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Round Top Transforms Into a Surprise Foodie Destination

The Pop-Up Dinners and Special Restaurant Meals You Need to Know

BY // 09.22.17

The Round Top area is blossoming into a culinary destination, with noteworthy chefs producing pop-up dinners in both fields and barns.

Monica Pope Pop-Up Dinners at McLaren’s

Houston chef Monica Pope (Beaver’s and the shuttered Sparrow Bar + Cookshop): is serving up a series of lunch and dinners at McLaren’s Antiques & Interiors — the one with the big red phone booths and double-decker bus.

Daily lunch is noon to 3 pm (quiche, salad, ploughman’s lunch, chicken-salad wrap, or avocado toast) in the air-conditioned bus, dubbed McLaren’s London Bus Café.

Afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches, scones, lemon curd and sparkling wine, is Thursday to Sunday, September 21 to 24, and Tuesday to Sunday, September 26 to October 1 from 3:30 to 5:30 pm.

Pope also hosts two al fresco pop-up dinners at McLaren’s Thursday, September 21, and Monday, September 25, 5:30 pm ($55, includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, buffet-style supper, and dessert). McLaren’s Antiques & Interiors, 1745 Texas 237, Reserve at sparrowhouston.com.

Feasts in the Field at Rancho Pillow

Magical wonderland Rancho Pillow’s proprietress Sheila Youngblood hosts her famous Feasts in the Field dinners Monday and Tuesday, September 25 and 26. Monday, September 25 is Rancho Paella Night with Chef Saúl Arteta. Tuesday, September 26 is Tacos Afield with Dai Due Chefs Gabe Erales and Jesse Griffiths. Gates open at 5 pm, and cocktails and passed appetizers will be served. At 7, guests will be seated at the dramatically long table for dinner.

On Wednesday to Friday, September 27 to 29 (subject to change, be sure to check with Rancho Pillow to confirm dates before you visit), wood-fired pizza from the amazing outdoor oven, swimming, and a bar are on tap.

Rancho Pillow, 11222 Schuster Road, to reserve ranchopillow.com.

The Compound Pop-Up Dinners

Houston’s Armando Palacios of Armandos and Lee Ellis of Cherry Pie Hospitality pop up at Mark Massey’s The Compound. Tuesday, September 26, 6:30 pm, Jim Mills and Lee Ellis’ State Fare serve their elevated comfort food (Ellis Brothers BBQ, Lee’s famous fried chicken, salado ham, tangy pimento cheese, pickled shrimp, etc.) with selected wines, and dessert in the carriage-house courtyard at The Compound ($90).

On Wednesday, September 27, 6:30 pm, Armandos hosts a seated dinner at The Compound, with paired wine ($95). Special guests from Designer Dream Spree will be present.

A more casual margarita-fueled Armandos taco party is Thursday, September 28, 6:30 pm ($45). The Armandos big red taco truck will dish out the hits.

The Compound, 2550 Texas 237, Reserve at roundtopcompound.com.

Divine Dining Among Antiques

Part of the joy of the Round Top Antiques Fair lies in the thrill of the hunt — not only for antiques, but also for fabulous new spots that pop up out of nowhere in fields off Texas 237, seemingly overnight. If you’re a day-tripper like me, it helps to have advance knowledge of new spots to add to the agenda.

My secret lies in my unofficial scouts: Some are veteran shoppers who hit the fields early, such as interior designer Erica Sundstrom Smith of Tell It To Your Neighbor blog, while others are vendors like Courtney Barton, whose vibrant booth filled with Indian textiles and home goods at Arbor is a must-visit. Both Smith and Barton posted to Instagram about the fabulous coffee and food at Bader Ranch this spring. Photographer Jenny Antill Clifton and I stopped in for lunch (kolache for me; bahn mi sandwich — yes, you read that correctly, a bahn mi sandwich in Round Top — for her; iced coffees for both) and met the young owner, Katy Bader.

Bader had been shopping Round Top for years and found herself keeping in touch with vendors. When a 40-acre lot a quarter mile from Round Top proper on Highway 237 became available for sale, she knew it was her chance to design a beautiful new venue. She tapped Sabine Geldhof as her flagship vendor and constructed a 7,500-square-foot barn, and Bader Ranch was born. Geldhof, from Belgium, has been in the antiques business for 30 years, and for the fall shows is bringing in antique lighting, architectural pieces, furniture, and garden decor. In addition to Gelfhof’s inventory, Bader Ranch sells hand-poured candles by Lubella, 100 percent Belgian linens, chic hats from Le Zoute, and clothing from Stash Style.

On one side of the barn lie the antiques and home goods; on the other is the wonderful Two Birds cafe. Two Birds is open daily during the show, serving breakfast with gourmet coffee, freshly prepared lunch. Bader updates the Instagram page @baderranchatroundtop with daily menus and inventory updates. But it’s the delicious three-course dinner that has guests clamoring for tables. Be sure to call in advance for reservations (the reservation phone line opens September 10).

Bader Ranch open September 15 through October 8 for fall shows. Wine tasting dates announced soon. Bader Ranch, 470 Texas 237. For dinner reservations text or call 830.426.6453; for wine-tasting details, text or call 713.376.8911; shoproundtop.com.

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