I just received word that the Texas Department of Agriculture's wine-marketing folks are celebrating the 1st anniversary of its popular "Winery Passport" promotion with additional incentives for wine travelers.
A few years ago, when economy woes hit the headlines and everybody reined in their vacation spending, travel-biz folks started talking up the concept of the "Staycation" (whooping it up close to home) and its related concept, the "Daycation." But I just now received the strangest email, from a company promoting what it calls a "Haycation” aimed at city dwellers who want to explore the country, assuming, I guess, that all country adventures include a hayride.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.