The first thing you should know about San Antonio’s Tamales! festival is that it’s not only about tamales. In fact, like most events that take place at the city’s vibrant and rapidly evolving Pearl Brewery complex, Tamales!—now in its fourth year—presents the ultimate combo platter of food, music, dance, and people-watching, all with a festive and easygoing vibe that somehow recalls a small-town carnival.
I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Hugo’s, the decade-old restaurant in the heart of Houston’s hip Montrose district that has helped awaken palates raised on Tex-Mex to the complexities of interior Mexican fare. Hugo’s is where I first encountered Oaxacan-style, pan-sautéed grasshoppers (served with avocado, tomatillo salsa, and mini corn tortillas), and where I discovered the smoky allure of artisan mescal. Over the years and in the course of many visits, I’ve enjoyed the restaurant’s braised pork shoulder with mashed plantain bananas ($22), its amazing lentil cakes with strips of fire-roasted chiles ($8), and its roasted red snapper a la Veracruzana ($22), the latter a tangy fish dish prepared with tomatoes, olives, and capers. I like the historic yet somehow modern feel of the restaurant itself, too: Designed in 1925 by Austrian architect Joseph Finger (who also designed Houston’s Art Deco City Hall and many other structures throughout the city), the building is now blanketed in decades of ivy. Inside, exposed rose-colored brick, butter-colored walls displaying vintage matador paintings, and a polished-concrete bar stocked with spirits and wines from throughout the world make Hugo’s a topnotch spot for a meal or $5 margaritas during happy hour.
It’s been 50 years, give or take, since a clean-shaven, copper-locked singer-songwriter from up past Waco first took the stage at John T. Floore Country Store, which was then—as now—just a little honky-tonk nestled among the live oaks west of San Antonio. No recording exists of that performance, but why would it? No one knew then that this slightly built guy with the nasally voice would become Willie Nelson, the icon, or that the relationship he built with Floore’s would still be going strong into the 21st Century.
My first trip on a Greyhound bus wasn’t planned. In western New Mexico, my aging sedan had broken down, and the mechanic said the delivery of parts and repair would add up to a week out of commission. I left him the car keys, caught a ride to the flea market that served as the Greyhound stop, and boarded a bus bound for Flagstaff to wait out the repairs.
Farmers markets are obvious attractions for serious foodies in search of fresh produce, locally sourced cheese and meat, and artisanal condiments. But even for a casual visitor, a trip to the farmers market can be a fulfilling expedition. This is particularly true at the Dallas Farmers Market, where the produce stalls and restaurant stands provide an interesting introduction to the people and foods of a sprawling metroplex that can be otherwise hard to get a handle on. In the bustling sheds, you will find toothsome slices of the ranching, African-American, and Latino cultures that have shaped modern North Texas.
My parents went to the Texas Centennial Exposition, and all they brought me were these six miniature Centennial stamps. Not that I’m upset: Artifacts and images relating to Texas’ 100th birthday celebration, held in Dallas in 1936, make a great starting point for learning about Texas history.
From my shady perch on a high, breezy ridge, I scanned wooded slopes and rocky ledges fading to blue in the distance underneath a cloudless sky. It’s somehow comforting to know that hundreds of years ago, explorers sitting in this spot would have taken in roughly the same view of the rugged Balcones Escarpment landscape, now within the boundaries of Lost Maples State Natural Area.
The woman at the next table whispered something to me. “Anchovy paste,” she said.
A six-foot steel sculpture of a corkscrew marks the entrance to McPherson Cellars in downtown Lubbock. Inside, the modern theme continues in a sleek tasting room with dark walls, polished floors, and local artwork.
Few things are as intertwined with the image of Texas as the cowboy. Whether driving the long, dusty trail or riding a bucking bronco, cowboys epitomize the rugged, independent spirit of the Lone Star State. I decided to spend a day in the self-proclaimed “Cowboy Capital of the World” to capture some of that enchanting spirit for myself.
The room where artist Georgia O'Keeffe lived in Canyon south of Amarillo was so tiny it held only an iron bed and a wooden fruit crate. Sparse suited her because she preferred to sit on the floor to paint and draw.
I was sitting at the lunch counter of Coots’ Drugstore, at the corner of Marsh Lane and Walnut Hill Road in Dallas. We had been let out of school that Friday so that we could follow President John F. Kennedy as he and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy landed at Love Field and then rode in a motorcade through downtown. But the excitement turned to anguish and confusion as news came over the radio that the president had been shot and killed.