Sunday, February 21, 2010


My lovely wife The Rock Star and I have made no secret of our desire to someday move to Fredericksburg, that lovely Germanic hamlet just about an hour's drive from both San Antonio and Austin. We love the charming, very liveable and walkable downtown, the burgeoning music scene, and the delightful restaurants, most of which feature good, honest, unpretentious cuisine that warms and pleases the soul. However, we sometimes wish that this rather smallish town would add a few fine dining establishments that would not only please but thrill our palates. Luckily, this need has been anticipated and is being met, little by little. First, Cabernet Grill (formerly The Cotton Gin Restaurant, so named because of the restored building where it resides) set the bar quite nicely with a mostly surf and turf menu on one of our first visits. Then, on an expedition late last year, Navajo Grill pushed the envelope a bit farther, delivering excellent nouveau Texas food in a charmingly ramshackle house. Finally, on our most recent trip, we discovered August E's, which may be most praiseworthy of all. Since Fredericksburg is, after all, quite the little place, it was only a short drive from our favorite bed and breakfast to our newly discovered cathedral of consumption.

August E's is housed in a warehouse-type structure that would make Le Corbusier proud. Exposed metal beams and concrete walls give an Elmer Rice feel to the place, made warmer by excellent postmodern artwork hanging from said walls. White tablecloths and black-clad waitstaff add a touch of elegance to the place, a very urban feel unlike any other to be found in the Hill Country outside of Austin. Since we had Valentine's Day celebration reservations, we were shown right to our table and were taken charge of almost at once.

We began our repast with salad, specifically the Ebers Haus Green Salad, a fetching blend of field greens, tomatoes, spiced pecans, and a delightfully tart Dijon honey balsamic vinaigrette with parmesan cheese. A salad designed to whet rather than totally sate the appetite. Since August E's is a sushi house as well as a formal restaurant, we decided to attack a sushi roll appetizer next. The Jimmy Walker featured a shrimp tempura roll with cucumber, avocado, and caviar. Very good, but not quite as dyno-mite as I would have hoped; a bit more heat might just have punched this palate pleaser to the next level. Luckily, our entrees took the dining experience to that level. In most class establishments, getting the Fish Du Jour is often an excellent choice, and my wife's entree was very fresh fish, simply grilled and served with creamy marscapone whipped potatoes and sauteed sugar snap peas with herb butter cream. Light yet rich and very satisfying. My own choice was Beef Wellington, very rare tenderloin topped with pate and duxelles and served with more of those marscapone potatoes and seasonal mixed vegetables. Again, quite filling but light at the same time; chef Leu Savanh really knows how to sate his guests without stuffing them to the point where movement becomes difficult. We paired our dishes with Castle Rock Pinot Noir, a great food wine with plenty of berries and spice. Dessert was another knockout, flourless chocolate cake with chocolate sauce, more like cheesecake than cake cake, again, quite satisfying without being overwhelming.

Service was excellent and perfectly paced for a leisurely celebration that nonetheless moved along in timely fashion. Website is, and reservations are recommended, particularly on busy evenings.

Overall, August E's Restaurant is another Fredericksburg establishment which, if it were moved a couple of hundred miles north, could easily give Dallas chefs a run for their money. Discover your postmodern place soon, and remember:


Monday, February 15, 2010

Delish Dish 4: Beef Brisket at Inman's BBQ Kitchen & Catering, Llano, TX

Many years ago, a writer at Texas Monthly wrote an article in which he scoffed at the idea of Lockhart, Texas as the Holy Mecca of Barbecue. In his view, Llano barbecue was even better, delivering more of the true Texas campfire flavor and texture that made a diner feel like eating from a chuckwagon on the open range. Over the years, I've managed to venture several times to two of these three eateries, the justly-famous Coopers and the lesser-known Lairds. Both, particularly Coopers, deliver stellar barbecue, but I just felt that Louis Muellers in Taylor was a tiny bit better than both when it came to brisket. Recently, my lovely wife the Rock Star and I were enjoying a wine tasting at nearby Fall Creek Winery when the discourse happened to fall upon barbecue. The proprietors said they indeed enjoyed both Coopers and Lairds, but the best of all was Inman's Kitchen, a locals favorite that just happened to be the third place mentioned by Texas Monthly long ago. Since it was lunchtime, my wife and I determined to check out Inman's for ourselves, and duly made our way there when said tasting was completed.

Housed in a former hospital, Inman's may not have the delightful vibe of either Lairds rambling house or Coopers open dining room, but the welcome was quite warm. We placed our orders for two meat plates, the better to sample it all, including turkey breast, turkey sausage, ribs, and brisket. Inman's is justly famous for their turkey sausage, which delivered a peppery kick, and the ribs, turkey breast and sides, particularly coleslaw, were excellent as well. But the undeniable star of both plates was the brisket. One bite of that juicy, savory masterpiece gave me the campfire flavor and texture I was searching for, simultaneously tender and chewy, with an impossibly long, slow smoky finish that stayed on the tastebuds for a long time. In short, a brisket to rival anything I've had in Lockhart or Taylor, or at Coopers for that matter. Website is if you should wish to journey to Llano, and finding Inman's is easy in this town of 3500; heading West, it's just down the street from Coopers, on the right. Find your own campfire fixin's tonight, and remember:


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Delish Dish 3: Judias Verdes con Jamon Serrano en Salsa de Mostaza at Si Tapas

We Americans like to think we have the best bar food in the world. Our wings, nachos, and cheese sticks certainly provide filling fare, and they are generally hearty and satisfying. However, other countries have intriguing pub grub as well, from English fish and chips to Irish corned beef and cabbage to Germany's renowned bratwurst. Surprisingly, Spain just might have them all beat with tapas. Varieties of dishes are endless, from cold cuts like chorizo and lomo (sausage and pork loin), to marinated olive plates and salad dishes such as Tomato al Ajillo (tomato garlic salad), to a procession of hot plates including Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp in garlic), Pincho Moruno (beef on skewer), and Pollo en Cerveza (chicken sauteed in beer sauce). All are devoured eagerly by hungry patrons, who use the smallish portions at Happy Hour to tide them over until dinnertime, or who may arrive a little later, order more, and use them to stand in for the evening meal itself. They also make a fabulous brunch repast, as my lovely wife the Rock Star and I found when we motored down to the State-Thomas area of Dallas one recent Sunday noontide.

Si Tapas Restaurant is housed proudly in a restored casa amongst the delightfully quaint streets of State-Thomas, and the equally delightful owner assured us our car would not be towed if we used the Notre Dame Cathedral parking lot. Dodging omnipresent construction equipment, we soon entered a little corner of Valencia, with ramshackle rooms such as the former garage where we were seated. Flamenco guitar music completed the illusion, and we soon commenced to order. All of the tapas we tried were excellent, but for my money the Judias Verdes con Jamon Serrano en Salsa de Mostaza was the standout. This dish translated into fresh, French-style green beans with Serrano ham, which is salt-cured and similar to Italian prosciutto, all served with righteously spiced mustard sauce which really fused the ham and green beans together into a completely new twist on a combination of two picnic standbyes. Unlike Easter dinner, this combination was light and refreshing, yet surprisingly hearty, as were all the tapas we tried that day. Service was very good as well, and the whole effect was like dining with an Iberian family in their private abode. Say yes to Si Tapas soon, and remember: