A little late. But here it is…
Friday was my busiest day and it dawned early for me. Too early.
I was up late into Thursday night starting prep for my cooking class and was exhausted by the time I fell into bed. However, even after 16 years of teaching cooking classes, I never sleep well the night before because I tend to worry too much about everything that might go wrong.
So, long story short, I laid there in bed for another 2 hours trying in vain to go back to sleep.
Then, the alarm went off. It was time to get up and head to the Cowboy Breakfast at Fort Davis.
It was a chilly, overcast morning and perfect for a nice hearty chuck wagon breakfast.
The chef that morning was Glenn Moreland, a champion amongst chuck wagon cooks. And, after eating his food, I can see why. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, Dutch-oven Biscuits, and cream gravy with sausage.
While we all agreed that while the eggs were very good, but nothing special, the biscuits and cream gravy were the best we’ve ever had. And, after living in Texas for as long as Mom, Dad, Steve & I have, that’s saying something. It wasn’t greasy, flour-flavored wallpaper paste; it was a lovely, not-too-thick, flavor balanced amalgamation of sausage, flour, and milk. There are many restauranteurs who should take cream gravy-making lessons from Mr. Moreland.
Then, there were the biscuits. Fluffy as a new pillow.
And, of course, our scenery made everything go down easy.
After breakfast, Steve & I drove back to Alpine while my parents went with Mom’s friend Betty (we happened to run into at the breakfast) to her home and then took a trip into Marfa for lunch.
I had to get back to the hotel to prep for my class.
On Thursday night, I cut & marinated the meat for the kebabs and cooked the eggplant for the Baba Ghannouj; Friday, I did everything else. My class was on Middle Eastern Mezze. The menu consisted of:
I taught a very similar menu last year that proved popular, so Stewart & I decided that it would work again. And, while the prep was easy (especially since I’ve done all these recipes dozens of times), it took me about 4 hours to get everything ready to take to the hotel. So, yeah. I was just a little stressed.
Because I didn’t have any hard-and-fast numbers, I had no idea how much food to make. So, I went with a triple batch of each recipe. I figured, if nothing else, I could leave the extra food for the kitchen staff at the hotel. Actually, my biggest fear was no one except Steve and my parents showing up.
Well, my fears were unfounded. More than 3 people showed. By Steve’s estimation, I had 25 – 30 for my class. And, I made just enough food.
It was a good group. They listened, took recipes, asked thoughtful questions, and seemed to enjoy the food. I admit I felt a strong sense of relief.
Overall, I think the class went well. There was just enough food for the class with a little left over for the kitchen staff. Except for the kebabs. Those were gone.
I must give credit to William Paynter, the Century Grill General Manager, who was a great help. I couldn’t be more grateful to him and his staff.
At the end of class, after Stewart & I announced the gin-and-oyster party in the Holland Loft Courtyard, I cleaned up and cleared out as quickly as possible so I could get some oysters and put my feet up for a while. I didn’t really care about the gin drinks. Although I did have a few sips of Mom’s and Steve’s drinks.
The party was actually just outside Steve’s & my room, so we and my parents were able to get our food and drinks and hide out inside. If we wanted more, we could just walk two steps out the door and partake. Since I hadn’t eaten since the breakfast, I was grateful for the snack.
We chatted for a while, I got cleaned up, and then we headed to our next event: The Tito’s Vodka Cocktail Dinner at the Granada Theater.
The whole event was, in a word, incredible. The food was catered by the Saddle Club by Chefs Stephen and Jonathan Wood. The cocktails were mixed by David Allen, whose book “The Tipsy Texan” was an event at the festival in itself.
The dinner started out with a “passed app” of Slow Roasted Cabrito with Avocado Mousse, and salsa on flour tortilla cups. The cabrito was perfectly cooked – a lovely shredded melt-in-your-mouth treat. The mousse was simple and the salsa added just the right amount of heat.
The cocktail was a mason jar full of the “Little Miss” made with Tito’s (as all the cocktails were), roasted pineapple juice, lime, cinnamon/clove syrup, and bitters. I only had a small taste of the Little Miss. Wow. If you weren’t careful, these could be dangerous. They tasted almost like a spicy lemonade. (Full disclosure: I’m allergic to cinnamon. So, I only had a small taste of this cocktail and the dessert.) Mom and Steve enjoyed it. Dad sipped.
The first course was a Pork Belly Carnitas with Marinated Grilled Artichoke Bottom, Pickled Watermelon Radishes, and Bacon Creme. (For those of you unfamiliar, carnitas is basically pork that’s been braised or roasted then pan fried.)
Wow. All I can say is wow. Artichokes aren’t my favorite vegetables, but I’d eat them every day if they could taste like this. The carnitas had just the right amount of flavor, richness, and textures. And the creme; well, everything’s better with bacon. The pickled radishes added just the right amount of contrast to the rest of the dish and cut right through the richness.
The paired cocktail was “Southern Days”. It was made with vodka, watermelon, mint, and sugar. A very refreshing summer-sipping-on-the-porch cocktail.
The main course was Jalapeno Rubbed Beef Tenderloin, Bacon & Pepper Jack Hominy Cassoulet, Chayote Squash, and Fire-Roasted Jalapeno Cream.
This was my favorite course, hands down. The tenderloin was at least 4-5 ounces of Chateaubriand cut cooked to a well-rested medium rare. While I don’t believe the tenderloin is the most flavorful cut of beef (or any animal for that matter), Chef Stephen found a way to make its grass-fed goodness shine.
I think I found a new way to make chayote squash – a vegetable I rarely use. I should’ve asked him how he made it, but it seemed to me to be very simply pan seared. It still had some crunch to it.
One of my favorite foods is hominy. And by pairing it with bacon and cheese, it was moved to new hights of possibilities.
And the Bacon Creme? What do you think?
The paired cocktail was “Tito’s Martinez”. Made with vodka, Carpano Antica (a sweet vermouth), Luxardo Maraschino (a cherry liqueur), and bitters, it acted as a digestif to help counteract the richness of the course.
Dad didn’t like it. Mom & I split it.
Sadly, I didn’t get to try to much of dessert: Sopapilla Cheesecake. It looked like a wonderful amalgamation of creaminess with a cinnamon brulee crust. I did try a couple of bites of Dad’s portion and detected coconut as well. However, no one else could confirm this.
The final cocktail more than made up for my lack of dessert experience: the “Iceberg”. Made with vodka and frozen Cremes de Menthe and Cacao it tasted like melted chocolate chip mint ice cream. I was only sorry they served it to us in shot glasses.
After the meal and some well-deserved applause for Chef Stephen and his crew, we made it back to our room in a relatively straight line.
After discussing meeting up at the Farmers Market the next morning and relaxing a bit, Mom & Dad went back to their hotel.
Steve & I were in bed by 10. We’re old.
Day 4. Soon.