There is always something magical about spending careless hours outdoors all day with old friends while meeting new friends, learning about your own culture, seeing different perspectives of the world, and ending it all over an irreplaceable home-cooked dinner by a stellar chef. During the 49th Annual Antiques Fair held twice a year in Round Top, Texas, our honorable state magazine, Texas Monthly, put together a day trip with Hotel Ella that included a day of antiquing at this crazy, awesome market followed by a Feast in the Field at the new 20-acre compound hotel called Rancho Pillow.
Let me start off by saying, that after living in New York City for the last 8 years and growing up in the large city of Houston, I knew nothing about the small town Round Top except its famous pie place, Royer’s Pie Haven. Who is surprised? I haven’t been antiquing (where would I put anything in my 450 square foot space in New York?), and I hadn’t been around the deep Texas culture in the more modern city of Austin. As we arrived at Marburger Farm which was the biggest selection of antique tents with 350 dealers from all over the world, I felt giddy, a little out of place, a little in the middle of nowhere, and so stoked to see what we were about to uncover. We saw old vintage perfume bottles, mismatching silverware, china, fantastic mirrors, over the top china, shutters for homes, Turkish and Persian rugs, Chanel purses, Louis Vuitton luggage, paintings, furniture, jewelry, and I guess everything else you can think of. I will say none of this was junk. It was all treasure. No wonder people rent U-Haul’s and RV’s to bring all this stuff back with them (don’t worry they also all ship).
Besides what I saw in the vendor tents, it’s what I saw outside of them that caught my eye. All these women shopping were mom’s in their 60’s and 70’s and absolutely GORGEOUS. These blond ladies are really what caught my eye. Not dressed up at all, just hunting for goods, and running into several friend’s mothers from all over Texas who come here this week to shop, made me giggle but most of all it made me smile and remember what it’s like to be from Texas. By the way, I had a great BBQ Turkey Sandwich on White Bread.
Next, Texas Monthly and Hotel Ella drove us out to Rancho Pillow (what I was originally most looking forward to) as popular Austin restaurant Chef Rene Ortiz from Launderette cooked a seven-course meal over an open, visible fire for maybe 100 people? As we frolicked onto the gorgeous, bright green acreage, a long wooden family-style table full of mismatched china and different colored water glasses and colored chairs struck my eye. We were eating dinner right outside next to where the chefs had whole pigs, chickens, and pineapples hanging to be cooked all for us. Inside the bohemian hotel rest even more colorful furniture, pillows, bongos for playing, a cute bar, and just the feeling of the best getaway you could possibly reach in between Houston and Austin. When you can be in the middle of nowhere and still feel fancy, fun, and at home all at the same time, now that is something unique. This hotel which was just created a little over a year ago is behind designer and owner Sheila Youngblood. She’s dazzled in all of these bright colors, flowy shirts and dresses, pompom jewelry and attire, and literally looks like/aka is a fashion designer you can’t take your eyes off of, just like every other detail at this property.
Again, I had no idea where I was which made this funnier or maybe even better because I fell in love with Texas all over again. When there is love there is always good friends and good food. The dishes were brought out one by one. Wholesome, freshly made sauces, salsas chimichurri, and light seasoning that brought out the flavors of these local meats and vegetables. The past 8 years, I’ve eaten out at over 600 restaurants, and I’ll tell you, two of my most memorable meals were in a situation just like this ( I was lucky enough to attend a wedding in Martha’s Vineyard where James Beard Winner and Prune Chef Gabrielle Hamilton cooked- thank you to my friend, Rachael Workman!). Dining and hospitality isn’t just about the food. It’s about the love all around you and the love that people put into the labor so that you enjoy yourself.
OK, so we started with passed appetizers such as: Crab and Avocado Toast with fennel aioli and caper-mint vinaigrette, Beef Tartare with truffle vinaigrette on a taro root chip, a Whipped Ricotta situation with eggplant, piquillo and fermented chile, and Deviled Eggs. The first sit down course was a wonderful Salad with long shaved zucchini, raisins, feta, seeds, something crispy almost like fried quinoa clusters and carrot dressing. The Ash Roasted Vegetable plate, which I’d like to eat everyday, was filled with green onion bulbs, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and white potatoes topped with a chimichurri sauce. Then, as the sun was setting, our pulled pork with pickled vegetables and dinner rolls followed by a Roast Jerk Chicken hit the table covered with green tomatoes, okra and a red salsa. This is when I started getting eager thinking, “How much is left? Please never end!!” Well, after that we kept at it with Beef Tender and Suckling Pig. Pastry Chef Laura Sawicki prepared a glorious dessert course which was a beautiful family-style bowl filled with green Arugula Mint Cake. Yes, it was the only way that made sense to end a feast in the field in the middle of Round Top. It was paired with strawberry, ricotta, lemon, and salt & pepper ice cream.
Clearly, this is my love letter to one of the best days! The Antique Show offers GA tickets for $10 pp, and the show goes through this Saturday, April 1. It will be back in September so do not fret. Here are more Feast in the Field dinners this week as well.