Written by Lori Moffatt
A few years ago, I had the good fortune to attend one of the inaugural “Where the Chefs Eat” culinary tours of Houston (www.houstonculinarytours.com) , which introduced participants to a bevy of eateries that aren’t on the radar of most visitors. We ate cabrito accompanied by live mariachi at El Hidalguense, an unassuming restaurant on Long Point Road; compared barbecue at three sites known for their different styles; explored the foods of Thailand and India until we thought we might burst; then wrapped up with an exploration of the vast ethnic-food aisles at 99 Ranch Market—all accompanied by such nationally regarded chefs as Monica Pope, Hugo Ortega, Randy Evans, and Chris Shepherd, who observed, “I think a lot of people are afraid to get out of their comfort zones. When they do, though, it becomes more than just going out to eat; it becomes an education into another culture.”
Last year around this time, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in New Braunfels celebrated the birth of twin reticulated giraffes, the first successful twins in the United States. The park named the giraffes Nakato and Wasswa, and they’re still thriving, and growing, and revealing their personalities as the ranch itself celebrates its 30th anniversary this spring.
With spring officially here and summer around the corner, lots of folks are making vacation (and staycation) plans. Museums, since they are usually gloriously climate-controlled and require no slathering of sunscreen to enjoy, make great escapes when the mercury rises, and their offerings are more diverse than you might imagine. For example, most museums these days complement exhibits—whether they present art, history, science, or other disciplines—with film screenings, lectures, art demonstrations, kids’ activities like storytimes and DIY crafts, and even themed dance parties. Not only does this expanded focus bring the museums new audiences, but it also helps make the collections more relevant and accessible to visitors who may have previously thought they weren’t “museum types.”
When you get down with your funky self amid a collection of modern sculptures, or meditate in a gallery filled with Japanese antiquities, it’s easier to find a visceral, lasting connection with the museum-going experience.
Amid the hundreds of documentaries, dramas, comedies, and experimental films available for screening during South by Southwest’s film offerings this year, I chanced into a screening of YAKONA, an important and unusual film addressing one of Texas’ most imperiled resources: Water.
On March 2, 1836, 59 delegates gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence, setting in motion a series of battles that would lead to Texas’ independence from Mexico. Cities and towns throughout Texas will celebrate the occasion on March 2 (see “Events” at texashighways.com for a lengthy list), but two caught our eyes for their unusual nature.
Looking ahead to spring, the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, which will take place April 25-27 in Austin’s Butler Park, is gearing up for a full slate of cooking demonstrations, interactive fire pits, live music, and wine-and-cocktail tastings featuring internationally known chefs, sommeliers, and culinary personalities.
It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and maybe the pressure’s on. As Waylon Jennings himself put it so eloquently in his 1977 hit, let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas!
The news couldn’t be any timelier. As we’re planning our April issue’s coverage of the red-hot Fredericksburg Wine Road 290, a string of 13 wineries near the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, we received word that the Texas Hill Country was named among the top 10 wine destinations for 2014 in the February issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine, which boasts a readership of more than 800,000. (That’s a lot of wine enthusiasts!) Texas is in very, very, very good company—the other destinations include Greece’s Aegean Islands; Languedoc, France; Sonoma, California; Baden, Germany; and Mendoza, Argentina. In fact, only one other U.S. destination—Walla Walla Washington—made the cut. (You can read the whole story at www.winemag.com.)
Stay tuned for our take of the Hill Country’s grape ways in the April issue. Until then, cheers!
With another cold snap in the future, it's beginning to look a lot like winter—and Christmas—in the Lone Star State. Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving brings out the twinkling holiday lights, and this year was no exception. As they've done in years past, almost a dozen communities in the Hill Country—Bandera, Blanco, Boerne, Burnet, Dripping Springs, Fredericksburg, Johnson City, Kerrville, Marble Falls, and Wimberley—have decked the halls (and courthouses and town squares) with thousands of lights as part of the Hill Country Regional Christmas Lighting Trail.
Yes, according to the calendar, it has been â€œofficiallyâ€ fall since September 22, but it sure hasnâ€™t felt like it yet. But somehow, cooler temperatures have arrived just in time to set our clocks back this weekend, meaning thatâ€”among other advantagesâ€”thereâ€™s one extra hour of enjoy evening happy hours! Hereâ€™s a suggestion for those of you in the Bastrop area: Make tracks to the Bastrop Brewhouse, whose multi-level deck overlooks the Colorado River. (Weather reports indicate a low temperature of 52 on Saturday night; thatâ€™s a practically perfect condition for al fresco dining.)
Here's a fun idea to combine recreation and altruism in Austin this weekend: Sign up for the first annual Let's Get Trashed event, hosted by Kung Fu Saloon, a martial-arts themed bar and video arcade at 5th and Rio Grande.
Wharton's Tee Pee Motel (Photo © Lori Moffatt)
Now that most of Texas has seen a cool snap, a visit to the beach might not seem as enticing as it does during the summer. But the ocean in wintertime reveals a different character. In my opinion, there is no better time to visit Texas' coastal destinations than during the off-season, when crowds are light and the sun's rays are gentler. On my list for this year is Palacios, a seaside village known for birding, fishing, and best of all: relaxing. Texas Highways has published stories in the past about Palacios' historic Luther Hotel, which dates to 1903 and faces the bay; I'd love to stay there and kick back with a book on the hotel's broad porches.