Many months in advance, Matt warned me that San Antonio is a nauseatingly romantic city. Charming, no? One might think that he opposed romance when he offers up descriptions like that! I worried that someone’s shoes would be the victim of too much romance, but I’m happy to report that no shoes were fouled by the remnants of dinner. Instead, I found San Antonio to be equal parts beautiful and fun. It’s a city with a lot of history, but it’s a city that has kept itself relevant by blending the old with the new. It was a wonderful place to enjoy a little vacation, Texas-style.
It was a road-trippy kind of vacation: Matt picked me up in College Station and drove the two of us to San Antonio. It was a lovely drive, smooth and easy, though it was sad and distressing to drive through the wildfire-stricken remains of Bastrop. We arrived in San Antonio in the late afternoon on Sunday, which gave us plenty of time to meander before our dinner reservation. One of the things I loved best about our vacation was that we were able to walk to most of the restaurants where we ate. Sunday night’s dinner spot was just off the riverwalk, so we walked along the river and chatted until we came to a stairway, and poof, we were inside and ready for dinner. The riverwalk was especially romantic all lit up at night, looking gorgeous and inviting. I could have walked for hours, but there was dinner to be eaten.
One of the nice things about knowing and loving someone for a long time is the way that you mold each other to fit one another’s habits and pleasures. On Sunday night, we went to dinner at Il Sogno Osteria, where they serve fresh, flavorful Italian food, and you can watch the action as it unfolds in the open kitchen, complete with fiery oven action. Il Sogno has this antipasti bar where you walk over with a waiter and pick three or five of the items for a choose-your-own-antipasti-plate adventure. As longtime readers may recall, I am a vegetarian, but when I saw the prosciutto, I knew it needed to come back to our table for Matt, who loves all things pig. And when the waiter recommended the seafood salad, I thought it should come back with us too. Perhaps it sounds like I’m bragging, but I feel like in long-term relationships, we show our affections with small gestures. And perhaps Matt and I enjoy the gustatory differences between us: I bring him prosciutto and seafood at the Italian restaurant, he takes me to the vegetarian restaurant the next night.
This hold-the-meat restaurant is Green, which we both loved, and I mean LOVED. I was surprised by how much we liked it! Matt pronounced his barbecue sandwich “the best I’ve ever had,” and I had a very tasty eggplant parmesan sandwich. We had a long discussion about how traditionally meaty foods, like barbecue, can transition into the meatless world, and Matt told me he liked the place so much that he’d come back without me. At first, I was jealous that he would think such a thing—of course he should come back with me!—but periodically he has work to do in San Antonio. So then I felt pleased that I could be the one to introduce him to something new. During much of our time in San Antonio, Matt was my tour guide, showing me around and explaining the city to me. It was nice to add something new to his San Antonio knowledge.
When we weren’t eating, we were strolling along the riverwalk, or visiting the missions, or drinking wine. Matt took me to a lovely little wine bar called Zinc, where we spent a few happy hours before dinner. At one of those happy hours, I was way too hungry not to eat something while we drank, so I ordered the guacamole, which turns out to be quite the show: they bring all the ingredients for the guacamole to your table and make it right in front of your eyes. It was delicious stuff too, with a smoky flavor imparted by roasted tomatoes they mix into all that creamy avocado. It totally hit the spot.
I loved being in San Antonio during Halloween. It was serendipitous that we were there for the holiday and so much fun: we saw a riverboat being driven by the grim reaper, but who knows where he was taking those poor passengers? Elvis was driving another boat, and in the streets, the dark and chattering grackels created a spooky ambiance as they darted en masse from one tall building to another, their calls echoing through the streets. On Halloween night, we walked back from Green and ducked into a Starbucks for after-dinner drinks, then we spent the rest of the evening chatting in a flower garden about movies and on-screen chemistry. It wasn’t very spooky, but it was pretty darn romantic.
What does one call a road trip within a road trip? I’m not sure. But whatever it’s called, that’s what we did on our last full day of vacation. We drove through Texas hill country to Fredericksburg for a dose of quaint, small-town beauty, with a detour into Texas wine country.
Our visit to wine country was very educational for me. For one thing, I tasted port for the first time ever. In fact, I tasted two ports! At two different tasting rooms! And it was delicious—rich as the dickens, sweet, velvety, wow. I liked it a lot. It’s something to be savored in small quantities. I am going to keep port in mind this winter, as I hear it tastes better when it’s dark and cold outside, and you want to be warm and toasty inside.
Matt’s never been too enthusiastic about Texas wines. Texas is a very hot place to be growing grapes—the sun can turn them all into sugar-bomb raisins, which do not make for tasty wine, or so I am told. But all is not lost when it comes to Texas wines! Pedernales Cellars is making some interesting wine, and the panoramic view from right outside their tasting room is stunning. If you’re interested in Texas wines, a wine tasting at Pedernales might be worth the visit, and it’s certainly a lovely drive to get there.
We also visited the new Messina Hof tasting room, partly because the woman pouring our wine at Pedernales suggested it, and we thought, Why not? But I have to say that Messina Hof’s wines were disappointing. They didn’t taste bad, but they all tasted the same. We don’t expect a Merlot to taste like a Cabernet Franc, but I tried both at Messina Hof, and they were remarkably similar. Which, in wine, is a bad thing. So I’d say skip Messina Hof, but do make the drive out to Pedernales. (Though I can, in good faith, recommend Messina Hof’s port. It’s seriously strong stuff, but wow—tasty! Our Messina Hof wine-pourer recommended dribbling it over ice cream or baking it into brownies, and I think both ideas sound mighty fine.)
And now what else can be said, other than the obvious? I loved San Antonio. I loved that I got to see it for the first time with someone who loves it too. Matt and I are already talking about where we’ll go next together—he’s ambivalent about New Orleans for complicated reasons. It’s a complex city with a difficult history, and I’m a vegetarian who may be difficult to feed in New Orleans. But I wouldn’t be opposed to going back to San Antonio. We ate and drank well, we remembered why we like each other, and at the end of the trip, I cried. When you’ve been looking forward to something for a long time, it’s difficult to let it go after it’s over. I’m trying not to be too bummed about the return to everyday life, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t missing the beauty and excitement of seeing a new city. So maybe it’s time to start planning that next trip after all.