Maiya’s

Whenever I make it out to Marfa—formerly known as a tiny West Texas ranching town—I marvel anew at the New Yorkers and Europeans and other hip non-Texans who alight on this cultural capital in well-dressed flocks. Someone has to feed all these worldly people, of course, and Maiya Keck, a 2013 James Beard semifinalist, has long been one of those someones.

The Turtle

It was with significant hesitation that I broke one of my cardinal rules—“Never order duck outside major cities”—at the Turtle, a “slow food” restaurant in Brownwood (population 19,000). But the fowl that chef Stephen “Bubba” Frank had in store for me, served pink atop polenta and flash-fried brussels sprouts, was a masterful balance of savory (pecan oil), sweet (honey and cinnamon), and duck-y (the fat crispy, the meat tender). Being wrong had never tasted so right.

Gage Hotel

The closer my friend and I got to Marathon, the quieter I became. Partly it was because the West Texas landscape whizzing by—a tapestry of broad, green cuestas and the exposed ridges of the Glass Mountains—always lulls me into an awed silence. But mostly it was because I was hungry. We pulled into town at seven o’clock, right on time for our dinner reservation at the Gage Hotel, on the edge of Big Bend. 

Inn at Dos Brisas

“I could get used to this,” murmured my friend as we drove along the narrow winding road, past open fields and stands of oaks, cypress, and pecan trees. Patterns of light and shade flickered across the windshield. We rolled down the windows and let the breeze in. The trees moved imperceptibly closer. What was that?! Oh, it was silence—I hardly recognized it. 

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