Thanksgiving 2010 was spent visiting around Texas, and this posting is a love letter to my time there and the people I had the pleasure of spending the holiday with.
The Alamo and Riverwalk are the top tourism attractions in San Antonio, but for those of you (like me) who are more interested in being travelers vs. tourists, venturing outside the larger cities of the great state of Texas offers some really interesting and fun ways to experience the definite and unique culture here. The people, the food, the pride, the SIZE of everything screams Texas and in Boerne (sounds like “Bernie”), where my boyfriend’s father lives in an incredible compound that he built called the Long Horn Ranch, complete with two steer named Bo & Sid (see above photo…they’re so cute!), we spent a few days exploring this friendly, two stoplight (okay, maybe three or four) town. Here, you can find everything from fantastic antiquing and shopping to wine tasting! Mixed into that, close by is decadent Tex-Mex food as well as fine dining, art galleries, a cave without a name (really!) and even an historic outdoor dance hall and music venue the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else!
Every first Friday night after Thanksgiving in Boerne, Main Street is closed off to traffic and becomes 100% pedestrian for their annual “Dicken’s on Main” celebration. They’ve got snow machines built into their streetlights, beer gardens, horse drawn carriage rides, food vendors, and a really fun celebratory vibe that permeates the entire town. The food vendors were cooking smoked corn on the cob, turkey legs, hot and spicy Gumbos, Mexican tortas and a ton of other yummy things that were foodie-worthy and easy on the wallet. We
wandered in and out of small, privately owned shops that carried everything from artisan pickles to home-made baked goods, clothes, antiques and leather goods. We eventually stumbled across a fantastic wine bar called the Boerne Wine Company, and were surprised to see this sophisticated establishment that had an incredible variety of wines to taste (and buy) in a gorgeous and cozy setting. The stone walls and natural materials, outdoor patio with a wood burning fireplace, walk-in humidor with vast selection for cigar afficianodos and of course, warm Texas hospitality had us wanting to spend much more time there!
Speaking of wine, the next day, another surprise was the award winning Sister Creek Vineyards, which is just a quick 15 minute drive along Sisterdale Road outside of the Main Street area, where we tasted several solid wines. My favorite was a Reserve Red Bordeaux Meritage, aged 18 months in oak barrels, blended and lightly filtered. There were rich blackberry, black cherry, currant, and vanilla flavors that I really enjoyed. At about $30 a bottle, it’s not inexpensive, but it sure made a nice souvenir (worth having to check my luggage)!
A bit further down Sisterdale Road is Luckenbach, which was made famous by Willie Nelson and Waylen Jenning’s song of the same title. Both country music icons used to play here on a small wood stage (that’s us on the stage pictured below) surrounded by picnic tables set under the trees. This is truly the most rustic music venue I’ve ever seen. Luckenbach is a tiny town. Actually, it’s not a town at all. It’s a left turn off a country road in the middle of nowhere, where you’ll find a dive bar, dance hall and of course, the stage. You park on a dirt patch, grab a beer to drink inside or out and enjoy the musicians who will no doubt be strumming guitars nearby. We had a great time just listening to music, watching the roosters roam around freely, trying on cowboy hats and just enjoying each other’s company. I also successfully brushed off my co-horts attempts at getting me to climb up onto a huge steer that was tied to a post wearing a saddle. It would have been humiliating for the cow (not to mention me)!
You can’t visit Texas without diving into some great Tex-Mex and one of my favorite ways to indulge in it is over breakfast. There is nothing like a breakfast Texas Taco, and at a cute little spot called Magues (sounds like Maggie’s), they do it right with home made flour tortillas filled with anything you like such as eggs, potatoes, chorizo, bacon and of course cheese! It sounds simple, but it is one of those things that I don’t find at home and is quintessentially Tex-Mex. For dinner, closer to San Antonio, there’s a restaurant called Pappasito’s and while this is a chain (don’t judge!!!), they’ve got something on the menu that I can’t stop thinking about: jalapeno stuffed, bacon wrapped, grilled shrimp!! I wish I had a photo of this for you because these shrimp were downright gorgeous and so crispy, spicy, smokey, salty and tasty that I can’t wait to try to recreate them at home! For fine dining, there’s the Cypress Grill where Joe (the aforementioned boyfriend and handsome guy pictured with me in Luckenbach) had the best pork chop he ever had in his life and where they serve everything from Buffalo Carpaccio, Four Hour Rotisserie Chicken and Pan Fried Venison Schnitzel, which speaks to this town’s very German heritage.
Extending your time in this part of Texas could also include visiting another great little town called Fredericksburg, and you’re best bet for accommodations on this adventure would be a B&B. While 5 diamond deluxe isn’t prevalent here, you’ll find wonderful and cozy places to stay. If you’re interested in visiting the Texas Hill Country, let me know. I have a few ‘ins’ there. We’ll find the perfect spot for you.
This city girl now has a true appreciation for small town Texas and is inspired to continue traveling off the beaten path. I hope that you are too, and that you can find time to carve out and explore the road less traveled – no matter where you are! In the recent past I’ve written a lot about my time in Italy (with more to come) but it stands to reason that no matter where you are, especially if you’re away from home, there’s something worth taking the time to see and people worth taking the time to know.