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Quick Bite: Cafe 43, at Bush Presidential Library Complex, Serving Lunch, Brunch


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Great house made ricotta and tomato marmalade at Cafe 43

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hummus with sweet peppers and pita at Cafe 43

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house smoked chicken and fresh berries appear in this smoked chicken salad at Cafe 43

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house-smoked turkey pastrami appears in this smoked turkey pastrami cobb salad with fried green tomatoes at Cafe 43

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Save your SNAP card dollars for a slice of this griddled carrot cake with cardamom frosting at Cafe 43

I spent the afternoon touring the Bush Presidential Center  (and sampling a few menu items at Cafe 43) with their PR people. Cool place, actually.

You might take issue with whether a presidential library’s role is to reframe a president’s tenure or present it without commentary. Either way, I think you’ll find a great deal to like about George Bush’s Library and research institute. (I swear I’m going to hold a business meeting on the couches of the Oval Office, which is an exact replica of Bush 34’s White House office — and furnished with the actual couches, chairs, bric-a-brac, desk, chairs and other furnishings of the Oval Office. And yes, you can sit on the sofas, sit behind the President’s desk, even pick up the Batphone.)

After you leave Masterpiece Decision Point Theater, you’re gonna be impressed, sick or hungry. I was hungry. Best place to get that in check is next door, in Cafe 43, a casual lunch and weekend brunch spot that’s focused on local, seasonal dishes.

“Our approach is local when possible, Texas when not local,” says chef J0hn Mass, who runs the show with chef de cuisine Jason Wade. The whole catering operation is part of Culinaire’s empire.

I think the place is a great spot for lunch. Reasonably priced ($6 to $17), from-scratch cooking, nice setting, good service, no broccoli. I especially liked the freshly made ricotta with tomato marmalade that’s creamy, tangy, sweet and savory at the same time. I’ve made ricotta a zillion times. Mine has never turned out as deliciously rich and creamy as Jason’s. (I think he smears the crostini with some secret White House sauce to make the dish sing.) Eight bucks. Go for that, plus the fantastic carrot cake whose batter is enriched with carrot puree, baked in a sheet pan, then griddled on a panini press so it’s crispy and cakey at the same time. It’s a carrot brownie topped with cardamom-spiked frosting, and you shouldn’t miss it. Six bucks.

Here’s the menu. Good chance you’re gonna need a reservation.

 

 

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