Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Many Happy Returns

It has been a long trip, about 7 weeks in all, with highlights all along the way.  Here they are in no particular order:

Apple Turnover -- Texas Bakery, Galveston, Texas

Some days you really feel the need for something sweet early in the day.  The day we left Galveston was one such.  On the road our routine was to stop at a McDonald's drive thru for coffee, as it is always good and hot, but that day our sweet teeth were jangling.

Luckily we found the Texas Bakery on the main street out of Galveston called the Broadway.  The pastry was crisp and perfect whilst the filling unusually was not the gut wrenching sweetness that is often the case but actually tasted of apples.

Just perfect.

Chinese Hot Pot -- Uncle Dick's house, San Francisco, California

The final meal of our stay in SF was another home cooked meal, in fact it was a self-cooked meal, that included large numbers of extended family members called 'Da Binh Lo'.  This is a phonetic rendition on how it sounds to my non-Chinese ears.

Take a bubbling pot of broth, we had chicken and vegetable.  We also had 3 different pots, one just for the children.  Prepare endless thin cuts of meat, veggies, sea food of all sorts and leave on the side.  Connie did this and it took ages I imagine.

Seat everyone down in a mass and let them fondue style dip the meat, sea food, veggies, etc into the bubbling broth until cooked and then consume.  Dipping in sauce of varied types is optional.

As a family style event, this is about as good as it gets.  Because the ingredients are slight, it takes ages both to cook and to eat a sizeable amount so it really is difficult to eat too much.

But it is a fun way to get together with family.

Perry's Steakhouse, Austin, Texas

Possibly the best steak I have ever eaten or maybe just because it was a fantastic evening that was totally unplanned.

Viv and I had been to the Food & Wine Fair and were strolling around the downtown area fairly aimlessly until we saw a couple of young guys who were valet parking cars.  This usually means a restaurant so we paid attention and read the sign: Perry's Steakhouse.  In our experience steakhouses usually make good martini's which was just what we fancied at that moment so we went indoors and sat at the bar.

Very good the martini's were too.

Somewhere along the way at the Fair I'd picked up several beer glasses I had vague notions of bringing home and as we finished our first drink the barman asked if he could wash them for us.

How nice of him.  We had to have another drink!

When we ultimately reached a table to eat, we found an enormous, packed and elegant restaurant with yet another really pleasant and attentive waiter -- this has been widespread actually.

And the Porterhouse steak we shared… fabulous.

Wild Flowers -- Texas

The time of year was perfect for Texas wild flowers.  Springtime with plenty of sunshine.  They were everywhere.  Particularly at the side of the freeways we drove along.

The Dallas/Houston stretch was best as the grass in which the flowers were growing -- particularly the Blue Bonnets -- was so low.  By the following week, the grass had grown a bit more and concealed the flowers a bit more.

Just beautiful.

Redwoods -- Howland Hill Road, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Crescent City, California

The redwoods everywhere were fabulous but this 10 mile drive through a first growth redwood forest along unpaved roads was the best.

Huge redwoods all along the road with walking trails spiralling out in all directions.

Breath taking.

Stockyards -- Fort Worth, Texas

Who doesn't like cowboys?  It was the stuff we were brought up on after all.  The Lone Ranger, Rawhide, Matt Dillon, Maverick … you name them.  Just brilliant.  And the Stockyards at Fort Worth tries to recreate it all.

The Stockyards Hotel was just about perfect too right down to the holes in the bedroom shutters I imagined were bullet holes from a shoot out.

The one thing I couldn't find was swinging doors in a saloon.  These days they are all air conditioned!  Aaagh.

Silvercar -- San Francisco and Dallas, Texas

I've droned on about how good this car rental experience was so won't carry on beyond repeating their own PR mantra -- "Finally a car rental company that doesn't suck".

It helps of course that everything is simple; the pick up, drop off and the car itself -- a fully loaded Audi A4.

I happen to like Audi A4's too so this is just about perfect for me!

Napa Valley -- Napa, California

We'd planned this ahead of time and rented a big car/wagon to take Viv and I along with Alex, Ali, Cat and Anna -- all our own family in fact.

The weather on the first day wasn't great but that didn't stop us having a terrific time.  Things cleared up the next day for our wine tasting series.  We had a lot of really nice wines too.

All in all just lovely.

Public Transport -- Miami, Florida

The day we caught the bus that first time in Miami to the tennis tournament on Key Biscayne set the standard for the trip as a whole and encouraged us to use public transport as and where we could.

It worked very well indeed.

"Houston, we have a problem" -- NASA Museum, Houston, Texas

Just brilliant.  All of it.  I pushed every button I could and imagined the launch of endless rockets to the Moon.

I was a teenager all over again!

Porterhouse Steak and Wine -- Deerfield Winery, Sonoma, California

We were staying at the Deerfield Winery as guests of our Bermuda friend John and had planned a wine tasting with our hosts, Robert and PJ, the managers and wine maker extraordinaire.  Unexpectedly we found a kitchen in the cottage we were in so bought in some local grass fed steak (we chose a huge Porterhouse) for dinner after that wine tasting.

We found an entire family already tasting wine with PJ so had to race to catch up (we didn't really have to) and by the time Robert arrived we were at the end of the tasting, the family had gone and PJ had opened yet another bottle.  This had gone after a while so Robert opened another …

The steak was fantastic too!

Espresso -- One Log House, Route 1, Northern California

Probably the best coffee of the entire trip was on Route 1 in northern California next to a tacky tourist attraction.

So good that I had to have another.

Honourable Mentions

Luckenbach, Texas

Barton Springs, Austin, Texas

Standard Pour Bar, Dallas, Texas

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