Ten years ago Brenda and John Nicholas bought a run-down gas station and beer joint outside Fredericksburg and started cooking on a hot plate. Today fans drive scores of miles to enjoy the Hill Top Cafe’s sophisticated fare and quirky decor. Greek and cajun flavors predominate, with eclectic touches added by new chef David James, formerly of Zinfandeli’s in San Antonio. A collaborative effort—peppered pork with a Greek-style pico de gallo, a punchy cranberry-horseradish sauce, and green orzo—proves that three cooks don’t necessarily spoil the broth. On Friday nights, John plays blues piano (eleven miles northwest of Fredericksburg on U.S. 87; reservations advised; 512-997-8922).
1 14-ounce or larger pork tenderloin (have butcher remove membrane)
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Cut pork into 4 equal pieces, sprinkle with salt, coat with pepper. In very hot sauté pan, sear each piece in 1 tablespoon nearly smoking olive oil. Place in baking dish; roast 4 minutes. Remove, let rest 5 minutes. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick medallions. Coat with remaining oil and either return to oven for another 4 minutes or grill briefly for striped effect (optional). Serves 4.
1 1/2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
8 ounces orzo, cooked and rinsed
1 small yellow or white onion, chopped
1 small poblano chile, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 ounces fresh spinach, cooked, squeezed dry, and chopped
1 tablespoon Pickapeppa Sauce
1/2 stick butter
1 tablespoon dry white wine
Salt to taste
Place cooked orzo in bowl. Mix in 1/2 tablespoon oil. Set aside. In sauté pan cook onion in remaining oil until translucent. Add poblano and garlic, cooking until garlic is golden. Stir in spinach, Pickapeppa Sauce, and butter. Then add orzo, wine, and salt. Serve warm.
Pico de Greco
3 heaping tablespoons sweet onion, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon jumbo Greek olives, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon serrano chile, finely chopped
1 heaping teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 heaping teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
2 heaping tablespoons tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon table-grind black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Mix and serve as relish for pork.
8 ounces cranberry sauce
1/2 cup applesauce (optional)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Juice of 1 1/2 fresh oranges, approximately
In saucepan, combine cranberry sauce and applesauce over low heat. Add horseradish. Thin with orange juice to desired consistency. Purée and serve.
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