Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, November 16, 2005
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Rockin’ the House in Aledo, chef-singer-entrepreneur Pam Pride does it all.
Rock House Cuisine and Gallery
Pam’s Benedict $10.95
Stuffed French toast $10.95
Rock House crab cakes $10.95
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Loud and Proud

Local legend Pam Pride serves up “creative cuisine” and a lot of song at the Rock House.

By JIMMY FOWLER

Rock House Cuisine and Gallery

209 Elm St, Aledo. 817-441-2400. 11am-3pm Tue-Fri, 6-10pm Fri-Sat, 10:30am-2pm Sun. All major credit cards accepted.

Pam Pride is one of those people whose creative energy overflows in so many directions, there are barely enough buckets to fill it. The 49-year-old chef-bartender-entrepreneur-singer has been puttering around the Fort Worth scene for decades now in one or several of her hyphenated functions, casually gathering a cult of admirers that swears by her crab cakes with mango-tomatillo salsa, declares her martini to be legendary, and has been known to request her interpretation of “Summertime” every time she leaves the kitchen and takes the mic.

The quality of her performance, Pride says, depends on “how much gin” she’s had. With her blue-eyed soulful voice, Pride shares a bit of Janis Joplin’s gigantic appetite for life but, thankfully, long ago eschewed her self-destructive tendencies. “I come by my rasp honestly with some of the hard living I’ve done,” Pride said. “But I’m also a self-preservationist. With all the businesses I’ve worked on, people know never to count me out.”

Pride concentrated seriously and almost exclusively on her singing career in the 1990s, performing regular shows at places like the Black Dog Tavern and The Grotto Bar in the lost-and-lamented Caravan of Dreams. But she’s also been whipping up original creations in the kitchen since she was 15 years old and declares that she’s been blessed to serve under master chefs who gave her plenty of room to improvise. The residents of Aledo have been the beneficiaries for almost a year, as Pride has taken over chef duties at Rock House Cuisine and Gallery. The name is appropriate. The establishment is housed in a small, 110-year-old house of stone that, Pam insists, contains a very active ghost. (She swears that she and co-workers once watched a candelabra fly off a table all by itself.)

The reputation of Pride’s cooking is anything but scary. Some of her signature dishes are lemon- and pesto-rubbed Cornish game hen, three-cheese pasta primavera with vegetables grilled in balsamic vinegar and oil, and ancho chicken. She’s just as renowned for sides that often come in last-minute jolts of inspiration, like poached pear in red wine sauce stuffed with oyster pâté and served with crème fraîche (“a fancy version of sour cream,” she said). The chow may sound ritzy, but Rock House is as friendly and laid-back as your big sister’s crib. Pride approaches the food that way.

“I don’t know what to call my food, so I just say it’s ‘creative cuisine,’” she said. “It’s got a lot of international influences — Mexican and Asian and Southern comfort food. I’m not frou frou, but I do like to tempt people with unorthodox combinations.”

Folks who desire something a little safer should make the short drive for Pride’s exquisite Sunday brunch, which includes the usual suspects — omelets, French toast, and eggs benedict dishes — but with stellar twists. Pam’s Benedict has spinach, portobello mushroom slices, and green chile peppers, and her stuffed French toast is made of fine, fat slices with brown sugar, cinnamon, and warm cream cheese stuffing, looking and tasting more like dessert than breakfast.

One thing Pride fans won’t find at Rock House (at least not officially) is her much-vaunted martini. The policy is strictly BYOB, but she says she can’t stop regulars from bringing their own bottles of gin, vodka, or vermouth. “The secret to being a good bartender is, you have to perform a little show while making the drink,” she said. “And the secret to a good martini is a drop of Tia Maria [chocolate liqueur] from an eye-dropper — not enough to sweeten it but enough to smooth out that bite in the ass.”

Like the restless ghost, Pam Pride is a constant, beaming presence at Rock House, whether singing in the tiny corner stage on Friday and Saturday nights or visiting tables to gauge people’s reactions to her cooking. Her surname perfectly describes her commitment to the restaurant, but it also alludes to the fact that Pride has been an out-and-proud lesbian since before her lifestyle became fashionable. She’s encountered her share of homophobic crap in Texas, but, she said, “I’m not a flag-waver. I’ve realized over the years that some people will hate you no matter who you are — if you’re black or white or missing a thumb or whatever. And the people of Aledo have embraced us completely.”

Pride’s friends have often joked that she changed her last name to “Pride” as some kind of political statement, but, she said, “The Pride Tribe is real. We’ve all got blonde hair, big butts, and we’re real friendly. I tell people, ‘If my name had been Pam Shame, maybe things would’ve turned out differently.’”


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