Nestled in a old house right next to campus this cafe serves high end American Fare, part of a trend of exploring our roots in food while overlooking some serious gaffs in our culinary history.
The service at Cool Mint is impeccable, the well dressed staff and other dinners make me think "What am I doing here" but not to the degree in which I know I need to leave.
The prices are high, but with and standard dining experience you get what you pay for and Cool Mint is no exception.
I started with their Pear salad. Sliced pears garnish a spinach base, tossed with Gorgonzola, walnuts, and their lemon balsamic, it is refreshing and balanced in it's making. The side serving does not give you enough to fully experience the salad, but with the addition of Gorgonzola the flavor is intense and only leaves you wanting more.
The Pork Confit, shredded pork topped with duck fat a sprig of thyme and a few peppercorns is spectacular. served with toast points, grilled, as opposed to placed under a salamander or any of the other toasting options, it offsets the sweet creaminess nicely while not upstaging the Confit, which a lot of seasoning can do. Also served with pickled onions and a cranberry stone ground mustard, Cool Mint seeks to provide balance to their plates by attending to the multitude of your pallet.
In combination with one another it cause an explosion of the senses that is missing from many dining experiences.
You would think being covered in duck fat, which I'm pretty sure the Greeks refereed to as Ambrosia, or food of the gods, it aides in the creaminess to the shredded pork and makes for the perfect completion to a dish that otherwise would be incomplete, not to mention not a confit.
I sampled the Spicy Beef Lettuce wraps off of my dining partner's plate and enjoyed them as well. Yet again seeking to balance itself on your pallet, the balance of spice weighs well against the freshly shredded red cabbage and is lightened even further by the romaine lettuce they use as the wrap.
My companion did not appreciate the mint addition, nor did I, it seemed unnecessary in an already lightened dish, but the name of the establishment is Cool Mint, and they maintain that name by growing their own mint, and other herbs, and selectively putting them in dishes.
I have never been a fan of mint in a savory dish, but I understand how many would like it and don't hold that against them.
All of this was nicely presented, in a way that others should look into in their presentation, appealing to more than one sense which is so often missing in traditional American cuisine.
The hibiscus tea I had served well in breaking up the elements and flavors of the food, and I recommend this to anyone who loves hibiscus or may be indifferent to it. Served with a sprig of mint and a lemon the citrus conveyed itself well to what would be considered heavier dishes, if only in name.
All of this comes with fresh bread, a a basic recipe akin to most simple bread recipes. It works well to cleanse your pallet in expectation of the coming meal and will be a shock to those of us raised on the typical grocery store preservative laden bread.
Like I said, you get what you pay for and the average plate price is anywhere between $10-$14 dollars and with the addition of tea took the average to about $16 per person, the higher end of the dining spectrum when it comes to the genre of food in which it falls.
If you are in San Marcos, looking for local taste that will both excite and sooth the senses go to Cool Mint cafe.
Seriously go there, and do it now.
HOME PAGE OF COOL MINT CAFE & MARKET