Monday, March 2, 2009

Tex Mex, New Mex, and 3200 Miles of Pavement, Part 4

Heading south from Dallas/Fort Worth, we motor to Austin for a quick family visit over lunch. The trip flies by in about three and a half hours when using the interstate 35 which connects Dallas/Fort Worth to Austin, San Antonio…and further, Mexico. Pulling off of the highway in Austin and navigating through the neighborhoods of 1920’s bungalows just north of the University of Texas I am struck by the Bozeman-ness of it all. Lots of people on bikes everywhere. The coffee shops are full. Don’t any of these people have jobs?

We stopped for lunch at Asti and I enjoyed a panino on fresh bread with spicy capicola, mozzarella, and black olive tapenade – served with a pile of chewy-crunchy in all the right ways skinny shoestring fries. The fresh bread did very well in its union of olive oil and heat – that is to say that is was browned nicely and produced a great crunch on each bite. The salty/spicy combination of spicy capicola ham and the olive tapenade made for a deliciously satisfying lunch. For desert I had a simple macchiato (which, by the way, did not contain the much written-about-on-this-blog rosetta in the foam. I suppose that I am biased whereas I feel If I can bother to work the foam in such a manner on my puny little home espresso machine, any place that claims the name “trattoria” should deliver on all things Italian, including espresso, no?). Also ordered at the table for was a Chiffon Mascarpone Cheesecake. It was every bit as light as its name would suggest. About the size of a slightly tall hockey puck and served with a few roasted grapes.

After our lunch stop in Austin we continue to plunge deeper into the Texas Hill Country where we plan to stay with Jen's family in Boerne, Texas. Boerne is a charming Hill Country Town that is a mix of old-time German residents, new money looking to escape more urban areas of Texas and Latinos. If two populations influenced this culture most is the Germans that settled this area and the Latinos that, well, also settled this area. This is evident in the more locally authentic restaurants were both German and Mexican food are represented. No kidding. One of my favorite twists of these two unlikely food cultures is a dish from the Welfare Cafe in Welfare, Texas where you can get any number of traditional schnitzels; but, you can also get Chicken Fredericksburg, which is a perfect example of worlds colliding...."Chicken breast sautéed with peaches, jalapenos and onions. Finished in a white wine cream sauce. Garnished with crumbled pecans. Served with spätzel and vegetable." Sounds weird, tastes great.

The Hill Country and nearby San Antonio present additional opportunities to sample more high-grade Tex-Mex cuisine. We make another pilgrimage of sorts to San Antonio's Alamo Cafe and enjoy simple cheese and onion enchiladas in a classic chile con carne sauce. True chile con carne should be steeped in both earthy chile flavor and beefy goodness. The enhciladas don't dissapoint in this department. Also central to any Tex-Mex meal are the fresh and readily available chips and salsa...both which appear within seconds of sitting down at the table. For extra decadence we order a side of chile con queso. Thin, yellow-y, and mildly spicy, the cheese sauce coats each chip delicately - just the right amount of creaminess, thickness and spiciness. This is Tex-Mex comfort food at its best. Also presented to diners at Alamo are containers of just-made pillowy flour tortillas. Just in case you wanted to put that queso on something else other than a chip, your lunch plate....or your face. See above photo for half-devoured Alamo Cafe lunch.

We are looking forward to our stay in the Hill Country and the visit to the site of our wedding, the Heath Ranch on the banks of the Guadalupe. That visit to the ranch and what a Comfort, Texas butcher has to offer to the world of hand-made cured meats awaits...

Aren't vacations fabulous?

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