Texas Tuesdays, Part I: The Carnivore’s Dilemma
I had one thing on my mind during my recent trip to Austin, Texas—and it wasn’t where to purchase a pair of Wranglers or how to two-step my way into the arms of a stranger (although those options presented themselves repeatedly).
How much and how many varieties could I eat? The answer: plenty. Let’s talk about a few of the best.
Where Do I Draw the Line?
When my companions ordered “The Cadillac” at the famous County Line Bar-B-Q, I knew I’d be in trouble. The family-size platters include sausage, chicken, marbled 2nd cut brisket, original lean brisket, beef ribs and pork ribs—along with homemade bread and side dishes. The pork ribs were my favorite: smoky and sweet and falling of the bone. Just like me by the end of the meal. When County Line old-timer Dee Dee (with a purple bow in her hair that rivaled one of those Fred Flintstone beef ribs and an equally impressive smile across her face) arrived with a wedge of bread pudding and bourbon sauce, I nearly rolled out of my chair and right into hill country. But I’m a savory kind of guy, so I left dessert to the ladies and was still dipping handfuls of brisket into the County Line’s signature hot & spicy sauce as the rest of the group waddled to the parking lot.
“A” is for Antelope
It was probably a good thing that my third day in Austin involved some actual movement beyond car to dining table. It may have been my imagination, but within 48 hours my pants were feeling a bit snug and I was waking up with a tight chest. Not to fear, I could get my blood circulating by traversing the myriad of culinary delights at the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival’s Grand Tasting. With more than one hundred chefs, restaurateurs, wineries, distilleries and chocolatiers, I knew I’d get a good workout. Standouts included Hudson’s on the Bend’s coffee-rubbed venison backstrap with green chile mashed potato, pickled relish and smoked tomato hollandaise. Hudson’s newly appointed Executive Chef Kelly Casey was one of the few represented female chefs in what appeared to be a Texas culinary boy’s club, and I’d say she’ll undoubtedly be making her mark in the months to come. But the most interesting bite of the evening was courtesy of Citrus (in the Hotel Valencia) Executive Chef Jeff Balfour —South Texas antelope tostada with yellow eye beans, pumpkin seed mole and grilled ramps. A wildly complex combination of creamy-chile-seasonal-meat-crunch. I was so confounded by the antelope that I had to ask for a plain piece to wrap my head around the flavor and texture. Think beef tenderloin with a touch of gaminess to remind you that you’re eating what I’ve declared a “frontier” meat. If you want to experiment with meats like venison, antelope and elk but don’t have the stomach or the shotgun to hunt it yourself, check out Broken Arrow Ranch, where you can order some pretty interesting cuts of fully inspected free-range wild game.
The Golden Ticket
It all felt like a dream by the time I made it to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for my return flight home. I hadn’t noticed upon my arrival, but the airport features some of Austin’s favorite restaurants. I was tempted to plop myself down in front of The Salt Lick’s outpost on the concourse, but my spiked cholesterol and the fact that it was 7am made me think better of it. Temptation is a powerful thing, though, and I have no doubt I’ll be on the hunt for Texas t-bones sometime soon.
Check back next week for Part II in Roo de Loo’s Texas Tuesday series, where he’ll be sharing his discoveries of Austin’s emerging food trailer scene.