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Written by Lori Moffatt

I give a solid thumbs-up to a City Weekend in Dallas. I'd heard a lot about the new developments in downtown and the nearby Arts District, so I decided to investigate this past weekend. My husband, Randy, and I booked a room at the beautiful new Joule Hotel, a few steps away from the original Neiman Marcus, on Main Street. Downtown Dallas, with its gargoyle-festooned buildings that date to the early 1900s, is still primarily a financial district, but that's gradually changing. Restaurants, clubs, and hotels are drawing more nighttime visitors downtown, imbuing the streets with fresh energy.

A few months ago, I joined a group of my girlfriends at the Blanton Museum of Art for one of the museum's monthly "Third Thursday" programs. We enjoyed the opening of a new exhibit, a stroll through the museum's permanent collection, and live music in the foyer, but the main draw for us was the opportunity to take a yoga class in one of the galleries, surrounded by beautiful paintings. The refined ambiance lent a whole new energy to our poses, and we were able to view the works from a new perspective. I mean this quite literally, as we were standing on our heads at least once during the class.

We're starting to put together the April issue, and one story about sustainable travel especially holds my interest. The author makes the point that people in general are growing more aware of lessening their impact on the environment when they travel, and she provides suggestions on restaurants that source their food locally, hotels that make an effort to be energy-efficient, and destinations that focus on conservation. It's a topic I suspect we'll revisit from time to time, especially since most places don't expect us to relinquish any of our creature comforts. In most cases, after all, conservation is about efficiency.

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.

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.

I just returned from an out-of-state vacation, and while I had a fantastic time, I was glad to get back to Texas. A sign of a good trip, I think, and perhaps a certain level of satisfaction with my day-to-day routine. In general, I like hotel rooms, the mini-soaps and cute little packets of cotton balls, the comically out-of-proportion flat-screen TVs, the color-coordinated pillow shams, the wake-up calls, the luxury of room service.... But please, WHO thought it was a good idea to invent a single-cup coffeemaker? You've seen them, probably, they're ubiquitous. I'll concede that the concept SEEMS reasonable, pop a little coffee "pod" into the machine, along with six ounces of water (no more or the machine will shut off!), and several minutes later, you have a single cup of coffee. But I'd argue that these devices are not practical AT ALL for two people traveling together. What's with the pouring and the podding and the parceling, we wasted a colossal amount of time getting out the door in the morning. Oh, good grief I sound like Andy Rooney. Write me to share YOUR hotel pet peeves and maybe I won't feel so ridiculous.

Long ago, I blogged about watching a troop of paper wasps attack a nasty web of webworms in one of my pecan trees, and now those same trees are providing the setting for yet another insect drama.

I just returned from an action-packed, three-day trip to South Padre Island, and wow--the beginning of fall is a fantastic time to be at the beach.

What's up with offal? Seems as though every menu I see these days has some form of offal on it, whether it's sweetbreads or lamb's hearts or some delicacy long treasured in Europe or Mexico, but only now (at least that I'm aware) earning praise in America. At Austin's East Side Showroom (a new, noisy restaurant in the freshly hip section of East 6th Street), I enjoyed a truly delicious salad of local field greens with cornmeal-crusted sweetbreads (that's pancreas and thymus glands, y'all), then another night at Vino Vino, a wine bar on Guadalupe, I tried its version of sweetbreads on the appetizer menu. (Love Vino Vino for the topnotch wine selection and cozy, clubby ambiance.) At then at Olivia, the South Lamar restaurant, recently lauded by Bon Appetit as one of American's top ten new restaurants, the chef served an intriguing appetizer of bacon-wrapped jalapeno stuffed with lamb's heart. The owner told me he takes pride in serving the whole animal, "from the rooter to the pooter." Anthony Bourdain, eat your heart out. Ahem.

If I ever had any doubt that the foodie culture has become firmly established in Texas, now I'm fully convinced otherwise.

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