Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Deep in the Heart of Texas

We're home from a weekend in Texas, and it was so good to be back in "God's Country" as we so humbly call it. On Friday, we hung out in Ft Worth with my beautiful friend Alison, who I grew up with in Paris. We jokingly refer to each other as "friends from the womb," as our mothers were best friends (and our grandmothers are friends). Then my parents drove down from Paris to spend Saturday and Sunday with us. We ate good food, soaked up the warm (read: hot) Texas sunshine, sipped local Texas beers and craft cocktails, went to a Rangers game at the Ballpark in Arlington, and got caught up on all the local gossip. Below are highlights from the trip!

Dinner and Texas Brews at The Live Oak  in Ft Worth:

With a downstairs dining area featuring an impressive line-up of taps and a live music hall, they also have a rooftop patio overlooking the Ft Worth skyline.  
Live Oak trees border the patio, branches strung with white lights.  It was a gorgeous evening, warm with a breeze, so we opted for the rooftop. We were seated just as the sun was setting.
We particularly enjoyed trying beers from the local Martin House Brewing (specifically the Imperial Red Ale and the Saisaon), and with a plate of Frito Pie topped with spicy pork chili verde, it felt like home.
Cocktails at The Usual Bar in Ft Worth:

Following dinner, we sampled the craft cocktails that they're mixing at The Usual. I got a very good Martinez (though a bit sweeter than I prefer) followed by a wonderfully tart Last Word.  My husband came away with their Old Fashioned recipe, deeming it the best he's ever had.
(logo from The Usual Bar website)

Breakfast at The Black Rooster Bakery in Ft Worth:

This place is too cute. In an unassuming shopping center, the decor is warm and inviting when you step in the door, like a quaint farmhouse kitchen.  The menu is hand-written on a hanging roll of butcher paper, and the baked goods were a beautiful sight.
Sitting out on their patio, my husband dug into a pecan cinnamon roll, while I enjoyed an outstanding roasted garlic and cheese quiche.  The crust was buttery and flaky, and the sweet taste of roasted garlic was prominent but not overpowering.
Signs You're Back in Texas:

Driving around, I loved seeing all the little things that just scream "You're not in New England anymore": Texas flags, ten-gallon hats, cowboy boots, pastureland, Mexican grocery stores, big trucks, and this sign advertising "mudbugs" (crawfish to the rest of the world).
Tex-Mex at Mariano's in Arlington:

This place looked a bit run down and the parking lot was pretty empty when we pulled in.  We were worried that we were in for a disappointing lunch, but we were pleasantly surprised! The chips were warm and fresh and served with two salsas, one a traditional red salsa and the other a roasted salsa.  Both were so good I was tempted to drink them out of their little bowls.  My sour cream chicken enchiladas were very good, and the bite I stole of my husband's tacos al pastor (blanketed in queso) was great.
Texas Rangers Baseball at The Ballpark in Arlington:

We spent a fun (and very hot) afternoon watching the Rangers play the Kansas City Royals. It was my first time at the Ballpark in Arlington since high school (over 10 years ago) and my first time with my parents since I was a little girl.
Despite our best efforts cheering them on, the Rangers lost in extra innings. But we still had a great time!  After all, no afternoon spent at the ballpark with a cold beer, an even colder Lemon Chill, and your family is a wasted afternoon.
Real Texas BBQ at David's Barbeque in Arlington (technically Pantego):

We resisted the temptation to eat ballpark hot dogs and nachos because we had big post-game plans: Texas BBQ!  This family-owned spot has been serving up smoked meat for four generations. I've read that DFW doesn't have a lot of great barbeque, but at David's they have it down to a fine art.  It's located in a drab strip mall, but once inside, you're greeted by the smell of wood smoke and meat and wonderfully dated decor.
I got a chopped beef sandwich with a side of their smoked beans and fried okra.  The chopped smoked brisket (enough for two sandwiches) was piled high on a buttery bun.  I poured sauce over the meat until it ran down the sides, but the meat is so perfectly smoked that the delicious sauce is unnecessary. It's just icing on the cake. While the beans weren't my favorite, my husband loved them.  But the fried okra was the best I've had outside of my mother's kitchen.
They even had a soft-serve machine for an after-dinner ice cream cone! I haven't seen soft serve at a BBQ restaurant since Rockin' W closed its doors in Paris when I was a kid.
Brunch at Brownstone in Ft Worth:

We spent Sunday morning back in Ft. Worth for brunch at Brownstone.  We passed on outdoor seating and opted for the air-conditioned interior, bright and sunny thanks to the large windows.  What caught my eye first was a little card to make your own mimosa. This is such a good idea! I opted for the house sparkling wine with orange juice, cranberry juice, and apricot nectar.  Crisp and refreshing, it did not disappoint.
I couldn't resist ordering the chicken fried steak blanketed in jalapeno white gravy and topped with an egg.  Chicken fried steak, TexMex, and BBQ make-up the Texas Tri-fecta, so my weekend was now complete. We also shared a side of pepper jack cheese grits, because, well, they were pepper jack cheese grits.   The homestyle potatoes were a bit mushy, but I was too busy enjoying the chicken fried steak to care. I loved the hint of heat from the jalapeno white gravy (technically green gravy) and the perfectly oozy egg.
Fond Farewells:

After brunch and chatting with my parents over Jamba Juice smoothies (another thing sorely missed in Boston), we said our farewells.  My folks headed east to Paris, and we headed to the airport. We squeezed a lot of fun into one little weekend!
Now we're back home ready for graduation festivities to start! My husband's parents arrive this evening, and graduation events are right around the corner, on Thursday and Friday! Let the celebrating begin (...err, continue)!

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