Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Big D

For those of you lucky enough to have never been to Dallas / Fort Worth, let me enlighten you on what you would see should you ever unwisely choose to visit.  The entire metropolitan area is just one giant maze of churches and Mexican restaurants.  So, it’s a great place to be if you love Jesus freaks and/or fat people.  And let me tell you I saw lots of both.

One of my best mates from Seattle, Anthony, recently moved to Dallas for work, so he picked me up and took me out for dinner.

He suggested Chuy’s – which is right near his house – and even though I had just been the previous evening in Houston,  I couldn’t help but check out what a Dallas Chuy’s looks like.  I had the enchiladas this time – as did Anthony – and they were delicious!

Anthony also turned me on to Chuy’s desserts.  I had never had dessert at Chuy’s before – mainly because I’ve always finished my main meal completely stuffed and unable to squeeze in any additional food.  But he insisted this time, and really, who am I to say no?  We ordered the tres leches and sopapillas.

And all I can say is:  HOLY SHITBALLS MOUTH ORGASM.  Amazing.  Some of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever had.  I’ve been dining at Chuy’s for over a decade now and never experienced this.  I can’t believe I’ve been missing this all these years!

The main reason I stopped in Dallas was to visit my grandmother in Fort Worth.  I had two days with my grandma and our time was mostly spent avoiding the oppressive heat…

108 degrees Fahrenheit.  The maximum temperature  I saw on our car thermometer was 111 degrees Fahrenheit.  Holy moly.

So, where to go when the heat is too much?  Air conditioned restaurants!  Starting with Luby’s – a cafeteria style restaurant frequented by a more experienced crowd (geriatrics).  But it’s delicious so I always go with grandma.  It’s a bit southern style.  I had a nice blackened grilled chicken breast with mac n cheese, mashed potatoes with gravy, a soft and delicious bread roll, and a sweet tea!  I missed sweet tea, and seeing as I can no longer get it at Chick-fil-a (hateful bastards!), I was super stoked that Luby’s had some.

Now, in a 100+ degree heat, we also needed to get some ice cream.  My favourite ice cream in the Fort Worth area is Braum’s – a dairy from Oklahoma which has a chain of ice cream restaurants across a few states.  The ice cream is not too sweet and very creamy – perfect!  I had butter pecan and birthday cake.

But, the majority of our food was Mexican.  It’s not hard to find Mexican food in the Dallas / Fort Worth area.  Mexican restaurants are to Dallas what Starbucks is to Seattle:  usually two or three per corner.  “Hey Grandma – what happened to the Braum’s on Denton Highway?”  “It’s a Mexican restaurant now.”  “Oh.  How about that steakhouse with the big cow on top?” “It’s a taqueria.”  “Ok.  And that big ole Baptist church down the road?  Why did that close?” “Someone bought it and turned into into a tortilla factory.”

Ok, that last one was exaggerated, but you get the point.  The number of Mexican restaurants was insane.  And the number of fat people was even more insane, though I have to admit that the food is delicious and I can totally see that it is hard to resist.  And I didn’t resist at all, which is why I’m going to be on a hunger strike for a few weeks when I return to Oz.

We hit up Chili’s one night – it’s not completely Mexican but definitely Southwestern and one of my all-time favourite chain restaurants.  We started off with Southwestern Egg Rolls followed by my usual Quesadilla Explosion Salad:

I told my Aunt Nancy that I wanted to go to Taco Cabana – a big cheap chain across Texas that I used to frequent at university in Houston. Their specialty is tortillas and queso.  Simple and delicious.  But Nancy was like “No! No! Don’t do it!  Go to Rosa’s  instead!  Do it for the tortillas!” And so I did.  And Rosa’s was better and less sketchy than TC.

For my last night in town, Grandma, Nancy, my cousin Michael, and I went to Abuelo’s – the “Mexican Food Embassy”.  I had never been before, but I like the sound of “Mexican Food Embassy”.  We started with a bowl (ok, fine, two bowls) of queso.

And then I had tacos with “papas” (their mexi-version of mashed potatoes) and black beans.

I ate well in Dallas, but I’ve very happy to leave as I fear I’d be as big as the Goodyear Blimp in a matter of weeks at the rate I was going.

Onward to my favourite place in the United States:  Seattle!

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I spent a day and a half in Houston – mainly to see my old friends and eat some of the foods that I’ve really missed the most.  One of my best friends – Jenny – had a baby a few months ago, so it was my opportunity to meet Baby Rachel for the first time:


OMG LOOK AT THAT FACE!  I don’t even like babies but I have to admit, she was pretty hard to resist.  She didn’t fuss and she didn’t spit up on me and I didn’t smell one poopy diaper while I was there.  That’s my kind of baby.

On Day 1, Jenny took me to my favourite lunch spot in all of Houston:  Barnaby’s!  I had my usual:  the world’s best chicken sandwich with an iced tea.

We popped by our university for a walk around.  It’s amazing how the campus has changed in the 7 years we’ve been gone.

After a visit with Lilit and her new baby, Carley picked me up to take me for cake and coffee.  I love cake and coffee!

The winner, however, was dinner.  Chuy’s.  I don’t even need to elaborate any more than just saying the name.  Chuy’s.

Fucking delicious Tex-Mex dinner.  At Chuy’s.  I started with a swirl margarita!  It’s half regular lime margarita and half strawberry margarita – frozen of course!

Then there were chips to snack on – with salsa and Chuy’s famous “Creamy J” (Creamy Jalapeno dipping sauce!)

I had tacos and rice and beans and I almost burst I was so excited!

I was joined by brothers Mike and James:

Matt and CW:

Alana and Kat:

And Amber:

Uncle Phill had some quality time with Rachel the next morning:

And then Jenny and I stopped at Goode Co. BBQ on the way to the airport.  I had a turkey sandwich on jalapeno cheese bread doused in their famous BBQ sauce with sides of cole slaw and the world’s best potato salad.  I washed it down with a Dr. Pepper, because, you know, when in Rome…

Next on to Dallas where the food fiesta will surely continue.

Special thanks to everyone who came out to see me in Houston, and extra special thanks to Jenny, James, & Rachel for hosting me!

Friday, August 10, 2012


Florida was all about four things for me:  (1)  Food  (2)  People  (3)  Shopping and (4) More Food.

Of course, I saw my mother and sister:

My high school mate, Brian:

And another high school mate, Louis:

And those were pretty much all of the people left in Florida.  Of course, there was shopping – lots of it, and almost too much to fit in my suitcases.  I spent a night at my sister’s apartment in Miami and the view from her balcony was amazing:

A big ass Macy’s!  I did some damage there.

But despite the emphasis I placed on shopping, the food was definitely the bigger ticket item.  I went to get Cuban/Spanish food, my local ice cream joint, a mojito, the brewpub in our city, and a handful of select chain restaurants.  Pizza was also important.  After New York, Florida probably has the next best pizza in the US due to the high concentration of New Yorkers there.  And for any of you naysayers who think Chicago deep dish is supreme, you can eat me.  But I’ll eat my Florida pizza.

Notice the half of a chicken parmesan sub next to my cheesy slice!

Jew food was another important staple.  I started my day off right at Bageland with scrambled eggs, home fries, a sesame bagel with cream cheese, and a bottomless cup of coffee.  Normal coffee – from the pot with the brown rim!

We went to one of our local delicatessens later in the week where I started off with a knish:

I’ve met Australian Jews who’ve never heard of a knish despite it being a staple of American Jewish cuisine.  I was determined to get one before I went back and I feel very accomplished.  I also had a deli sandwich with coleslaw and Russian dressing!  You can’t get these things in Oz.

My sister and I skipped dinner one night and went to Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour:

Giant heaps of ice cream crowded our table.  I had a “Senior Sampler” with five flavours:  Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Snickers, Cotton Candy, and Butter Almond – with 5 toppings:  chocolate syrup, butterscotch syrup, melted peanut butter, marshmallow sauce, and pound cake.  Look at this!  AMAZING!

But our biggest and most fantastic meal was at the Cheesecake Factory.  I know, you’re just as surprised as I am… (just kidding!)  I usually get a pasta dish from the Cheesecake Factory’s extensive novel of a menu.  But something else caught my attention this time:

“MACARONI AND CHEESE BURGER:  Charbroiled and Topped with our Creamy Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls and Cheddar Cheese Sauce.  Served with Lettuce, Tomato, Pickles and Onion” (and, of course, French fries).



They even substituted a turkey patty for me because I don’t eat beef.  AMAZEBALLS!

And then, as if I hadn’t yet had enough calories that meal, my sister and I got cheesecake.  She got the Red Velvet Cheesecake and I got the Caramel White Chocolate Macadamia Cheesecake.

I’m going to need a bigger plane on the way back to Australia.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

#63: CN Tower!

The ultimate tourist attraction in Toronto is the one that you can see from pretty much anywhere in the city:  the CN Tower!

For over 30 years, the CN Tower was the tallest free-standing structure in the world.  That all changed with the opening of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, but the CN Tower’s height is still the tallest in the Americas – far surpassing even the Sears Tower.  As this is one of the architectural wonders of the world, I thought it an appropriate addition to my list of 103 Things.

A glass elevator – including glass on the floors – whisks visitors up to the observation deck at height of 1,136 feet in under a minute.  From there, the views of the city and Lake Ontario are fantastic.

For approximately $6 extra, you can opt to go further up to the SkyPod, which sits at a height of 1,465 feet above the ground.  From there, you can actually see skyscrapers across Lake Ontario.  That’s like well over a hundred miles away – probably more.  Holy cow!  I’m pretty sure it must have been Niagara Falls (the city) or St. Catharines, Ontario, that I was looking at, but I’m not 100% sure.   If you click on the picture to enlarge, you can make out the distant skyline.  It was much more noticeable in person.

On a super clear day, visitors at the top of the CN Tower can allegedly see the mist coming off of Niagara Falls.  Apparently it wasn’t clear enough on the day I was there.

The CN Tower, while the most prominent, isn’t the only attraction in Toronto.  I wandered over to the Distillery District one afternoon for a look.  The Distillery was a whiskey distillery (as the name implies) in a previous life but has now been converted into funky outdoor mall of sorts complete with restaurants, galleries, shops, condos, and even its own brewery.  Walking around, plaques describe the history of the place (including which buildings served which purpose), as well as details on the distilling process.

There was also some great public art in the outdoor spaces.

Jeremy took me over to Riverdale Farm one afternoon.  Right in the middle of the city, Riverdale Farm is a working farm and a little respite from the hustle and bustle of Toronto.

That night, we wandered over to Dundas Square – Toronto’s version of Times Square – to check out the lights.  It wasn’t remotely close to being anything like Times Square, but given that Toronto is significantly smaller than NYC, I’ll let it slide.

There were also some great opportunities to view the CN Tower at night.

Last stop in Toronto:  the gay village!

Toronto has a huge gay population and all of the great things that go with it.  Jeremy took me to Woody’s on my last night in town for a local beer (or two) and pretty fantastic drag show.

Overall, Toronto was equally as impressive as Montreal, despite the unfortunate crime incident, the lack of European charm, and the less than aesthetically pleasing concrete skyline.  The shopping looked great, the food was even better, there was heaps to do and see, and everybody was super friendly and helpful… except for the pesky homeless.

Could I live in Toronto one day?  Absolutely.  Though I’m not sure how I’d handle -30 degrees in winter.

So maybe I’ll put that idea on the backburner and wait a few years to see if global warming lives up to its name and makes any sort of noticeable difference.  Until then, I’ll happily stick with Australia.