December 24, 2008

My Local or What's for Dinner?

I know I mentioned previously that Hannah's was my local, go-to restaurant, prior to their price hikes, and I wonder - Did you, dear reader, think that left me local-less? Have no fear my dear, I'll let you in on a little secret; I've always had two locals. Now, I'm down to one: the Green House on Locust St, at Congress, and it's all good.

I know I've mentioned the Green House once or twice in passing, and it's high time I take a moment and give it its proper due. Even though I think they may have the worst gin martinis in town (it's the well gin, I think, not the bartenders), their John B's burger may be the best in town. Add the newest patio in town to their seriously good selection of draft beers, and the thrills of their monthly food\wine\cocktail specials with their very reasonable prices aaaand, ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

In fact, I've been going to the Green House, pretty much since it opened, and I think they just keep getting better. Comfortable and casual, but dim enough to be romantic too, the Green House even offers live music in the gorgeous bar. That music comes to you Mon. and Thurs. nights, with $2 drafts and wells!

Now I hope you're asking, "But Dentonista, what do you recommend?" because I really do want to tell you.

  • The caesar salad - I get it with half grilled chicken, half grilled portabello mushroom. If you do to, I promise you won't regret it.

  • The blue mussels appetizer - Divine. Comes with crostini and is more than enough for a meal.

  • The John B's burger - I get it with sweet potato fries and balsamic mayo. They will nickel and dime you on these. Go with it; they're worth it.

  • The Trout - My regular dining companion orders this and jones for it. Honestly, I think it's a bit dull, but that's only one opinion.

  • The cheese ravioli - Home made, of course, enormous, and delicious.

  • Their home made salad dressings - In addition to the caesar, they make their own, delicious bleu cheese and roasted red vinaigrette salad dressings.


  • Special note:
  • The immensely improved service. If you've ever had spotty service there, in the past, I'm happy to say, I think you can leave that experience behind you. Snaps to the current wait crew.



  • So, looking for a place to eat tonight? Go there. I guarantee, unless it's homecoming or graduation weekend, and if they're not booked for a rehearsal dinner or an office party, they will be able to get you seated, without too long a wait. And if you have to kill some time in their beautiful (if sometimes smoky) bar, so what? (One of December's drink specials is a Pomegranate Mimosa) Now, lest you think their ability to seat you quickly equates to a big-box dining experience, perish the thought! There are actually 4 separate dining areas - 5, if you count the lovely patio dining on Congress Street. And you should. I know the weather's getting cooler, but I think you can still enjoy relaxed, al fresco lunch-time dining. (Any other nominees for patio dining? Please comment!)

    **PS - See the nice picture? That's my caesar salad (with just portobella) and an adult beverage, sitting on a patio dining table. I enjoyed an al fresco lunch with another Dentonista just this week. Tasty lunch, good company, beautiful weather. Ah, yes! I LOVE Denton.**
    Greenhouse Restaurant on Urbanspoon

    December 12, 2008

    DFW Airport

    I know Dallas Fort Worth International airport (DFW) is not in Denton County, none-the-less it’s one of the things that makes Denton excellent. I may live in a small and tidy city (120, 000 people in about 80 sq miles), but I consider myself half an hour away from the rest of the world.

    I know lots of people like to bag on American Airlines (and I know that for all the years I’ve been flying with them – 10+ – I’ve never been upgraded), but their hub at DFW is just another thing that makes this airport, and by extension Denton, fantastic. AA’s hub ensures I can fly direct to just about everywhere in the country and a lot of the world. And, if you’re lucky enough to have a flight leaving from Terminal D (formerly all international flights, now some domestic AA flights too), you’ll have lots of restaurants to eat at, and tons of shopping – duty-free, if you have an international ticket, just fun to look at, if you don’t.
    And, of course, you don’t have to fly American to use and benefit from DFW.

    If you’re sighing, “Big Deal,” I ask you to really think about it.
    Flying is still relatively cheap – cheaper than it was, adjusted, 20 years ago, even if it’s a bigger hassle, and only THINK of what an added drag compulsory holiday visits to family would be if you had to drive two, or three, or more hours to the airport! Think that’s preposterous? I think I mentioned I’m from NY? Well the three international New York-area airports were my airports, and they were still three or more hours away.
    I kid you not.
    Traffic and distance – three hours.
    Yeah.
    I’m telling you, I looove me some DFW airport, and, if you think about it, you do too.

    December 3, 2008

    The Austin Street Area

    This area always strikes me as our tiny, little French Quarter (VC to you LA-ers), and I mean the residential areas - not the puke-slimed streets the drunk fraternity boys roam. In fact, proximity to TWU and the multitudes of sleek felines sauntering these sidewalks (right on, my sisters!) makes me think you'd be hard-pressed to find a boy of any variety, much less a frat daddy. What's not to love?

    So, what does it mean when I say New Orleans? Well, check out the wrought iron balcony detailing on the funky and old (but recently renovated) Austin Villas apartments, and imagine them with the original white balconies and yellow shutters...

    Now, look up. See the heavy tree canopy?
    And then - hear the quiet? Believe me when I tell you, residential NOLA is very quiet.

    Are you noticing all the cool, old houses, in various states of renovation? I think they're architecturally interesting, as well as inspiring to anyone who owns (or wants to own) an older house.

    Did I mention this neighborhood is a cat haven? Cat watchers and crazy cat ladies will enjoy strolling and trying to entice the kittens to come play with them.

    Just check it out - this is a great area in which to go walking; you can even finish up by the Greenhouse and sip a restorative beer on the patio.

    Delightful.

    November 15, 2008

    Weldon's Saddle Shop and Western Wear

    I think I’ve mentioned that I’m a displaced Yankee? I’ll let you in on a secret, I’m not just a Yankee, I’m a New York Yankee.
    Oh yeah. The yankiest of Yankees, I’ve been told.

    That said, when I tell you Weldon’s Saddle Shop is fun for everyone – you can completely believe me. I mean, if there was ever a woman less naturally inclined to groove to a western wear and tack shop, I’d love to meet her. We could drink (gin) martinis, listen to NPR, and discuss Vanity Fair articles together.
    Now, one of the best things about Weldon’s might be the first thing you notice – the pervasive and delicious smell of leather.
    Oh man.
    This is the smell Ralph Lauren couldn’t bottle.
    This is the smell that makes anyone who isn’t a rock star buy hide pants.
    This is the smell you want in your new car. (If, you know, you’re not an ethical vegetarian.)
    This may be the smell that gets country-bar cowgirls hot and bothered.
    If they’d just pump that intoxicating scent out into the square (like Mrs. Baird’s used to pump the smell of baking bread into a Ft. Worth underpass), I certainly would have found my way in sooner. 
    As it was, I entered while on a quest for a Stetson.
    Not for me! Oh no, no, no, no, nooooo (though I DO think I look rather fetching in one) – for my significant other (SO). A native Texan, and great lover of the outdoors, he has the perennial red neck to prove it. Prior to my entrance into his life, things like sauerkraut, mustard, angst, and sunscreen were unknown to him. As a concession to my constant worrying, he now wears a brimmed hat to work in the yard.
    Sadly, that original hat is faded and falling apart, and, when worn with his preferred (shall we say ‘eclectic’) gardening ensemble, makes him look like Woody Allen. Only crazier.

    Yep.

    No more.

    So I suggested, a straw cowboy hat. And why not? Designed to take a beating in a truly tough job, and with a wide wrap-around brim, they’re not just practical, they’re culturally relevant.
    And, can you imagine, they’re buy one, get one for a penny, right now!
    Turns out they’re moving out the summer stuff for the winter/felt hats.
    Go know.
    Two hats turned out to be $40.01 for us.
    (So it looks like there WILL be one for me to wear, whilst cutting irises…)
    Even with that amazing sale, we ended up dropping around $80.
    “How did that happen?” you ask.
    Well, let me tell you.
    Not only do they have hats, boots, and Cruel Girl jeans (don’t you just love that name?), they have a nice selection of kids stuff, appropriate for gifts. And Texas is one place you can still get local-ish gifts. You know what I mean? Even other parts of the country (and world) sort of understand and can be enchanted by the myth of Texas.
    So even a non-native will be sending Texas-ana around the country as quick as she can.

    **Hanukkah\Christmas Spoiler Alert**

    Want to know what I found? HAPPY to share:
    Tex and Sugar
    L is for Lonestar: A Texas Alphabet

    And don't miss the Texas Centennial antiques and life-size horse mannequin, sporting a beautiful sterling silver saddle and bridle. You could be a holiday hero delivering that, if the $15,000 price tag doesn't give you pause. While you're there, check out the vintage lunch boxes. I spotted a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans for $399. Yep - Weldon doesn't fool around with the collectibles! Go on; swing by and talk to him about them. You know that guy has some great stories.

    November 9, 2008

    Texas Jack


    For those of you who are not native to Denton, to Texas, to the southwest, or, I’ve come to understand to ‘big sky country’, a jackalope is the rare cross between a jack rabbit and an antelope – resulting in a creature that looks like a large rabbit with a set of antlers. Feel free to look it up, if you don’t believe your friendly neighborhood Dentonista. OR, you can take it on faith that such an animal exists, if some artist would go to the trouble of combining barbecue (the national sport and religion of Texas) with the jackalope, to create a working smoker\BBQ altar.

    BA-BAM!

    Now I know you know I love Denton for the crazies; well I also love the free-spirited artists. And this here is an example not just of art, but craft. Art feeds your soul, but Texas Jack (and his creators) feed your, you know, stomach too.

    I wish I could give you a sense of scale for this bad boy... Do you see the bar on his 'saddle' area, above the platform, on the right of the trailer? The platform is for the pit master to stand on, and the handle opens his smoking belly! Now, while you're at it, take a good look at old TJ. Delicacy prevents me from being too specific, but perhaps you’ll notice the grease drain/trap? The, ahem, anatomically correct trap? That’s a buck jackalope there, giving credence to the phrase “pure brass ones”.

    I think this sculpture is so noteworthy, that I have been known to drive out of town visitors by. You want to see it too? Swing down Bolivar to Taliaferro Street some time soon, and hope he isn’t off competing in some cage match BBQ smackdown, or being bred by his handlers. Now wouldn’t that be something?

    October 29, 2008

    The Seedy End of University Drive

    I’m sure you’re asking, “Which end is that?”
    Good point.
    And, you’re right: Pretty much ALL of University is seedy, but I love it. From the so-vintage-it’s-time warp Catfish King to the Pizza Patron, raising xenophobic ire by accepting pesos.
    If you take a minute to check it out, you can see (and eat) some seriously cool stuff there too. For Example:
    •  S&S Books – Sure everyone knows and loves Recycled Books – our own purple dinosaur on the square – but have you ever been to S&S? Heavy on the trashy romances, but with a shockingly large collection of vinyl. Go on in; see the videos, comics, and kids’ books too. While you’re at it, why not grab an Italian Ice from:
    • The NY Ice King – Truthfully, I think his ices were better last year, but why not? Lighter than ice cream and, let’s be honest, much less white trash than a snow cone. Stick to the lemon. No matter where you are, that’s always the best ice. 
    • Right in the same scary parking lot, is Royal East Asian Cuisine – Normally I steer clear of ‘Pan Asian’ places, believing as I do that that is code for 'generic brown sauce, warm sushi rolls, and MSG headache – to go'! However, both the sushi AND the Korean food (the home land of the chef) came highly recommended.

    And, as if one place for sushi wasn’t enough, University Drive also gives you:
    • I (heart) Sushi – Honestly, I don’t think it’s as good as it used to be, when it was Japango; it’s more of a roll place now. But, in fairness, I haven’t gone in to sit down at the bar and let the chef hook me up. Note to self – Do that!
      Fun fact - It is in a converted Taco Bell – one of the teeny, old ones. You’d never know from the lovely inside!
    • A sandwich shop where the employees are 100% guaranteed to be stoned. And not just high, y'all, high as kites! Don’t know which one I mean? Try ‘em all and see.
      Whaaat? You got something against sandwiches?
    • Tuesday Morning – Enough said. My go to place for wrapping paper and cocktail napkins.
    • The scaaariest $.99 cent store in town – Again, feel free to find it on your own.
    • Sally Beauty Supply – I can’t leave there without buying something, and that’s saying something. As you may have guessed, I’m a bit of a greeniac and a bargain-maven, but their juju is just too strong!
    • The Denton Movie Tavern – Big screen movies. Comfy, reclining seats. New Castle Brown Ale (the beer that drinks like a meal) on-tap-and-delivered-to-you-by the pitcher. What more do you need?!
      OK, I’d like them to add fried cheese sticks to their menu (*hint, hint*), but their little pizzas are surprisingly good.
      You know what else is good? Their customer service, and that’s worth a visit on its own. If you still need to be sold, did I mention the beer?
      I did?
      Well good.
      Did I mention their extensive selection of other beers on tap and in the bottle, which, weirdly, they don’t list on their Web site? They even have wine, and not just red, white, and pink.
      Seriously – this is a great place to relax with an adult beverage and a movie.
      Not feeling so adult? Try the milkshakes.
      You SO need to go see a movie here. Tonight!
    • El Matador – Honestly, nothing special as far as Mexican food goes, but good chips, good beer selection, terrific service - oh and soooo tasty margarita swirls. If you’re looking for a big plate of generically tasty Tex-Mex, with the added bonus of a seriously kitsch gift shop (I'm talking majollica iguanas and sparkle-painted clowns...), this is your place. In fact, I may eat there tonight…
    •  The Flagship Pizza Inn – Who knew? Pizza Inn’s corporate HQ is right here in Denton County, so it certainly is right and fitting that we have a flagship store. It’s weird to think we went years without one. Previously, the last remaining Pizza Inn closed several years ago and the building was converted to another University Drive favorite:
    •  Frilly’sA dive-y Cajun food joint. Cold beer. Tilapia. Crawfish. Lots of fried stuff. Surprisingly good salmon salad. The cheaper, older brother of 3 Fins. Definitely eat here soon, if you haven’t already. I can’t think of one thing I wouldn’t eat.

    Things I miss from University:
    • The Southern Fried Pie CompanyAnyone know what happened to them?
    • Metzler’s BBQWhere even your beer tasted like BBQ. Think I’m joking? Go buy a sixer (and some ‘que, of course) from their remaining location on Londonderry. Drink from the can or bottle. If you have a cat, beware, it may never stop rubbing up on your beer.
    • The Actual Rayzor Ranch – How great was it to pull off of I-35 onto University Drive (and into Denton) and see actual long horns? I particularly hate the razed, flood-prone landscape that’s left. Wonder what the hold up is? Ask these folks or your council person.
    • Payless Video – The last independent video store in town is closing (and selling off their stock), right now.
      Damnit!
      Not only is it within walking distance from YFND’s, its slightly grotty ambiance caused us to refer to it as “Outlaw Video”, and that was just fun to say in conversation around the house.

    What's your favorite bit of University?

    October 22, 2008

    Blue Grass Beer Tasting

    This isn't necessarily a best of - because I haven't drank it or done it yet. In fact, it hasn't happened yet, but I really wanted to give loyal (and accidental) readers a heads up.

    FREE BEER AT HANNAH'S THIS THURSDAY, OCT. 23

    Here's what the nice folks at Hannah's and St. Arnold's say:

    "Join us at Hannah’s on October 23rd for a St. Arnold’s Beer Tasting event. We will have a number of beer themed Chef prepared delicacies such as Beer-Cheese Soup, Chocolate Ale Cake, and a Marbled Guinness and Cheddar Cheese Plate. A St. Arnold’s Beer representative will be on hand to answer any questions about the beer selections and sample everyone on the various portfolio of St. Arnold’s. The tasting will be from 6-9 on our patio (weather permitting). Featuring live music from The Boxcar Bandits as seen in the New York Times. There is no price to attend and everyone is welcome."

    I absolutely plan on checking this out!

    October 16, 2008

    The Cupboard

    If you're a regular at health food or natural grocery stores, the size of Cupboard Natural Foods, "The Cupboard" to locals, won't surprise you. But the first few years I shopped there, mostly for Aubrey Organics, produce, and milk, I thought, "How do they stay in business? They're so small!"

    Well.. Years have passed, my Dr. tells me my lab work looks good, and I find not only should I eat organic, whole foods, I want to. Frankly, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils freak me out. (Though I will not argue against the deliciousness of a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie - even if there are like no actual food ingredients on the label!)

    ANYWAY

    Turns out you can shop very nicely at The Cupboard. With the exception of fresh meat, they have everything. And they DO have meat - it's just frozen, but you know I get my meat from Burgundy Pasture.

    I think the Cupboard has just gotten better and better over the years. And as my reliance on, and preference for natural food has grown, I find they DO have pretty much everything I need - even Ketchup and sweet pickle relish.

    What do I buy there? Well, besides the aforementioned:


  • Mychelle 
  • Wolf Creek veggies and herbs; they're local! 
  • New Chapter Vitamins 
  • Boar's Head and Applegate Farms cold cuts (and bacon!) 
  • Bulk nuts, seeds, and cacao nibs - for my trail mix and just for hand-to-mouth snacking 
  • Nature's Baby conditioner - not just for babies! 
  • Burt's Bees moisturizer 
  • The occasional chair massage - from the good folks at the Kneaded Touch 
  • Rice Crackers - gluten free! 
  • Ezekiel Bread - low glycemic index! 
  • Lindt dark chocolate - just delicious! (OK - it's an anti-oxidant too.)

  • I know Target has a selection of organic produce and frozen food, and while I applaud them, it's way the hell across town, has one of the worst parking lots in the city, and it isn't a local business. And I love that about the Cupboard. Even the hippies, sweet or sour, working the registers are - say it with me - local. And their parking lot? Lovely.

    I know I've mentioned the cafe in a previous post, and now they have a new menu! Breakfast Panini? Bison tamales? Oh man! How can you go wrong? If you're feeling like a grab and go, you can always hit the soup and salad bar. Sure, you always feel virtuous getting soup and salad, but now you can feel superior and righteous - eating organic and natural. And y'all, with the heavy vegetarian audience, you know this is a bad ass salad bar.

    Also, don't forget to check out the community bulletin boards and hilarious customer comment cards, conveniently located by both sets of doors. Be sure to find the note from the guy I refer to as The Barefooter. You'll know his comments when you read them. And then you'll think, "Oh, I've seen this guy!"

    And I hope I see YOU there, my dears.

    October 7, 2008

    Burgundy Pasture Beef

    If you're serious about your health; If you're serious about the environment; If you're serious about the humane treatment of the animals you will eat; If you're just serious about taste - you want to get to know the folks at Burgundy Pasture Beef.

    Now, they are not in Denton, but they DO deliver to Denton County. Not, sadly, into the city proper, but as far north as Corinth. Happily for me, I have a friend in Corinth, and we order together.

    Happily for you, they have a delivery spot in Lake Dallas, at Swisher Rd., I believe. Who knows though, if enough Dentonistas and Dentonistos call and ask for deliveries, maybe they'll widen their delivery area. Even once a month would be great.

    If you already eat organic\free range meats, you'll know that their prices are in line or cheaper than what you find in the stores, and they're local-ish. Hey - most of my organic produce comes from California or Mexico, so this feels really good to me.

    And it tastes amazing. You think you can't tell the difference? Well you can. Maybe not with the ground meats, unless your feeling of confidence (you know, in that you're not fearing e.coli) counts. But with the bigger cuts? You'll be shrieking Hosannas!

    Go on, get some ground beef (and lamb!) and that sirloin tip roast. Make the recipe they give you - for company even; it's idiot-proof - and feel the goodness of whole, home made food fill you.

    Don't forget to check out the pork, lamb, and chicken they also provide. (And y'all - that's really good lamb.)
    Don't know what to do with lamb?
    Don't feel like the Lone Ranger, and do try Giada De Laurentis' recipe for Rack of Lamb with Mint Pesto. It is fool-proof, and can be made with other, cheaper lamb chop cuts.
    Delish.
    And for your ground meat, why not try this chili recipe. Handed over to me by my mother-in-law:

    In a large soup\stew pot brown:
  • 1 lrg white onion (I usually use red and white)

  • Remove from pan and, in same pan, brown
  • 2lbs ground sirloin (I use whatever - sometimes half lamb, half beef, and I use salt, pepper and red pepper)

  • When browned, add:
  • 1 bell pepper (green or red)

  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes (or same approx amount chopped fresh)

  • 1 can tomatoes and green chiles

  • 1 can chicken broth

  • 2 packages Williams Chili Mix

  • Simmer an hour or so, then add:
  • 1 can kidney beans

  • 1 can Ranch Style Beans

  • 1 can other beans (I just use 3 cans of Ranch Style Beans with jalapeños)


  • Heat through and adjust seasonings as you like. I usually add some more jalapeños. (Of course I'm using the jarred, sliced kind.) You add whatever! Half the joy of this recipe is how forgiving it is. Seriously! No tomato sauce? I've used tomato paste and more chicken stock. Still divine. Play around with it, you'll see.

    Serve up with your choice of shredded cheese, sour cream, red, white, or green onions, crackers or Fritos. I think you will love it.

    And now my dears, the Dentonista would like YOUR help with 2 things.

    1. Ranch Style Beans - I can't seem to find an organic substitute for these b@stards. If anyone can help - please shout out. Please don't suggest I make my own, unless you can provide a recipe that that involves opening a can of organic beans. The other half of the joy of this recipe is its ease.

    2. And, finally, if there are any kitchen-savvy vegetarians reading out there - how would you change this recipe? I have the one odd vegetarian sister, and I would love to make this for her next visit but without, you know, the pesky meat. The fact that her brother-in-law, and grill companion, refers to meat as 'the flavor' hasn't swayed her. Yet.

    September 19, 2008

    Ravelin Bakery

    I have a sister-in-law who regularly performs in musical theatre, and she tells me a performer’s (any performer’s) pet peeve is when friends, family, and random audience members come up to her after a performance and say, “You were great, and that kid was amazing!”

    And I feel like that’s what I just did.

    I fell all over myself praising the pastry at the new kid on the block, The Funky Eclectic, without even acknowledging the seasoned pro that helps make my appreciation of their danish possible. I’m talking about Ravelin Bakery.

    If you live in Denton (and not under a rock), of course you know Ravelin. You may remember them from their original location, across from The Greenhouse, which they are still supplying with desserts, or you may only know them from their current location on Elm Street, but if you’ve somehow missed them (or are a newbie or visitor), you definitely want to get to know them. I have to admit, I wrestled with mentioning them at all. One already has to get there early, to get a full selection, but in the end, my better self (The FND) won out, and, if you are unfamiliar with Ravelin, you did too.

    First of all - and this should go without saying - everything is made onsite and made from scratch. The hunky baker and his lovely wife own this business and they are always there. (What makes the baker so hunky, you ask? Good question! He IS sandy blond and blue, but his tattoo really ices the cake, so to speak. What is it? A skull? A mermaid? Taz?! No, No, and certainly not! He has a tattoo, on one of his forearms, of a fist clutching a sheaf of wheat, with a sunflower, a poppy [and maybe another bit of flora] thrown in for good measure. What else would a bad ass baker have? I know I like him all the more for it. Check it out, next time you visit.)

    Now, what does your Friendly Neighborhood Dentonista recommend?  That’s so difficult, and so easy; they have so many excellent things!
    Bearing in mind you can hardly go wrong:

  • The ham and swiss croissants
    I love them, and you can fool yourself into thinking you're having a balanced breakfast. Also feel free to try the ham and cheddar, spinach and feta, and mushroom and swiss, if you like.

  • The chocolate almond croissants
    Imagine a fresh croissant filled with dark chocolate and topped with a sliced almond and sugar paste. It is a diabetic coma on a plate, but goes down sweet as sin with a cup of strong coffee.

  • The walnut or pecan sticky buns
    See above, and know the squirrels will fight you for them, if you're taking your leisure on the patio. Oh sweet Jesus.

  • The muffins
    All the muffins. They come in various combinations of berries and fruits, and they are win-wins every time. Weekend guests? Stock up on a variety and be the hostess with the most-est. Men, I am not discriminating; they will work for you too.

  • And do not miss the fresh bread!
    They'll slice it for you there, and each and every variety beats all hell out of any supermarket loaf.

    Go on, go! But please, leave some for me.

    Oh, and sad news - I've heard from a few folks that The Funky Eclectic is already out of business. I've heard eveything from family illness to a business loan that didn't come through, and I can hardly believe it. No matter what the reason, there IS a for sale sign up.
    Drat!
    Anyone know the whole story?

    Ravelin Baking Co on Urbanspoon
  • September 17, 2008

    Update from GrapeFest

    I have a friend who says things are ‘ish’ when he means they’re just so-so, and I LOVE that idiom. As you know, anything that is ‘somethingish’ is not quite something.
    And Grapefest was ish.
    I wouldn’t discourage you from checking it out next year, but I might not hurry back. Why?

    Well, a few reasons.

    With free-flowing wine (with 9 tickets, $4.50) - and beer - you can expect a fair amount of stumbling, slurring, and poor crowd navigation. People with strollers, too.
    What you might not expect, and I came to view as an added bonus, is pretentiousness.

    I felt like the Not So Friendly Dentonista as I slowly got steamed trying to flow around pontificating yuppies planted stock-still in the street road\ the sidewalk\ my way just gassing on about anything and everything.

    Or maybe I was just a grouch.
    Was there anything to enjoy? Oh yes. The usual arts and crafts, with a nicely cheesy wine theme, AND Inka Wayra!.

    My friends, you haven’t fully appreciated “Hotel California” until you’ve heard it played on the Pan flute.
    I kid you not.
    The minute I realized what my eyes were seeing and my ears were hearing, I leaned over to the Significant Other (SO) and said, “I’m telling you right now, this is the coolest thing I am going to see all night.
    It was.

    Now, if you’re wondering how the Joe Ely show was, I’m happy to say, it was fantastic.
    That night he was playing with Joel Guzman. (I did whisper to the SO, “I’ve never seen an accordion looking less Italian.”) Nor have I enjoyed listening to one so much.
    Two thumbs up.

    But, overall, just 'ish', and since this blog is The BEST Of and not the also rans, I'm thinking I'll take these entries down after a bit.
    What do you think?

    September 11, 2008

    Plans For GrapeFest

    My significant other (SO) is a significant music geek.
    (Not that his preferences are significant, but that his fanaticism is significant. You follow?) Music is the insulin that allows him to process dull weeks and the marinade for a cold-beer, all-day barbecue kind of week. It revives, sustains and excites him.

    And Joe Ely, a recent interest, is playing Grapevine's GrapeFest Friday night.

    Now, the SO had recently taken me to the DMA to see Mr. Ely play and read selections from his new book, and that show met my most important requirements for enjoying most of the SO's musical choices - A/C, seating, no smoking, not too loud, not too late. (You, dear reader, may surmise those same requirements keep me from being the SO's frequent companion to many musical outings. You would be correct.) In addition, I really enjoyed hearing Mr. Ely tell his stories from the road, and tomorrow, Mr. Ely is playing outside on a clement Friday evening, where vendors and purveyors of local (!! and not) wines should be abundant. So I allowed that an amendment to those requirements might be justified.

    I'll let you know how it goes.
    OR, you can go on over yourself; I'd love to see you there! I'll be the one with the long hair and glass of wine!

    September 7, 2008

    The Funky Eclectic

    Your Dentonista is going to do something she hasn’t done yet – write about something she found the-same-day-she-found-it!
    It’s not that there is a lack of agreeable, indeed outright fantastic, things in Denton to inspire me, it’s just that, sadly, your Dentonista has more than a touch of the lazy slug in her (I do hope you are not shocked to read that), and the fabulous bits that make up Denton tend to be tried, true, and durable.

    However, what I found Saturday morning was so serendipitous and pleasing, that I want to share it with you ASAP, and YOU dear reader will want to zip over to The Funky Eclectic, at 503 Bolivar without delay! (You know I’d give you a link, but they are, for now, Web site free. *People! You have a business, get a Web site!*)

    Their signage describes them as a coffee shop & bakery, but Saturday’s menu, featuring quiche, tomato basil soup, and some tasty sounding turkey sandwich compilation seemed to me a bit nicer, a bit more varied than the bland food I associate with the Greek coffee shops of my youth. But you know, coffee shops have become much hipper, so maybe my perceptions are out of date…

    ANYWAY

    Let’s DO discuss their baked goods for a minute, because that’s what’s got me so het up.
    Saturday morning, I loaded up my favorite breakfast companion and went off looking for a little nosh to carry out, and ended up grabbing a muffin, 2 chocolate chip cookies (for later) and a little cheese danish.

    The cheese danish of destinty, as it would turn out.

    Kids, I have to tell you, if anything in the baked goods’ display or, indeed, my life had prepared me for the absolute perfection of this danish, I would have bought up all of them.

    Actually, while we were browsing the baked goods, one of the sweetly loquacious owners did mention a cordon bleu baker. I admit the thought, “Sure, whatever” went through my head, though never would have made it out of my mouth. (You may not be shocked to learn I have an inner, snarky dialogue.)

    What more can I say? I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of baked goods (at least an enthusiast), and this was phenomenal. In one bite I knew it. In fact, it was so good, I snarfed it all up, standing at the counter, without even pouring myself a cup of coffee.

    In fact, the only other pastry I know of that is this delicious (flavorful and perfectly tender, without the least bit of toughness or dryness) is baked in Spring, TX (just outside of Houston). By a woman who only bakes for friends and family.
    Sad really.
    Happily, I’m her friend.

    Seriously, you will want to run, not walk, to The Funky Eclectic.
    Not just because the danish is delish, but also because it’s a new, unique and local business, and we want to make sure it’s around to stay!
    Hipsters will love the vintage late 50s, 60’s formica and vinyl table and chairs sets.
    Cheapsters will love the prices – nothing over $7.95.
    Students will love the 24-7 hours (I know! We’ll see if they keep it up.)
    Hot-to-trotsters will love the cool AC…
    Everyone will love that danish.

    Get there quick my dears. If I beat you in, you may not find any of that danish left.
    Although the menu mentions pie, cobbler, casserole, quiche and soups of the day, amongst other dishes, and there is a separate menu for beverages, so there is plenty more for you (and me) to explore...

    August 29, 2008

    Feeling Patriotic This Labor Day? Go See The Statue of Liberty on Bolivar Street

    Don’t you love the Statue of Liberty? Ever notice that even though she lives in NYC, her likeness is all over the place? Even all over the world? You know about the mini Statues of Liberty in Paris and Tokyo right? Do you know there’s one at customs on the US Canada border at Niagara Falls? How about this – I was in Mongolia a few years ago and there were not one, but two, separate references to the Statue of Liberty that I saw.
    In MONGOLIA people!
    A restaurant and a health club, as I recall.

    She gets around.

    But, if you don’t feel like going to NY, Paris, or Mongolia (and I can’t recommend it), why not just drive down Denton's own Bolivar Street and check out this awesome, semi-public art installation?

    Just the other day I was wondering where the folks with the Statue of Liberty moved to, and then bang! There she was. Get by and see her soon folks, clearly she’s seasonal or special occasional.

    August 27, 2008

    Three Quick Things I Like About Denton

    1. This Blog
    I LOVE this blog – Green Across Texas – about one woman’s journey to get her family green.
    Wow!
    Could I have made that sound duller? You know, there may be no way I can do her well-written, amusing, and informative blog justice, and I happen to know, she’s a Dentonista too. (Shout out to the wider Denton County!) So, listen to YOUR friendly, neighborhood Dentonista, click the link and give it a quick eyeballing. Beware; you may have to add another blog to your must-read list!

    2. The Emily Fowler Library
    You may know it as Emily Fowler, you may know it as the Main Branch, you may know it as the original library, down from the post office, up from the Greenhouse, but I think of it as my neighborhood library, and it is my favorite of the three branches.
    Do you remember the indoor, sunken garden that was scrapped with the 2004 renovation?
    I do.
    It was bizarrely groovy, and went beautifully with the midcentury modern decorative woodwork. Though the librarians tell me the moisture was wreaking havoc with the printed materials, I do miss sitting near it and listening to the water sounds. For more info on the library's midcentury credentials (and we're talking O'Neil Ford folks!!), see this excellent little page the excellent Mike Cochran put together.

    Hey! Does anyone remember when they would check out artworks, which were expressly for use in decorating your dorm room or apartment? They’d check them out by the semester
    I had totally forgotten about that, until I was writing this entry! I wonder what happened to that stuff and that program? I wonder if the folks who contribute to this blog will address that question?

    Anyway, this library, with its incredibly nice check out staff, outdoor fountain, indoor genealogy special collection, comfy reading chairs, numerous public-use computers (thanks to the renovation), and great (and always expanding) collection of books, mags, CDs, and DVDs is not only just a brisk walk (added bonus) from my house, it’s the comfiest library in the system.

    Now, if we could just get the WiFi that’s been promised, and endlessly delayed, it would be pretty much the perfect library. If you’re wondering, as I am, just what the hold up is, or why only the South branch (the smallest and noisiest branch!) has WiFi – contact your city council person. That’s what they tell me to do when I ask at the library!

    Speaking of that sweet walk from the Dentonista’s to the library, brings me to item number:

    3. The New Pergola at the Cupboard
    Walking to the library takes me past the Cupboard – more properly known as Cupboard Natural Foods - which is now sporting a brand-new pergola, just outside the cafĂ©!
    Have you seen it?
    Can patio dining be far behind?
    Now, if you’re thinking, “BFD. Dining with a view of the parking lot.” Shaaaame on you - Oh ye of little imagination!
    Think of it as street theatre as you trip to the various hippies, weirdos, poseurs, Jesus freaks, and soccer Moms and Dads that cross your line of site. Maybe you’ll even be sipping a wheat grass juice? I know I’m looking forward to it!

    August 13, 2008

    The Haunted House on Oak Street


    See the eerie perfection of the house and lawn?
    Know what’s eerier?
    No one lives there!
    I have never seen a single person come or go from that house. Who takes care of it? Must be ghosts - and that’s why I call it the haunted house. Spoooooky!

    OK, this house isn’t really empty, as this article in the Denton Record Chronicle will attest (though that’s no proof it’s not haunted). Either way, I stand by my observation of never seeing anyone out front.
    SO, more power to you folks – I don’t know how you do it.
    I’m day dreaming about covert garden operatives and ninja yard care right now…

    Well, enough of that. Do you want to see some other houses that have people living in them, but are surely haunted too?! Check out the rest of Oak Street, between Carroll Blvd. and Fry St. (But keep on going down to Bonnie Brae if you like - more fun houses and the Orthodox Church!) Be sure to make the block and come back up on Hickory St.

    Called “Silk Stocking Row” (oy vey) by local realtors, The Oak\Hickory historic block is one big bunch of great old houses. Someone with more knowledge about architecture can surely say more about the styles, significance, etc. All I can say is: they’re beautiful, and the short block (just up to Fry St.) makes a great little walk.

    If you DO take a walk or a drive around this historic block, or just know something cool about it and want to share, please DO leave comments. It's not just MY Denton, it's YOUR Denton too people!

    Update - June, 12 2010
    Wow! Some variant of 'Haunted Denton' is a really common search that brings folks to my blog.
    So, I thought I'd add a link to the Denton section of Ghosts of America. Hope it helps you, Reader.

    Update - Sept, 12 2012
    And if 'Haunted Denton', 'Denton Ghosts', 'Denton Haunted Houses' or some other search for ghosts, hauntings, spirits or the supernatural in Denton, Tx brought you here, I want to refer you to the Denton Haunts facebook page. These folks will take you on a ghost walk around the square and regale you with stories of the "...haunted history and spooky spectres of the Denton Square!" Their and the Denton Haunts wordpress page has stories abot our ghosts and the group's upcoming activities. Check them out.

    August 4, 2008

    The Mad Sign Painter on Carroll Blvd.

    Nearer University Dr. than I-35.


    I don’t know anything about him, and I don’t want to; I think it would spoil the romance. But, Bam! If that doesn’t say it all.

    We all know Austin wants to keep it weird, but really, how much weirder can you get? One of the reasons I love Denton? The crazies. And y’all – this is crazy. And angry. And active. And you can’t argue with that; you just need to stand up and recognize.

    Sometimes I’m not even sure what he means, but I love that he says it - out loud and proud. Keep your eyes peeled! This is by no means the first of his strange visual shout outs. I recall one comparing Islamofascism to AIDs, and a follow up chiding the local police for not protecting his signs! The last one? Advised Islamic terrorists that their “…72 virgins are young boys”.

    I have NO idea, but an Internet search on that aforementioned phrase yields more factual (and none of the X-rated) results than you might think. Try it.

    And, in the interests of full disclosure, while I don’t know them at all, the lady of the house (I assume) was incredibly nice when encountered on a full-neighborhood canvas for a missing cat. Thank you.

    July 31, 2008

    Dinner in the bar at Hannah’s

    Why the bar? Is it the wine list? No, though it is impressive. The martinis? Honey, no. With concoctions like: Key Lime Pie; Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend; and Geisha Girl crapping up the offerings list, no one is there for the martinis. (Though it IS possible to get a proper martini. I assume you know that’s gin; your server may not, so be specific. I like mine extra dry, with a twist.)

    You want to eat in the bar at Hannah’s because that’s where you can order from the tapas menu or the cheese board, which is literally a black board.

    Let me go back a year or so. Back in the day, Hannah’s had a much larger, much more affordable dinner menu so it was possible to make it your ‘local’.
    You know, “What do you want for dinner?”
    “I don’t know; what do you want?”
    “Let’s go to Hannah’s.”

    (Disclaimer: It was MY local. “Bitter? Party of one?” “Here.”)

    Granted, it was never cheap, but it was certainly doable, without too much aforethought. Not so now.
    Hannah’s has moved their dinner menu straight into ‘special occasion’ ($19-$30) territory.
    Which is lovely for them, I’m sure, but too bad for the rest of us. The old menu had plenty or fancy–delancey dishes in the $20ish range, not to mention the fabulous evening specials, all appropriate for special occasions, but it also had plenty of choices in the $12-$17 range, which meant you could go there for, well, the hell of it.

    And, not to belabor the point, if I‘m going to make a night of it, I may want to see an indie flick, or a play, or take in a museum, etc. All of which, sadly, I still have to go further south to find.

    Now, all that said, you can still hit Hannah’s for a quick or not so quick dinner with friends or fam, without special budgeting, if you order from the excellent and changing tapas menu. I met a friend for dinner there the other night and got out for $16, before tip. I had an order of the Crispy Pork Pot-stickers ($7), a bowl of the amazing poblano corn chowder ($8) and an iced tea ($2). (Side note – Am I the only one outraged by the global jump in price of iced tea? You think your tea is still $1 or $1.50? It’s not. Look at your tab.)
    Now, I agree, at $8 the soup is on the high side, but it’s just so good, and the pot stickers were really too numerous for one person – plenty to share. My lovely dining companion had the shrimp cocktail ($13) and the one eleven salad ($8), from the dinner menu. I think she may have gotten a half-price cocktail as well.
    Ah! And that IS good to know – Happy Hour is every day, from 3-6 p.m. Featuring half-price martinis & wine by the glass, $2 domestic drafts, and $3 import drafts & wells, you can certainly get have a couple civilized drinks, without breaking the bank.

    So, go on; try it. Goodness, I may zip over there tonight.

    Update – I DID go back, with another charming dining companion. We stayed a bit longer, so I DID run up the tab swilling gin, but drinks aside, another very affordable meal. I had the one eleven salad ($8) that night (it was as good as it looked earlier that week). From the tapas menu, my charming companion had the Greek Steak Salad ($11). Huge. A bargain at that price and as delicious as you’d expect, loaded with med rare beef and kalamata olives. Completely share-able. We split the Kobe Beef Sliders ($13). If you don’t know that a slider is a mini-burger, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t these. Happily, they were excellent, and surprisingly large. (In fact, there was a half left over, and I snacked on it, cold, while making dinner last night. Delicious.) Now, since we were having such a nice time, we were psychologically compelled to order desserts. (OK, so gin, on-tap Dos Equis, and desserts ran up the tab.) I won’t bore you with our choices, but if you want some reliably good sugar-delivery mechanisms, by all means, see the dessert menu. And, if there’s a sorbet on the menu, do yourself a favor and order it.

    Hannah's on Urbanspoon

    July 28, 2008

    The Denton Freecycle Community

    Bargain Hunters! Cheapskates! Freegans! Pack Rats! Neatniks! Slobs!
    Clean Freaks! Felix! Oscar! Collectors! Rejectors! Newly Weds! Newly Un-Weds! Reducers! Re-users! Recyclers! This post is for you!

    If you’ve got too much stuff or need some more stuff, you need to get to know the Denton Freecycle™ Network where… “One Person’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure!”

    Note: That’s their line, not mine. Whatever.

    Freecycle is just what it sounds like – a way to find or be rid of stuff – FOR FREE!
    100% free – no strings, no catches.
    Have a few things cluttering up your home that are too nice to throw away, too few to yard sale, or too random for a charity shop? List them at Denton Freecycle.
    Heck list ONE thing.
    Folks, I can tell you, from my own experience, nothing is too random to list, and someone will come take it off your hands.
    Don’t believe me? I listed 2 floating candles, cinnamon-scented and made in China. I got 5 takers!
    A random collection of those free wine glasses you get on vineyard tours? Gone in 60.
    Nothing is too big or too small, and someone comes to your door, porch or curb and picks-it-up!

    Let’s look at that word ‘cycle’ for a minute. I’ve been stressing the joyous ease with which I’ve unloaded stuff I didn’t want anymore, so much so that I sort of glossed right over the flip side of this endeavor – you can get-free-stuff!!
    Sure, maybe my wine glasses and candles don’t float your boat, but what about the old TVs, VHS cassettes, clothes, exercise equipment, furniture etc. that other folks are about to kick to the curb? You might like that…

    Seriously y’all, you could reduce your footprint, help your neighbors and score GOOD KARMA all in one neat little post.
    Check it out.
    Go to http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/Dentonfreecycle/
    Or
    Go to www.freecycle.org and search “Denton” (or your OWN great city!)