Friday, October 3, 2008
Not long ago I happened across a blog called Texas Locavore (http://texaslocavore.com). One day she had posted a photo of some yummy looking tomato dishes that were being featured on the special summer menu at Kerbey Lane Cafe in Austin, and she warned everyone to get them while the gettin's good, because tomato season was just about over. So we got ourselves over to Austin.
We went on a Saturday, at lunch time, and were amazed at the crowd. Apparently their pancakes are notorious, and the hoards descend for weekend brunches. We opted to sit up at the counter, which has open seating, rather than wait forever for a table. It turned out to be a very wise decision. The first thing I ordered was their panko and parmesan encrusted tomato fries, served with a slow-simmered marinara sauce. I knew that if I ate the whole order, I wouldn't have room for my entre', so when I saw the people next to us eyeing them curiously, I started passing them around for everyone to try. The main act was tomato pie - a basil pie crust topped with vine ripened tomatoes from Poteet, TX, baked with feta cheese and black olives. If only I had discovered it in June, I would have been on their doorstep at least once a week, all summer long. The side salad with Tomato Basil Vinaigrette wasn't bad either.
More and more I find myself sitting up at the counter, in any restaurant that has one - especially when I am alone. I've discovered that it is the next best thing to a communal table. The waitperson is much more likely to hang around and visit with you there, allowing you to pick their brain about the food and the history of the restaurant. Also, the people sitting around you are much more likely to lean over and inquire about what you are eating, as they did here, and you end up having great conversations and discovering other places and foods to try.
I used to be very leery of communal tables, when looking for B&Bs to try. I wasn't a good conversationalist, and dreaded having to make small talk with strangers. I thought we would just be more comfortable at a separate table - and we probably were, but comfortable does not equal interesting or fun. Without exception, every time we stepped out of our comfort zone, our vacation ended up being more memorable. Around a communal table, there is always a sharing of ideas and information. There are usually people who have stayed in the area before, and are more than willing to share with you the fun things they have done, and the best places to shop and dine. The host and hostess usually get in on the conversation, and add tidbits about the people who live there, and the town's history. As it turns out, my conversational skills are not important at all. Only my listening skills, which are quite good, are necessary.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Hey Texans! Did you realize today is GO TEXAN Restaurant Round Up day? That means it's your moral duty to go out to dinner tonight. Just go to www.GOTEXANRestaurantRoundUp.com to find a list of participating restaurants in your area. By dining at one that is offering special dishes prepared with local ingredients today, you are supporting local restaurants, Texas products and Texas food banks, all in one fell swoop. I myself just lunched on this outstanding Texas Sugar Pie Pumpkin Soup at our local jewel, The Leaning Pear. They also have a roasted pork tenderloin special today that comes with a local vegetable burgoo. And of course, as always, everything is seasoned with fresh herbs from the restaurant's own garden. So grab your family and tell 'em ya gotta go out tonight. Hill Country Hippie said so!
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I got tired of all my old To-Do lists, and decided to try something a little different last week. When my husband saw it, he said "I think you must have spent more time making the list than you actually spent doing the stuff on the list!" "Mebbe," I replied. "But I sure had fun doing it!" Can't wait to get started on one for this week!
Monday, September 29, 2008
Almost every time I have gone home to visit, over the last 25 years, my mother has whipped out this photo and said "You were so pretty with your hair like that." What she really means is, "I hate the way you wear your hair now. It isn't normal for a woman your age." She doesn't really care that I had to spend hours with a blow-drier every morning to fight down my natural curls. All that matters to her is that I fit in with her ideal image.
Last time I was there, she did it again. Finally, I just looked at her and said "Mom, do you know that every time I meet someone new, they always tell me how lucky I am to have all this wonderful, thick, curly hair?" "They do?" she asked, looking shocked. "In fact, at least once a week, someone tells me how jealous they are, and that they would give anything to have hair like this. Now tell me, why on earth would I want to purposely hack it all off, just so I can look like every single other middle-age woman?"
I wasted my entire youth trying to "fit in", and hating my hair because it wouldn't allow that. I am just so damn happy to have grown beyond that finally. My only goal now is to become the wonderfully unique person that God, in all his wisdom, created me to be. I think he knew exactly what he was doing when he gave me this hair, for it balances out my features. Not only that, I hate having to look exactly the same, day in and day out. One of my great delights is being able to play with it, and arrange it to suit my mood. So I'm warning you right now - if you too think I was much prettier with it short and smooth? Well, I'm really not interested in hearing about it!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
And the Big Weener, in the first of twelve big give-aways, all part of our Year of Reading Dangerously, is (drum roll please...) - Teri in CO! Congratulations Teri! Now if you will be so kind as to send your mailing address to me at becky.lane(at)vownet.net, I will get your book in the mail to you first thing tomorrow. (you know that (at) really means @ don't you, and that I'm just trying to keep some bot from latching on to my email address and sending me a bunch of spam?)
So what did she win, what did she win? (I'm sure you are all clamoring) Teri will receive a copy of Nantucket Open-House Cookbook, by Sarah Leah Chase. Why a cookbook, of all things? Well, this is no ordinary cookbook. Years ago, when my children were small, I started working part-time for a friend who was a caterer, on the days when the kids were at pre-school and mother's-day-out. One of my duties was to cull out all her favorite recipes from her stash of 100's of cookbooks, and transfer them to the computer. One cookbook in particular caught my attention, in a way that no other ever had. First of all, my friend always believed that you were lucky, when you bought a new cookbook, if it had more than one or two recipes that were keepers. This book had dozens that we used over and over again. But that wasn't the reason it grabbed me. Its hook was that it also told a story, one about a young girl falling in love "not with a person or an ideal or even a cuisine, but with of all things, an island - Nantucket Island."
When she was thirteen, Sarah went to summer in Nantucket as a mother's helper for a favorite aunt and uncle, who ran a fascinating antiques business on the island. While every single aspect of Nantucket seemed to strike her fancy with magical power, it was the creations and flavors of her aunt's kitchen that were to linger most indelibly. She learned several essential lessons that were to have a grand influence on her development. One was that plentiful food and exciting people go together. Another was that there was something in her aunt's style of cooking that intuitively captured the very essence of Nantucket. What she discovered there, I suspect, was the same thing I discovered when I first picked up this book, and have been searching for myself ever since - a sense of place.
Sarah went on to college to study language and philosophy, but had a change of heart when she realized her stack of Gourmet magazines had superceded in thickness her senior honors thesis on language. She decided instead to open a food shop on Nantucket, called Que Sera Sarah, and later became the first in my collection, of authors who had discovered their heart's home, and set about living the good life. In her introduction to Open-House Cookbook, she says "I have learned how to cook fish so that it summarizes the sea, to arrange tomatoes in alternating splashes of red and orange in tribute to Madaket sunsets, and to seal memories of September in jars of beach plum jam." Like I said before, she had me at hello.
So happy reading Teri, and to anyone else who wishes to pick up a copy of this book at Half-Price, or from the library. In addition to the story it tells, I highly recommend the Baby Chiles Rellenos with Tomatillo Dipping Sauce. And don't forget to drop by Teri's blog (http://sweetbriarcottage.blogspot.com) to congratulate her!