Hello, there! It has been awhile since my last blog, and it's good to be back!
It's Texas Wine Month, and I know what I'll be doing this evening--cracking open a bottle of vino to celebrate this and other recent toast-worthy events. In my cabinet at the moment are several new-to-me bottles from East Texas' Los Pinos Vineyard, as well as a few tried-and-true wines from Central Texas' Alamosa Cellars, so I'll have to see what sounds best when I get home.
The Texas wine biz has grown tremendously in recent years, and now contributes more than $1.3 billion to the state's economy. We're the 5th-largest producer in the United States, bested only by California, Washington, Oregon, and New York. (That last one is a surprise to me.) Currently, Texas boasts some 200 wineries, and most offer tasting rooms and tours.
I spent some time exploring the Texas Department of Agriculture's Web site (www.gotexanwine.org), and I found a lengthy (and inspiring) list of upcoming wine-focused events, including the upcoming La Dolce Vita Food and Wine Festival in Austin (Oct. 14), the Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest (Oct. 23), the Grapevine Hallowine Trail (Oct. 30), and Addison's WineFest 2010 (Nov. 6)â€”and that's just for starters.
Cheers to autumn!
Iâ€™m not sure I understand the competition to come up with the next best fried thing, and Iâ€™m not here to judge (Iâ€™m responsible for my extra poundage â€“ no one else), but every year, when the State Fair of Texas announces its list of fried food finalists, my ears perk up. I am excited to know whatâ€™s being tossed into the vat next.
They never disappoint, at least not in terms of generating a buzz. So in case you didnâ€™t get the memo, let me share the menu.
This year, youâ€™ll get IDâ€™d if you order items like Deep-Fried Frozen Margarita or Fried Beer. Like the Fried Coke or Fried Butter before them, that just seems to defy some scientific law, but Iâ€™ll admit Iâ€™m ready for the lines to open up for a frozen margarita. While waiting in line, Iâ€™ll ponder the difference between â€œfriedâ€ and â€œdeep-fried.â€
The Deep-Fried Frozen Margarita is born of the goodness of two things â€“ margarita ingredients and funnel cake batter. They are mixed together, fried, dusted with a lemon-lime mixture and served in a salt-rimmed glass. While probably not as refreshing as the real thing, it sounds pretty good to me.
The Fried Beer is a beer-filled pretzel pocket. Iâ€™m not a fan of beer, so someone else will have to vouch for this later. I hear the beer really does pour out when you take a bite.
Again, donâ€™t forget your ID. You will get carded for these â€“ even though, Iâ€™m pretty sure the alcohol disappears somewhere in the frying process.
As a bona fide lemon addict, Iâ€™ll need to order the Fried Lemonade, a baked lemon-flavored pastry that is then fried and glazed with a mix of lemonade, powdered sugar and lemon zest. Iâ€™ll probably seek out fresh lemonade to wash this down with, and be in citrus heaven.
For chocolate lovers, there is, of course, Fried Chocolate, a white chocolate candy bar and a cherry are stuffed inside a brownie, dipped in chocolate cake batter, deep fried and topped off with powdered sugar, a cherry sauce and chocolate whipped cream. I might have called it Fried Cherry Cordial, but alas, once again they did not call for my opinion. *insert audible gasp here* Just kidding. :) Well see, though, if that shows up on the menu next year. Remember, you heard it here first! Ha! Oh boy, do I have all kinds of GREAT ideas for next year!
There also is the Deep-Fried Sâ€™mores Pop Tart, which is pretty self-explanatory. A sâ€™mores flavored Pop Tart is battered, fried and then topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Iâ€™d like to put this to the test with my friend Kate who lights up her fire pit at home as often as she can to feed her sâ€™mores cravings.
For something more savory, traditional and Texan, theyâ€™re promising Texas Fried Frito Pie. Not sure how, but they are apparently able to hold together the chili, cheese and Fritos long enough to fry it. Itâ€™s a mystery to me, but the item made it as a finalist, so it can be done. Amazing what a little human will and ingenuity can achieve. Speaking of: Look for Texas Fried Caviar â€“â€“ fried and seasoned black-eyed peas. Whodathunkit? Someone thought of it.
And finally, for you health nuts â€¦ oh, wait â€¦ nevermind. This salad is fried, too. Fernieâ€™s Fried Club Salad is a spinach wrap stuffed with the goodness of diced ham, chicken, shredded lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cheese and bacon. Sounds good, but wait, Iâ€™m not finished. Itâ€™s fried, topped with deep-fried sour dough croutons on a stick and then served on a bed of lettuce. Well, at least you can still say you had the â€œsalad,â€ if anyone asks.
So there you have it. Donâ€™t try them all in one sitting, or itâ€™ll be â€œgroanâ€ appÃ©tit instead of bon appÃ©tit. Pace yourself. Youâ€™ll have 20-something days to get it all in. The State Fair of Texas runs from Sept. 24-Oct. 17.
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. Iâ€™ve dined at the Barton Springs location twice this summer, and despite the parking lot location, itâ€™s cooler and more comfortable than youâ€™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.Â On a hot summer day, Sushi-A-Go-Go is my go-to for a light, enticing, and budget-friendly meal.
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.
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).