspberry Tart Ale from the New Glarus Brewery Company. Witherspoon uses the Wisconsin ale in a dessert he amusingly calls Beer-A-Misu.
For the dessert, Witherspoon dips his homemade ladyfingers in the beer, rendering them extremely moist and somewhat tart. He also mixes the ale with fresh mascarpone, turbinado sugar and fresh raspberries, which add additional tartness. A sprinkling of cocoa powder on top and you have a spectacularly rich and creamy dessert. One in which you can definitely taste the influence of the beer.
As for those oxtail empanadas, Witherspoon braises the oxtails in Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company’s Gingerbread Stout (along with some clove, cinnamon and nutmeg) until the meat falls apart. The spices and beer give the dish a distinctly Jamaican quality. The stout also goes into the flaky pastry encasing the oxtails.
In the center of the empanada is a pickled grape, which adds unexpected tartness, acidity and texture.
Other Craft Infusion dishes include Buffalo Livers (deep-fried chicken livers with a spicy Saint Arnold’s Elissa-infused Buffalo sauce) and Corn Dog Bites (featuring house-made bratwurst spiked with Karbach’s Weisse Versa) with homemade mustard. The latter looks a lot like hush puppies but with a distinct beer flavor.
Witherspoon was formerly the sous chef at Petrol Station, which last spring closed its kitchen for several months during a remodeling and expansion.
“When we were redoing the kitchen, we invited a lot of food trucks out, and so I got to meet the truck owners and spend some time in the trucks. I got the bug,” Witherspoon said.
Find Craft Infusion’s next stop at facebook.com/CraftInfusion.
Paul Galvani is the author of the upcoming guide Houston's Top 100 Food Trucks.