Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Top Ten Lists - Restaurants

Roger here...  After a couple of "real-time" posts I am going to do another retrospective from our first five years of travel in our motor home.  This time the Top Ten (actually 20) list will include our favorite places to eat.  We tend not to eat at chain restaurants since we want to experience the food from the local area.  We also do not tend to eat at expensive, dressy places.  As with all these lists, we know we missed some great places.

We may not have pictures of all of them, but we sure do have memories of the food.

1.  Bowpickers, Astoria, Oregon.

We were with our friends, Jay and Nancy.  Jay wanted Fish 'n Chips.  The internet suggested Bowpickers.  We expected a pub-type sit-down restaurant.  What we found was two young ladies frying fish in an old "Bowpicker" boat on top of a hill.  We drove right by it the first time wondering what the long line was about.  We then discovered that the long line was about Bowpickers.  We placed our order outside and picked it up outside.  There were a couple of picnic tables, but most people (including us) ate in the car.  The menu consisted of fish 'n chips or a large order of fish 'n chips.  One could also pick up a bottled water or soda from a cooler under a tree.  We all agreed that the fish 'n chips were the best we had ever tasted.  We liked it so much that Dianne and I waited in line a second time before we moved from the area.

2.  Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, Llano, Texas.

During the time that Dianne and I did some work-camping for Amazon in Coffeyville, KS, one of our fellow workers told us that we MUST have barbecue at Cooper's when visiting the Hill Country of Texas.  So we did.  

The entire process for getting the food at Cooper's was foreign to us as non-Texans (at the time).  The first step was to wait in line outside along the street.  After arriving at the outdoor smoke pits, step two involved pointing to the cuts of meat that we wanted (brisket, ribs, chicken, sausage, pork chops, whatever was on the grill).  The meat was then wrapped in butcher paper and handed to us.  Step 3, we went inside where the meat was weighed and a price was rendered.  Step 4, we picked up other food from a cafeteria line and paid.  Step 5, we dipped ourselves cups of beans from a nearby table.  Step 6, we found a spot at one of the picnic tables.  Step 7, we opened up the meat and spread it out on butcher paper (no plates).  Step 8, we stuffed ourselves with too much delicious food.  

What a great experience!  We liked it so much that we took our friends Chuck and Cindy there when they visited.  It is rumored to be George W. Bush's favorite barbecue place, and there was indeed a photo of "W" eating there at Cooper's.

3.  Julian Pie Company,  Julian, California.

We drove up into the southern California mountains after spending a hot day in the desert.  The hike that I selected that day was not to Dianne's liking, and she wanted some pie!  Being the smart guy that I am, I drove straight to the small town of Julian.

It was worth the drive.  The picture shows Dianne's apple pie with cinnamon ice cream.

4.  (tie) Po Pigs BO-B-Q, Edisto Island, South Carolina.

Dianne somehow found this place while we camped by the ocean.  It was attached to a Shell gas station.  Cafeteria-style, we selected the barbecue that we wanted, put it on the tray, and found a place to sit.  Paper plates and plastic utensils --- didn't matter.  Each table had a variety of sauces to sample.  The food literally melted in our mouths.  Now we understand South Carolina barbecue.  Yum.

5. (tie).  Voodoo Doughnuts, Portland, Oregon.

We were with our daughters and granddaughter when we made this mandatory visit to one of Portland's biggest tourist attractions.
This was another one of those places where waiting in line, outside, was required.

The wait gave us plenty of time to decide which confections we wanted to eat on the spot, and which we wanted to take back to the motor home for breakfast the next day.  The variety was endless --- bacon maple, pretzel, chocolate chunk, anything you could imagine.

Our granddaughter, Kaia, seemed to like it, but she was certainly not the only one.

6. Suire's.  Kaplan, Louisiana.

(pronounced Sweers)

We followed another travel blog, Laurie and Odel, for a long time before we
Ever seen so many types of rice???  True Cajun Country!
 started our own travels.  Laurie noted that this grocery/cafe in the middle of nowhere had the best po boys she had ever tasted.  They drove 50 miles out of the way...
... to eat there a second time.  She was right.  I crave that taste after only one visit.  Dianne and I split a catfish and a....
...shrimp po boy.  I want another one now!
Fifty miles out of the way does not seem far for a grocery store at the crossroads of two county roads in Louisiana when the food is that good. Looks like the New York Times found it, too.

6. (tie) Auslander.  Fredericksburg, Texas.

The same co-worker from Amazon who steered us to Cooper's in Llano...
... told us about Auslander in Fredericksburg.  He also told us about Luckenbach.  He gave such good advice.  The German food at Auslander is something we experience almost every year when we visit the Hill Country.  

We took Chuck and Cindy there a few years ago.  Great food!  Great German beer.  When we agreed to large tankards we had no idea that it would come in vessels the size of a milk jug :-)  We did a lot of walking after we ate.

8. (tie) Pine State Biscuits.  Portland, Oregon.

We were with our daughters and granddaughter when we had breakfast here.  Robyn's boyfriend, Atul, gave us a list of places we
should see and places where we should eat.  This place was quite a find.  Located in a small Portland neighborhood we found some of the tastiest breakfasts we have ever eaten.  To the right is a fried chicken, bacon and egg biscuit with gravy.
I don't remember what this was, but I guarantee it was amazing.  (Actually it was sausage gravy and biscuits with a perfectly-cooked egg on top. -- D.)   Probably not good for you, but amazing.  (We later saw this restaurant featured on the TV program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives -- D.)

8. (tie) Amish Acres, Nappanee, Indiana.

Amish cooking.  Oh my.  This tourist attraction was located across the street from where we had our motor home serviced.  It was too tempting to not eat there twice.

The meal started with homemade bean soup, which was followed by family-style fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, noodles....

Just like being at grandma's on a Sunday afternoon.

10. ARR Place.  Newport, Oregon.

Retama Village friends, Walt and Mary, used to live in Newport.  Since they were in the area at the same time we were, we decided to meet for dinner.  Walt picked the place.  Walt is a connoisseur of good wine and food.  This small family-owned place, located in a house in a residential neighborhood, had a staff of two:  Robert, the chef, and Amy (his wife) who did everything else.  We had some of the best seafood ever in this interesting little place.  Most of the customers were local --- always a good thing.

11.  Big Wave Cafe.  Manzanita, Oregon.  

Unfortunately, I cannot find any pictures of this place, but we ate there twice.  The freshly caught ling cod was sooo good --- so was the fresh crab eggs benedict.  Our friends, Jay and Nancy helped us find this place.

12. (tie) The Tomato Place, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

A little fresh produce, a few jars of homemade concoctions, a few potted plants, a little spice, 

a counter with two friendly clerks, strings of lights, bright walls, hot sauce, a few tables, a few placards with witty sayings.

Oh, and excellent bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

12. (tie) The Diaz Diner, Mission, Texas.  One of the many events at our active winter RV community, Retama Village, is the Friday morning men's breakfast.  We visit several establishments during the time when it is cold up north.  My favorite is the Diaz Diner in Mission.  They have the best omelets, with hot sauce on the side!  The huevos rancheros are not bad either.  Dianne here:  Wives are not allowed at the Friday morning men's breakfasts, but Roger and I have eaten lunch there a few times on our own.  I shot the photo below with my iPhone of the best. chicken. nachos. ever:  

They were so good that I wanted to lick my plate!

14. (tie)  Fat Smitty's,  near Port Townsend, Washington.

Purdue Pete opened a burger joint on the Olympic Peninsula :-).  You would need to be a Boilermaker fan to understand this.  

We passed this interesting-looking place several times during our visit here and decided that we needed to stop for lunch.  Great burgers, fries and atmosphere.  The blackberry milkshakes were pretty darned tasty, too.

14. (tie)  The Boiling Pot.  Rockport, Texas.

We heard this place was great, but we almost did not go in.  Kinda scary lookin'.

 After we did go in we figured out that the graffiti was not only encouraged, but part of the atmosphere.

After placing your order, it is all boiled in the same pot then dumped on your table.  Shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes.  Yummy and filling.

We left our own little bit of graffiti before leaving.

16. Bonge's Tavern.  Perkinsville, Indiana.

One of our favorite places to eat when we go back home to Indiana is at Bonge's Tavern.  Gourmet food in a brightly painted, ramshackle building in a tiny town. 

On this visit I was with our good friends Jay and Nancy.  Another good friend, Gayla, joined us.  Dianne was in Colorado with our dogs while I did some consulting work for my previous employer.

Great food in a unique atmosphere.

17.  Southside Soda Shoppe. Goshen, Indiana.

We paid a second visit to this place in northern Indiana when we had our motor home serviced.  The food here is probably not good for you, but it is very, very good.  The concoction on the left is philly cheesesteak chili in a soda glass.  

Dianne wanted me to mention that they have homemade rhubarb pie.

18.  The Deck.  Portland, Oregon.

This floating barge anchored in a boat basin on the Columbia River was a great place to have dinner with our daughters and granddaughter.  Good time.

19.  Dupuy's.  Abbeville, Louisiana.

Louisiana.... the best food around.  I don't have a picture of this great Cajun restaurant, but the nearby church spire gives you an idea of the atmosphere of this small town and its eating establishments.

20.  Orlando's.  Taos, New Mexico.

How can anyone not salivate over fine Mexican food like this?

 The pet picture of the day brings back a nostalgic memory of our two whippets for whom this blog was named.  Chaplin and Jasper were enjoying a cup of ice cream in Key West --- their first of many cups of ice cream.  We miss them.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Color in South Texas

Roger here...  Time to do another "real time" post. 

 Dianne and I have never been farmers (even though we are from  Indiana :-).  However, we have always enjoyed landscaping the properties that we have owned.  Our last sticks-and-bricks house was on the annual garden tour in the small town of Pendleton.  We thought we would be leaving that behind when we opted to travel full-time.  Guess not.

We have always been amazed by the lushness of the plant life in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.  

When we lived in Indiana we always thought that this part of the country was dry, windy and full of cactus.  

There is some truth to that.  It can be dry (during droughts).  It can certainly be breezy.  There are enough cactus (and myriad other thorny plants --  lots of thorny plants) to give this place a western feel.

However, it is also tropical.  The area is filled with palm trees and exotic plants.  This is to be expected, since we are at the same latitude as Miami.

What truly surprises us about the plant life here is the color and the health of the plants.  All of the photos in this post were taken in our small yard.  We do have a drip irrigation system that solves any water problems that might occur, but it seems that once you plop something in the ground, like these irises, they explode with color and growth.

Here are a few of the many plants that thrive in our yard:

Purple Skyflower.  This is a large shrub that is covered with deep purple blossoms.

Roses --- one of the thorny plants. We have two varieties in our yard.  These red and pink ones circle our palm tree in front.
These large pink blooms line our driveway.

Mexican Olive Tree.  This is a beauty --- covered with white blossoms that litter the yard.

Firecracker Plant. These bright red flowers attract hummingbirds as well as butterflies.

Esperanza (yellow bells).  If not trimmed, this shrub can become enormous.  It is covered with bright yellow, fragrant blooms.

Jasmine Vine.  We planted three of these fragrant vines to wind their way up to the top of our pergola.  As you can see, they were successful.

Sage Bushes.  We planted these along one side of our back patio to provide a little bit of privacy.  They are about five foot tall and topped by purple flowers.

The plants that fill our pots also thrive with a little bit of water.

Begonias with a fern.

Pencil Plant.

In the picture below, the pink flowers with the white impatiens were potted plants that we plopped in the back yard when we left in the spring.  They not only survived the hot summer and the winter, but they are thriving.

Our plantings also add a different element of color to our lives.  The prolific mist flowers in this photo attract hundreds (not an exaggeration) of butterflies.

Here's a pretty one I managed to photograph the other day (..D):

Dianne worked very hard to get this photo of a giant swallowtail in our purple skyflowers.

This festive plant is called Butterfly Weed (Mexican Milkweed).  It is related to the milkweed plants further north.  Several times a year, larva (caterpillars) eat all the leaves from the plant....

Older Chrysalis
... The plant grows new leaves quickly while the larva spins its chrysalis.
Fresh, New Chrysalis

With some patience we have been able to witness the emergence of several fresh, vivid Monarch Butterflies.

The flowers and the butterflies are present year-round here.  However, some seasons provide bigger shows than others.  We are in the middle of the spring blooming season right now.  In September/October the butterfly season will be in full swing.  Can't wait to see it!

Dianne here:  I'm adding the pet photo of the day. This is my pal Bart, who is still up for adoption at Cinderella Pet Rescue.  Bart won't have a chance to forget me this summer (not that he would), because I am staying in Texas and we'll continue our walks/treats/hugs, no matter how hot it gets!   
My Pal Bart