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Written by Texas Highways

Willie Newton (left) and Joe Newton. (Photo courtesy State House Press)

Growing up in rural West Texas during the early twentieth century, the four sons of Jim and Janetta Newton would have been expected to grow up to be cotton farmers or cattle ranchers. Instead, they became one of the most successful teams of professional bank and express-car robbers in the United States. Resembling railway baggage cars, express cars transported high-value freight and usually had armed guards. The Newton Boys’ career ended in 1924 with a spectacular express-car heist in Illinois that netted them an unbelievable three million dollars but ended with arrests and imprisonment.

(Photo © Vivadrome LLC)

While some may only know La Grange for 
its infamous “chicken ranch” or through the music of bearded rockers ZZ Top, in truth this Texas town has much more to offer. I headed 
to La Grange to “Czech” it all out.

The nearly 4,000 residents of Winnsboro, 100 miles east of Dallas, celebrate a handful of events annually that include Autumn Trails, the Winnsboro Classic Car Cruise-In, the Fine Art & Wine Market, and Wild West Days. TH features the town in the January 2013 issue; here’s the scoop on Winnsboro events.
The 10th anniversary of the Main Street Program makes this year extra special with a weekend of festivities planned for March 15-16. Intern Elena Watts caught up with program director Denise Miranda to find out what’s on the agenda.
In 1981, the Texas Historical Commission started the Main Street Program, which helps preserve and revitalize historic downtowns. At a ceremony 10 years ago, Texas First Lady Anita Perry designated Winnsboro as one of the Main Street cities, and since then, more than $12 million in public and private funds have poured into its downtown, improving roads, sidewalks, building facades, and signage. Winnsboro is one of 86 towns participating in the program.
Breakfast receptions at the historic depot downtown kick off both mornings with coffee and pastries, while live music and horse-drawn buggy rides entertain visitors all weekend. On Friday, the public can mix and mingle and sample hors d’oeuvres at a reception at the Center for the Arts. Afterwards, the downtown building window tours begin. Businesses in the century-old buildings decorate their windows with depictions of the trades that once occupied their offices. Saturday, visitors can enjoy living history demonstrations including horseshoeing, blacksmithing, leather tooling, and weaving. Following a chuck wagon lunch, Old West reenactments are performed.
Sandy Thomas, administrator for the Winnsboro Area Chamber of Commerce, shared details about other upcoming events:

The Winnsboro Farmers Market
Saturdays, April - September at Winnsboro City Park
Saturdays in October on Market Street downtown
Note: Market may move entirely downtown so check the status.

Winnsboro Spring Festival
May 2013
Downtown
Guests and residents of the small northeast Texas town roam Market, Elm, and Franklin Streets, which close to cars for their annual two-day spring celebration. Vendors peddle wares ranging from jewelry to home décor, while fare includes hotdogs, hamburgers, turkey legs, and fresh lemonade. Performances, historic reenactments, and a balloon release entertain festival-goers.

Annual Fireworks in the Park
July 4, 2013
City Park

Winnsboro Classic Car Cruise-In
Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013
Downtown at The Depot
The parking lot around the historic depot in downtown Winnsboro becomes a promenade for vintage vehicles. Visitors can have a bite and a beverage while they pick their favorite cars before the judging.

15th Annual Business Expo & Health Fair 2013
October 5, 2013, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Winnsboro Civic Center

Autumn Trails
October 2013
City Park & Downtown

This month-long celebration put Winnsboro on the map more than a half-century ago. Throughout October, residents and visitors enjoy events along with the changing colors of fall. The lineup includes a welcome parade with trail riders who camp out all weekend, the Big Woods Trail Ride, the Antique Tractor Show & Pull, a BBQ cook-off, the Taste of Winnsboro Cook-out, the Trades Day & Swap Meet, and arts and crafts in City Park — culminating in the Livestock & Dairy Show the beginning of November.

Fine Art & Wine Market
November 2013
Downtown

This juried art show features original art by regional and national artists perfect for both casual and serious art collectors. Wine, live music, and children’s art activities are among the other offerings.

Wild West Days
November 2013

The Legends of Crossroads perform historical reenactments of chapters in Winnsboro’s history on Market and Elm Streets. Visitors enjoy all things Western: arts & crafts, cowboy music, cowboy poetry, and the antics of “Judge Roy Spleen” and his posse.

Winnsboro Annual Christmas Parade
Early December 2013
City Park

For additional information and dates not determined at the time of publication, please call 903-342-3666 or visit www.winnsboro.com.
 
 
 

52 elvis 77

"I sorta got my start in Texas,” a reflective Elvis Presley told reporters at Dallas’ Love Field in August 1958. Presley, a soldier in the United States Army at the time, had just returned from Memphis, where he attended the funeral of his mother, Gladys, and was en route back to Fort Hood to re-sume basic training.

The Tyler Candy Company makes its signature pink peanut patties using the same equipment that founder Anthony George invented in 1941. (Photo by Kevin Stillman)

Describe it with any other shade—
magenta, salmon, rose—and a pink peanut patty still tastes as sweet. But don’t let the demure color fool you. Texans enamored with these pretty-in-pink goodies don’t always behave.

While Dublin-bottled Dr Pepper no longer exists, the town’s landmark billboard still overlooks the town’s central park.  (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

I don’t remember when the summertime trip to Dublin, Texas, became my son’s birthday tradition. But soon after Elliott outgrew themed birthday parties, I suggested a celebratory road trip to Dublin. I had discovered long ago that the Dr Pepper Bottling Plant made a great rest stop between the University of Texas at Austin and my family home in Fort Worth. And the bottling plant won my son’s heart, too, with its clinking glass bottles, hissing valves, and serpentine conveyor belts—not to mention the ice cream floats served next door.

 (Photo © Hogaboom Road, Inc.)

For thousands, Killeen is a place you 
get stationed, not a place you vacation. However, those who visit will find a culinary and military escape that takes visitors back in 
history and around the world—all without 
leaving Central Texas.

Texas Highways Photo Editor Griff Smith shares his favorite techniques for taking great pictures at a live performance.

Window on Texas, December 2012

Texas Highways intern Elena Watts talked to Lindsay Greer, director of the Wichita Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau, to learn more about Holiday in the Falls. Guests and residents of the North Texas town enjoy more than a dozen holiday celebrations in December. Among them, the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights is a favorite.

Fantasy of Lights is one of the largest three-dimensional, animated, audible holiday displays in Texas. On Dec. 7, Hardin Tower’s hour-long ringing of the bells begins at 5 p.m., and the opening ceremony starts at 6 p.m. on the front steps of the Harding Building on the Midwestern State University campus. Santa visits for wish lists and photo ops, and the Fantasy of Lights Band Concert commences at 7 p.m. in Akin Auditorium.

In the late 1920s, Mr. and Mrs. L.T. Burns lit a single blue bulb on a holiday tree adorning the lawn of their modest home in celebration of the season, and the display continued to grow each year. When Mrs. Burns lost her husband in a tragic car accident in 1954, the holiday scene became a tribute to her late husband’s memory. She transformed her lawn into a fantasyland every year until 1971 when she passed away.

Mrs. Burns bequeathed the display to her son with the stipulation that he could donate it to Archer City, which he did. The community, 30 miles southwest of Wichita Falls, was home to many of the employees who worked on the Burns family estate. It remained in storage there until the Burns’ son passed away three years later, and the city donated it to Midwestern State University. The only condition was that the display be free and open to the public.

On Dec. 4, 1974, the university flipped the switch for the first time, illuminating its front lawn with the collection of scenes and its buildings with 20,000 string-lights. A nonprofit Fantasy of Lights Committee was formed to raise money for the repair and maintenance of the display. The committee continues to rely on the generosity of the Wichita Falls community for its operation.

Visitors can take in the 34 scenes from their cars on a closed-off section of Taft Boulevard, but Lindsay recommends they park and walk through the campus. The larger-than-life characters include three little dancing pigs, a piano-playing Santa Claus, and most recently, Scrooge’s workshop.

MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights
Dec. 7 – Jan. 1, 2013
Mon-Thu, dusk until 10 p.m.
Fri-Sun, dusk until 11 p.m.
Midwestern State University campus
Free

Fantasy of Lights Band Concert
Dec. 7, 7-9 p.m. (opening night of MSU-Burns light display)
Akins Auditorium on MSU campus
Free


River Bend Nature Center’s 11th Annual ElectriCritters event also comes highly recommended. Through Dec. 22, more than 60,000 lights illuminate more than 150 silhouettes making for a fantastical nature hike with a holiday twist.
The concrete trail comes alive with the sounds and motions of well-lit critters including croaking frogs, howling wolves, and galloping reindeer. The treetops glow with pecking woodpeckers and hooting owls, while the pond is home to a dragon donning a Santa hat.
Children can roast marshmallows over a campfire, or they can schmooze Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Rudolph in the warmth of the Candy Cane Café. Hot chocolate, apple cider, s’mores, popcorn, holiday gifts, and stocking stuffers are available for purchase.


ElectriCritters
Nov. 23 – Dec. 22
Fri & Sat, 6-8 p.m.
River Bend Nature Center
$4 advance/$5 gate/Kids 2 & under free.


Wichita Falls neighborhoods that dazzle during the holidays include:

Morningside Luminarias, Sat & Sun, Dec. 8 & 9, 6:30-9 p.m.
(Inclement weather: Dec. 15 & 16)
For three decades, 1,500 candles in white bags have illuminated the tree-lined, winding streets of this historic neighborhood during the holidays, showcasing homes of different architectural styles dating to 1919.

Country Club Estates, featuring some of the city’s oldest, stateliest homes decorated beautifully for the holidays.

Silkes Estates
Neighbors join together to decorate their yards with miles of lighted candy canes.

Tanglewood & Canyon Trails
Decorated homes on the hillsides of these two neighborhoods showcase newer, more modern structures in secluded settings.


Other Holiday in the Falls events include:

Texas Christmas’ Past
Nov. 17-Dec. 29
Tue-Fri, 10 a.m.-noon & 1-4 p.m.
Sat, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
The Museum of North Texas History
Free

Santa’s Mailbox
Nov. 19-Dec. 15
Daily, 9 a.m.-11:30 p.m.
Free
Children drop their letters to Santa in a holiday mailbox located at the Fantasy of Lights display on the MSU campus. Santa and his elves write back when they include self-addressed stamped envelope.

Santa House
Nov. 27-Dec. 7
Weekdays, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Fri, 6-8 p.m.
Sat, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Sun, 1-3 p.m.
(Tours begin every 15 minutes)
Kell House Museum
$3/person
This year’s Christmas-themed play is “The Magical Rocking Horse Part III” performed by ACTors Creating Together. After the show, visitors chat with Santa, enjoy a special treat with Mrs. Claus, and make an ornament to take home.

Wichita West Arts & Craft Show
Sat, Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sun, Dec. 2, noon-5 p.m.
MPEC J.S. Bridwell Ag Center
Free
Visitors shop for seasonal décor and holiday gifts including one-of-a-kind handmade crafts while supporting a good cause, the Wichita Falls Volunteer Fire Department.

The Nutcracker
Sat, Dec. 1, 8-10:30 p.m.
Memorial Auditorium
$25, $20, $15
(Cash or check only)

MSU Combined Choir Concert
Sun, Dec. 2, 3-4:30 p.m.
Akin Auditorium on MSU campus
Free
MSU Combined Choirs present a seasonal concert for the public.

Miracle on 34th Street
Sat & Sun, Dec. 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 7:30 p.m.  
Sat, Dec. 15 & 22, 2:30 p.m.
Wichita Theatre Performing Arts Center
$21 & $18/adults, $10/children
A holiday classic performed on a live stage.

Christmas in the Park & Candy Cane Scramble
Sat, Dec. 8, 1-3 p.m.
Scotland Park
Free
Children two years old through the second grade are invited to scramble through the park collecting as many of the 10,000 candy canes as they can find. Children of all ages enjoy a holiday train, carnival games, and arts & crafts. Santa is on hand to supervise.

Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra
Sat, Dec. 8, 8-10:30 p.m.
Memorial Auditorium
$25 & $30 regular admission/ $22.50 senior & military/ $5 student
Combined choirs of Wichita Falls high schools join the symphony orchestra for evening of Christmas and seasonal favorites accompanied by the Wichita Falls Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Christmas Tour of Homes
Tue, Dec. 11, noon-8 p.m.
$20/person
The 33rd Annual Christmas Tour of Homes invites guests to visit private homes decorated for the holidays in the Wichita Falls area.

Candlelight Tours at the Kell House
Sat, Dec. 22, 6-8 p.m.
Kell House Museum
$5/person
Experience an early 20th-Century holiday with the lights turned down for a guided candlelight tour.

The ornate work of Swiss woodcarver Peter Mansbendel, who was known for his sense of humor and whimsy, embellishes sites throughout Texas. (Photo courtesy of the UTSA Libraries Special Collections from the Institute of Texan Cultures)

Legions of visitors to Mission San José and the Spanish Governor’s Palace in San Antonio have admired the doors and other architectural details that Swiss-born Austin woodcarver Peter Mansbendel created for their restorations in the 1930s. Mansbendel, who often described himself as a “chiseler” and once declared that “real genius does not need to proclaim itself other than in its work,” left plenty of public work to prove his talents. In fact, Mansbendel’s hand-carved mantels, altars, doors, bargeboards, portraits, plaques, and myriad other creations beautify locations throughout Texas, including several buildings on the University of Texas at Austin campus, the Austin Museum of Art-Arthouse at Laguna Gloria, the Austin History Center, Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, the W.H. Stark House in Orange, and the landmark Austin watering holes of Scholz Garten and The Tavern.

True Resilience

I was thrilled to see one of our baby pines on the cover of the September issue. I was one of the lucky ones—my house survived that horrific Labor Day fire. However, my whole neighborhood is gone, and we are still working on the recovery. There are also about 30 baby pines coming up in my yard, which is amazing. Thank you for continuing to cover the return of Bastrop. People should come visit—downtown is alive with lots of great stores and restaurants, and the park is making a comeback. Suggestion: Bring your family to the park and then make return visits so you can watch as the forest redefines itself over the years.

KAREY LeBLANC, Bastrop

Lotsa Kolaches

While reading Les Thomas’ “Texas Kolache Trail”  [TH Taste, September], I could almost taste those traditional Czech pastries as my mouth watered. Growing up in the sizable Czech community of Jourdanton, our Sunday-morning breakfasts were kolaches baked by my mother the day before. Besides the usual varieties, mom also baked “Zelniky,” which she made by frying shredded cabbage until it turned brown. She added butter, sugar, cinnamon, and a little pepper, and baked it in the usual dough with a brown-sugar topping.

JOHN NETARDUS, Slidell, Louisiana

 

I didn’t really care for kolaches until I had one from Zamykal Gourmet Kolaches (979/364-2386) in Calvert. Zamykal’s is run by the cutest twin sisters who have adapted their grandmother’s recipe. Not only do they serve some 30 flavors of awesome kolaches, but they sing for you, as well. Very entertaining.

JO FOWLKES, Waco

 I’ve had kolaches from all of the featured bakeries and then some. Here in San Marcos, we have a gem near the Texas State University campus—Dos Gatos Kolache Bakery  (512/392-1444), owned by two brothers named Katz. Their kolaches are the best I’ve ever had.

JIM WEBER, San Marcos

The best bakery in West is Gerik’s Ole’ Czech Bakery (254/826-3327). It’s where the locals meet.

 TERRY TIMMONS, Abbott

 Brush with History

 I read with great interest about Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in Dale Weisman’s article, “Our Paleo Past” [September]. Years ago, while my wife was attending Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, we lived in the married-housing section. A couple lived next door to us along with their 98-year-old grandmother. She was a delightful character with lots of charisma. She had many stories about the past, calling a dugout home and other hardships in general. Many stories were focused on her father, how he survived, and the many people who admired him. She said, finally, “Maybe you’ve heard of him; his name was Allie Bates.” And indeed I had!

 PHILIE M. HINSON, Midland

TH READER RECOMMENDATION

Delicious Del Norte

Four of us spent the weekend at Cleburne State Park and decided to venture to Del Norte Tacos in Godley [TH Taste, May]. Our orders included that day’s special of smoked barbecue pork ribs, the beef fajita bur­rito, the smoked-chicken enchiladas, and the chile relleno stuffed with smoked chipotle pork. As the sign says out front,it is definitely “Worth Stoppin’ For.”

BRAD ROGERS, Ding Dong

Del Norte Tacos is at 101 E. Hwy. 171,817/389-2451. More on Cleburne State Park.

We want to hear from you! Send feedback and recommendations to: Texas High­ways, Box 141009, Austin 78714-1009. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We reserve the right to edit items. Because we’re unable to check out every recommendation, and because hours vary and details can change, please call ahead for more information.

 The new dining scene on one of Houston's most colorful byways

Underbelly’s Chef Chris Shepherd describes Houston as “the most dynamic culinary destination in the United States,” and he aims to prove it. (Photo © Sarah Kerver)

By June Naylor

I’ve maintained for some time that Houston has grown into one of the nation’s most interesting food cities. And so it was a pleasant surprise to discover on a recent trip that a handful of America’s top culinary talents now strut their stuff within a couple of blocks from each other, on a stretch of Westheimer Road once known for its thrift stores, tattoo parlors, and smoke shops.

But a restaurant renaissance in this part of the Montrose neighborhood makes sense, considering that James Beard-nominee Hugo Ortega began forging the path for neighborhood appeal years ago with his elegant interior Mexican restaurant, Hugo’s. Ortega, who recently released his first cookbook, Street Food of Mexico, proved that this bend of Westheimer could draw crowds. 

Spending a weekend exploring the new synergy on Lower Westheimer, I soon realized I’d have to spend days to cover it all. So I focused on four restaurants whose chefs are breaking rules and expanding Houston’s already adventurous palate.

Anything's possible, from New Orleans-style crab balls with spicy corn relish to mussels steamed with garlic, onion, fennel and smoked tomatoes

With his new venture Underbelly, Chris Shepherd, one of the city’s most imaginative (and gregarious) chefs, has created a place where he can feature the kind of homegrown food that he’s come to love in the Houston area. Shepherd brings in honey, citrus, vegetables, herbs, dairy, and fish from local providers, and—after buying whole pigs and sides of beef from area ranchers —he breaks them down in the butcher shop adjacent to the kitchen.

Shepherd finds inspiration from myriad ethnic markets and restaurants to fashion what he calls “new American Creole” cuisine, blending influences from divergent cultures. The menu changes daily, but the assortment of dishes I found on one evening included grilled Wagyu satay with a field-pea hummus (melding Asian, Middle Eastern, and Southern ideas), seared scamp grouper with braised leeks and Kabocha squash broth (mixing French and Japanese influences), and roasted goat with tomatoes, chiles, and sweet potato greens (combining Southern flavors with hints of northern Mexico).

An antique plow and a wall of preserves and pickled vegetables fit into the decor, and two communal tables add familiarity to the mood. I was especially taken with Shepherd’s friendly rapport with cooks working the open kitchen, expediting dishes while keeping an eye trained on the dining room.

When Shepherd and his business partners acquired the space for Underbelly, they allocated half of the building for a gastropub that would share the butcher shop. This sister restaurant, Hay Merchant, boasts one of the city’s largest selections of craft beers and a menu that reaches far beyond what’s usually found in a bar.
Strange though it sounds, the crispy pig ears could be one of the finest nibbles to come along in ages. Thin enough to break into pieces—and ideal when accompanied by a pint of Buffalo Bayou Brewing 1836, a copper ale—these chips bear a simple coating of sugar and ground cayenne. I swooned over a plate of buttermilk waffles slathered in a peppery molasses butter and crowned with a handful of crunchy chicken livers, and briefly entertained ordering a plate of the Korean-style chicken wings, which are a hit with the 30-something clientele.
Because the beer options change so frequently (Hay Merchant offers nearly 80 on tap), so do Chef Antoine Ware’s menu options. Anything’s possible, he tells me, from New Orleans-style crab balls with spicy corn relish to mussels steamed in India Pale Ale with garlic, onion, fennel, and smoked tomatoes.

Less than a block east, in a renovated space that for decades housed Felix’s Mexican Restaurant, Austin superstar chef Tyson Cole recently opened the second location of his wildly successful restaurant Uchi. Cole and chef de cuisine Kaz Edwards now treat denizens of Lower Westheimer to Uchi’s Japanese-inspired food, playing mad scientist with such combinations as smoked baby yellowtail with yuca root crisps, buttery Marcona almonds, Asian pear, and garlic brittle; or slices of big-eye tuna with goat cheese, pumpkin seed oil, and apple.

Sampling one of the ever-evolving Omakase menus—that’s 10 courses, chosen by the chef—I particularly enjoyed the blast of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty flavors in a dish called the Suzuki ringo, which is a combination of grilled loup de mer  (a kind of sea bass) with green apple, citrus-chile paste, and Vietnamese fish sauce. For a meaty interlude, I found the perfect answer in a juicy slice of pork jowl with Brussels sprout kimchee, romaine lettuce, and a lush crème fraîche.

Sitting at the sushi bar, I watched the action in the open kitchen. But to sit in a cozy booth along one wall would be a way to enjoy the parade of dishes with someone special in an intimate setting, away from the hubbub. Red-blossom wallpaper, warm lighting, and blonde woods give Uchi a welcoming sophistication.

Across the street from these dining spots, El Real celebrates a distinctly old-school brand of Tex-Mex fare. The concept comes from two highly decorated culinary types: chef Bryan Caswell and journalist/author Robb Walsh. Caswell, a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2009 and competitor on the Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef,” wins fans aplenty with Reef, his seafood restaurant in Houston’s Midtown.
Walsh, a longtime dining critic and James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, persuaded Caswell to indulge their shared passion for vintage Tex-Mex.

They’re doing just that in the renovated Tower Theater, keeping the movie marquee out front in pristine condition and projecting 1940s Westerns on a wall of the restaurant.

A bite into the puffy tacos—one filled with picadillo (spicy ground beef) and another with smoked chicken— took me back to my first childhood taste of those iconic goodies. The bestseller is the cheese enchiladas smothered in chili con carne and topped with a fried egg, but my favorite snack in the place is the gooey queso flameado, flecked with bits of spicy chorizo and set aflame tableside by the server.
Take time to enjoy this foursome, you’ll come away with a good idea of the new culinary treasures found on this ever-evolving stretch of Houston.

Dining Lower Westheimer

Underbelly, 1100 Westheimer Rd., 713/528-9800.
Hay Merchant, 1100 Westheimer Rd., 713/528-9805.
Uchi, 904 Westheimer Rd., 713/522-4808.
El Real, 1201 Westheimer Rd., 713/524-1201.

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