Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tummy time USA (3)

Well, here we are at Tummy Time III folks and we are eating well, and inexpensively. Somehow we're easily managing to dodge all the cheese and giant servings we were warned about before we departed Australia, and instead we're on a diet of interesting, well cooked food. If only travelling around Australia could taste as good or be of such a consistently high quality, especially out in the country towns.

As I have mentioned in an earlier posting about Sealy's Flats Diner in San Angelo, I forgot to bring my little camera with me when we ate there, and so this crisp shot of the inside of the diner isn't mine, it's from the Sealy Flats Website. Despite this lapse, Pammy came to the rescue as she said she was planning to do some quick sketches of plates she liked, and the meal she had in Sealy Flats did look nice. So here it is, by Pammy.

On the right is a single, large, lightly spicy crabcake surrounded by a semi-circle of green tomatillo sauce and another of red pepper coulis. It was served with a basket of sweet potato fries, and not only did the whole thing look great, it tasted wonderful, too.

At the local San Angelo supermarket we spotted some tomatillos and so we bought a few to show you, as they have been the star turn in several dishes we have enjoyed in the South West of the USA. As you can see they are little green things, smaller than a regular tomato, larger than a cherry tomato, with a dry, papery outer sheath which peels away easily to reveal the smooth green skin. This little fruit is the heart and soul of salsa verde, and many of the green chilli salsas we have been enjoying here.

Next culinary stop was Miss Hatties' in San Angelo. What enticed us there was the sign saying 'Cafe & Saloon', and once inside the joint the true story was revealed. Miss Hattie's was San Angelo's original bordello, which entertained gentlemen (and not so gentlemen) for over 50 years, until the Texas Rangers closed it down in 1946 (I thought they were meant to be the good guys?).

Inside, Miss Hatties did look a bit like a former bordello, but the thing which really appealed to me, not for the first time in the South-West, was the very well preserved and ornate pressed metal ceiling. These are very common in the older buildings of the region, and it's great to see so many looking so good.

Meanwhile, back at Tummy Time III, I had a Chicken Caesar Salad, with the twist that the chicken was little pieces of southern fried chicken. My lord, praise be, it was nice.

Pammy ordered the pineapple shrimp ceviche salad. While Pammy loves pineapples on their own, she is usually quite wary of the word 'pineapple' appearing in tandem with other foods, and so I was surprised when she chose it, but it all turned out well. Pineapple, lovely. Shrimp (prawns) very tender and sweet, and the salad extremely fresh.

Moving on to the next venue in San Angelo, the River Terrace Restaurant, where we had dinner, here's the pear and arugula (rocket) salad which I had for starters. Pam had a broccoli and cheese soup, but the photo I took didn't turn out so well. Here's a hint as to how it loooked though: it was green.

For the course which Americans call 'entree' and which Aussies call 'mains', I had a cumin rubbed chicken breast with a sauce based on plantains (those green-skinned bananas which are used as a vegetable in places like Africa and the Caribbean). The sauce was sensational. The chef here, Earl, explained that he "makes a whole big batch of this sauce each time" and while he didn't give the recipe he did mention that it also included vanilla pods and chipotle chillies. It was such an interesting flavour, and very much Earl's own creation. Pammy had a rack of lamb, I fluffed the photo on it, too (the lighting in Earl's restaurant was a bit low) but it was cooked rare, just like she likes it, with lightly steamed green beans on the side.

No worries about the dessert at Earl's; it's his grandmother's recipe for key lime cheesecake and he says he has been making it all his life. Pastry light, filling tangy and light. Lovely.

Ach du lieber! We landed in Germany by accident the next morning. While driving down to Austin from San Angelo, we stopped for lunch in a picture-postcard town called Mason. It's one of those country towns with a big, green, tree-filled square in the middle where the imposing, columned courthouse stands. On all four sides of the square there's a wide road, edged with rows of old buildings ranging from banks and lawyer's offices through to cafes and produce stores. There was even an Odeon Theatre, a few antique stores and several clothing shops. There was a choice of two cafes there, and we chose 'The Square Plate' and while it was filled with friendly folk talking with a broad Texan accent, much of the food was German.

I had the bratwurst sausage with potato salad and sauerkraut.

And Pam had the Pepperwurst sausage with potato salad and red cabbage. Both excellent. Lots of the names of the lawyers and other business proprietors in Mason were German, and the nearby major town, Fredericksburg, was actually putting on its annual Octoberfest when we passed through later in the day, so this pleasant 'hill district' of Texas (well, it was a bit hilly) is a place where German settlers very sensibly decided to stay.

We're in Austin, Texas right now. We're eating so well here in America. There are lots of good cooks over here, come on over and visit! All we're doing is staying away from chain restaurants and looking for smaller places such as diners and cafes.

It's true that in all of these places we could have chosen far less healthy options, such as burgers, nachos, burritos and enchiladas dripping with cheese and smothered with 'the chef's special cheesy, creamy sauce', but on every menu we have found something interesting and tasty to eat. They cater to all tastes over here, God bless 'em.


patientgardener said...

How wonderful and what varirety and dispell the notion that USA is all burgers and fries. A work colleague has just returned from a month travelling route 66 and I have a desire to go so I will have to do some saving.

I have friends growing tomitilla here in the Uk successfully so you might be able to grow them when you get home

Jamie said...


Tomatillos grow so well in Sydney that a friend who grew them said they became a major weed in her backyard, with plants springing up all over the place.

Alexa said...

Keep up the food posts! I don't often miss American food but you're making me miss it!