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Fresh Sushi—from a Trailer

Written by | Published August 25, 2010

The chopstick wrapper may say "good luck," but you won't need it at Sushi-A-Go-Go. From left: Dynamite Roll and Sunshine Roll.The chopstick wrapper may say "good luck," but you won't need it at Sushi-A-Go-Go. From left: Dynamite Roll and Sunshine Roll.

I’ve been curious to try Sushi-A-Go-Go in Austin ever since its mention in Nov. ‘09’s TH Taste on Dining Trailerside. Sushi from a trailer?

As stated in the article, Sushi-A-Go-Go has since moved from Manor Rd. There are now two locations: 4001 Medical Pkwy. (in the Shell parking lot) and 801 Barton Springs Rd., which opened in May.

Sushi-A-Go-Go offers a voluminous menu of sushi rolls plus shu-mai (shrimp dumplings) and mochi ice cream. I’ve dined at the Barton Springs location twice this summer, and despite the parking lot location, it’s cooler and more comfortable than you’d think, sitting on picnic benches under giant umbrellas with an intermittent breeze, savoring the cool sushi combos and feeling your internal temperature drop a few degrees. For those who prefer eating in air-conditioned comfort, you can also call in your Sushi-A-Go-Go to-go.

The sushi rolls, 8 pieces per order, contained small but fresh cuts of seafood. I ordered the Dynamite roll (tuna in a spicy sauce with avocado), and my daughter Lucy had the Sunshine Roll (salmon, mango, and avocado). We also shared some shu-mai.

The zesty ahi tuna rapidly slid and dissolved in my mouth. I also sampled the salmon roll, and the mango-avocado duo gave a slightly sweet and nutty flavor to the silky-smooth, savory salmon. The shu-mai (served warm) was lightly crisped, plump and juicy.

Most of the rolls average around $6, cheaper than supermarket sushi, and made to order.  On a hot summer day, Sushi-A-Go-Go is my go-to for a light, enticing, and budget-friendly meal.

Dinner and a Show in Denison

Written by | Published June 24, 2010

After a day of packing up my daughter’s belongings at Austin College in Sherman for the return trip home to the city of Austin, we decided to have dinner in Denison, and Devolli’s was recommended by one of her friends.

Devolli’s, in downtown Denison (home to the town’s flourishing arts district, see TH March 2008), serves Italian food favorites, including several types of parmigianas. I had sausage parmigiana, served over spaghetti which was subtly spiced and garlicked. I had a craving for basic Italian fare, and this entrée hit the spot.

An added bonus to dinner was entertainment provided by trumpeter Alan Isley, accompanied by a karaoke machine. Playing classic standards ranging from Willie Nelson tunes to the theme from the Pink Panther, it made for a surprising treat after a long day.

Homestead Winery (vineyard in nearby Ivanhoe) shares the building with Devolli’s, and their wines are exclusively served in the restaurant. I had a glass of Homestead’s special red wine blend, Rose of Ivanhoe, which was sweet and fruity. I usually drink drier reds, but I found Rose delightfully refreshing.

Fore! Fantastic Fun in Fort Worth

Written by | Published June 3, 2010

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So fortunate to personally experience and thoroughly enjoy the Sunday final round of the PGA Tour's Crowne Plaza Invitatational at Colonial in Fort Worth. Quite a thrill. Winner Zach Johnson (with more than a passing resemblance to Hollywood star Joaquin Phoenix, and also happens to be a native Iowan like myself), shot a tournament record 21 under par 259! Among his 6 other tour titles are the 2007 Masters in Augusta and San Antonio's Valero Texas Open in 2008 and 2009. The historic Colonial Country Club and golf course, surrounding FW neighborhoods, and TCU campus were perfectly gorgeous, while the Colonial staff's wonderfully gracious hospitality is a pleasure to behold. And, the highly competitive field of top players brought out the best in each other during the final 18 holes. Hey, these guys are really good! Honestly, I'm not even a golfer (ok, maybe a little driving range/pitch and putt activity), but this is an event you absolutely must consider. It's truly a Texas sports classic. You're able to get incredibly close to the action, and the gallery of fans is most entertaining, as well. Be sure to view the statue of legendary Texan Ben Hogan, one of the game's greatest, and the room full of impressive Hogan career memorabilia here, including some of his major (British Open, Masters, US Open, PGA Championship) tournament trophies. Colonial, founded in 1936, was Mr. Hogan's home course. See www.colonialfw.com, www.crowneplazainvitational.com, or www.pgatour.com.

By golly, Paris has a new trolley

Written by | Published May 19, 2010

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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.

One School, Two Stars

Written by | Published May 14, 2010

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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.

Music for Mom and Everyone Else, Too

Written by | Published May 7, 2010
Thrilled to finally see and hear Michael Ramos' band Charanga Cakewalk at Austin City Hall's outdoor Live from the Plaza series over the lunch hour today. Their music is a seductive, original recipe of Cuba, Colombia, and TexMex, with some Steve Jordan-style accordion and Augustus Pablo-style melodica by Ramos swirled into the mix. Guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards combined with congas, other assorted percussive elements, and Ramos' lead on several instruments merged cumbia, samba, son, cha cha cha, norteno, and merengue, and got the crowd happily swaying on a warm humid day downtown very near Lady Bird/Town Lake. Fittingly, for the upcoming Mother's Day weekend, Ramos dedicated the last songs of the set to both his wife and mom, including a touching original called "Gloria."

It's Showtime!

Written by | Published May 5, 2010
Texas Highways’ exhibit of vibrant wildflower photographs from the April issue is up and ready for enjoyment in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s McDermott Learning Center. Cosponsored by TH, the Wildflower Center, and Canon, The Serendipity of Wildflowers 2010 features 20-plus bloom close-ups and spring scenes by such notable photographers as Richard Reynolds, Joe Lowery, and Wyman Meinzer, and coincides with the Center’s celebration of National Wildflower Week (May 3-9). In addition to the gorgeous gardens, other Center highlights this month include a show of Shou Ping’s paper sculpture and a display of Texas-native bonsai trees.

It's Show Time!

Written by | Published May 5, 2010
Texas Highways’ exhibit of vibrant wildflower photographs from the April issue is up and ready for enjoyment in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s McDermott Learning Center. Cosponsored by TH, the Wildflower Center, and Canon, The Serendipity of Wildflowers 2010 features 20-plus bloom close-ups and spring scenes by such notable photographers as Richard Reynolds, Joe Lowery, and Wyman Meinzer, and coincides with the Center’s celebration of National Wildflower Week (May 3-9). In addition to the gorgeous gardens, other Center highlights this month include a show of Shou Ping’s paper sculpture and a display of Texas-native bonsai trees.

Hola Herbert's

Written by | Published April 26, 2010

Photo by Greg QuinnPhoto by Greg Quinn

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).

Unwind in UnDallas

Written by | Published April 23, 2010

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I spent a rainy Saturday evening in Dallas with my sister, Joan and my daughter, Lucy strolling the Bishop Arts District. Despite the soggy weather, we were able to explore many of the shops covered in the February TH feature on Bishop Arts, and then some. With its mix of modern and vintage retail wares, casual cafés and upscale restaurants, and friendly, relaxed ambiance, the Bishop Arts District felt more like Austin to us than Dallas.

But even while seeing the magazine's feature in production, I didn’t realize how much the area has grown in the number of stores and cafes from my last visit five years ago. We were pleasantly surprised to find more contemporary, and even affordable styles at shops such as Ouch! Fashion, as well as the venerable Zola’s Everyday Vintage, still a cut above with its designer finds (More Pucci than I’ve ever seen since the ‘60s!)

Another sign of progress: Joan had dined at Hattie’s a couple of times previously, and never needed a reservation on a weekend evening, so we decided to drop in. By the time we arrived just before 7 p.m., the place was packed, and the host had to regretfully turn people away if they didn’t have reservations. All of the nearby restaurants, including Tillman’s Roadhouse were quickly filling up, so we walked a few blocks further to Café Madrid, a longtime Bishop Arts haunt, for tapas. We were astounded by the entrée-sized portions of Spanish Potato Omelette and Grilled Marinated Chicken—Texas-sized tapas! The calamari was more typically-scaled, but offered in a generous serving, delicately fried and slightly chewy-yet-tender.

Heavy rain cut short our time for more Bishop-hopping, so we headed to the Belmont Hotel, where Lucy and I were staying. I have heard raves about this place from friends who’ve stayed there, even those who have family in Dallas or are Dallas residents. They all speak of a “doesn’t seem like Dallas” feel, from the hotel’s hillside perch (where you’ll happen to find an excellent view of the downtown skyline), to the curvy pathways and gardens meandering around the suites and the pool area, and the hip-yet-gracious staff. The BarBelmont near the lobby was packed with hotel guests and bar patrons, even more so with the steady rain keeping folks from gathering on the adjacent terrace. I managed to elbow my way in to enjoy a Belmontini and was well-rewarded by the smooth, tart concoction.

Recalling our visit to Bishop Arts earlier, browsing bottles at the Soda Gallery reminded me of an old ad campaign for 7-Up Cola: “7-Up is the UnCola.” Based on my weekend, one could make the case for Bishop Arts District and the Belmont Hotel as the “UnDallas.”

Be a Cisco Kid

Written by | Published April 7, 2010
cinnamonrollsciscoHead for Cisco (between Abilene and Fort Worth) and the Cisco College campus later this month, April 23-25, for the Cisco Folklife Festival. Activities include a Lions Club barbecue dinner, the Cisco College fine arts department's spring concert, a golf scramble at the Cisco Country Club, sidewalk art, pioneer demonstrations, live music, arts & crafts, a tractor pull, car show, and lots of great food, including the festival's famous cinnamon rolls (at right). For more information, call the chamber of commerce at 254/442-2537; www.ciscotx.com.

Sharing and Conversation

Written by | Published March 22, 2010

I’m hardly a wine connoisseur—during blind tastings in the past, I've invariably preferred the least expensive wines—but when friends suggested we meet Sunday afternoon for drinks at Crú, a wine bar in Austin’s Domain shopping center, I was up for the experience. I figured at the very least it would offer a quiet place to talk. I’ve grown tired of trying to communicate, much less connect, in noisy restaurants and clubs.  

And I was right—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 don’t even remember the neighboring diners. We had enough quiet to hear ourselves talk and enough space to avoid overhearing others’ conversations.

We shared a bottle of Grenache recommended by our server, who was quite knowledgeable. She fended my wine-savvy friends’ questions admirably, explaining that this particular wine was not fruity, nor was it too dry, either. She described it as “having a lot of earth.” Given my track record with choosing wines, I won’t attempt to describe the taste, but one of my companions said, “It has a slightly fruity start, with complex layers of flavor, and a smooth, slightly drier finish.”

Crú offers full dinner and dessert menus, as well as a “sharing menu,” a concept that seems to be catching on in many restaurants. Crú's version  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, Gruyère, 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 it’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.

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