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Written by Texas Highways

Minestrone Soup with Garbanzo Beans

(Serves 6)

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 4-6 cups defatted chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. snipped fresh rosemary (or ½ tsp dried)
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup cubed and peeled butternut squash
  • 1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 4 ounces small shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 T snipped fresh basil leaves (or 2 tsp. dried)
  • ¼ cup shredded parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Directions:

In a 4-quart Dutch-oven, sauté carrots, onion, garlic in olive oil for 5  minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add chicken broth, rosemary, crushed red pepper, bay leaf . Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add butternut squash, tomato, and garbanzo beans. Simmer 20  minutes.

Stir in shrimp and basil, and cook until shrimp turn opaque.

Serve with a sprinkle of parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

Visitors enjoy the beer garden at The Monument Cafe in Georgetown. (Photo by Kevin Stillman)

By Anthony Head

Though I know full well how delicious and varied Austin’s dining options are these days, I still make a point to tell friends driving south from Dallas/Fort Worth or Waco to stop at the Monument Cafe in Georgetown before continuing on to the Capital City—if for nothing more than a cup of coffee and a slice of Monument Chocolate Pie. I’ll often hear back that they liked the café so much that they made a full-meal stop on the return trip.

altJust a couple of blocks north of the courthouse square, this 16-year-old restaurant serves truly farm-fresh and locally sourced comfort food, like pan-fried pork chops and chicken-fried steak, that regularly earns positive reviews from local and national media. My own list of recommendations keeps growing, but it currently includes the juicy portabella sandwich, the addictive sweet potato fries, and the creamy and savory tomato-basil soup.

Earlier this year, the Monument expanded its appeal by opening a farmers market and a beer garden. So one recent Saturday evening, I drove to Georgetown to meet owner Rusty Winkstern and see the new ventures.

Winkstern shows me the way to the Garden at the Monument, which is adjacent to the café. Forest-green walls frame the 60-by-30-foot, open-air space. There’s a bar at the back, a stylish cement pool full of goldfish in the middle, and a small performance stage up front. Fans rigged with water-misting systems oscillate above the bistro perches and the family-style picnic tables.

“Almost daily I get calls from people wanting to come and play for us,” Winkstern says. “There’s so much great local talent that we always provide quality entertainment.” Bands perform blues, Western swing, country, and other types of music on occasional weekday evenings and every Friday and Saturday night. “The beer garden is a way to bring more folks to the square,” says Winkstern. “After a beer or glass of wine, they can walk up the street to the shops and restaurants.”

Some patrons, though, stay put to eat as well as drink, because the beer garden serves some of the same tasty burgers, sandwiches, and side dishes as the Monument Cafe—oftentimes without a wait.

While the trio of musicians (playing ukuleles and guitar) in the Austin-based band the Love Leighs sets up, Winkstern leads the way to the Monument Market. Inside the cavernous 3,500-square-foot building, a dozen tables are piled with red tomatoes, yellow zucchini, black beauty eggplant, blue ballet squash, and other fresh fruits and vegetables, most of them delivered from local farms within the past 24 hours.

A few blocks north of the courthouse square, the Monument Cafe has focused on local, organic food since it opened in 1995. (Photo by Kevin Stillman)Winkstern gestures to the colorful tabletop bounty and says, “With the Market, we wanted to bring in more of what we use in the café and make that available to our customers for home cooking. We have very strong relationships with a lot of growers. Everything comes from within 250 miles of Georgetown, and most of it comes from within a 20- or 30-mile radius.” There are also packaged specialty items, like McPherson Cellars wines from Lubbock, Mom’s Pasta Sauce from Fredericksburg, and Texas Best Organics Rice from China (just east of Houston). Refrigerated cases display fresh milk and eggs, local meats and poultry, seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, and chicken salad from the café.

Jeanette Murphy, general manager of the market, points to one shelf and says, “We found the best tamales ever from Gardener’s Feast, in Manor. The flavors are phenomenal, and ingredients change according to what’s in season. They even use organic masa. I especially love the tamales made with corn, poblano peppers, squash, and queso fresco.”

Jeanette worked in the restaurant for 15 years before taking charge of the market. “And I love it, especially getting to know the farmers and producers in the area,” she tells me. “Sometimes they’ll visit the market directly to bring us items, but then we often go see the farms ourselves to select produce, as well. It has been very rewarding to play a role in the local-food movement.” She also says that many customers browse before and after meals, while some regulars drive up from Austin to see what’s fresh and to support the farm-to-market concept.

Later this fall, a new bakery will open at the Monument, to be overseen by chef Mark Chapman, who most recently served as executive pastry chef at Austin’s Driskill Hotel and at San Antonio’s La Mansión del Rio’s Las Canarias. “When Rusty reached out to me, I’d already had 25 years of experience with fine dining in luxury hotels,” Chapman says. “But I loved the idea of developing the bread and dessert programs for Monument, because it gives me an opportunity to highlight the organic ingredients and experiment with an artisan style of bread-baking.  I’ve just developed a new hamburger bun—kind of a cross between a brioche and a potato roll—that is chewy, supple, and truly amazing. It’s going to make one dang sexy hamburger.”

I ask what else he has planned for the bakery’s grand opening, and he begins describing a possible churros recipe that sounds so wonderful that I wish the bakery were open already. Chapman’s best guess is that it’ll debut sometime before winter, and when that happens, Market customers will not only be able to breathe in the appealing yeasty aroma of bread baking, they’ll be able to view the entire process through glass walls.

I head back to the beer garden, order a cold Shiner draft, and listen to the Love Leighs play. Crowds gathering outside the restaurant try to decide which Monument door to walk through first: the beer garden, the cafe, or the market. I can imagine that same wonderful frustration playing out the next time my friends stop in Georgetown for a quick bite.

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By Claudia Alarcon

In the fall of 1999, in the midst of a heady courtship, I made the short trek from Austin to New Braunfels with my future husband, Will Larson, who was beginning to embrace his German heritage. The purpose of the visit: to attend Wurstfest, the town’s self-proclaimed “10-Day Salute to Sausage” and proud celebration of all things German. Will wore a pair of authentic lederhosen and a Bavarian hat he had brought back from Germany, and we polkaed badly to the Shiner Hobo Band, ate giant sausages on a stick, and drank beer out of little plastic cups. That day, I realized that Wurstfest not only unites the whole city and surrounding area, but it also offers a chance for those with German heritage to congregate and pass down their culture and traditions. It was heartwarming. We became regular attendees.

Last year, Wurstfest celebrated its 50th anniversary, and we were not about to miss it. We arrived early on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the festival grounds at Landa Park, on the cypress-lined banks of the Comal River. I enjoy watching the atmosphere change throughout the day, and we wanted to catch the performance by Blasorchester der Freiwilligen Feuerwehr Bonbaden, a full brass band from Baden, Germany. We were also really hungry—ready to eat our favorite foods-on-a-stick.

Here’s the festival layout: As you enter the grounds, you’ll find abundant booths selling drink tickets; you can use cash for food. Next to Das Grosse Zelt (the Big Tent), where most of the major acts perform, a Ferris wheel dominates the carnival area, providing revelers with a bird’s-eye view of the festival grounds. The nearby Biergarten beckons with picnic tables under the oak trees, and the Kinderhalle, an entertainment area for children, features live performers and arts activities. The historic Wursthalle, built as a cottonseed warehouse in the early 1900s, features continuous music and a huge dance floor, all surrounded by partygoers. Every hour or so, bands launch into the Chicken Dance, and it seems that everyone in New Braunfels has known the moves since childhood. Directly behind the Big Tent, the Marktplatz buzzes with vendors selling food and drinks, German arts and crafts, antique dolls, ornate beer steins, and embroidered items, as well as Wurstfest buttons, T-shirts, and over-the-top hats. On the other side of the Marktplatz, Das Kleine Zelt (the Little Tent) also features live bands throughout the day.

But we were focused on the food: Will loves the bratwurst with sauerkraut on a bun, and the giant sausages with the dinner roll speared at the bottom of the stick to catch the drippings as you eat them; I am partial to the succulent grilled pork-chops-on-a-stick from the New Braunfels Little League. Judging by the constant long lines, the all-around favorites are the golden kartoffelpuffer: potato pancakes served with applesauce and sour cream. And since this is Central Texas, you’ll find juicy links of jalapeño sausage wrapped in hot flour tortillas.

As we approached Das Grosse Zelt, we could hear the sounds of a traditional brass oompah band. I looked around me to take in the multicultural scene: groups wearing little felt hats covered in pins from Wurstfests past; families with toddlers on their laps and children eating popsicles; couples dressed in matching Bavarian costumes; whole tables clapping in unison and quaffing pitchers of beer. The bandleader addressed the crowd in perfect English with a thick German accent: “And now we will play a song for our American friends,” he said before the band launched into a spirited version of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” I became overwhelmed with emotion. Only at Wurstfest, I thought, would I witness such a scene.

As the sun set, the Alex Meixner Band took the stage. Meixner, a Grammy-nominated musician and accordion virtuoso, rocked the tent with explosive polkas while the Ferris wheel lit up in the background and costumed college kids began arriving. My face hurt from smiling. We drove back to Austin, certain of Wurstfest’s bright future, and knowing we’ll be there to experience it as often as we can.  


See related: CIA Chefs Shine

CIA students prepare a tradi-tional Peruvian meal in a pit known as a pachamanca. The CIA’s San Antonio campus offers culinary courses for home chefs and professionals alike. (Photo courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America, San Antionio).

By Lori Moffatt 

It was 9 in the morning on a Saturday, and I had arrived at the Pearl Brewery complex in San Antonio to take a cooking class at The Culinary Institute of America, also known as the CIA. My fellow students included a cop who liked to cook, a couple honeymooning on the River Walk, a covey of book-club ladies who started off frosty but warmed up by day’s end, a mother-and-daughter team from Michigan enjoying their first trip to Texas, and a smattering of home cooks and aspiring chefs who had driven in from across the state.

After a brief introduction over coffee and pastries, we proceeded to the colossal main training kitchen (one of five kitchens on site), where dozens of orderly stainless steel stovetops, refrigerators, and work tables awaited. One look at the supply table—piled high with nuts, cheeses, grains, herbs, oils, and vegetables—and I knew: This would be no wine-sipping, hands-off romp through a show kitchen.

Divided into four teams, we would spend the next five hours preparing a multicourse menu from one of the CIA’s many cookbooks for home chefs, and then we’d enjoy the fruits of our labor at a communal lunch. Students from the CIA’s professional programs would assist as we wrangled tricky spots in the recipes, ferried pots and pans to the dishwashing station, and found appropriate cookware in the Pot Room, a veritable cook’s tool shed stacked with hundreds of well-seasoned pots, pans, ladles, and sieves.

“Some of my greatest successes have come on the heels of my greatest failures.”

The CIA, which dates to 1946, now maintains three campuses in the United States—in New York, California, and Texas; the San Antonio campus is unusual in that it shines a spotlight on the foods of Latin America while also upholding a reverence for classic French, Italian, and other European cuisines. Graduates of the CIA’s degreed programs include such celebrity names as Dean Fearing and Anthony Bourdain.

Unlike the CIA’s full–time, professional students, of course, my career doesn’t hang in the balance of my knife skills or dexterity with an omelet pan. I do enjoy experimenting with unfamiliar ingredients and techniques, though, and over the years I’ve enrolled in classes through Whole Foods, Central Market, Williams-Sonoma, and other spots, dabbling in the intricacies of Indian chai, Japanese sushi, Renaissance-era cooking techniques, roasting the perfect chicken, and basic knife skills. From each class, I’ve taken away tips and recipes to try out at home, but no experience has given me better insight into the skills and stamina required of a professional chef than this five-hour immersion at the CIA. It’s both humbling and inspiring to realize the limits of my current skill level, and to have an inkling of the dedication required of those who pursue careers in the kitchen.

Our group meal–scheduled for 1 p.m. sharp—would include 16 dishes from throughout the world, including cedar-smoked salmon with a huckleberry-zinfandel sauce, couscous with almonds and raisins, walnut-studded zucchini pancakes with yogurt-and-cucumber tzatziki sauce, Sicilian-style spinach with pancetta and pine nuts, and a Kahlúa-spiked tiramisu for dessert. We were also preparing a braised Korean short-rib dish, which would require at least two hours over very low heat, in order to tenderize the beef and reduce the mirin-and-soy-based braising liquid to a mahogany glaze. Along with some of the side dishes, my group received the short-rib assignment.

And then, despite our best intentions, chaos ensued. We fumbled for walnuts and feta cheese, struggled with gallon-size tins of olive oil and slabs of butter, sampled bits of Chinese dates and half-hydrated shiitake mushrooms, went through dozens of tasting spoons as we gauged the progress of our broth, and generally tried to stay on course—and out of the way. Whisks clattered in metal bowls and knives rapped on wooden boards as we shouted “Who’s got the ginger root?,” “Someone needed fresh garlic?,” “Is this dill or fennel?,” and “Are you using that measuring cup?”

As our dishes simmered and flavors melded, our instructor, Chef Michael Katz, directed periodic technique demonstrations, showing us how to filet a salmon, whip a sabayon sauce for the tiramisu, fry our zucchini pancakes so they wouldn’t absorb much oil, and how to expertly dice an onion. At noon, frowning a bit and poking into our stockpot with a metal spoon, he expressed concern about the short ribs and turned up the heat. Then, when the moment of truth arrived and the ribs were cooked but not yet fork-tender, he advised us to serve them anyway and chalk it up to a learning experience.

“It takes a long time to learn the concept of temperature management, which is very important in a restaurant setting—sometimes it’s time to simmer, sometimes it’s time to apply a high heat. That takes practice,” says CIA Associate Professor Hinnerk von Bargen, who relocated to San Antonio in 2009 from the school’s main campus in New York. “So we let some things slide in the Enthusiast classes. The skills just aren’t there, and that’s okay. Our goal is to create a nonthreatening learning environment where everyone has fun.”

As we dined on our collective meal, Chef Katz and our fellow classmates offered gentle critiques. Our zucchini pancakes were perfect, but the short ribs missed the mark. Turns out we had added too much water and had been shy with the flame—a common mistake. “But making a mistake is one of the best ways to learn,” Katz assured us, adding, “Some of my greatest successes have come on the heels of my greatest failures.”

Emboldened by experience, I tried the dish at home a few weeks later for a small group of willing friends, adding sliced daikon radish, Chinese dates, ginger, onion, rice wine, and other ingredients to the ribs in a cast-iron Dutch oven, as per the recipe. I left it to simmer on low heat for almost three hours until the meat fell off the bone, as it was supposed to. Even as we agreed the dish was delicious, I thought of things I’d do differently next time. The lesson? Sometimes cooking—like learning any new skill—takes several tries to get it right.

See related: A Secret Look Inside the CIA

Dining treasures at the Pearl

 The recent redevelopment of San Antonio’s 1880s Pearl Brewery complex has galvanized the city’s culinary scene. Three restaurants at the Pearl are run by graduates of the Culinary
Institute of America, including Chef Andrew Weissman’s Sandbar Fish House & Market, where oysters and other raw seafood lure crowds; and Il Sogno Osteria, Weissman’s tip of the toque to neighborhood cafes in Italy.

A few steps away, CIA graduate Chef Johnny Hernandez interprets Mexican street food at the bustling La Gloria Ice House; and at the new CIA Bakery Café, diners will find soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastries for breakfast and lunch. A picture window adjacent to the bakery case allows guests to watch the action in the CIA’s main teaching kitchen.

For details about dining and shopping at the Pearl, as well as the farmers’ market on Saturdays, see www.atpearl.com and www.ciachef.edu.

—Lori Moffatt

Inside the CIA

The San Antonio campus of The Culinary Institute of America is at 312 Pearl Parkway, Building 2, in the renovated Pearl Brewery complex. Free, half-hour tours of the school and its five commercial kitchens take place Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30. Periodic chef demonstrations and tastings take place throughout the year and cost $39.95. Food Enthusiast courses, which include a range of one-day (5-hour) classes focusing on themes such as Indian cuisine, everyday grilling, Mexican street foods, Spanish tapas, and the flavors of Asia, cost $250. You can also sign up for Food Enthusiast “Boot Camps,” which take place over the span of several days and delve deeper into technique and skills development. Call 800/888-7850; www.ciachef.edu.


...out in the West Texas town of El Paso

The building that houses El Paso’s L&J Cafe hasn’t changed much since the restaurant opened in 1927. Signature dishes here include stacked red chile enchiladas and caldillo, a Tex-Mex take on New Mexico-style chile verde. (Photo by Joel Salcido)

By Damond Benningfield

As the writer and producer of McDonald Observatory’s daily StarDate radio program, I visited El Paso nearly 20 years ago to discuss producing a Spanish-language version of the show. Arturo Vasquez and Ignacio “Nacho” Acosta, the founders of the station with whom I was considering working, took me to lunch at one of their favorite Tex-Mex cafés, a no-frills spot called the L&J Cafe.

Over green chile-studded enchiladas and homemade tortillas still steaming from the griddle, we set the show in motion, and I set a personal goal as well: to eat at every Mexican-food restaurant in El Paso.

I’ve visited El Paso close to a hundred times since then, and I still have a long way to go to reach that goal. In part, it’s because El Paso is blessed with a seemingly endless supply of Mexican restaurants. But it’s also because I can’t pass up my handful of favorites.

altTake L&J, for example. Bright blue on the outside, cool and dark on the inside, L&J sits across North Stevens Street from Concordia Cemetery, where gunfighter John Wesley Hardin is buried.

On a recent lunchtime visit, I tried the meat taco plate—which passed my personal litmus test (delicious, affordable, interesting, and plentiful) with flying colors. The taco shells are made from white-corn tortillas fried in-house so that the tortillas are crisp on the outside but still chewy on the inside, a play of textures that works well with the hearty filling of peppery ground beef and potato chunks. Topped with spicy red salsa and accompanied by creamy, rich refried beans, this deceivingly simple plate helps explain the crowds of locals and visitors who pack the place at lunchtime.

Also on my favorites list is the Little Diner, a restaurant once lauded by Gourmet magazine, which is tucked next to a laundromat in a residential neighborhood of Canutillo, a community in El Paso’s northwest corner.

Local ingredients are one of the keys to El Paso’s Mexican food.

Little Diner offers some of the spiciest salsa in town; you can practically see the heat waves from the locally grown chiles shimmering above the bowl.

In fact, says owner Lourdes Pearson, local ingredients are one of the keys to El Paso’s Mexican food. “Green and red chiles, lettuce, onions, even corn for the tortillas—they’re all grown right here, so what we have is what we fix.”

Little Diner’s gorditas—stuffed pockets of fried dough whose soft-yet-crunchy texture resembles a southern-style corncake—are made of corn from nearby Anthony, which is stone-ground at the restaurant and mixed with red chile sauce to add a bit of heat and color. The pocket is filled with beef seasoned with black pepper and local chiles, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and yellow cheese. The crispy exterior, spicy filling, cool vegetables, and addictive salsa combine to produce one of my favorite El Paso treats.

As I enjoyed my meal one evening, with the sun painting fiery patterns on the Franklin Mountains, I realized that color is an important ingredient in El Paso-style Mexican food. In fact, one of the most important decisions diners must make is between red or green salsas—the former typically a smooth, aromatic sauce made from ground red chiles, the latter slightly chunky and tangy, thanks to several varieties of green chiles.

I opted for the red sauce at lunch the next day at La Malinche on North Yarbrough Street, one of six restaurants in the local chain. My lunch special (selected from a menu of six choices) included chips and salsa, soup, two tacos, two cheese enchiladas, rice, beans, and iced tea—all for $6.95.

The place was still busy when I showed up around 1:30, but the wait staff was friendly and efficient, and I was soon digging into a bowl of caldo de res, a popular Mexican soup made with chunks of beef shank along with cabbage, celery, carrots, onions, and sections of corn-on-the-cob. The clear broth was hearty and flavorful, the slightly crunchy vegetables added body, and the beef was rich and fork-tender.

The freshly made corn tortillas provided an earthy-sweet flavor that complemented the spices in the enchiladas and tacos. The red chile sauce on the enchiladas, which were filled with white cheese, offered a complex flavor with a slightly sweet undertone. And the tacos, made with ground beef seasoned with more peppers, were prepared like those at L&J, with the crispy-chewy shell fried in-house.

The profusion of restaurants like La Malinche that offer great and plentiful food at low prices is one of my favorite things about El Paso. I grew up thinking that inexpensive Tex-Mex was a basic human right, but restaurants that share my philosophy are difficult to come by in some other Texas cities these days.

So as I headed to the airport on my way out of town, I had to stop for one more round, at Good Coffee on Montana Avenue. My chorizo con huevos—spicy Mexican sausage scrambled with eggs—was delicious, with a bit of heat and almost no grease. The freshly prepared hash browns, refried beans, a jumbo flour tortilla (so fresh off the griddle that it was almost too hot to handle), and a chunky tomato-and-onion-based salsa completed an excellent send-off. And at $4.25, it was priced to lure me back the next time a business meeting—or anything else, for that matter—brings me to El Paso.


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Salsa Makes Special

A jar of delicious salsa can give even the most basic of meals some zing. My brother-in-law, who grew up in McAllen, is the family’s resident salsa-maker, and his recipe (if you can call it that) involves a large can of tomatoes, a few jalapenos, a handful of cilantro, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lime juice (in varying amounts, according to his mood). All go into the blender for a few moments, and then it’s ready to eat.

However, until you get familiar with proportions, it’s sometimes easier to follow a recipe. Here are my adaptations of recipes found in Cooking with Texas Highways, available from UT Press, at online vendors such as Amazon, and at your local bookseller. 

Remember that peppers–especially jalapeños— vary wildly in heat. It’s wise to start with one or two, then blend in additional chiles if you like more fire.

—Lori Moffatt

Roasted Red Sauce

This recipe is adapted from a smoked-salsa given to us by Matt Martinez, owner of Matt’s El Rancho in Austin. Since I don’t have a smoker, I roast the vegetables in my trusty kettle barbecue. And instead of the red wine vinegar called for in the original recipe, I like to use lime juice. Here’s my take.

  • 3 whole medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 3 whole jalapeños
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup water

Place all ingredients (except for water) in a tinfoil “platter” and cook on the barbecue until soft.

Mash with water (salsa should be chunky) and serve. Will keep for about two weeks in the fridge, but it probably won’t last that long!


Easy Green Sauce

Tomatillo-based salsas, such as this one, are economical, easy, and taste great with chicken, fish and egg dishes.

  • 7 medium tomatillos, husks and stems removed
  • ½ white onion, quartered
  • 2 serranos or jalapeños
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, stems removed
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 T. lime juice

Place tomatillos in a saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Allow tomatillos to cool in the water.

Puree the whole mess in a blender or food processor, and serve. Will keep about a week in the fridge; it’ll thicken up a bit, so feel free to add water to thin it out again.

This 1960s poster—displayed with Fritos products in grocery stores—illustrates some of the company’s innovative marketing efforts, many of which featured Fritos Chili Pie. (Excerpted from Fritos® Pie: Stories, Recipes,  and More by Kaleta Doolin, Texas A&M University Press)By Nola McKey

The Frito Company began in 1932, when  Charles Elmer Doolin, a San Antonio confectioner who sold cakes, pies, candy, and ice cream, decided to diversify into other snack foods. He came across a corn chip he liked and convinced the vendor to sell him the recipe for $100. Doolin tweaked the recipe, named the product Fritos, and a Texas legend was born.

altSometimes described as the Thomas Edison of snack food, C.E. Doolin not only originated Fritos, but other innovations. He had experimental farms across Texas, where he hybridized corn for use in Fritos products. He and his brother Earl invented food-production machinery for Fritos factories. In an upcoming book by Doolin’s daughter Kaleta Doolin, she writes that the company’s early history “abounds with inventions and patents on items such as the clip racks in grocery-store aisles that we now take for granted.”

Ironically, despite his immersion in the snack-food industry, C.E. Doolin was passionate about health food. According to Kaleta, he saw Fritos as a side dish, and never imagined that someone might eat an entire bag in one sitting. Kaleta and her siblings were raised as vegetarians and rarely ate desserts or anything that contained refined sugar. On the other hand, Kaleta’s mother used Fritos in cooking family meals, often developing her own recipes.

The first person, however, on record to use Fritos as a recipe ingredient was Kaleta’s grandmother, Daisy Dean Doolin (or “Mother Doolin”), who added crushed Fritos to fruitcake batter in 1932, the same year the company was established.

 Kaleta writes, “It was the Great Depression and it probably felt like a sin to discard good food in the form of fresh but broken Fritos. [Mother Doolin had an ample supply of broken Fritos, since, in the beginning, she, along with Kaleta’s grandfather, father, and uncle, made Fritos in her kitchen at night, for sale in the family confectionary the next day.] I can imagine that she was excited about her new idea and that she then began to think of other recipes in her repertoire that she could also adapt by adding Fritos. The company’s Cooking with Fritos promotional campaign grew out of her fruitcake and other ideas it engendered.”

Of all the recipes developed for Fritos products—and there have been hundreds, ranging from Fritos Texas Loaf (“the best meatloaf you ever tasted,” according to Kaleta) to Red Snapper in Negra Modelo Batter—the most famous is that of Fritos Pie.

The Cooking with Fritos campaign waned in the 1970s, but Fritos Pie lives on. While many people prefer to make it the traditional way—in the bag—Kaleta Doolin offers a vintage alternative that’s almost as simple. Heat, eat, enjoy! TH

Fritos Pie Revisited

Fritos Pie may date to the 1940s, but it made the headlines last September, when a zanier-than-usual version—Texas Fried Frito Pie—garnered the coveted Best Taste award at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.

You’ll also find “regular” Fritos Pie at the State Fair. Kaleta Doolin says it’s one of her favorite places to enjoy the dish. Another Doolin-approved venue is Tillman’s Roadhouse in Dallas’ Oak Cliff section. Two Austin restaurants also serve a mean Fritos Pie: Texas Chili Parlor and Jo’s. (At Jo’s, you can even get it with wheat roast.) In Tyler, the place to eat it is Cox’s Grill. In Victoria, the Texas Drive Inn.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on Fritos Pie. Is it a guilty pleasure? Texas comfort food? Does it rekindle memories of high school football games? Where’s your favorite place to eat it? Let us know (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or write to Fritos Pie Stories, Texas Highways, Box 141009, Austin, TX 78714-1009), and we’ll share some of your best letters in an upcoming issue.                                                                                          


Vintage Fritos
Chili Pie Casserole


  • 2 cups lightly crushed Fritos corn chips
  • 1 (19-ounce) can chili (without beans)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup grated American cheese


Reserve some of the corn chips for a topping; place half of the rest in the bottom of a casserole. Pour half the chili over the corn chips. Top with half of the onion and cheese. Repeat, and then top with reserved corn chips. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20 minutes or until well heated and onion is thoroughly cooked. Serves 4 to 6.

Kaleta’s Crock-Pot Chili

The author developed this easy chili recipe to reflect her changing tastes. For Fritos Pie, she ladles chili over a bed of Fritos (about a cup) in individual bowls, and tops it with shredded aged Gouda cheese, diced organic red onion, and chopped jalapeño.

  • Canola oil or other vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pounds lean ground grass-fed beef
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • Wick Fowler’s Texas One-Step Chili Seasoning Mix
  • 1 (15-ounce) can beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

Spray the bottom of a skillet with canola or other vegetable oil. Add onion and garlic, and cook until onion is translucent. Add beef, and chop into small pieces with a spoon. Continue cooking, turning beef until browned. Empty contents of skillet into a slow-cooker. Add remaining ingredients, cover, and cook on the low setting for 8 to 10 hours. Serves 4 to 6.


Kaleta Doolin, the daughter of the originator of Fritos, shares more recipes from her upcoming book Fritos® Pie (Texas A&M University Press, 2011), slated for release in August 2011. The book includes more than 150 unusual recipes, from Fritos Migas to Massaman Curry with Beef.

Whether they serve a small neighborhood community or an urban crowd, panaderias offer aromatic and colorful comfort food

Don Jose Panaderia in Presidio delights customers with its array of colorful galletas and pan dulce, as well as menudo and barbacoa on weekend mornings. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith) 

By Charles Lohrmann

The modest, unobtrusive, single-story building housing the Don Jose Panaderia alongside FM 170 (aka O’Reilly Street) in Presidio does not immediately make a strong visual impression on me as I drive by with TH Photography Editor Griff Smith. But a couple of hours later, after an enjoyable lunch at The Enlightened Bean restaurant nearby, we decide to stop in and check out the bakery for a quick dessert.

In the early afternoon, the display case is sparsely populated, and the collection of baked goods, although colorful, seems a little lacking. Even though the immediate supply is dwindling, we ask about taking a few photographs, and owner Miguel Hernandez responds with the answer, “No, not now, wait until after three o’clock.”

Why is three o’clock the magic hour?  we wonder.

“That’s when everything comes out of the oven,” Hernandez explains.

We have other work to undertake that afternoon, so we decide to wait until the next day. Sure enough, when we stroll through the front door mid-afternoon, some of the brightly sugared pan dulce awaits us in the old-fashioned, wood-and-glass case and in a row of metal trays lined up side-by-side on top. Even though the aromas, colors, and textures distract us, we notice that Hernandez slips a few more multi-colored galletas and golden pan de huevo into the display case every few minutes. And the regular customers, knowing their timing is perfect, arrive and start filling paper bags with warm pan dulce. They share a quick conversation with the staff, then leave to make way for newcomers. This panaderia clearly is the warm heart of a community bound together by cinnamony aromas and a sweet tooth.

The names of the individual creations amuse us as well: marranitos are thick gingerbread cookies shaped like little pigs; the payasitos or little clowns, are three-colored, triangular cookies; esponjas or sponges—are sweet, arched breads topped by colored sugars, which compare to their namesake (with requisite jokes about SpongeBob). Even though I’m tempted to seek out recipes for some of these delights, the thought of missing the sensory experience of the panaderia, as well as the extremely reasonable prices, leads me to conclude that a visit to the bakery is worth the time.

For many bakeries of any heritage—urban or small-town—the prevailing assumption notes that the early morning hours offer the freshest baked goods and pastries. In this Presidio panaderia, it turns out, the community is up early anyway, but they’re mostly going to work. So they stop in after work and on the way home to pick up treats for either an afternoon snack or the next morning’s breakfast.

Don Jose Panaderia’s offerings are not all baked goods. The candy also invites indulgence. One choice is a tray of bright orange pumpkin sections that have been simmered in a syrupy concoction until completely transformed into sugary wedges.

On weekend mornings, the hand-lettered signs tacked to the bakery’s wall explain that customers can expect fresh tamales, barbacoa, menudo, and carne asada. I wish we were going to be in town, because fresh barbacoa borders on miraculously good. In fact, back in Austin, a Saturday morn-ing barbacoa taco draws me to the popular Mi Victoria panaderia on Burnet Road where I wait in a long line with excited customers anticipating both fresh pan dulce and breakfast tacos.

As I ask around about favorite panaderias in Texas, I find strong opinions and clear-cut preferences, either for a specific bakery’s speciality or simply the establishment’s aura. I know I can’t visit them all, so for a quick and convenient visual refresher course on pan dulce,
I stop in to La Mexicana on South First in Austin, where more than 40 varieties of pan dulce and another two dozen types of cookies greet me. I resist major temptation and settle on a “crispy,” a tortilla-size crunchy baked pastry made from dough spiraled with cinnamon and dusted with cinnamon and sugar.

One of the state’s landmark sources of pan dulce is San Antonio’s legendary Mi Tierra, a circus of a restaurant and panaderia that can satisfy your sweet tooth, or your craving for machacado, 24 hours a day. 
In fact, let me warn you against even looking at their Web site unless you want the photos to fire up your taste buds. (In other words, DO NOT go to www.mitierracafe.com.)

Admittedly, Don Jose Panaderia is out of the way, but it’s a good place to end your drive on FM 170 from Lajitas. After all, you’ll need some pan de huevo for the drive back. And more for breakfast in the morning.

Panaderia Hot List

For her popular feature on tres leches cake in the May 2010issue, TH Web Editor Lois Rodriguez assembled this list of the most popular items at panaderias along with a few recommendations of sources around the state.

Pan de huevo (egg bread): A rounded, mildly sweet yeast bread with stenciled patterns of puffy white, yellow, pink, or chocolate sugar topping.

Empanadas: Traditional favorites are empanadas de calabaza (pumpkin turnovers) and camote (sweet potato.) There also is an array of fruit-filled empanadas in a flakier (pan fino) pastry.

Marranitos (little pigs): Soft pig-shaped gingerbread molasses cookies.

Polvorones: Bite-sized cinnamon shortbread cookies dusted in sugar.

Galletas: Yellow, pink, or chocolate sugar cookies. Some come with multicolored sugar sprinkles, others with cherry centers. A popular one comes with cornflakes baked into the cookie and a cherry center.

Semita de anis: A fragrant and delicious anise-flavored bread. Just sweet enough to enjoy alone or with a cup of coffee.

Other panaderia offerings include bolillos (white bread rolls), French-influenced cuernos (croissants), bread pudding, flan, and candies like pralines and banderilla de coco, a popular coconut candy in the red, white, and green colors of the Mexican flag.

Lois’ pandaderia favorites include: Aranadas Bakery in Houston at 912 Fosbak, 713/694-1813; 8331-C Beechnut St., 713/771-3616; 9803 Gulf Fwy., 713/941-0100; and 11919 Eastex Fwy., 281/227-3600; www.arandasbakery.com. Mi Victoria Bakery, 5245 Burnet Road, Austin, 512/458-1898. Casa Maria Restaurant and Bakery, 4327 South 1st St. (at St. Elmo), Austin, 512/444-8861; www.casamariarestaurant.com. Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia, 218 Produce Row, San Antonio, 210/225-1262; www.mitierracafe.com.

Las Carnarias' patio offers San Antonio-style eggs Benedict, quiche topped with blue cheese and caramalized onions and a seafood hotpot. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

By Kitty Crider

Splitting open the golden guajillo-buttermilk biscuit,
I ladle on a puddle of chorizo gravy. Moving to the next copper-clad serving dish, I scoop up a spoonful of chilaquiles, fluffy scrambled eggs mixed with salsa and fried tortilla strips and sprinkled with cheese. Then, of course, I have to sample the San Antonio-style eggs Benedict—poached eggs, arranged sunny-side-up on sliced Dr Pepper-braised brisket, atop rounds of cornbread.

I am faced with a multitude of decisions as my husband, Chester, and I check out Las Canarias’ legendary Sunday brunch at Omni La Mansión del Rio in San Antonio. Delicious-looking temptations—pan-seared redfish, truffled potatoes au gratin, cinnamon-raisin French toast, fresh-from-the-market vegetables—are everywhere, inside the Spanish-style dining room, out on the plant-lush courtyard, even on the granite-topped bar.

 Placing Plate One on my white-skirted table, elegant with silver and yellow roses, I relish the tradition that has kept this Sunday buffet going for more than 30 years. Many hotels have traded the weekly buffets of decades past for simpler á la carte brunches. 

“We have not changed,” says Rusty Wallace, La Mansión’s general manager. “We are completely booked just about every weekend.”

It’s easy to see why.

Chef Jordan Peña puts the finishing touch on bananas Foster at one of the “action tables” at Las Canarias. (Photos by J. Griffis Smith)

“Fresh oysters for breakfast!” raves Leslyn McManus of San Angelo, celebrating her first wedding anniversary with her husband, Beaver, on the River Walk. “Bottomless mimosas!” exclaims Melissa Jones of San Diego, pointing to the Mumm champagne and mimosas that come with the $39 all-you-can-eat meal. (The children’s price is $20, sans alcohol.)

I meet these friendly folks at the bananas Foster station, one of four “action tables” that sous chef Lewis Guarasci spotlights at the weekly brunch. Chefs carve slices of beef, open fresh oysters, toss custom salads, and make bananas Foster to order.  While guests must stand in line for the buffet, doing so creates a party-like setting: Strangers interact, recommend don’t-miss dishes, even swap “flambé” photos on smartphones before returning to their tables. Diner Cindy Calderon of San Antonio, casing the dessert buffet, tells me, “My boss gives me a gift certificate here every Christmas and I look forward to using it.”

I love sampling the dozens of dishes—sampling with an emphasis on small bites, not clean plates. I like stretching my legs during a meal, meeting new people, watching chefs in action, and listening to musicians such as flamenco guitarist El Curro (William Champion), who has played at Las Canarias for decades.

 Many large hotel restaurants in Texas serve lavish buffet brunches on the major holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day—but only a few do so on a weekly basis. Besides Las Canarias in San Antonio, I can vouch for worthy Sunday spreads at hotels in Austin and Houston.

At the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Austin, I gaze upon the beautiful shores of Lady Bird Lake while enjoying such delicacies as beet-and-blue cheese salad, eggs Benedict, snapper on poblano-cilantro grits, cheese blintzes, Boursin mashed potatoes, and smoked prime rib. You won’t find white tablecloths in this orange-hued TRIO dining room; instead, it features a chic, contemporary style with asymmetrical china and displays of some 70 champagne-brunch items—$48 per adult, $20 per child. (Dallas diners can enjoy a similar Sunday brunch at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas.)

A smartly styled, open rack on a granite-topped credenza holds a dozen individual desserts. The artful array ranges from mint macaroons to orange velvet cake, pistachio panna cotta to a flowing chocolate fountain with fresh strawberry dippers. A “menu board” made of chocolate identifies the items. And it can be melted down for another day, says pastry chef Javier Franco. “We are not killing trees,” he quips.

TRIO's Sunday brunch features nine desserts, including vanilla cheesecake.In Houston, Chester and I follow winding Riverway to the Omni Hotel and step into a lobby filled with hundreds of people celebrating a Sunday-morning wedding. Promptly seated at the casual Café on the Green, we have a choice of the breakfast buffet or that buffet plus the full brunch buffet, including mimosas and champagne ($40 per adult, $20 ages six through 12, free age five and younger). Our table offers great people-watching—the bride circulating among the guests outside on the deck and a chef making plump, custom omelets inside.

 Although tempted by the omelet station and breakfast foods, we head to an adjacent room and spy a spectacular prime rib roast at the carving station. My husband passes up the vast array of colorful salads, vegetables, and sushi, and
heads straight to that mother lode of meat.

With our plates amply loaded, we return to our table. The prime rib is crusty and juicy, ever so flavorful, but I am also tucking into wonderful seafood and really good quail with cranberries and rosemary. Taste and pace, I keep reminding myself.

 “Save room for a crepe,” insists executive chef Jacques Lolliot, spreading the thin
batter on a hot, round griddle at a separate station. He flips it, scatters warmed apples over it, folds it over, and tops it with blueberry sauce and whipped cream—just a precursor to the tiramisu, crème brûlée, cheesecake, and other desserts I taste later.

Now I’ve returned home to repent with cottage cheese and oatmeal.

The menu at Cabernet Grill changes seasonally, and often includes game dishes such as venison and quail. (Photo by Michael Amador)

By Claudia Alarcón

Statewide, Texas has seen a surge in wineries in the past decade; from 46 in 2001 to almost 200 in 2010—and the Hill Country has proven especially fruitful for the industry. On the 32-mile stretch of US 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg alone, you’ll find 10 wineries that excel with different grapes and styles. Each winery offers tours, public events, and tasting opportunities, but they also work together in an organization called the 290 Wine Road to promote the area as an important wine-producing region.

So when I heard about the Cabernet Grill, a Fredericksburg  restaurant whose wine list is dedicated entirely to Texas wines, I was intrigued—and pleased. After all, I’ve spent the last 25 years working in various aspects of the culinary industry, from food service to wine sales, and I enjoy exploring Texan wines. When I learned that the Cabernet Grill is the on-site restaurant of the Cotton Gin Village, a bed-and-breakfast on the outskirts of Fredericksburg on Texas 16, my husband, Will, and I booked a cabin and made plans to explore the Cabernet Grill menu—no after-dinner driving required!

When tourists come in for dinner they tell us that since they are eating Texas cuisine, they want to drink Texas wine.

Accommodations here consist of seven mid-1800s-era log cabins surrounding a limestone courtyard. Named after the rivers of Texas, the cabins have wood-burning fireplaces and plenty of charm. Curtain holders made of ox harnesses, punched-tin sconces, and log-frame beds contribute a frontier vibe, but full kitchens, Jacuzzi bathtubs, and satellite TV offer 21st-Century comfort.

altFor his menu at the Cabernet Grill, chef and owner Ross Burtwell looks to the surrounding areas for produce, cheeses, and meats: quail from Lockhart, wild game from Broken Arrow Ranch in Ingram, cheeses from throughout the Hill Country. The result is a creative menu of gussied-up Texas classics like chicken-fried rib-eye with green chile gravy and enchiladas made with Black Diamond buffalo meat, all paired (if diners wish) with Texas wines.

Burtwell credits serendipity with his coming into the culinary arena. Back in the 1980s, he told us, he read a story in Texas Highways about chefs Stephan Pyles and Dean Fearing, the pillars of the trendy Southwest cuisine movement.  He was so inspired by the story that he decided to pursue a career in cooking. After an apprenticeship at the American Culinary Federation’s Chef Society in Dallas, he attended culinary school and worked in various restaurants before opening the Cabernet Grill in 2002.

At first, his wine list incorporated a few of the most popular Texas wines interspersed with well-known labels from elsewhere. Slowly, he began the transition to today’s 100% Texas wine list.  “Our wine sales went up 28% the first month we made the switch,” says Burtwell. “We currently serve nearly 85 vintages from 20 different Texas wineries. When tourists come in for dinner they tell us that since they are eating Texas cuisine, they want to drink Texas wine.”

I asked Chef Burtwell to pair our dinner with the wines of his choice. What followed was an inspired meal that showcased his prowess in the kitchen and his passion for Texas wines. To start, he served a ramekin of warm goat cheese with rosemary, garlic chives, and sun-dried tomatoes, accompanied by jalapeño-stuffed fresh figs wrapped in wild boar bacon, with glasses of McPherson Viognier, a full-bodied yet fruity wine that is an excellent alternative to the ubiquitous Chardonnay. Next, Burtwell paired his outstanding pecan-crusted crab cake with Grape Creek Pinot Grigio; crisp and refreshing, the wine displays tropical overtones that matched the dish beautifully. To accompany the venison sausage-stuffed quail with roasted fig jam and scalloped potatoes, he chose the Flat Creek Super Texan, a Sangiovese blend that is one of his favorites.

Yet another standout, Inwood Estates’ Tempranillo, was perfect with the rosemary-garlic grilled beef tenderloin and grilled asparagus. A trio of desserts fit for a king arrived with the surprise of the evening, small glasses of  straw-colored Dotson Cervantes Muscat Canelli. Drinking this was pure bliss, like sipping the nectar out of a honeysuckle blossom. 

Burtwell has spent a considerable amount of effort training his service staff. That way, when customers ask, they can make educated recommendations. To supplement their knowledge, he takes his staff on regular wine-tasting trips throughout the region. “We talk to the winemakers, tour their vineyards and fields, and taste their wines. We like to share their winemaking stories and knowledge whenever we can,” he says.

Visiting wineries is a fun and educational experience, but if you want to dine and learn all in one place, try the Cabernet Grill. You can taste two, three, four different wines, then walk just a few steps to your cozy cabin. Highly recommended!

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