Article #8, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro”

As we drove down the country lane, through the Piney Woods of East Texas, I reflected on the weekend and all that had transpired. We had several experiences that surpassed my expectations and the culinary treats were superb. Little did I know that my taste buds would soon be exploding with delight again. We drove out of Palestine to a local bed and breakfast named Sabor a Pasion. It is located on Anderson County Road #406, about four miles outside of town. It is easily identified by this sign at the property’s edge.

 

Sabor a Pasion

Sabor a Pasion

 

As we entered the property and approached the main portion of the ‘Country House and Bistro” I pondered if we would have another meal, which exceeded my culinary assumptions of this small Texas town. I quickly glanced around the premises and immediately felt a warm and welcoming feeling. If my first glance was any indication, I would feel at home here.

 

Exterior of Event Room

Exterior of Event Room

 

The property is large enough to handle weddings, retreats and other personal or business obligations. It is 25 acres in total, including the vineyard. It is owned and run by Chef Simon Webster. As was the case, Simon had a wedding and catered the event on his grounds the night before we visited. As we drove in there were decorations pinned to the fence posts and I wasn’t entirely sure if they were permanent or not, until we chatted. I learned that he can handle up to 200 people for events.

 

Interior of Event Room

Interior of Event Room

 

Simon is a very easy going fellow and I immediately gravitated to his personality. He told us about himself and that he was born in England and at the age of four his father moved his family to New Zealand, where he became interested in cooking. He has trained with some of the best chefs in the world and at the New Zealand Culinary Institute. More of his background is available on this link for Chef Simon Webster. I asked him how he relaxes, as he is a very busy man. I learned he maintains and pilots an older airplane, which he takes up every chance he gets,  just to get away.

 

Wood Burning Pizza Oven

Wood Burning Pizza Oven with the Vineyard in the Background

 

In our conversation I inquired about this magnificent wood burning pizza oven and he stated it was built so as to replicate the Italian tradition. He stated it gives a little personality to his grounds. He often holds pizza events and continually uses it along with this outside seating arrangement, that made me think of Tuscany Italy right away.

 

Tuscany Table

Tuscany Table

 

Obviously no visit would be complete with out my selfie photo and Chef Simon was gracious enough to accommodate. He inquired if we were hungry for breakfast yet and I stated I was very ready, especially given his background, to sample his cooking and see if my expectations would be met.

 

Chef Simon Webster with the Nomadic Texan

Chef Simon Webster with the Nomadic Texan

 

We went inside and I contemplated what he would serve. Little did I know that the menu would include a crab offering. I am a confessed “crabaholic” and I am sure Chef Simon wasn’t aware of this, but the dish was more than tasty and I really wanted to ask him for more crab! Along with the delectable shellfish, was a potato cake with a very savory flavor and eggs that were cooked just perfectly. The fresh mozzarella cheese was excellent. Bacon was included and I gave it to an unnamed breakfast partner! A good sampling of fruit bordered the entrees and I was in heaven. I literally inhaled the crab and could not manage to finish my meal. I will tell you, I will be back for a lunch or dinner and expand my experience at the Sabor a Pasion.

 

Breakfast to Die For

Breakfast to Die For

 

After breakfast we strolled into his vineyard and he showed us his arbor. It is a central wedding photo site. I asked about the vineyard and he told me he produces 900 bottle each year and is happy with this quantity. He works the vines daily and ensures that his product is as high a caliber, as he can influence.

 

Vineyard Arbor

Vineyard Arbor

 

I was enamored with Chef Simon and he talked about Kim and I staying there on our next visit. It has a delightful and a very relaxed atmosphere and you can bet we will be back. We will spend the entire weekend with him on our next visit. I can’t imagine eating three meals a day, over an entire weekend with him. I might not leave! We talked about his harvest and how the locals and friends turn out to help pick the grapes. I volunteered, in exchange for his great cooking! I think I got the better half of that deal!

 

Chef Simon Webster

Chef Simon Webster

 

If you need to get away and have a relaxing weekend, with a very high quality of food and wine, I recommend you stay at the Sabor a Pasion. Enjoy Chef Simon’s excellent cooking and his warm and gracious attitude. In addition, you will discover he has a wonderful sense of humor. That is, if you can tear your mind away from thoughts of the fantastic food he serves. It is truly worth a long trip, just to experience his country house and bistro. Kim and I will be back!

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #7, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Red Fire Grille”

The original pretense of Kim and my visit to Palestine Texas for the weekend, was to share in the culinary attributes, of this pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods. Of course my first thought was chicken fried steak or maybe a huge helping of fried catfish. I was, to be totally honest, a little suspicious that there would be anything of a positive nature offered on our visit. So Saturday night was the first experience, in a higher quality and more palatable cuisine at the Red Fire Grille.

Plaque of Redlands Hotel Historical Identification

Plaque of Redlands Hotel Historical Identification

 

We entered the Redlands Hotel and the restaurant is off to the side on the ground floor. Thank goodness I wore a nice dress shirt and slacks, as any type of casual apparel would have been totally out of place. It turns out this really is a nice place and I couldn’t wait to get started. After the long day I was famished. We were joined at dinner by a marvelous local personality, Martelle Moronko. Marty kept me in stitches all night long and I loved her outgoing personality and sense of humor.

 

Red Fire Grille

Red Fire Grille

 

The Red Fire Grille is owned and run by Dawn and Executive Chef Christian Mailloux. Chef Christian has been honored as one of the country’s top culinary talents in the inaugural edition of Best Chefs America, a 386-page coffee table book.  I have included a link illustrating his experience and how he came to be categorized as such a prestigious chef. Dawn was a very gracious hostess and ensured our service was impeccable all night long.

 

Dawn and Chef Christian

Dawn and Chef Christian

 

It appeared that this was the real deal and I couldn’t wait to sample his cooking. I looked over the menu and was delighted to find several favorites that I knew I had to order. We ordered both pan fried Calamari and Flatbread for appetizers and I have admit that both were of a superior quality and taste. The Calamari was very flavorful and had a wonderful breading. The Flatbread was even better than anticipated and I ate more than my share of this appetizer! I particularly loved the thin crisp crust. I highly recommend either when you dine at the Red Fire Grille.

 

Pan Fried Calamari and Flatbread

Pan Fried Calamari and Flatbread

 

 

I love Bleu Cheese Dressing when it is made correctly and has an ample supply of actual cheese in it. If it is served with a wedge of lettuce, there is no finer salad option in my book. I am not a Caesar’s salad man. So obviously you know what I started with. There was a huge supply of genuine Bleu cheese in the dressing and its flavor was supreme.  My apologies to Chef Christian, but I do love my pepper. Kim had the Caesar’s salad.

 

 

Wedge with Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing

Wedge with Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing

 

I ordered the Colorado Rack of Lamb and I must confess it was superb. I thoroughly enjoyed the teaser courses, but they could not compare with this dish. I almost could cut the lamb with my fork. The rack was served with caramelized onion mashed potatoes and spinach. The potatoes had an extravagant flavor, which really made my mouth water. I have had many a dish of lamb, over the course of my life and some have been significantly more succulent than others. This was by far, the best Rack of Lamb I have ever had! Imagine it is being served in Palestine Texas. I would have never guessed the quality this restaurant serves.

 

Colorado Rack of Lamb

Colorado Rack of Lamb

 

Kim chose and I knew when I looked at the menu, this would be her choice, the Mahi Mahi. We constantly debate which fish is more tasty and I assume it depends on one’s palate. She always loves Mahi Mahi and this was no exception. It was cooked to her liking, which is tough to do. I like my fish a little under cooked and flaky. Kim likes her a little more robust and solid. The portion was extremely sufficient and I believe for the first time I can remember, Kim could not finish her entree of Mahi Mahi. Marty also opted for the Mahi Mahi.

 

Caribbean Roasted Mahi Mahi

Caribbean Roasted Mahi Mahi

 

Breezy ordered the Butternut Lasagna and couldn’t finish it either. Portions are more than ample at the Red Fire Grille and one does not walk away hungry. This is what her dish looked like. Doesn’t it make your mouth water?

 

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna

 

So anyone have room for dessert? I wavered for at least a second or two and decided on the Creme Brulee. I am sure anyone that knows me, will tell you that would be my option. Marty had the same. I have to say that it was my least favorite course. Maybe I was full, or the other courses jaded my taste buds, but it lacked something. Kim had a taste and really liked the subtle hint of Lavender, in the bite of Creme Brulee she had.

 

Lavender Creme Brulee

Lavender Creme Brulee

 

Kim had the Mini Coconut Creme dessert and had issues with the pineapple ring. She could not cut it. The other products in the concoction were very good and had wonderful blend of flavors. Kim especially loved the Margarita ice cream in her dessert.

 

Mini Coconut Creme, Margarita Ice Cream, Pineapple Crisp

Mini Coconut Creme, Margarita Ice Cream, Pineapple Crisp

 

Breezy had the Chocolate dessert and if memory serves me correctly finished it off. I was going to try it, but the opted instead for the Creme Brulee.

 

Flourless Chocolate Chili Pate with Hibiscus Syrup

Flourless Chocolate Chili Pate with Hibiscus Syrup

 

After dinner Chef Christian came out of the kitchen and we shook hands. It was nice to put a face with the food. It is very easy to see why he has been identified as such a reputable chef and I can understand his accolades and high honor. His food is worthy of a side or day trip and the restaurant had immaculate service. I highly recommend if you are within 100 miles of Palestine, that you venture to the Redlands Hotel and undertake an award winning dinner at the Red Fire Grille. You will not be sorry!

 

Executive Chef Christian Mailloux with the Nomadic Texan

Executive Chef Christian Mailloux with the Nomadic Texan

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #6, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Granny Muffin Wines”

As we entered The Texas Art Depot, I asked if we were really in a “Winery”, as it appeared to me that we were in an art and antique shop. Our host Breezy Lake-Wolfe directed us upstairs. As we neared the staircase I saw these boxes of wine sitting and waiting to be shipped and I knew there must be wine nearby. I love their logo!

 

Wine Boxed and Ready to Go "Downstairs" in the Texas Art Depot

Wine Boxed and Ready to Go, “Downstairs” in the Texas Art Depot

 

As we turned the corner upstairs into the “Winery”, the atmosphere changed a great deal. People were sitting at tables sampling the wine and I noticed that there were cheese and sausage selections available to all customers. The winery is owned and operated by Mike and April Johnston. They were busy with customers, so Kim and I decided to look at the rooms of art and antiques around the floor.

 

A

A Collection of Clocks

 

I found an eclectic assortment and I personally love old clocks, like these shown in the photo above! We sauntered into the next room and found all the walls adorned with various artwork and most depicted Civil War activity and turn of the last century or Victorian Era scenes.

 

 

S

Walls of Art

 

As we returned to the tasting room, I saw that Granny Muffin had won several medals and were proudly displaying the specifics. Mike and April offer 25 different varietal wines, with outstanding Merlot’s, Cabernet’s, Chiantis, Malbec’s, White Zinfandel’s, Chardonnay’s, Sauvignon’s, Gewurtzraminer, Pinot’s, Piesporter’s and many blends. I trust you will find your favorite at this winery.

 

A

Medals, Medals, Medals

 

I learned that Mike and April had just returned from Safari in Africa and absolutely loved their trip. I respectfully declined another tasting, as I do not imbibe on a regular basis and was at my limit. Kim of course loves White Zinfandel’s. She sampled and bought a bottle shown below on the rack.

 

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A Closer Look

 

Finally I had a chance to meet April and I found her a very outgoing and hilarious young lady. She had me in stitches I was laughing so hard. So if you venture to Palestine Texas and find you have an hour or so to spend, I recommend you go to Granny Muffin’s Winery and sample their great wines. If you run into April please be prepared to be treated like you have known each other for years. She is a delight and will keep your spirits up (pun intended)!

 

April Johnston with the Nomadic Texan

April Johnston with the Nomadic Texan

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #51 “Calling All Hippies at Sweet Dreams”

Hippies

Hippies

 

One of Mike Pell’s signs that I loved at Sweet Dreams Winery, was this one. It got my attention as soon as I walked up and met him. I used to be one of these folks, as my longtime friends well know and now that I am a retired business executive, posing as a travel and food blogger, I get to use the front door!

 

 

Again I want to thank Palestine Texas for hosting Kim and I and for showing us the “Pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods”! Psst. Please don’t tell my readers about my past! Y’all be kind to each other and have a great day. Peace!

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