Thursday, February 12, 2009
The Culinary Wasteland That Is The Texas Coast
I'm still here, fear not. I just took a few days to go camp out at the Gulf to see these guys. They're called Roseate Spoonbills and they are so marvelously ugly it's beautiful. There's a French word for that, I think.
We ate crawfish tails (I finally sucked out the brains - creamy and sweet! Now I know why Zombies are so mad for 'em), thick-shelled oysters that tasted not unpleasantly like harbor (cocktail sauce fine on Gulf oysters; ask me for some with your Duxburys and I will throw you out of the restaurant myself), and fried snapper (note to Fulton Beach, TX: Panko is a specific type of bread crumb, air-dried in the walls and of a certain delicate crispness - it's not a method of cooking, so you can't call it "panko-fried" if you rolled it in those Italian seasoned bread crumbs from the can... and I know you did.)
But our most charming meal was in the overweight-elderly capitol of the world: Port Aransas. It's a little Italian restaurant called Venetian Hotplate that, while serving Americanized conceits like tortelloni with ham and peas in a Parmesan cream sauce, does so with balance and tasty fresh herbs - and with menu items listed in Italian (usually a trustworthy cue). The glass list is, as expected, a teeny parking lot full of SUVs like La Crema, but the bottle selection has a few small-production pearls on it from the Boot.
Most of VH's success owes to its disarming preciousness - pots of flowers and garden tcotchkes out front, seashell-folded linen napkins on plates, a vaguely double-wide feeling to the structure. You simply don't feel critical here - it's like dining in someone's darkened living room - and this makes everything taste better, allows for some pleasure in the minutaie. And there's this sort of hilarious Renn Faire-Girl music quietly playing, like Enigma and Lorena McKennitt.
Anyway, here it is. If you're down that way, you're probably dying for some decent food.
Anything the Texas coast offers, Mexico and Louisiana are doing better. Please, tell me if I'm wrong, because we plan to go back in summer to see the spoonbills mate. Apparently, they offer each other straw and twigs with their enormous flat beaks. I can think of nothing in the world I want to see more.