28 June 2009

Macaroni and Cheese


This week my daughter has started a new summer job in a town several hours from home. She has left life in the big city for an internship in a port town on the Olympic Peninsula. She has moved out of the dorms at college and into a house where she is responsible for preparing her own meals. It is a new experience for her and has her thinking.

So last evening she called me, a little put out, and asked where the heck THE Macaroni and Cheese Recipe was on my blog. It is a family favorite, a familiar comfort food, something she always asks for when she comes home. I make it in a big 9 x 13 inch casserole dish and there are seldom enough leftovers for a second meal. Everyone in the family digs in.

While I have been meaning to post the recipe for a long time now I never managed to get any suitable pictures until I made it when my daughter was home last week. The recipe is really nothing complicated or all that special. It is based on the recipe in my basic "Betty Crocker's Cookbook" but has been tweaked a little to adapt the quantities and marginally reduce the fat. I took out the finely chopped onion because my children don’t love onions and chopping them got in the way of throwing the recipe together at times. I use Tillamook’s Extra Sharp Cheddar for our very favorite version but a medium cheddar can be used for the sake of economy, as could any other kind of cheese you might have that melts well. And then I leave it in the oven a little extra long until the top begins to brown and the edges get a little crispy.

I have to say, it warms my heart that my children would care about this simple, modest meal. As their own lives take them on far flung adventures to new places and new experiences I hope this blog will continue to offer them a little taste of home.


Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from "Betty Crocker's Cookbook"

12 - 16 ounces elbow macaroni
¼ cup butter
¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons flour
2 ¾ cup milk
1 pound cheddar cheese, grated
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
Dash of ground red pepper or Tabasco (optional)
Grated cheese, cheddar or parmesan

Cook pasta, according to package directions, until tender but still firm. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium low heat. Whisk in the flour. Return and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat.

Add the milk to the butter mixture, whisking until smooth. Return to heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat.

Stir the cheese into the hot sauce along with the pepper, garlic powder and Tabasco, blending until smooth.

Place cooked macaroni in a large rectangular casserole dish (approximately 9 X 13 inches). Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and gently stir until combined. Sprinkle the top with a little parmesan, cheddar or other cheese if desired.


Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top has begun to brown.

Serve hot and enjoy!

22 June 2009

Seattle Sundays - Café on the Ave.


When I am in Seattle to see my children at college there are times when what we really want is a place where we can gather around a table and visit as if we were at home. There was a Sunday not long ago that was like that. We had been out to dinner and to see a movie the night before. On Sunday morning we were feeling tired and were by no means famished. We had planned to go out to brunch at Portage Bay Café but by the time we got together and our stomachs urged us toward the restaurant it was packed and there was a long wait to get in. Honestly, we just weren’t up for that.

Fortunately it was a beautiful day in Seattle. The sun was shining and the temperature was pleasant. We decided to walk around the U-district and see what else might be open for coffee or something to eat. A block or so down the street we found ourselves on the Ave, standing in front of Café on the Ave., no less.


There was no line to get into Café on the Ave. We peeked inside and saw that the large comfortable tables and sitting areas were no more than half occupied. Actually the staff seemed relatively relaxed and the atmosphere was quiet. We weren’t sure what was on the menu but we weren’t that hungry anyway so we decided to go in and give it a try.


We ordered Lattes and Mochas at the counter and looked over the menu. We found that it was fairly extensive offering a Cafe Breakfast, Pastries, Pancakes, Omelets and Scrambles as long as you were willing to bus your own table. Not a problem really. So we ordered and then sat at a large comfortable table where we had ample opportunity to talk and linger.


I had this pretty Tofu Veggie Omelet. It was more than I could eat but it was really good. Bright, colorful, a bit nostalgic and yet new and different all at the same time. It was like our morning in the U-district on a bright Seattle Sunday, mildly adventurous and yet comfortably familiar, too.

19 June 2009

Pork and Beans Bread


Summer Celebrations

What’s on your menu for Father’s Day? When I think of Father’s Day outdoor entertaining comes to mind. Father’s Day is one of the season's first opportunities to plan a cookout with all the trimmings. That calls for grilled meats and vegetables, Corn on the Cob and, more often than not, some Pork and Beans. It is a tradition and a family favorite.

My husband and boys are big fans of Pork and Beans. My husband grew up eating them with a little brown sugar or maple syrup mixed in. My boys can each eat a can of Pork and Beans on their own at most any meal. Though they are not necessarily fans of beans in general there is something about the taste and texture of Pork and Beans, warmed straight from the can, that really appeals to their appetites.

Personally, I don’t care for them in that simple state, but add bacon, onion, brown sugar and some spices, bake them for a while, and I’ll admit they are a welcome and even comforting addition to the menu. After all I am as swayed by tradition as anyone.


Beans in Unexpected Places

That’s what I like about this Pork and Beans Bread recipe that my Aunt Hen discovered. It takes a plain can of traditional Pork and Beans and dresses it up in a new and unexpected way.

My aunt really enjoyed the unexpected nature of this recipe. While the British think of beans on toast as a comfort food and serve baked beans as a part of a big English breakfast, and while Asian cuisine often uses a sweet bean paste as a staple in tea cakes and other sweet treats, Americans tend to find such combinations odd. Though we dress up our Pork and Beans with a little brown sugar or maple syrup we still seem to expect beans to be served as an exclusively savory dish.

I think it was for that very reason that my aunt enjoyed this recipe so much. The incongruity of it appealed to her folksy sense of humor and her delight in the interesting and creative things you could do with food. She liked the element of surprise and of including such a universal favorite in a dish that was sure to please. I think she also liked the ease of preparation. Nothing complicated here. It’s just a simple quick bread recipe with a twist.

Originally my aunt found this recipe in a book called “Gifts That Taste Good.” She adapted it according to her own preferences and wrote it out for me:


Personal Preferences

This week I followed the recipe as written. It was good. My family liked it but, while I found it interesting, the loaf that resulted was too sweet for my taste. I wanted to try it again with a few changes. Thinking of the recipe for other quick breads I like, I decided that I could safely increase the amount of flour and decrease the amount of sugar in the recipe. Then I thought of ways to tweak the flavor a little.

I thought about what goes into my family's favorite recipe for baked beans and worked from there. With more flour I saw no reason to drain the beans so I just opened the can and added the contents. Then I used brown sugar in place of some of the white sugar and cut it by a fourth. I also increased the amount of cinnamon I used. As you may know if you visit regularly, I have an aversion to raisins so I left those out. Then to make it even more like my favorite recipe for baked beans I added bits of crisply fried bacon to some of the muffins and drizzled the top with a little maple syrup before baking.

This time the bread turned out lighter than the first loaf. The texture was nice and the taste was unique and delicious. My tasters all agreed that the texture was an improvement on the first batch. Many enjoyed the addition of the bacon as well. It gave the otherwise sweet bread a savory salty edge and the maple syrup gave the sweet flavor a little punch.

I did enjoy it but don’t know that I would add the bacon and maple syrup again, except as a novelty. They definitely aren’t necessary. The Pork and Beans Bread is a great recipe without them. The beans alone make the bread interesting. If you prefer even less texture, mash the beans before mixing. For my part I enjoyed the batch where I added some chocolate chips. To each their own. Whichever version you try, if you like Pork and Beans I think you'll like this bread.

Happy Father's Day!



Pork and Beans Bread

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup oil
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 15 oz. can pork and beans

Optional additions:
  • a total of 1 cup of raisins, chocolate chips, nuts or a combination
  • 1/3 cup crisply fried and crumbled bacon pieces and/or a drizzle of maple syrup

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk together to mix thoroughly. Set aside.

Combine eggs, oil, sugar and pork and beans until thoroughly blended. Add dry ingredients. Mix just until combined.

Gently stir in one of the optional additions, if desired.

Pour batter into two prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees until it tests done, using the following guidelines:
  • Muffin tins filled 2/3 full - 25 minutes
  • 8 inch cast iron skillet – 50 minutes
  • 9 inch loaf pans – 60 minutes
Remove pans from oven and allow bread to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

14 June 2009

Rhubarb Cream Pie


Things We Take for Granted

In the small town where I grew up several decades ago, pies were plentiful. Pretty pies piled high with meringue or topped with decorative golden brown crusts were common. There were a wide variety of delicious fillings. Some made good use of plentiful seasonal produce. Others were designed to stretch a dollar or satisfy cravings for items that were hard to come by, simulating their taste or texture.

In the community cookbooks from that small town there were recipes for Peanut Butter Chiffon Pie, Autumn Harvest Pie, Kentucky Transparent Pie, Coconut Cream Pie, Mock Apple Pie, Blissful Banana Pie, Moonshine Pie, Malt Shop Pie, Chocolate Chess Pie, Pecan Praline Pie, and..... Rhubarb Cream Pie. At a church potluck you might see any of these pies and more. For holidays or special occasions, if company was coming or it was Sunday dinner, there would be at least one pie to bring to the table for dessert. Pies, and the clever sweet cooks who made them, were easy to come by in the storybook world I remember growing up in.

With so much in the way of opportunity, why is it I never took a bite of a Rhubarb Cream Pie until today? It's a fair question and a good one. The thing is, growing up, I never really had any trouble saying no to pie. I guess it didn't seem all that special to me. Pies were such a fact of life that it must have seemed to me that I could afford to take them for granted. Never a fan of mystery ingredients or sweet fruit flavors I stuck to the pies that promised tart citrus flavors or smooth chocolate fillings. It seems I overlooked the rest. Unsure of what went into those other pretty pies I opted not to try them.

As it turns out that preference for tart citrus flavors is one reason I should have tried Rhubarb Cream Pie long ago. Made with tart stalks of pretty red and green rhubarb it has a significant tang. And, once you get past the crust (which I confess I still find challenging despite my documented disasters and learning curve last year), it is also an easy pie to make.

Special Recipes

These days a fine homemade pie is harder to come by. They can be found here and there but you have to know where to look. Better yet, if you know the secret or have one of those coveted special recipes, you can make one yourself. There is no surer way to take a trip across the country to the place where my memories were made. Actually the whole process of making a pie is full of little cues that can take me home. The sound of nested stainless steel bowls being pulled from the cabinet, of the scrape of a measuring spoon against the edge of a container of baking powder, even the sound of water running into the sink can take me back to my aunt's kitchen. And then there is the smell of the tart rhubarb, of a freshly opened jar of ground cinnamon or of a pie baking in the oven. Even the motions specific to the kitchen, rolling the pie pastry, measuring sugar, stirring together the filling, remind me of where I am from. Cooking is very grounding.

I have my share of those special recipes. One of them comes from Cousin Alvine, whose house was at the end of the lane I lived on as a child. She was my dad's and Aunt Hen's first cousin and they grew up there together. She was also the church organist for as long as I can remember. When I decided to get married there was no question that she would be the one to do the music. One day, when we stopped by her house to talk about the wedding, she offered us a slice of her Rhubarb Cream Pie. Picky as ever, I declined, but my husband-to-be had a slice, maybe even two.

Time Flies

Years later as fewer and fewer of the folks I remembered remained in the area I decided to begin making my family cookbook. Near the end of the project I remembered that slice of pie and wrote to my cousin for the recipe. She wrote back:



That was several years ago. I cherished the thought and memory behind the recipe but I was never really much of a pie baker. I confess that I find pie pastry, not to mention lattice tops, challenging. In the shuffle of finishing projects and organizing folders my cousin's letter and recipe got filed away in my now inactive genealogy project, instead of my kitchen files, without me ever having actually tried the recipe.

Rediscovering Treasure

Since then more things have changed. My cousin has passed away and I have been reminded again of that pie. I have begun another project writing about food. I have even made some progress in making pie pastry and was glad for a chance to try my hand at making a lattice crust. So now I am finally baking this pie for my family.

I may be slow but you can't say that I never get there. I made the pie exactly as directed from crust up including the lattice top. And you know, it is really delicious! The filling is tart and the cinnamon adds a nice touch of spice. I don't know what I've been waiting for all of these years. The secret has always been within my reach. It's been there waiting for me to pick it up and take a trip back home.


Rhubarb Cream Pie
From my cousin, Alvine

1 unbaked pie shell ( 9-inch)
2 1/2 cups rhubarb, sliced thin
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons butter, cut up on top of filling
ground cinnamon
a little milk
extra sugar for sprinkling (I used vanilla sugar)

Mix the sugar, salt, beaten eggs and rhubarb well. Dot with butter. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. I pour extra sugar around the edge of the pie (a tablespoon or so) then make strips of pastry and make a lattice across the top. Pour a little milk on the lattice crust to make it brown and crispy. Sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 40 minutes more.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Enjoy!

Note: After 10 minutes at 400 degrees, I baked mine for approximately 60 minutes at 325 degrees. Perhaps the variation was because I used a deep dish pie plate. I suggest watching carefully and removing the pie from the oven when the crust has browned to your satisfaction.

10 June 2009

Coconut Banana Bread Pudding


It wasn't until about a year ago that I was introduced to my first bite of Bread Pudding. I had heard of it but it didn’t sound all that appealing to me for some reason. Maybe it was the idea that it was made from stale bread. Maybe it was the raisins that were often included in the recipe. Maybe it was that it sounded so frugal and old-fashioned. Or maybe it was that the recipe so seldom included chocolate.

I’m not sure exactly what turned me off about the idea of Bread Pudding but I do know that for years I never even considered ordering it at a restaurant or trying it at home. I just didn’t realize that the flaws I perceived in this luscious dessert were actually virtues or at least something that could easily be fixed or changed. I didn’t realize that bread pudding is actually so versatile that none of my perceptions about it needed to be true.

In fact Bread Pudding is actually just a sort of sweeter version of a Strata, a breakfast dish that I love to cook for company and really enjoy eating. It starts with the same base of good quality bread, eggs and milk and instead of adding all of my favorite savory ingredients that I have on hand I add my favorite sweets: sugar, spice, fruit, nuts, even chocolate. This year I have come to regard it as an amazingly versaltile comfort food that is easy to make and easy on the budget.

This time I took my latest favorite flavor combination, bananas, coconut, ginger and chocolate, and used it to dress up the remainder of the Coconut Banana Yeast Bread I made recently. The result was a satisfying combination of ingredients with a hint of the relaxing sun drenched tropics. To make this dessert even more versatile you can choose from two equally delicious sauces to top it off. Serve it Pirates of the Carribean style with a sassy Butter Rum Sauce or serve it with an energizing Espresso Sauce for a Java Monkey edge.


Coconut Banana Bread Pudding

4 large eggs
1 cup coconut milk (remainder of the can used to bake the bread)
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 cups bread, cut in ½ inch pieces (I used Coconut Banana Yeast Bread)
1 ripe banana, diced
½ cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
¼ cup shredded coconut (to sprinkle on top)
Butter Rum Sauce or Espresso Sauce (recipes below)
whipped cream

Prepare an 8-inch square baking dish by buttering the sides and bottom of the pan.

Whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, whole milk, brown sugar, ginger, vanilla, and salt.

Mix the bread, banana, chocolate chips and macadamia nuts and arrange in the prepared pan.

Pour the milk mixture over the top of the bread and let stand for five or ten minutes pressing any dry bread on the top gently down into the custard mixture.

Refrigerate the mixture for several hours or until ready to bake.

Sprinkle shredded coconut over the top just before baking.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 50 minutes, or until pudding is puffy and golden.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

Serve warm topped with Butter Rum Sauce or Espresso Sauce, and whipped cream.



Butter Rum Sauce

¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons rum
Pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the remaining ingredients, whisking until well combined.

Simmer, whisking often, until thickened, approximately 3 minutes.

Cool slightly and serve.


Espresso Sauce

¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon powdered espresso
2 tablespoons boiling water
Pinch of salt

In a small dish, stir the espresso powder into the boiling water until dissolved. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the sugar, whipping cream, espresso mixture and salt, whisking until well combined.

Simmer, whisking often, until thickened, approximately 3 minutes.

Cool slightly and serve.

Enjoy!

08 June 2009

San Antonio - A Little History

Breakfast on the Riverwalk

Mornings on the Riverwalk are peaceful. The crowds are light, the temperature pleasant. The sidewalks are wet and gleaming after being washed down for the start of a new day. Sitting along the river with a cup of coffee you can watch the birds preen and forage and the maintenance vessels skim debris from the water in a display that is subtle as well as practical, functional and alive.

It is interesting to witness the quiet upkeep of this beautiful public area. While the maintenance crews make their way around the Riverwalk the cruise boats are already carrying tourists on narrative tours and the restaurants' friendly hostesses are greeting what little foot traffic there is, pointing out their unique breakfast menus.


A long time fan of southwestern style breakfast entrees I was drawn to Zuni Grill. There we settled at a spacious table where I ordered coffee along with Vegetable and Egg Tacos with fresh fruit and pico de gallo while my husband ordered Scrambled Eggs San Antonio Style, with corn tostadas, salsa verde and melted cheese.

Both were good choices. The fresh flavor of the salsa verde and the pico de gallo along with tortillas added a bit of festive flair to the more traditional elements of eggs and bacon. We enjoyed a very pleasant and relaxed morning meal as we talked over our anniversary trip and this chance to become reacquainted with Texas and San Antonio.

City Life - Texas Style

San Antonio is larger than it seems. With a population of over one million it joins other Texas cities of Houston and Dallas on the list of the United States ten most populous cities.


The strong faith heritage of this region manifests itself in many ways. It is evident in the area's attractions, in place names and statuary, in history and in hope. Reminders of faith are unapologetically on display in the life and the art of the region. There is a certain mystical yet practical quality to the founding of the city and the culture that has evolved under the influence of Spanish, French and Mexican control followed by independence as a republic and the decision to become a part of the US.

Mission Influences

The influences of this city's long and varied history can be felt at the Cathedral of San Fernando, a few blocks south of the Riverwalk. This beautiful Catholic Cathedral is perhaps the oldest Cathedral in the US. Founded in 1731 by families from the Canary Islands at the invitation of King Phillip V of Spain, it has served the area as a spiritual center for hundreds of years. Inside the Cathedral is a sarcophagus inscribed with the names of Travis, Crockett, Bowie and other Alamo Heroes who are said to be buried at this location.


Representing the independent spirit of San Antonio, as well as the diverse backgrounds of those who have come to call this place home, stands the Alamo. This one time Spanish mission stands about a block north of the Riverwalk in a park area. It represents an important chapter in the region's history and is considered a shrine and the "cradle of Texas liberty."

River Diversions

The pulse of San Antonio does seem to beat with a steady and grounded optimism. That optimism and ingenuity can be found in the story of the Riverwalk that we heard as we took a Riverwalk Cruise on one of the many flat red boats that keep people moving along the river. After a disaster in 1921, flood control plans were drawn up with the hope of managing the flow of the San Antonio River and paving the way for the river to become an asset and the cultural center of the city. Still, it was not until this project was begun as a WPA project in the late 1930's that the development of these ambitious plans was able to get underway. In 1941 the flood control plan as well as the footbridges, stairways, and rock walls that make up the structure of the Riverwalk were completed.


From our guide, a robust Texan with a deep drawl, we learned about the World's Fair of 1968 where guests were transported along a new river channel extension by boat into the fairgrounds. We also learned about the Tower of the Americas, which was constructed as a centerpiece for HemisFair '68, and the transformation of the fairgrounds after the event was over.

Casa Rio

Once construction of the Riverwalk was completed the first restaurant to take advantage of this prime location was Casa Rio. Founded in 1946, it still stands as a centerpiece at the crossroads of the river bend and the river extension channel.


At street level Casa Rio doesn't look all that special. With an old fashioned sign on a busy city street it would hardly catch my attention at all. On the river it is another story altogether.

I first noticed the restaurant as I approached it from the sidewalk along the river extension channel. What caught my eye was the playful reflection of the colorful umbrellas in the lazy drift of the ripples sparkling on the water. I smiled, took out my camera, and tried to capture the magic of the setting: the sidewalk cafe tables, the reflection, the stonework, the golden sunshine. Festive and uplifting this bright and optimistic setting seemed to represent the colorful continuity of life along the river.

As it turned out, after taking that photo I saw picture after picture of this setting, on posters, postcards and prints, in oil or watercolor by various artists, framed by the footbridge, looking down from the footbridge, from upstream or down. The scene is iconic and every version has a lovely quality of its own.


While I was impressed with the visual setting of Casa Rio I really wasn't sure I would like the food and even passed on dining there one evening when they seemed extremely busy and quite touristy. Then one afternoon, enchanted by the light on the water and the sound of the Mariachi trio playing, I stopped under one of the dazzling umbrellas for lunch.


I ordered iced tea and a Combo Dinner with a Chicken Soft Taco and a Chalupa. It was served with rice, beans and guacamole, corn tortillas, chips and salsa. It was a feast and was quite economical. It was also quite delicious. I was prepared not to really enjoy the food as at first glance it was a bit bland in appearance and anemic in color. But sometimes first impressions are misleading. In fact the very ordinary looking Chicken Soft Taco was made from juicy and flavorful shredded chicken with green chiles. The beans, also a bit lackluster in appearance, were just right in flavor and texture. The Chalupa was crisp and tasty and the corn tortillas, thick and warm, were a nice accompaniment. My iced tea was quickly refilled and the service in general was quick and attentive. Altogether it was an extremely pleasant dining experience.

Some Personal Favorites


Having enjoyed some great Mexican food along the Riverwalk, by dinnertime I was eager to try another regional specialty, Texas Style Barbecue. I found some at The County Line. Nestled among some of the better known chain restaurants on the Riverwalk I have to say The County Line does serve up some respectable Texas barbecue, something I have missed since I moved to the Pacific Northwest. We ordered a Chicken Combo and a Five Meat Smokehouse Combo. I wanted to try a variety of items in hopes of remembering my favorites. Aside from the chicken, I really expected to like the barbecued beef brisket best. I was wrong. The brisket was good but not as fall apart tender and flavorful as the lovely, and messy, baby back ribs. I didn't even know I was fan of ribs but these were exceptional.


Last on my list of regional favorites I wanted to try was a Margarita. I got all the way back to the Commerce Street Bridge before I realized it, but as I walked through the tables at the Republic of Texas and saw even more Texas-sized Margaritas I knew I needed to try at least one. We stopped at a table and ordered a regular Margarita on the rocks and a Frozen Raspberry Margarita. As the sun set the mixture of artificial and natural light along with the lingering heat lent an exceptional glow to our pretty drinks. We sipped them as we talked over our discoveries on this long overdue visit back to the Lone Star State where we began our life together so many years ago. It was a nice way to wrap up a wonderful anniversary week.


03 June 2009

On the Riverwalk in San Antonio


I’m celebrating my anniversary in San Antonio this week. San Antonio is a beautiful city which is literally deep in the heart of Texas. It’s not the first time I’ve been here and I remember it fondly. I remember camping near San Antonio the spring I was pregnant with my first child. I’m sure I’ve been here a few times since then too. I think we brought the children to see the Alamo and the missions the second time we lived in Dallas.

Of course this visit is different. The children are grown and I am here with just my husband, who is attending a conference. I have the days to myself and no one's preferences to worry about aside from my own. Yesterday I was free to roam the Riverwalk taking photos and visiting art galleries.


The Riverwalk is both more and less than I remember. The shops and restaurants don’t seem as unique to me as they did twenty years ago. In fact now a number of the restaurants that line the river are chains. Still there are also fine restaurants dotted here and there and some traditional favorites. Fare ranges from Texas Barbecue and Mexican cuisine to Italian and Seafood restaurants.

Bars range from rowdy to jazzy, and margaritas, while the specialty of some restaurants that display large Margarita glasses with multiple straws, are prominently advertised all along the Riverwalk.


On our anniversary we ate at Boudro’s, a Texas bistro that serves regional cuisine and southwestern specialties. Our table was out beside the river and the atmosphere was busy and friendly. We sampled a number of items from the menu. Our favorites were the Gulf Coast Seacakes, made from blue crab meat with Jicama Slaw, a Tomato Salad with gorgonzola cheese and basil and a flavorful Gilled Portabello Tostado. For dessert we shared Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce and Creme Brulee. The staff was amazingly adaptable and kind and even treated us to champagne in honor of the occasion.

Evenings along the Riverwalk have a festive atmosphere but what I have found I enjoy even more is the quiet atmosphere of weekdays along the river. There are still plenty of tourists riding the boats along the water but the pace is more relaxed. I had a wonderful day walking beside the river with my camera.


Every few steps offered another lovely vista of the water, the exotic flowers in the garden spaces, the long necked water birds, the colorful umbrellas on the tables reflecting in the water, the café scenes, the stonework, the fountains, the arched footbridges. It has a unique and timeless quality, floating somewhere between reality and a Disneyesque vision of life. It offers an easy pace and an upbeat Tex-Mex ambiance that is friendly and welcoming.


When I decided to take a break to get a drink and a midday snack I stopped at The Original Mexican Restaurant and Bar. I sat at a table beside the river and ordered Iced Tea and one of my favorite Mexican specialties, Sopapillas.


The Iced Tea came in a huge glass, unsweetened and with lemon, just perfect for a Texas afternoon.


The Sopapillas came four on a plate, well coated in cinnamon sugar and with a bottle of honey to drizzle over the deep fried pastry pillows. Good Sopapillas are simple but a thing of beauty. They were crispy outside and a little chewy with a nice hollow space inside. They were good and I ate every last bite all by myself. They were the icing on a lovely afternoon.