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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Suspicious Noise Report: Thump, Thump, Thump...

I enjoy reading the security reports that come from our HOA's security staff. These guys tell it like it is: Just the facts.

4/19/09 @ 0542: Complainant called in reference to his wife hearing a noise in the house. Upon arrival I checked the front of the house and rear all appeared to be secure. I checked inside and a helium balloon was on the fan blade making thumping noises. EOR

I have a few questions:
  • Did the Complainant just get home at 5:42 in the morning, or had they slept all night long and only at about 5am wake up and then hear the thumping noise?
  • Did the responding officer assist the complainant in deflating said balloon, and if so, were any weapons discharged?
  • Was there any sign of Chupacabra involvement?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dinner Report: Pappadeaux...

Mark another off the list...

As my wife and I were making our way back to San Antonio from our afternoon in San Marcos, naturally the topic of eating came up. This happens often when we get in the car.

Anyway, since we were near New Braunfels, she suggested that maybe we should stop into the Clear Springs Restaurant off Hiway 46. Hindsight being 20 - 20...
Anyway, she also had mentioned the fact that she has never been to Pappadeaux. That was about all it took and I made a beeline down I-35 and off of Loop 410 and onto McCullough so we could get some.

My only previous experience with Pappadeaux involved a business meeting, an expense account, lots of steak & shrimp and numerous beers, so even though I would be paying this time, I was sort of happy to return.
The first thing you need to know is that the place is fairly big. The place looks mighty friendly on the outside with great landscaping, covered porch with rocking chairs, and just an inviting atmosphere to it.Inside, there is a fairly large bar area where you can imagine people staying in nearby hotels routinely use for an after work hang-out.We sat at a table near the center of all traffic; every person entering the place seemed to walk by us and every member of the waitstaff hung out or got their trays loaded in front of us. Sure, we could have asked for a different table, but I like to watch the excitement.

Pappadeux offers something I really like to see in a restaurant and that is a hustling staff. The people were really moving and maybe it was the time that we visited (around 5PM), but our appetiser and food arrived fast.
With our drinks, we got a loaf of hot & fresh french bread that was nothing short of outstanding. In fact, I could have just stopped there, but my wife wanted some too.We decided to get the calamari as a starter and it was out in a matter of minutes, very hot (which is required for calamari) and it came with two sauces. One was some sort of cocktail sauce that was out of this world and the other was some sort of creamy, lemony sauce that I can't recall the name of, but it was also good.My wife ordered the fried shrimp and instead of fries had the steamed broccoli. Dude, look at the size of that broccoli! Once she cut away all the excess undercooked parts, she was good with it. She was also happy with the shrimp, though in fairness, it was basically bland. At a Cajun place? Really.If I had seen a steak & shrimp combo, I probably would have ordered it, but I just didn't see it on the menu. Instead, I went with the ol' standby and ordered catfish and shrimp. How can you screw that up if your a seafood place, right? Can I just say that they give you entirely too many fries? Of course I can, it's my blog. I mean, is it any wonder why people in San Antonio are so enormously fat?

More importantly, it creates a logistics problem. I don't really care for fries, so they just get in the way. Not to worry, the catfish was hot, but again extremely bland.

I know that the Pappadeaux people will spice up your meal if you want it really hot or they will tone it down if you can't handle the pica, but geeze, this crust was just so without taste that it seemed a shame to cover the nicely cooked catfish beneath it. And the shrimp was not special at all. Look, if we were talking about Long John Silvers, I'd be okay, but in case you hadn't seen the menu, prices for this stuff start at about $20.

It's a shame too. We had great service, it was fast - in fact my wife joked that the meal came faster than a lot of fast food places we have been to - and although it was loud, the place has a nice atmosphere. But when you into a place and spend $60, it should be at least as good as what you can get at Chili's or some place like that for $35.

In a head on comparison, I'll put Clear Springs restaurant and their catfish and their shrimp (and their fries for that matter) up against Pappadeaux any day of the week. And I promise it will cost a lot less.

Fire the cook.

Cultural Report: The World Goes 'Round...

Yea, from time to time my wife and I get away from the neighborhood garage sales, community meetings and out from in front of the TV, and we do something with a little more class. This time around, our friend Sid invited us to see his niece Lindsay Hicks perform in the musical, "The World Goes 'Round".

Surely you remember Lindsay; she is the Texas gal in this great poke at Sooner fans.

Anyway, we were off to San Marcos Sunday afternoon to catch the last performance by the Texas State University Department of Theater & Dance of this particular production. For those of you who haven't been to San Marcos, or at least beyond the Outlet Mall, you should really take a drive and see the place. And if you are really in the mood, there is Aquarena Springs, but Ralph the Swimming pig is no longer diving.

But for those of us with a little class, the theater made for a great afternoon.

The show is what amounts to a review of songs from John Kander and Fred Ebb. I know, I had to Google them too. But they are responsible for many songs made famous in shows like Chicago, Cabaret, & New York, New York. So in essence, the production was an opportunity for these theater students to show off their singing and show skills. This is not something you'll see at your kid's elementary school. We were seriously impressed with the talent and not just in singing but also several humorous scenes.
Of course, we were focused on Lindsay who played Woman 3 - and she was certainly a stand-out in the show - but there were several other performers who made the event worth the drive. Kelly Bales (Woman 1) had an extremely powerful voice. When she and Lindsay performed the song "Class", a duet about two drunk gals decrying the lack thereof in modern society, the result was awesome comedy. They both had great comedic timing and facial expressions that really sold it. And it is obvious these two work well together. Thy paired up again in the second act with "The Grass is Always Greener", an entertaining duet about a housewife and a star trading quips about how much better the others life must be. Again, these two had the audience laughing with their impeccable timing and delivery.

One of the male actors, Tyler Wallach (Man 1) really stood out. This guy did a song, "Mr. Cellophane", which was simply awesome. He also performed with the women in the show on a great song called "Sara Lee" that had the audience really laughing.
All of the actors in this show were great. I could probably go down the list and give a song by song listing and point out how well everyone did, but the point is they were all really great.

The musicians in the show were also incredible. If you just had a bunch of amateurs out there, the singers could not have performed the really intricate show tunes. These musicians genuinely did a top notch job, helping to make it a memorable afternoon.

Going up to San Marcos also gave us a chance to meet some of Sid's family including Lindsay's proud parents Jim & Monica Hicks and her brother Jake who plays football at Rice. What a talented family!
At the end of the show, Sid was all smiles as Lindsay came out from back stage to meet the family. Definitely worth the drive to San Marcos.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Crab Cake Report: Eva Hit; Quarry Miss...

I had totally forgotten about some pictures I took of my wife trying out a new recipe for crab cakes she had seen while watching a segment on KENS-5 the weekend of Easter. Coming off of our trip from Florida and my yammering on and on about the Deviled Crabs, she saw this segment where a Chef from The Quarry Restaurant showed viewers how to make their special crab cakes.

Being good sports, we made up a shopping list and off we went to the HEB to get some crab and other stuff so we could whip up some crab cakes.
Now keep in mind, we had no idea what we were doing, but it seemed pretty easy. You just mix in the ingredients, turn the mixture into patties (or cakes) and fry them up, right?But something crazy happened. The mixture was so runny that my wife came up with a conspiracy theory about the chef telling the viewers on TV the wrong directions so that they could never recreate his masterpiece, and they would be forced to go over to The Quarry and pay high dollar fro some real crab cakes. The recipe called for 2 cups of mayonnaise. Doesn't that sound like a lot of mayo for something that is supposed to be healthy?

So off to HEB I went to grab more cans of crab meat. And I might point out that crab meat is not cheap. I was thinking to myself that for what it was costing us to experiment with this recipe, we probably could go and pay the chef to whip up a few for us to try.

Anyway, with the consistency just about right, I made up a little ball of crab and put it in a pan of hot grease. Right away, my wife told me that A) there was too much oil in the pan, and 2) the oil was way to hot. I would show you a picture of the hard, blackened ball of burnt crab, but I was a little busy checking the status of our fire extinguisher.
We decided that since we weren't going to be actually eating the crab cakes until the next day anyway, we would let the stuff sit overnight in the fridge and make them in the morning. This actually did the trick. When we made the crab cake patties, they stayed together, and this time, my wife manned the frying pan with a very small amount of oil to cook on.In the end, they were so incredibly good, I felt like the $20 or so I spent on cans of crab meat was well worth it. Honestly, they were simply awesome.

Okay, so why am I bringing up the crab cakes from three weeks ago now? I was reading the Express-News food section yesterday and I saw that Karen Haram did a review on the The Quarry Restaurant. For those people who don't want to read the entire review, they have a little column with the highlights. It lists things such as the prices, location, hours etc, and they also have a Hit and a Miss section. The crab cakes came out as a Miss. Ouch!

I promise you, Eva's crab cakes were a Hit, even if the chef tried to trick her on the recipe.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Shameless: Really, Really Shameless...

I purposely try to avoid going on YouTube because it is such a time waster. I mean, I could be looking for one specific video and the next thing I know, three hours later I'm still looking at goofy stuff.

Anyway, as is the norm, I went online to look for one specific video and the next thing you know, I'm looking at this mess. The artist is a guy named Tasten Peter. You can't make this stuff up.

Just watch it for at least a minute and see if you don't swear off of YouTube forever. More likely though, you'll be on for a while looking to see what other horrendous crap is out there. By the way, the song was written by Billy Joel, not Garth Brooks.

Friday, April 24, 2009

River Walk Construction Update...

I had to make a short trip downtown today yesterday and thought, what the heck, since they claim to be coming really close to finishing our new River Walk extension, it must be worth taking a minute or two to gander over the side of the bridge. From my vantage point at the bridge on McCullough and St Mary's, here are a few pictures.The landscaping is coming right along with several areas full of green grass, lots of small bushes going and of course, palm trees.I'm thinking with some good rain, things will fill in nicely. I can almost see the river boats full of fancy tourists floating by while drunk people drop cell phones and beer bottles in the water in appreciation. Good times.Interestingly enough, there have been several stories about the art going in around the bridges - lots of sculptures and such. Under this bridge, it looks like the artist has made some sort of screens. I know I could probably do a quick search and figure out what he/she was going for, but I'm not that interested, and I'm sort of lazy that way on a Friday afternoon. In spite of not knowing what it is, it looks kinda nice.

Wanna see more? Head on over to the Flickr page to get the full River Walk Construction Experience. Perhaps that can be a new ride at Fiesta Texas next year.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Strange in Alamo Ranch...

I found these on my camera while moving some pictures around, and even though they are old - already several days which means it can't qualify for "late breaking" - I still found them humorous.We were sitting at the stoplight at 1604 & Culebra waiting to go into the Best Buy at Alamo Ranch when my wife noticed this SUV attempting to somehow increase their gas mileage by reducing the overall weight of the vehicle. Somehow, I'm thinking it ain't gonna work.Oh, and just in case you need a reason to purchase a new convertible, show this to your wife. I'm sure they have the kids stowed safely in the trunk.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Attended a Funeral Service Today...

A co-worker of mine, a young lady who sat no more than ten feet from me, five days a week, separated only by the wall of a cubicle, lost her life following a tragic accident in which her husband was also killed.

In spite of having different jobs, different roles in the office, you cannot help but overhear one another's conversations, laugh at the same jokes that someone tells or as most often was the case for our over the cubicle wall conversations, share movie trivia.

I can't count the number of times that the guy sitting in the desk next to mine would start describing a scene from a movie and before I could come up with an actor's name or the title, an excited voice from next door would beat me to the answer. I didn't know her all that well, but certainly well enough to feel the need to attend her services.

Having never attended services at a "Black Church" - and I hope that isn't offensive to describe it as such - I have to tell you that I enjoyed the music, the spirit of the people and the fact that the audience participation wasn't in the form of responses read from a missalette. My funeral experiences have been primarily in the Catholic faith, and there is a certain format that can be counted upon, and quite frankly, I suspect a pre-determined one hour time limit. This program went on for much longer, but it was all heartfelt and worthwhile.

You don't have to be overly familiar with a person or their family to recognize the tragedy of their loss when what is left behind are grieving grandparents, brothers and sisters, and a little 4 year-old boy who will never really know either if his parents.

If the beautiful gospel music as the coffin was closed didn't move; and if watching the distraught parents and her brother and sister and aunts and uncles making their way into the church didn't move, then certainly, seeing this beautiful 4-year-old boy entering the church, clinging to a Senior NCO in full service dress uniform, would be enough for anybody, close friend or simply the guy from the next cubicle over, to warrant a tissue.

Tragic is the thought that comes to mind.

GNW Casino Night: Sat May 2nd 7PM to 11PM at the Lodge..

I promised Darin, our Community Manager that I would put up this poster for our Great Northwest Casino Night planned for Saturday the 2nd of May. Click on it and it may become readable. This gives those of you GNW folks plenty of time to make arrangements for a sitter, iron a pair of slacks and get in a Vegas frame of mind.

And of course, We'll be there. The last time my wife and I attended one of these Casino Night deals, we won all sorts of booty. I think they give you a certain amount of chips when you arrive, and then you either promptly lose them all and head straight for the cash bar until the night is over, or, you can do like my wife did and start winning at the tables and leave with lots of prizes.

If you are a GNW resident, why not give it a shot? Need more info? You can head down to the Lodge office and ask someone, or why not give them a call at 681-2983.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It Must Be The Playoffs: Drunk Spurs Guy is Back...

I have to confess that I am a second half of the season Spurs fan. That is to say, I don't even watch the Spurs until after the All Star Break, and even then, I usually only watch the second half of the games until it comes time for the playoffs.

And what do I like about the NBA Playoffs? Oh sure, the basketball itself is entertaining enough, but I love the moments during time-outs where they cut to the national announcers, either TNT or in the case of tonight's Spurs-Mavs game, ESPN.
By the third quarter, Drunk Spurs Fan (he could be sober as a judge, but he looks drunk) is in rare form. Hey, if he can afford those tickets, he is free to get as liquored up as he wants. Plus, it can be some fine entertainment.Oh, and this lady sitting near him seems surprised that Drunk Spurs Guy is maintaining his cool at this point in the game.

Lunch Report: Two Bros BBQ Market on West Ave...

My wife was reading in the San Antonio Express-News Food section and saw the review on a place called Two Bros. BBQ Market that sounded pretty good. As the review reports, this place was opened by some ritzy restaurant guy, Jason Dady who has a few other places around town - Bin 555 and Tre Trattoria. Yea, I'll stick to checking out the BBQ place, someone else can report on the others.

Anyway, we decided to make the drive over and find out what all the fuss was about. I'll tell you up front, we have sort of mixed feelings about the place; some real positives and some real negatives.
When you get there, you find that Two Bros. is hidden behind another restaurant, a Mexican place called El Bosque. Pull in just beyond and you will find Two Bros.What we found right off the bat was that parking can present a situation. The place was not crowded at all (based on the amount of available seating), but the parking situation was already troublesome. Perhaps they will buy out El Bosque and pave over it for more parking. Part of the issue was that people parked really goofy. The three vehicles you see above right were all parked over two rows of slots each. Maybe they need valet parking.

Anyway, as soon as you pull into the lot, the wonderful aroma of BBQ hits you. It really does smell good. We walked in and the building is very inviting; nothing to make you think you are in a ritzy place, yet everything is clean, well organized and something I especially liked, there was no uncomfortable guessing about what you were supposed to do.
I have mentioned before that I often feel pressured into making a snap decision on my order because I don't fully grasp the way they menu options work or have time to figure out what I want. In this case, they use the line to get you started with drink options (beer & sodas), but with a sign letting you know that iced tea, lemonade and other stuff is available at the register. They made that sign for me. On the wall are well laid out menus showing packages you can get or, as I like, vittles by the pound. The sides are clearly identified as are the desserts and such.When it is your turn to order, the guy asks for your name, then takes the order and prints out a receipt. From there, you take your receipt to a second register where you pay and pick up any other drinks you need. As you wait to hear your name called for the order, you can be grabbing your plastic ware, pickles, jalapenos, napkins and drink lids etc.

One thing we did note is that they do not have a speaker outside for the folks sitting on the awesome patio to hear their name called. This resulted in hearing an extremely loud guy yell "Bob!" about 10 times before someone else went and popped out the door to the patio and yelled for Bob to come get his food.
Speaking of the outside patio, it really is nice. Lots of picnic tables to sit at and things were not cramped at all. And of course, two things you cannot miss are the smoke house or the huge play area for the kids to climb on while mommy and daddy toss back a few cold ones.Inside, I noticed a few trees that stayed when construction began. One was behind our order taker, the other here, by the door to the patio had all sorts of wine bottle corks around it. Fancy, yet homey.About the food. We ordered 1/4 pound of brisket, 1/2 bound of pork ribs, 2 chicken thighs and small portions of sides: Mac & Cheese, beans, potato salad, and creamed corn.

I love yard bird. This texture was fine, I just didn't care for the taste. And even with their sauce, (which I did not care for), it wasn't much better. My wife was okay with the chicken. I thought the pork ribs were pretty good but my wife felt like they had used some sort of chili powder rub or something on them, giving them a uniquely bad taste. Go figure. We both agreed that the brisket was pretty good, but we also agreed that we had had much, much better. Is it possible that they are trying to turn good down home BBQ into something fancy?

A perfect case in point: the beans. They had these barbecued beans that tasted weird. I overheard another customer asking the grill man what was in the beans and he said it was peaches. Okay, but it wasn't the peaches that gave them the over the top too ritzy for their own good taste. Blech.

The potato salad was very good, the cream corn was really good and the mac & cheese was just okay.
Finally, I recalled from the Express-News review that they simply raved about the
cream-cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped smoked jalapenos". Puhleez. This is one of the standards that I make whenever we grill outdoors and I promise, mine are bigger, better and served hotter. Unless money grows on trees for you, don't waste the $6.00.

Which reminds me. The prices were not bad at all. I'd say that for the amount of food we got - and yes, we did take a full box of food home - Two Bros. was priced consistent with most other BBQ places we have been to.

Bottomline: If you live on that side of town, or just happen to be in the area, by all means, stop in and give Two Bros a try. But if you just must have some good BBQ, whether it be in the form of chicken, brisket, ribs or whatever, I'd unconditionally recommend Augie's Barbed Wire Smoke House over Two Bros. BBQ Market.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dinner Report: Best Wings & More on Marbach...

I hope you won't think that we have given up fine dining, you know, the likes of Chili's or Jim's, when I tell you that my wife and I stopped into a gas station for dinner this evening.

And no, I didn't even need gas. (Feel free to insert joke about husbands always having plenty of gas here).
There is this place over by John Jay High School called Best Wings & More. It is on Marbach Road next to the now condemned apartments once known as Marbach Manor. If you click on the link, you can appreciate the comment somebody left for those apartments: "When they reject you at jail, they send you here." Now that is just funny.
Anyway, it is more of a convenience store, but over the years, they have turned a portion of the store into a very successful little diner. I know my nephew used to stop in for a burger on his way home from Jay all the time, and that kid knows a good burger.

So my wife and I headed out to the area this evening and she thought I might like to grab a few burgers to take with us over to her mom's house, and that is just what we did.
While we waited for our order - everything is cooked to order, so you know it will be hot - we sat and listened to some familiar music coming from what I suspect is an Internet radio station originating from India. I suspect this because we just watched Slumdog Millionaire the other night, and it sounded familiar.Anyway, here is how it all stacks up. My wife got a regular cheeseburger with fries and a drink combo for pretty cheap. You can see that it is a good size and has fresh dressings and such. The patty is obviously packaged, but cooked right and flavorful. I had a different strategy. Having never eaten there before, I ordered a double cheeseburger. And instead of making mine a combo, I ordered some jalapeno poppers. I was actually really pleased with the burger, but it was way more than I needed. I could have easily been filled and then some, with the single patty burger. Sure, it was all a little greasy - as you would want and expect from a hole in the wall diner like this - but it was good. Okay, the poppers were only $1.99, and in fact, the portion was outstanding for that price - I think there were 7 in the box. They were terrible. Even for $1.99, I won't make that mistake again.But aside from the poppers which may have been slightly undercooked, the burger was good and the place looked especially clean - something you look for in a roadside eating place built between the "Buttman" magazine stand and the beer cooler. Hey, our anniversary is coming up and it isn't everyday you can get dinner and entertainment for such a good deal.

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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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