Saturday, May 31, 2008

Quickie Review #22: Orange Cup Frozen Yogurt

Question: Is your dessert doing all it could be doing for you? Sure, everyone wants a very tasty dessert, and far too often, healthy food is synonymous with a taste not unlike new-shirt cardboard. Why can't there be a sweet treat that lowers cholesterol, improves digestion, and picks winners for you at Lone Star Park? Well, the founders of Orange Cup Frozen Yogurt make all of the above promises (except the horse race winners, of course), and since their product is filled with live and active cultures, their somewhat astonishing claims just very well may turn out to be true. I dropped in on their Northpark Mall location, where the delightful Hazel took me on a guided tour of their menu.

The Orange Cup Yogurt dessert process (the name Orange Cup derives not from the fact that the founders are University of Texas at Austin graduates, but from the positive energy and feelings generated by the color orange) starts with the Essentials, three base flavors of yogurt to which toppings may be added. The natural is, of course, the unflavored variety, but rest assured, this Jane is anything but plain. I was surprised by the chewy texture and slight hints of vanilla. The zum contains real orange juice and delivers a robust splash of acid. Finally, the acaiberry (pronounced ah-sigh-berry) boasts blackberry and pomegranite flavors and was my favorite of the three. I then ordered a small cup of the acaiberry with blackberries, raspberries, walnuts, and dark chocolate pieces added as toppings. Called extras, these additions (of which there are fifteen in all, including almonds, strawberries, and even Fruity Pebbles) add lots of flavor but surprisingly few calories: there were only 158 in my small cup, which was packed with flavor. Service was quick and quite friendly, and the place was packed at 2PM on a Friday afternoon, so word is spreading fast. Read all about them at, and look for them to be coming to a mall (Stonebriar, Galleria) or freestanding store near you soon. Try a healthy bite soon, and of course:


Food Czar Revisit #3: Steve Field's Steak & Lobster Lounge

If you're a fan of a restaurant, you need to join their internet club. This way, you get put on their priority lists for newsletters, special events, and most important, any special offers or deals that the restaurant cares to send you. Most of the time, this will take the form of a free appetizer or dessert. Steve Fields, however, marches to the beat of a different drummer, so his offer was considerably more generous. Remembering our excellent Restaurant Week experience last year, and with an anniversary fast approaching, my lovely wife the Rock Star and I booked our reservations through the marvelous Open Table reservation system (you should check them out as well,, as they have a point system you can use to become eligible for free goodies), and made our way through the Wilds of Greater Plano on the appointed date, taking care to state in our online reservation that this was indeed our anniversary.

This time, we were led to a four-person booth (I much prefer these to the two-person jobs because the latter can sometimes get a little tight for space, particularly on the table top), where the delightful and perky Amanda took charge of us. Let me mention right here and now that Steve Fields Steak & Lobster Lounge takes a back seat to no one in terms of service. Before the evening was over, we were visited by Amanda, the Maitre'D (no, I did not catch his name due to creeping senility), several efficient busboys, and The Man Himself, who is one of the most genial and effusive front-of-house men that I have ever encountered. Truly, they cared about us at Steve Fields.

After perusing the wine list, we decided on the Foris Rogue Valley Pinot Noir, an excellent and sensible selection that proved to pair equally well with seafood as beef. For starters, my wife could not pass up the Caesar salad, complete with anchovies, which added a delightful salty fishiness. I selected the chicken tortilla soup, a peppery, uncomplicated potage which is obviously meant to accompany the meal, not overpower it. Very nice. Then, after a few slices of the excellent bread and olive oil, our entrees arrived in due course. (Amanda did a great job in leisurely pacing our repast.) The Rock Star adores sea bass (I'm sure the feeling is mutual.) and was very pleased with the firm texture and taste of her entree, not to mention garlic mashed potatoes, and to her particular delight, grilled asparagus. For me, I could not pass up the prime rib, served perfectly rare as requested, well marbled and with a loaded jumbo baked potato on the side. We had a marvelous time with dining and conversation until the end when Steve himself crowned our delight with a complimentary dessert, the justly-famous chocolate caramel buttercream cake. A few bites of this delicacy almost made us high, so we had Amanda deftly box up our leftovers and happily cruised home. Website is, and we vowed not to let so much time go by without another visit. Stop by yourself soon, and remember:


Cellar Selection #3: Dry Comal Creek Vineyards Black Spanish

If Texas vineyards were horses, than Dry Comal Creek must surely be a mustang. Feral, untamed, calling no one master, this winery definitely takes the road less traveled. Log on to their excellent website at, and you will find that besides the usual suspects such as cab and shiraz, they offer such vino esoterica as french colombard, white port, and this outstanding varietal made from a native Texas grape which is immune to both Pierce's disease and phyloxera. In short, one mighty tough grape which makes one mighty good wine, as in Dry Comal Creek Black Spanish Dark Red Lenoir wine.

The robe of the Dry Comal Creek Black Spanish is that of Sun-Maid Raisins, so well remembered from childhood. The nose is dusty black currant, the trace of dust odor being a signature of Dry Comal Creek reds. The taste? BAM!!! (As Emeril would say.) In other words, the palate pops with a plethora of flavors; I distinctly detect cocoa, Columbian coffee, dewberry (how appropriate for a Texas wine), raspberry, and towering over all, blackberry for days. This wine makes one fabulous quaff on its own, or it can be paired famously with rare prime rib and Hill Country BBQ. Again, website is, and I wish more stores in North Texas carried their superlative line. Drink a toast to all wild things soon, and as always:


Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Final day of roadtrip. Time to head 'em up and move 'em out, as they used to say on Rawhide. (Rawhide was a Western that Clint Eastwood starred in when he was young. Yes, Clint Eastwood was ACTUALLY YOUNG ONCE!!!) Dependable Molly knocked on the door around nine with herb quiche, fruit cup (with bananas instead of grapefruit), orange juice, and best of all, raspberry bread pudding! Yay!! I hope she makes it again the next time we visit. After breakfast, we finished the business of packing and loading, and headed out 290 East, to a place recommended by Molly just the day before.


May is the start of peach season in the Hill Country and accordingly, Vogel Orchards is open from May to August. In true small-town fashion, Vogel Orchards is conveniently located next to Vogel Tractors (yes, they are owned by the same family), a business that I'm sure helps sustain the Vogels year-round. We pulled off the main road and parked and began to examine the fruit. Peaches are quickly perishable, so we decided to forego their nectarinesh deliciousness (is nectarinesh a word?) and instead opted to purchase the peach preserves and peach butter. The next day, we made biscuits for breakfast and served them with the homemade preserves. Wonderfully sweet with a touch of tartness, Vogel's peaches make good eatin'. However, if peaches (or preserves) aren't your thing, don't despair: Vogel also offers plum jelly, blackberry jelly, fig preserves, and other fruits and vegetables, as well as peach cobbler and peach butter ice cream if you show up in person. Website for all this bliss is If you decide you're in need of a tractor instead, that website is

After a couple of stops for gas and such, we decided to motor home. However, kolaches and cupcakes were once again calling our name. Deciding that Gerik's was probably closed, as it was Sunday, we headed for another familiar place.


Joining the throng inside this nonstop kingdom of kolaches, I once again opted for the breakfast sausage with cheese, which was thoroughly tasty as usual. (They do use Gerik's meats and advertise as such.) My lovely bride opted for the fresh-iced chocolate cupcakes, which were quite moist and delicious. Although I still prefer Geriks, Little Czech Bakery is a great alternative whenever Gerik's isn't open, as they are part of the Czech Stop family. Website:

Full and satisfied, we happily continued on to our North Texas home. Hopefully, we'll be able to revist Central Texas soon. Plan your own visit ASAP, and as always:


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Day Two of our Tax Stimulus Check Roadtrip began auspiciously enough with one of Molly's classic gourmet hot breakfasts. Quiche, cranberry bread, fruit cup (my lovely wife the Rock Star wrinkled up her nose at this because of the grapefruit in the cup. Me, I love grapefruit.), and orange juice got our day off to a great start around nineish. Then, after a bit of relaxation, internet surfing, and reading the visitors guide put out by the Fredericksburg Standard Radio Post (that thing was as thick as my arm or a copy of War and Peace), we soon headed out the door and made our way along Hwy 290 East, attracted by lust for the grape.


Nestled along what could easily be called Winery Row along 290 East of Fredericksburg, Torre Di Pietra must surely be on anyone's list of Hill Country Wineries to try. After a bit of wandering around the tasting room, we got down to business and approached the tasting bar. A very young and very knowledgeable miss was presiding over the tasting room. Although we were delighted by our taste of the Dirty Girl (chardonnay) white wine, we knew that Torre di Pietra specialized in full-bodied reds and conducted our tasting accordingly. We longed to try the Petite Syrah, but at $100 a bottle decided not to yield to temptation but instead selected the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Classico (a rich red blend of Cabernet, Carignane, Sangiovese, and Syrah), and the aforementioned Dirty Girl for purchase. One or more of these wines will surely be featured in Wine Corners soon enough, as we found Torre di Pietra to be one of the more impressive Hill Country vineyards we have visited to date. Website is

We stowed our purchase safely away in our PT Cruiser and motored back toward Fredericksburg to a wine tasting room we have previously enjoyed.


Bell Mountain Vineyards are located on the slopes of Bell Mountain (natch) and though they boast a Fredericksburg address, they are actually situated fourteen miles north of the city on Hwy 16 halfway to Llano. Since this put them at a disadvantage when it came to competing with wineries such as Becker and Grape Creek, which are much closer to the city, a few years ago they opened a tasting room along Winery Row, the better to troll for business. Once again, we entered the rustic room and proceeded straight to business, tasting and selecting three delightful tipples: the Cabernet Sauvignon (a good year for Cabs, methinks), the Chardonnay (ditto), and one of BMV's fun Vina Rita series, the Rita Colada (wine blended with pina colada flavors, perfect for summer; the Vina Rita Margarita is excellent as well). Website is

Once again stowing our purchases safely in the back, we headed on down the highway. Destination: Llano, Texas, where we would dine at a fabled joint in business since 1945 and well known all over the state.


What, you were expecting Coopers maybe? What do they do, make barrells?? Seriously, we had intended to lunch at Llanos most famous BBQ restaurant, but in my trip planning, I had forgotten that it was Saturday on a holiday weekend. We pulled into the parking lot only to be confronted by a line snaking around the building and growing by the second. After a moment's consultation, we realized that we might not eat before midafternoon and so backtraced our steps to the Llano town square. Perusing our choices, we noticed that Stonewalls had the air of a local joint, and indeed it is a hangout for the Llano High School Yellowjacket sports squads and all the teams who come to town to do battle. (Indeed, their graffiti covers the walls. So you see, Stonewalls is indeed known all over the state and has been a family-run operation since 1945. I was not kidding in my above description.) Roomy and comfortable, Stonewalls does indeed offer wings, as well as burgers, pasta, seafood and sandwiches, but when we saw the pizzas moving to and fro, we realized we had to try the pepperoni. Hand-tossed and with a slightly spicy sauce, Stonewall's pizza was better than most of the ones I've tried in Dallas and has won numerous area awards to prove it. We chowed down famously, enjoying not only the food but the sight of numeous local patrons garbed in turn-of-last-century clothing, as a frontier reenactment was in progress as part of the holiday festivities. No website, call 325 248-0500 for any questions.

Quite satisfied with our new find, we puttered back to Camp David for a couple hours relaxation. Soon enough we heard Happy Hour call our name and felt obliged to answer.


We had enjoyed this place back in November, but I had decided that I wanted to investigate a new place for dinner; still the Rock Star loves this bar/restaurant/music venue, so we decided to explore its back biergarten. Since it was a hot day, we settled near a very rustic Corona beer fountain (complete with koi pond) and ordered Shiners. My wife enjoyed her Shiner Lite, while I was intrigued by the Bohemian Black Lager and decided to try it. Very similar to Guiness Stout with a slight whisper of maltiness, this darkest of Shiners was quite refreshing indeed. By the way, Silver Creek still has no formal website; try For more info on Shiner Beers, will meet your needs.

After a relaxing hour or so, we headed just steps down the block for a truly cool experience.


With a name that means "root cellar" in English, Rathskeller is located several feet below Fredericksburg's busy main street, making it a welcome cool respite on this hot day. We dined on upscale comfort food: My bride enjoyed her chicken-fried chicken, much-better-than average mashed potatoes, and steamed veggies, while I was thoroughly pleased by my medium-rare hanger steak, Italian spinach soup, and the same potatoes and veggies, all washed down with Becker's delightful Cabernet Sauvignon. Informal and inviting rather than pretentious and stuffy, Rathskeller also serves breakfast and lunch and can be reached at 830 990-5858.

Completely satisfied, my wife and I motored back to Camp David, intending to spend the rest of the evening there. However, while enjoying wine on the front porch, we heard the sounds of incredible blues music from just across the street and felt we had to investigate.


Son of the late Texas artist Charles Beckendorf, Ben is a very skilled painter himself and makes his living that way. Years ago, he heard the siren song of the blues, got road fever, toured and played with such luminaries as Johnny Shines and John Hammond, and on Saturday evenings hosts his own blues concerts in the back yard of his gallery home. Better still, all are invited! His delightful wife, who later confided she's the boss of the place, led us on a gallery tour, plied us with wine and munchies, and led us to the backyard festivites. For over an hour, we enjoyed the sounds of this thoroughly unpretentious man, who skillfully answered requests and bantered playfully with his audience, all from the comfort of his back porch and gazebo. The Rock Star was beside herself: How often does one get invited spontaneously to a concert like this? (She also made plans to return later and purchase one of his guitar paintings when she receives her bonus.) In short, such a delightful, talented man deserves his place in the sun. Check him out at his websites: for music, for art.

Soon enough, the concert ended and we made our happy way across the street and to our comfy beds, determined to wrap up our adventures on the morrow. Remember:


Monday, May 26, 2008


I don't know about you, but I've already spent my Tax Stimulus check. You see, my lovely wife The Rock Star and I have been through a lot in the last few months, so the above money was like manna from heaven, and just right for a Food Czar Roadtrip. (Well, half of it was anyway; my lovely bride had plans for the other half and demanded that I divest myself of it forthwith. I guess I was lucky she allowed me to keep any of it!) Rather than reinvent the wheel, particularly since our last Central Texas trip to New Braunfels had proven on the whole disappointing, we decided to return to our old familiar digs at Fredericksburg and barbecue, wine, live music, and whatever other trouble we could scare up. Accordingly, on Memorial Day Friday, we set off down ancient and dilapidated I35 for breakfast at a now-familiar town.


One of these days, we may actually think of eating breakfast somewhere other than West, Texas, the little Czech community a dozen miles north of Waco, but that day has not arrived yet. Walked in and once again stepped back in time. Large cupcakes, kolaches, and bubkas (cakes). This time I opted for the ground sausage kolache with cheese. Excellent, but I still prefer the soft, buttery texture of the breakfast sausage with cheese. My wife opted for the link sausage kolache and we both agreed that Geriks was still better than the Czech Stop. The owner, for her part, was telling some other customers about a man who came down from Dallas and was getting on her case for charging $1.50 per kolache. Are you kidding??? These little bits of heaven are cheap at twice the price, in Dallas you'd be lucky to get them for under $3. I resisted the urge to find this gentleman and ring his neck, and instead we merged once again with the traffic heading toward another familiar stop in Taylor, Texas. Oh by the way, Geriks still has no website (and will probably never need one), so call 254 826-3309.


Again, passing by this haven of Central Texas BBQ, which just happens to be the Rock Star's favorite 'cue, is unthinkable, so we made our way to this former girl's gym/grocery store, which was just recently named one of the Top 5 BBQ joints in the state by Texas Monthly. My wife was indeed fortunate they still had her favorite BBQ turkey (they often run out early), while I noticed a sign for Pork Shoulder Steak. Intrigued, I ordered one. Look out! Tender, succulent, and juicy, it was the best barbecue I'd had since Cooper's double-cut pork chop six months before. A little potato salad and a lot of bread and we were good to go. Luckily, my wife remembered to pack the cooler, so we would not waste any leftovers. Website is, of course,

Inspired by a recent article in the Dallas Morning News, we then headed south to Elgin, Texas in search of some legendary sausage.


This rather large meat market, restaurant, and sausage production plant is conveniently located along Hwy 290, which meant that we could drive straight thru Austin and on to Fredericksburg. We were plenty full from Louie Mueller, but knew that sausage paired with cheese and crackers would make a great midafternoon snack. Accordingly, we ordered a pound and served it after our arrival with Club crackers and good old rat cheese. Once known as Elgin Hot Guts, I would call Southside's sausage mildly peppery at best. Still, it was delicious, so much so that my wife proclaimed it the best sausage she had ever put in her mouth. They have plenty of food, including desserts, if you wish to make a meal of it, and their website is

Soon enough, we reached our traditional lodgings in Fredericksburg, choosing to stay in a new space in a familiar B and B.


When we began planning this trip back in April, we discovered to our horror that someone had pinched our favorite cabin Sycamore, and that the only space in Camp David still available was the Pecan Suite. Accordingly, we pulled up to the Main Street address, and with help from Molly the delightful innkeeper, soon located the suite on the front of the house. The Pecan Suite is certainly roomy enough, with two bedrooms, bathroom, and large front sitting room, yet there was no jacuzzi tub as in the cottages; worse, it had no kitchen, just a small coffeepot and refrigerator. (A kitchen really comes in handy, especially the sink.) Nevertheless, the suite was quite comfortable, and a quick trip to HEB for ice, paper plates, glasses and plasticware took care of our remaining needs.

After a couple of hours rest, we decided to renew acquaintance with a favorite bar/live music venue within walking distance of Camp David.


Hondo Crouch was a writer, humorist, and owner and mayor of Luckenback, Texas, and is credited, along with Waylon Jennings and Jerry Jeff Walker, with putting that tiny hamlet on the map. Today, his youngest daughter carries on his legacy with Hondos on Main, a bar which serves tastier food than most restaurants and has great live music to boot. The entire operation is self-serve: You grab a menu as you walk in, then proceed to the bar to order food and drink. The Rock Star is a club sandwich fanatic and usually orders the Cedarstacker Club, but this time, she was in the mood for salad and could not resist the Bacon Cheeseburger Salad. Plenty of mixed lettuce, cheese, tomato, bacon and croutons were served with tomato salsa vinagrette and ranch dressing and, most important, lots of medium-rare beef added up to one substantial salad indeed. For myself, I heard the Tex Mex Red (Stacked) Enchiladas calling my name: Corn tortillas with cheddar and soft cheeses, fresh onions, stacked high and baked with ancho and New Mexican chili sauce, then covered with Terlingua Beef Chili, more cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, and served with salsa and chips. Absolutely irresistable, and I didn't even try, but shoveled it all happily in my mouth. Website for this Texana paradise is We also enjoyed beers and the terrific live Texas music, but in an hour or so, our get-up-and-go kind of got-up-and-went, and we walked happily back to our B & B, eager for more adventures on the morrow. And of course, we did not forget:


Quickie Review #21: Mooyah Burgers & Fries

I first encountered Mooyah some six months or so ago, just after it opened. I was pleased by the freshness of the product, the simplicity of the menu, and the army of courteous counter attendants. I resolved to rush right home and blog about them. Then, I did some market research, which revealed that Everybody And His Dog was writing about Mooyah! And if there's one thing my faithful readers (both of you) know, it is that I consistently take The Road Less Traveled. So, I decided to cool my heels awhile, wait a few months until the furor died down, and then revisit Mooyah and see if the story was still the same. Well, it's now Memorial Day, otherwise known as one of the great Hamburger Holidays on the calendar, so it seemed a perfect time to check up on this new/old friend and see how he was doing.

Phoned in my order, which was taken by a very friendly and thorough miss ("please tell me EXACTLY what you want on your junior Mooyah cheeseburger, sir"), then boogied over to the original location at Park and Chapel Hill in Plano to pick it up. Same army of courteous attendants still using the Welcome to Mooyah greeting. Same fresh, wonderful burgers, with their slightly-sweet buns, fresh produce, and lean beef. Same excellent flavor, similar to California's fabled In-N-Out chain, but with notable differences, including those sweet buns. Same great french fries, fresh-cut in-store and fried until crispy (I hate limp fries!), just slightly oversalted. In short, a chain and a concept with such excellent quality that I could never bear to call it fast food. My lovely wife the Rock Star and I thoroughly scarfed down our junior cheeseburgers (which were still quite substantial) and split an order of regular fries and had plenty left over. Great quality and value for the money. Website is, which now boasts online and text message ordering. Can you stand it? I predict nothing but success for Mooyah. Come see what all the fuss is about, and don't forget:


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Adventures in Dining #2: Wildflower Festival

My ever-lovely wife the Rock Star is a true polished gem throughout the year, but she really sparkles during the month of May. Winter is long over, spring is coming to an end, and her favorite season, summer, is just around the corner. She and I also celebrate our anniversary in May. (I hope she still enjoys that; I sure do spend enough money to make sure she does!) Finally, her very favorite festival of all takes place in May. The State Fair of Texas? We only go once every three or four years at best. North Texas Irish Festival? Excellent, but still not in the ballpark. No, our own pet gathering of the entire North Texas Festival Calendar takes place in mid-May in Galatyn Park hard by the Countrywide buildings, the Wildflower Festival, named for the beautiful native flowers preserved all over the city as a point of civic pride.

Like its kissing cousin every fall in Fair Park, the Richardson festival features crafts, exibits, vendors with wares for sale, great food, and most important, LIVE MUSIC. But while the Grande Dame of October shows her age a little more each year, the Richardson festival retains a cleanness and freshness totally unknown by its Southern cousin. Best of all, those of us who inhabit the Northern Metroplex environs barely have to travel south of George Bush or north of LBJ to enjoy its delightful charms. So, on a recent Friday evening, I drove my lovely wife and her sister the Wild Thing out to the festival site. Bonus: They happened to be in possession of 3-Day VIP passes, courtesy of their brother The Master Builder. (Unfortunately, his considerable influence was not enough to score me my own VIP pass, but that was OK: the best feature of the coveted pass, besides the free drink tickets, was a parking pass enabling us to park in the ultra-close Blue Parking Garage.)


Tons of booths featuring vendors hawking their wares. Several forms of street entertainment, from steel drum bands to tumblers, all of it good. Plenty of food and drink concessions. Best of all: four performance venues featuring singer-songwriters, acoustic acts, up-and-coming local bands, and established name stars with an emphasis on the music of Baby Boomers. Needless to say, the three of us were in hog heaven. Since we were most interested in the national acts, we took care to get there just as the gates opened, the better to pitch our portable chairs and blankets in one of the choicest spots in the natural grass-covered amphittheatre overlooking the main stage. Speaking of which, here are a few tips to ensure you get the most merriment:

1. ARRIVE AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. The better to get a great spot. You will need to
bring your own lawn chairs.

2. If you are claustrophobic at all, DO NOT camp out at the Main Stage during prime time.
People will be seated cheek-by-jowl during the hours when the headline acts are featured.
(Generally about 8-11PM Friday and Saturday nights.)

3. BE PATIENT. The longer you wait to get in line for food and drink, the longer the lines will
be. Also, people will often STAND smack dab in the middle of the sidewalks; you will have
to negotiate your way with care.

4. TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED. For instance, people will usually seek out the most
crowded areas for restrooms and refreshments. A little exploring will go a long way
toward ensuring you have a happier festival.

After setting up, I decided to do a little exploring on my own to see what I could rustle up for dinner.


Okay, this will seem like heresy to seasoned State Fair goers, but I have a confession to make: Corny dogs DO NOT rock my world. Yes, they are available at Wildflower, but why should I take what amounts to a rather ordinary breaded hot dog on a stick when Pizza By the Slice was waiting with a very large, fresh, just-out-of-the-oven slice of pepperoni pizza for only $5? No, it wasn't quite as good as Fireside Pies, but the hot slice was perfectly crispy and chewy, with plenty of pepperoni and sauce, and kept me perfectly satisfied for hours. Soon enough, the Rock Star saw my slice and decided to join me in my pizza quest. Her sister the Wild Thing opted for Marios Gyros, a heavenly concoction of lamb, peppers, onions and tzatziki sauce that was so thoroughly appetizing that we decided to join her a few hours later. (My spouse's gyro was chicken, not lamb, and although she enjoyed it she wished later that she would have gotten lamb.) So at Wildflower, as with most festivals, freshly-prepared street food was the order of the day, and it made me wish that street food was available year-round in our neck of the woods.


As I said earlier, the quality of entertainment is very high, the food is great and the beer is cold. What more reason do you need? This year's festival lasts thru Sunday, May 18th and the website is Take a swing by there while it lasts, and as always:


Friday, May 16, 2008

Wine Corner Review #22: Chateau St. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc

Chateau St. Michelle winery is tucked away amidst rolling hills and trees in a beautiful suburb of Seattle. Wine Enthusiast magazine named its tasting room one of the very best. My lovely wife the Rock Star and I visited this old-school, campus-like facility last year on a morning filled with mist and magic. Some of this magic is captured in every bottle of wine, and one of the most delightful and affordable is the Chateau St. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc.

The robe of the Chateau St. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc is a pale peachy pineapple. Inhale the nose and get a whiff of minerals, specifically flint and gravel, reminding us once again that Sauvignon Blanc is the traditional white wine of the mineral-rich soil of Bordeaux. Citrus springs onto your palate, tangarine and nectarine, lime and lemon, almost too many fruits to mention, with a tart, pleasing finish. This delightful white works well with fettucini alfredo, chicken florentine, and other summer Italian goodies. Website is You may be most familiar with their budget line of champaigns; rest assured, this winery will meet your needs at all price points and levels. Pick up a bottle of your choice soon, and remember:


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Quickie Review #20: Cowboy Chicken

Riding along in my automobile (as Chuck Berry would have it) on Park Blvd. just west of the Tollway a few short weeks ago, I noticed a new structure with a sign that proclaimed it to be the new home of Cowboy Chicken. I immediately thought of Boston Market and how my lovely wife the Rock Star and I used to enjoy their rotisserie chicken and roasted turkey breast when we lived in our old neighborhood. Sadly, our new neighborhood had none close at hand, so I made a mental note to try Cowboy Chicken whenever it opened. Then, Donna Chen (of Donna Cooks fame) reported in her blog that it had indeed opened and was a "more Texan and much better" version of Boston Market. As it turned out, the Rock Star was away on personal business the very next day, leaving me on my own for lunch. Therefore, as the 1PM hour drew near (unlike nine out of ten people, I rarely eat lunch at straight-up noon because I hate fighting crowds), I made my way down Park (in this case, I did have a particular place to go!) and pulled up to a parking lot full of cars from hungry patrons celebrating the restaurants Grand Opening.

After quickly scanning the menu, I decided on the three piece dark chicken platter with two sides and a roll. The chicken was very good, moist and tender, but I felt it needed a little barbecue sauce to make it perfect. The sides were outstanding, particularly the award-winning twice baked potaters, loaded with butter, sour cream, and cheese. I also enjoyed the ranchero beans, pintos flavored with herbs and jalapenos and a great accompanyment to my Texas-style meal. Only the almost-flavorless roll was a true disappointment. Cowboy Chicken boasts a number of other menu items I'm dying to try, including chicken enchiladas, chicken salads, and homemade peach cobbler for dessert, a la mode if you wish. Website is and they have a loyalty club you can sign up for to get coupons and free goodies. I'm looking forward to introducing my lovely bride to Cowboy Chicken very soon indeed. Introduce your family as well, and remember:


Friday, May 9, 2008

Food Czar Revisit #2: Silks at Lone Star Park

If you remember my original review of Silks back in November, you may recall that although I would love to visit every weekend during racing season, there are two days during the year that I virtually NEVER miss: Breeder's Cup Day in October and Kentucky Derby Day the first Saturday in May. Tickets for Silks always go on sale in March and Derby Day is so popular that if you do not call the ticket office right when it opens, you may miss out on tickets. On the appointed day, I tried calling the office for two hours and no luck! How could I possibly update my review of Silks, which I had named one of my Top Ten Restaurants of 2007? Responding to my plea, Sales Manager Don Feneziani stepped up to the plate and obtained the coveted ducats for me. So early on May 3rd, my lovely wife the Rock Star, my good friend the Rock and myself all headed to Lone Star Park, bent on a full day of wagering, eating and fun.

We arrived upstairs just after 10:30 AM to a half-empty restaurant. Although Silks did indeed fill up a couple of hours later, the folks who arrived in the PM were in danger of missing out on the restaurants famed Omelet Bar, which was already in full swing. After giving our drink orders to the efficient Kelly, who took good care of us throughout the day, the three of us headed upstairs (Silks is built stairstep-fashion on multiple levels; if you have mobility issues, please let them know when you order tickets) where two smiling, good-natured gentlemen in toques made us the deliciously eggy creations. Choose your ingredients from red and green bell peppers, mushrooms, ham, sausage, bacon, and cheese, then watch chef work. (Again, be sure to tip him a buck or two for his efforts. He's worth it!) The thoroughly delicious, nutricious omelets are among the best creations Silks has to offer, and should keep you sated for a couple of hours at least. After an hour or so of simulcast race watching and horse handicapping, the buffet proper still had not officially opened; luckily, the cheese bar was available so we went and got small plates of cheese and crackers to tide us over until lunch was served.

In due course, the buffet opened and we made our way topside to sample it's savory delicacies. I rarely drink so early in the day, yet we felt that such stellar food called for wine to accompany it, so we scanned the well-chosen wine list and selected Campanile Pinot Grigio, a delightful white with a slight touch of sweetness that made it an excellent accompanyment to the food. Chef Jake Duplantis had as always done his usual stellar job with the offerings: pork tenderloin, baked fish, the carving station, and his wonderful array of salads. My colleagues sampled a little bit of everything; I was still a bit full from the omelet and cheese plate, so I selected more carefully: chicken salad, asparagus, brown-sugar carrots, and a big slab of medium prime rib with horseradish and brown mustard. The beef and chicken salad were absolutely superb, the asparagus excellent, and the brown-sugar carrots an unexpected delight. This thoroughly satisfying noontide meal kept me sated for hours, until I returned late in the day for chocolate cream pie and chocolate-covered strawberries, which made for a great and not-too-filling finish. Regrettably, I decided to pass up the always-wonderful pasta bar, which is every bit as good as the omelet bar, as my tender tummy decided there was no room at the inn for any more food. Luckily, The Rock did sample it and reports that the freshly-prepared pasta offerings are as tempting as ever.

Around five o'clock, it was post time for the Kentucky Derby, so we quickly ordered mint juleps in souvenir glasses and placed our wagers. Our bet lady, Christine, did a fantastic job all day, despite the fact that she had a number of high maintenance tables to attend to. We watched and cheered as Big Brown won (not my pick, but I still had a great time), then were saddened when gallant filly Eight Belles broke down after placing second. My lovely bride was particularly upset, as she loves gray fillies, and feels a strong kinship with all animals. It took her most of the evening to recover emotionally.

Overall, we had another wonderful day at Silks, and I'm happy to report that Chef Jake is still keeping the culinary standards high. Check it out at Visit soon, why don't you, and don't forget:


Saturday, May 3, 2008


Before I begin the review proper of this marvelous new find in the wilds of Greater Lewisville, I must admit I was bemused in the last few weeks by the behavior of my most esteemed colleagues in the ranks of paperdom, magazinedom, and blogdom. I was delighted that most of said colleagues journeyed northward to try L & L and, often to their surprise, most seemed to quite enjoy it. What I was puzzled by was the lack of knowledge throughout the Dallas food community concerning the intricacies of Hawaiian local cuisine. Many of these same colleagues have visited Paris, London, and other foreign capital cities and know their foods intimately and could describe a dizzying array of Asian cuisines. Yet, most proved surprising novices when it came to food from the fiftieth state. For instance, many seemed to have never heard of loco moco, fried spam, or chicken katsu, and seemed to think that all island food must be very fattening. Truth is, Hawaiian cuisine is like any other, with comfort foods nestled snugly alongside more healthy ones, and like any other cuisine, merits respect. Our own Texas cuisine contains chicken-fried steak as one of its hallowed offerings, a steady diet of which would be guaranteed to inflate the waistline of anyone as surely as a diet of nothing but fried spam, mac & cheese, and white rice. Moderation, as always, is the key.
Honestly, I cannot consider myself an expert in island cuisine, as I have only been to Hawaii on half-a-dozen occasions. Fortunately, I have my own in-house expert to draw upon: My lovely wife the Rock Star has been to the islands and dined with the locals on many occasions, so it was with high hopes (as JFK would have it) and keen anticipation that we set off to our local branch of L & L one recent Friday evening, located hard by Vista Ridge Mall.
Can a classic strip-mall shopping center box be authentic? Believe it, Brah! Surf boards and other instruments of Hawaiian fun adorn the walls. Two flat-panel TV's show scenes from the islands. Most important, the correct Hawaiian music was playing. Don Ho? Shove those tiny bubbles where the sun don't shine! No, the sound system was playing the Big Three: Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar Masters, Na Leo Pilimehana, and most important of all, Bruddah Iz. (Bruddah Iz was the 700-pound Native Hawaiian master of song so beloved by the locals that when he died, his body lay in state in the Honolulu capitol building much like those of the ancient Kamehameha chiefs.) After receiving a little help with the front doors from the ever-gracious staff, we went in an ordered at the counter.
Genuine locals cuisine indeed. The Rock Star absolutely loves Lau Lau and Kahlua pig, and when she saw both were offered on a combo plate, she wasted no time in ordering it. Lau Lau is pork chuck wrapped in taro leaf and steamed. She loved it, I honestly thought it could have used more seasoning. Both of us, however, absolutely adored the Kahlua pork, with its smoky imu-oven barbecue flavor. (Kahlua in this case refers to the traditional in-ground-oven smoking process, not the coffee liqueur.) For myself, I selected the breakfast favorite Loco Moco: Two smoky, grilled hamburger patties topped with fried eggs and warm brown gravy served over rice. Quite delicious, leaving your tummy with the same warm feeling a Texan gets when he eats a chicken-fried steak. Since we wanted to try several things, we also ordered spam and chicken Katsu musubi. A block of rice and grilled or fried meat was wrapped in seaweed, both of which were quite toothsome and tasty, particularly the chicken Katsu. We had plenty of leftovers for lunches next week. For the record, L & L also serves a number of healthy plate lunches, featuring grilled meat or fish, brown rice and salad, assuring us that we will be back for future visits.
L & L's servers and counter people were very eager to please, and the smiling owner was on-hand to help with the intricacies of the menu. Website is if you wish to check out the menu, and there are also a number of sites if you wish to brush up on your island knowledge. The Hawaii Convention & Visitors Bureau website,, is as good a place as any to start.
Whether you've never been to Hawaii, or are a returned visitor or native, rest assured you will find authentic island cuisine at L & L Hawaiian Barbecue. Visit soon and often, and don't forget: