Day Two of our trip began auspiciously enough, with Molly bringing breakfast to our cottage promptly at 8:40 AM. I feel that Camp David's gourmet breakfasts are one of the best features of the place, and keep my lovely wife the Rock Star and I coming back time and again. Why wake up to cereal when you can dine like a king on Eggs Florentine? Molly's version boasted spinach, eggs, and ham on top of an English muffin, then covered with lemony Hollandaise. Marvelous! She also served an excellent pumpkin bread, fruit cup, and orange juice, leaving us well fortified for our busy day. In short order, we pointed our car northward, destination Tow, Texas.
FALL CREEK WINERY
For my money, Ed and Sharon Auler run the best value-oriented winery in the whole state of Texas. I do admit, however, that finding it for the first time can be rather a challenge; we usually go north from Fredericksburg to Llano, then head east on Young street about two miles out of town and follow the signs from there. (Consult the map on the winery's website at www.fcv.com before you proceed.) As usual, we skipped the tour and headed straight for the tasting room, where the amiable Buzz deftly guided us through our selections. We particularly enjoy Fall Creek's award-winning Chenin Blanc and Granite Reserve and selected bottles of the Muscat Canelli, Granite Blush, Sweet Red (a present for the Rock Star's lovely mother, The Momma), and Ed's Smooth Red to make up a case so we could get the 10% discount (natch!). Yours truly will be sampling and reviewing said product in the very near future, or giving it away as Christmas presents, as a hand-selected bottle of vino makes one of the nicest presents one can possibly give or receive.
With Buzz's help, we wrestled the case into the back of the car and headed back to Llano to lunch at Barbecue Mecca #2.
Quick, which was the first barbecue ever served at a White House State Dinner? If you said Coopers, go to the head of the class! (You get bonus points if you remember that the president in question was LBJ.) You know you are in for a true archetypal Texas dining experience when you line up a the outdoor pits to make your selection. You tell the pit man what kind of meat you want, he slices it and dips it in sauce if you prefer, then you carry it inside where the smoky meat is weighed and priced, and you can select other sides. (Hint: If you're as much of a true 'cue fanatic as I am, skip the sides because Coopers generously provides you with barbecue pinto beans and all the bread and sauce you want at no charge.) Just stake out a place at one of the long picnic tables and chow down. Cooper's brisket, sausage, and pork loin are stellar stuff, yet I must make special mention of two of their selections. The double cut pork chop is an absolute monster, thick as a bodybuilders biceps, and juicy for days. The barbecued prime rib is the best version I've had of this steakhouse standby anywhere, and as usual, I purchased a cheap styrofoam cooler and ice to tote it home. In sum, I challenge you to find better Texas barbecue anywhere than Cooper's prime rib or double cut chop, for as of this writing, if it exists, I've yet to find it.
After lunch, we motored back to Fredericksburg for a little relaxation and sightseeing. (You simply must make time to walk their turn-of-last-century downtown.)
TEXAS WINE CELLARS
Since there are so many winerys in the Hill Country, an excellent way to sample several at once is to stop at one of the independant tasting rooms that dot downtown Fredericksburg. Texas Wine Cellars features friendly service and free tastings, however, please be prepared for the fact that some wines may be marked up to as much as DOUBLE their normal retail price. (This was certainly true of Fall Creek's Granite Reserve.) Another quibble: Not all area wines are sold there, although some of the town's wineries may not allow it, choosing instead to sell them from their own tasting room instead. Texas Wine Cellars also schedules winery tours. Check them out at www.texas-wine-tours.com.
After making a few more selections, and with cocktail hour upon us, we repaired down main street to try another of Fredericksburg's fine biergartens.
AUSLANDER RESTAURANT & BIERGARTEN
The interior of this place resembles nothing so much as an oversized shotgun shack, with the covered bar area opening up into an alfresco biergarten. The bartender and her assistants were wonderfully welcoming and gracious, talking us easily through the rather intimidating list of beers. We selected German beers, of course (you know me, Mr. When-In-Rome), and like the previous day, it was too early for dinner, so we scanned the menu for appropriate appetizers before selecting the German Snack. Top-notch, peppery Hill Country sausage was paired with Swiss and Cheddar cheese, sauerkraut, and hearty pumpernickle bread to make an absolutely perfect match with our Spatens. The atmosphere was very convival, and we are determined to return on a future trip to town. Their website is www.theauslander.com.
We drove back to Camp David to freshen up, as it were, before setting our sights on dinner and maybe a little live music. To our horror, we discovered that one of our favorite places, Hondo's on Main, is closed on Monday nights. Not to worry, a little bit of research led us to our final destination for the evening.
SILVER CREEK RESTAURANT & SALOON
A great new place in an old house right on Main street, Silver Creek Restaurant and Saloon has been in business less than a year but already boasts a devoted following for it's live music which takes place on the charming front porch and yard. The Rock Star absolutely loved her steak salad, featuring a well prepared flatiron cut, and I enjoyed my ribeye, baked potato, and asparagus, a classic renditon indeed. Blues Monday was in full swing, except that after playing for an hour or so, host Graham Warwick had to leave with the owners to plead his case in night court! Seems someone didn't care for the live music and complained, so a delegation from the restaurant set off to appear before the judge, promising to return in about an hour. We waited about ninety minutes, then left, thoroughly satisfied with our day, and returned to Camp David for the night. By the way, Silver Creeek has no formal website, merely a site on Myspace at www.myspace.com/silvercreekbiergarten. Don't forget:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!