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Web Extra (Archive) (86)

Wednesday, 23 July 2008 11:27

Web Extra: Interview with Laurel Waters

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Intrigued by writer Maxine Mayes’ August article on The Laurel Tree restaurant in Utopia, editorial intern Lauren Oakley visited with chef Laurel Waters about her departure from fashion to food, along with the restaurant’s emphasis on local ingredients.

 

 

You studied fashion at the Paris Fashion Institute. What made you return to France to focus on food?

 

Honestly, I just wanted to go back to Paris again and get a breath of fresh air because I liked it so much the first time around. I wanted to stay there again and I always loved food, so why not? I was there for three years my second time and I traveled all over France on the weekends between classes and work. I made so many good life-long friends, and I like to go back and visit the chefs I worked with who taught me so much.

 

Do you have any tips on growing fresh ingredients?

 

Well, I have what they call a kitchen garden. I grow squash, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, etc.  In order to have a healthy garden, you have to love what you do...cook. You can’t neglect the things in your garden… you have to treat them like they are your closest friends. I grow a lot of my ingredients in pots. I have found that they turn out better growing in a container. I grow 10 types of basil and five types of mint in my garden. I cook a lot with sweet basil, purple ruffle basil, lemon thyme, chocolate mint, orange, and pineapple mint.

 

Do you have a favorite recipe?

 

I don’t write anything down when I cook. I cook my dishes by taste and color, what goes well with what, and how I can pair ingredients differently. I like to cook quick, simple, and fresh dishes.

 

What were some of the challenges you ran into when opening your own restaurant?

 

Finding a good staff was one of my biggest fears. I have a great staff though… I always say they work with me, not for me. We are like a family and we work so well together. It’s so much fun. Another thing I was worried about was if people were actually going to travel out to a place so far away from everything just to eat. I haven’t advertised Laurel Tree at all and people are still coming like crazy. People can stay in the Hill Country all day and make an evening out of it. A lot of my guests have asked me why I don’t start up a bed and breakfast. I always tell them, “I don’t even cook breakfast for myself, why would I wake up and cook it for you?”

 

If you could have one last meal, what would it be?

 

Wow that’s tough … one last meal. There are so many things that I love and it’s hard for me to only pick one. I know that it would involve some very gooey cheese, fresh artichokes, and French mushrooms!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008 11:19

Web Extra: Interview with Henry Chappell

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Editorial intern Caitlin Sullivan spoke briefly with author Henry Chappell about a good glass of wine and his August feature on North Texas winemakers.
 


What was your favorite part about researching the feature on North Texas wineries?

 

I most enjoyed seeing the varied grape-growing terrain—from the rough, dry Cross Timbers region to the humid, forested bottoms in northeast Texas—and then tasting each winemaker’s interpretation of his home region in his chosen varietals and blends.

 

Have you always been a wine fan, or did you ever prefer anything else?

 

Actually, I was in my early forties when I developed an interest in wine.  Until then, I rarely drank alcoholic beverages of any kind, and wine is still the only one that I drink often.

 

What made you take an interest in wine?

 

Several years ago, after the publication of my first novel, my publisher held a literary event at Cap*Rock winery, just south of Lubbock.  The winery staff served different wines during the meal and afterward, during the signing.  For the first time, I noticed the variety of flavors and their interactions with food.  Over the next few years, I read some of the wine and food magazines and tried wines that interested me.

 

On another trip to Lubbock, I looked through a pamphlet on South Plains wineries.  I sat down in my hotel room that afternoon and typed a query letter to Jill Lawless, Texas Highways’ managing editor.  A few weeks later, she called to assign the article that became “A Taste of the High Plains.”  I’ve been a huge fan of Texas wines ever since.

 

What are your favorite wines?

 

I have to list two.  I probably drink more Llano Estacado Shiraz than anything else.  It’s a very versatile red wine with delicious berry flavors.  It’s very smooth and approachable and doesn’t have to be tamed by a big red cut of meat.

 

I have to confess that my other favorite isn’t a Texas wine.  I love Italian food, and to me, nothing goes better with lasagna than Santa Christina Sangiovese—a reasonably priced, medium bodied Italian red with a pleasing suggestion of black cherry.

 

What’s the most unconventional meal you’ve had with a glass of wine?

 

A glass of Llano Estacado Sweet Red with a chili dog.  Highly recommended.

 

What advice do you have for people who are interested in learning more about wine?

 

I recommend that new wine enthusiasts visit some local wineries and try several wines.  Nowadays, no matter where you live in Texas, you won’t have to drive far to taste locally produced wine.  Most wineries have knowledgeable employees who can tell you about their offerings and answer questions, and they’re delighted to help beginners.  At smaller wineries you may find yourself being served by the winemaker.  These personal connections make wine tasting fun and can add an element of regional pride if you find local wines that you really like.  Above all, relax and enjoy the journey.  Ultimately, it’s not about subtleties of taste and texture, but about whether or not you’d like to have another glass.

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