Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dinner Report: Cattlemen's Steakhouse in Stockyards City...

On Friday evening, we took a trip to Stockyards City to grab dinner at Cattlemen's Steakhouse.  The place has been around for a hundred years or so, and the thought was, if we want steak, a restaurant named Cattlemen's in a city called Stockyards ought to do the trick.  It did.
 Stockyards City, aptly named is just as you would expect it is.  Technically, none of the cattle we saw were alive, but the place certainly had the vibe with lots of folks looking like they could participate in a rodeo or  punch some dogies.
 We walked through a huge western outfitter called Langston's which offered lots of stylish cowboy fashions at what I considered to be shockingly outrageous prices.  Of course, I was wearing a sweatshirt I had purchased at Super Target for $10 while looking at t-shirts that were going for close to $50.  I'll pass.
 There was another store we didn't go into but I found to be interesting.  If you have never seen the John Wayne movie with Maureen O'Hara as his wife, McLintock, you should.
I can't help it, but this particular sign to me is the symbol of small town America. Although, perhaps they have Rexall in bigger cities and I just don't realize it. 

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Cattlemen's is pretty large so when we walked in, we did not have to wait any longer than it took to round up a hostess with menus to see us to our table. 
 The interior looked like what I expected, lots of dark paneling, leather seating and pictures sketched of your favorite cowboy stars (James Stewart, not Troy Aikman).  While the menu offered a wide array of choices like catfish, shrimp and chicken, it was obvious steak was what we would be ordering.
 The house salads came out with a huge basket of croutons and a homemade Ranch style dressing with lots of garlic.  Eva was not a fan of the dressing but I enjoyed it.
 The restaurant serves a custom microbrew in a 22 ounce bottle called Double-Deuce.  Get it, 22 ounces, double-deuce?   To me, it tasted like some sort of lemony wine cooler, but I am told by our waitress that it has often been compared to Heineken.  Maybe a home made Heineken.
Eva order the ladies Filet with baked potato.  Delicious.  It clearly had a different taste as if it had been properly marinated for a while.  I'd order the men's version.
 My son and I both had the Cattlemen's Strip Sirloin which was a generous portion of beef accompanied by a loaded baked potato.  If you know about me and my steak problem, it is that nobody cooks it the way I want it.  This was good and I certainly enjoyed it, but when a place takes the time to print on the menu what rare or medium or well done equates to, I think they should stick to that in the kitchen.  Both of us ordered Medium but we got medium well (by the menu's description) but we weren't about to send it back.  My son told me this was the first time he had ever had them get it wrong so I'll take it that it was a new cook.  Bottom line, it ought to be a crime to cook any steak beyond medium, even if someone wants it well done.  And if you eat steak well done, why not just order a burger from McDonald's?

I don't want to give you the impression that the place wasn't good, because we had an enjoyable meal and I'd gladly return.  I'm just a whiner when it comes to steak being over cooked.  I'm sure the fine people at Cattlemen's would have brought us new ones without as much as a loogie sizzled in, but I never, ever send anything back.
 The next day while my son and I were out flying (that's another post), Eva took my leftover steak and stuffed it inside one of the leftover dinner rolls and had a fine lunch.    

Monday, November 26, 2012

Burger Report: Louie's in Norman, OK...

We made it into the OKC area without incident on Tuesday evening and found that our son was just as hungry as we were.  First up on the list of places to violate all sense of sensible diet was a local chain called Louie's.  There is one in Moore but we drove a few miles down the street to Norman for the larger restaurant, just in case there was a wait.  There wasn't and we walked right in.
Inside, the place was nice and open with additional seating upstairs, lots of wide screen monitors for viewing of sports, and an atmosphere suitable for a nice meal or knocking back a few during a game.  We were there for the vittles. 
As we sipped delicious iced tea, our speedy waitress brought us an order of awesome chips and cheese with an especially good salsa.  Seriously, good salsa.

The menu offered a lot more than just burgers.  The pizza on the menu looked really inviting and they had salads and loads of appetizers.  But we came for the burgers which my son informed were at least above average for the area.
This was something with avocado.  It looked and tasted very good. The skinny fries are not my thing, but they weren't bad at all.
I had the Southwest something or other.  It had the jalapenos I needed and I think there was some bacon smothered by cheese on it.  Unfortunately, I did not calculate the southwest seasoning that to me has a taste reminiscent of dirty feet. That aside, what's not to like?   I think I really would have enjoyed this burger if I could have scraped off the seasoning, but they served what I ordered and you can't blame a place for that. 

We had continuous tea refills and the solid service was topped off by the waitress offering to send us on our way with to-go cups for the tea.  No complaints at all.  Try it if you are in the area.

Oh, Where to Start...

Last week we took a short drive with our dog Gracie from the relative warmth of Natalia to the brisk and windy Moore, OK, 8 hours north on I-35, where we stuck a nice medium sized turkey in the oven, stuffed ourselves with a satisfying Thanksgiving lunch and enjoyed a few interesting football games with several of my son's friends.  With such a good time, why not stay for another week, right?
Of course I am not above staging a photo, in this case with my son doing the honorary carving of the turkey, but in fact, he actually did the carving, and not a bad job at all.  The bird was fresh, not frozen, and I must say, very juicy and delicious.
Add in the rest of the fixin's like jalapeno cheese squares and such, and you just know I need to hit the treadmill that quietly awaits me back home.

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But there is more to OKC than just some turkey and sides.  On Wednesday evening, my son and I attended the Thunder vs. Clippers game at the 'Peake, a fantastic basketball venue.  The game was a thriller, going into overtime before the home team pulled off the win.  Of course we are Spurs fans, but you have to appreciate the energy and enthusiasm of the OKC fans.
 These people love this team and it was easy to suspend loyalties and join the bandwagon.  I'm not a huge follower of sports but I genuinely appreciate the way that OKC has taken the best qualities of other NBA teams and incorporated them into the experience.

Rumble, the team mascot was fantastic.  In addition to cheerleaders, they had several human characters throughout the stands keeping the crowd going.  And the fans were terrific.  Of course, it helps to have a solid team.

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The morning after Bedlam, the meeting between the OU Sooners and the OSU Cowboys, about five miles down the road from my son's house in Norman, we went and had breakfast (another post) on the campus, then went to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of History for a quick looksee.
 Lots of bones, lots of Hopi stuff.  It was an interesting hour.

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Because they have casinos here in Oklahoma, we were required to make the obligatory half-hour visit into one in order to quickly blow $20 a piece on slots.  As a reward for playing, we left completely smoked out and with my ears ringing from the bittersweet sound of other people winning.
  If I'm going to blow money like this, I'd much rather do it playing Lotto where I can at least wait overnight thinking I might have a chance before the inevitable waste of a buck.  To me, there is at least some satisfaction in the "what if" factor.  At the casino, my $20 bill disappeared in about 6 pushes of the button and I was off looking for Eva to see if she might have fared better.  No such luck, as expected.  
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We have simply gorged ourselves during this trip, so as I can, I'll post pictures and reports of the places that have increased my waistline.  Stay tuned...



Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Daily Deer...

I'm pretty excited about the pictures I get this afternoon.  This morning I moved the camera so we could look out our bedroom window and see the action.  It didn't take long, and when I walked outside with Gracie a little while ago, she was excited to run out in an effort to make friends.  Of course, they had no interest and promptly left her alone to pick stickers from her paws.

Without further ado, today's collection:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Has it Been a Week?

The last I recall, I was whining about my new coffee maker.  Okay, confession time.  I've been using the Keurig as a kickstart when I wake up before my regular coffee maker finishes the job.  Proof that I can learn to live with less than a full 10 ounce serving of coffee.
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Congrats to Facebook and Blogger friends Erik and Sabra on the arrival of their little one, Douglas. I'm sure Erik is glad to have another male in the house, what with all the women folk there.  Aside from being a mom, Sabra is probably one of the finest writers I've encountered in the local blog scene. I have followed her Trailer Park Paradise for years, and it was her ability to research and back-up her points with facts that contributed to my cancelling the San Antonio paper.  In short, this woman should probably be a producer for a news magazine on TV or at minimum, a columnist in the local paper.  You may not always agree with her point of view, but you'll know that she didn't just pull it out of her ass.  In the mean time, she's got a baby and some other chillin's to tend to.  Congrats again, you two.
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 My son and I went to the UTSA vs McNease State game at the Alamodome this past weekend.  Runners won it, which was a pleasant change of pace.  Interestingly, the McNease State team brought their own band and mascot to the game.  Made for a cool half-time show with the bands splitting the time.   In the later quarters, Rowdy, the UTSA mascot, and Rowdy, the McNease state mascot teamed up for some entertainment on the sidelines.  Good times.

Here is the introduction of the Runners.  I have to admit, this is my favorite part of the game.
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We took our little kitty, named Little Kitty to the local vet for some shots and such.  Turns out she has a heart murmur but is otherwise healthy.  Whatever.  She's welcome here as long as she wants to hang around.  We'll get her fixed in February.
 Did I mention they are building a Love's truck stop at exit #127 off of I-35 south in Natalia?  Here's the deal.  The off-ramps and on-ramps are not going to support that kind of traffic and we need to get some Texas Department of Transportation action over here ASAP.  If you are doing some research and you find this post from November 2012, feel free to quote me when I say that someone will be killed due to the jacked-up configuration and impossible turns that the 18-wheelers are going to have to make to exit and enter the highway.  And this Love's is not a surprise.  This has been in the works for over 2 years.  I'm going to write a letter or two to the state, and hope you do the same.
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Speaking of Natalia...  They opened up this new restaurant/bakery/grocery store in town called La Pasadita.  It was built on the grounds of what was Brown's Grocery.  Of course, ordinarily I would devote an entire post to a restaurant, but I'm simply short on time so I'll tell ya a few things and post a picture or two.
 The place is big and clean.  Unlike any other place to eat in Natalia, they have a huge, paved, well lighted parking lot with security cameras.  In short, welcome to the big city!
When you first walk in, you have arrived at a super-clean, well organized grocery store in the heart of Laredo I don't mean that in a negative way at all, but only to say, if you are in need of some Fabuloso-like products you can't find at the HEB, you can get them here without making a trip across the border.

Toward the back you will find the bakery and the restaurant.  Sorry I don't have a picture of the fresh pastries and Mexican breads, but this will save Eva trips to La Popular in San Antonio.
The dining area was extremely clean and the waitstaff was quick.  I'm sorry if I keep mentioning the word "clean" but if you are a connoisseur of the hole-in-the-wall the way I am, you naturally expect things to be run down and, less than sanitary.  This is not a hole-in-the-wall. 

Eva had the special which included a puffy taco, enchilada, rice & beans.  We both enjoyed the enchiladas and the chicken served with the puffy taco was pretty tasty.
I had the Mexican plate which included a crispy taco, enchiladas and excessive amounts of lettuce and such.  I thought it was all very good.  We didn't have a single complaint with any of the food or the service (though some friends who had dined a few days before us felt differently).  My only issue was that in comparison to similar fare nearby, the price was a bit spendy for lunch.  Did I mention the place was clean?

We do think that if we wanted to take a visitor out to a local Mexican place, this would be worth the price.  But for an everyday lunch, not so much.
 In comparison, we dined at Tacos El Rey on San Antonio's west side the previous weekend and both had the beef fajita platter for less. 

Anyway, I think if you live in the tri-city area of Lytle-Natalia-Devine, you ought to stop in and check the La Pasadita out.  I do want to go back for breakfast and try the pancakes.
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I'll follow-up this post tomorrow with a My Daily Deer.  The bad news is, I missed a great series of photos in broad daylight on Veteran's day.  Eva alerted me to quietly look out the window and see several little deer posing for my camera.  It was so perfect given that I live for the daytime shots.  Even as the deer saw Gracie and I walk outside, they stayed an posed for a bit.  I was seriously ready to spend money on enlarged prints and frames.  Of course, my batteries were dead and I did not get a single photo at all.  I've fixed all that and in the morning, I'll take a look at what will hopefully be lots of good day time pictures.  Or I'll simply go back to bed (after a few cups of Donut Shop coffee from the Keurig.

Final thing:  I may have to turn the ol' Captcha thing on for comments moderation.  Blogger and Google do a great job with catching spammers trying to leave comments.  A few got through this week (since deleted), but you would not believe the number of spam-detected comments I get in my personal e-mail every day.  Perhaps if I do the moderation for a few weeks, I can make them lose interest.  I'll have to think about it.



Sunday, November 4, 2012

Coffee Report: Keurig...

We go through coffee makers like nobody's business.  After a solid year or so of good service, it was time to retire the old Black & Decker autodrip brewer which has doubled  as an alarm clock, and try something new. 
In theory, the idea that you can select the individual flavor of your choice and make a perfect cup of coffee on demand is cool.  It's like having your own little Starbucks in your kitchen without all the hip music and weird baristas being overly cool and polite.  On the other hand, I always just order the basic coffee, none of that fancy frapa-mocha-chilled-latte business, so why do I need to select anything? 

You might think the answer is that Eva was pushing for this, but in fact, it was all my idea, so technically, I can't blame her if it gets to be a pain. 

The first thing I noticed is that even with three size settings, none of them put out enough coffee to fill a single one of my coffee mugs.  I haven't read the manual or anything like that, but there must be a way to calibrate the flow rate.  In the mean time, my strategy is to use the large setting, then re-use the same K-cup and run the small size through it - that fills the cup but sort of takes away from that whole idea of instant.

The other problem is, Eva is used to waking up to coffee that is already brewed.  This is going to take some training and getting used to for her.  Or what we may have to do is stick with our regular coffee pot and only use this Keurig for afternoon cups or if somebody fancy comes for a visit.  The little K-cups are a bit spendy - about $11.00 for a box of  16 or 18.  Not Starbucks prices, but compared to the regular Maxwell House that lasts us a month, you can see how I might want to find a coupon or look for some Craig's List black marketer selling boxes of coffee that fell off the back of a truck.

We did also purchase the little K-cup adapter that allows you to put your own coffee in the machine.  I tried a cup and the taste was fine, but it was just a hassle.  I probably won't use that again.

Finally, here is what you need to know.  The Keurig (and others like it) are nothing more than a hot water dispenser for instant coffee.  It is sort of like the printers these days for your computer.  You can go to Office Depot or Staples and purchase a nice printer for less than $100, but you'll be paying out the butt for ink cartridges to keep it working.  The Keurig is not cheap (we paid about $129), but they intend to make more money in the little K-cups for years to come.  A kettle and some Taster's Choice might have been a better route.

And before I could even hit publish, Eva was already busting out the old drip coffee maker.