Written by Super User
Lots to enjoy in the Lamar County seat of Paris. This northeast Texas community is proud of its Eiffel Tower replica at the Love Civic Center, the historical museum in Heritage Park, the Sam Bell Maxey State Historic Site, the Plaza Theatre, the Paris Municipal Band's summer concert series at the Grecian Peristyle in Bywaters Park, Culbertson Fountain, the 1914 Santa Fe/Frisco Union Station Railroad Depot, the tree-lined Trail de Paris, July 17th's annual Tour de Paris bicycle event, and the city's new Trolley de Paris (see photo), among many other attractions. For additional information on this Red River Valley destination, call 800/727-4789; www.paristexas.com.
The border is beautiful, indeed. Miss Texas, Kelsey Elizabeth Moore, and Miss New Mexico, Rosanne Aguilar, both students at the University of Texas at El Paso, will be contestants for the Miss USA title this Sunday May 16 in Las Vegas at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. Moore is a UTEP sophomore volleyball team member from El Paso majoring in general studies. Aguilar, from Las Cruces, is a UTEP senior majoring in biology. Congratulations to both of these young ladies and good luck to them in this weekend's competition. The winner of Sunday's event represents the U.S. in the 2010 Miss Universe Pageant.
Enjoyed the wonderful spring weather by taking in #1 Texas vs. Oklahoma State Big 12 baseball at UT's impressive UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin and a Southland Conference baseball game between Texas State and Northwestern State on campus in San Marcos at the Bobcats' very nice new stadium complex. The biggest hit may have been discovering Herbert's Taco Hut on Riverside Drive in San Marcos. Primo Tex Mex! Herbert's Special of 1 crispy taco, 1 bean and cheese chalupa, and 1 enchilada (beef, cheese, or chicken), along with rice, beans, guacamole, and tortillas is a culinary classic. Superb melon agua fresca. Terrific tres leches cake (see Lois M. Rodriguez' TH Taste feature on pastel de tres leches in the new May issue of Texas Highways). And check out Herbert's house special strawberry margarita (pictured at left).
Iâ€™m hardly a wine connoisseurâ€”during blind tastings in the past, I've invariably preferred the least expensive winesâ€”but when friends suggested we meet Sunday afternoon for drinks at CrÃº, a wine bar in Austinâ€™s Domain shopping center, I was up for the experience. I figured at the very least it would offer a quiet place to talk. Iâ€™ve grown tired of trying to communicate, much less connect, in noisy restaurants and clubs.Â Â
And I was rightâ€”the atmosphere was definitely conducive to conversation. One of my friends commented that the wine bar looked a little like a library, with the floor-to-ceiling custom wine shelving on one wall. Oversize wine labels and elegant light sconces graced another. We sat at a comfortable table for four, and although the place was full, I donâ€™t even remember the neighboring diners. We had enough quiet to hear ourselves talk and enough space to avoid overhearing othersâ€™ conversations.
We shared a bottle of Grenache recommended by our server, who was quite knowledgeable. She fended my wine-savvy friendsâ€™ questions admirably, explaining that this particular wine was not fruity, nor was it too dry, either. She described it as â€œhaving a lot of earth.â€ Given my track record with choosing wines, I wonâ€™t attempt to describe the taste, but one of my companions said, â€œIt has a slightly fruity start, with complex layers of flavor, and a smooth, slightly drier finish.â€
CrÃº offers full dinner and dessert menus, as well as a â€œsharing menu,â€ a concept that seems to be catching on in many restaurants.Â CrÃº's version Â includes stone-fired pizzas and cheese flights, but we settled on shrimp potstickers and three-cheese fondue with white truffle oil. The fondue was flanked with apples, pears, green beans, carrots, and rustic bread. Both appetizers were delicious, and neither was overly filling (especially when shared with four people).
The knowledgeable staff came through again after our meal, when one of the cooks in our group wanted to know what cheeses were in the fondue. Our server graciously fetched the chef, who came to our table and reeled off the ingredients: fontina, GruyÃ¨re, and Gorgonzola, and, of course, white truffle oil. When the same friend asked about the sauce on the potstickers, he practically gave her the recipe from memory. The kitchen staff here knows what itâ€™s doing.
Fondue always fires a conversation, but I think the sharing-menu concept overall does the same thing. It also allows you to try a variety of items, while saving money and calories. Count me a fan.
Itâ€™s becoming a familiar scenario: A friend comes in from out of town, and I discover a new Austin restaurant. Usually, itâ€™s just a matter of my wanting to try a place Iâ€™d heard about and good timing. Recently, though, when my friend Candy was here for a convention, she came armed with her own recommendation. Of course, this particular friend knows Austin better than I do (although she lives in Victoria now), so it didnâ€™t surprise me. Whatâ€™s more, sheâ€™s a foodie, so I figured her choice would be a good bet.
[caption align="alignright" width="200" caption="Photo by Alice Liles"]
There were already a few cars parked beside the road when weÂ arrived at the site. One of them belonged to an accountant from Brenham, who had set up two tripods, one with a camera and the other with a spotting scope. Wearing a heavy coat and wool cap to ward off the cold wind, he had obviously been there a while. He invited us to take a look through the scope, and filled us in on the latest activity in the nest. He said at present the two eaglets were visible in the nest.
I looked through the scope, and sure enough, I could see theÂ backs of two little heads peeking up above the nest. Not much to see at thatÂ point, but still, two mounds of fluff in a nest of twigs and branches. AÂ squirrel running around the edge of the nest and under it made it easy to tellÂ that this was one huge treetop construction. Several of the spectators madeÂ jokes about the squirrel not being very smart, considering the parents couldÂ come back at any time and make a meal of him. But maybe he was smarter than we thought, and eagles intent on feeding their young aren't looking for squirrels.
Alice and I took turns looking through the scope with the otherÂ spectators and a few new arrivals. The accountant welcomed one and all and proved quite knowledgeable about birds and the history of the nest. He saidÂ he'd spent a lot of time watching the eagles over the years; he had a notebook full of photographs that he'd taken to prove it. I figured he was setting us up to buy some of his photos, which were quite good, but no, they weren't for sale. He took them just for his own and others' enjoyment.
Later, as I was looking through the scope, I saw one of theÂ parents swoop in and land on the side of the nest. What a dramatic arrival! ItÂ caused a mild commotion among the group, all of whom wanted a glimpse of the majestic creature. Thanks to the spotting scope, everyone had a chance to see him. (And yes, the accountant thought he was a male.)
As we huddled around the scope, waiting for our next turn, we visitedÂ with our companions. It turned out that there were several schoolteachersÂ in the bunch, and a couple of people figured out that they had gone toÂ Stephen F. Austin State University together a few decades ago. I couldn't help but think about the unusual nature of this gatheringâ€”total strangers connecting on the side of a road as they enjoyed watching a family of birds.
By the way, the accountant/roadside birder told us that the eagles would probably stay around until at least April or May. If you havenâ€™t made it to the viewing yet, itâ€™s worth a trip.
Having just made my annual end-of-January trip to southeast Texas, I can report that despite any prognostications from Punxsutawney Phil, the signs of springâ€™s approach are visible in at least parts of the Lone Star State. I didnâ€™t see any wildflowers except for dandelions and henbit, but peach trees are beginning to bud and lettuce is harvest-ready in backyard gardens. Best of all, bluebonnet seedlings are popping up in pastures and along roadsides.
I know, weâ€™ve got at least a month of winter left and probably some nasty weather ahead, but I love the anticipation of February. It doesnâ€™t hurt that weâ€™re now working on our annual wildflower story in the April issueâ€”22 pages that spotlight four wildflower drives in different parts of Texas. My prediction: If you donâ€™t already have wildflower fever, you will by the time that issue arrives, in early March. Anticipate it, and be ready to take a drive.