Monday, October 22, 2007

texas and some other stuff

first things first. we are on the National Geographic Traveler website blog thingy. here:
http://intelligenttravel.typepad.com/it/2007/10/new-orleans-cul.html
cool. huh?

ok, I just got back from a trip to Texas to attend my friend Scott's wedding just outside San Antonio. Lovely. He married Eva, a woman I instantly liked when I met her under difficult circumstances, (I evacuated to her apartment in Houston after Katrina en route to London for a wedding. "Hello girlfriend of Scott I have just met. Now I am going to go sob in your bathroom.") which she responded to beautifully ("Here's a kleenex, Elizabeth. Now let's get to Target and buy you some clothes.") So anyway, I was happy to see them. But of course as I have mentioned in other blogs, the museum rules my life, so I couldn't just go to a wedding in Texas, a SOUTHERN STATE, without visiting some food people and seeing what connections I could make. So I did.

I met with Shelley Grieshaber at the new branch of the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, the Center for Food of the Americas . (If you have the August issue of Gourmet lying around, check out the great article about them) We discussed ways the food museum could partner with the school and it was through Shelley that I found out about the Museo Alameda, , a museum dedicated to the Latino experience in the Americas. It is the only branch of the Smithsonian located outside Washington D.C. I promised her I'd check it out.

After my visit with Shelley on Friday, I took her advice and ate at Rosario's for lunch: delicious fish tacos. Oh, there are many wonderful things here in NOLA, but fish tacos aren't one of them. Checked into the hotel, tooled around the Riverwalk for a spell, embraced my role as tourist and ended up at Acenar (also Shelley's reccomendation.) Chef James Sanchez not only fed me beautifully, but joined me at the end of the night and we talked Tex-Mex (well, he talked, I listened) and told me his story. James was excited about the new CIA in San Antonio because he had to leave San Antonio to go to NY for his training. He was a local boy with a strong background in food, since his grandfather was the Market Manager for the San Antonio famer's market. He remembered walking through the market with his grandfather and all the vendors would just give him fruit to eat and never take payment, since his grandfather was so respected.

He spent several years, working in the corporate food world and choose to leave it all to run a restaurant where he gets to cook like he wants to cook. He said "This is the first restaurant I've cooked in where my father comes to eat." He tried to explain to me the differences between the TexMex in San Antonio, Houston, Laredo, El Paso, etc... I realized I knew nothing. And it made me aware of how big this task is, putting together a museum about ALL southern food. I took another sip of my margarita and ignored the terror of the task and concentrated on my duck crepe which, frankly was so delicious it could take your mind off anything, even professional anxiety.

The wedding in Seguin Texas was lovely, held on the banks of the Guadalupe River. I had two pieces of the yummy cake with real frosting, none of that fondant mess, and too much wine.


I made my way back to San Antonio Sunday and met up with Jim Peyton, a cookbook author, menu consultant and all around great guy for breakfast at Mirador. I told Jim about the Menu Project and he told me he has just worked with a restaurant in Bejing, creating a TexMex menu and teaching the staff how to cook it. He promised me a menu from that place and others from the San Antonio area, then he and I and my friend Mark headed to the Museo Alameda. Fantastic exhibit on Celia Cruz and Huipiles. Check it out if you are in town. I didn't expect to find any head staff there, but the director was and she and I talked about putting an exhibit together in the future and then told me she had discussed working with the Center for Food of the Americas and I got to say I had already talked with Shelley and it felt just like being in New Orleans where everybody knows everybody and so I am optimistic about that contact and we'll see what happens. Hung out at the Riverwalk some more, but stuck to iced tea. Good times, good contacts, good food.