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Web Extra (Archive) (85)

Wednesday, 07 April 2010 08:26

Web Extra: Round Top Experience

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As we were going to press with the May issue’s story on the Festival Institute at Round Top, we learned of a new book coming out—The Parisian Cowboy’s Guide to the Round Top Experience—that promised “the ultimate guide to antiquing, lodging, dining, and year-round activities.” Intrigued, I rang up author Gretchen von Rochow, who co-authored the book with fellow Round Top fan Kerry Rupp, to learn more.

“The book is a travel guide to Round Top and the surrounding Fayette County area,” von Rochow told me. “I’ve been interested in antiques for 20 years, mostly as a novice—collecting things I like. The cost, and the value, is usually secondary. Most antiques dealers will tell you to buy what you like, and if it happens to be collectible, that’s great.”

She acknowledges both the challenge and the thrill of Round Top’s twice-yearly antiques shows, which draw dealers from throughout the globe to sell their wares at more than 60 venues throughout the countryside. (The spring show takes place March 31-April 3—and yes! the bluebonnets are already blooming!)

“That the show is held in a very small town—population 77—and that it comprises many shows, each with its own style and merchandise, scattered along a 20-mile stretch of roadway, in fields and barns and tents, creates a very festive atmosphere,” she says. “It’s fun to see a 200-year-old French dining set in a field under a tent with hay scattered about. The show has everything from ‘shabby chic’ to refined antiques. My advice: If you see something you like, don’t wait—buy it, or someone else will.”

But the book concerns more than the two major shows. Along with details about Round Top’s long-running July Fourth celebration and coverage of the aforementioned Festival Institute, von Rochow and Rupp profile many of the businesses and attractions that make visiting the area a year-round pleasure.  Learn more at www.theroundtopexperience.com.


Saturday, 17 April 2010 08:13

Web Extra: Panaderias (Mexican bakeries)

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Panaderias carry an array of sweet and tempting breads. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)Not ready to bake your own tres leches cake? Look to your local panaderias (Mexican bakeries). Also, Fiesta Marts in Austin, Houston and Dallas carry a crowd-pleasing tres leches for sale by the slice or whole cakes in various sizes.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010 08:11

Web Extra: Drive-Ins

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Midland’s Big Sky Drive-In. (Photo by Jerry Cotten)

Currently “Lit” Texas Drive-Ins:

Lamesa: Sky-Vue Drive-In: 806/872-7004; www.skyvuelamesa.com.

Lubbock: Stars & Stripes Drive-In: 806/749-SHOW; www.driveinusa.com

Midland: Big Sky Drive-In: 432/617-3001; www.bigskytheatre.com.

Abilene: Town & Country Drive-In: 325/677-9899; www.towncountrydrivein.com.

Tyler: Sky Vue Drive-In: 903/535-9993; www.tylerdrivein.com.

Amarillo: Tascosa Drive-In: 806/383-3882; www.tascosadrivein.com.

Clarendon: Sandell Drive-In: 806/874-0685.

Gatesville: Last Drive-In Picture Show: 254/865-8445.

Graham: Graham Drive-In: 940/549-8478; http://grahamdrivein.com/home.

Granbury: The Brazos Drive-In: 817/573-1311; www.thebrazos.com.

Mercedes: Wes Mer Drive-In: 956/565-9050; http://wesmerdrivein.com.

Rule: Tower Drive-In: 940/997-0137;  .

Ennis: Galaxy Drive-In: 972/875-5505; www.galaxydriveintheatre.com.

Shiner: Crossroads Drive-In: 361/594-2257; www.crossroadsdrivein.com.

Midland: Big Sky Drive-In: 432/617-3001; www.bigskytheatre.com.

Hockley: Showboat Drive-In: 281/351-5224; www.theshowboatdrivein.com.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010 15:55

Parisian Cowboy's Guide to Round Top

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As we were going to press with the May issue’s story on the Festival Institute at Round Top, we learned of a new book coming out—The Parisian Cowboy’s Guide to the Round Top Experience—that promised “the ultimate guide to antiquing, lodging, dining, and year-round activities.” Intrigued, I rang up author Gretchen von Rochow, who co-authored the book with fellow Round Top fan Kerry Rupp, to learn more.

“The book is a travel guide to Round Top and the surrounding Fayette County area,” von Rochow told me. “I’ve been interested in antiques for 20 years, mostly as a novice—collecting things I like. The cost, and the value, is usually secondary. Most antiques dealers will tell you to buy what you like, and if it happens to be collectible, that’s great.”

She acknowledges both the challenge and the thrill of Round Top’s twice-yearly antiques shows, which draw dealers from throughout the globe to sell their wares at more than 60 venues throughout the countryside. (The spring show takes place March 31-April 3—and yes! the bluebonnets are already blooming!)

“That the show is held in a very small town—population 77—and that it comprises many shows, each with its own style and merchandise, scattered along a 20-mile stretch of roadway, in fields and barns and tents, creates a very festive atmosphere,” she says. “It’s fun to see a 200-year-old French dining set in a field under a tent with hay scattered about. The show has everything from ‘shabby chic’ to refined antiques. My advice: If you see something you like, don’t wait—buy it, or someone else will.”

But the book concerns more than the two major shows. Along with details about Round Top’s long-running July Fourth celebration and coverage of the aforementioned Festival Institute, von Rochow and Rupp profile many of the businesses and attractions that make visiting the area a year-round pleasure.  Learn more at www.theroundtopexperience.com.


Monday, 15 March 2010 09:50

Web Extra: Tips on Green Travel

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In the past few years, “green” has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s not just a color, but an environmental catchphrase for a behavior or product that has little impact on the environment. The key ideas are: Is this behavior or product sustainable? Responsible? Respectful? Lonely Planet, the well-known go-to-guide for adventuresome travelers worldwide, defines responsible tourism thusly:

“Responsible tourism can be more-or-less defined as travel that takes into consideration the issues of:

Environment: travel that minimizes negative environmental impacts and, where possible, makes positive contributions to the conservation of biodiversity, wilderness, natural and human heritage.

Social/Cultural: travel that respects culture and traditions and fosters authentic interaction and greater understanding between travelers and hosts.

Economic: travel that has financial benefits for the host community and operates on the principles of fair trade.”

That’s a lot to think about. But here are a few things you can do on any trip to reduce your negative impact.

  • If you drive to your destination, inflate your tires properly, keep your car tuned up, and don’t exceed the speed limit. (You’ll burn fuel more efficiently.) Avoid rush hour, and you’ll save energy as well as frustration and time.

  • Pack light. The less weight you carry, the less fuel you’ll require to get there.

  • To avoid buying (and disposing of) plastic bottles, bring beverages with you (and recycle the containers when you return home.)

  • Eat at local restaurants rather than at familiar chains. You’ll support the local economy.

  • Consider “giving back” in some way. Pick up a piece of trash in the street, visit the animal shelter, donate a few bucks to the local museum.

—Lori Moffatt

Thursday, 22 October 2009 10:44

Web Extra: Chef Ross Burtwell

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Wine, Dine, Divine: Fredericksburg chef shares Texas wine picks with Texas Highways readers

I recently caught up with Fredericksburg chef Ross Burtwell, who made the decision a few years ago to serve exclusively Texas wines at his restaurant, the Cabernet Grill, which lies just south of Main Street (www.cabernetgrill.com). We discussed wine-and-food pairings, up-and-coming grapes, vintners’ dinners, and the fried-chicken-and-waffles trend. And then I discovered that Texas Highways played a role in Burtwell’s career path. Read on! —Lori Moffatt

Photo by J. Griffis Smith“I have always been interested in cooking,” Burtwell told me. “Even as a kid growing up in Detroit, I followed my mom around the kitchen. But I never really considered a career in the culinary arena. But in the 1980s, I was working what I’ll call a dead-end job in Dallas, and I found myself thumbing through an issue of Texas Highways. Y’all had done a story about Dallas chefs, including Stephan Pyles and Dean Fearing, who were at the forefront of the Southwest cuisine movement. I looked at the photos, read the story, and was inspired by the combinations they came up with. And I decided that, well, a career in cooking might be worth pursuing.

“What I didn’t realize at the time was that the nation’s best apprenticeship program was, and still is, in Dallas—offered by the Dallas Chapter of the American Culinary Federation’s Chef Society. So I apprenticed for a few years, went to culinary school, and have worked in restaurants ever since. In 2002, I opened the Cabernet Grill. We don’t have white tablecloths, but we offer what we call ‘upscale, fine dining.” We prominently feature Hill Country ingredients like quail, venison, and pecans, for example—paired with a 100 percent, all-Texan wine list.

“About 2 year ago, we made the decision to drop the few remaining Californian and Australian wines from our wine list, and lo and behold, wine sales jumped 28 percent that month. And they haven’t slowed down. I’m not aware of any other restaurants that serve exclusively Texan wines.

'While you’ll find wineries doing great with standard varietals you might associate with California ... the really exciting things are happening with grapes that are especially well adapted to Texas, such as Syrah, Primativo, an up-and-coming grape called Blanc du Bois, Viognier, Sangiovese, and Black Spanish.'

“One of the first things you need to know about Texas wines is this: While you’ll find wineries doing great with standard varietals you might associate with California, like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the really exciting things are happening with grapes that are especially well adapted to Texas, such as Syrah, Primativo, an up-and-coming grape called Blanc du Bois, Viognier, Sangiovese, and Black Spanish.

“One of my absolute favorites is Inwood Estates’ Tempranillo. Inwood Estates is in Dallas, and right now it doesn’t sell its wines to grocery or liquor stores. This is one of the most outstanding Texas wines I’ve come across—it definitely as a bit of oakiness, tobacco, and plum—with a very slight vanilla on the end. I like to pair it with an oak-smoked beef tenderloin. We use a dry rub on the beef, which really picks up the flavors in the wine.

“Another personal favorite is Flat Creek Estate’s Super Texan Sangiovese—it’s their play on the Italian “Super Tuscan” blended wines. We match that one with bacon-wrapped quail, served with a spicy raspberry demi-glacé. The slight notes of raspberry and pepper in the wine pair up with the sauce and flavor of the quail.

“Here’s another one from a Fredericksburg winery—Chisholm Trail Winery’s Blanc du Bois. Blanc du Bois is one of those up-and-coming grapes in Texas. It’s a dry white wine, and the grapes are resistant to Pierce’s disease, which can be a problem here in Texas. The wine has a bit of a grapefruit nose, and it’s really crisp, so it goes well with seafood. We pair it with cilantro-pesto grilled shrimp, served with a ruby-red grapefruit buerre blanc. All the flavors really roll across your tongue.

“This one was a surprise—we recently did a vintner’s dinner with Grape Creek Vineyards here in Fredericksburg, and they have a nice Cabernet Blanc—it’s a sweet blush wine, in the White Zin style. We made grilled quail with a cayenne-honey-grape glaze, and served them with jalapeño waffles. I had read about the trendy combination of fried-chicken and waffles, and I wanted to come up with a Hill Country version of that. “


Tuesday, 08 December 2009 15:01

Web Extra: Save the Date Festival Tips

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With diverse themes, tasty food, and community spirit to spare, small-town festivals rock! Here are a few tips to enhance the experience.

Festivals 101

•Schedules sometimes change, especially for events several months out. Call and check dates and lineups before making a trip. By the same token, you may find that new activities have been added that we couldn’t confirm at press time.

•Accommodations in small towns can fill up quickly, so make your reservations early if you plan to stay overnight. If you have trouble finding a room, call the local chamber of commerce; the staff may be able to direct you to lodging in nearby towns.

•Don’t forget the obvious: Wear comfortable shoes, apply sunscreen at outdoor events, and if the weather’s hot, take along a hat or umbrella and extra water. A lightweight folding chair or a blanket you can spread on the ground also comes in handy, especially at parades.

•Enjoy the festival fare, but check out nearby restaurants, too; you may discover a real gem.

Discover even more fun things to do in our searchable events calendar database.



Tuesday, 08 December 2009 14:44

Web Extra: Quirky Houston

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Carol Barrington presented a collection of oddball Houston attractions in the January 2010 issue. Two more quirky sites follow.            

Edgy Arts

Individual expression of a higher sort headlines at DiverseWorks Art Space, a non-profit gallery cum theater that has prodded Houstonians into new ways of looking at life and contemporary art for 27 years. Expressions of assorted social messages—notions of time, ethnic relationships, cultural histories, personal roots, ecology, and so on—tend to headline here, most often presented via unique juxtapositions of visual, performing, and literary art.

This may mean creative audio accompanies you on a quest for the gallery’s restroom, a theatrical performance viewed through “peepholes,”  or an evening of food and art that features rising stars in both disciplines. Every season brings new surprises; simply reading their calendar will stretch your art horizons. Coming up: the U.S. premier January 21 of The Voyeur, the latest performance installation by Australian-based Company Clare Dyson.

Narrowing that visual art focus to cinema means catching the Aurora Picture Show. This non-profit micro-cinema curates and screens experimental and independent films and videos by new artists in various venues. You never know what to expect here; some showings are hilarious, others thought-provoking, but all put you on the cutting edge of today’s independent-flick scene. Coming up January 23: rare performance footage of ’60s soul music  by James Brown, Etta James, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Ike and Tina Turner, and many others. The screening site, the Eldorado Ballroom, adds to the evening’s time-warp; this venerable venue hosted numerous major blues and jazz performances during its 1940-1970 heyday.

—Carol Barrington

DiverseWorks Art Space, 1117 East Freeway, 713/223-8346.

Aurora Picture Show, 1524 Sul Ross (office and video library), 713/868-2101.


Friday, 18 December 2009 13:53

Web Extra: Texarkana's Mansion on Main

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See related: Texarkana: Twice as Nice!

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altTexarkana’s Mansion on Main

On my most recent adventure to Texarkana, I stayed at the charming Mansion on Main (802 Main). This Texas Historic Landmark, known as the Moores-Burke-Ragland Home, was designed by Henry Koerner, and built in 1895 by pioneer Charles Moores’ widow, Rachel, who loved to entertain. The Victorian neo-classical beauty lies in the heart of the city near the Perot Theatre, the Federal Courthouse/Post Office, Wadley Medical Center, and many of Texarkana’s shops, restaurants, and attractions. The home’s veranda, accented by towering, two-story columns, is the perfect place to relax and contemplate the past, present, and future. Gracious hosts Marilyn and Robert Costa provide helpful insider tips about what to do and where to go. The home’s interior, including five lovely guest rooms and several cozy parlors, exudes a peaceful vibe of intimacy and relaxation, and gently evokes the distinguished property’s history of three different centuries. Call 903/792-1835 or 877/535-5380.

—Marty Lange

Texarkana’s Biggest Annual Events

Jump, Jive, & Jam Fest presents live music, art, and a burger cookoff, downtown every May. Call 903/792-8681.

The Four States Fair & Rodeo happens during nine days in mid-September, starting the weekend after Labor Day. Call 870/773-2941.

Quadrangle Festival features live music along with arts and crafts, food, a 5K race, heritage fair, cheerleading competition, Battle of the Bands, street dance, and barbecue contest, downtown during mid-October. Call 903/793-4831.

Friday, 13 November 2009 08:04

Web Extra: More Oyster Tales

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More oyster tales from Robb Walsh’s Sex, Death & Oysters © 2009 Counterpoint

When water temperatures get colder at the end of the summer, oysters begin storing a carbohydrate compound called glycogen, marine biologist Dr. Sammy Ray explained. To humans, glycogen tastes like sugar. As the water gets colder, more glycogen accumulates, and the oysters get plumper and taste sweeter. Gulf oysters are at their absolute peak at the coldest part of the winter.

Misho's Oyster Company in San Leon processes tons of oysters from Galveston Bay. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)Some oyster experts are predicting that the problems caused by summer oysters will soon be resolved, not by the FDA or the oystermen, but by the insurance industry. “The handwriting is on the wall,” Lance Robinson, of Texas Parks and Wildlife, told me. At the most recent meeting of the ISSC in Texas, oystermen were warned that insurance companies may stop writing liability policies for restaurants that serve raw oysters in the summer.

“He’s right,” oyster boat captain Misho Ivic agreed. “Some kind of law is going to be passed that allows only post-harvest treated oysters to be sold in the summer. I am building a facility to freeze oysters for summer sales right now.”

I won’t be eating any of Misho’s frozen oysters. Post-harvest treated oysters are the Gulf oyster industry’s favorite new product, a half-shell oyster that is safe to eat all year round. I have sampled them all, the frozen, pressurized, and heat-treated varieties, and I can say with some authority—they all suck. Dead oysters just don’t taste the same.

I would rather wait until the winter and eat big fat oysters like the ones sitting on the table at Gilhooley’s. “How did you like the oysters?” Misho asked as I finished off the last of them. The oysters were absolutely succulent, big and fat, with a flavor that was both salty and very sweet. “I picked them out myself,” he said. Gilhooley’s is Misho’s favorite hangout, so they get his choicest oysters.

I was still savoring the flavor as I drove home. And I kept turning the story over in my head: a record oyster harvest a few miles from the Houston Ship Channel, of all places. And hardly anyone seemed to know a thing about it. Newspaperman that I am, I wondered if there were more oyster stories out there waiting to be discovered.

That’s how I got hooked.

Oyster snobs

Shortly after an oyster-boat excursion in Galveston Bay, I attended a holiday party in the Montrose neighborhood of central Houston, where I ended up in a discussion with two women, both relative newcomers to Texas. One woman was from San Francisco; the other was from Cleveland. They were complaining about the less-than-pristine beaches of nearby Galveston Island and the disgusting waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

“How could anybody swim in the oil blobs and Styrofoam floating in that ugly brown water,” the one from San Francisco asked. I smiled and shook my head amiably. Personally, I swim in that water every summer, and I have marinated my children in it for most of their lives. But if Galveston was too unsightly for the newcomers’ beach-going tastes, well then, “bless their hearts,” as we say in Texas.

I didn’t bother pointing out to Miss San Francisco that only blubbery seals and surfers in wetsuits are insulated enough to venture into the icy waters of the Pacific around San Francisco. Nor did I bother reminding Miss Cleveland that the Cuyahoga River is legendary among pollution watchers for its tendency to burst into flames.

“And who would eat oysters that come out of that water?” the San Franciscan continued. Suddenly, I felt my jaw muscles tighten and my stomach contract. Newly informed about Texas oysters, I had a strange need to defend them.

“I would,” I volunteered. “But actually the oysters don’t come from the Gulf, they come from Galveston Bay. In fact, it’s one of the most productive oyster reefs in America at the moment. And the oysters are fabulous this year.”

“Where is Galveston Bay?” the San Franciscan wanted to know.

“It’s between Kemah on the west and Anahuac on the east,” I attempted to explain, but she had no idea where I was talking about. “You know where the ships enter the Houston Ship Channel?” I continued helpfully.

“Oh, gross,” remarked a vegetarian woman who was listening in on the edge of the conversation. “So you think all those chemicals spewing out of the oil tankers give the oysters a special flavor?” Cornered now by skeptics, I felt my adrenaline begin to flow.

I still had the Texas Parks and Wildlife oyster map in my car. I considered going out to get it.

“What I resent is that I can’t get good oysters in Houston because they have so many cheap ones here,” the Californian said. “Gulf oysters are big and tough. I don’t want to chew on an oyster. I would never eat an oyster any bigger than this,” she said, making a silver-dollar-sized circle with her fingers. “I like Kumamoto oysters.”

“How much do they cost?” I asked her.

“I think the last time I had them, it was like $12 for six . . . ”

“I like cultivated oysters too,” I admitted. “They’re delicious. But six little-bitty oysters for $12? You live in the last place in America where you can get a dozen oysters for a couple of bucks—and you want to import $24-a-dozen cultivated oysters from California?”

“That’s right,” she said.

“You’re an oyster snob,” I shrugged.

“Okay,” she said. “I have no problem with that.”

I tried to put things in a cultural perspective. “You know, there were once oyster houses all over the country—Chicago, New England, Chesapeake Bay—but those places are all gone. The native oysters are all fished out in most of the United States.

“The Gulf Coast is the last place in America with wild oysters. It’s the only place where you can still sit down in an old-fashioned oyster saloon and eat oysters for pennies apiece. The end of the golden era of American oyster culture is happening right here in front of our eyes. And you still have a chance to see it,” I ranted, perhaps a little too dramatically.

The women backed away from me and struck up other conversations.

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