By Cecil Flentge
Back in the 1970s, when I first moved to San Antonio, Castroville seemed to be a distant, indistinct town somewhere to the west — near the edge of the world. Recently, as I savored the alternating bites of Dziuk’s Meat Market Alsatian-style sausage and the cream Danish of Haby’s Alsatian Bakery for breakfast, I realized that Castroville is just 30 minutes away. Only 11 minutes from the time you turn off Loop 1604 onto Highway 90 West, you can be in a South Texas-flavored district of Alsace, France.
Driving into town on a bright sunny day, Cataplana Kitchen Store caught the eye. Great selection of items for baking, broiling or braising and bunches of neat kitchen gadgets, like a lemon squeezer that really works!
Lunch found us at the Old Alsatian Steakhouse where we were charmed by the rustic construction like the real wood shingle roof and the antiques placed in their series of small dining rooms. We started lunch with broccoli and potato soup du jour and a small house salad, both good. The fresh baked bread was something to love — fire-grilled, warm, crunchy, chewy … sorry, drifted off there. Moving to our Alsatian lunch specials my companion opted for the quiche, which was a rich, browned slice an inch and half thick with a corn casserole side. I went for Nouilles Alsacienne, a bowl of egg noodles with a creamy sauce that is topped with sautéed diced ham, onions, parsley and a generous adornment of poppy seeds. Both dishes are inherently simple and comforting.
Fighting off the urge to nap, we visited the lovely and historic Saint Louis Catholic Church built of local stone starting in 1868. The high tower and side buttresses draw your eyes first, but the grounds and allied buildings are soothing and beautiful on their own. Then we moved across to the Landmark Inn which began offering hotel accommodations in 1854. This historic property was one of the earliest to offer supplies and boarding to travelers going from San Antonio to El Paso. The grounds are tucked up by the Medina River and have tours daily.
Refreshed with a little exercise it was time to visit Dziuk’s Meat Market. They have sausage. That is like saying Jelly Belly has jelly beans. My, do they have sausage! They have the traditional type I enjoyed for breakfast, they have venison sausage, quail sausage, dried-smoked and jalapeno and cheese sausage. Of course, the bacon rocks! Very meaty, less fat, sort of a bacon-Canadian bacon hybrid. Right on Highway 90, stop in and visit.
Of course, there is another source for sausage in Castroville, R & R Meat Market. I had to pick up some of their version of Alsatian-style sausage, and it is very good, too. They also sell lots of parisa. I did not know it, so they explained that it is a mix of cured (but raw) beef with cheddar cheese, onions, salt, pepper, lime juice, and then the variations come in with assorted types of peppers, other cheeses, Bison or Venison, and onward. This is supposed to be an Alsatian traditional serve-with-crackers or bread snack, imagine a bit like steak tartar — but not packed together. In the U.S., you may only be able to get it in Castroville.
After getting all of that parisa education, we needed to stop and shop a bakery. Bread, sweet pastries, cake, this is easier to comprehend. So we pulled into Haby’s Bakery of the previously mentioned cream Danish. Lots of fresh breads, elaborate decorated cookies, flaky pastries, donuts, cakes, chocolate covered cake balls, and when we grabbed our selections they threw in a holiday bonus of a New Year’s bread (a sweet bread with raisins — yum).
So, we headed back home happy and agreeing that this would be a regular trip. Think about it, Alsace in 30 minutes – even Southwest Air can’t do that!
Following are a few websites and more information on Castroville:
R&R Alsatian Sausage & Products, 1034 Country Lane, Castroville, (830) 931-2430