Who knew that you go to Marfa for great food. Last month we decided to take a road trip through Texas our first stop was Marfa. Why Marfa? Well for people that have never heard of Marfa it is the home of the Chianti Foundation, an art museum created by Donald Judd to celebrate minimalist art.
We started in Santa Fe and drove for 450 miles south. The drive goes through small farming towns in New Mexico and Texas so it is broken up with some great places to stop and take pictures. Near mile 425 you are very close to the border with giant ranches on either side of the road and if you are driving too fast you might miss it. The first art installation, a Prada store, no need to bring your credit card it is just a great place for a selfie. When you roll into Marfa it is a small town with very wide streets. We were there in October so it is very quiet and the temperature is great. There are a lot of great hotels in Marfa, we stayed at the Hotel Saint George. This is a great place, perfectly located, in the middle of town so we could walk to the stores and restaurants,
Day one we had breakfast at the Aster Marfa just a short walk from the hotel. It was so quiet you could
walk in the street and see the spectacular county courthouse at the end of the street. Aster Marfa is a bakery, you stand in line and order, grab a table and take in the quaintness. I would recommend the eggs and the sausage of the day from Marfa Meat Company. For those of you that can eat anything they have some pretty great looking pastries baked in house.
After a brief walk around the town we headed to the Donald Judd outdoor/indoor art museum. Donald Judd took over 340 acre Fort Russell in 1977 and was artist in residence. Between 1980 and 1984 he built 15 concrete art pieces. Each piece is based on a square and arranged geometrically to create shadows,
views and mass that is distinctly different. To see them all you walk 2 miles through a overgrown field and each one is equidistant from the other. I can imagine in the summer heat this could be a real chore. If you take the tour you get to walk through the converted barracks and maintenance barns that feature works from Dan Flavian, John Chamberlain and others.
This trip I can take no credit for the Restaurant Cochineal reservation. Restaurant Cochineal is a gem in the middle of nowhere, Marfa. This restaurant has been nominated for a James Beard Award and the team of Chefs lead by Chef/Owner Alexandra (Alex) Gates was invited to prepare the Chef’s dinner at this years James Beard awards where our own Chef Olea was awarded Best Chef of the southwest. You have an option to order a la carte or from the chef’s menu. Not only did JoAnn plan for the chefs menu but she got us front row seats in the kitchen seating area. We highly recommend you do this if you want a front row seat to some great cooking.
Chef Alex started her culinary career in NYC while attending art school she worked various restaurants to pay to live in NYC. Early on Chef Alex preferred to work in kitchens where women were the dominant force. This is represented at Cochineal where she works with Sous Chef Jocelyn and Pastry Chef Jackie. The restaurant is vey cozy and warm with a fireplace in the main dining area and in the kitchen dining area you are right next to the stoves.
We chose the tasting menu and this night we made a decision to
order some of their great cocktails rather than choosing the wine pairing. While in Marfa…I went with the Chicas Bonita Margarita, they paired well with the entire dinner.
The meal started with Chef Jackie’s house made artisan bread and roasted bone marrow. I love bone marrow as a spread on a great
bread, this did not let us down. It came with a house grown green salad. What a great way to start the evening.
The next course required me to pull out the phone to learn what Nilgai is. Nilgai is a very large Antelope from India. The Nilgai is wild in New Braunfels TX after being imported from India to the Kings Ranch in TX in 1929. This dish was Nilgai Tartare, which I was a little hesitant to try. It came with cucumber fermented chili, vegan green goddess dressing and a quail egg. Although this is something I would never order it was extremely satisfying. The Nilgai had a good fat content and was delicious. I would say I will remember this dish for quite a while.
I am always a fan of a Croquette, especially a rabbit confit croquette. The rabbit was from Lockhart TX and was paired with a black garlic aioli and charred chili chutney. It was as good as it sounds, chili and garlic my favorite two ingredients. The croquette was perfectly cooked and the warning to beware of small bones was great advice.
Emmer Pasta is made from an ancient grain, it has creamy nutty taste. This dish featured a wild boar ragu combined with some farm beans. I always enjoy wild boar ragu, it is hearty it has a richer taste than pork. this is a great dish for a cool fall evening.
The great food kept on coming. As soon as they brought the next plate over and said Bison, I said Beck and Bulow from Santa Fe
and I was exactly right. Beck and Bulow is the real deal with clients all the way in South Texas. Again another great plate for a cool fall evening. Bison is great very lean and when sourced and cooked correctly it is very tender. They served it with wild mushrooms a a bison demi-glace.
Now my new pastry crush Chef Jackie, brought us a burnt rye honey cake with pecan praline (what) and a cinnamon crème fraiche and a poached pair. What a great way to finish up a well executed dinner with a fabulous decadent dessert.
The whole evening was awesome, the chefs were very interactive even though they were making quite a few covers in a very small kitchen they were always there to answer a question. This is a jewel in southwest Texas and worth going to Marfa for only one meal.