Friday, November 30, 2007

Wine Corner Review #9: Dry Comal Creek Sauvignon Blanc

My lovely wife the Rock Star and I are very fond of our beloved home-away-from-home Fredericksburg, TX, so much so that we sometimes forget that the Hill Country offers many more fabulous destinations, including another old German community, New Braunfels. (Speaking of which, don't forget that immigrants from Germany figure prominently in the settling of Texas, as anyone from my dear departed grandmother's hometown of Brenham will be glad to tell you.) Dry Comal Creek Vineyards is headquarted in New Braunfels, and after recently tasting their Sauvignon Blanc, my wife and I are eager to try more of their mouthfeel-friendly product.

The robe is a rich, pearlescent old gold, somewhat reminiscient of unpolished brass. The winery's website, describes the nose as "gooseberry, freshly mown hay, and grapefruit," but I found it to be replete with minerals, befitting a good sauvignon blanc. As for the taste, pucker power is revealed with definite grapefruit, pear, and melon flavors with a finish of lemony cantalope. I agree with the website that this would be a perfect blanc for spicy food: perhaps a volcanic sushi Dragon roll, Tex-Mex, or even pizza. In any case, it's a thoroughly invigorating vino, and I can't wait to try some other selections in their line. Try a bottle soon, and remember:


Saturday, November 24, 2007


My lovely wife the Rock Star and I know from our previous trips to Camp David that Molly always brings breakfast between 8:30 and 9:15 AM. Sure enough, promptly at 8:30, there was our efficient hostess-with-the-mostess knocking at our cabin door with our ambrosial eats. For our third and final day of this all-too-brief roadtrip, she brought us one of her classic standbys: breakfast quiche. (If quiche were a woman, I think her name in this case would be Lorraine, that classic French pastry, bacon and egg confection; however, I'm not a quiche expert and my only thoughts on that golden morning were in devouring every last crumb before it got away.) As usual, Molly served it cheerfully with a fruit cup, orange juice, and breakfast (cranberry) bread. We happily ate what we could, finished packing, and set out to the first stop on our trip home.


Cord Switzer is one of the most prominent figures in the annals of Texas winemaking, and the stories about him are the stuff of legends, many of which are masterfully told in Wes Marshall's Bible of Texas wineries, "The Wine Roads of Texas." His delightful sense of humorous uniqueness can be best summed up by one of his many pithy sayings "Ninety-five percent of people prefer sweet wine, five percent prefer dry wine. The five percent push their opinion more." Now who can argue with such an iconoclast, even if you prefer dry wine, which I do? Needless to say, the Switzer family is, in my opinion, the number one producer of sweet wines in Texas, although they also have excellent dry selections as well. Anyway, since my lovely wife's mother The Momma loves Fredericksburg wineries Enchanted Rock Red, we were determined to pick some up for her, while at the same time making a few picks for ourselves.

After an expertly-conducted tasting, we selected 150-year Anniversary Wine, which is a Texas Rose, and Main Street Christmas, a Gluhwein (mulled wine) popular in Germany in which cinnamon, cloves and other spices are added to red wine and served warm. (Speaking of rose, my curiosity got the better of me: are blush and rose wines one and the same? After extensive Googling, I discovered that blush is sweet and rose is dry. The things you learn when writing a blog!)

Having paid for our vino (not too much; Fredericksburg Winery,, is another value-oriented producer), we resumed our drive, next stop, Taylor, Texas and Barbecue Mecca #3 for lunch.


Louie Mueller barbecue is the winner of the 2006 James Beard Award in American Classics category, and one taste will convince you why. Not only do the Muellers cook over real wood, but they come in at 3AM (you read that correctly!) to make sure everything is done right. Their brisket is exceptionally tender and their spicy sausage is made in-house. Special mention must be made of their sauce: I usually prefer the thick, ketchupy kind, but Louie Muellers sauce is thin and chock-full of delicious meat juices. My lovely wife the Rock Star, herself a barbecue turkey fan (yes, it is offered, and yes, it is delicious!)now declares Louie Muellers to be her favorite barbecue anywhere. It doesn't hurt that not only is their meat meteroic and their sides superb, but their service is always exceptionally friendly. The URL is One suggestion: as with most Barbecue Meccas, try to avoid dining there during the noon hour, as the restaurant can fill up quickly with hungry diners.

The Rock Star and I continued the rest of our trip home without incident, except we had to return to the Czech Stop (see Post #1) for afternoon snacks. Plan your own roadtrip soon, and remember:


Friday, November 23, 2007


Day Two of our trip began auspiciously enough, with Molly bringing breakfast to our cottage promptly at 8:40 AM. I feel that Camp David's gourmet breakfasts are one of the best features of the place, and keep my lovely wife the Rock Star and I coming back time and again. Why wake up to cereal when you can dine like a king on Eggs Florentine? Molly's version boasted spinach, eggs, and ham on top of an English muffin, then covered with lemony Hollandaise. Marvelous! She also served an excellent pumpkin bread, fruit cup, and orange juice, leaving us well fortified for our busy day. In short order, we pointed our car northward, destination Tow, Texas.


For my money, Ed and Sharon Auler run the best value-oriented winery in the whole state of Texas. I do admit, however, that finding it for the first time can be rather a challenge; we usually go north from Fredericksburg to Llano, then head east on Young street about two miles out of town and follow the signs from there. (Consult the map on the winery's website at before you proceed.) As usual, we skipped the tour and headed straight for the tasting room, where the amiable Buzz deftly guided us through our selections. We particularly enjoy Fall Creek's award-winning Chenin Blanc and Granite Reserve and selected bottles of the Muscat Canelli, Granite Blush, Sweet Red (a present for the Rock Star's lovely mother, The Momma), and Ed's Smooth Red to make up a case so we could get the 10% discount (natch!). Yours truly will be sampling and reviewing said product in the very near future, or giving it away as Christmas presents, as a hand-selected bottle of vino makes one of the nicest presents one can possibly give or receive.

With Buzz's help, we wrestled the case into the back of the car and headed back to Llano to lunch at Barbecue Mecca #2.


Quick, which was the first barbecue ever served at a White House State Dinner? If you said Coopers, go to the head of the class! (You get bonus points if you remember that the president in question was LBJ.) You know you are in for a true archetypal Texas dining experience when you line up a the outdoor pits to make your selection. You tell the pit man what kind of meat you want, he slices it and dips it in sauce if you prefer, then you carry it inside where the smoky meat is weighed and priced, and you can select other sides. (Hint: If you're as much of a true 'cue fanatic as I am, skip the sides because Coopers generously provides you with barbecue pinto beans and all the bread and sauce you want at no charge.) Just stake out a place at one of the long picnic tables and chow down. Cooper's brisket, sausage, and pork loin are stellar stuff, yet I must make special mention of two of their selections. The double cut pork chop is an absolute monster, thick as a bodybuilders biceps, and juicy for days. The barbecued prime rib is the best version I've had of this steakhouse standby anywhere, and as usual, I purchased a cheap styrofoam cooler and ice to tote it home. In sum, I challenge you to find better Texas barbecue anywhere than Cooper's prime rib or double cut chop, for as of this writing, if it exists, I've yet to find it.

After lunch, we motored back to Fredericksburg for a little relaxation and sightseeing. (You simply must make time to walk their turn-of-last-century downtown.)


Since there are so many winerys in the Hill Country, an excellent way to sample several at once is to stop at one of the independant tasting rooms that dot downtown Fredericksburg. Texas Wine Cellars features friendly service and free tastings, however, please be prepared for the fact that some wines may be marked up to as much as DOUBLE their normal retail price. (This was certainly true of Fall Creek's Granite Reserve.) Another quibble: Not all area wines are sold there, although some of the town's wineries may not allow it, choosing instead to sell them from their own tasting room instead. Texas Wine Cellars also schedules winery tours. Check them out at

After making a few more selections, and with cocktail hour upon us, we repaired down main street to try another of Fredericksburg's fine biergartens.


The interior of this place resembles nothing so much as an oversized shotgun shack, with the covered bar area opening up into an alfresco biergarten. The bartender and her assistants were wonderfully welcoming and gracious, talking us easily through the rather intimidating list of beers. We selected German beers, of course (you know me, Mr. When-In-Rome), and like the previous day, it was too early for dinner, so we scanned the menu for appropriate appetizers before selecting the German Snack. Top-notch, peppery Hill Country sausage was paired with Swiss and Cheddar cheese, sauerkraut, and hearty pumpernickle bread to make an absolutely perfect match with our Spatens. The atmosphere was very convival, and we are determined to return on a future trip to town. Their website is

We drove back to Camp David to freshen up, as it were, before setting our sights on dinner and maybe a little live music. To our horror, we discovered that one of our favorite places, Hondo's on Main, is closed on Monday nights. Not to worry, a little bit of research led us to our final destination for the evening.


A great new place in an old house right on Main street, Silver Creek Restaurant and Saloon has been in business less than a year but already boasts a devoted following for it's live music which takes place on the charming front porch and yard. The Rock Star absolutely loved her steak salad, featuring a well prepared flatiron cut, and I enjoyed my ribeye, baked potato, and asparagus, a classic renditon indeed. Blues Monday was in full swing, except that after playing for an hour or so, host Graham Warwick had to leave with the owners to plead his case in night court! Seems someone didn't care for the live music and complained, so a delegation from the restaurant set off to appear before the judge, promising to return in about an hour. We waited about ninety minutes, then left, thoroughly satisfied with our day, and returned to Camp David for the night. By the way, Silver Creeek has no formal website, merely a site on Myspace at Don't forget:


Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Since I was rapidly approaching a milestone birthday, my lovely wife the Rock Star came to me a couple of months ago with a proposition: Why don't I take you to the Texas Hill Country for the big day? Since I am originally from San Antone (born a mile from The Alamo; how Texan can you get?), I jumped at the chance to spend such a glorious occasion close to my roots. Therefore, as we reached the appointed day of departure, we set off for a classic Texas roadtrip, sure to feature excellent beer and wine, great barbecue, and good times for our entire family. (Well, almost all; our cats, Hercules and Sterling, had to remain behind, as they do not travel well.) Luckily, we have been on this trip several times before (or as that great philosopher Yogi Berra once put it, "It was deja vu all over again"), so we were determined to combine new haunts with old faves, and accordingly set off down I35 in search of breakfast at one of those faves.


Seasoned travelers along the Dallas to Austin corridor know all about the Czech Stop, a combination gas station/convenience store/bakery/deli located in the charming hamlet of West, Texas about a dozen miles or so north of Waco. (In other words, West, Texas is not located in West Texas. Is that clear as mud?) And speaking of Hamlet, as the Danes have danishes, so the Czech people have kolaches, delicious little roll-like creations filled with fruit, sweets, or meat and cheese. The Rock Star always gets one or more Pecan rolls, freshed baked and just filled with melt-in-your-mouth Texas goodness. I myself cannot resist the breakfast sausage and cheese kolaches, generously stuffed with top quality sausage and cheddar. Over the years, we've learned to pick up several so we may enjoy snacks and/or easy breakfasts. One thing that must be noted: there are only a few tables in the bakery and just a few more in the convenience store so you may want to take your goodies with you and dine on the road. (It's a very popular stop for tour buses.) Czech out their website online at for all the particulars.

Continuing our drive south, we went right down the interstate thru Austin, then headed west on Hwy 290, making a ten-mile detour on the other side of Oak Hill so we could stop for a late lunch at another iconic Texas spot.


The tiny town of Driftwood, Texas is home to the first of three bonafide Barbecue Meccas on our tour. The Salt Lick has been serving world-class 'cue smoked over real pecan shells since 1969 in a rambling structure built from rock quarried on-site. We arrived Sunday around 2PM, which meant we were still dealing with the after-church crowd, but were still seated rather quickly. If you're traveling with a large group or are VERY hungry, you will want to order family-style, which features generous portions of beef, sausage, and pork ribs served with plenty of sides at the relative bargain price of $15.95 per person. If there are only a couple of you, not to worry: the Salt Lick also offers individual plates where you can mix and match your meats to meet your needs, and those plates have a lot of food as well. Like most men, I must confess I'm a rib fanatic, and the Salt Licks ribs are their strong suit: big, meaty and thoroughly tender. The Rock Star loves turkey, and the star of many Thanksgiving feasts was wonderfully pinkish and tasty. (As is her custom, she let me try some. What a great wife!) The brisket was very good and the sausage was another standout: thoroughly spicy, which matched well with the (I feel) overly sweet sauce. The beans were nothing special, but the coleslaw revealed sesame seeds and a surprising Asian tang, and the potato salad tasted distinctly of homemade hashbrowns. If you want more information, is their website. Please be advised that credit cards may be used only if you wish to order online; the Salt Lick accepts only cash at the restaurant itself.

Now thoroughly stuffed, the Rock Star and I rejoined Hwy 290 and reached our lodgings in Fredericksburg after another hour's journey.


Sure, there are motels in this charming German village of roughly 10,000, but take it from me, bed and breakfast is the way to go. Molly Sagebiel and her husband run one of the best-valued B&B's, conveniently located on west Main street, just moments from all the Old World charm and ambience. Just $99 (weeknight price) gets you your own comfy cottage and a guaranteed gourmet breakfast (What say you to Monte Cristos for breakfast? Intriguing, eh???) Molly is wonderfully cheerful and always on-site to help you with anything you need (even at 3AM!). To preview their accomodations, their URL is, and reservations can be made online using the Gasthaus Schmidt reservation service that handles many B&B's in Fredericksburg.

Since it was a Sunday in fall, our thoughts naturally turned to football, and since our beloved Cowboys were already playing, we headed for one spot in town we knew to have big-screen TV's, beer and bratwurst.


Located right down on Main street, the Fredericksburg Brewing Company contained all the elements we needed for our own Cowboys watching party, provided the TV's were in fact tuned to the Cowboys game. (They were!) We enjoyed two or three of their authentic German-style brews whipped up in their giant copper tanks, cheered loudly, enjoyed a very-good soft prezel appetizer, and were thrilled to see our favorite team hang on to victory. Yah!!! This wonderful brewpub can easily accomodate lunch or dinner (or snack) needs, and boasts a large biergarten in the back with an absolutely monsterous big-screen TV perfect for sports watching. The URL is, oddly enough,

Game over, we decided we weren't quite ready for dinner after such a late lunch and snack, and so proceeded back to our temporary digs for rest and to prepare for the evening meal. Fredericksburg, naturally, boasts many first-rate German restaurants, but we'd already had both sausage and beer that day, so we chose another beloved Texas cuisine for our dinner.


The Rock Star and I can rarely let more than a day go buy without eating at a restaurant that is an El or La Something-or-other, or has a similarly south-of-the-border name. Mamacitas has five locations, all in Central Texas, and features traditional Tex-Mex cuisine in a rather Moorish setting. (I know it sounds strange, but it works.) When the Rock Star is not ordering fajitas, she loves to chow down on quesadillas, and Mamacitas chicken quesadillas were quite good. Myself, I love combo plates, and chose Combinacion #26 with beef enchilada (good sauce, otherwise a little bland), and crispy beef taco (much better), served with very good rice and refried beans. Mamacitas salsa and tortillas were outstanding, and the service was quite gracious (as it was at every stop on the way). Their website is

Tired, full and happy, we made our way back to Camp David for the night to prepare for Day Two of our roadtrip on the morrow. Remember:


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wine Corner Review #8: Fall Creek Ed's Smooth Red

My lovely wife the Rock Star and I have a confession to make: our favorite winery is not Latour or Petrus of France, a Napa boutique brand, or even Washington state's surprising and delightful Chateau St. Michelle. No, we reserve our top honors for a Lone Star Winery, Fall Creek in tiny Tow, Texas, hard by Lake Buchanan in the Texas Hill Country. There, winemakers Ed and Sharon Auler craft superb wines with a definite eye toward both QUALITY AND VALUE. In fact, most Fall Creek wines retail for under $10! (How do you wine snobs like them apples???) We recently returned home from the first Food Czar Roadtrip bearing boatloads of wine, including, I must confess, an entire case of our favorite winery's product. I thought I would introduce my readers (both of you) to this fine line via a superb meritage, Ed's Smooth Red, in which the winemaker literally issues a challenge to the would-be imbiber: Figure out what's in this bottle, I dare ya!

The robe of Ed's Smooth Red is a deep reddish-purple, not unlike that of a fine Ruby Port. The Rock Star and I put our heads together on the nose (ouch!) and decided that it smells like a combination of allspice and A1 Steak Sauce. The flavor is as smooth as a David Benoit or Al Jarreau jazz number with strong hints of apples. My guesses for the grapes? Hmm, I'm going with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and a touch of Zinfandel. (In the background, the Rock Star is concurring enthusiastically.) Since Ed issued us all a challenge to "guess the grapes," I'm going to issue you a challenge: taste it and decide for yourself what foods to pair it with. Why? Because we are enjoying sipping it by itself so much, we can't think of any pairings. Check out the Fall Creek line yourself at, and remember:


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wine Corner Review #7: Red Truck Pinot Noir

Wine aficionadoes consider the novel and movie "Sideways" essential viewing, but unlike Miles, the often morose, Pinot-Noir-imbibing protagonist, most of us can't wait for the occasional wine tasting to slake our thirst for this juicy varietal. We need affordable, everyday options and Pinot can be quite pricey. Thankfully, Red Truck Pinot Noir, one of the standouts in a value-oriented line inspired by vintage vehicles, fills the bill quite nicely for a simple, rather uncomplicated, yet still quite tasty quaff good enough for weekday meals.

The robe can be best described by looking in the dictionary under the word "plum". The nose is quite subtle for a pinot, with currant and cardamon notes. Berries, cherries, and plums abound playfully on the palate with a slight vanilla finish. Because of it's fruitiness, I'm foregoing the usual prime rib and pot roast suggestions for a pinot: this one might be better suited to poultry, fish or game birds like duck, or even holiday ham. Visit to see their entire line (my lovely wife the Rock Star is quite fond of Pink Truck!). Pick up a bottle soon, keep on truckin', and remember:


Saturday, November 10, 2007


Sometime after the Civil War, a man named T J Campbell built a sturdy two-story house in the pleasant farming village of Lebanon. Cattle drives later stopped there, giving the tentative town status, but in 1902 the railroad bypassed Lebanon for Frisco, hastening the former farming center's demise. A year later, the undaunted Mr. Campbell moved the house lock, stock, and barrel to Frisco, where it sits today, It's classic country charm serving as a beautiful backdrop to world-class dinners as Randy's Steakhouse. My lovely wife the Rock Star and a party of nearly two dozen revelers made the delightful drive north for an unforgettable experience.

Since our party was so large, reservations were made for the ample yet cozy room on the second floor reserved for large groups. While ascending the rather narrow stairs, we oohed and ahhed over the period furniture and fixtures, supplied by the antique mall located across Main Street. Since this was a celebretory occasion, the planners of our party had agreed to a complete menu, starting with a round of cocktails and conversation. While the Rock Star and myself renewed and reminisced with old acquaintences, our waiter Eric and his genial colleagues attended to our drink needs while at the same time effortlessly preparing our party for the repast that lay ahead.


After cocktails were concluded, we seated ourselves around our vintage rectangular table to await the appetizer portion of our leisurely paced meal. Delectable boiled gulf shrimp with remoulade or New Orleans Creole mustard sauce were heavenly, and the stuffed jalapenos had a subtle but swift kick, but the crab cakes were the real standout, delivering a narcissistic knockout punch of flavor. Needless to say, they didn't survive long. Most of our fellow foodlovers, including my wife, opted for sumptuous salads next, but I was intrigued by the soup of the day: turtle soup featuring ground tenderloin and Cajun spices. Rich, delicious, and absolutely satisfying, you must order it on your visit if it is offered, as it was easily the best pre-entree feature of the meal.

Despite Eric's insistence that the rock lobster tail was delectable, just about every member of our party took the "when in Rome" approach and opted for steaks, prime-graded beef meticulously cut by hand and beatifully prepared. Most diners selected the blue cheese filet, eight ounces of sheer goodness stuffed with cheese and roasted walnuts. However, I am a ribeye fanatic, and while I usually try the bone-in variety, I decided it's 28 ounces were a bit much to handle after starters and soup and instead opted for the smaller 12oz version. Medium rare and accompanied in classic fashion with superlative sauce Bearnaise, this steak was sheer perfection and ranks as one of the finest meals of it's kind I've enjoyed anywhere, enjoyed with sensational alacarte sidekicks of steamed asparagus, sauteed mushrooms, and garlicky mashed potatoes. Cloudlike, airy spongecake rounded out our repast quite nicely, since we couldn't have managed a heavy dessert after such a large meal.


At the risk of sounding redundant and in the face of a feast of such quality, I must note that the stellar attraction of Randy's Steakhouse is indeed the house itself. The century-and-a-half-old former dwelling reminded me of my late, beloved grandmother's house in Brenham, hard by the railroad tracks and also filled with period charm. Sure, great steaks are available at numerous locations in the Metroplex, but I challenge anyone to find a restaurant more lovely or homey. In fact, I wanted to turn around as we were descending the stairs (watch those steps, they are tricky!), hoping against hope to once more gaze upon her enchanting visage. Eric and his cohorts paced the party perfectly over a span of three hours so we could furthur enjoy one another's company. The Man Himself (Randy, that is) graciously made repeat visits to us topside to ensure all was well.


The URL for Randy's on the internet is, naturally enough,, and they use the Open Table system for advanced reservations if you so desire. Overall, a truly unforgettable experience, although accuracy compels me to report one very real quibble: I feel the wine list, featuring Kendall Jackson selections, is grossly overpriced, with not one bottle priced below the $20 mark; $32 is, by any standard, too much to pay for ordinary white zinfandel and unfortunately all choices are similarly inflated in price. Thus, I believe that cocktails or beer might be the way to go here: in fairness, the wine-by-the-glass prices are not outrageous. Still, if your finances are sufficient, Randy's Steakhouse is truly a delightful destination for fine dining, guaranteed to deliver an outstanding experience. Visit on your next special occasion, and remember:


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Wine Corner Review #6: Sebeka "Cape Blend"

I'm not a purist by any means, but I've hitherto subscribed to the theory that, as regards vino, "what's in the bottle is far more important than what's on the outside." Well, even an old Czar can learn new tricks. My lovely wife the Rock Star and I were browsing in a wine shop just the other day when we were absolutely intrigued by the label on a bottle of Sebeka (South Africa) wine: a running cheetah. My wife is the Empress of Cats and also the Queen of Shiraz, and since the label read "60% Shiraz, 40% Pinotage" (Pinotage is South Africa's signature red grape, created by crossing Pinot Noir with Hermitage, aka Cinsaut), we both decided there and then: We just had to try it!

The robe is a purple plush, almost dirty in color, just made for royalty. The nose is unmistakably white pepper and some berry fruit we couldn't quite name (Boysenberry?, offered my ever-helpful spouse). The taste confirmed those flavors, plus the distinct finish of Angostura bitters, giving this muscular wine all the concentrated power of an Argentine Malbec. Most definitely a superlative quaff, especially considering it retails under $10. If all South African wines were this good, I'd be Nelson Mandela's best friend, that's for sure. You can access their evocative website at Try it with salmon or pork tenderloin, and as always, remember:


Friday, November 2, 2007


My friend the Rock has dined all over this great country of ours, from Los Angeles to Chicago, and even across the pond in London town (where he was lucky enough to be among the crush of people witnessing a royal wedding). He has sampled the cuisine of chefs great and small, from hither and yon, and as you might imagine, he has definite ideas about dinner and lunch and all the many incarnations thereof. So who do you think is his Favorite Chef? Dean Fearing? Bobby Flay?? Stephen Pyles??? Answer: None of the above! It's Chef Jake Duplantis, the genial Cajun who just happens to ride the ranges at Lone Star Park, one of my favorite places in the Metroplex and The Place in DFW for top horse racing action.

Classically trained in New Orleans by such noted chefs as Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Somebody-or-other (otherwise known as Lagassi; BAM!!!), Chef Jake and his staff run all the food concessions at Lone Star, most notably Silks, their fine-dining fixture, and Post Time Pavillion, their simulcast palace. Because I am a fan of all things horse (particularly in the wagering arena), I always mark Kentucky Derby Day and Breeders Cup Day on my calendar, and make reservations for Silks well in advance, since Derby day in particular is always a quick sell-out. As such, I made reservations in September, looking forward to the last Saturday in October, when my lovely wife The Rock Star and The Rock could join me for a Breeders Cup day at the races.

Unfortunately, as the month of October wore on and the promised date approached, I discovered to my horror that all of us were certain to have scheduling conflicts. First, my lovely wife had a tour of The Frozen North lined up, slated to start on that Saturday, and since she had already had to postpone it once, she could not in good conscience do so again. Then, the Rock, despite his pleas, was totally unable to take off work, and I myself was dealing with a pressing family commitment. Luckily, my brothers and I finished our business reasonably early, so I set out for Lone Star Park, regrettably alone.


If you decide to do Silks yourself, I have three extremely important words of advice: TRY THE BUFFETT!!! (There is a very good set menu as well if your not so famished.) For all his high-class training, Chef Jake is a very humble man, and is an absolute master of the buffet, which features gourmet comfort food. Sure it's pricey (between $20 and $30) but if you get there early, you can feast all day long like a king. Sharp regulars especially know to come ASAP, when the morning omelet bar is in full swing. Grab a plate, get in line, select your ingrediants, then watch as the Man Himself, or one of his trusted assistants such as Miguel make you one of the eggiest, bestest, and most flavorful omelets you've ever tasted.(Be sure to toke or tip him a buck or two for his efforts.) These delicious creations are so popular that the diners often demand that the omelet bar be kept open until well after the noon hour. Sooner or later, however, eggs give way to pasta and you can return again later for a scrumptuous plateful of linguini or penne made with the same loving care.

Even though it may not be easy, screw your courage to the sticking place, and try the buffet proper as soon as you are able. It may sound strange, given the sheer quantity of quality delectable eats available, to rave about salads, but I feel I must. Do not Miss Chef Jakes Salads: They are among the best you've ever eaten. Being a card carrying Cajun, Jake has a natural affinity for seafood, and his traditional crab and shrimp salads are stellar. But do not feel slighted if your tastebuds can't swim because the Tuscan salad, featuring Italian sausage, green and red bell peppers slathered in Italian dressing, is superb stuff as well. Also don't miss the chicken salad, with its perfectly cooked cluck sharing the bill with pecans and other goodies too tasty to mention. On this occasion, Chef was offering pale, pretty pork loin, splendid asparagus, and (I believe) broiled new potatoes as well, and I dutifully took some of each; however, I saved most of the room on my plate for the carving station. Silks usually offers fine sausage and oven roasted turkey, carved to order, but as I approached, I noticed the prime rib was prepared medium rare and decided there and then on a rather large slice. Accompanied with creamy horseradish sauce and spicy brown mustard, the rich rib meat was easily the standout of an already fabulous meal. Later I returned for two dessert delights: first-rate, crunchy pecan pie (I am a Texan, after all) and a German chocolate cake guaranteed to please the Kaiser himself.


Silks has a beautifully elegant informality, much like Chef Jake himself. White cloths and good silverware abound, but the atmosphere is never stuffy, and you can watch either the live racing through the massive picture windows on one side of the restaurant, or simulcast thanks to a clever little monitor thoughtfully placed at almost every table. A couple of things to keep in mind however: Silks is set up on four different levels, rather like a formal grandstand, so if you have mobility issues, you should select a table near the top. (You actually enter at the top, like a theatre or sports box, and descend to your seats.) Also, some tables are back tables, which make it slightly more difficult to view live racing, and others have no monitors; be sure to clear all that up when making reservations. Finally, there is a dress code: no shorts, holey jeans or collarless shirts. Still, it's quite informal, and an aloha (Hawaiian) shirt is just about right for dress.


Faith, Inga, and Anne attended to my needs beautifully on this occasion. Faith and Inga took care of my meal, while the very knowledgeable Anne took my wagers and dispensed my tickets all in stride, so I didn't have to leave my seat to place a bet. Imagine! If you're a first-timer or veteran to this or any other track, you should purchase copies of The Daily Racing Form and Lone Star Today to read up on all you need to know about the days racing. Oh, by the way, there is a per-guest charge for the table at Silks, plus the meal, plus parking, so budget yourself accordingly. (Not to mention any alcohol you may care to indulge in!) Be sure to read all about it in advance at the website:


Silks will be closing soon for the season, not to open again until thoroughbred season starts in early April. (Like most tracks, Lone Star only runs races approximately half the year: thoroughbreds in the spring, quarter horses in the fall.) So, if there is no live racing, and you still want good food and great horse racing action, be sure to head for Post Time Pavillion, the facility's race book. Here the action is nonstop simulcast racing from mid-morning to late nite, with a more limited but still quite tasty bill of fare in the offing. The soup-and-sandwich combo is a great bargain for lunch, but I usually get the chicken nachos: layers of beans, tomatoes, peppers, and chicken breast all covered with ooey, gooey cheese, and served with sour cream and salsa, makes for a fabulous lunch, with plenty left to snack on throughout the day. On most days, you'll have plenty of seating options, and you don't even need a dining carrel: Just grab one of the many tables, and a smiling waitress will attend to you in short order. With plenty of big-screen TV's carrying racing action from virtually every track imaginable, Post Time Pavillion is truly a punter's paradise.


If you've never experienced live or simulcast horse racing, do yourself a favor and seek out Lone Star Park. It's truly fun for the whole family, for all ages and levels of society, equally loved by kings and poor folks alike. And if you don't feel like splurging, come anyway: there is plenty of cheap general admission seating during racing season, plenty of concession stands, all with tasty fare, and on Friday nights, cheap beer and good live bands as well! How can you resist? Visit soon, and remember: