SPRING IN HOUSTON

We’ve had an exceptionally nice Spring on the Gulf Coast this year, and it seems that we’ve had more than the usual number of days that beckon you outside and make it hard to go to work.  Before the heat, humidity, and hurricanes of summer arrive, I’ve been making an effort to enjoy the many gifts of Spring.

Couldn’t help but notice the Texas Mountain Laurel, which were heavy with flowers this year:

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I had a little Spring visitor on my miniature roses (and I’m now watching after its offspring on my butterfly weed):

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The Urban Harvest Saturday Farmers Market on Eastside (off the 3000 block of Richmond) has had a wonderful selection of spring vegetables these past few weeks:

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Baby leeks and fennel from Gundermann Acres

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 A kaleidoscope of carrots from Animal Farm

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 And more carrots from Gundermann Acres

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Radishes in red, white, and every shade in between from Animal Farm

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This was new to me — broccoli flowers

In addition to the colorful produce, there have been lots of spring flowers at the Farmers Market:

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 Gorgeous mixed bouquets from Animal Farm

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A graceful wild orchid for my backyard 

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A stunning orchid from Orchid Obsession 

If you’re looking for a delicious splash of color, the macarons from Maison Burdisso are the best in town (maybe the best anywhere).  If you think you might like an assortment for your holiday table, call ahead, as they always sell out:

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Do you see the scarlet red ones?  Can you guess what flavor they are?  No?  They’re Poppy!

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Poppy macaron — brilliant!

Picking up some Spring color at Home Depot’s garden center, I felt a little like Patty Duke, only it wasn’t a hot dog making me lose control, it was petunias.  The racks were filled with big, beautiful baskets of petunias, and it took me forever to choose which ones were coming home with me.

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Snowy white petunias

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 Velvety black petunias

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 Gorgeous striped rose-colored petunias

 And the one that I am completely smitten with, called Crazytunia:

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There was also a new pretty pink variety of lantana:

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Even at the grocery store, bunches of Spring tulips were calling my name (hard to beat for $10):

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Of course, the star of the Texas Spring show is the bluebonnet.  This has turned out to be a great year for wildflowers, and the roadsides are ablaze in color.

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We’ve been enjoying some light meals, incorporating some of our finds from the Farmers Market.  No real recipes, just easy dishes based on super fresh ingredients and good quality olive oil.  (If you’d like a recipe for any of the following dishes, please email me and I’ll write one out for you.)  First up, my husband’s delicious creation — fresh Gulf Coast red snapper from Airline Seafood (catch them on Saturdays at the Farmers Market), sautéed in olive oil, with burst cherry tomatoes, a sprinkle of sea salt, a squeeze of lemon, a few grinds of black pepper, and those beautiful broccoli flowers (I can honestly say this was the best fish I have had in ages):

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A salad of Rio Star grapefruit supremes, baby fennel, and treviso radicchio (the elongated variety), with olive oil, white wine vinegar, and fennel fronds:

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And a roasted golden beet salad with olive oil, champagne vinegar, feta cheese, and arugula sprouts:

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Wishing everyone a wonderful Spring, and that you find inspiration in the scents, flavors, and colors of the season.

TEXAS SPRING BREAK TRAVELS — SAN ANTONIO

Spring Break this year didn’t find us at an exotic beach or ski resort (not that it ever has).  Instead, we made one last visit to two Texas colleges that my daughter is considering attending next year.  The first college is in San Antonio, and we spent a few days there having a mini family vacation.

No visit to San Antonio is complete without a lazy stroll on the Riverwalk:

IMG_3747IMG_3749We had some great meals at several San Antonio restaurants.  Among the highlights was our Mexican lunch at La Fonda on Main:

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It was perfect weather for leisurely dining outside on the shaded patio:

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My husband had the catch of the day, which was flounder, served with pineapple salsa and rice primavera, which was as tasty as it was colorful:

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I went for the Vegetarian Tacos, which was a tangle of seasonal squashes, grilled poblanos, onions, mushrooms, and black bean puree, accompanied by a spinach and mango salad:

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Do you see the jalapeno on my plate?  It was grilled, and then soaked in soy sauce, and was like a fiery umami explosion – genius!

We also enjoyed a delicious dinner at the lovely Il Sogno Osteria at the Pearl Brewery:

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Shortly after we were seated, a waiter came around with an artfully-arranged platter of thinly-sliced citrus fruit from which you could choose to add to your water glass:

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A sign on the wall reminded us why we were there:

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We made a few selections from the abundant antipasto table:

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Instead of a bread basket, we were treated to giant grilled bread cubes that made Texas Toast look like salad croutons, with a smear of bean puree and tapenade:

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We had a wonderful margarita pizza.  I thought maybe the secret to its deliciousness was fresh mozzarella, and I was informed that not only was it fresh, it was made in-house:

IMG_3720We had a few different entrees, but our favorite was my husband’s giant veal chop with foraged mushrooms (I lost a LOT of points with the waiter when I asked where they were foraged from, who could only tell me he thought they came from somewhere on the East Coast):

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As much as I enjoyed La Fonda and Il Sogno, the restaurant that I can’t wait to return to is the fun and funky Feast:

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The menu consisted of small plates divided into 6 categories:  oceanic, heat, chilled, grilled, crispy, and hearty.  Among our favorites were butter leaf lettuce wraps with ground pork, garlic yogurt, and piquillo peppers (heat):

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Duck breast tostadas with lime, red onion cabbage slaw, and ancho chili sauce (crispy):

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Cornmeal fried oysters with watermelon radish slaw and horseradish remoulade (oceanic):

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And what must be the ultimate stoner food — house-made potato chips with nutella olive oil sauce, grilled red onions, and rosemary salt (crispy).  That’s right — potato chips with nutella.  This sounded nasty to me, and looked like a hot mess, but it was outrageously good:

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As someone who didn’t expect much beyond Tex-Mex and barbecue while we were visiting San Antonio, I was pleasantly surprised by all the great dining options, and can enthusiastically recommend any of these restaurants.
IL Sogno Osteria on Urbanspoon
Feast on Urbanspoon
La Fonda on Main on Urbanspoon