There are so many great dining establishments in McAllen. Two favorites are owned by one award-winning chef, Larry Delgado and his wife, Jessica, Salt -New American Table and House Wine & Bistro.
Salt -New American Table is located in the Art District. The kitchen is flanked by a Chef’s Table offering us front-row seats to the cooking excitement. The young sous-chef in front of us was a show worth watching. Her hands were never still; always busy preparing a salad or an interesting dessert.
Our waiter explained the name: Since salt is an important factor in food preparation, at one time worth more than gold, Chef Larry chose it. The restaurant is innovative with various infused salts in its menu. Himalayan salt, lava rock salt, hibiscus salt, smoked salts, and porcini salts are used and set out for you to sample. There are several house drinks called Salt Sips you can order by the pitcher or glass. I sampled the Texas Peach composed of Texas whisky, raspberry peach Grand Marnier, Absolut wild tea, Meyer lemon, peach, agave nectar and peach salt. The glass was rimmed with salt and it tasted delicious.
I ordered the Chicken and Shrimp Ravioli with a farmhouse salad of fresh spinach, Granny Smith apple slices, Gorgonzola, walnut, and crisp rabbit belly dressed with pomegranate bacon vinaigrette.
I chose truffles for dessert. The chocolate was rich and dark. One of my favorites was a chili flavored treat where the heat of the chili mingled with the sweetness of the chocolate made you feel like you tasted Heaven.
House Wine & Bistro, Chef Larry’s original restaurant opened in 2008. It has a different personality. Wine racks all around give it a bistro feeling. The bartender did an excellent job on my coconut rum and pineapple.
Artisan Meat and Cheese Platter was the perfect appetizer. For my entrée, I ordered the Bee Sting Flatbread, a type of artisan pizza with marinara sauce, capicola, and local habanera honey topped with chicken and a Yahweh Salad, local greens tossed with caprino, dried cranberries, fresh strawberries, walnuts and drizzled with strawberry vinaigrette dressing.
I didn’t really have room for dessert but I made the sacrifice and sampled Earl Grey Brûlée with a lavender sugar crust. WOW!
Chef Larry won second place in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans with his Texas Two Step Shrimp Tacos made with all Texas ingredients, wild Texas Gulf shrimp, pecans, ruby red grapefruit, and nopalitos, a type of prickly pear cactus. The masa used for the tortillas was huitlacoche, a corn fungus from Mexico. He used shrimp shells to make stock for Bloody Marys.
Since McAllen is closer to Mexico than much of Texas, I asked Chef Larry about Mexican produce. He replied, “That was the topic of discussion at the Texas International Association Expo in Austin. There are quite a few agricultural producers in Texas that have land and grow in Mexico but they are Texas companies. So yes, we do have access to quite a bit.”
I asked about non-American owned farms. He said, “The things we cannot get are seeds, larva of any kind. There’s quite a bit of produce that comes in from Mexico.”
Chef Larry and his wife Jessica are committed to local grown produce. Jessica used my salad as an example. They come from Yahweh’s, a nearby Texas non-certified but completely organic farm, “They’re all natural, no pesticides. The only pesticides are ladybugs. It’s handpicked by Saul, (the farmer) and washed here on the premise. One minute it’s on the land next it’s here on the table.”
Chef Larry said, “At one time I was challenged to find valley grown citrus. When it became tedious to get it, I ordered from San Antonio. When the produce arrived, the box said ‘Mission, Texas.’ (bordering McAllen.) Now there are more accessible farmers markets. Lots of good food… That’s one thing about the Valley, I don’t want anybody to come in here and go home hungry”
That’s not going to happen at Salt or House Wine & Bistro.
House Wine and Bistro: http://housewineandbistro.com/