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Architecture at A&M

Written by | Published January 21, 2010

I just received word that Texas A&M University recently dedicated its first two architect-designed buildings, physics buildings named for university benefactors George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell. Both structures were designed by architect Michael Graves and boast numerous "green" features, including heating & AC systems that use natural convection currents and a rainfall collection cistern.

Taco Tour

Written by | Published January 21, 2010

When my son and daughter-in-law returned to Austin for the holidays recently, they had their priorities straight: They planned to eat as many different tacos at as many different places as possible during their 10-day visit. Their Tex-Mex cravings began soon after they moved to Columbus, Ohio, last July. And their obsession only intensified when they ordered fajitas at a local restaurant and the meat was served with pita bread!

Rock On

Written by | Published January 20, 2010

Check out Dale Weisman's feature on rock hunting in the February issue. A lifelong rockhound, Dale logged hundreds of miles researching this piece, scouring rock-hunting ranches, rivers, roadcuts, and rock shops across the state. He offers the following suggestions for further reading: Gem Trails of Texas, by Brad Cross; The Rockhound's Guide to Texas, by Melinda Crow; and Roadside Geology of Texas, by Darwin Spearing.

I concur with Dale on the wonders of Woodward Ranch. Two tips if you go: Ask Trey Woodward to show you the gemstone-studded mantel in his home, and pick up a hand lens (around $16) in his rock shop for spectacular crystalline close-ups.

Let us know about your cool rock and fossil finds. Happy hunting!

Urban daddy comes to Texas

Written by | Published January 19, 2010
A few years ago, a colleague turned me on to an online newsletter called "Urban Daddy"--an irreverent,  intelligently written e-mailed newsblast about art and culture (both high and low) in New York and Los Angeles. The items had (and still have) a sense of humor and a rather Esquire-like sensibility to them (read: male p.o.v.). I always enjoy trying to understand the other side. So I'm pleased to learn that the Urban Daddy vagabonds have discovered Dallas. I don't see much content coming from Big D yet, but I'm optimistic. You can subscribe at Urbandaddy.com. In the meantime, if you know of something in Dallas you think we ought to know about, please drop US a line.

Brenham Break

Written by | Published January 13, 2010

On my second trip back to Austin from Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport during the holidays, I decided to break up the journey with a stop in Brenham. Have you been to this little town lately, not the Brenham you pass by as you zoom along US 290 or Texas 36 on your way to somewhere else, but the real Brenham, downtown? There are so many quaint shops and boutiques on West Alamo now that it reminds me of Fredericksburg's Main Street.

Quirky Breakfast in Houston

Written by | Published January 11, 2010

If you're planning to tour Quirky Houston, I suggest you start your day with breakfast. On a recent visit, my daughter tipped me off to Baby Barnaby's, next door to its big brother Barnaby's Cafe (which serves lunch and dinner) in the Montrose area, the birthplace of Houston-quirky. This colorful cafe is cozy, casual, and cheap. The menu features a few whimsically named items like Green Eggs (eggs scrambled with spinach, artichoke hearts, and jack cheese) as well as breakfast basics, like bacon-and-eggs and pancakes. City-diner staples such as the Lox Platter, and Corned Beef Hash and Eggs are offered, along with Tex-Mex favorites like breakfast tacos, migas and huevos rancheros. My daughter had the Lox Platter and I had the basic Breakfast Plate with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and grits. Both the standard fare and the lox/bagel/cream cheese were prepared "just-right," as were the portions, not too filling and perfect for packing in a day to tour Houston's quirky sights. Houston brims with quirky breakfast places. Tell us about your favorite Quirky Houston breakfast spot.

Partying with the Big Heads

Written by | Published January 6, 2010

The January issue of Texas Highways includes a feature about the oddball attractions of sophisticated Houston. As a native Houstonian, I enjoy recalling those quirky sites. Of course, I'm living in Austin now, where, luckily, there's no dearth of "quirky" here.

Big Mo's BBQ

Written by | Published November 24, 2009

When I was in Victoria a couple of weeks ago, I tried a new barbecue restaurant a friend had recommended, Big Mo's BBQ at 1301 Sam Houston Drive. It's in a former Pizza Hut not far from my old high school, though I can't say that I remember ever eating pizza there. The reality is that the pizza venue probably came and went since I graduated.

But back to Big Mo's. The friend not only recommended the restaurant, but also gave me samples of its smoked chicken and brisket, both extra lean and thinly sliced, which she had in her fridge. They were moist and delicious. I also tasted the green beans, which had a delightful, smoky flavor themselves. I'm not a fan of potato salad, so I passed on that, but my friend assured me it was good, too. After this preview, I stopped in at Big Mo's a few days later and ordered a sliced brisket sandwich. It wasn't quite as lean as the brisket I'd tried earlier, but still mighty tasty. Next time, I'll order the "Extra Lean Trim" version.

While waiting for my order, I looked around the spic-and-span dining room and studied the menu. Turns out that Big Mo's is a spin-off of a longtime area barbecue favorite called McMillan's Bar-B-Q & Catering, in Fannin, southwest of Victoria. Louis McMillan has, in effect, passed the torch to his daughter and son-in-law, Teri and David Moten, the owners of Big Mo's. My judgment: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Feels Like Fall

Written by | Published November 4, 2009

The crisp autumn mornings of late are reminding me of my summer trip to the Fort Davis area. Even in August, the daytime highs climbed only to the 80s, and nighttime lows fell into the 60s, energizing temps that inspired numerous hikes in Davis Mountains State Park, with the magical CCC-constructed Indian Lodge as our base. News to me (and especially enjoyed by my kid) was the mile-and-a-half trail that descends from the park's scenic Skyline Drive to Fort Davis National Historic Site. Other trip highlights: star partying at McDonald Observatory (which we learned has a fun back-up plan for cloudy nights), rock-hunting at Woodward Ranch south of Alpine, and following the Rio Grande's flow as we drove the majestic River Road. Keep a lookout for TH's upcoming stories on the latter two in the February Big Bend special issue! 

Live Music and Lava Lamps

Written by | Published October 22, 2009

On a recent trip to San Angelo, I discovered an unusual venue in the middle of downtown. During the day, The House of Fifi Dubois is a vintage furniture store, but on many Saturday nights, it transforms into what has to be its true calling: a groovy setting for listening to live music. With the lights dimmed and all those couches and tables from the 50s, 60s, and 70s arranged in a semicircle to face a wooden stage at one end, it works perfectly. A good sound system also helps. As do good musicians, such as the six female performers I heard when I was there, the San Angelo Divas, a bluesy, folk-rock group with a big sound.

The system is simple. Store owners Phyllis Cox (Fifi) and Toni Hunter place a jar near the entrance to collect money to pay the band. It's strictly BYOB, although set-ups (Cokes, Sprite, water, etc) and a few snacks are on hand. The store provides the funky atmosphere (merchandise on display ranges from lava lamps to avocado-green ice buckets), the musicians do their thing, and listeners (twenty-somethings to seniors) drift in and out from 7 to 10. A few people are inspired to dance on the sidelines, but mostly, groups of friends just sit around enjoying the music in a comfy, super-cool setting. I can't wait to go again. For details, call 325-658-3434.

Art in Season in Houston

Written by | Published October 12, 2009

Last Saturday, I went to Houston's Bayou City Art Festival Downtown with my sister, Jean. I recently discovered that this festival had a former life as the Westheimer Art Festival, which I attended over 30 years ago.

Harmonic Convergence (CMigrator copy 1)

Written by | Published October 12, 2009
Thrilled to hear the Austin Symphony conducted by Peter Bay on Saturday evening at the impressive Long Center. The concert featured virtuoso Korean violinist Chee-Yun's dazzling take on Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64. After intermission found the orchestra soaring with the majestic Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major by Anton Bruckner. Exciting performance. Superb sightlines. Wonderful acoustics. See violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg play a program of Barber with the symphony on January 15-16, 2010. For details, visit www.austinsymphony.org; 512/476-6064 or 888/4MAESTRO.
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