I’ve written before in praise of our wonderful local restaurant Milo, but we haven’t been able to visit during the pandemic (just ordered to-go a few times). Last night Teri and I were there for dinner — a special occasion! — and it was great to see that chef Corey McEntyre and his crew are still creating wonderful stuff. Their creativity with vegetables is especially noteworthy. These charred carrots were amazing:
Ditto the roasted beets on yogurt with spicy peanuts crumbled on top:
And a salad of thinly-sliced summer squash with greens, wonderfully dressed and topped with shaved parmesan:
Another amazing meal at Milo last night — this is grilled pork loin on a bed of sweet potato purée, topped with collard greens that had had something remarkable done to them. Fabulous flavors. My dear fellow Wacoans, and visitors too, don’t miss this place.
This morning after church we stopped at Milo All Day to pick up kolaches, a cinnamon roll, a pain au chocolat, and, of course, biscuits. I told Teri to try the biscuits first, and after about three bites she said, ‘That may be the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.” If not, it’s pretty darn close. (Also, we have now eaten our week’s quota of carbs.)
I’m hanging out this morning at a new local place, Milo All Day. Corey MacIntyre, the chef/owner, has been foodtrucking and catering and cooking around here for a few years — he did this amazing dinner a while back — but an actual restaurant is new for him. It opened while I was in London, so this is my first time to visit, and it’s awesome. First of all, it’s a lovely space:
(Lots of outdoor seating too.) I decided to carb it up this time, which is not what I should be doing, but look at the cream-cheese kolache and the buttermilk biscuit:
Corey says his grandmama’s biscuit recipe is the best, and I am prepared to agree. I had it with an amazing house-made peach jam.
I’m looking forward to lunch and dinner at Milo All Day. It’s a great addition to Waco’s downtown.
The newest outpost of Chip and Joanna Gaines’s local empire is Magnolia Table, and Teri and I had breakfast there this morning. It was really good. The restaurant is located in the building that for many years housed the Elite Café, and it’s nice to see the predecessor acknowledged on one wall:
It’s a lovely space:
And the food was really good:
But I was fascinated by how thoroughly designed (and therefore, of course, branded) everything in the place is:
(That leather folder is what they bring your check in.) Imagine the money that went into all this! Such attention to detail is simply impossible for most new businesses, but the Gaineses have made so much money from Fixer Upper and the Magnolia Silos — which gets more visitors than the Alamo — that they can make the investment up front.
We moved here in 2013, before the first season of Fixer Upper, and it has been quite remarkable to see a city changed so much, in so short a time, by the energy and ambition of two people. Houses and hotels are being built, restaurants and bars opened, existing properties renovated — the city of Waco has even begun to realize that they can now fix some of the terrible roads around here. It’s wonderful … and yet it feels so, so fragile. Here’s hoping that the cult of Chip and Jo lasts long enough to bring permanent improvements to this shabby old town.
My former student Gabriel RiCharde is now working for the pride of Waco, Balcones Distilling, and today he gave me a tour. It was really fascinating. I have read a bit over the years about the process of distilling spirits, and I knew that it is complicated — but when you actually get walked through each stage … wow. At every step of the process complex science is involved, but also decisions that require artful intuition.
Here’s a closeup of the door to the mash tun, which was bought from the Speyburn distillery in Scotland, and which has been used to make whisky for about 75 years:
And here’s one of the amazing new stills, just arrived a few weeks ago from Scotland:
And this steampunky thing is attached to the stills — I don’t know what it is, but it looks super cool:
Here’s the tasting and blending room, where I could have stayed for quite some time:
And here the aging process, in barrels made variously of American, French, and other European oak:
And finally, after all that hard work of listening and gaping, I had to take a couple of presents home for myself:
I live in Waco, Texas, which is a relatively small city and a relatively poor city, a city with its share of problems both historic and current — but also a place where some pretty cool things are happening. Last night, for instance, my wife Teri and I enjoyed an early Valentine’s Day dinner at Balcones Distillery — maker of some of the finest and most celebrated spirits in the world — where the distillers had teamed up with Milo Biscuit Company, a local food truck and caterer, to create a lovely dinner in the tasting room.
Each course came paired with a cocktail or a straight Balcones spirit — their Baby Blue corn whisky, their classic Texas single Malt, their wonderful rum-like spirit called Rumble.
It was quite peculiar having a fine dinner without wine! — and I probably wouldn’t want to do it all the time, but the pairings were really well-chosen and the food was delicious, right there next to some of the aging barrels.
I had fresh Gulf snapper, perfectly cooked, and Teri had duck breast, also perfectly cooked, but perhaps the best taste of the evening was the cheese course, a Delice de Bourgogne paired with a whisky aged in rum barrels (not yet released to the public). It was truly memorable. I meant to take pictures of the food but was too occupied with eating it until I got to dessert, a flourless chocolate cake with rose cream and raspberries.
And then when we were on our way out we were given a piece of salted caramel that the chef, Corey, had made with a touch of Balcones Brimstone, a whisky smoked with scrub oak. That was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
All in all, big fun here in Waco! Our hearty thanks to chef Corey and the rest of the crew.