Lovely, rainy sky in Central Texas today

Rainy Days

Rainy Days

Texas Sky

Texas Sky

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New Braunfels: The Faust Hotel

The Faust Hotel and Brewery

The Faust Hotel

The Faust Hotel

When you drive by New Braunfels on the highway, you probably will see Taco Cabana, IHOP, and some other chain restaurants.  You may very well be tempted to keep on driving if you are looking for something different, but I suggest you go ahead and exit and take a right towards downtown New Braunfels.  Before last week, when I thought of New Braunfels, I mostly thought of Wurstfest and Schlitterbahn, but recently we met up with Ben’s brother and ate at The Faust.  Eating there and hanging out with Ben’s brother and his good friend made me realize there’s more to New Braunfels.

The Faust Hotel was built in the 1920’s and opened on October 12, 1929 as the Traveling Hotel.  Unfortunately, it opened two weeks before the stock market crashed.  For a bit of time, it did well, and even was known as one of the best hotels in Texas.  However, the blight of the Depression caught up, and it stayed open mostly because of Mr. Faust. Hence, in 1936, the hotel was renamed as The Faust Hotel.

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The Faust Hotel

As we turned into the hotel’s entrance last week, the sun was setting and casting a rich gold, red color across the old yellow brick of the building and the lion statues guarding the large wooden doors. Along with its history, that old European statue thing and sun-kissed golden/redness kinda made me love The Faust right away.  The front doors of The Faust are the entrance to the hotel.  To go to the restaurant and brewery, you drive through the side alley that is covered in a black tarp with white cursive letters spelling The Faust.  It reminds me of a place where Frank Sinatra should be singing.  I would have loved that, but inside, modern music is playing and feels a bit abrasive in the dim light and old fashioned décor.  As Ben’s brother said, the place would be about perfect if they played music from a different era; it just has that feel.

For dinner, I had the German nachos.  It took me a bit to get used to “nachos” being potato chips with beer cheese, bratwurst, sautéed onions and bell peppers, and sauerkraut.  They were definitely a little too rich, but once I got used to them, I could not stop eating them.  I had a huge serving and repeatedly pushed my place away to stop eating, but that didn’t happen.  All the food was rich but good.  It was what pub food should be.  The German nachos and the Pierogies were my favorite.  The Perogies are dumplings filled with potato, cheddar cheese and jalapenos.  They are also rich, but the German beer washes ‘em down nicely.

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Full on German food and beer, we decided to participate in the game of trivia the bar holds every Thursday night; the winner wins $100.  Unfortunately, we were not the winners.  However, it was a lot of fun and most of the people in the bar were participating.  My impression is that quite a few locals attend every Thursday to play trivia, which is really cool.  I love to see communities supporting their cool, non-chain venues.  I hope to return soon in order to indulge in another plate of German nachos, play trivia, and stay the night in the hotel.

Faust Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

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Texas Sunset

September Texas Sunset

September Texas Sunset

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Still Trying to Say Goodbye to Summer: Blanco County Fair

Best photo of the night, taken by Courtney Sellers.

Best photo of the night, taken by Courtney Sellers.

One of the last things we did this summer was meet up with a group of good friends to go to the Blanco County Rodeo in Johnson City.  It took some planning to get everyone together.  As in, we had tried to get together for dinner twice before, always fell apart, so we planned for this meet up two months in advance.  Close friends of ours drove in from Houston and North Austin for the event, so, obviously, it meant a lot to finally get everyone together.

Blanco County Fair, #learningtouseInstagram

Blanco County Fair, #learningtouseInstagram

It was hot the day of the fair, hot as in Texas’ normal 100˚plus August weather.  We met up at one of friend’s houses first.  Her house sits on some of the rolling hills land that the Hill Country is known for, and people would probably pay to sit on her porch for a bit: cool drink in hand, watching the sunset or staring up at the stars.  I asked her what we would do for dinner, and she said we’d want to get burgers at the fair because the burgers are so good “you’ll want to slap your mama.” The unique colloquialisms in Texas can sometimes give people a wrong impression about the person who says them.  For instance, our friend loves her mama very much and certainly wouldn’t slap her over a burger.  In fact, she’s a down to earth, strong-will, very funny person, who can have a whole room laughing within a minute or two of walking into a place, and all her stories are told with a strong Texas accent.

Blanco County Fair, #learningtouseInstagram

Blanco County Fair

Before we left, our friend showed me the work she’d been doing on the guest house.  The air conditioning seems to turn a bit slow in that house.  It’s fine for sitting, but I can imagine in the August heat, it was a lot of work painting, clearing out the rooms that had been used as storage, and setting up the new furniture.  I gotta say I was a bit jealous, out in the country with a house to make your own.  But that is me with my simplistic visions.  All the work our friend had put in made the idea look too easy.  Truly, I would only need to think back to when I moved to Texas and how my parents bought a house, at my mother’s insistence, that was, putting it nicely, a bit dilapidated.  We, mostly my mother, spent that whole first summer tearing up the linoleum tile, then scraping the tar it had been put down with, then sanding and polishing the floors until they were back to the beautiful hardwood they had once been.  Oh yeah, and my mom didn’t “believe” in air-conditioning for the first twenty years we lived in Texas. It takes strong people to live in Texas and not only endure the summers but get stuff done!

Blanco County Fair, August 2013

Blanco County Fair, August 2013

Before we left the house, our friend warned us that there had been some gossip in the town.  It doesn’t matter what it was; it was just the fact that at our age, people were so concerned with what was going on in our friend’s life.  I’d have a hard time with that in a small town, but she handled it all with grace.

Blanco County Fair, awesome burgers

Blanco County Fair, awesome burgers

At the fair, we got stopped at least a dozen times for our friend to talk and say hello to people.  The rest of us mosied between the cowboy hats and jeans, some of us with tattooed arms and some of us dressed perfectly, cowboy boots and cute skirts, for a rodeo/fair.  We ate simply made burgers in crinkly yellow paper that truly were so good I wanted to slap my mama (sorry, mom), we were served adult beverages by attractive cowboys, and we took photos of each other and the cows.  That was a good Texas summer day: hot, dusty trails, rolling hills, hamburgers, and friends. #can’twaitfornexttime.

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San Marcos Food Trucks: Summer Sampling

The Hitch: A Mobile Eatery 312 East Hopkins, San Marcos, TX 78666, most days 11:00am-8:00pm

The Hitch: A Mobil Eatery

The Hitch: A Mobil Eatery

On a concrete slab, not far from the refreshingly cool San Marcos River, a community of food trucks has sprung up in San Marcos, Texas.  On top of the concrete square, lavender picnic tables donned with umbrellas that provide some shade in the summer Texas heat are set up inside the circle of food trucks.  Like other food truck set-ups, it’s nice because one is provided with multiple eatery options in one place.  I usually spend fifteen minutes or so walking around reading the menus before making the crucial decision.  There are a variety of food trucks to choose from at the site: St. Pita’s, The Big Khahuna (Hawaiian), Wat Zab Thai Food, Smoked Out Barbeque, and Redbud Roasters.

Over the summer Ben and I had the opportunity to try a few of these.

1.Mostly these are in random order except this first oneSt. Pita’s is number one for me.  I love it.

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St. Pita’s is a Turkish restaurant with gyros and hummus plates.  Last time, I had The Jerusalem Garden with hummus, romaine, tomato, red onion, feta, kalamata olive and basil.  There was a little too much hummus for me, so next time I’m sticking with The Classic, which is similar to The Jerusalem but includes beef and lamb.

2. Wanderlust, serves gorment sandwhiches, Asian inspired noodles, and specialty drinks (non-alcholoic, there is no alcohol served at The Hitch).  Photo below of a pork sandwich Ben had there.  We both tried it and were colored impressed.

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Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Cheese and Avacado

3. The Big Khahuna gets points for originality. Examples of some menu items: Fish taco special– 2 blackened tilapia served on corn tortillas, Maui Asian slaw topped with papaya salsa , kilawea sauce. The King Khahuna Burger (see photo below) a burger with beef and pork and avocado.  Ben tried the King Khahuna and liked it but also mentioned that it was made with some sort of fish oil, which is okay but adds a bit of a different flavor than what we’re used to eating.

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4. Wat Zap Thai Food The meal I had here was really good, and I’ve heard a couple of people say this is there favorite.  I had pork mixed with vegetables and the sauce it was made in was great.

Pork and Vegtables

Pork and Vegetables

5. Patty Wagon, apparently has great burgers.  Of course, the day I went I decided to go with the low-fat option; it was okay. I tried the Turkey Burger.  The woman before me in line said, “it was the best turkey Burger”  she had ever had.  I don’t have many turkey burgers to compare it too, but it wasn’t bad. They add some originality to their menu by including things like avocado mayonnaise, which I had with my turkey burger.  Next time I go, I’m going to order a real burger.

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Root Cellar Cafe: San Marcos, Texas

Root Cellar Cafe and Gallery– Breakfast & Lunch 7am-4pm; Happy Hour 4-6pm; Dinner 5:30-10pm; Closed on Mondays

When we walked down into the Root Cellar Cafe on Saturday evening, the restaurant was a buzz with conversation and soft playing music.  I say walk “down” into the Root Cellar because, as the name indicates, this restaurant was built in a cellar, but it does not have a musty dark feel one might associate with cellars.  The floors are a light wood and the white walls are decorated with bright paintings from local artists.  When I have visited early in the day, sunlight falls through the windows in large slants across the tables and floor, which only adds to the picturesque European Cafe type setting.

photo 30When the Root Cellar opened in 2005, my sister and I frequented it often because it was unlike other places in San Marcos.  The Root Cellar and Cool Mint Cafe were two of the first restaurants in San Marcos to serve food that was not focused on high fat, instant gratification food. The fruits of their labor seem to have paid off.  Saturday evening it was apparent that the place had grown in popularity since it first opened.  There was about a fifteen minute wait for us to sit down, and I noticed they had added a back room on since I had last been there, which, like the main dining area, was full.  The wait went by quickly as my father and I admired the paintings hung on the walls of the cafe.

We sat down at one of the wooden tables and began to look over the menu.  It’s a little thing, but I love that the music was not so loud everyone had to shout to hear one another.  We discussed the menu in normal pitch tones and then ordered drinks and an order of the cellar bruchetta with pesto, tomato, onion, and provolone cheese.  They were good, but I would have appreciated more emphasis on the tomato and a little less cheese.

Cellar Bruchetta

Cellar Bruchetta

For the main course, I ordered the Peach and Asparagus salad from the seasonal menu.  It was wonderful.  The peaches were fresh and I loved the originality of the peaches with the asparagus.  I also loved that most of the salad was kale and spinach, but perhaps the best part of the meal was the vinaigrette dressing.  It really pulled the salad together.

Peach and Asparagus Salad

Peach and Asparagus Salad

My sister ordered the basil Swiss burger on Texas toast with lemon basil aioli, grilled onions, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese.  She said it was very good, but you couldn’t taste the lemon basil very well.  Also, I appreciate creativity with food very much, but I think there are some things that are better left alone: a burger in a bun is one of those.  Texas toast for sandwiches is great.

Basil Swiss Burger

Basil Swiss Burger

Both my husband and my father had the citrus pork medallions.  Pork is one of my husband’s favorite meals, but he often doesn’t order it at restaurants because it is often overcooked.  Pork should be just a little pink in the center because it dries out quickly, but chefs often cook it all the way through.  So it was a big plus that this pork was not dry at all.  It was cooked perfectly.  Both my father and husband said there was no real citrus taste in the pork, however.

Citrus Pork Medallions

Citrus Pork Medallions

Root Cellar is one of my favorite restaurants in San Marcos, if not my favorite.  Root Cellar is one of the first restaurants to take food in San Marcos to a new level and the atmosphere is wonderful.  However, I think the restaurant could go even further by ensuring that when it says “citrus,” there is some citrus flavor in it.  And I think they need to trust the customer and not sometimes rely on large amounts of cheese as a safe way to ensure customers enjoy their food.  The Root Cellar knows good food, as is demonstrated in many of its menu items;if they would just trust their instincts and customers a little bit more,  I think this could be a restaurant that people specifically come to town to frequent.

Root Cellar Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Kerbey Lane Cafe

Kerbey Lane– Open 24 hours, see website for multiple locations.

Kerby Lane, Austin June 26, 2013 004

Back in high school, a late night of talking and sipping coffee might have occurred at IHOP accompanied by a stack of strawberry pancakes and a plate of French fries (uh, yeah, greatest combo ever).  When I moved close to Austin, all of that changed.  A late night of talking and coffee (or a late night snack after the bars), usually happened at Kerby Lane Cafe.  At Kerbey Lane, I was introduced to a whole new way of passing time or holding on to a good night because even though I still have soft spot for IHOP, Kerbey Lane’s pancakes are far superior to those of IHOP.  My favorite things to order at Kerbey Lane are the Kerby Queso and an order of pancakes.  The queso is an amazing bowl of melted cheese with onions, guacamole, and tomatoes. As apparent by this blog, I do occasionally stray from breakfast at Kerbey Lane, but their breakfast food is really what they do best.

Kerby Lane's Awesome Queso

Kerby Lane’s Awesome Queso

Kerbey always has original and blueberry pancakes, and they also have a weekly special.  My favorite is the lemon seed poppy pancakes that they serve during the summer.  Below are photos of lemon poppy seed French toast and lemon poppy seed pancakes that my sister and I ordered on a different visit. So. Good.

However, when my sister and I went to Kerbey Lane this summer, we ordered from the summer menu.  Seasonal menus, like the summer menu, are another thing I like about Kerbey Lane.  This summer the menu was focused on tomatoes.  Can’t do better than that.

Kerby Lane's Summer Menu 2013

Kerby Lane’s Summer Menu 2013

I ordered the tomato pie, a blend of tomatoes, green onion, and garlic baked in pie shell and topped with feta cheese and olives.

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie

I love all the things in the tomato pie, but all of them together was a bit too rich.  It needed something to cut the flavors of thick pie crust, feta, olives, and onion.  If there had been more tomatoes, that would have helped.  Unlike me, my sister is able to resist a menu focused on the glorious tomato, but she is less able to resist anything with salmon.

Salmon Eggs Benedict

Salmon Eggs Benedict

She had the smoked salmon Benedict (they also had a Fried Green Tomatoes Benedict that I almost tried) and loved it.

If you are going to Kerbey Lane, the menu items can be a little bit hit or miss, but they are usually creative and more fun to try than most things at chain restaurants.  And, in my opinion, you can never go wrong at Kerbey if you order the queso and pancakes.

Kerbey Lane Cafe on Urbanspoon

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