The Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lovers Paradise Review
By Terry Thompson-Anderson
What's for Lunch?
What part of Texas surprises people the most with its bucolic charm and relaxing rustic ambiance? The state is traditionally known for regions such as its unending, flat prairies, the East Texas Piney Woods or sprawling huge cities with millions of people.
Because of this, the rolling hills of this Central Texas region come as a complete surprise to many first-time visitors. The Texas Hill Country is a collection of eighteen expansive counties composed of small towns and farms that have not changed very much since German immigrants settled there in the 19th century.
The area is still generally rural, punctuated with an array of scattered small towns consisting of turn-of-the-century Main Streets and old town squares that Lyndon B. Johnson would probably recognize from his days working as the area's U.S. Congressman.
The region has more recently attracted small wineries and restaurants that draw on the area's rich availability of farmland, and a slew of enlightened folks migrating to the area to follow their dreams.
Such is the general topic for Terry Thompson-Anderson's food book on the region, The Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lover's Paradise. The book's introduction refers to the area's natural appeal for "agricultural tourism," which it plainly offers. However, considering the geographic scope of anything Texas has to offer, one cannot see everything in one or two days. This is still a remote, large place, in many ways unspoiled. Interstates do not run through the Texas Hill Country. Visitors will be forced to to drive rolling state highways and ranch roads, each twisting out pleasant surprises with every turn.
To help solve this dilemma, Thompson-Anderson presents over one hundred venues in this vast region under the colorful soft cover of her 155-page book.
The Frericksburg-based chef set the bar very high with her remarkable 2002 cookbook Texas on The Plate. This time, she takes a different tack by organizing a book of sixty-six recipes around a number of towns, restaurants and wineries creating both a unique travelogue as well as a useful cookbook.
The venues are arranged alphabetically by town, starting with Bandera and ending with Wimberley.
Like an irresistible sweetener, photographs by Sandy Wilson adorn every page of the book showcasing food and drink, quiet locales and proud food entrepreneurs. And it is these individuals' remarkable certainty and rectitude about their cooking which flows from every page. Their spirit is admirable. It would naturally take a great deal of confidence to inform family and friends that you are going to put everything on the line to build a successful coffee bistro in the hamlet of Comfort, Texas, or a home-style restaurant out in Lampassas, such as Sandra Julian and Norma Spinner.
Traveling the Food & Wine Trails
Naturally, Thompson-Anderson makes sure that Fredericksburg is well represented. Many people already use the town as a home base for Hill Country exploration, resulting in the town's ability to boast of a full slate of restaurants and bed & breakfast establishments. Popular establishments like Hannah's on Main and the Hilltop Cafe are featured, along with Rebecca Rather's Rather Sweet Bakery and Cafe and numerous farms and orchards. Hannah's shares their recipe for the fantastic sounding Pecan-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Whole Grain Mustard Rosemary and Sage Sauce.
The ever-popular Salt Lick in Driftwood gives up their recipe for Shrimp Diablo, butterflied jumbo shrimp with a slice of jalapeño inside, wrapped in bacon and blanketed in their dry rub.
Marble Falls is represented by the well-known Bluebonnet Cafe (think Coconut Meringue Pie) and the lesser known, but enticing, forty-seat Cafe 909, a formal dining establishment offering rustic gourmet cuisine that takes Hill Country quail to new heights (think Moroccan Spiced Quail with Apricot-Almond Couscous).
Venison stews, quail sausage, seared duck breast and the special Southwest Chopped Steak with Lodge Queso represent just a few of the meat dishes featured in Main Courses.
Lavender, a significant Hill Country herb, gets significant exposure in the book as well. Texas Cooking readers may recall our 2008 article on lavender. Villa Texas Lavender Farm offers a recipe for Lavender Sticky Buns, while Wimberley Lavender Farm presents their refreshing Lavender Lemonade.
The book includes a wide variety of interesting salads and sides including a Roasted Poblano Caesar Salad with Corn Bread Croutons from The Grotto Grill in Bandera to the very old-fashioned chilled Corn Bread Salad offered at the Hard 8 BBQ in Brady.
Dessert recipes are well represented including home-style recipes for buttermilk pie, Texas Pecan Pie, and blackberry cobbler. However, the Texas Hill Country dessert war may come down to a contest between the Falls Bistro's Chocolate Tamales versus Rebecca Rather's Peach Kolaches. Both recipes are quite involved, and which merit the purchase of this book.
Each little eatery has its own story which, combined with one or two enticing recipes and photographs, will persuade the reader to consider making a trip out to these locales. And if that is not feasilble, the triggering of armchair fantasies makes the book particularly rewarding.
- Texas on the Plate
by Terry Thompson-Anderson
- The Pioneer Woman Cooks:
Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl
by Ree Drummond
- Texas Country Reporter Cookbook
by Bob Phillips
From The Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lovers Paradise
Corn Bread Salad
Recipe from the Hard 8 BBQ in Brady, Texas
- 2 (10-inch) skillets of baked sweet corn bread
- 4 oz. (1 cup) shredded Cheddar cheese
- 2/3 cup finely chopped green onions and tops
- 1 cip diced fresh tomatoes
- 6 slices peppered bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- 1/2 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing, or substitute real mayonaisse
Turn corn bread out and allow to cool completely, then crumble into fine crumbs in a bowl. Add cheese, green oninons, tomatoes and crumbled bacon. Toss to combine well. Stir in Miracle Whip, blending thouroughly. Chill before serving.
Yield 8 to 10 servings
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Terry Thompson-Anderson has written three previous cookbooks and is a member of the International Associateion of Culinary Professionals. Sandy Wilson is a Texas photographer whose work ranges from the corporate boardroom to the barn. Her photographs have been featured in Working Cowboys.