Eating my way across Texas – Part Two

Part two of Rob’s adventure’s in Texas take up his eating adventures in Austin. Read part one here

Stacy was an impeccable host who introduced us to Salt Licks smokehouse BBQ an experience, which should not be missed. Ribs, sausage and delicious brisket served with beans and potatoes – just perfect – and take your own favourite beer to wash it down with. We then walked in the park at Laguna Gloria and saw these fascinating sound sculptures by Chris Long.

Time then for a beer a couple of ‘locals’ where one guest beer was Newcastle Brown Ale (for those who don’t know, my home town was Newcastle) then a few more tasty tapas before retiring.

First stop the next day was the 24 hour Kerbey Lane Cafe for a traditional American breakfast; eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, fruit and coffee – scrummy. Next, a visit to the Capitol Building and a very interesting guided tour. We enjoyed a lovely walk along the river, followed up by a swim at Barton Springs in the naturally formed pool. Our evening was spent at Shady Grove with chilli cheese fries (chips to us Brits). I also had fried Catfish for the first time and again was not disappointed. I definitely need a return visit to try other dishes on the menu.

Austin

We left Austin for San Antonio and more Texas history at the Alamo. A must visit site in Texas as it is so important in the history of the state. The River Walk is very attractive with many café’s and bars and a trip on the river bus would have been good but we did not have the time.

Off next to Kerville and the Hill Country. A huge thank you to Carl for taking us to the family ranch, where en route we saw, Texas longhorn cattle; white tail deer; fawns drinking in the brook and a wild turkey. Carl gave us shooting lessons, and thanks to some expert tuition we actually managed to hit the target. This was my first attempt at shooting and I have to say I did find it fun. I do not intend making any comment about the gun laws in this blog post.

The evening was spent with dinner hosts Greg and Kim, Carl and Regina, Eric, Leah, Seth and four out of five of Greg and Kim’s daughters. We had yummy pulled pork and grilled pork served with salsas and a delicious queso dip. A visit to Greg’s man cave should be on everyone’s itinerary (men only), I guess with a wife and five daughters you need a safe haven (that’s the male chauvinist bit done). Another splendid evening with great people. Now a big thank you to Eric and Dana (who I never met) who let me stay the night with Harry who was very well behaved and didn’t snore once.

KerrvilleBefore leaving Kerville we had brunch with Carl, Regina Seth and Leah at Francisco’s. I had the fish taco’s which were delicious and to be recommended. We said goodbye to Carl and Leah who is one of the happiest girls I have met and has a smile will melt many a young buck’s heart. Regina and Seth we would see again as we were all heading for Dallas.

Next came a brief stop in Fredricksburg which was originally settled by German immigrants and still has that German influence. The main street is full of delightful gift shops. The Pacific War museum is in Fredricksburg and has an actual submarine outside almost on the street.

We arrived in Dallas late that evening but not too late to have a couple of beers at the Nodding Donkey and meet up with Shannon again.

The first full day in Dallas was a quiet affair with coffee in the Design District Where the service was diabolical which is almost unique in the U.S. to get such poor service. Lunch was salad at a café on McKinney where you had to stop talking every time the old trolley went past. We helped Regina and Seth do some unpacking in their new apartment which I got paid for in the form of a fridge magnet with ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ which now has pride of place on my fridge. I had the best steak ever at Morton’s Steakhouse – a 16 oz. rib eye cooked to perfection with beautiful vegetables and a couple of bottles of a very decent red. Quick thank you to Seth for the interesting conversation on sport and education (we let the girls talk about girl stuff).

Our last full day in Dallas was spent touring on foot and public transport, “what? No car?” I hear you all exclaim! Making use of the free Trolley and bus is something everyone should do in Dallas.

We alighted at Clyde Warren Park a modern park built on top of the highway with water features, a restaurant, food trucks, it is a veritable oasis in a city of tall buildings. Then our best cup of coffee in Texas was had at Joule. While Cathers went off to do some business I visited the 6th floor museum at Dealey Plaza dedicated to the late JFK. Very informative and quite moving. My view is Oswald did it but there was probably some kind of conspiracy. The picture is taken from the Book Depository window where the shots were fired. The President’s car passed just under the road sign when he was shot.

Dallas

We took the free D-Link bus to Bishop Arts district which is full of quality art and craft shops, of which we left no stone unturned looking for inspired gifts. We dined at Gloria’s, Latin American restaurant with very good food and excellent cocktails. We headed back to McKinney on the bus and Trolley and spent our last evening having drinks at the Nodding Donkey.

Not to waste any time in Texas we spent the morning in the company of Mark and Dawn Thames, Shannon and Regina devouring breakfast Tacos (another Tex-Mex delicacy).

Finally it was time to say goodbye to Texas. I have seen some wonderful sights, eaten some great food, but above all have met some warm, generous, interesting, unforgettable Americans, to whom I hope I can reciprocate their hospitality sometime.

Eating my way across Texas – Part 1

This May, Cathers took her Dad (Rob) on his first trip to Texas – here’s what he got up to. As the saying goes “everything’s bigger in Texas”, the same goes for blog posts, so it will be published in 2 parts…

*****

This is dedicated to my wife Angela who sadly passed away last year without fulfilling her dream of visiting the USA. This journey was for us both.

Last year Shannon said, “Why don’t you come and see us all in Texas?” I didn’t think it would be possible. Catherine (aka Cathers) said of course it was possible! I thought if anyone could arrange things it would be my daughter. However, the months went by without word, eventually in March she said, “Book two weeks off work in May and we’ll go to Texas.” Me, I like everything nailed down and all my ducks in a row long before I travel but Cathers is a bit more last minute. We only just booked our flights a week before departure!

The night before our flight, Catherine announces that she has to work the next day but confident we’d make our 1500hrs flight. “OK” I said but the plane goes at 1300hrs. “S**t” came the reply “No problem we can still make it, just”, and fair play we did.

American immigration welcomed me with open arms but interrogated poor old Catherine for what seemed like forever at the end of which I was wondering if I was travelling with an illegal immigrant/terrorist!

Eventually, we arrived safely in Houston and were met by Robin and Richard (the Paoli’s) who gave me a very interesting history of Houston, how it was built on a swamp, the rise and fall of the Astrodome, the impressive medical facilities and other things, which were important, but I promptly forgot due to tiredness and old age. My first impression of Houston? It’s big with a lot of fast and wide freeways.

Our accommodation for the next few days was Hotel Roger. I was given the spare en suite bedroom which had just been very tastefully decorated but he really didn’t have to do that just for me.

My first impressions of Americans? They are very hospitable and made me, a stranger, feel very much at home. A theme that continued for my entire stay.

The first day I had a good coffee at Boomtown in the Heights and a mooch around the trendy antique stores followed by lunch at Torchy’s Tacos. This was my first taste of Texan food and to be fair it was pretty good, tasty tacos and loads of chips (tortilla crisps) with salsa and bean dip. Next stop was the museum district which is an art lovers dream. We examined the Cy Twombly collection, but, I have to say, “sorry I don’t get it Cy,” (not that he will be bothered). The main Menil Collection however was another matter. Very interesting particularly the Rene Magritte exhibits.

A big thank you to Ken and Becky for taking us to the ball game. Having the rules and nuances of the game explained made it a lot more interesting. It was a local rivalry (what we Brits would call a Derby) game between Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers (Dallas). After a good few hours the game looked all over at 4 – 0 to the Rangers but the Astros rallied and with virtually the last pitch of the 9th innings a home run was struck to give victory, a very exciting finish. Would I go again? Definitely, but not very often. I now have my Astros beer mug and a baseball cap kindly donated to me by Richard to remember the evening.

On Thursday, Karen was our wonderful tour guide. Our first stop was the San Jacinto monument where Sam Houston and his Texicans defeated Santa Annas Mexican army, after the defeat at the Alamo, to proclaim the Republic of Texas. The monument is a replica of the one in Washington and apparently Texas was told their monument could not be higher than the Washington one. The tower itself is not higher, but Texans being Texans stuck their star on top and the rest is history.

The view gives you a real feeling of the incredible job done of reclaiming the land from the swamp. However, the trip to the top is negotiated by one very small elevator (lift), occupied by one very large operator sat on a chair taking up half the space. Add to that a party of seniors in wheelchairs and walkers and busloads of excited school children and we had the basis of a comedy sketch, Karen being particularly humorous of the situation (outrageous actually but very funny).

Off to the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston (Glen Campbell nowhere to be seen). We stopped at Bennos for lunch and tucked into 3lbs of Cajun spiced crawfish, which were absolutely fabulous especially for a fish lover like me. To sum up Galveston – it’s got a good sea front and beach, some very interesting architecture and a very scrumptious cake shop. [Cathers here – Dad forgot to mention a free ferry ride and dolphin sighting! – Karen would never forgive me!]

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The restaurant, Ibiza, is not to be missed! Reasonably priced and excellent service. Myself, Cathers, Roger, Karen and Shannon decided on sharing small plates. We tucked into, ceviche, fried oysters, green goddess lettuce, grilled prawns, and red snapper on a bed of cauliflower puree all washed down with very good white wine and to finish the evening I had my favourite Glenmorangie malt whisky.

Friday we lunched at Local Foods, with a mouth-watering selection of salads. I spent the afternoon with Richard at Wholefoods to pick a local brew for dinner and a trip to Specs the biggest liquor store (off-licence) I have ever seen! I then drank the Wholefoods beer and watched Richard expertly prepare food whilst discussing the world’s problems and probably thinking we solved most of them.

Dinner was a great success with beautiful Mexican cuisine, mango and pineapple salsa, chargrilled beef, and vegetables. The evening was completed by meeting even more interesting, engaging and welcoming Americans. A big thank you to Robin and Richard as perfect hosts and Karen, Leah, Brittany and Ashley for being the perfect guests.

Saturday was pool day, with a delicious Paoli picnic. In the evening, Shannon took us to the Downtown bars and a tapas bar. We shared, belly pork, patatas bravas, dates wrapped in pancetta, prawns and a green salad accompanied by some splendid sangria.

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We left Houston for Austin the next day, but my biggest regret was not saying a proper goodbye to Roger who had been the perfect host.

*****

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow…

Matryoshka Haus goes to Boston

Hi!  My name is Regina Gordon and my family and I are looking to join the Matryoshka Haus family in London sometime later this year.  We are excited about working with MH and the numerous projects that are going on now and in the future.  If you are interested in learning more about our journey, please follow us at www.londonlens.blogspot.com.

Carl & Regina visiting London this time last year. 

Recently, Shannon, Cathers, and I had the opportunity to go to Boston to participate in a SOCAP SOUL Conference held at the MIT campus.  There is no better way to learn about the world of social enterprise than to jump into a conference about it!  We had a stimulating day of presentations, panels, and discussions that focused on the intersection of money and meaning.  What a joy it was to be amongst others who have a similar heart and mission of Matryoshka Haus!  Of course, Shannon and Cathers took advantage of every opportunity to network with others and the Transformational Index quickly became a hot topic in those discussions!  We are excited that this trip to Boston and attending this conference resulted in several exciting contacts for MH and the TI.

Of course, last weekend was not all work and no play!  Shannon, Cathers, and I enjoyed taking in a few of the sites in and around Boston.  It was an interesting place for two Americans and a Brit to visit together… and the conversations were interesting as we tried to explain the Boston Tea Party to Cathers.  We enjoyed seeing Downtown Boston and the Harbor, visiting Salem, and taking a drive out to Gloucester, MA for Cathers to compare with Gloucester, England.  She seemed delighted with the quaint seaside town and we all vowed to return when it is warmer!

Cathers finds a taste of home in Boston. 

Taking the TI to TX

My first trip to Texas. My first trip with Shannon. My first “work trip” to somewhere more exciting than Brussels… why?

The TI.

The Transformational Index helps organisations measure their impact more effectively and meaningfully. It helps organisations say “This is what good looks like”. And the aim is that it can be used by any kind of organisation, anywhere in the world. So – I found myself in Texas in June, helping Shannon & Andy S to train facilitators, start a pilot project and deliver TI workshops.

There are now six Texas-based trained facilitators. Eight organisations taking part in the four-month pilot project. Six other organisations who have completed TI workshops. And new partnerships formed, and friends made, all over Texas.

And, it seems, this is just the beginning. We’re going back in October. And I, for one, cannot wait.

– Becca McGowan

Shannon, Andy S & Karen

 

Hospitality

I have experienced a lot of hospitality in the last few years. A lot of people have opened their homes to me, and done so with amazing generosity…

I’m in Texas right now. Over the last month or so I have stayed in at least six different households. Every single one has responded to my (and often several other people’s) invasion with a great deal of generosity, going far beyond what is necessary. They have opened up their homes and their lives, showing us their cities, feeding and watering us (and rarely letting us pay for anything).

I am awed and humbled by this generosity. And I dearly wish I could reciprocate.

Hospitality is a key part of Matryoshka Haus life. It is part of how we define ourselves as a community, and it is how we want to express ourselves to the world – by opening up our homes to strangers and friends, thinkers and dreamers, wounded travellers all. It is one of the characteristics of MH that is most meaningful to me and why I am so committed to them.

But I am keenly aware that I am almost always the recipient of this hospitality, rather than the provider of it. And that saddens me.

Over the last few days an unexpected crisis has seen me decamp to Dallas, a town that was never on the itinerary for this trip. At very short notice an amazing couple called Dawn and Mark have opened up their home to me, despite significant chaos in their own lives right now (they are in the process of selling their house and getting ready to move – possibly out of the country). And they did so unthinkingly, because radical hospitality is so ingrained in their DNA.

I only wish that I could do the same.

It looks like it may be a while before I find a place to be “mine”. Something is nagging in the back of my mind telling me my nomad days are not over yet… But that means it will still be some time before I can host others, before I can offer the kind of hospitality I have received.

I do hope it’s not too long.

[A version of this post first appeared on Andy’s blog.]