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Mission Europe 2: Taking a break in Texas

Howdy y’all!

I have a secret ritual when I visit the US of A.  I never really grew up on junk food and don’t eat it often but for some reason it has become almost essential that I have a “first meal” of sorts as soon as my feet hit U.S. soil.  What gourmet delicacies do I treat myself to?, you may ask…  Well, I find the closest gas station and gulp down an ice cold cream soda and a whole package of hostess powder doughnuts.  Don’t judge me.

I arrived in Texas, found a corner store and purchased my usual fare.  Immediately after which I found myself craving Texas summer treats.  Summer in Texas is special.  Fresh fruit pies, sweltering hot days perfect for denim shorts and a cold beer (which I wish I could have shared with my new Texan friend Lorenzo)… mix in a pick-up truck and country  music and I am pretty much on cloud nine.  Throw in a cute cowboy and it’s over!

I could go on forever about how much I love my home state and even more so my home town of Fort Worth, but in reality I just thought I would share the culinary discoveries and happenings from my trip.  I am going to list things in order of awesomeness (saving the best for last):

6. Whole Foods, Austin Texas

The store is incredible and is the best and biggest one (80,000 sq ft) I have ever been to!  The reason though that it is the least awesome is solely due to what I purchased.  I bought a cafe au lait (my inner cowgirl secretly fighting my inner chef on how it should just be called coffee and milk), a cranberry coconut macaroon (from the amazing self serve cookie bar) and a black velvet apricot.  The apricot had a lot of expectations to live up to.  I researched it and learned it was a natural hybrid of a plum and apricot.  It was tasty, but for now I think I will still take my plums and apricots separate.  Thank you for trying.

5. P.F. Chang’s

This restaurant seems to be a nationwide chain.  A friend of mine invited me for lunch and of course I had to order the odder sounding menu option.  She got us lettuce wraps as an appetizer which were delicious.  My main dish was Shrimp with Candied Walnuts, described on the menu as “tender shrimp tossed in a creamy sauce with candied walnuts and honeydew melon”.  I enjoyed the dish quite a bit; it was…different.  Having tasted it however, I have some issues with the menu description.  I think “creamy sauce” should be better defined, my first question to the waiter before ordering was “creamy sauce of what?” and the wording of the description implies the honeydew is also candied which it is not.  That being said I wouldn’t order it again, but I would make it myself, just better.

4. Central Market, Fort Worth Texas

This is one of my all time favorite grocery stores second to Eataly in Turin, Italy.  The only complaint I have is they ban you from taking pictures of the grocery section of the store.  They must think it hurts the cucumbers feelings or steals the brocoli’s soul.  Here I dreamt of Italy and my upcoming trip while surviving the Texas heat with a blood orange mineral water and a basil coconut gelato.  One word, lovely.

3. Jo’s, Austin Texas

The ambiance and decor of this little coffee shop is so unique and inviting that it just had to be on the list.  It is hard to explain how you can order a dirty chai while admiring the aged and rusted canisters that serve as utensil holders next to a tin plated wall covered in band posters and scoping a seat on a long wooden bench.  Jo’s had the craziest cinnamon roll I had ever seen and its sheer appearance made me choose it over a danish.  Fun to eat and very satisfying.  I hope to be able to visit Austin again one day, even if only to visit Jo’s.  And for the record I think it should be considered and art form to drink hot coffee at a sidewalk cafe under the Texas summer morning sun.

2. Yucatan, Taco Stand

If you are ever in town, please go!  In true Texas style they offer fried dessert!  Cheesecake, to be exact.  Yes, you heard right, fried cheesecake.  Sprinkled with cinnamon sugar goodness, it is scrumptious.  But the reason I returned was the beautiful gem I discovered on their beverage menu.  The Sangria Margarita Swirl.  Much to my dismay, upon arriving the frozen margarita machine was out-of-order!  It just wasn’t quite the same.  The machine was up and running by the time I ordered a second round.  I happily sipped the yummy concoction, making a mental note to get some colleagues together and make some after returning to Costa Rica.  This drink is on my top 5 list of World’s Best Cocktails.

1. The Virgin Olive Oiler

If Charles is ever interested in franchising and I have more money than the current looking-for-bus-change-in-the-washing-machine budget then I will be on that bandwagon faster than you can say EVOO.  Yet another attraction to be added to my future culinary playground for chefs and food enthusiasts (patent pending).  This store is beautifully set up and entices your senses with carefully selected olive oils, balsamic vinegars and a few other related items.  The concept is simple, the products are outstanding and the owner Charles Flach is passionate.  I turned him onto the Slow Food movement and hope he signs up with his local chapter.  His store gets the most awesomeness award on this trip, not only because of its quaint setting but because it sells one of the most incredible products I have ever tasted and am quickly trying to figure out how I will live without it overseas.  He allowed me to purchase a travel size Serrano Honey artisanal vinegar that made all my little taste buds do their happy dance.  As soon as i figure out a dish worthy of my latest acquisition I will share it with all of you guys.

So there you have it, the latest texas culinary reviews.  As for my lemonade stand, it was a bust.  You now have to have a permit to run a lemonade stand!  Even if you are 6 years old!  How much money do they think kids make?!?  Plus it takes 3 weeks to process.  I have since modified my idea and am working on finding a farmer’s market that will rent me a stand to put up a one-day homemade Italian Soda bar to try to raise more funds for Mission Europe.  So if you haven’t already, please consider sponsoring me.  Any support is appreciated plus you can get something out of it, if you just ask.  I would like to send a special thanks to my friend and first official sponsor of Mission Europe 2, Emmanuel Zrust.

Leaving Texas, I thought back over my trip and realized very fondly that you can take the girl out of Texas but you can’t take Texas out of the girl.  I started my own ‘you know you are Texan when…’ list

-You drink more sweet tea than water.
-You start a sentence with “I reckon”.
-You dress for a meeting wearing a nice t-shirt, jeans and boots.
-You wear two cowboy hats through the airport to make sure they arrive untarnished.

Check, check, check and check!

Until next time, have a good one and y’all come back now, ya  hear!

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