Road Foodie

Some people drive simply to arrive.

High Plains Drifter

Posted By on March 6, 2009

How to proceed here?  They're on the fence.

How to proceed here? They're on the fence.

Marfa, 0 miles.
Or, not so much right now, because I have truly settled in. After the first 8 days or so were spent studiously avoiding the work, the words suddenly began to flow. If they are, perhaps, not coming trippingly from my fingers, they are at least not falling flat. The weather has been unseasonably warm, which has been the case since I first arrived in Malibu back on New Year’s Eve (which seems like a lifetime ago). This means that I can work outside on the patio, watching the trains go back and forth and delving into the box of notes and cards and quotes and hopefully-brilliant, half-thought-out concepts that I’ve been assembling for a year, in anticipation of this sojourn. When I am stuck for the right word or phrase, I stand on my patio and gaze off toward the southern horizon, where the sky looks exactly as it did in the scene in Giant, when local boy Angel Obregon is buried. Same sky.
A wait and see attitude.

A wait and see attitude.

Lack of scheduled activities, I feel compelled to note, does not automatically lead to writing. First, I must take Stella for a nice long walk, because if I will later ask her to sit patiently on her bed on the porch for many hours, I owe her a couple of miles. We have several different routes, but often visit the goats, who live well. They’ve almost gotten over their initial fear of Stella, and have now become intensely curious—if, still, a tad stand-offish. She can’t decide if she wants to play with them or rush them, to see what happens. Smelling is a good compromise.
In my neighborhood, there are some excellent examples of the fine tradition, only possible in the west, of the outdoor room. These little enclosed, dog-accessorized ranchettes sport outdoor sofas, outdoor refrigerators, kiva fireplaces, and often several different well-furnished seating and dining areas.

Happy face, at Austin Street Cafe.

A happy face inside.

Sunday on the porch at Austin St Cafe.

Sunday on the porch at Austin St Cafe.

Then, I visit the gym at the Hotel Paisano, and do 2.25 miles at a 9 to 12.5 incline. This helps to keep things under the belt under control during this highly sedentary time, but I can report that cutting out the margaritas has helped, too. (I write this as though it’s a surprise, which proves that my belief in empirical thinking is intact.)
Since I do work out, I continue to dine well, whether it’s at one of the few but fine dining establishments in town, or in the kitchen of my little bungalow, it’s good eating.
Now I, too, am ecstatically happy at the ustin St Cafe.

Now I, too, am ecstatically happy at the Austin St Cafe.

The restaurant scene in Marfa has changed since I passed through here a year ago. The Thunderbird Bar is no longer, and work has not visibly progressed on the large, empty Thunderbird restaurant. As mentioned, my favorite from last year, Blue Javelina, is but a fond memory. It has been replaced by the estimable Cochineal, a truly world-class dining spot with service and food provided by local kids who have been hand-trained by the owner to a level not often found in New York city. Oddly, though, the dining options in Marfa are something of a secret from those who pass through here. People come here from all over, eager to visit the Chinati or Judd Foundation, or one of the excellent galleries, or just to feel the artsy atmosphere and revel in Giant-related memorabilia. Many travelers stay at the fabulous Hotel Paisano, and the restaurant there, Jett’s Grill, is very good. The bar just off the patio, with its Italianate fountain and kiva firepots, is now the only bar in town. This leads to an interesting mixture of patrons (more on this in a later post). One restaurant I’d heard a great deal about last year, the Austin Street Café, is now open only for lunch on Sunday. It’s a beautiful, intensely friendly place with excellent food, but really more of a hobby for its owners. This, I gather, informs several of the dining spots, so that it’s hard to know which one will be open on any given night.
If C could make it as nice as this, I could totally do a triple-wide.

If C could make it as nice as this, I could totally do a triple-wide.

The Chamber of Commerce, next door to the Paisano, has a helpful restaurant list, with hours, posted on its door, but since not all the places are members of the Chamber, not all are listed. So, you just have to know, somehow. Crucial omissions include the Pizza Foundation and Borunda’s Bar & Grill, a historic dive bar famous for its stacked enchilada with optional (but highly recommended) plate of tender brisket on the side. The curbside appeal of Borunda’s is so nonexistant that it takes either reckless confidence or prior knowledge to compel the newcomer to open the door and enter. (More about both Borunda’s and Cochineal in the next week or so.)


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