Best Thing I Ate This Week: Kitchen at Southold Farm + Cellar in Fredericksburg
There’s a saying among chefs that people eat with their eyes. If that’s so, the amuse-bouche at The Kitchen at Southold Farm + Cellar is served before guests even make it through the restaurant’s doors.
I sat at a picnic table on the patio at the Fredericksburg winery, designed with a minimalist Hill Country boho farmhouse aesthetic, and watched with a pleased grin as arriving diners turned the corner of the entryway fence and were audibly stunned by the gorgeous Hill Country views that greeted them.
A seemingly endless expanse of brown and green hills rolls from the winery’s ridgetop perch into the setting sun. The snapshot could serve as the perfect photo to accompany the "Why I Moved to Texas" essay penned in a glossy magazine by a 30-something Hollywooder looking for more space, a slower pace and fresh Instagram fodder.
Who could blame them? Even after spending 46 years of my life regularly visiting the Hill Country, the view at Southold even made me catch my breath.
The vista and a glass of some of the state’s best wine alone arguably are worth the 75-minute drive from my home in South Austin. But West Texas native Regan Meador and wife, Carey — who relocated the winery that specializes in low-intervention wines to Texas after five years of operations on Long Island — doubled down on the 62-acre property’s appeal in March when they opened The Kitchen at Southold Farm + Cellar.
Led by Eden East and Weatherup veteran chef Courtney Watson, it serves a fixed menu of seven small plates that lean on local and seasonal produce for their Hill Country flavors. The dishes are artful without being precious, direct but not simplistic. All perfectly suited for the expressive wines on which Southold built its reputation.
Golden beets infused earthiness into a gazpacho dotted with a dollop of crème fraîche for a refreshing start to our al fresco dinner. Despite the handsome, window-wrapped dining room, all leather, wood and concrete splashed with early evening sunlight, we dined with our baby outside as a safety precaution.
Corn fritters cracked and popped, revealing a gentle interior on a dish of tender fried quail legs set in a tart pickled green tomato mayonnaise. That offering was paired with Southold’s crisp, slightly funky and not-what-you’d-expect-from-a-Chardonnay Stay on Target.
Wine can be ordered a la carte or as a trio of full-pour pairings for $35 to supplement the $65-per-person dinner (not including 20% service charge and tax) that is paid at the time you make your online reservation.
The tomato jam that sweetened a dish of ricotta dumplings was a highlight unto itself, but the meal’s best might have been saved for last: pork medallions piqued with hot pepper agrodolce perched on a nest of caramelized spaghetti squash cooked to a crunchy finish, and local peaches rounded out the sweetness of honey pie that had the consistency of buttermilk pies I imagine have been served for decades at nearby ranches.
I didn’t want to share either of those final two small dishes, which highlighted my one nitpick with the experience. The plates were served as shareable for two, but I, a man with an admittedly large appetite, could have eaten each of the servings unassisted. I’d happily pay 15% more for about 30% more food.
Meador told me he created the restaurant as another way to draw folks out to try his wine, and that’s one of the great selling points of dinner at Southold: getting the chance to drink wines you won’t usually find at restaurants or retail outlets. We were able to try the rich red fruits of the All the Wrong Moves Mataro with the honey and soy-laced pork dish, and the tingly tart berry flavors of the recently released Mataro Pétillant Naturel named Damn the Torpedoes pierced the rounded sweetness of dessert.
The former can only be purchased in stores, and the Damn the Torpedoes had limited life outside of the 62 acres. I bought a bottle of the juicy sparkler to take home just in case I couldn’t find it in town. The glasses from that bottle, sadly, will be savored with a much less captivating view.
If you go
The Kitchen at Southold Farm + Cellar
Where: 330 Minor Threat Lane in Fredericksburg
Hours: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; make a reservation online