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The Magic of Meringue

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Can a symmetrically sculpted meringue exert hypnotic power over humans? After an hour of watching folks yield to temptation in the Koffee Kup Family Restaurant in Hico, I’m ready to answer that question in the affirmative. As I enjoyed a late lunch one fall afternoon, I observed several unsuspecting customers as they entered the front door of the café. They first scanned the room, and, when their eyes fell on the pie case behind the cash register, stopped. Each one then turned slowly and approached this three-pies-wide shrine, staring intently at the frothy masterpieces.

As if under a spell, each—while holding their gazes on the golden mounds—then asked, “What kind of pies do you have?” In each case, the waitress dutifully recited the litany, “Chocolate meringue, lemon meringue, coconut meringue. . . .” But I’m convinced the words were not important, because the listeners stood firmly in the thrall of the meringue itself.

And who could blame them? Even if meringue does not have supernatural powers, it offers a magical texture, mysteriously ephemeral taste, and pleasing shape. It’s important to note that the Koffee Kup deplores the peaked, wavy meringue in favor of the smooth, rounded shape. Each school has its devotees, but the spherical profile, particularly when completely intact, has symmetry going for it if nothing else.

In fact, I recommend that any group entering the Koffee Kup simply skip the notion of the conventional meal and proceed directly to the most important matter at hand. Select a meringue pie—coconut is the best choice for my money—and request the appropriate number of utensils. When the pie arrives on the table, all participants should, following an anticipatory moment of silence, immediately plunge their forks into the meringue. Why postpone this rare sensory pleasure for something so prosaic as lunch or dinner? Or even breakfast. Pie is what you’re there for, and there’s no reason to delay the indulgence, whether it’s early morning or after sunset.

On the other hand, if you are bound by convention to order a meal, that need can be happily satisfied, but there’s the risk that the edge of anticipation will be dulled. If you’re not a worshiper at the meringue shrine, pity on you. Even though the Koffee Kup offers alternatives in the form of cream pies and fruit pies, there can be no delight more pure than the coconut meringue. At the Koffee Kup, it outdistances both chocolate and lemon. There is a caramel meringue, but that flavor is hyperbolic. And I can’t imagine why anyone would consider peanut butter meringue, but there it is on the menu. There are no answers for some questions.

If you’re determined to actually eat a meal before you eat dessert, I can tell you there are regulars who testify to the café’s excellence. The place seems to always be busy, so I try to target my meals for slightly after the typical rush—but if your arrival coincides with a herd of motorcyclists or a slew of traveling sports fans in team colors, you’ll have to take your chances.

As I pondered the pie choices, I absentmindedly studied the Koffee Kup’s overall menu, which has evolved over three decades. There’s a typical range of breakfast offerings (served all day except 11-2), plus enchiladas, nachos, chicken livers, speciality burgers, and onion rings that looked dangerous on their own. I counted up to 150 unusual salt-and-pepper shaker sets locked in two glass-fronted displays on the wall.

I was feeling carnivorous (the Koffee Kup menu was not designed with vegetarians in mind) so I quickly ordered the eight-ounce rib eye. In this case, the wise course is to ask for medium—not rare. My expectations were endangered by the chopped iceberg salad, but the steak turned out to be an excellent choice, arriving with a plate of light and crunchy french fries. The yeasty rolls were amazing, and I had to ask the waitress to wrap them to go. And, in this case, I got the pie to go as well. It’s important to know that the Koffee Kup offers a specially engineered to-go container, designed to keep the four-inch-high meringue intact—no small feat. I ended up having the chocolate pie for supper a few hours later. And the apple pie for breakfast the next morning, along with the yeast rolls and honey.

When you visit the Koffee Kup (and you will), the food will all be good enough. Maybe better than good. But you probably won’t be able to take your mind off that meringue.

The Koffee Kup Family Restaurant stands at the intersection of US 281 and Texas 6 in Hico. The complete menu—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and pies—is posted online at www.koffeekupfamilyrestaurant.com. Hours: 6 a.m.-9:30 p.m. every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Call 254/796-4839.

Read 18825 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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