At this point, I’m deep in the midst of a long road trip that’s taken me across the entire state of Texas for a night in Marfa. Previously, I told you all about the bizarre art yuppie and art hippie crowds that are drawn to Marfa as well as the weirdos looking for signs of extraterrestrial life. Then what am I doing here? Well, I’m not sure that I really fall directly into any of those three but I think I have the art yuppies to thank for the existence of Cochineal.
Cochineal is an anomaly. Based on the decor, the patrons, and the menu you’d think you were in a metropolitan city like New York. Alas, we are not. We are in the middle of nowhere deep in West Texas, hours from what I would consider civilization.
At any rate, I made reservations at Cochineal for our night in Marfa after reading that it is the must-go dinner spot in town. After looking over the menu, which by the way sounds amazing, I learn that Cochineal’s menu is constantly changing based on what’s fresh, which is again similar to what I often see in NYC.
Our waiter takes our order then brings over the cocktail I selected. I found myself drawn to the Tequila Old Fashioned mostly because I’d never heard of anyone trying to make a concoction like this before and because I love both tequila and an Old Fashioned. For proof, just look ten minutes prior when I was drinking a classic whiskey Old Fashioned at the Hotel Paisano bar. This drink does in fact work quite well. The smokiness of the tequila is very pleasant with the subtle notes of citrus and bitters.
For our appetizer, we decided to give the escargot a shot. I know, a little risky considering we are in the middle of nowhere and sourcing the escargot might be difficult, but their rendition is actually outstanding. The snails come out served on one of those funny plates solely designed for escargot (which I now want at home). The shells are piping hot, too hot for bare hands, so those funky escargot tongs actually prove quite useful and are worth the clumsy struggle of gripping each shell while pulling out the roasted snail inside. There’s a ton of bold garlic butter and herbs covering the dish which adds a burst of flavor to each tender bite of escargot which spreads nicely onto the freshly baked bread. If you don’t think I spooned up every last bit of garlic butter after all of the escargot were eaten, you clearly don’t know me very well.
For the main course, in an attempt to not select the most unhealthy item on the menu as I have a tendency to do, I order the coffee-rubbed roast breast of duck. I personally love properly executed duck and this one is unsurprisingly expertly prepared. I’m not sure I could really taste the coffee in the rub, not that that’s an issue. Each forkful of the tender, golden-skinned duck meat makes for a seriously satisfying bite.
In the research that led me to Cochineal, the one thing I kept hearing over and over again was to save room for dessert. Specifically, to save room for Toshi’s Date Pudding. I trusted my sources and did just that and I’m certainly glad I did because this just might be the best dessert I’ve ever had.
I think I love this dish so much because of the restraint they use with regards to sweetness. The base of the dish is a tall, dense, moist, cylindrical serving of bread pudding loaded with rich, tender, roasted dates. This is served with a large tuft of the freshest whipped cream I’ve ever tasted and a substantial drizzle of ooey-gooey, sticky rum caramel sauce. The sauce is just incredible. I’d keep a flask of this stuff on me at all times if I could.
In conclusion, if you’re in Marfa, do yourself a favor a treat yourself to the fine dining experience that is Cochineal. Sure it’s as pricey as an upscale meal in the city, but it’s just as great, maybe even better, and is totally worth every cent.
107 W. San Antonio St. Marfa, TX 79843