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Texas Eats: The Menger’s Mango Ice Cream

Writing Texas Eats was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about Texas food history in the 1800s, a time that some food historians think was the heyday of American cooking. One of the biggest surprises was the history of the Menger Hotel and its restaurant. It was considered the best food West of the Mississippi in the era of the railroad. And some of the things served there were amazing. There is a complete menu from a banquet held by Teddy Roosevelt for veterans of the Rough Riders reprinted in the book.
And then there’s the mango ice cream. There is a photo of Bill Clinton eating mango ice cream in the lobby of hotel. This mango ice cream was probably the most famous dessert in Texas at the turn of the last century and its still so famous that in 1994, a visiting politician wanted to be photographed eating some.

From Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook: Historic Fine Dining: The Old Menger Hotel

The mango ice cream was slick in texture owing to the abundance of rich tropical fruit. Ted Lopez, the head chef of the Colonial Dining Room at the Menger Hotel, told me that it was actually halfway between an ice cream and a sherbet and that the dessert had been on the menu for over a hundred years. I am guessing that the pastel walls of the Colonial Dining Room were painted to match the color of its famous ice cream.

Over the years, this dining room has served such notables as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Sarah Bernhardt and Presidents Harding, Taft, and McKinley…

Recipe after the jump read more Texas Eats: The Menger’s Mango Ice Cream »

TXChefs3: Trashfish Creole: Bryan Caswell and Felipe Riccio

It’s hard to figure out where Texas cooking is headed right now. There are a lot of different trends going on and they have little to do with each other. In fact, sometimes it seems like the chefs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin arrived here from different planets. In this series, I’ll check out food from some hot Texas chefs and look for clues about the big picture.

Felipe Riccio’s “Rainbow Runner-Mayhaw Ceviche” appetizer at Reef in Houston, is a marvel. It combines two unique ingredients in a sensational dish that neatly sums up the restaurant’s philosophy.

read more TXChefs3: Trashfish Creole: Bryan Caswell and Felipe Riccio »

TexChefs1: Molecular Cowboys: Stephan Pyles and David Gilbert

It’s hard to figure out where Texas cooking is headed right now. There are a lot of different trends going on and they have little to do with each other. In fact, sometimes it seems like the chefs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin arrived here from different planets. In this series, I’ll check out food from some hot Texas chefs and look for clues about the big picture.

Arctic Char with Bananas and Apple Slice

The title on the menu at the new restaurant in the Elian Hotel in the Hill Country outside of San Antonio reads: “Sustenio, Modern Southwestern Cuisine by Stephan Pyles.” The test tube full of melon puree had a capsule inside that exploded in my mouth as I drank it–it was melon juice. The flavor reminded me it would soon be time for Pecos cantaloupes. The crispy-skinned arctic char with creamy rutabaga puree, freeze-dried banana chunks and a glazed apple slice with a perfect star in the middle was wonderful. Though it brought to mind the question that restaurant critics and chefs in Texas used to grapple with: “What makes this dish ‘Southwestern?'”

read more TexChefs1: Molecular Cowboys: Stephan Pyles and David Gilbert »

FTX: Foodways Texas

The FTX Founding 50

Foodways Texas (FTX) was formed this week in a three day organizational gathering at Texas A&M. The founding group of 50 came from all over the state and included academics, chefs, food producers and food writers. They adopted this mission statement: The mission of Foodways Texas is to preserve, promote and celebrate the diverse food cultures of Texas.

read more FTX: Foodways Texas »

Hey Chef: Pass the Gravy!

There is a roast beef poor boy topped with a fried egg on the brunch menu at Bistro Alex in the Hotel Sorella. It sounds awesome. And it would be–if the kitchen would provide you with a little gravy. I know, know, this fancy pants roast beef sandwich comes with gourmet peppercorn syrup, so it shouldn’t need gravy. But hey, the sandwich was still dry. When I asked for gravy, the kitchen sent out more syrup.

What do Houston chefs have against gravy?

read more Hey Chef: Pass the Gravy! »

Homestyle Tex-Mex in Galveston

Chile relleno was the Wednesday special at Mi Abuelitas Homestyle Mexican Restaurant on 45th and Avenue O 1/2 in Galveston. It was served with beans and fideo for $7. Owner Sara Asocar worked as a waitress at El Nopalito, one of Galveston’s most popular Tex-Mex restaurants, for 17 years before Ike took that [...]

Chef Albert Roux Slumming in Conroe

I am still thinking about the soft-boiled quail eggs with asparagus tips tossed in hollandaise (or was it béarnaise?) that I had at Chez Roux in February. It was one of those brilliant dishes that seems all the more inventive because you could pretty easily make it yourself at home. I think you can buy quail eggs at Central Market. And most of us can muster up a reasonable hollandaise in the blender.

The real treat at Chez Rouz was meeting the legendary Albert Roux, the man who taught Gordon Ramsey how to cook.

read more Chef Albert Roux Slumming in Conroe »

More Serious Eats in Texas

New York food writer Ed Levine was in Houston over the last few days researching a new book that’s being written by the whole staff at his famous food blog Serious Eats. Ed and I are old friends.

Levine once took me on a pizza tour of Manhattan that included a lot of great pizzerias I never heard of. He also introduced me to David Chang back when Chang was a humble, eccentric chef running an obscure little noodle joint almost single-handedly.

I took Ed on a short food tour of Fort Worth last year when we were both in DFW for the Pillsbury Bake-Off. He was blown away by Babe’s Fried Chicken in Roanoke and Caro’s Tex-Mex. But I was really looking forward to giving Levine a grand food tour of Houston.

read more More Serious Eats in Texas »

Foodways Texas (FTX)

Foodways Texas

Watch for more information about this Texas foodways group in the making.