Nothing says the holidays like tamales, hot chocolate, Bûche de Noel, Yorkshire pudding, mince pies, shortbread, and oyster stuffing according to Karey Swartwout owner and chef of GLOW. It’s that time of year when Texans look forward to cozy fires, hearty food, time with families, and celebratory meals, so let’s see why GLOW is a ten-year-old Rockport institution famous for its wonderful food and its dedication to sustainability and ocean conservation.
Texas born and raised, Karey spent many years working in restaurants as well as an 8-year stint as a caterer in London. Living in Europe, having family in New Orleans, and being familiar with the food markets of Paris and London, have shaped Karey’s perspective on food and as an expert in seasonal, coastal cooking. She believes in using a variety of seasonal ingredients and keeping her dishes simple. “Five or six quality, simple ingredients mean you don’t have to do too much to create delicious sustainable food,” she says. Responsible meal preparation at GLOW includes minimizing food waste, healthy portion control, and only using fresh local foods in season. In addition to seafood, Karey is cattle-inclusive, supports local markets, and believes in using food history as a guide to regional dishes.
GLOW is dedicated to using only green packaging like paper straws, bags, boxes, and compostable cups. Not only has the Rockport community embraced GLOW, but GLOW gives back to the community in many ways. During COVID-19, they offered weekly food deliveries to the police and ambulance services, they participate in Taste of Rockport, and Oysterfest, amongst other local events, and frequently offer cooking lessons for kids, teenagers, and adults. They recently did Halloween cookie decorating classes and once had local kids dissecting squids in a seafood cooking lesson. Karey says that her goal, “is bringing people together with foods that make them feel good, well-cared for, and happy.” And judging by GLOW’s success, Karey is very good at it!
Using the best of what the area has to offer means lots of chilled seafood in summer and hearty root vegetable stews in winter. This holiday season, GLOW is offering freshly prepared venison Bourguignon and bourbon chocolate truffles. Cloves and cinnamon are the spices Karey most associates with this time of year and recently featured a pumpkin curry soup on the menu. If she had to tell us what seasonings and flavors she uses most frequently at GLOW, Karey says, “Lemon, garlic, and butter.”
Karey also loves her small, intimate kitchen at GLOW and could not do without her fish spatula. Housed in an old sailboat repair shop, GLOW is big on charm as well as delicious food, with dining options that include the capacity for 30 inside, plus exterior dining on their covered porch or picnic tables.
We asked Karey about some of her personal food preferences and here’s what she told us. On a cold wintry night, she craves creamy seafood stews with lots of potatoes and cognac or a tomato-based stew like a Bourguignon. In the summer, she wants chilled seafood like ceviche, crab, and watermelon. Karey’s own taste informs her GLOW menu, and she tells us her most popular dish of all time is her ‘Mom’s shrimp,’ which involves shallots, wine, and cream over truffled mashed potatoes. We asked Karey her absolute favorite food and she couldn’t choose between dark chocolate and oysters, which she loves on the half shell in season or fried at other times. Karey serves the same holiday food at home as she does at GLOW and having 6 children of her own, Karey is a good judge of what various people like to eat! The restaurant is an extension of her thoughtful food ethos, a lesson in sustainability, and a bastion of exquisite food in Rockport area.
For beverage selections, Karey recommends a Pinot Noir to accompany game and venison, a Muscadet with seafood, and fine champagne or a really good Scotch anytime.
So, this holiday season, you can eat in, eat outside, or order your favorite dishes online to-go while supporting an ethically responsible business. Whatever holiday food means to you, Karey has probably got something cooking that will excite your taste buds and thrill your palate. Make memories this season and enjoy some home-cooked, local love from GLOW.