Long a chef who’s celebrated flavors of the region with his Hill Country-based restaurant, Ross Burtwell recognizes a key component of any meal isn’t just the food. That’s why Cabernet Grill Texas Wine Country Restaurant, opened since 2002, has served up a Texas-only wine list since 2007.
His attention to Texas-grown grapes and the wine they produce has highlighted an industry that wasn’t as big or well-known seven years ago as it is today. Now, Cabernet Grill boasts a wine list of 90 different offerings from 31 state wineries, and both locals and tourists alike in Fredericksburg who flock to the restaurant for the food often leave knowing plenty about the wine.
Burtwell’s debut cookbook, "Texas Hill Country Cuisine: Flavors from the Cabernet Grill" (Creative Noggin Press, $34.95), showcases both — namely all the bold flavors of Hill Country cooking, rooted in regional influences such as the Southwest, Mexican and Tex-Mex food, barbecue, Cajun food and farm-to-table techniques, and how they pair with the wide variety of Texas wine.
"What are the hallmarks of Texas Hill Country cuisine?" Burtwell asks in the introduction of the cookbook. "It is food created by people who understand the importance of combining area-specific, locally grown and produced ingredients — seasonally sourced — and matching it with Texas-grown grapes and locally produced wines."
With 131 recipes and anecdotes about local food products used in Cabernet Grill’s meals, the book is a guide not only to spicing up your home-cooked meals, but to the Hill Country, too.
Pick one up today from 4 to 8 p.m. at East End Wines, where Burtwell will discuss the book as well as present food and wine pairings that people can replicate at home. One Cabernet Grill recipe he’s focusing on, because it goes so well with a specific Texas wine, is the curried pheasant sausage and apple chowder, a dish he first made for a wine trail event with Pedernales Cellars. The requirement for that event: to pair San Antonio’s Kiolbassa sausage with Pedernales Cellars Viognier.
"It’s a good sausage, but how do you pair sausage with wine besides grilling it?" he said. "I wanted to think out of the box."
East End Wines will have a handful of wines you can taste, including Duchman Aglianico, Stone House Claros Norton Reserve and D. Russell Smith Barcelona Blanco 2012. (Russell Smith, a former Becker Vineyards winemaker, opened his own winery in Monsant, Spain, in 2012.)
Burtwell will also promote his book in other places around the state: San Antonio tomorrow, Fall Creek Vineyards on May 24, Fredericksburg on June 12, Pedernales Cellars on June 28 and many more.