Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Pizza, Pie, Moonshine and Lots of Wine: Reasons To Take a Day Trip to Comfort this Summer

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 7:21 AM


No stranger to things odd and outsized, Texas has its fair share of plainly weird place names. Gun Barrel or Cut and Shoot, anyone? But as if to balance out bizarre bergs such as Loco and Ding Dong, there is also a cohort of feel-good monikers: Sunrise, Rainbow, Sweet Home, Happy, Paradise … some might also consider Bacon, Texas to be among the especially comforting examples. Then there is Comfort itself — a name that conjures lazy relaxation with a degree of cosseting thrown in for good measure.

The town, a mere 45 minutes from San Antonio out I-10, has not shied from celebrating the obvious: “I found comfort…in Texas!” trumpets the Chamber of Commerce website, and more than one business prominently features “comfortable” in its signage. Locals don’t shy away from comparisons, mostly unfavorable, to that other, less laid-back Hill Country destination to the north — though they mostly refrain from calling Comfort “the New Fredericksburg.” As a result, hordes of Houstonians and Austinites aren’t swarming its sidewalks, despite the Tesla charging station outside the historic Hotel Faust. On a Saturday afternoon in late spring, I wandered down High Street, the thoroughfare where most of the action abides, and heard only the lackadaisical slapping of a Texas flag in the breeze outside a somnolent real estate office. A few more San Antonians will hardly tip the balance toward touristy. Here’s where to go when you need a quick dive into the still waters of small-town Texas.
click to enlarge High's Cafe & Store is but one of the dining options in this quaint and increasingly hip Texas town. -  INSTAGRAM/NASIMLESS
  • Instagram/nasimless
  • High's Cafe & Store is but one of the dining options in this quaint and increasingly hip Texas town.


High’s Café & Store // Though you can certainly sit inside, High’s (“comfort food for you”) streetside patio is a good place to watch the world go by as you wait for the order you’ve placed at the counter; yes, there may be a line but it moves quickly. I can recommend the pimento cheese sandwich as both good of type and somehow perfect in context; the chipotle chicken soup lacked spark but was an accommodating companion. Breakfast looks appealing with plates such as migas and steel cut oats, and sandwiches include meatloaf and open-face crab cakes. There wasn’t time to try other eateries, but locals sitting at my table suggested Fritze’s BBQ Trailer with outdoor seating at 702 7th St.; Comfort Pizza at 802 High Street , advertising “forno a legna” that’s further emphasized by a truck sporting a “got wood?” logo; and 814 A Texas Bistro at 713 High Street, the most ambitious-sounding of the town’s restaurants with appetizers such as balsamic glazed pork belly and entrées on the order of grilled Bandera quail and snapper with sea scallops. 814 occupies the old post office and is open for dinner Thursday to Saturday and brunch Saturday and Sunday. 726 High St.

Miss Giddy’s // Miss Giddy’s was another recommendation, and one that I took — but for pie only. The shop itself is a visual jumble of nick-knacks and tchotchkes and an olfactory jungle of scented candles, but the pies, displayed in a glass showcase, are pristine. The buttermilk version is a passed-down family recipe, and it’s well worth taking a slice out to the Pie Porch. 817 High St.

There’s no serious eating without equally serious drinking, and Comfort is surprisingly up to the task with options beyond the run-of-the-mill booze and beer joints. (I’m not sure about The Meet Market — but it was also recommended.)

Huckleberry’s // Huckleberry’s began as a home décor shop with gifts and jewelry and has evolved into a place with scheduled events and a boutique wine and beer bar. Recently remodeled in a Hill Country Ag-Chic esthetic, the store’s umbrella-shaded and fountain-accented patio looks to be a good place to set and sip awhile. 703 High St.

Newsom Vineyards Tasting Room // The Newsom family has been growing grapes in West Texas for over 30 years, they now cultivate 19 varieties, and they supply fruit to over 10 Texas wineries — in addition to producing their own Newsom Vineyards wines based on varietals such as tempranillo and albariño. Fortunately for us, there’s a Comfort tasting room, housed in a 1907 cottage that “required a lot of sanding and scraping,” run by son Nolan and his wife Mei, a winemaker in her own right. There’s a $5 tasting fee, and there were three whites and two reds the day I was there. Bottles from winemakers that use the family’s grapes are also often available. 717 Front St. (Thurs.-Sun. 10-7)
Hill Country Distillers // Newsom’s tasting room shares an ample backyard with HCD; it’s accessible from High Street by a gravel path that runs alongside High’s. (On Sunday’s there’s a food truck, Fire House Fare, at 1 and music starting at 2.) Housed in another renovated cottage, HCD is a truly Texas-unique operation in that all its spirits, with the exception of one distilled from jalapeño, are produced from locally gathered prickly pear cactus paddles under the direction of John and Cayce Kovacs. You may not love them all (I find the gin problematic), but you should taste them all regardless — including the Texas Dulce liqueurs with infused orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime peels, and the impressive coffee liqueur. A brandy made from Texas grapes is in the works. 723 Front St.
Branch on High // Bending Branch winery is the big dog producer/grower in the extended Comfort ‘hood, and they, too have a handsomely fitted out tasting room on High Street. The winery also has an outpost in California, so some of their bottlings employ CA grapes, but a $12 tasting fee will get you samples of six wines, among which are a floral Texas White blend, a Texas Red composed of malbec, mourvedre and petite syrah, and another of the powerful Texas tannat, the winery’s signature grape. Small, cheese and meat plates are also available. 704 High St.

Believers in getting straight to the source also have the option of a 10-minute drive to Bending Branch Winery itself along sinuous roads that make one yearn for a convertible. At the tasting room, in addition to wine there will be live music “on the deck” on Saturdays, walking winery tours at 2 p.m. ($25, including tasting), and simply the opportunity to kick back in the country with a great glass of wine and maybe a tune or two. Kinda makes you want to stay the night. 142 Lindner Branch Trail.

And if you do, here are two options:
Hotel Faust // This 130-year old hostelry has been recently and ravishingly redone and offers rooms for as low as $99 on weeknights. ” Hotel Faust is a calming home base for your Texas Hill Country getaway,” proclaims the website — and that would appear to be true. 717 High St.

Camp Comfort B&B // At Camp Comfort’s core is an 1860 German bowling hall (now the Historic Social Hall) facing Cypress Creek, around which cabins, decorated in a mid-century-meets-haute-country esthetic, are arrayed to form a courtyard. Fire pits at night, an organic breakfast in the morning…and all starting at $195. BYO wine, but then we now know that’s not a problem. 601 Water St.

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