Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dinner Report: Rocky's Grill in Devine...

A while back we got an e-mail from a reader familiar with the Lytle, Natalia, Devine area who suggested we try Rocky's Grill on 173, east of I-35.  We of course added it to our list of must visits but just never got around to it until this week.
 For some reason, we expected Rocky's to be more of a honky tonk that happened to serve BBQ.  When we walked in, we realized we must have been thinking of some other place.  

 We stepped up onto the outdoor dining area, then walked into what could have been a mini version of Olive Garden.  The place surely has an Italian feel to it and the soft music in the background, selections from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin seem to encourage that theme.  
 Of course, as we sat down, an older Willie Nelson tune came on, so perhaps that reminds us that we have not completely left south Texas.  
With both of us eager to eat, we really didn't take the proper amount of time to review the menu or discuss the possibilities.  I saw catfish and that was pretty much all I needed to know.  Eva decided to go with the BBQ burger.  When our waitress brought out a fresh mini loaf of bread from the kitchen, we started thinking we should have looked a little harder at the Italian offerings.  
As we waited for our order, the owner, Rocky (Get it?  Rocky's Grill) stopped by and introduced himself and we chatted for a while.  Turns out he grew up around our old neighborhood in San Antonio and went to High School at Taft. He told us about his desire to make as much as possible of his offerings from scratch using high quality ingredients.  I'm all for that!  He also told us about the catering work he does, and lots of it. 
The BBQ burger was really good.  Eva thought it was a bit undercooked (she ordered it medium well, it came out medium) but for me, it was just right.  The grilled onions might have been a bit more grilled.  The fresh roll was a treat and the overall taste was wonderful.  Was it the best we have had in the Tri-City area, probably not but it was very good and worth ordering.  The onion rings were not my type, but ya can't hold that against anyone.
Of course, I had to have the catfish.  The presentation was outstanding.  I liked the fact that there was an effort to season the fish, though I suspect this was like most of the other places in the area, pulled from the freezer and garnished before serving.  The taste was good, the Cole slaw was nice and creamy and the fries (hidden under the fish) were excellent.

As we ate Rocky stopped by again and I asked about pizza.  He gave me some of the carry out menus and when we really started to look at it, we saw things like Chicken Parmesan, Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, and several other possibilities.  Clearly, we will need to go back for a try of the Italian food.  I think what we really liked about the place was the atmosphere.  Lots of interesting pictures and furniture, the music, the owner who makes it a point to chat with diners.  This is all good stuff.


As we were finishing up our dinner, we talked about calling in a pizza for Friday night.  I would drive directly to Rocky's from work, pick it up and we could eat at home.  When I called Eva to let her know I was leaving work, she asked me if I had the number to the pizza place and I mentioned that I had left a menu on the desk or somewhere.  Somewhere is usually where I leave things.

It takes me probably half an hour to get from work out to Devine so I figured the pizza would be ready to go.  The only thing I knew was that we were getting a half cheese and half pepperoni.  When I showed up, the owner seemed to recognize me from the previous evening and asked what he could get me.  I mentioned that we had called in a pizza.  He asked for more information and I stated that since my wife called it in, I really didn't know what she ordered.  

The cashier at the bar looked through the computer/register and found a pepperoni pizza order with a side of buffalo tenders.  When he asked if that was it, I asked him if the pizza was supposed to be half cheese and half pepperoni.  There was some confusion for a minute but I paid the bill and took a seat.  Rocky came out a minute later and told me it would be a few more minutes for my order and offered me a drink (the iced tea is delicious).  I was thinking to myself that they must have got the pizza order wrong and were starting over from scratch. That should have been my first clue.
 Shortly, I was on my way home and ready to dig in!  When Eva saw the box with Buffalo tenders, she made a comment that I "must be really hungry"That should have been the second clue.

We sat down and commenced to eat this beautiful pizza on hand-tossed crust.  It was just so wonderful.  The tenders were really, really good, too!  As we ate, I said, "You know, I really like Eatza Pizza, but this is a lot better."  And that is when things suddenly fell into place.  Eva looked at me and said, "That is Eatza Pizza."

Yea.  So to the person who ordered a pepperoni pizza and some Buffalo tenders at Rocky's Grill in Devine, I'm sorry if you had to wait for them to prepare your order since I apparently hijacked yours.  
 And to the good sports at Eatza Pizza, we still like you guys (and will go back often), thanks for keeping the pie warm even though I picked it up an hour late!   I think I know what we are having for lunch today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Scene of the Crime and Such...

A few notes that might be of interest...
We saw this guy walking along the side of the road.  Do you suppose he is a professional dog walker or maybe he is like a dog whisperer and the dogs are all following him because he has something important to tell them?  You sort of wonder when you see a scene like this; Wonder if he has more at home and he will be appearing on Hoarders anytime soon.  Well, at least I wonder stuff like that.
We ate at Top Donuts in Lytle this weekend.  I just wanted something besides tacos for breakfast and didn't feel like driving all the way to our Jim's in San Antonio
Did you know that the brown dot in the middle of the kolache indicates that jalapenos are involved.  As we sat there, I looked at the Devine Newspaper and learned about four venomous snakes known to be prevalent in our area.  This news of course made my wife want to abandon our mulching project and hire someone to come remove all the brush in our yard.  And she'd like for them to take all snakes with them, and spiders too, please.
Speaking of our mulching project, lots of progress this weekend, and only one huge, really big spider with big fangs that kept my wife awake all night.  I know spiders are our friends, but today, I had to go back outside and eliminate the threat with a few well placed BB's.  I guess the plan is, the other spiders will be very afraid of my close range BB skills and out of fear, vacate the property, probably on the next brush truck to leave.
So last week we had a little incident involving coyotes coming closer to our house than normal.  In fact, it was so bad that Eva swears she heard them running on the street in front of our house.  We have this cul de sac that extends out in front of our house.  Nobody lives on it - there are only four houses in a half mile radius of us - so there would be no cause for coyotes to fear wandering around on the street if they chose to.  
Anyway, we took a little walk and found this little guy.  I'm not sure this was the result of coyotes, but there was nothing else (no body - no bones, no nothing) there.  Who knows?
 Maybe the Natalia Police do.  We were driving in Natalia the other day and saw this little incident unfolding.  It was around lunch time, but I'm doubting the police were there to eat. I'm sorry about my crappy photography but my trusty camera has died and I am currently using my wife's girly camera.  It is pink and I did not want the police to see me using it.
 Finally,  You may have read in the newspaper over the weekend the story about Lupita Cantu. For years, I have wondered about this banner posted on a shed in the backyard of a house on Highway 90 near Lackland AFB.  Turns out, Lupita was found not long after she turned up missing.  Unfortunately, she was buried in Pearsall as a Jane Doe, the result of a murder.  Back then, police did not have the DNA capability that we take for granted nowadays.  I am happy that the family - including a twin sister - are now able to know that Lupita was found, hopefully giving them at least some closure.  Of course, this development opens a lot more questions for them, I'm sure.  Sad.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Making Mulch...

One of the very first things we did when we moved out here was to have the tree guys come out and clear the land of overgrown brush and cut the hanging limbs and vines from our trees.  Unfortunately, because we were in a burn ban for the county, I was not comfortable with letting the guys start a massive bonfire to get rid of the debris.  So, the plan was that the crew would come back once the burn ban was lifted so they could burn.    
The burn ban continues and months later, we still have two huge piles of tree limbs and brush in the back yard.  Forget how it looks, the really bad thing is, if a fire were to start, these piles would burn for days.  We have considered a few options like paying someone else to come out and load everything up into a huge trailer and haul it away.  

We had one guy who brings in some sort of chipping equipment and turns everything into mulch but I guess once he saw the piles decided it wasn't worth giving us an estimate.  I suppose there is a fine line of cost versus pain here.  If we simply wait it out, the guys who cut our trees will be happy to come back when the burn ban is lifted and manage the fire.  That costs us nothing since it was included in what we paid them to do the trees, but as the months go by, we have these two large piles of branches.  
We also looked into the idea of renting one of those huge commercial chipping machines, you know, like the landscaping people use.  We decided that for what it would cost us to rent one, we could buy the smaller home version.  Yea, it will take us longer to tackle it but we can take our time and we will have the use of this things for years to come.  So, we are now in the process of making our own mulch.  
All the really huge limbs that could be turned into really good firewood were hauled away by a friend of ours.  He has one of those firewood splitting machines and several barbecue pits that will make good use of it.  The brush that is left has to be sorted before we can turn it into mulch.  You have the small stuff that can be tossed right into the chipper, bigger limbs up to about 2 inches in size that are fed into a different chute and then the stuff that is too big for this machine.  We have started a few other stacks of firewood that we will use for a fire pit we are going to have out here.  That out to make for some good marshmallow roasting and such - once we can start a fire legally!
In the end, we are depositing bags full of mulch into the beds with bushes and such.  I prefer this to just burning it all or filling a landfill with something we can use.
This is me riding off into the sunset with the chipper in tow.  Good times.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lunch Report: Juan's Tacos & Gorditas in Devine...

So we had several people tell us we needed to try Juan's Taco's & Gorditas, a tiny little shop on Hwy 173 in Devine.
 Our first attempt was for breakfast several weeks ago, but we would learn the hard way that Juan's isn't a breakfast place. 
Rest assured we were told, if we wanted some tacos or gorditas for lunch or dinner, by all means, Juan's would be worth a try.  Saturday was finally the day when the stars seemed to align and we were ready for a little gordita action.
Juan's has a very limited menu - they serve tacos and they serve gorditas.  While you can get some assorted drinks like iced tea or Mexican Coke, there isn't the expected rice or beans to accompany your selection of tacos or gorditas.   I like that; Keep it simple, my friend.
 This is a small place.  There is enough room to take your order from a person behind one of those doors that the top half opens, and then a small eating area. And when your order is ready, a voice from within a tiny little cut out in the wall calls out your order so you can reach through and grab the plate. 
 In fact, the eating area was only big enough for a few tables, and little did I know, I would be assigned cleaning duty prior to being served.
 And of course, we ordered gorditas.  I know, they look like some sort of hamburger type thing but if you have never had one, the entire concept is pretty tasty.  Imagine an extremely healthy corn tortilla deep fried in oil then split open so you can stuff in your favorite meat, some lettuce, cheese, guacamole, and tomatoes.  Now get rid of the extremely healthy part and you have a gordita.

I totally get how someone can crave one of these things, I just can't see myself ever eating more than one in any sitting, ever again.  My wife enjoyed the Picadillo on one and had beef fajita on the other.  I had a carne guisada with cheese as well as the beef fajita.  We both agreed that the fajitas needed work.

Overall, it was an entertaining experience.  Our 4 gorditas and iced teas came out to just over $18.00.  That's not going to break the bank for two people to eat lunch, but it was in my mind a bit steep considering you can get entire meals (rice, beans, tortillas included) for a lot less at any of the other local taco places.

Do you crave Juan's gordita?  Is there a better gordita to be had in the tri-county area?  Do tell.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday Report: Catching Up...

I've been out of town for a few days so I thought a quick post was in order, lest you think I've been overcome by wild coyotes or something.

First off, my work took me to the fine town of Huntsville, Alabama.  Someone told me there are more rocket scientists in the greater Huntsville area per capita than anywhere else.  I don't know if that is true, but I met with several of them. The area is quite beautiful and as my colleagues and I drove in from the airport, I got the feeling that Huntsville would be a nice place to live and work.  In other words, the place was not covered up by the wrath of taggers nor overrun with bandit signs everywhere.  You can see, my needs are minimal.

I did eat at a few places in Huntsville, but no place worth taking photos of.  There was a restaurant located next to the hotel called The Lone Star where I had some sort of chicken covered in cheese. It was probably a rip-off of the Alice Springs Chicken they offer at Outback.   Not bad at all, really.  We also ate at a place called The SmokeHouse which was a little too high end for a BBQ place in my opinion.  I want my vittles served on paper plates with rolls of Bounty to wipe the drippings off my beard.  I guess not.  Located in a La Cantera like open area mall called The Bridge, they offered a lunch buffet of pulled pork, beef ribs, barbecued spaghetti, pasta salad and peach cobbler.  I had a little bit of each just to be polite.  Honestly, it wasn't bad at all and I was sure to clean my plate.
 In other news, we have been trying to do a little yard work.  I failed to mention that we put in 40 small rose bushes along the front fence of the property and 6 bushes along one side of the house.  One of our two neighbors out here told us that the fine folks at the Alamo Ranch Lowe's had let the tops of a lot of their plants freeze during the big cold snap, so at a buck a piece, it was worth a shot at trying to nurse them back to life.  Out of the 40, we think a total of 3 are not going to make it.  Not a bad investment.  
 The bushes were $1.74 each.  Aside from going into shock and losing all the leaves almost immediately, I think all six will have also been a good move.  Now I wish I had purchased about 10 more. This is a picture taken while we were planting them.  Apparently, one of the butterflies just couldn't wait.
We also did a little cement work.  The width of our driveway does not go the length of the gate and this has presented a problem of having to step down into the dirt when you open it.  I had our contractor pour a tiny slab to extend it out, but I wasn't home when he did it and honestly, it just didn't work the way I planned.  So, I extended it.  Now, you never have to leave the driveway to open the gate.  
We finally got around to putting up the swings we bought for Christmas.  Originally, we put a few up on a tree out back but it really wasn't ideal.  Now, they are all hanging from a simple structure located on the side of the house. And that is our son with the granddaughter.  She likes the swing, even when asleep.
 Finally, if you need to find our house, we put up a street number out front.  Amazing what a rock and some Liquid Nails can do for ya. 

That's it for now.  We have lots to do and I have a whole lot of little projects that need to be addressed; Oil changes to do, taxes to be considered, cement work to be contemplated, and a pitcher of iced tea calling my name.