Monday, December 31, 2012

Linner Report: La Fonda on Main...

Yes, that was Linner with an "L" - if you are like us we often prefer to eat out at that time just after the lunch crowd is gone but before the dinner crowds hit, also known as Linner.

And why not take advantage of the nearly empty restaurant to have a relaxed, enjoyable meal and extended conversation with friends without feeling like the waiter is trying to push you out?   We met some good friends at La Fonda on Main and found some good eats and enjoyable atmosphere to make a nice Sunday afternoon.  
Inside, the place is old, comfortable and classy.  I didn't feel under-dressed in jeans, but I could see where people might tend to spiff it up a bit for dinner.
While we dined inside, it is worth noting the beautiful outdoor dining area.  I remembered this big tree from years ago when we attended a reception for friends of ours at La Fonda.
To the appetizers.  I'm not a huge fan of the lobster bisque, but you have to admit the presentation is very nice.
And this posole looked and tasted wonderful.
The four of us each ordered different plates, then promptly exchanged different samples of each item, so I got a pretty good variety of the Mexican part of the menu.   First up, I ordered one of the specials from the Brunch menu.  Unfortunately, I can't think of the name and I can't seem to locate it on the web-site, but it was something something al pastor.  Buried beneath those poached eggs is some pork tenderloin.  It was really good.  I probably should have read the full menu listing since I am not a fan of asparagus, but honestly, it was also very good.
Eva had the Natalata plate, which I am going to assume is intended to be a play on not-a-lotta.  With a crispy taco, an enchilada, rice and beans, it seems a good fit for someone not wanting to gorge themselves on a huge meal.
The La Fonda Special is more like what you might get with a traditional Mexican plate.  A little bit of everything and a tamale!  Since we were sampling, I had some tamale and some of the enchilada, both perfectly wonderful.
For me, the hit of the afternoon was the Chile Relleno which is stuffed with beef tenderloin and certainly some chopped pecans in there.  It also came with an enchilada verde that was transferred to my plate for assistance.  I would definitely recommend this selection, even if you think you don't like spicy foods.
 Overall, the service was good.  We did have a slight glitch after being seated, but I suspect it may have been that they were between shifts or something.  Once it was determined that we would need a server if we were to have a meal, thinks ran smooth. By the way, the iced tea was delicious and refilled as often as I needed (I think I had 5 refills).

If you ever have an urge to take a drive through that part of town to check out the older historic homes, it wouldn't be a bad place to stop in for a relaxed, well presented meal.  La Fonda on Main is not your hole-in-the-wall taco shop, so plan to take your time and enjoy.   

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Presents Report: This is a Test...

This is my first attempt at writing a blog using the new Dragon Naturally Speaking software that my daughter and son-in-law bought me for Christmas. It took me about 30 minutes to set it up and have it learn my voice. The idea is, I can speak into the microphone and write a blog without having to type.
 The weird thing about this is, I'm looking at the blog software and it doesn't seem natural to speak at it as the letters get typed.  But they say with a little practice you can get comfortable using it.  We'll see!
In addition to this cool software, I also got a cover for the back of my pickup truck. 
Eva got a new iPad from Santa Claus this year, but she's having some issues with it learning how to sync her photos and such.  In a few weeks I'm sure everything will be fine and she'll be using her iPad just as easily as she uses her phone.  Until then, I think I'll be going to work early and staying late.  If you happen to be driving along I-35 near Natalia and see an iPad with a purple cover laying on the side of the road, you'll know that she gave up and tossed it out the window of the truck.  Hitchhikers, beware!
The best present we got of all however, was the news that our daughter Roxanne and her husband Tyler have an assignment to San Antonio and will be moving here in May.  I am hoping by then, I will be completely proficient in dictating blogs.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Daily Deer...

I sifted through a mere 3,300 images this morning to grab a few that I find entertaining.  Oh, these little deer, how they often make me giggle.

Take this guy, just now getting some horns.  When he does something bad, he can look in the mirror and say, "the devil made me do it."  As we like to say, que cute.
And perhaps, this is dad or at least an older brother.  Funny thing happened the other night.  I walked out on the back patio to let Gracie out and I stood there looking into the yard.  This guy was standing in our yard about 30 feet off the patio.  He looked at me with one of those looks of, "if I don't move, he won't see me."  Gracie, ever vigilant, stood by my side and looked but tried to act like she didn't see him.  You see, ordinarily, if there is any sound of deer, Gracie will take off running full speed which naturally, causes the deer to skedaddle.  But usually, she does this when the deer are on the other side of the fence.  This time, seeing the deer so close and without the protection of the fence, the poor dog nearly tinkled.  Quietly, the buck began to move away from us and at the point it heard Gracie twitch, it took a quick jump and glided easily over the fence.  I assure you, Gracie was the one relieved at the quick departure.
My favorites are the little, Gracie-sized deer.  How can you look at this and not want to just pet it?  Of course, I understand those who look at it and see a future plate of venison jerky, but for now, let's just enjoy the cuteness.

Kicking Off the Season...

Our kids arrived late Friday night, which put everyone in a good mood, especially Gracie who is constantly looking for an overnight guest that she can bunk with.  As unpacking commenced, daughter Roxanne pulls out a specially packaged gift from the east coast, individually bubble-wrapped bottles of Yuengling.
Oh what a proud and happy father I am to have raised such a talented traveler!
As someone pointed out on Facebook, this really is like the old days when you couldn't get Coor's east of the Rockies (or was it The Mississippi).  I've been to the web page and researched this.  In short, the two breweries (one in Pennsylvania and one in Tampa) only distribute to Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama. 

Instead of coming up with a screenplay for the Yuengling version of Smokey and the Bandit, I just need to figure out a way for more people from the east coast to visit Texas, a 12-pack at a time.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Menger Hotel, San Antonio...

We generally avoid such madness as work related Holiday (Christmas) parties, especially when they involve several hours at one of the loud bars downtown in San Antonio, but this year we went and we were glad we did.  Instead of just dinner and merriment with co-workers and friends at Pat O'Brien's only to make a late night drive back home, we made reservations to walk right across the street to the historic Menger Hotel and hope for a visit from some of the famous ghosts that are said to wander about.
I'll let you read the web-page for the full story but the gist is, the Menger was opened in 1858, hosted lots of famous folks, probably most notably, Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, and apparently, many of them liked the place enough to stay as guests long beyond check-out, pun intended. 

Due to the proximity of the Alamo, (just steps from the hotel) and it being connected to River Center Mall, we have walked by the hotel and admired it from the outside at least a hundred times as we would park in the mall, then walk down to the River Walk.  Looking at the shops through the windows facing Alamo Plaza, we have peered in and seen price tags that basically convey, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.  And frankly, I have always thought that if I walked in there, I might be under dressed.   Eva on the other hand has always dreamed of staying the night and seeing the treasures of history and old elegance.  Friday night, she got her chance.

I'll save the wondering and tell you up front what it cost.  We went through Expedia and got what appeared to be the least expensive room, a king bed with the window facing River Center.  Listed as $149, after San Antonio's hotel tax, at was just at $179.  Parking (after taxes) was $30.  We ordered room service for breakfast and that was another $30.  Though very tempted to splurge, we did not go for the $8 each bottles of Fiji water in the room.  If you are just looking for a place to stay the night, The Crockett Hotel is across the street behind the Alamo, and you could probably get a room for half.  Bottomline, it was well worth the cost, to us, and frankly, we intend to go again.
 Taken out of the bigger setting, our room was not what you would consider elegant.  In terms of amenities alone, you might feel as though you were staying in the old spare room at your great-grandmother's house.  The furniture, though nice was that kind of worn antique that the guys on American Pickers might get giddy about, knowing someone could restore it.  That's my polite way of saying, it was old and well used.
 
The room did have a TV but it was an old 19 inch model that I couldn't help but imagine the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt walking in and saying, This piece of crap was old when I stayed here.  The bathroom clearly had been added during a renovation in the 50's or 60's, and though the tile was beautiful, it is probably time for an update.
    
The commode reminded me of the kind we had in basic training, and the retrofitted shower was a hoot.  I was doing a crazy shower dance (think, the scene from Flashdance but with an old fat guy) because the water kept alternating between scalding hot and freezing cold. 

If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not.  The room at the Lytle Best Western was far superior in terms of amenities and modern furnishings, but I take this like a night of camping in the woods.  Yea, it might suck a little being in a sleeping bag laying on a dirt floor, but the beautiful surroundings make up for it in the morning.
When we arrived Friday afternoon and handed our truck and keys to the valet, it was all I could do to get Eva to walk with me to the front desk to check in.  The Menger is a museum of itself with incredible pictures and displays of the events and people who have been past guests.  You could spend hours walking up and down the halls just inspecting the memorabilia.
 There is a large open living room sort of area in the lobby that I can just imagine is where many people spend time visiting with friends and relatives.  There are couches and chairs everywhere along with beautiful paintings, antique furniture, and pieces of art.
 There is a really huge painting called Vetting Cattle that was seen in the Benedict home in the movie Giant.  It hangs in the old front lobby of the hotel, and looks incredible.  Just off that lobby is one of the shops that we have peered into in the past, J. Adelman Antiques.  As I stood there admiring paintings, the shopkeeper lured Eva inside to look at expensive items.  He insisted she inspect an emerald ring that caught her eye.  It was magnificent for sure, but $32,900.00 is just a little more than I'm willing to spend on a whim.
Our room was in the original part of the hotel above the Colonial Room Restaurant (we awoke to the smell of bacon), and to get there, we walked through this wonderful open area loaded with antiques and paintings.  The room extended up three floors and is topped with this interesting leaded glass skylight.  My pictures just don't do the place justice.

Of course, it is Christmas, and San Antonio, long known for turning the River Walk into a Christmas wonderland is not to be out done by the many huge decorations inside the Menger.  That tree is huge and beautiful. 
Our stay did not give us time to explore the famous Menger Bar or the Colonial Room Restaurant, though we did get to experience a fantastic breakfast via room service.  We had scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, and biscuits along with coffee and hot chocolate.  After a late night, this really hit the spot.
 After breakfast we walked around the hotel to see the rest of the place.  To me, the garden inside the courtyard of the hotel is spectacular.  In reality, it is more of a smoking area I suppose, but it was very well maintained and beautiful.

I think we'll plan a time where we can check in as early as possible, stay in a slightly nicer room and enjoy some dinner and Mango ice Cream in the hotel restaurant and maybe have a drink at the Menger Bar.  Whether you decide to stay there yourself or not, the next time you are walking by the Alamo, why not walk into one of the shops at the Menger, then find your way inside the hotel itself.  I think you'll enjoy it.

------<<<>>>------

 This is the best picture I have ever taken of the Alamo.  On our way back to the hotel after the Christmas party, we found that the Alamo takes on an almost quiet church-like setting.  The crowds of tourists are gone and the few people that are wondering around seem to turn off the boisterous party-voices found just 500 feet away along the River Walk.