Pastry Queen Rebecca Rather keeps giving us reasons to drive to Fredericksburg
Reviewed by Wes Marshall, Fri., May 17, 2013
The Pink Pig6266 Hwy. 290 E., Fredericksburg, 830/990-8800
Lunch, Tue.-Sat., 11am-2:30pm; dinner, Thu.-Sat., 5:30-9pm; Sunday brunch, 10am-close
Anyone who has paid the slightest attention to fine dining in Central Texas over the last two decades should be familiar with Rebecca Rather. She was the co-owner of Rather Sweet Bakery and Cafe in Fredericksburg, a cornerstone of the area's culinary reputation among travelers and locals alike. She's the author of three best-selling and award-winning cookbooks – The Pastry Queen, The Pastry Queen Christmas, and Pastry Queen Parties: Entertaining Friends and Family, Texas Style, all from Ten Speed Press. Rather is also a fixture at wine and food festivals all over Texas, where she is a champion of locally produced foods and an influential voice for Texas wines. Her new restaurant, the Pink Pig, is an ideal place to stop for a lovely lunch or dinner while traveling the various tasting rooms along Hwy. 290. There are more than 15 wineries in the area, and anyone trying to taste a lot of wine would be smart to tuck in for a hearty meal at the Pink Pig.
The first thing you'll notice is that you aren't the only one who is a fan of her cooking. If it's a weekend or a holiday, be prepared to wait for a table. Thankfully, there is an affable staff and a welcoming bar area, and the wait breezes by very quickly. We never had to wait more than 15 minutes or so, and the food is well worth it. While you wait, order any of a nice selection of wines, beers, teas, and even Texas rainwater. The Pink Pig has a rustic feel, and, while the bar area can get pretty animated, the dining areas are all comfortable and feel fairly private. The waitstaff are an amazingly hip crowd – knowledgeable, patient, and attentive. Texas wine lovers have 14 choices at the Pink Pig. My bottle picks would be the Fall Creek Sauvignon Blanc ($24) and the Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo ($34). If after a day of tasting Texas wines you want to try something different, the Pink Pigs' two cheapest wines – Fontana Candida Frascati ($18) and Cellier des Dauphins Côtes du Rhône ($18) – are excellent choices.
Unlike some absentee star chefs, Rather is always in the kitchen, concentrating on the details and making sure the flavors are right. People who know Rather's cooking will often travel quite a distance just to have her classic Rebecca's Chicken Salad Sandwich ($9) or Fried Chicken Cobb Salad ($12). We decided to try a few different things. Our favorite salad is the Fried Beet Salad ($9), a delicious concoction of baby spinach, chunks of goat cheese, pecans, and slices of fried beets in a flavorful vinaigrette. Once we noticed the new specialty of the house, it was hard to choose anything else for a main course. It's called Pulled Pork on Fry Bread ($16). They toss a large chunk of bread dough in the deep fryer, and, once it's cooked, it's topped with pulled pork swimming in a sauce made from Garrison Brothers bourbon, all covered with a tangy jicama slaw. Get an extra napkin and be prepared to smile a lot.
We can't forget dessert. Unlike other royalty, Rather didn't ascend to her throne through an accident of birth. She earned the regal sobriquet "Pastry Queen" for the range and quality of her baked goods. Despite a cornucopia of offerings, we were drawn to the simplicity of the Chocolate Salted Caramel Bar with Vanilla Ice Cream ($5), which is shortbread topped with chocolate and salted caramel, all crowned with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. It is a decadent and robustly flavorful way to end the meal. Rather's many fans won't be surprised that her new place is getting a rave review. If you haven't yet fallen under her spell, add a stop at the Pink Pig to your summer travel itinerary.