- Andrea Abel
Have you ever seen those wooden nesting dolls in which each successive doll is painted more elaborately than the one inside? Life is like that. We learn from our experiences and move forward, adding layers of creativity and wisdom, and hopefully take full advantage of new and wonderful opportunities.
Such is life for the uber-talented pastry queen, Rebecca Rather. After a dozen or so years at the helm of Rather Sweet, her highly successful Fredericksburg bakery and café, Rather has sunk her culinary chops into the Pink Pig, a farm-to-fork restaurant and bakery showcasing Rather’s flair for sophisticated down-home food.
“Rather Sweet was a great run. In restaurant years, 12 successful years is like a lifetime,” says Rather. But it was time to move on. And like those wooden nesting dolls, Rather brings all her talents to a new level.
Open since November, the Pink Pig is a little more than six miles east of Fredericksburg smack dab in the middle of the burgeoning Fredericksburg Wine Road 290 (wineroad290.com). It’s a perfect spot for lunch, dinner, Sunday breakfast or dessert while sampling wines at nearby tasting rooms such as Grape Creek, Becker, 4.0 Cellars and Torre de Pietra. Or, pick up a Pink Pig box lunch to eat along the way.
“There wasn’t anything operating here. I drove by a million times,” Rather says of the old chink-and-stone railroad depot moved from Greeley, Colo., and the previous home of August E’s, a fine-dining establishment now in Fredericksburg.
Entering the restaurant, visitors are greeted by an ample pastry case filled with Rather’s over-the-top baked goods. In the dining area a large stone hearth with a wood-burning fire warms guests during chilly winter months. Rather describes the décor as “organic looking” with pink and turquoise accents — “my favorite colors.”
“My friend, interior designer Melissa Estes, helped me with the design,” Rather says. “I knew what I wanted, but she really gets it,” she says the sophisticated upcycled look of the restaurant’s interior.
In addition to indoor seating, the large, covered, outdoor patio and bar arguably have the best sunset views in the Hill Country, two fireplaces and plenty of seating.
Also on the property is Rocky Hill B&B, owned and operated by multitalented Fredericksburg Mayor Jeryl Hoover, and the Artisans at Rocky Hill Gallery, featuring various collections of local art and handcrafted furnishings.
But the star of the show is the food. Rather — who espoused farm-to-table cuisine long before the phrase was coined — pays attention to the details. The Garrison Brothers bourbon BBQ sauce, chipotle ketchup, pickles, potato chips, salad dressings, all the breads and pastries and more are made in-house. “I’m a little obsessed,” she admits.
Lunch showcases Rather’s latest creations such as Oyster Po’ Boy, Kale Caesar, Fried Chicken Cobb Salad and the house specialty Pulled Pork on Fry Bread topped with a jicama slaw along with longtime favorite sandwiches Rebecca’s Chicken Salad and Six River Tuna.
Dinner is a bit more upscale and intimate, with votive candles and linen napkins. The carefully selected menu includes Rebecca’s Seafood Cheesecake — a savory mascarpone cheesecake studded with crab and shrimp with a beurre blanc sauce — and toothsome Beef Short Ribs braised in Real Ale Katz’s Coffee Porter served over cheddar and Parmesan grits with sautéed seasonal greens that appear on the dinner menu.
The wine and beer menu draws generously from nearby vineyards, rounded out by pours from California and around the world.
Sunday mornings until noon is a special breakfast menu with Chicken and Waffles and Eggs Benedict (with in-house made English muffins).
Dessert, of course, is a must whether for dine-in or to-go. The Pastry Queen duly has earned her title with the likes of Tuxedo Cake — covered in whipped cream and draped with chocolate ganache — and Key Lime Pie, cookies and bars, and new confections such as Sweet Potato Cake, a heavenly take on carrot cake.
“I have a great team. It’s about growing a strong team,” Rather says as she gratefully lists off the team that makes Pink Pig patrons squeal in culinary delight, including Caitlyn Evans, pastry chef under Rather, and Kevin Stewart, formerly of Marfa’s Blue Javelina, who served as consulting chef. Rounding out the team are Heather Crocker, Binky Ragon, KK Taylor, handling front-of-the-house and myriad other tasks.
Just what was the inspiration for the restaurant’s name and de facto mascot? “I wanted to do something with a little levity. I love pigs. When we moved to Fredericksburg, my daughter Frances was in the eighth grade and had a pet pot-bellied pig named Priscilla,” says Rather. Then there is Rather’s ever-popular pink-iced pig-shaped shortbread cookie. The Pink Pig seemed like a natural.
But don’t tell Beau, Rather’s large and very mellow Great Pyrenees dog who often accompanies her to the restaurant. He thinks he’s the mascot.