On the Northeast Texas town of Marshall—where I’m closer to the borders of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma than the state capital of Austin—strangers call me “darlin’” and “honey,” and sometimes even “sugar.” And I like it.
These days, whenever I bump into someone from my hometown of Victoria, the conversation inevitably turns to Bloody Mary shrimp shooters. On the menu at the Pumphouse Riverside Restaurant & Bar, a hangout that is breathing fresh air into the culinary landscape of South Texas, these wee hybrids of a Bloody Mary and shrimp cocktail are tasty morsels that you savor in one spicy swig.
Looking for something tasty in Texas? The 2014 semifinalists in the James Beard Foundation's awards for best chefs and restaurants would be a good place to start. The newly released list is populated with Texas people and places throughout.
The first thing you should know about San Antonio’s Tamales! festival is that it’s not only about tamales. In fact, like most events that take place at the city’s vibrant and rapidly evolving Pearl Brewery complex, Tamales!—now in its fourth year—presents the ultimate combo platter of food, music, dance, and people-watching, all with a festive and easygoing vibe that somehow recalls a small-town carnival.
I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Hugo’s, the decade-old restaurant in the heart of Houston’s hip Montrose district that has helped awaken palates raised on Tex-Mex to the complexities of interior Mexican fare. Hugo’s is where I first encountered Oaxacan-style, pan-sautéed grasshoppers (served with avocado, tomatillo salsa, and mini corn tortillas), and where I discovered the smoky allure of artisan mescal. Over the years and in the course of many visits, I’ve enjoyed the restaurant’s braised pork shoulder with mashed plantain bananas ($22), its amazing lentil cakes with strips of fire-roasted chiles ($8), and its roasted red snapper a la Veracruzana ($22), the latter a tangy fish dish prepared with tomatoes, olives, and capers. I like the historic yet somehow modern feel of the restaurant itself, too: Designed in 1925 by Austrian architect Joseph Finger (who also designed Houston’s Art Deco City Hall and many other structures throughout the city), the building is now blanketed in decades of ivy. Inside, exposed rose-colored brick, butter-colored walls displaying vintage matador paintings, and a polished-concrete bar stocked with spirits and wines from throughout the world make Hugo’s a topnotch spot for a meal or $5 margaritas during happy hour.
As a Texan exiled for 14 years to Arizona, I feel fortunate to have found decent barbecue, chicken-fried steak, and—halfway through my time there—even Blue Bell ice cream. There was no Tex-Mex, though. And, unfortunately, there was a shocking dearth of pie.
Farmers markets are obvious attractions for serious foodies in search of fresh produce, locally sourced cheese and meat, and artisanal condiments. But even for a casual visitor, a trip to the farmers market can be a fulfilling expedition. This is particularly true at the Dallas Farmers Market, where the produce stalls and restaurant stands provide an interesting introduction to the people and foods of a sprawling metroplex that can be otherwise hard to get a handle on. In the bustling sheds, you will find toothsome slices of the ranching, African-American, and Latino cultures that have shaped modern North Texas.
The woman at the next table whispered something to me. “Anchovy paste,” she said.
A six-foot steel sculpture of a corkscrew marks the entrance to McPherson Cellars in downtown Lubbock. Inside, the modern theme continues in a sleek tasting room with dark walls, polished floors, and local artwork.
As a child, I looked forward to my mother’s homemade pecan pralines every Christmas. The sugary, nut-studded treats practically defined the holiday.
This refreshing and elegant cocktail is perfect for patio parties. The house-made passion fruit- coconut drinking vinegar (known in bartending circles as a “shrub”) is part of a family of old-fashioned ingredients that have come back in style with today’s craft cocktail movement.