November 07, 2007

Finding Special

I recently traveled 'cross the pond to visit friends in Europe. While planning the trip, I had a good time just thinking about the "special" places I would find "far away," and my journey in no way disappointed me in this regard. But neither do you have to travel far to find Special. And the closer you are to home territory, the more that which is Special may take you by surprise.

I was passing through Brownwood, Texas, last summer. As I strolled through its downtown district, I could see a rain storm coming, and having yet to stop for lunch, I ducked into an inviting storefront with a happy-colored, giant ice cream cone sculpture at its door.

I had just entered the land of the Turtle, the kingdom of slow food, which, until a few years ago we did not think of as slow food, but as good food. Brownwood's Turtle Restaurant offers food that could qualify for five stars at a price that we two-star income earners can afford. The meals are both natural and elegant, beautifully seasoned, and presented with style and harmony. And then . . . . a room full of gelatto, made right there from scratch, awaits you for dessert, or at any time of the day, for that matter, even when the restaurant is not serving meals created by Chef Eric Aldis, former chef de cuisine of the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans.

For those of us of a certain age who grew up in small Texas towns, The Turtle is doubly special. It is both restaurant and refuge. If you didn't grow up in a small, isolated Texas town, I can't completely explain the reward that this little jewel of a restaurant offers, and if you did grow up in a small Texas town about 30 years ago, then I don't need to explain to you the miracle one feels at finding a cosmopolitan, but not high-falutin', casual yet elegant, quietly superlative place like this in the middle of --well, Brownwood. Wherever you grew up, wherever your travels take you, if you get to The Turtle, you'll be glad.

(It also makes a great place to stop by on a rainy afternoon, order an espresso and a homemade cookie and invite your muses to join you as you write another page of that novel . . . I have it on very good authority that the muses also like gelatto, especially di lampone. )

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