Greetings all- What a crazy trip it's been! From DC to Houston, Brenham, Austin, Denton, Memphis, Jackson, Abingdon, and back to DC we're finally back. We've returned after many restaurants, snack stops, home-cooked meals and more. I'm sure it will take a while to recap the places we made it to, but this will be a start. The trip itself was a mix of successful and disappointing, but the food was great almost everywhere we went . . .Here's the first few:
I arrived in Houston one day after T's family threw an incredible multi-course Chinese dinner to welcome me. Unfortunately, communications got crossed and I had to wait to "break bread" until the next night. Though it was a day late, the replacement welcome meal was fantastic with an assortment of Thai and Chinese dishes. For me, the star was the Cantonese Roast Duck. T's uncle explained the difference between Cantonese duck and Peking duck, which I found fascinating (more soon on this). Having not been a huge fan of what I consider to be a dry and often not-so flavorful dish, I was not sure if I would enjoy the duck before me.
It's moistness and flavor converted me to being a bit more of a duck fan. Cantonese style is definitely the way to go. T's family, who I don't see very often, were incredibly gracious and fun. After some quick explorations around Houston, it was off to Austin.
AUSTIN - POLVOS
Driving to Austin means one very important thing. Access to good Mexican food. Mexican, Tex-Mex, etc. are available all over Austin and I just couldn't wait to get in front of a stack of tortillas, some chips and salsa.
We arrived in Austin with a brief window of time and a list of places to go. My favorites all seemed like options (Fonda San Miguel, Kirby Lane, Magnolia Cafe, Guero's, Z Tejas), but we ended up going to Polvos, a place I had been once before and really enjoyed but it had not quite made my favorites list yet. But all that changed during this meal.
Our host, Ms. Poodle-Popper knows the menu well and gently directed our ordering. I've known Ms. P.P. (stop it) for 22 years and trust her food judgment implicitly. She knows we are neither shy nor picky, but that we appreciate great flavors prepared well.
Polvos is a moderately sized restaurant located on South 1st street not far from downtown Austin. After a trip to the astounding Whole Foods flagship store and a trip to Austin's "new" airport to pick up Ms. P.P., we headed over to Polvos for a delicious Tex-Mex experience.
Pescado al Mojo de Ajo was a delicious snapper with a mellow tangy roasted garlic butter sauce that was stunning. The fajitas al pastor arrived on a cast iron skillet. Smallish cubes of intensely flavored pork (overtones of soy, garlic, and chili) accompanied traditional fajita fixings. Drenched in one of Polvos three fresh salsas from their salsa bar, the pork held its own and both flavor and texture came through even mixed with guacamole and bits of mellow shredded cheddar. Cheese enchiladas were a perfect balance between the fresh and steamy corn tortillas, the melted cheese and the trio of sauces we chose from Polvos' extensive menu. Our sauces were mole, margarita, and ranchera. Each was of substantial enough heft to sit appropriately on the enchilada while draping over to coat. I am not a fan of sauces being too thin or watery. I want my enchiladas slathered in flavor and Polvos did a great job on the execution.
Mole sauce was rich but not too nutty and the margarita sauce was definitely a piquant plus. Ranchera sauce was unremarkable but traditional with a zest tomato flavor.
I wish Polvos salsa roja had a bit more (some?) cumin to give it some deeper notes, but other than that, we truly enjoyed our meal and I highly recommend a visit if you're in Austin.
Next up . . .BRENHAM -The Blue Bell Ice Cream factory.
As a side note-- another trip to Andale tonight for a quick margarita. So far, the best margarita in DC. Fresh, tart, sweet, cold, and just plan perfect.