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It gives you one of those Twilight Zone feelings, driving through architecturally undistinguished Benbrook and then through a bunch of nothing to wind up at a pretty country farmhouse in the middle of nowhere — rockers on the front porch, ceramic chickens on the mantel, the whole rustic shebang. A pleasant surprise; the next one is that the cuisine at Café 1187 (8780 FM 1187 E) isn’t “country” so much as “French country”: Chef/owner Michele Tezak is a graduate of La Verenne Culinary School in Paris (France), which Chow, Baby assumes is a very good one. Proof of the pudding and all.

 


bourguignon_wideAnd the wonders didn’t stop there. Café 1187 is what Chow, Baby, thinks of as a “potager” restaurant, a term it is almost certainly misusing to mean “it has its own garden and changes its menu daily.” Chef Michele’s small rotating dinner menu offers four main courses, usually a chicken, beef, fish, and pork, with homegrown vegetables and herbs. They’re not always Frenchy — rib-eyes and chicken-fried make occasional appearances — but Chow, Baby and the beloved were lucky enough at Sunday lunch to score a fragrant beef bourguignon ($13.95), the classic French red-wine stew, and a glorious sherry-and-plum-glazed chicken ($15.95), perfectly paired with nutty wild rice.

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For dessert, the triple-layer coconut cake ($4.50) with raspberry and orange filling was beyond heavenly — and here Chow, Baby thought it didn’t like coconut. Well, it also thought it didn’t like driving through Benbrook, but now it can’t wait for the next time.

 

Waltz: A Little Light Music

Ah, the dog days of August, when Chow, Baby still wants to overstuff its gullet with dinner-size portions of heavy foods like jaeger schnitzel, Slovak-style meat loaf, and Hungarian stew but can’t afford the necessary three-hour nap afterward. And so the perfect time to check out the lighter summer lunch menu at Blue Danube (2230A W. Park Row Dr., Pantego), Chow, Baby’s favorite Eastern European restaurant — and yours, too, if you know what’s good for you.

“Light” — as in “diet”? — being another of Chow, Baby’s many areas of non-expertise, it brought along a calorie-conscious pal to weigh in (hee) on Chef Miroslav’s line-up of soups, salads, and sandwiches. First, and so far the best: sopska ($7), a marvelously refreshing enough-for-a-meal salad of diced tomato, cucumber, red onion, and good feta — that’s it; no fattening lettuce — tossed with a vinaigrette. Not many calories, probably, and a perfect summer dish. Next, and tied for best, lemon-pepper grilled salmon ($10) on lightly dressed romaine. The seasoning is not “lemon-pepper” shaken out of a McCormick bottle, mind you, but real lemon juice and fresh-ground pepper. Great meals are in the details.

For carb- and paprika-lovers, Blue Danube piles its savory meats onto housemade French-style bread (sandwiches $7 with choice of side; do try the Russian potato salad). The extra-juicy Slovak pork roast balances hot paprika with cooling red onion and tomato; the Hungarian paprikash, a hearty beef stew, is mellowed with a splash of wine. Less messy sandwiches include the cevapcici, a stack of grilled housemade pork and beef sausages topped with red onion and a roasted red pepper sauce. According to Chow, Baby’s expert, these aren’t “diet” sandwiches, especially if you pair them with the fresh-fried potato chips — but you can still cut way back on nap time. Half-hour, tops.

Contact Chow, Baby at chowbaby@fwweekly.com.

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