Off to the Press

The HoustonPress, that is. Wondering why there isn’t much to read on this post? That’s because I wrote a post for the HoustonPress’ food blog, Eating Our Words.

I’ll be writing for them on occasion, getting the background story on some of Houston’s old-timers. Restaurants, not peeps. I’ll be checking out restaurants that have been around for at least 20 years and still rocking.

Go on! Go to Eating Our Words¬†and look me up! Then stay there, but don’t forget to come back. jiji

Cookingly yours (even if elsewhere),

Here’s a taste.


Challenges, challenges, challenges!

I told you there would be an opportunity for you to play along in the Marx Foods challenge. It’s about that time, my friends. Voting time. Go check out all the incredible entries for the Ridiculously Delicious Challenge, there’s some really good stuff there. Then pick a recipe and vote for it. 15 participants will move on to the next round. Hurry, go vote!

aaaaaaaand…, it’s Wednesday! That means I have an entry for Shutterboo’s photo challenge. The theme this week was Large. What do you think? Go here to see this week’s submission.

There were rides and games.

Largely yours,


PS: Don’t forget to vote!

If there’s wine…, they will come

A few weeks ago, The Hubbz, The Pup and I took a few days off to visit the Texas Hill Country. If you followed my tweets that week, you know that we started off in San Antonio. A required stop whenever¬†there, is Chris Madrid’s. Who is Chris Madrid? I have NO clue, but they make the best burger in the world in his honor (or hers, if Chris is short for Christina).

The Tostada Burger¬†is simply the most ingeniously delicious burger you’ll ever eat. It starts with the buns, which I think must be homemade and taste like a brioche. The buns are then stuffed with a homemade all beef patty (you can tell its homemade because the shape is all irregular and imperfect). Not much seasoning on the beef, just fresh, juicy stuff. Then comes a smear of homemade refried¬†beans, a handful of broken tortilla chip pieces. Then it happens. Cheddar cheese. A thick, almost vulgar blob of melted cheddar sits on top. And to crown it all,¬† about a tablespoons of chopped sweet TX onions. Ay bendito! Its crazy; its good, its crazy good!

After stuffing our faces, we were Fredricksburg, TX bound.¬†I made¬†reservations a little motel just on the edge of town, this was my first time staying at a roadside motel. The Country Inn & Cottages¬†was a simple, quaint little motel with tiny, but¬†√ľber clean and comfortable rooms and an open heart for dogs. ‘Nuff said.

That was the extent of my trip prep, another first for me. I usually know every attraction, restaurant, hot spot and gas station available at my intended destination. Not this¬†time. I really enjoyed not having the pressure of a fully planned itinerary…, this time. One thing I did know, was there was wine. Lots and lots of local wine. Tastings began Saturday.

I’m going to list these as a countdown, leaving our absolute favorite for last. Before we get started, I want to say we did not have a single glass of bad wine. In fact, we bought bottles upon bottles at each of¬† these wineries, but there were definitely some incredible wines out there and each winery had a different feeling.

Grape Creek Vineyards ~ This is a gorgeous place, they’ve set it up to look and feel like a winery would in Tuscany. There’s a grand entrance and a beautiful patio with a fountain. The attendants were a bit stuffy for our taste, but the wine was lovely.

We each sampled a couple of different wines and settled on: the Cuvee Blanc, Mosaic and the Grand Rouge.

Fredricksburg Winery ~ this winery sits right on the main drag. Like many of the wineries in the area, it is a family business. We walked up to the counter and chatted it up with the attendant who was a Houston transplant (we bumped into lots of those here). We ended up with 2 bottles: one of each. A Vintners¬†Cuvee and the most amazingly flavorful spiced red. I’ve never had spiced or mulled wine, you know, the stuff that is served warm? But OMG! I couldn’t stop smelling it or drinking it. Now I’m waiting for the temps to drop again so I can polish off¬† our bottle.

Torre di Pietra ~ This winery sits right next to Grape Creek, but it was much more low-key. After our tastings, we just sat outside enjoying the sun, the cool wind and wine. It was just heavenly.

They have this Tango Port that is just unbelievable, and¬†I’m not even a fan of the stuff. However, for us, there were 2 clear winners here: Amore¬†di Toscano, a lovely almost chocolatey¬†blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Syrah. When he poured this one, he told me he called it ‘Trouble’, man, was he right. The second bottle we brought home was their Late Harvest Zin…, oh my. This guy is oh so yummy and kinda raunchy in the best possible way. Here’s a description of all of their wines.

The last winery is our favorite. Chisholm Trail Winery¬†is located just outside Fredricksburg. It may be out in the middle of nowhere, but their wines are full of life, personality and sass. Rebecca was our tasting expert and she explained and answered every question we had and even the ones we didn’t ask.

She told us about Paula’s passion for wine and her very personal approach when mixing the grapes. She told us all about Lenoir grapes, a TX-specific crop, and how it tints the wines and makes them oh so dark and rich looking. She was honest about her favorite wines, about how some needed a bit more time to mature and come into their own. Rebecca left us unwilling to leave and wanting to throw caution to the air, pack our bags and never leave that little town. Thanks, Rebecca!

The Hubbz and I loved every wine we tasted at Chisholm, but were sucker-punched by 3 in particular.

Diablo, what a devil this one is. A blend of Lenoir and Syrah grapes, it is spicy, rich, sweet, dark. Very, very dark.

Lone Wolf. This one got them a gold medal. It is made from 100% TX grown Lenoir grapes and it just explodes in your mouth. Our third choice was a Bella Star a tasty white.

Beer is also big in this area, there are a few breweries in Fredricksburg¬†and the whole Hill Country region. If you haven’t already, add it to your list of places to see. You will not regret it.

Oh, did I mention this…?

Buzzily yours,

How Fredricksburg, Texas changed my mind.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m a city girl. Through and through, die hard¬†fan of cramped spaces, tall buildings and a store for any and every whim within a mile. I’ve never subscribed to the phrase ‘the great outdoors’, understood the need for great open spaces¬†or been able to relax out in small town USA. If there isn’t a¬†Target within 2 or 3 miles from my home, I think I would break into hives and hyperventilate. Granted, I don’t know for sure if that would happen, because I’ve never taken that chance; there are 2 Target stores within 3 miles of my home.

That said, I have been known to pay the occasional visit to small towns. I check out the oft-manmade charming towns, hit the usual haunts and try to mingle with the locals. I usually get all this done in 2 or 3 days tops, any longer and I begin experiencing urban life withdrawals. But the Hubbz and I needed a few days off and I was due in San Antonio for business, the perfect segue.

Fredricksburg is one of many small towns making up the Texas Hill Country. We drove through San Antonio and the outskirts of a few of the hill country towns before coming up on our final destination. As soon as you approach San Antonio, you will notice how the terrain changes from flat open spaces to hilly irregular areas. This may seem like an insignificant point if you live surrounded by hills and/or mountains, but if you live in Houston, the only time you look up is to see the top of a building. There are no hills to speak of. Flatlands rule here.

I am dismayed to say I didn’t take a lot of pictures on this trip. Dodo, my bestie, still cannot believe it. *I* cannot believe it. Photos were an afterthought, if that.¬†I came back with something like 15 shots total, but I was so happy, relaxed and thrilled here, that I didn’t find the need to take a single shot of the town.¬†Why would I take pictures of the next place I plan to call home? After all,¬†I’ll see it everyday in a few years. Here’s wishing.

Bottom line is, I LOVED Fredericksburg. It is quaint and quiet. It is full of charm, but most of all, it is real. It’s not another made up town, where every other storefront looks the same. The spirit of the community is live and well here. Everyone seems to¬†know each other and they are so friendly and proud of what they’ve created¬†preserved. Whenever I thought of a small town, I pictured some dilapidated, worn out, dried out town. But Fredricksburg is fresh and clean and cute without trying or even meaning to.

One of the big draws to this area is the Wine Trail. Yep, you heard it here first, there are over 50 wineries up and down the region. In fact, this area is being touted as the 2nd fastest growing wine region in the US. And if there’s wine, there is me. It’s a rule. We hit only 4 vineyards of more than 50 currently opened in the Hill Country. We managed to come up with some favorites, so check out my next post. It’salmost¬† all about wine.

Small town yours,

Funk be gone.

Not sure why, but I’m in¬†a blogging funk. Not a cooking funk, mind you, just blogging. To ease it, I took myself on a nature date, which is funny because I’m a consummate city girl. But since Spring is springing, I thought I’d go on¬†a hunt for bluebonnets.

Bluebonnets are Texas’ state flower and they are as elusive as they are¬†beautiful. I think Houston’s weather is too wacky to allow them to be in bloom for a reasonable amount of time, so when you hear word that they’re springing, you have to act fast. And act I did.

After a quick search for the best spots, I grabbed my camera and hit the road towards Burton, TX. Traffic was mercifully light, but there were lots of people pulling up on the side of the road, babies and toddlers dressed up and sitting amidst the blooms. Dangerous practice and an illegal one, but heck, TX is cowboy land.

I found Burton after taking a few scenic detours and was tickled by the quaint little town.

Standing in the blaring sun I found myself thinking how cute it would be to live in a town like it. Of course, I quickly came back to city girl reality and mocked myself.

I saw cute store fronts.

An old railway station.

Beautiful classics.


lots of bluebonnets.

And wildflowers.

Nature’s own Monet painting.

On a sidenote, someone REALLY should’ve mentioned the inordinate amount of bugs that hang out with the pretty flowers. I’m amazed my shots were steady.


If you liked these pictures, go to my photostream, there are LOTS more.

What’s blooming in your neck of the woods?