Road Foodie

Some people drive simply to arrive.

Miles and Miles of Texas

Posted By on February 19, 2009

Looking northeast....

Looking northeast....

2.17.09 Marfa
The view out of my side door might not strike everyone as romantic. From my bungalow, I can see a host of wood, stucco, and stone buildings in various states of decay, a paved road that quickly peters out into a dirt road, and lots and lots of wrinkled and antique galvanized metal roofing. But, for me, this kind of spare beauty—with its strong sense of hardscrabble history on the side—is invigorating. Every once in awhile, a car goes by, but I think I could get a decent nap in between them pretty easily. There is no television at the bungalow, and at first this came as a slight shock (I simply hadn’t read the fine print on the rental agreement), but now it feels just fine. The dvd library for the flat-screen includes two movies recently made hereabouts: There Will Be Blood, and No Country for Old Men. The first I’ve seen, and will watch again; the second I’m not going to watch, for various wimpy reasons. Plus of course, the collected works of James Dean. Netflix may or may not make it to me, because, as I’ve just discovered, there is no residential mail delivery in Marfa.
To the southeast....

To the southeast....

Last night I watched an hour’s worth of special commentary on the movie that made Marfa’s name: Giant. Tonight I’ll watch the movie itself. CNN is streaming live online when I need it, and the rest of the time I let the iPod scroll through the Country genre. Right now, Stella and I are enjoying a big dose of Asleep at the Wheel. (I had dinner with lead-man Ray Benson a year or two back, at a mutual friend’s house. I was only a tad nonplussed to see that he was wearing tennis shoes, and learn that he was, somewhat counterintuitively, Jewish, but later that night at the Mahaiwe Theatre in Great Barrington he was booted up and belting out those classic tunes I’ve loved for decades, in his twangy voice. Right now, he’s singing me Miles and Miles of Texas while I look out the screen door right at ‘em.)
Beyond that, I don’t need much entertainment. Around 6pm, I’ve been ambling down to the
Stella is still not convinced that we've stopped for awhile.

Stella is still not convinced that we've stopped for awhile.

Hotel Paisano for a margarita, then ambling back to fix me up some supper. (Long-time roadfoodie aficionados—all twelve of you—will realize that when I get down south, my use of the language changes. I’ve stopped fighting this.)

Good fresh food is a little thin on the ground, as I’d suspected, so I’m glad about the Albertson’s raid back in El Paso. But there is an oddly fabulous little market, the GetGo, that stocks a really fine selection of non-perishables and good—if frozen—meat. Today, they had huge bunches of Texas-grown kale, so my defrosted kosher chicken thighs (currently relaxing in smoked-paprika rub) will have a happy friend. The bungalow is very nicely equipped, kitchen-wise, with All-Clad, a salad spinner, veg steamer, and classy, low-profile dishware. The knives are OK, but I carry my own, anyway, along with the salt-spice-olive oil staples I’ve already described in another post. I had planned to make myself a margarita or two here, but I’m loving the ceremony of the sun-kissed evening stroll down to the Paisano, so will put off checking out the El Cheapo liquor store that I glimpsed out on the western edge of town.

You never forget which state y'all 're in.

Y'all 'll never forget which state y'all 're in.

Last year, when we were here for C’s birthday, we were adopted by a roving band of 40th birthday revelers, and joined them for dinner at Blue Javelina, where we all ate impossibly crisp and delightfully tasty garbanzo bean fries. As the long-ago author of a book on polenta (recipes from which soon to be happily reborn at Cookstr, I know it’s not easy to make sticks out of chickpea flour that are sturdy enough to deep-fry, without them ending up tough and/or dry. These were crunchy on the outside, almost-but-not-quite creamy on the inside, and kissed with vaguely North African spices. Revelatory, in other words. I’d planned to drop in at the start of my stay here and commence a campaign to weasel the recipe out of the kitchen, but as I drove past on my way into town on Sunday, a big sign in the front window said “Shut.” Uh-oh. Both the phone number and website, on investigation, are no longer with us. When I ask him what went wrong at Blue Javelina, the 9-year-old bartender at Jett’s Grill (named after Jett Rink—James Dean’s character in “Giant”—of course) at the Paisano tells me that the kitchen “just couldn’t get along.” And that the only guy left is now working in Jett’s kitchen. When I mourn the lost fries, he further relates that this guy sometimes makes the garbanzo bean fries for the staff—but has sworn never to give away the secret.
A growing local style, ie Marf-itecture.

The growing local style, ie Marf-itecture.

Hellooo? Talk about a red rag to a bull. Rat-cheer (that’s “right here,” in Texan) is my project for the month—forget the silly book. Hmmmm, how shall I assemble my forces, how initiate the preliminary sally? I shall report back—watch this space.

(Whaddaya know? Marfa real estate and town description in the New York Times. )


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