You’ve been so patient with me on this post, and I appreciate it! It’s taken me way longer than I anticipated to get this together. I can give you excuses about how work is suddenly crazy and it seems as though my days evaporate faster than I realize – but I know I’m not alone with this feeling, so I’ll just shut up and get on with it.
Early this year, I was trying to decide where we should go for a vacation. We needed to get away. Like so many, we cut expenses due to the economy, so we had not “vacationed” since early 2008. It was time! I didn’t wish to fly – while I’m not opposed to it, the whole airport/plane/flying thing is stressful and expensive. We were aiming for a relaxing, don’t-have-to-do-anything-we-don’t-want-to sort of vacation. We wanted relaxing and affordable. Besides, who doesn’t love a good road trip? Especially when that road trip is through some of the prettiest parts of Texas.
So Fredericksburg it was. Fredericksburg, if you’re not familiar, is an old German settlement built in the mid-1800s, about 70 miles west of Austin, in the middle of the Hill Country. It’s a great place to visit if you enjoy interesting Texas architecture (think old limestone buildings, cabins, and charm), great Texas and German food, a bit of shopping, but a lot of relaxing. And the landscape? So much more interesting than Dallas – I grew up with relatively flat land, grass, and some trees, but the Hill Country has lots of hills (duh), wildflowers in the spring, cactus, trees, the Pedernales river, and a lot of gorgeous rock. And the perfect way to enjoy it, in our minds, was to rent a cottage in the country for a few days.
We stayed in a small cottage built in the 1920s on a ranch with about 300 acres. We had everything we could want – a front porch swing, hot tub, a full kitchen - but with a wonderful country charm. It was the perfect relaxation spot. (Also the perfect spot to play with my camera – I took a lot of photos!)
When we weren’t enjoying our little place in the country, we visited places like Luckenbach, Texas. We also ate at a few amazing restaurants. (You didn’t think I would talk this whole time and not mention food, did you?) We visited August E’s, where we enjoyed an amazing upscale meal. For first course, my husband enjoyed a lobster bisque that he claimed was the best he’d ever eaten. I believe him, as his eyes did roll back a few times, and there was a significant amount of sighing and moans of pleasure while it was enjoyed! I ordered a lovely roasted beet salad with a citrus vinaigrette, topped with blue cheese. It was light and had a perfect balance of richness, sweetness, and tang from the citrus. Our main courses were no less spectacular. Hubby enjoyed a grass-fed ribeye with mascarpone whipped potatoes – his steak was one of the most flavorful, beefy steaks either of us have had. I had pan-seared escolar with sugar snap peas, carrots, and mascarpone whipped potatoes. The fish was light and subtly sweet – I savored every bite. And to my delight, they even offered a gluten-free dessert: a flourless chocolate torte. It was indeed chocolate-y – so rich, I could only eat a few bites, but it was satisfying and a perfect end to the meal.
We also enjoyed a lovely brunch at the Fredericksburg Herb Farm. This was a lovely farm that had a large variety of herbs, both for sale and for use in their kitchen. After touring the farm, we were seated on the deck to enjoy brunch. With the birds chirping, a breeze, and bountiful sunlight, we enjoyed coffee, and my husband enjoyed another steak (he’s a steak kinda guy, and hey, this is vacation), this time tenderloin, along with fried eggs and toast. I savored a spinach, goat cheese, and locally-grown herb frittata. What more could one want?
Nothing, except to take advantage of a full kitchen. I made eggs most mornings, but I was prepared – I packed gluten-free flours and other baking necessities for our trip. So I decided one morning to whip up a breakfast treat – coffee cake. On our drive in, we stopped at a fruit and plant stand, and I found a jar of local peach butter. It begged to be used in a creative recipe, so I subbed it for the apple butter in this coffee cake. What emerged from the oven was a heavenly-scented coffee cake with a lightly crispy streudel topping. It was the perfect breakfast treat.
Peach Butter Coffee Cake, adapted from Grouprecipes.com
1/2 c butter
1 1/2 c gluten-free flour blend (I used a blend of 3 parts sweet white rice flour, 1 part tapioca starch, 1 part cornstarch)
1 t xanthan gum
3/4 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 c peach butter (you can, of course, substitute apple butter)
1/2 c raisins
For the topping:
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c gluten-free flour blend
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c chopped nuts (I used pecans)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan.
Melt 1/2 cup butter in saucepan. Remove from heat and add gluten-free flour blend, xanthan gum, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and stir. Then add in vanilla, peach butter, egg, and raisins and mix well. Pour batter into greased cake pan.
Combine the streusel topping ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle on top of batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly, and serve with coffee.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip. We even discussed visiting our little cottage again in the future – it was the perfect getaway.