Sunday, June 12, 2016

Texas Roadhouse - Joplin, MO

Yesterday I tried a new to me restaurant. It was the Texas Roadhouse in Joplin. Let me start by saying that I’m not a huge fan of national chain restaurants. There are a few around that I enjoy what they have to offer, but for the most part, I like Mom & Pop places or regional restaurants with a handful of locations. Texas Roadhouse is nationwide but I wasn’t going to hold that against them if I haven’t been to eat there. I’ll try anything at least once. Plus, my mom and dad like it and wanted to eat there. We were seated and I began perusing the menu. As I was headed to our booth, I espied the beer taps and saw that they had Shiner Bock so I ordered one when Alyssa came to take our order. A side note here: I lived in South Texas for a long time. I had a lot of friends that were Mexicans and some of them had thick accents. They pronounce Shiner as ‘Chiner’. That will forever be stuck in my head so I had to be careful when I ordered by pint of Shiner with an S-H. Back to the menu. They had meat and lots of what you might expect and a steak joint. I settled on the sirloin cooked medium of course and grilled spicy shrimp. Our waitress and all the wait staff around us were really professional. They were courteous, knowledgeable about their menu, prompt, accurate, and appeared to be glad to be there. I’ve been in retail and worked in restaurants for almost three decades. I know sometimes work sucks. I don’t let it deter me from giving the best customer service I possibly can. These men and women all seemed to be at that high standard level that I hold myself to when I deal with the public. I knew if the food was good, I would be a devout customer. We all got our plates and, as I quickly discovered, the food was very good. The steak was perfectly cooked. The skewered shrimp were spicy and delicious. The Caesar’s salad was good. The bread and butter were super tasty. The beer was cold. The Cubs were playing on a television by the bar. I couldn’t find a single thing to complain about. In a world full of mediocre restaurants, Texas Roadhouse will surpass your expectations. Although I didn’t see to many things that vegetarians would eat, you can be sure that if you’re a carnivore, you’ll find something good. Come to think of it, why would a vegetarian go into a steak house in the first place? Go to M&M Bistro downtown! It’s delicious too. I can honestly say that the Texas Roadhouse will be at the top of my list of national chains I won’t mind going to visit when the hunger pangs strike. Thanks to Alyssa and the crew in the kitchen. Go see if there’s one near you at their website

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rocca delle Macie - Sasyr 2011

In the past, I have been called an oddball. It used to make me very self-conscious but as the years went by, I realized that the people calling me that were so boring that it made me glad I wasn’t like them. Better to be an interesting oddball than a stick in the mud plain old human. Being an off center guy, I found that all the things in life that I enjoy tend to be a bit out of the ordinary. This brings me to the wine that I discovered for myself. It’s called Sasyr.

Rocca delle Macie is a pretty cool Italian winery that has produced some really great wines over the years. The winery is actually one year younger than I am. You’ll have to look that up yourself! It was established the Chianti Classico zone by Italo Zingarelli who produced some wildly popular Italian films. The winery and its traditions were passed down to Italo’s kids. His son Sergio took the helm and made RdM a worldwide wine brand. Among their non-traditional wine collection is what I took home with me last night; Sasyr.

 Sasyr is a blend of Sangiovese and Syrah. Yeah. That sounds kind of weird, right? It’s not. These guys had the innovative thought to blend one of Italy’s favorites with one of France’s favorites. The result is Euro-riffic. On first taste, it was a waterfall of cherry flavor typical of a nice Chianti. The second mouthful showed the other side of the wine, the 40% helping of Syrah. This opened the wine up to flavors of other dark berries, white pepper, and the faintest hint of clove. I would imagine the clove is undetectable, but the smell of cloves is one of my favorite things and I happened to pick up on it. Overall, the wine was fruity and juicy. It had medium tannins which means it didn’t make my face pucker. Smooth and fruity, relaxed and easy to drink, this wine is a no-brainer. If you’re looking for an oddball in the wine department, I’ll be there and so will Rocca delle Macie’s Sasyr. Enjoy it!

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Philbrook Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Exhibit

I don’t get to visit museums as often as I would like to do. When I lived in San Antonio, I would go to the McNay Museum quite often. It was a fifteen minute drive from my house, it held the largest collection of Impressionist works outside of France, and it was free. I always made a donation when I went but it was nice to know if I was short on cash, I could still go see some of the most beautiful art in the world. The McNay was a mansion that was turned into a museum when the matron of the house passed away. This is much the same story as the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Even though Tulsa is about an hour and thirty minutes away, I go there as often as time allows. It doesn’t hurt that I can stop by my favorite sushi spot or Irish pub after meandering through the halls of the Philbrook. This museum is similar to most well curated museums in that, in addition to the wonderful permanent collection, they have a gallery that hosts a rotating cavalcade of visiting exhibits. One such exhibit that I recently wandered through was the Andy Warhol exhibit In Living Color.

Andy was one of those artists that was referenced in every art book that mentioned the 19th century at all. I saw the soup cans and the Marilyns but he seemed like a novelty to me when I first started getting in to art. What I didn’t know and what I would eventually learn was Andy Warhol was a mad genius. He was a master of repetition and slightly altered repetition. If you have ever seen an entire series of his screen prints, you would see the exact same image repeated over and over but with each next print being a different set of colors. The Philbrook gathered multiple prints of the same piece and displayed them together. It gave patrons a close look at the play of colors that Warhol reveled in. The museum had some of the Marilyn pieces, the camouflage works, Chairman Mao, and Big Electric Chair among others. Each one was different colors which made them all look very different even though the image itself was the same. This alone proved that Andy was an avid experimentalist. And the results were fantastic. But the Philbrook didn’t just display the Warhol pieces, they also displayed the pop art and op-art works that influenced Warhol’s decision to do these color adventures. Seeing them side by side with the Warhol works was eye opening and important. I applaud the museum for their level of creativity with this exhibit. It was well worth the trip to Tulsa. Of course, when the next new show hits the changing gallery, I’ll be there. Entrance to the museum is $9 for adults and $7 for students and senior citizens. There was also an extra $6 charge for the Warhol exhibit, which I was happy to fork over. How often do you get to see works of art that you would normally only see in books or on-line. And honestly, that is no comparison to seeing the real thing in person in living color.

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Big Electric Chair

Cline's Cashmere Red 2012

When you think of cashmere, the memory of that sweater that your sister borrowed and never returned might come to mind. It was soft and light weight but strong and comfy. Well, you could easily use those same adjectives to describe Cline’s Cashmere Red.
Sometimes when I’m watching a movie, I see someone pour a glass of wine and I think to myself, “That looks like a great idea!” So, I pause the show and go grab a bottle of wine out of the cabinet. I have a wide range of wines in the lock up, from the C.A.T. (Cheap And Tasty) wines to midrange to special occasion wines. Since it was a Saturday night and I hadn’t had any wine all week, I decided to go midrange which, to me is between $15 and $30. Cashmere Red clocks in at around $18 depending on your wine shop.
Cashmere Red is a GSM or Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend. Technically, it’s really an MSG wine but that sounds more like that gross flavor enhancer than a tasty wine. This blend is of wine is a little over half Mourvedre and close to equal parts of Syrah and Grenache. This has been a successful blend for quite a few wineries including some of the houses that make Chateauneuf du Pape. It works well because it combines the dark berry and plum flavors and higher tannins of Mourvedre, the bright red berry and lower tannins of Grenache, and the Syrah adds all the complex flavors like all-spice, clove, chocolate and mint to name a few. Combined in the right amounts, these wines can be truly satisfying for even hard to please wine lovers.

Cashmere Red is all of the above descriptors, soft, comfortable, rich fruit, mid-tannin, complex and yet easy to drink, and not super expensive. Even though I was just sitting on my sofa watching a super hero film and not drinking it with food, I know this wine can pair well with steaks, chops, grilled winter veggies, or chocolate cake…or all of those together. Well, I need to go plan my next dinner with steaks, squash, chocolate cake and Cashmere. It’s gonna be good!

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