Friday, May 7, 2010

Amy's Agrilicious Imaginarium Tour

Last July I posted about my delight in traveling Highway 281 from Dallas to San Antonio.  And today reading Unfair Park, I see that a writer from the New York Times agrees with my love of this stretch of edible Texas.  Then Nancy Nichols over on SideDish asked for readers' fantasy culinary destinations, to which I replied that this trip, for some, can be as good as anything you'd have to fly to taste.

I mean think about it, Texas is the second largest agricultural state in the US, growing more than 60 different commercial crops.  But how many of us get out and explore the areas in Texas that produce these delicacies?  We're known best for our beef, perhaps allowing memories of state-bred fruits and vegetables to dim, our taste buds pounded down by the mediocre flavours of genetically modified, off-season imports. 

And how about that Texas wine industry?  It takes no longer to drive from Dallas to a vineyard than it does from San Francisco to the Napa Valley.  But how often do we explore and appreciate this?  Did you know that Texas climate and soil are very similar to parts of Spain?  Our agricultural department is helping state olive producers develop orchards to create more quality Texas olives and olive oil based on their early success.

We've seen a strong desire lately for a closer relationship with what we consume, whether it's by having chickens in the backyard, advocating for community gardens, or shopping at farmers markets featuring actual farmers.  And I have to think, feel, hope that there are others besides just me that would find a tour of the bountiful cornucopia of Central Texas a fun trip to make.

So I've charted out a weekend getaway for just such an adventure, travel would be from Dallas to San Antonio (and back) via luxury bus, leaving on Friday morning and returning on Sunday evening.  It would need to be between May and July, since that's peach season, and I love stopping for fresh orchard peaches at McCall's (sorry did I mention that this is my fantasy?).  It's just fictional so far, unless by chance I get 30 or so emails stating "I'm in". 

Friday:   8am-9am - Load up and leave.  Coffee and croissants on the road:  Cleburne, Glen Rose, Hico, Hamilton, Lampasas.  First stop - Fall Creek Vineyards, Tow, Texas.  Picnic lunch, wine tasting.  Resume trip:  Llano, Enchanted Rock, Fredericksburg.  Second stop - Fredericksburg Farmers Market.  Walk, stretch, buy.  Resume trip:  5-10 miles.  Third stop - Fredericksburg Winery.  Wine tasting, sample items from farmers market stop.  Resume trip:  Comfort, Boerne, San Antonio.  Check into hotel (my vote would be Hotel Contessa, it's all suites, right on the riverwalk, and an amazing roof top terrace/pool).  After spending the entire day together on the bus, perhaps dinner should be left to everyone to arrange on their own?  Or we cross the street and take over Casa Rio - I'm great with either.

Saturday:  Before the heat builds too much, another bus ride to just south of San Antonio to visit Sandy Oaks Olive Orchards, looking and tasting the 9 different varieties of olives they grow.  Back to San Antonio for a tour of the Center for Food of the Americas at the Culinary Institute of America-San Antonio down the river at the former Pearl Brewery.  Maybe a little free time to explore?  Regroup for a bus ride for dinner at El Mirasol, a San Antonio favorite located in the north east neighborhoods.

Sunday:  8 am- 9am.  Load up and leave.   Heading north on 281, Spring Branch, Blanco.  First stop:  McCall Creek Farms for fresh peaches and vegetables.  Resume trip:  Henly, Dripping Springs.  Second stop:  Dripping Springs Vodka tour.  Drink, shop, enjoy (after all, you don't have to drive).  Resume trip:  Johnson City, Marble Falls, Burnet (stop somewhere along here for a quick lunch?).  OR, can snack and have something more substantial in Glen Rose at Rough Creek Lodge in the (later) afternoon?

Back in Big D by 6:30 pm.  In bed by 7:00 pm.

UPDATE:  Over on SideDish was the recommendation of cheese and beer production - sounds delicious to me.  I think this trip would be over-the-top fun if a couple of Dallas chefs were to participate as well.  And gift bags, there has to be (environmentally friendly recyclable grocery) gift bags with important things like wine openers, crackers, fresh bread, bottled waters, magazines.

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