As the taco trend marches north—beyond our own state’s borders—it’s good to remind ourselves where the roots of this culinary delight are sunk the deepest. That would be Mexico, of course, and within our borders, the Rio Grande Valley. Tacos are as entrenched in Valley culture as muffulettas are in New Orleans or cheesesteaks in Philly. Long before $5 avant garde tacos became the vogue in places like Austin and Oak Cliff in Dallas, modestly priced tacos were a cornerstone of this region’s cuisine.
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The toolbox of the contemporary cocktail bartender is ever expanding, as he or she perambulates the farmers’ market, the science lab, and the farthest reaches of the Internet in search of inspiration. The kitchens of chef colleagues are another common source, particularly for savory ideas. Unfortunately, this experimentation can sometimes come off as gimmicky if the flavor or technique, used merely for the sake of being “curiouser and curiouser,” adds nothing worthwhile to the cocktail.
You’d think I would know better, but obviously I don’t. At the end of a long workday, I decided to reward myself by having dinner at the hot new Austin restaurant Italic. At seven-thirty. On a Thursday. Without a reservation. The place was, of course, packed, but the hostess piped up, “There’s open seating at the bar.” So I joined several other customers prowling back and forth like lions watching a herd of wildebeests.
When two Tex-Mex restaurants opened in New York City this spring, it seemed as if every Texan in town sent an email about it to every other Texan in town. And these weren’t casual messages but exclamation mark–filled, all-caps expressions of unparalleled excitement, like “BOTH PLACES HAVE SO MUCH QUESO!!!” and “WHY ISN’T THERE A TACO EMOJI YET?!”
Every so often, headlines tell us of a forthcoming pandemic that threatens to wipe out life on earth as we know it—and then, a few months later, those headlines disappear and the fear of the disease du jour wanes. It may have been a while, in other words, since you’ve thought about avian flu, but you really ought to keep it in mind.
Kuhlman Cellars Calcaria, 2013
Wednesday night, at The Little Nell hotel in Aspen, the Court of Master Sommeliers announced the latest class of master sommeliers to earn a diploma for passing what has been referred to as one of the world’s hardest exams. This year, there were seven who passed, one of whom was Texas’ own June Rodil of Austin.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/8 cup lightly packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup cacao nibs
4 rings fresh pineapple (peeled and cored), sliced about 1/2 inch thick and cut into cubes