Luvin’ that Magazine

“True, Texas” is the cover story for this month’s issue of Texas Highways Magazine (September, 2011). For years, we have pointed our hearts toward the destinations the writers in this magazine tell of. They’ve been our inspiration for travel and dining and just plain Texas pride for many years. With regard to the cover story they write, “We searched the state to select this year’s slate of true Texas icons. All the elements in our mythical town resonate with Texans everywhere.”

I especially enjoyed the story about the “Bakery Cafe” in Aransas Pass (no website or Facebook page at this time). The timing of this article is perfect. Summer is almost over — at least in relation to school starting. Touristy Texas will calm down a little and we’ll hit the road. One of our stops will now be the Bakery Cafe because the description of their diverse and delicious menu. In the meantime, we’ll try our best to avoid thinking of the hand-breaded chicken fried steaks or hand-patted burgers. If imaginations of their steaks, seafood or Mexican food start forming in our minds, we’ll just shut out the torture pack up the car, and do some first-hand sampling ourselves.

Why not check them out?

The Bakery Cafe in Aransas Pass

434 South Commercial Street
Aransas Pass, TX 78336-1808

Advertisements

Ocho — Oh So Beautiful!

Fellow blogger, Shannon Ahern, recently posted a wonderful article about the new Ocho Lounge at the Hotel Havana.

Based on her story, we just had to pay a visit. The scene is absolutely delightful. The architecture is its own form of entertainment and the views to the River Walk below are fantastic. With cooler weather, it will be a wonderful walk along the newer stretch of the San Antonio River Walk from The Pearl to Ocho for a scrumptious brunch.

Their menu is inspired by Cuban and Latin Cuisines. Our little group of foodies definitely voted top awards for their breakfast items. Our favs were:

The TOASTED JO’S BANANA BREAD with Chunky Peanut Butter, Sliced Banana and Honey. (I asked for the peanut butter on the side 🙂 ) The banana bread was toasted on a griddle and had honey spread on top. The recipe came from their other restaurant, Jo’s Coffee, on the Hotel San Jose property in Austin. Absolutely scrumptious, and…

The SWEET PLANTAIN GRIDDLE CAKES ($14) with Mexican Crema, Blueberries and Maple Syrup. We had to exceed our $10 limit on this item because it was soooo worth the mention! You’ll taste the flavor of the plantains in these griddle cakes and the Mexican crema is made in-house. Oh, how I love FRESH! To top them off, the blueberries are marinated in agave nectar.

Andy Erdmann, the Food and Beverage Manager of the Lounge, said you certainly don’t have to be a Hotel Havana guest to stop by their restaurant. All Ocho guests are special guests!

Be sure to read Shannon’s blog, at The Long Table,  for more details and a great interior picture. This is definitely a YES place for breakfast (especially for the sweet items) when you are ready for a leisurely treat. They are actually open long hours and their All-Day Menu is intriguing.

Ocho Lounge at The Havana Hotel – 1015 Navarro St., San Antonio

There’s a Delicious “Kick” to Their Tortilla Soup

Another Tortilla Soup Blog? Here’s what we figure. If our readers/followers/fans keep telling us about their favorite Tortilla Soup dining spots, we’ll compile the biggest Tortilla Soup directory in the country. ¡Vamos! (You can see our up-to-date photo album on Facebook.)

So, here’s the latest. Another reader, Margaret Fisher, recommended Sweet Temptations in McAllen, Tx as the best spot anywhere for Tortilla Soup. Her comment was, “I know it’s not in S.A., but when in the Valley, you’ve got to try Sweet Temptations…both the ‘tortilla’ and the ‘green chile’ are the best!”

Sweet Temptations Tortilla Soup

We recently chatted with owner, Marty Lipscomb. Marty and his wife, J.P., make their Tortilla Soup fresh every day. Though they make several fresh soups each week, this is their guests’ favorite.

Did we use the word “meatless” yet? This version has no chicken (yay, vegetarians!) with whole field tomatoes, zuccini, seasonings, cheddar and their own in-house white corn tortilla chips. (Now that makes me wonder what else they’re making with the whole tortillas!?) You’ll find Rotel tomatoes in the base with a few other secret ingredients. The only dairy is the cheddar on top. This favorite soup is made fresh daily and, oh, we must tell you the spicy “kick” is there, but it’s slight and just right.

What else can you enjoy at Sweet Temptations? Chicken Cordon Bleu, hand breaded Chicken Fried Steak and Shrimp, wonderful salads w/ house made dressings, a variety of other freshly made soups, and on and on.

These folks are open for breakfast and lunch only, so be sure to call ahead for their hours of operation. Here’s the link to their website once again.

Chuy’s Chewy Tortilla Soup

Perhaps “Chewy” isn’t the appropriate word to describe Chuy’s soup, but I couldn’t resist using it in the title. Actually, their soup is a little on the delightfully crunchy side. Here’s my story in our continuing Quest for the Best Tortilla Soup.

We held a lunch meeting last week at Chuy’s. I’ll admit it, I usually get to pick the locations of our meetings because, well, people think I know where the good food is — especially folks like me who don’t want to spend more than $10!

Chuy’s Tortilla Soup

A Facebook fan of ours had recommended Chuy’s Tortilla Soup in our Quest for the Best Tortilla Soup, so we marched in the door on that 98 degree day with soup on our agenda. Why conduct this search in the summer? Actually, a little heat isn’t a problem if you’re sitting in an air conditioned restaurant PLUS tortilla soup is timeless. No matter what time of the day or season of the year, it’s a favorite among soup lovers who know of its existence.

Each bowl at each restaurant is unique. So far, the only absolutely absolute ingredient for tortilla soup with all of the restaurants we’ve visited, has been the tortilla chips. I’ve realized that all other ingredients are variables. For instance, here’s the lowdown on Chuy’s version.

We loved it. Okay, we love certain parts of almost every tortilla soup we’ve tried, but we only write about the ones that are especially good. What stands out with Chuy’s version? Nuggets of corn buried deep in the bowl. Chunks of chopped tomato allow the absence of tomato sauce in the broth. I especially enjoyed the bits of fresh cilantro, which we surprisingly have not found in many other  soups we’ve tried.

The more customary broth, shredded chicken, white cheese and tortilla strips were all balanced well — not too much — just right. The flavor was really good, though not to the extent that we went “wow” as we took our first bite. In all, it definitely fits in our Best category!

A Plate Heaped with Tasty Treasures

Our Quest for the Best Botana Platter Continues

Readers recently helped me realize  that Botana Platters are not universal menu items in Mexican food restaurants. In fact, if you haven’t eaten this fav cuisine in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, you probably don’t know what a “real” Botana Platter is.  These platters reign on the throne of my absolute favorite Mexican food of all time. Though it puzzles me why they’re only a regional item,  I’ll just go where the Botana Platters are!

This last weekend we took an unexpected trip to the Valley for a couple of days and made a point of going to another reader-recommended destination for great Botana’s. It’s called “Koko’s Uptown Cafe” and we were not disappointed. It was 10:50 in the morning and we were determined to wait out the breakfast menu to be sure we sampled their locally renowned Botana Platter.

In case you didn’t see the previous posting introducing our search for the ultimate Botana, the platter is by definition, a large plate of appetizers.  I usually count at least 10 different ingredients on each plate. Though many are consistently there (like a corn chip base, cheese, tomatoes and fajitas) the other ingredients vary like the weather.

With Koko’s version you can check out the layers of crispy corn tortillas, American cheese, chopped tomatoes and

Another View of Our Tasty Botana

onions. Top these with grilled bell peppers and onions and incredibly tender beef fajitas.  The toppings on this banana split of Mexican food? A crispy cheese quesadilla and a chicken flauta resting in a mound of quacamole.

This meal is $12.95 at Koko’s, so I thought I’d have to disallow it from our $10 price cap — until the plate was placed before me. Hellooooo! This Botana Platter for One could easily feed two. If someone’s worried about still being hungry, a shared Flan w/ Pecan Topping (Mexican dessert custard w/ caramel sauce) would likely satisfy the hungriest of diners.

BTW Breakfast Lovers — there are lots of choices of traditional Mexican breakfasts for $5 or less, too!

Gerardo Menchaca

The service from Arturo was TOP NOTCH. The restaurant was clean and comfortably crowded. Manager, Gerardo Menchaca, made sure we knew of their other restaurant in Piedras Negras, MX (which incidentally serves Botana Platters, too). I think we’ve discovered our first international listing! Stay tuned as we continue our Quest for the Best Botana Platters around!

Texas’ Best Breakfast Re-Visited

Texas’ Best Breakfast – Reggie’s Weekend Special $7.50

One year ago this month, “The Food Network Magazine” recognized Taco Haven on S. Presa, as the destination for Texas’ Best Breakfast. They won this coveted award because of their Reggie’s Weekend Special (which is served any day, BTW).

We thought we’d check back in with Taco Haven to see what’s been happening since the article was published and were not surprised to learn business is booming more than ever. Olga Torres explained they have sold over 14,000 of the Reggie’s Weekend Special in this last year, so though the annual recognition may pass to another deserving dining spot, Taco Haven’s winner will no doubt keep its popularity.

For those whose tummies are already rumbling over the thought of this little

Fresh Pico de Gallo

breakfast “snack”, here’s what you’ll find on your plate: 2 eggs (any style), papas con chili (Mexican potatoes), barbacoa (beef cheek meat), refried beans and small quesadillas (with mozarella cheese and perfectly crunchy corn tortillas!). All of this arrives with freshly made flour tortillas and fresh pico de gallo.  The meal is available all hours they are open and is obviously memorable. If you’re squirming a little over the idea of eating barbacoa, I say “rethink cheek meat.” It’s actually quite tasty. I will say, however, that a planned jog around the nearby San Antonio Mission Concepcion would be a good idea afterward. 🙂

As a side note, this historic Mission Concepcion (circa 1755) celebrates a bilingual mass on Sunday morning at 10 and a Mariachi Mass (in English) at noon. Your visit to Taco Haven could be an extra treat in conjunction with one of these unique services.

More great news. As of June 1st, Taco Haven is now open for all of you evening diners as well. You can stop by any night ’til 10 or ’til midnight on Friday or Saturday. They’ve even added a daily Happy Hour from 5-7. I’m personally intrigued by the live music provided on the 1st and 3rd Fridays. (You can call 210.533.2171 for up-to-date info on that!)

Olga and Jerry Torres

The Torres Family is an excellent example of hardworking, dedicated small business owners who are part of what makes America great. The vision and faith of founders, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry V. Torres, when they opened this spot in 1969, was more than fulfilled.  We love to tell their stories and will continue to do so.

Tortilla Soups…. Our Quest for the Best!

We had such a great response to our Tortilla Soup discussion on Facebook yesterday, that we had to dash out to one of the recommended restaurants on our way to church last night. Guajillo’s was the next stop on our Quest for the Best Tortilla Soup in Texas — and beyond!

Actually, our visit there became quite an adventure when we discovered that Guajillo’s menu includes items from the interior of Mexico. Having done a little traveling in Mexico City, Cuernavaca and in between, we recognized some favorites.

Guajillo’s Sopa de Tortilla – Before

The Guajillo’s Sopa de Tortilla is made with the Guajillo chili pepper and, though it was a little spicy, it was still delicious to a “spice phobe” like me! $2.40 was little to pay for the generous bowl it was served in, too.

Guajillo’s Sopa de Tortilla – After

So, we’re having such a good time with this, we’ve decided to launch a mini-campaign to seek the best tortilla soups in existence!! Please send us your suggestions. We’re heading off to Boerne ASAP to sample our latest reader’s recommendation! Oh, and we’ll be maintaining our Facebook “Best Tortilla Soups” album, too!