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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

3 Days in the Field: Something for Everyone in Brownwood | September 2011 | TPW magazine

Something for Everyone
Destination: Brownwood
Travel time from:
Austin – 2.75 hours
Brownsville – 8 hours
Dallas – 3 hours
Houston – 5.25 hours
San Antonio – 3.25 hours
Lubbock – 4 hours
El Paso – 8 hours
Museums, wineries and abundant nature-watching make Brownwood a destination for every taste.
By Melissa Gaskill

For a number of years, my family passed through Brownwood every few months on trips from Austin to Lubbock to visit relatives. We gener­ally timed it to have lunch at Underwood’s Cafeteria, which serves barbecue, all the sides and deservedly famous rolls. The kids called it Underwear’s, based on a misreading of the enormous sign out front when they were younger.

About six years ago, while researching a guidebook on hiking in Central Texas, I discovered Lake Brownwood State Park, home of some nice trails and, in my humble opinion, the state’s coolest cabins. These experiences, and the fact that my mother had been born in nearby Rising Star, represented the extent of my knowledge of this area. I decided it was time that changed.

I grabbed my 23-year-old daughter, Holley, a fellow outdoor enthusiast and fan of wine and food, and headed out for three days in Brownwood. Located near the geographic center of the state on Pecan Bayou, which feeds the Colorado River, the town became a county seat in 1857, a railroad stop in 1885 and, by 1910, a junction of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe and Frisco railroads, all of which kept it bustling for decades. Camp Bowie, just outside of town, served as a World War II training camp from 1940 to 1946, with eight divisions passing through and as many as 30,000 men on site at any one time, including German prisoners of war. In more recent years, the town and surrounding Hill Country have attracted hunters, fishing enthusiasts and those seeking a respite from the big city, including my daughter and me.

Our visit, most fortunately, fell on the second Friday of the month, when Brennan Vineyards in Comanche hosts a dinner (reservations required). Nearly 60 people from near and far, many of them dressed to the nines, gathered in Brennan’s limestone production facility to sample the winery’s signature product, a Viognier, and then strolled through a row of lighted trees to the Austin House next door. Dinner featured black-eyed pea bisque, beef tenderloin or herb-crusted fish, hominy mash and sauteed squash, and a winter fruit tart — served with three wines. The food was excellent, the company even better. Our table mates were well-read, well-traveled and generally charming. A White House state dinner couldn’t have topped it.
Open for six years, the winery began with the purchase of the historic McCrary house as a weekend home for owner Pat Brennan’s Fort Worth-based family. The structure now serves as a tasting room, open Wednesday through Sunday, with complimentary tastings on weekends.

3 Days in the Field: Something for Everyone in Brownwood | September 2011 | TPW magazine

Baked Seabass with Homemade Garlic Butter and Herb Bread Crumb Topping
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Brennan Wine Dinners

Experience the artistry of perfect pairing at a Brennan Vineyards wine dinner. Each festive occasion will feature Chefs Steve Harris and Steven Puckett, of Brownwood's Steves' Market and Deli, preparing a delicious meal expertly paired with specially selected wines. It's an entertaining and educational experience that can't be missed. Wine dinners will be held monthly on the second Friday.