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Written by Lori Moffatt

Kevin Floyd (Photo © Julie Soefer)

In a few weeks, beer-lovers in Houston and beyond will have the opportunity to expand their craft-beer horizons at the annual Big Brew festival (October 20-25), a six-day celebration of craft beer and brewers that includes pub crawls, craft-beer dinners, food-and-beer pairings, educational seminars, and tastings.

Boardwalk 4

Hikers, bikers, dog-walkers, and sightseers! The City of Austin and The Trail Foundation announce the grand opening of the long-awaited Boardwalk extension of Austin’s hike-and-bike trail. 

I’ll be headed to The Woodlands next weekend to help judge the final event of 10th annual Houston Wine & Food Week (June 2-8 )—the elaborate Chef’s Showcase—where dozens of chefs compete for a $5,000 cash prize, Waterford crystal, and bragging rights.  Not only does this event offer participants the opportunity to learn about wine-and-food pairings and get to know some of the state’s most influential chefs, but an associated auction has funneled more than  $675,00 to local charities.

On May 5 at the Koch Theater in New York City, Food Network star Ted Allen presided over a black-tie-clad crowd of chefs, bartenders, food writers, and culinary superstars to announce the winners of the 2014 James Beard Awards for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and education in the United States. 

Louise Rowe - 1954

I was struggling to surmount a Friday-afternoon energy slump a few weeks ago when I received a phone call that perked me up better than a cup of coffee ever could. “My name is Louise Rowe,” she told me, “and I think you might be interested in my story.” 

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to attend one of the inaugural “Where the Chefs Eat” culinary tours of Houston (www.houstonculinarytours.com) , which introduced participants to a bevy of eateries that aren’t on the radar of most visitors.  We ate cabrito accompanied by live mariachi at El Hidalguense, an unassuming restaurant on Long Point Road; compared barbecue at three sites known for their different styles; explored the foods of Thailand and India until we thought we might burst; then wrapped up with an exploration of the vast ethnic-food aisles at 99 Ranch Market—all accompanied by such nationally regarded chefs  as Monica Pope, Hugo Ortega, Randy Evans, and Chris Shepherd, who observed, “I think a lot of people are afraid to get out of their comfort zones. When they do, though, it becomes more than just going out to eat; it becomes an education into another culture.” bvYUagfuro0EDtGtvoaCEkl2b6ZVGwx0djukTVgTFc4

Last year around this time, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in New Braunfels celebrated the birth of twin reticulated giraffes, the first successful twins in the United States. The park named the giraffes Nakato and Wasswa, and they’re still thriving, and growing, and revealing their personalities as the ranch itself celebrates its 30th anniversary this spring.

With spring officially here and summer around the corner, lots of folks are making vacation (and staycation) plans.  Museums, since they are usually gloriously climate-controlled and require no slathering of sunscreen to enjoy, make great escapes when the mercury rises, and their offerings are more diverse than you might imagine.  For example, most museums these days complement exhibits—whether they present art, history, science, or other disciplines—with film screenings, lectures, art demonstrations, kids’ activities like storytimes and DIY crafts, and even themed dance parties. Not only does this expanded focus bring the museums new audiences, but it also helps make the collections more relevant and accessible to visitors who may have previously thought they weren’t “museum types.” 

When you get down with your funky self amid a collection of modern sculptures, or meditate in a gallery filled with Japanese antiquities, it’s easier to find a visceral, lasting connection with the museum-going experience.

Amid the hundreds of documentaries, dramas, comedies, and experimental films available for screening during South by Southwest’s film offerings this year, I chanced into a screening of YAKONA, an important and unusual film addressing one of Texas’ most imperiled resources: Water. 

On March 2, 1836, 59 delegates gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence, setting in motion a series of battles that would lead to Texas’ independence from Mexico. Cities and towns throughout Texas will celebrate the occasion on March 2 (see “Events” at texashighways.com for a lengthy list), but two caught our eyes for their unusual nature.

Looking ahead to spring, the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, which will take place April 25-27 in Austin’s Butler Park, is gearing up for a full slate of cooking demonstrations, interactive fire pits, live music, and wine-and-cocktail tastings featuring internationally known chefs, sommeliers, and culinary personalities. 

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It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and maybe the pressure’s on. As Waylon Jennings himself put it so eloquently in his 1977 hit, let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas! 

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