Insider's Guide: West Texas

As Tom and Lisa Perini get ready for their Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit this month, they show us the area they call home
Article: Paula Disbrowe

Why go to Buffalo Gap (a town of 464 about 15 miles south of Abilene) this April? Maybe because there's something irresistible about swigging French Champagne in red dirt-dusted cowboy boots. Or following a plate of foie gras with perfectly fried chicken (eaten with your fingers) under mesquite trees. It's also where Tom and Lisa Perini hold their annual Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit (buffalogapsummit.com), one of the country's most intriguing foodie events, April 20-22. This year marks the eighth anniversary of the gathering that finds Tom and Lisa, owners of the famed Perini Ranch Steakhouse (which cooks a strip you must eat before you die), welcoming oenophiles from all over the globe to their historic hamlet. They may live in a small town, but don't be fooled by their denim and their drawls—the Perinis have serious chops in the hospitality biz. Lisa is the current president of the Texas Restaurant Association, and Tom is somewhat of a Lone Star legend, thanks to his portrait on the cover of the Texas Monthly "Cook Like a Texan" issue last April. And while they look forward to the Summit, the couple also loves showing visitors their favorite West Texas places at any time of year.

What To Do

Explore the Frontier: Buffalo Gap Historic Village features a cluster of structures, including a farmhouse and a blacksmith shop filled with antique tools, that trace the history of the Texas frontier's final 50 years (1875-1925). 133 North William Street, Buffalo Gap; buffalogap.com

Dress Like a Texan: James Leddy Boots in Abilene is where Tom gets his traditional cowboy footwear in not-so-traditional shades. "You can pick any color that you're brave enough to wear," he says. 1602 North Treadaway, Abilene; 325/677-7811

Where To Eat

Sample the State's Best Steaks: Perini Ranch Steakhouse features some of the tastiest, most tender steaks in Texas. 3002 Farm Road 89, Buffalo Gap; periniranch.com or 800/367-1721

Taste New Ranch Cuisine: Rancho Loma Restaurant + Rest is about 60 miles south of Buffalo Gap in Valera. The restaurant serves a weekend tasting menu (about $64, BYOB) that might include Spicy Grilled Texas Quail, French Onion Soup, and Dark Chocolate Pudding. County 422, Valera; rancholoma.com or 325/636-4556

Where To Stay

Bunk at the Ranch: The Perini Ranch Guest Quarters include the Main House ($325/night), which sleeps five, and the Camp House ($185/night), which sleeps three. 800/367-1721

Check In to the Rest: Rancho Loma Restaurant + Rest offers five recently added contemporary rooms (from $150/night). 325/636-4556