SAN MARCOS AND THE ROOT CELLAR CAFE

This weekend was Family Weekend at colleges around the nation, and I couldn’t wait to spend the weekend with my daughter.  We’d both been looking forward to this weekend ever since we dropped her off in August.

The highlights of the weekend were dining and shopping.  Shocking, I know.  Saturday morning we headed to the outlet malls in San Marcos.  It’s been decades since I’ve been to an outlet mall, and I was skeptical, but we were hopeful that we’d find some great buys.

San Marcos, population approximately 54,000, was founded in 1851 along the San Marcos River, and is among the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the U.S.  It’s home to Texas State University, which I was surprised to learn is the fifth-largest university in Texas, and has an enrollment of more than 34,000 students.  And here’s an interesting fact if you run out of things to talk about at your next cocktail party — President Lyndon B. Johnson graduated from Texas State University in 1930, making it the only university in Texas to have a President of the United States as an alumnus.  San Marcos is presently one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S.

But hey, don’t they say to avoid shopping on an empty stomach? Oh wait, that’s grocery shopping.  Still, I don’t see why that advice shouldn’t apply to clothes shopping as well.  And who are “they” anyway?  We passed every chain restaurant you can think of along the highway, but we were in the mood for something more interesting.  And that is exactly what we found at The Root Cellar Café.

The Root Cellar Cafe is located in San Marcos’s Downtown Square, at 215 N. LBJ Dr.

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The restaurant is decorated in thrift store chic, with mismatched tables and chairs that added to the college-town charm of the cafe:

IMG_5197Since it was just me and my daughter, we only got to sample two dishes, but they were both delicious and satisfying.  My daughter had the ciabatta cheesesteak — grilled roast beef,  bell peppers, onions, and provolone cheese on toasted ciabatta bread — accompanied by a pile of garlic scallion mashed potatoes:

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This was a hearty, two-fisted sandwich, and the seasoned roast beef and melted provolone made for a delicious meal.  The mashed potatoes were loaded with garlic and green onions, and were entirely worth risking garlic breath for.

I had the Hearty Frittata, which on this day was loaded with chunks of turkey, provolone cheese, and zucchini.  The generous slice was fluffy and cheesy and really tasty.  It was accompanied by sautéed grape tomatoes, a toasted English muffin, and spiced wild blueberry jam.  We splurged for a side of bacon, which was thick-cut and salty and perfectly crisp.  This was an outstanding brunch dish.

IMG_5194Not only was the food great, but the service was quick and attentive.  We loved this restaurant.

Before we left San Marcos we strolled around the Hays County Courthouse, a beautiful historic Texas courthouse built in 1908.  Depending on who you ask, the style is described as “eclectic,” “classic Revival,” and “Beaux-Arts.”  I have no idea what style the building is, but the courthouse, restored in 1972, is quite impressive:

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There was a small farmers market next to the courthouse that was just about wrapping up, where we ran across this content little fella (you gotta figure this guy is pretty secure in his manhood to be carrying around a Chihuahua in a baby sling):

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No longer hungry, we figured it was safe to venture off to the outlet mall.  We were happily surprised at the selection of stores, and came home with lots of great stuff.  It was a fun day together, and we can’t wait to go back to San Marcos for lunch and shopping!

 

Root Cellar Cafe on Urbanspoon

BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES

You were going to do it, weren’t you?  You were going to let me be the only blogger that didn’t post a recipe for pickled something or other.  Nice.  Just for that, no twine around the jar for you.  And no stripey straws either.

Living in Houston, the only thing I’m growing this time of year is dried herbs.  So unlike those of you who have so many cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes overflowing from your garden that you don’t know what to do with them, I have to buy mine.  And when I see fat little Kirby cucumbers at the farmers market, I am compelled to pickle.  Did you know (or care) that “Kirby cucumber” is a generic term used to describe small (6-7 inches) cucumbers?  Once upon a time, however, there was such a thing as actual Kirby cucumbers, which were varieties developed by Norval E. Kirby in the 1920s.   Kirby cucumbers are unwaxed to prevent interference with pickling.  They tend to be crisper and have fewer seeds than other cucumbers, which also makes them good for pickling.

This recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles was passed on to me by my Dad, who said it came from the New York Times a few decades ago.  It’s easy to make, and the pickles are especially good on sandwiches.

BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES
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Recipe type: Vegetable, Vegetarian
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 medium Kirby cucumbers, sliced ¼" thick
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
Instructions
  1. Place cucumbers and onion in a large bowl and toss with salt. Add enough water to cover, and soak for 30 minutes. Drain, but do not rinse. Pack cucumbers and onions into a quart jar.
  2. Place sugar, vinegar, 3 tablespoons water, mustard seed, celery seed, and turmeric in a small saucepan over high heat, and heat until boiling. Carefully pour over cucumbers. Set jar aside to cool, then refrigerate.

IMG_5172Toss the cucumbers and onion with Kosher salt 

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Cover with water and let soak for a bit

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 Stuff them in a quart jar

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Pickles!