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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dinner Report: Rome's Pizza...

My wife and I found need to be at the intersection of 1604 and Culebra (or near there) this evening to make a run into our local Home Depot. As we had not engaged in a proper meal in hours, we decided to call into the newly opened Rome's Pizza, and order up some to-go snackage.Before I get to the vittles, I need to report a serious issue at this newly swamped intersection and the approaches thereto; San Antonio still does not know how to synchronize a traffic light, or, there is probably an off-duty police officer in front of the Wells Fargo bank, screwing things up.

My friends (in my best John McCain voice), it is only going to get worse. The reason my wife and I hate Bandera Pointe (the intersection of 1604 and, well, Bandera), is that there are too many vehicles trying to be there at once. Well, welcome to Alamo Ranch. Same problem.
But enough of my traffic whining. Let's talk about pizza. Rome's Pizza.

We ordered a 12 inch pepperoni and just for good measure, a Calzone with pineapple and ham. In case you aren't familiar with the nomenclature, a Calzone is an oven baked half moon turnover stuffed with pizza sauce, mozzarella and the pizza toppings you order. When we lived in Italy, we would have a similar thing called a fritilli which was fried instead of baked. Good times.
As soon as I walked in to pick up the order, I was pleased to see an very clean and seemingly well organized operation. I will confess that the prices seemed a bit spendy, but you have to pay for quality. Anyway, the place looks nice inside but not anything boothy like a Pizza Hut. More of a Subway or Jasons Deli.When we got the food and headed home, I have to confess that both my wife and I were not immediately impressed. Mostly because of the size of the pizza compared to the price. Keep in mind, we were literally 100 yards from Papa Murphy's - easily the best value of any person seeking to gorge themsleves into a new pants size for under $15.00. The pizza looked thin and the Calzone looked small in the box it came in.

But when you are stuck in traffic, things don't always appear to be as they really are. Oh sure, with my wife driving, I could have easily just grabbed a slice and started tossing pizza down my gullet, but I opted to wait the short drive until we got home. And once there, we could really smell the goodness and start to dig in - and only then did it become apparent that Rome's is a winner.
Like many of you, I suffer pains from most of the pizza sauces found in contemporary pizza today. That is one of the reasons I like Papa Murphy. The dipping sauce that came with Rome's Calzone and the sauce that grazed our pepperoni was purely excellent - not acidy at all. Kudos! and of course, the pizza crust was thin and excellent.The Calzone had a nice crust and was soft, not disturbingly hard or burnt like the one we had at House of Pizza on our last (and I do mean, last) visit.So there you go. Bring money, bring an appetite and don't let the rush hour traffic get you down. Rome's Pizza gets a Tasty Treat.

I'm sure you've tried the new Rome's. How did you like it? How was the traffic. Leave a comment if you'd like...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And Then There Were Just Two of us...

I'm sure every parent goes through this little adjustment period when it finally comes to fruition; the transition into empty-nest hood. We did it as my son had his stuff all packed up and shipped off to Florida and just Tuesday, headed off on his own for Alabama to attend "Lt School".On one hand, you are so excited to watch your kids head off into the great unknown to pursue dreams and life on their own, but on the other, that life is so far from home. I guess I should know...

It has been two years since my daughter left for the military. She is married, happy, and far away, but in this day and age with the Internet, cell phones and Skype, we stay in touch. We talked to my son numerous times between San Antonio and Montgomery.

My wife and I thought about the fact that, back in the day when we left home, we didn't have the luxury of such communications. When we lived in Italy, we would make monthly phone calls that lasted maybe 10 minutes at the most, because anything else would have simply been cost prohibitive.

Letters would take easily ten days from the time we wrote until our parents would read them. Just today, my daughter and I traded five or six e-mails in about three minutes. Things are different for sure. But aside from all this easy access to communications, this is still a change in life.

My wife told me last night that it occurred to her that we had only been alone for 11 months before the first kid came along. We really don't remember what it is like to be without kids; my wife is incapable of making dinner for just two. We might have to open a restaurant, just to get rid of all the stuff we can't eat.

Or maybe since we don't have to set a good example, we'll just have ice cream for breakfast and waffles for dinner. Who knows?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Backyard Friend Report: Praying Mantis...

We had a little visitor on the railing of our deck yesterday.This little guy seemed friendly enough, but I told my wife that it would squirt some sort of oil in her eye if she tried to pet it. So then she gave me some tongs and insisted that we try to feed him a carrot. WTH?In the end, the stick bug did not eat the carrot, and none of us had anything squirted in our eyes. It could have been much worse.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lunch Report: The New Krystal Burger at Alamo Ranch...

Okay, technically, not really in Alamo Ranch, but close enough to sit in traffic for several minutes, right?

And if we hadn't been going to the HEB on the corner, and had my wife not mentioned the new Krystal Burger was open, and had I not been hankerin' for something vittle-like to toss down my gullet, we might not have pulled in to the newest location.

Ah yes, Krystal Burger. Isn't there a yearly contest where skinny Japanese fellows attempt to stuff themselves in a minute with these square little goodness burgers, only to see some fat American double the intake in half the time? I could be wrong, but according to the box my little burger came in, some dude consumed over a hundred of these bute's in a matter of minutes. No wonder we are so fat. We make eating a sport. And I'm here to tell you about it.
We started to open the front door of the place but I saw what I suspected was a line. I suggested to my wife we go get something healthy and try the new KB another time, but it turned out, most of the people in line were managers and supervisors hanging out. We proceeded with caution.Let me cut directly to the chase; service was awesome! The place is small - too small in my mind, but having said that, we ordered and had nothing but polite and helpful people easing us through the process, and explaining to us that they would bring us our food soon, if only we would take a little number and set it on our table. We did as they asked, and in turn, they delivered.The managers in the corner looked on.Between the two of us, we ordered a mountain of burgers, little chili dogs and a few buckets of fries. Just to test them, we ordered one tea sweet, and the other without; both were tasty. For your own score card, we were number 19 today.In case you have never indulged, the KB's are little square burgers. The patties are seriously thin little strips of meat and the buns are some soft little dinner rolls like you might experience on Thanksgiving. Add some reconstituted onions, a pickle, cheese if you need, and dig in for a bite or two, because that is all it will take to finish. Of course, you'll need to buy more than one if you are hungry rather than just curious.The fries are excellent. I submit that these fries can actually compete with McDonald's. Hate Mickey D's all you like but admit that they have the best fries. If you can't stomach Ronald's anymore, go to Krystal and you'll be good to go.The little chili dogs: My wife liked them, I thought they were nasty. We don't always agree on food. If you like Sonic's foot longs, you'll like Krystal's 3 incher. I don't care for either. Nor do I care for thier chili dogs.

These little burgers are a novelty to me. I could eat these in a car, I could eat these in a bar, I could, well... you get the idea. The point being that there is nothing that would make me go out of my way to crave a KB, but if I was hungry for lunch and it was nearby, I'd surely stop in for several more along with the fries.
We'll see how long it lasts, but for now, the service at Krystal on 1604 and Culebra is outstanding. That is enough to warrant a visit and to at least say you have been.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dinner Report: Special Cajun Surprise...

After experiencing some really yummy Cajun flavored vittles in Shreveport just last night, I was talking with several colleagues during a meeting today and telling them of my good fortune to find such a special Cajun treat near the hotel.One of the locals told me about this place that my co-worker and I should check out, especially if we like spicy chicken. That was all the tempting we needed, so after a long day of work, we found the restaurant just across the highway from the last place.The place had a wonderful decor and inviting interior, but all the same we got our chicken in the to-go format. Good stuff. They ought to get this stuff in Texas.Oh, by the way, I couldn't help but snap a picture of this. Strange.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dinner Report: Becca's in Shreveport, LA...

If you are in Louisiana, you are required by law to eat some sort of Cajun food, so I have heard, but after finishing a day of business on the road, my co-worker and I didn't have the urge to go driving all over the place looking for the official Cajun Restaurant of Shreveport. Instead, we asked the front desk lady at our hotel for something close and she suggested a place called Becca's - next to the O'Reilly's Auto Parts. Make no mistake, you can get your crawfish etoufee and some spark plug cleaner in the same stop, and I'm all about efficiency.When you first pull up, think of a San Antonio hole-in-the wall; this isn't going to be fine dining on the top of a tower, but it just might be something good inside. Right away, we were greeted and the staff (all of them) greeted us and was happy to hear that the hotel had recommended the place. For just a split second, I wondered if they were surprised, but maybe they weren't.The interior of the place has a nice rustic feel to it. You've seen that look before where they try to make you forget you are in a shopping center by making the place feel rustic. Lots of moss and tree limbs and such. I enjoy eating in a place like this because they know if I was looking for something a bit more elegant, I wouldn't have pulled into an O'Reilly's for dinner in the first place.I didn't know it when we walked in or even until I read the sign on this door, but they have some of that video poker action going on. Yes, get some Jambalaya and win some money. Of course, we passed on the poker and got straight to the vittles.The special was Snapper Barataria, and though I have never heard of it before, our waiter recommended it over the blackened catfish I had originally ordered. And I should mention that our waiter was awesome. He could have been a character in a movie and I don't mean that in a bad way, just that he seemed to embody what I would imagine someone from the area would be like. I hope that isn't stereotypical or anything.The dinner came with a house salad. I ordered Ranch dressing, but the waiter brought their house dressing. And he was right. I have never had a salad clear my sinuses like this one did. Good stuff! My co-worker ordered the same, but he also got a cup of some crawfish soup. It looked inedible to me, but he ate it up pretty quickly. I guess I'm just not ready for that.When dinner came out - pretty quickly in fact - it smelled fantastic. In addition to the salad, the snapper was served with a "twice baked" potato. Mine had been baked at least twice, maybe more; but it was good on the inside gooey, cheesy parts. From what I gather, the Barataria comes from the name of a town in Louisiana and is also French for the word "fraudulent". I'm guessing this Snapper Barataria is named after the town and not the French word. It had some sort of white sauce with little shrimp mixed in it and lots of seasoning. I love hot, spicy foods and this hit the mark in a big way.

Our waiter and other folks on the staff kept in touch but weren't intrusive. We never had to worry about iced tea glasses being filled, but at the same time, they never hovered. For example, my co-worker casually asked about the possibility of hush puppies, even though they weren't part of the platter we ordered, and within several minutes, our waiter returned with some he had just fried up. Then when we both asked for take-out boxes, he brought us some more hush puppies to take with us. Outstanding.

I am no expert on Cajun food - I have to confess that most of the names of the dishes just make me queasy in spite of not even knowing what they really are. I can't tell you if Becca's was best place to eat around this part of Shreveport, but it sure hit the spot. That and extremely solid service and friendly folks make it worth a visit if you happen to be here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Spiffy in the Airport...

I had a few minutes to kill in the airport today waiting for my flight to depart.Nothing like some shiny shoes to make for a comfortable flight, I say.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Smoothie King: Dance Like You Mean It...

We are easily entertained (as you may have gathered by the fact that I take pictures of food), and the simplest of gimmicks can draw a giggle.

I say if your job is to be the Dancing Smoothie, work it, Baby.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

One Size Fits All? Halloween Party Report...

Yea, Yea, I know; it's a bit early for Halloween and the next thing you know we'll be having a Christmas party in November. But aside from the timing, what better way to spend a Friday night than squeezing in to a Pirate suit and enjoying the company of friends and neighbors?

Here is a little note for those of you who will be attending a party later this month - around the time of the actual holiday. When the package on the costume says "one size fits all", don't wait until an hour before the party to try it on. That's just a little hint from me to you. Oh sure, I was able to squeeze my buns into the pirate pants - and by the way, I noticed that apparently, all pirates wear the same color pants - but when it came to the pirate shirt, that was a different story.

I'd be happy to tell you that my beer gut was the cause of the ill-fitted shirt, but in this case, the shoulders, chest, back, neck and everything else involved caused me to look like a sausage with an attitude! Arrrggh!
So of course, we ran over to Wal Mart, purchased a few huge t-shirts and my wife quickly fashioned them into rags, suitable for any scurvy dog.

But enough about Party City and their belief that everybody has a 32 inch waist.
We showed up at the Lodge of the Great Northwest and found the staff had really spiffed up the place, complete with numerous animated scary characters, blacked out windows and Halloween appropriate decor.

We found several of our neighbors at a table and joined them, and before long, the lodge was filled. I didn't do a count but there was easily a hundred or more people there. The staff had to actually bring out more tables and chairs to accommodate everyone, and to me, that speaks to the size of the crowd.
Local caterers offered a free spread of food and it was mighty fine. Chaparritas, Casa Posada and Parties for Le$$ all provided the tacos, chalupas, taquitos and a selection of fixin's. Good stuff!The DJ for the event was Daniel from Parties for Less and he treated the crowd with a wide range of music which allowed for everyone to find a reason to dance.And aside from eating, tipping a few cold ones and chatting with fellow party goers, dancing was the main event.

Chicken dance, anyone?
All in all, Stephanie, Jose and the rest of the GNW staff put on another great event. Wanna see more photos? Perhaps you should check out the Flickr page here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

GNWCIA Meeting Report: My Notes...

My wife and I made the short trip down to the Lodge of the Great Northwest to attend the monthly regular Board meeting of the Great Northwest Community Improvement Association (GNWCIA). I'll keep the notes brief, or not.

Members to Speak: A resident and former board member, Mr. Bill McDonough provided a great proposal to the board and offered comments to the audience regarding a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and that is the upkeep of major right-of-ways within the GNW community. Even if you don't live in the Great Northwest, Bill's comments and recommendations are noteworthy, as was the response.

The background of his issue is that many of the thoroughfares within our community are faced by the back fences of private homeowners. Many of these homeowners simply do not maintain these areas. The best example is along Timber Path Road through the Commons and Stagecoach Run sub-divisions. Timber Path runs through the back fences of these sub-divisions, so for a stretch of almost a quarter of a mile, the road and sidewalk runs between two privacy fences with no homes facing the street.

For whatever reason, most if not all homeowners/renters on this stretch simply do not mow/weed eat the one to two foot section of grass behind the fence - and frankly, these people probably never see it or even think about it. But to residents who care and to potential home buyers, this is an eyesore and a symptom of a neighborhood on the decline.

Please understand - these strips of grass and weeds do not belong to the City or the GNW association, yet over the years, volunteers including the group I belong to, the A-Team, have attempted to maintain these areas, but not with any consistency.

Bill suggests that in the best interest of home values, the association spend some money to contract out the occasional weed eating of the sections of this property - even though we don't own it.

98 percent of the audience gave the proposal applause. But of course, there is always one person who has read the community by-laws and is ready to extinguish common sense and progress with the rules.

I have grown to admire former GNW Board member, Mr. Joe Martinez, and I have learned much from our brief discussions and e-mails on matters like this.

After rattling off the specific by-law lines and regulations essentially poo pooing the proposal, he then pointed out that if you mow one person's yard, you have to mow every body's. Further, he points out that it is the responsibility of the association and the City to make people maintain their yards. Fine.

First, enforcement by the City is hit or miss at best; don't count on it. Second, would you pay the legal fees of the association lawyers to file lawsuits against 40 homeowners when you could pay a couple of 14 year-olds with a weed eater and a lawn mower to resolve the issue twice a month? Seriously, sometimes you have to pick your fights.

And to those people who would complain that we trimmed the fences along Timber Path or near the other entrances to the neighborhood, but didn't show up to mow their yards, I would ask them to pay their lawyer to file suit against us - and then suggest to them that they could hire a few 14 year-olds with a weed eater and a mower for a whole lot less, then I'd get the lawyers to sue them if they don't maintain their yards. I can deal with whiners all day long. I'm only joking here, but the point is that this is a weak excuse not to do what is in the best interest of the association.

People, this is where you as GNW residents need to get yourself in gear and send e-mails and letters to the Board and to the Community Manager, and tell them you support this proposal (or at least want to know more). Bill put forth a solid suggestion here, and it is time that we provide our elected Directors with some feedback.

Mr. Martinez did bring up a valid, unrelated comment about an ongoing problem with how the agenda for the meetings are printed/layed-out, as well as the wording on the forms for signing up to speak, and the board accepted his comments for action.

Community Manager Report: Darin provided some info on the financial stuff (a letter from the auditors, and comments about needing to find an auditing firm closer to San Antonio).

Recreation: Darin also reminded us about the Adult Halloween Party from 8PM to midnight Friday the 17th of October (This Friday). More info at the Lodge, but my wife and I will be there with costumes on.
  • He also made note of the Haunted House on October 30-31 at the Lodge and they can use volunteers. Again, check with the folks at the Office.
  • GNW Night at the San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks on 4 Nov. Tickets are $30 at the Lodge and the proceeds go to the GNW Scholarship Fund.
  • Chili Cook-off on 8 November. Details where? The Lodge!
Old Business: Tezel Road Project - if you recall from the last meeting, there was discussion about possibly taking over responsibility from the city to maintain a strip of land along Tezel Road. Darin got with the city and turns out, what they need is more people calling 3-1-1 and demanding they mow. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • Bill McDonough made a suggestion to work with the city to establish a recycle program for leaves. Instead of you trying to stuff all your leaves into a bag for pick-up a few times a year, we could work to have them mulched, then use them in areas around the GNW, like the Tezel Road area. Good idea!
  • If you would like more information on Bill's suggestions, e-mail me and I will put you in touch with him. Great guy with a lot of solid ideas.
  • Director Besing had information that part of the Tezel Road area may be taken up by the church located near it.
  • Again, if you see areas that need work and are the responsibility of the city, 3-1-1 is your number to dial. Call them early and often.
New Business: It was brought to the board's attention by Director Besing that GNW has some IT issues that need to be addressed. Following a short briefing, it was suggested by Director Mifflin and Chairman Garcia that the Community Manager should prepare some information and some bids to be discussed at a later time.

And off they went to the closed session

Thoughts? Comments? Discussion? Do it below, or
e-mail me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lunch Report: Lulu's...

As we were contemplating dining possibilities during our visit to the International Accordion Festival on Saturday, we couldn't bring ourselves to go for any of the fried delicacies found in the many food booths set up in La Villita. I have my handsome figure to maintain, and tossing skewers of fried shrimp down my gullet isn't going to help. So we had to find something healthy to eat, and pronto!Just then, my wife remembered a coupon she clipped for Lulu's Cafe downtown on Main Ave. Surely they would have something with vegetables.The place is set up like an old diner with booths, tables and counter seating. As we walked in, a waitress yelled across the restaurant, welcoming us to Lulu's and said we could sit wherever we liked. We found a booth and were quickly delivered menus to look at and had our iced tea orders taken.In spite of a wide selection, it was pretty apparent from all the signs and banners throughout the place, the only thing we would be needing was the Chicken Fried Steak. Oh, and some vegetables.We ordered and looked around the place and as we waited (not too long at all) for our food, we watched plate after plate of goodness come out from the kitchen. With slogans like, "Don't Trust a Skinny Cook" on signs, you can just imagine the love going into these huge burger emerging from the kitchen. Had we realized they had onion rings, we probably would have gotten some, though I'm not sure we could have handled it.I ordered my CFS with green beans and mashed potatoes. First off, look at the size of that mouth watering CFS. And this was the regular size, not even the big one. The green beans did not have any special seasoning to make them stand out, but they were extremely good. I kept thinking to myself that, if the CFS weren't involved, I could probably eat a plate of the green beans. My wife and I think they take a baked potato, then just mash it up. The mashed potatoes were yummy, and the cream gravy was a solid compliment. My wife ordered the same plate but had corn instead of green beans. It was sort of odd that we received our plates but had not been delivered the all important eating utensils to immediately dig in. I almost think it is a trick they play on the newbs.

When we were able to commence the feast, we both agreed that the breading and the selection for the meat were perfect. If you really had to, you could cut through this CFS with your fork, it was so tender. The breading had a good taste only made better with the gravy, and it was not too much. If you have ever had a CFS where the breading just overwhelms the meal, you understand how awesome it is to experience this nice light and flaky coating.
When it was all said and done, neither of us finished more than half of our CFS and had to go for the take-out boxes. We also grabbed a three pound cinnaman roll which was promptly split up between my us and my mother-in-law. Today's breakfast!Everybody claims to have the best chicken fried steak in San Antonio. Lulu's down on Main backs it up with a huge portion of mouth watering goodness, a fair price and pretty good service. That gets my wife doing her happy dance and a bonified Tasty Treat, everytime.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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