Tied To The Steak

There is, obviously, something about Texas that screams one word above all. Say it with me now, people. "Steak".

What's come as a big surprise though is the quality and availability of game. After Monday's excellent venison and quail, similar items have been spotted on many a menu, which is very encouraging because as much as I like steak, and even the "mainstream" Texas chains can do a little charred beauty like this piece of sirloin,

I don't think that I could eat it every day for the 12 days that I'm here. Not unless I could afford a team of paramedics to be on stand-by at Heathrow for when I arrive.

So far, it's the variety of food here that's impressed and surprised me, particularly the fish. That's a bit dumb of me - Texas has a coast, why wouldn't it have good fish? - but I doubt I'm alone in that. The shrimp has been meaty and excellent and last night I had a piece of lobster at Boudro's in San Antonio that was dazzling in its meatiness and freshness. Sadly it was also swamped in a spicy sauce that must, unfortunately, go down as the first culinary fail of the trip so far. The sauce itself was good but with fish that fresh, and a risotto base of delicate lemony freshness, why not just let the ingredients sing a little?

No such complaints about the other Tex Mex experiences yesterday, either the pre-lobster guacamole, made fresh at the table with a generous heap of home-smoked tomatoes and spiky cilantro, the freeflowing and dangerous prickly pear frozen margaritas or the caramel-rich bread and butter pudding with a Jack Daniels sauce.

We'd also enjoyed a crowd-pleasing lunch at Houston's Downtown outpost of Guadalajara, where more guacamole, a pleasantly warming salsa, tortilla soup and chicken and spinach quesadillas filled the relevant lunchtime hole in this (slightly expanded) stomach of mine. Not that there was much of a hole after the lovely folk at the Alden in Houston had seen us off with their take on a British breakfast.

They'd even got hold of some HP; a very sweet gesture indeed. Almost as sweet, in fact, as the packet of Hob Nobs, Crunchie and Flake - and other bottle of HP! - that had been left in our rooms as a "housewarming" gift. Quite what their talented chef thought (and apparently baked beans as a breakfast item is the biggest surprise to US morning palates), I have no idea, but the actual breakfast - with a fried muffin rather than cheap white sliced, a beef sausage, crispy bacon and some rather ornate mushrooms - was a charming Anglo / American co-production.

Today though is the day I've been gearing up for. The Alamo, Mi Tierra Cafe for lunch and tonight, the beer and burger and corn-dog related joys of The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. It's opening night and that, apparently means Extreme Bull Riding. As opposed, one assumes, to the usual Really Quite Safe In Comparison Bull Riding...

Somewhat disappointingly, this turns out to involve 1000lbs of Brahman bull rather than taking place on a mountain top or while sky diving, but I'm still quite pathetically excited. Sawdust and calories: It's going to be a good one.


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