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Good food day in Texas

A few days ago there was a lot chatter about an article published by the Dallas Morning News critic (and recent LA transplant) Leslie Brenner that went into a long list of deficiencies she sees in the Dallas restaurant scene. Houston eaters piled on and quickly adopted her gripes as their own. I had to disagree.

I may be a merciless bastard with an obnoxious streak, but I also love living in Texas and find this a thrilling place to eat. It’s not that don’t enjoy my dining  adventures in supposed “great restaurant” cities – I do. It’s just that by the end of the trip I usually wonder how the locals manage to survive without the wild range of cuisines and flavors I have such easy access to in Houston, and Texas in general.

I could go into a protracted explanation, but maybe the best way to illustrate my point with a few photos of what I ate today.

My day began in San Antonio with a decidedly Tex-Mex rendition of a chilaquiles wrapped in some of the finest flour tortillas in the state, at Blanco Cafe.

OK, so maybe my day didn’t really begin at Blanco Cafe, but it should have and it did last week. Plus today I had the time to swing by the City Market in Luling on the way home, which has some of the best BBQ in Texas (and therefore the Universe). 

The historic pit room at City Market has many charms, but I like it most because it makes my clothes smell like smoke on the way home.  Smelling like wood smoke beats smelling like a great restaurant city any day of the week.

You just know you’re about to eat something sublime standing in line at this place and once you unfold the brown butcher paper bag, this is what you find (no further explanation or sauce is necessary):

At dinner time I found myself back in Houston, at Beaver’s. Apparently some people find this place overrated, but I keep finding excellent, creative dishes built around the best local ingredients there that makes me think that maybe Beaver’s is in fact underrated and maybe a bit misunderstood, instead.

Tonight’s special was absolutely stunning – raw Gulf Coast escolar with cucumber essence, few citrus slices, julienne of radish and pickled chili peppers. The dish was kicked up to a whole new level by the addition of black garlic, which has an earthy pungency that  black truffles can only dream of.

Retrace my steps through Texas and you may find yourself wondering why anyone would complain about the restaurants in Texas.

I’ll concede that this may not be happening in Dallas, but in Houston we get to witness a quiet emergence of a whole new direction of Gulf Coast cuisine, driven by the up and coming chefs at Reef, Rainbow Lodge, Beaver’s, Catalan and several others. These chefs will be shaping the direction of cooking in this region for years to come. How can eating here be any less than thrilling?

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