Sunday, July 28, 2013

Grandmother's Lemon Salad Dressing


Not long ago, my neighborhood book club had dinner at Gigi's. She's an adventurous cook; we look forward to her dinners. The night she introduced us to "5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake" is a fond memory among the group.  

This time, the main course was a tasty Eastern European stuffed pepper dish, to complement The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht, a complex story weaving the dissolution of Yugoslavia with family relationships and mystery.

Our bonus was learning how to make a treasured family recipe. 

Gigi's German grandmother attended a Swiss finishing school in the early 1900's. Among the important lessons of domestic life was a recipe for a salad dressing sweet and tart enough to make salad a celebration.  

Gigi's grandmother used the recipe the rest of her life. When her daughter immigrated to America, the recipe immigrated with her. And Gigi has prepared it for 40 years and counting. 

The recipe is simple but the flavors are pure and a salad needs little more than tender lettuce and this dressing to kiss the tongue.


Grandmother's Lemon Dressing
(small salad)

Into a jar with a lid, squeeze the juice of one ripe lemon.
Add:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
~ 1/4 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed or canola.  Start with less--the amount will vary with the juiciness of the lemon and can be adjusted after combining.

Put the lid on and shake until blended.  Taste and adjust oil or seasoning as needed.

Dress and toss the salad just before serving.  

Feel free to pass the recipe on, Gigi's grandmother would be honored.

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pedernales Cellars Viognier 2012 -- Lively and Layered





In the last six or seven years a number of new Hill Country wineries have begun producing rave-review wines. Pedernales Cellars outside of Fredericksburg is one of my favorites. 

Denny and I were celebrating day's end recently and opened one of my few bottles of Pedernales Cellars 2012 Viognier, a 100% Texas-grown wine.




A good Viognier wakes you up and slows you down at the same time. This award-winning Viognier is good. Imagine a crisp tongue tingle with an edge of tropical pineapple and grapefruit followed by a glide of peach and honey with a whisper of flowery spice at the end.


Then imagine yourself sipping from a glass of this light gold goodness, sitting before a sunset, watching flows of glowing light layer the sky, letting the synthesis of light and flavor sweep life's minutiae from your mind.

Welcome to the magic of fine wine made and tasted in the Texas Hill Country. 

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Boerne, Texas -- Small town with a big appetite

A while back I spent a weekend in Boerne, a colorful Hill Country town of around 10,000 folks. 

It's easy to do, especially if you like being spoiled.


My sister Jane and I checked into a suite in an 1860's era building at Ye Kendall Inn. A ghostly man in uniform is rumored to share quarters in the older rooms. 

We didn't see him, guess we'll have to try again.



Shoppers enjoy wandering the quaint downtown where garden toys, kitchen implements, women's finery, antiques, home goods and more attract the eye.  A shopper on vacation never knows what she'll need.



The last friend I took to Boerne--Chef Kitty of Hill Country Coconut Pie Tour fame-- returned to Florida with a tanned cowhide big enough to cover a wall in her beachside Blue Star Wine Bar, in tribute to Texas.


Jane and I were in town the second weekend of the month, the same weekend as Boerne Market Days when regional Texas vendors take over the town park next to Ye Kendall Inn.


At Gypsy Couture's decked-out trailer I found a fun fake turquoise necklace with sparkles and dangles, the kind of thing a woman wears on vacation. And I feel like I'm on vacation every time I wear it.  


Boerne has a number of art galleries, which host a Second Saturday Art Night.  Galleries stay open late and greet visitors with nibbles and wine. Among my favorites was Carriage House Gallery of Artists, owned and operated by 10 partner artists who were happy to talk about their water colors, oil paintings, pottery and sculpture.


When we weren't shopping, Jane and I sipped and supped.

I've posted before about Dodging Duck Brewhouse's much-better-than pub grub and made-on-site brew. Elk-burgers, Thai chicken-peanut lettuce wraps and more go with the beer.




We spent a couple of hours lingering over fine wine in a lovely setting at The Boerne Wine Company.





Boerne is home to more good food than you can manage in a weekend, but we made a sincere effort.



At the Bear Moon Bakery & Cafe, baked goods, soups and sandwiches transcend the ordinary.




The Creek Restaurant sits above the banks of Cibolo Creek.  I thought my dinner of Roasted Quail with Granola Stuffing, finished with Brandy Golden Raisin Reduction was equally splendid.






As was Sunday Brunch at Little Gretel.  Folks drive from San Antonio and Austin for the restaurant's authentic house-made Kolaches.






To balance our intake, we picked up a Historic Walking Tour pamphlet from the Visitor's Center and wandered among 140 buildings in the historic downtown area.





But my favorite Boerne activity is just outside of town, where a visit to Cave Without A Name  takes me beyond the ticking of time.





The next time you want a weekend away, consider Boerne (http://www.visitboerne.org/ ) --then let me know how much fun you had.

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Real Ale at the Redbud Cafe

Sometimes a few hours can be a vacation, especially when it involves food, drink and friends.

Which happened today at the Redbud Cafe when I joined 'the girls' for a jaunt to Blanco. Catching up with each other was good; the food at the Redbud Cafe worth the drive.  

And the chance to sip a fresh ale from local brewer Real Ale was better than icing on the cake. Other people may lust over the coconut sweetness of macaroons or the chocolate bite in triple chocolate cookies, both made on site, but I'll take the taste of Real Ale any day.

Phoebe and I split a sampler of four Real Ale specialties, choosing from among the eight on tap, more than the number poured at the brewery, in fact the largest number carried by anyone anywhere.

I'd like to say our tasting was a scientific endeavor but really, it was tongue travel.  

We started with the Rio Blanco Pale Ale, which was a clear reddish color, with a light and slightly fruity flavor.  On a 1-5 scale, Phoebe gave it a 2.5 and I gave it a 3.  Doesn't mean you wouldn't give it a 10, but we tend to go for darker brews.

Second was Brewhouse Brown, smooth, malty and toasty, complex with a hint of spice on the finish. Brewhouse Brown was Phoebe's favorite, she gave it her highest score, 4.5.  It's one of my favorites too, I gave it a 4.0.

The 17th Anniversary Ale is an unusual brew, 14% alcohol.  On first taste, sweetness balanced hoppiness but a likeable bite lingered in the back of the throat and a touch of acid tingle enlivened the flavor.  P's score was 3.0, mine was 3.75.


Our last was Mysterium Vernum (translation "Real Mystery").  Mysterium is actually a series. For more than three years the brewers have tried aging different formulations in oak barrels. 
  
Today's brew had a caramel aroma and flavor, maybe a bit of tannin. Plus undertones of dark chocolate, leather and deep cherry fruit.  I'm guessing the barrel age adds some of this.  A unique and intriguing brew. I rated it a 5.0, Phoebe gave it a 2.0.

Which reminded me of my grandmother's saying, "Everyone to her own taste, said the old lady that kissed the cow."

If you want to do your own sampling, visit the brewery on Fridays from 2 - 5 p.m. for a tour and tasting. Real Ale, 231 San Saba Ct., Blanco, 830-833-2534.

Or go whole-hog and try all eight at the Redbud Cafe,
410 4th St., Blanco, on the square across from the courthouse.  830-833-0202, closed on Mondays. 

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Raccoon Redux

We returned from a trip to North Carolina, and found our cutest nightmare.



A raccoon kit perhaps a couple of months old, likely born in our front garden, maybe to the raccoon we found a few weeks ago.  Irresistibly round and fuzzy, a little unsteady in his climbing, with a sweet scared face. No Mama in sight.

If he finds enough to eat and isn't eaten himself by the foxes and coyotes, he'll be habituated to our place.

Every night as darkness falls we'll race to rescue our hanging feeders before he breaks and disembowels them of seed.  He'll eat the lizards that live in the rocks, the frogs that live by the porch and the eggs of the cardinals, chickadees, titmice, buntings, tanagers and more that nest here.

Then if he is actually a she, in about a year more fuzzy babies will appear. They'll grow up with common-law ownership of our gardens, our neighbors' acres and everything else for about a square mile.

Bandits.


But today, he's the cutest thing you've ever seen and I can't bring myself to hope he doesn't make it. 




Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ooh and Ahh in the Texas Hill Country

Folks travel to the Texas Hill Country to remember how it feels to forget time and to-do lists. 

Along the way they commune with nature, eat and drink the country's finest and embrace the seasons.

SPRING

March-April Flowers:  In years with rain, wildflowers riot along scenic drive Willow City Loop between RR16 and FM 1323 not far from Fredericksburg.  

For those who visit in dry years, cultivated wildflower fields bloom at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, 100 Legacy Drive  Fredericksburg, (800) 848-0078. 

SUMMER

From mid-May until early September, water-lovers dive into fun among 65 acres of water slides, tube chutes, water coasters, a wave pool, body boarding, children's play areas and more at Schlitterbahn New Braunfels.



In early June, multiple lavender farms open for tours during the Blanco Lavender Festival.  Everything-lavender and local arts booths entice shoppers in the historic town square.

From May-October, nature-lovers flock to the sight of 3,000,000 Mexican Freetail bats spiraling from an abandoned tunnel at Old Tunnel State Park near Comfort. Rangers teach bat facts at pre-emergence programs Thursday-Sunday.





Other travelers venture underground for a view of time made stone; and respite from summer heat.

Natural Bridge Caverns on the outskirts of San Antonio features massive caves carved by aeons of drips, plus a drive-through wild animal park at 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, 210-651-6101. 



Cave Without a Name offers perhaps the least-crowded tours of fantastic cave formations.  325 Kreutzberg Road,  Boerne, 830-537-4212. 



At Longhorn Cavern State Park, visitors walk through large sculpted tunnels and hear stories of the saints and sinners who frequented the caverns in earlier times.  Between Marble Falls and Burnet, approximately 6 miles west and 6 miles south of Burnet on Park Road 4, off of Highway 281, (830) 598-2283.


Kids of all ages beat the heat with a river seat around New Braunfels, floating their cares away in the cool of the Comal River and the Guadalupe. 






FALL FESTIVALS 

Mid-October brings the Gruene Music & Wine Fest, a combination of the Hill Country's finest cheer. 

In late October, the Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest hosts entertainment, food and wine, 100 W. Main Square, Fredericksburg.

For art in late October, folks visit historic Gruene's Texas Clay Festival where over 60 Texas artists display their wares and demonstrate their skill

In early November, Wurstfest goers fuel up on German beer and sausage  and cheer on their favorite oompah band in nights of chicken dances and who-cares celebration.  A person might even be inspired to polka. 120 Landa Street, New Braunfels.



WINTER

Late November through December, the Hill Country Christmas Lighting Trail twinkles in sweet Hill Country towns.  Most displays are free, all sparkle.

Wine-lovers know that winter is the quiet season in Hill Country vineyards and wineries, a perfect time to visit without the press of crowds.  


For a wine-country weekend, enjoy award-winning wines along the Texas answer to Napa, the Fredericksburg Highway 290 Wine Road, where more than a dozen wineries and tasting venues offer everything from sweet to fine.

There are good grapes closer to Austin too, like Duchman Family Winery and Driftwood Vineyards.   

Or find any of the 36 wineries along the Hill Country Wine Trail.



But wherever and whenever you go, you'll find fun in the Texas Hill Country.

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.