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Web Extra (Archive) (88)

Wednesday, 07 April 2010 08:33

Web Extra: Attwater's Prairie-Chickens

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In the May issue, New York-based writer Margaret Shakespeare, who for two decades reported on endangered species and remote destinations for Wildlife Conservation magazine, writes about Texas’ critically endangered Attwater’s prairie-chickens.

A species of grouse, Attwater’s prairie-chickens were once abundant in the coastal plains of Texas and Louisiana, but have dwindled to fewer than 90 in the wild —a result of habitat loss, predation, and numerous threats brought on by the spread of imported fire ants.

Terry Rossignol, manager of the Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge in Eagle Lake, tells me that because Attwater’s prairie-chickens nest on the grounds, scientists once believed that fire ants were killing chicks when they hatched. While this behavior has been observed, scientists now think the more immediate threat results from a depletion of the chickens’ primary food source: In areas where fire ants have invaded, there are far fewer insects to feed the chickens. Studies continue in this area, but on nesting grounds where the ants are controlled, more chicks appear to survive to adulthood.

If you’re interested in seeing the chickens, there are two places in Texas that offer opportunities to watch them in the wild—the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Refuge in Eagle Lake (979/234-3021; www.fws.gov) and the Texas City Prairie Preserve in Texas City, on Galveston Bay southeast of Houston (409/945-4677).  During mating season, typically February through April (though last year, the season extended through May), the male chickens put on quite a show—stomping their feet, inflating the orangeish-yellow air sacs on their throats, and making a sound similar to blowing across the top of a soda bottle—all to attract a mate. The lengths we animals go to! (You can hear an audio clip of this performance—called “booming” in chicken circles—on the Web site of the National Attwater Prairie Chicken National Refuge.)

As Shakespeare explains in her story, Rossignol oversees captive-breeding efforts at sites across Texas, including the Houston Zoo, the Abilene Zoo, the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, the San Antonio Zoo, Sea World San Antonio, and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, as well as Texas A&M University. At most of these sites, visitors can’t see the chickens without making special behind-the-scenes arrangements. However, we think these sites are worth your support—not only for the enjoyment you’ll experience as you witness other species of the animal kingdom, but also in recognition of the work conservationists here do in bringing the Attwater’s prairie chickens back from the brink of extinction.

—Lori Moffatt

Wednesday, 07 April 2010 08:31

Web Extra: Gruene

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In the May issue’s Postcards section, we shine a spotlight on the hamlet of Gruene—officially a historic district located in the New Braunfels city limits—which celebrates a 35-year milestone this year. Pat Molak, the businessman who purchased Gruene’s 1880s dance hall in 1975 and kicked off the area’s renovation and resurgence, tells us that festivities will continue throughout the year. Special concerts at Gruene Hall and associated events will mark the 35th anniversary of his involvement with Gruene, as well as the 35th anniversary of Gruene’s listing in the National Register of Historic Places.             


Many of Gruene’s structures—some of which were established in mid-19th-Century when Gruene was a cotton-ginning town— survive today as inns, bars, boutiques, restaurants, and shops. For example, town founder H.D. Gruene’s Victorian home now operates as the Gruene Mansion Inn, the 1870s cotton gin now operates as the Gruene River Restaurant and Bar, H.D. Gruene’s 1903 mercantile now serves as the Gruene Antique Company, and Gruene’s 1922 electric gin now houses the Mexican restaurant Adobe Verde. You’ll find plenty of information on the historic district’s Web site, www.gruenetexas.com.

—Lori Moffatt


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.


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