The idea of going to Texas happened while walking across the Williamsburg Bridge after having dinner with my friend Anneliese at Diner recently. And by the way Diner is delicious and where I had my first grass-fed beef burger or a beef burger in a very very long time. I was blown away with the quality of the food, the use of local, seasonal ingredients and the way how the menu was presented to us. It is not your average roadside diner you pull up in your car. Diner, Williamsburg Brooklyn is fresh, simple, sophisticated new American cuisine. The dining experience transports you to how I felt a blissful destination.
The next day I booked my flight and packed my bags. A week later I found myself in San Antonio, Texas (5/7 – 5/10). In San Antonio, Texas I stayed with my friend Anneliese at her family’s vacation rental home in which if you ever fancy in the need to get away you can book your stay there too at the Lake House Dunlap. It was Vince’s (Anneliese’s husband) graduation from graduate school weekend party and there I met and spent time with her family and friends who flew in from elsewhere in Texas, Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota and even as far as from Taiwan.
May 7 & May 8, 2011 ( Day 1 & Day 2 : New Braunsfel, Texas Lake House Dunlap)
I arrived in Downtown San Antonio, Texas where it’s known for the River Walk, the Alamo and apparently I learned of this the basketball team Spurs and only 3 hours away from the Mexico borders, hence the derived Tex-Mex cuisine. It is a vibrant and a friendly city. The weather was drastically different from New York City as it already was in the upper 90s being it is only early May. I instantly gravitated towards the snow cones stands all over downtown. Shaved ice with multiple flavored syrups. I was curious what chamoyflavor was in what the Colombian lady selling these shaved ice had responded, “it tastes like Chinese candy”…hmm. It certainly did not taste anything like Chinese candy and it definitely was not a thirst quencher. I took a sip and it was really hard taste to digest. It was thick and sour and the most disgusting beverage I had ever had. I think by Chinese candy she was referring to the medicinal herbal teas my mom frequently makes for me. One hour into my first food experience in Texas and I found myself disappointed. I was soon picked up by Anneliese and Vince and made our way to the lake house. The lake house is located along the gorgeous Guadalupe River that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. It is a beautiful teal blue calm river where many swims, jet ski, canoe, tube to keep themselves cool from the Texas heat. Thank goodness for the SPF 100 sunscreen, I did not even know that existed.
That evening we celebrated Vince’s graduation with a traditional Texan BBQ with ribs, chicken drumsticks, wings, briskets, cocktail shrimps and homemade side dishes that included: potato salad, coleslaw, three beans. The highlight was of course the old fashion homemade churned ice cream a vanilla flavored recipe from the Ben & Jerry recipe book. It required a lot of churning and everyone took their turn to give it a churn and the result was pure magic.
The next morning Anneliese prepared various bagels and types of cream cheese and lox for breakfast while sipping on High Mountain Coffee from a Taiwan grower and roaster brought by a friend returning from Taiwan. We later took a plunge off of a 15 feet tall platform into the Guadalupe River which was brisk but perfect. Later that afternoon we went to the next town, Gruene pronounced “green” to visit an old country saloon, Greune Hall where German working class use to spend time to listen to country music and have a few beers after work and that’s exactly what we did. In town was a cute little pecan candy shop owned by a little elderly man with a cowboy hat on, Great Texas Pecan Shop. The pecan are addicting especially the Beer Nuts which is sweet and nutty. Thank goodness for mail orders.
May 9, 2011 (Day 3: Downtown, San Antonio, Texas)
I woke up to the sound of chicken clucking and it came from Anneliese’s backyard. She owns two chicken named Salt & Pepper and they’re cage free chicken and the happiest I have ever seen. Thanks to Salt & Pepper, we have fresh eggs for breakfast, perfect for an out on the porch breakfast for breakfast tacos! Yes Tacos not Burritos. The Texans are really serious about their tacos that Anneliese has a heat retaining pouch to keep the tortillas warm throughout the meal. We later did some sightseeing and shopping in Downtown, San Antonio at the market square where all the vendors sold hand craft Mexican goods. Nearby the market is a Mexican bakery, Mi Tierra. I purchased a pound of their Mexican coffee Arabica beans and discovered the story of Mi Tierra. It is a common story but ultimately what all immigrants who arrives to America to achieve, the American dream. A Mexican named Pete came to San Antonio, Texas and met his wife, Cruz and they both opened Mi Tierra to share their heritage and baked goods in which they have accomplished their success. At Mi Tierra, we ordered some pasteles (cookies), a leche quemada (a caramel candy bar), empanada de calabaza (pumpkin filled sweet empanada) and a pan de heuvo pink color (egg bread). Anneliese and I share a pan de heuvo on location and thought it was tasty and moist and amazingly only 75 cents. After our light snack we visited The Alamo. What I was most excited was where Anneliese was about to take me next was San Antonio’s best margharita at La Fogata and I concur!
If you only had a margarita at Dallas BBQ the size of a person’s face is probably the what entices people but the authenticity and presentation La Fogata is the real deal. Since my gluttony kicked in I ordered one of their popular dishes which is a sampler of a little bit of everything, this included: a drunken beans soup, a quesedilla, a chicken taco, tostadoes, some rice, a salad with guacomole and more…and this is by far the cleanest Mexican food I have eaten by that I mean the ingredients are fresh.
After a long lunch, back at the house we were preparing shrimp tacos for dinner and I had the opportunity to learn to make fresh and healthy whole wheat tortillas with a tortilla press. It’s a nice simple recipe from La Cocina Alegra, The Happy Kitchen, an Austin, Texas sustainable food community center. There’s no hassle and no wait for the dough to rise and using the tortilla press is a lot of fun! Anneliese marinated the shrimps, while we let the flavor sit, Anneliese, Vince and I took an outback scenery bike ride. Along the way, I spotted some deer, horses and lots of cactus as the sun set. To end the day we sat on the outdoor porch with friends and family for my last Texan home cooked meal: grilled shrimps to go with the tortillas I had contributed with multiple flavor toppings equals Tacos! For dessert the sweets from Mi Tierra and coffee.
The three days in Texas felt like the lazy dog days of summer. San Antonio, Texas was not what I had imagined, it’s modernized. I didn’t spot any swinging doors at saloons or tumbleweeds across the hot sand dunes as I hoped for. Though, my experience felt like a culture exchange, or woofing which I have never done either. With the wonderful generous five star hospitality from the Tanner – Miller family, I sense that my experience was better. The do-it-yourself attitude without all the fuss is really admirable as it’s a way of life. Or it could be I was just very lucky to be adopted by the right family for a 3 day weekend. Go compost, backyard chickens, home pressed tortillas, hand churned ice cream and Guadalupe River!
For a visual recap visit my Facebook page. I hope you like it!
Gruene Hall /// 1281 Gruene Rd. New Braunfels, TX 78130
Great Texan Pecan Candy Co. /// 1633 Hunter Rd. Suite B New Braunfels, TX. 78130
Mi Tierra /// 218 Produce Row San Antonio, TX 78207
La Fogata /// 2427 Vance Jackson Rd San Antonio, TX 78213
text and images © iluvpotato 2011