From Texas to Beyond

Local, Near and Far: Our journey of exploring the world.

Month: March 2015 (page 1 of 4)

Avoca Coffee

Nestled in the “Near Southside” district, off of Magnolia Avenue, Avoca Coffee is by far my favorite coffee house in Fort Worth. There are so many things to think about and look for when you go to a coffee house. What is the ambiance? Clientele? Can you study there or is it more of a place to meet up with friends? Do they have good coffee? A menu with variety?

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Local Art

The atmosphere when you walk into Avoca is casual, relaxed, filled with locals, and fun. People always seem to be engaged in conversation and having a good time and it is always easy to strike up conversation with the baristas or other customers. One of my favorite things at Avoca is that  local art is featured on the walls. And it rotates! My favorite coffee shop during college did that and it was always so fun to take a study break and check out the art. Seating in Avoca is abundant with comfy chairs and couches, or tables and chairs. Avoca also has the equipment to host live music, although I’ve never been there when it has been available. The baristas are SO friendly,knowledgeable, and helpful–you can tell they take pride in where they work and enjoy themselves while on the job.

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FW Local – Town Talk

The first time I heard about Town Talk, I was about 30 weeks pregnant with Eva. It was described to me as a place where “food was cheap”, but also “it could be expired”. In my pregnant mind I wasn’t convinced this was something I needed to check out, and I also completely misheard “Town Talk” as “Ton Tauk”. So, my preconceived notions about this establishment included that 1) it was a small convenience-store type place with moldy bread and 2) there was some sort of multi-cultural aspect with the strange name.

Ok, well, I was wrong on number one and half-wrong on number two.

Town Talk is a once-in-a-lifetime place. I’m still not sure how I lived in Fort Worth (the first time) and had never heard about it. Located in East Fort Worth, It is a massive warehouse of food, some of which IS expired. They DO NOT have moldy bread–they are more likely to have either no bread or frozen, but not moldy. It also turns out that Town Talk really doesn’t have a strange name. That was cleared up immediately–once I read the sign, I understood quite perfectly. It is, however one of the most multi-cultural experiences I’ve had in Fort Worth.

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Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries ready for the freezer.

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The Collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass

Through May 24, 2015, the Kimbell Art Museum is featuring a special exhibition, The Collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass.  An influential family in Fort Worth, the Bass family, is graciously sharing their private collection.  Works by Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Miró, Chagall, Rothko, Rodin and Maillol normally inaccessible to the general public, are on view, for FREE.

This collection has so many masterpieces that it is hard for me to pick favorites. However, there are a few pieces in particular that need mention.

I think the stars of the show are two pieces by Vincent Van Gogh, Street in Saintes-Marie’s-de-la-Mer and Enclosed Field with Ploughman. Displayed side-by-side, look for the drastic change in style that occurred between the two paintings, created only one year apart.

The Renzo Piano Pavilion

The Renzo Piano Pavilion

I love Claude Monet’s work. The Bass’ piece by Monet, The Gare Saint-Lazare, Exterior View, does not disappoint. The steam engine and train had just been invented, radically altering life in Paris. Monet captures these changes in his series of paintings of trains and train stations across the city.

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The Vine Greek Taverna

It was Saturday, February 28th.  The entire city of Fort Worth was covered in ice and snow 4 days that week.  Needless to say, we were getting cabin fever.  We ventured out with some friends, and decided on The Vine Greek Taverna located in the West 7th District.

Courtesy of Saulo in Fort Worth

Courtesy of Saulo in Fort Worth

Not being sure if the restaurant was open, we took a chance.  Braving the parking lot, we approached the door. We walked into a small, busy restaurant with a dozen tables.  I had never eaten at The Vine, and it was only David’s second visit.  Our friends had been a few times, but one of the owners, John, recognized them and greeted us at the door.  He said that he had good news and bad news.  The good news was they were open, despite the ice storm.  The bad news: tonight was their last night in business, and all the staff was either iced in or sick.  Apologizing, John said we could stay if we didn’t mind slow service.  WHAT?  The last night?  Upon further questioning, he stated they had sold the restaurant to another family in town.  The Vine would be closed for a few weeks during the transition, but the new owner was planning to keep the menu, possibly adding a few new items.

We stayed for sure!  The environment was great, like a going away party that we were fortunate enough to stumble upon!  The restaurant was filled with regulars celebrating the last night.  The owners were doing everything that evening: cooking, hosting, answering the phone, filling to-go orders and waiting tables.  John was practically running back and forth from the kitchen, greeting guests while trying not to burn the food.  Some of the regulars got up from their table and started serving the other tables. Picking up the cue, we grabbed our own drinks and silverware.  It was such a family environment.  Then another guest arrived and began playing what I believe is the bouzouki, a small guitar like instrument with a rounded back.  It was crazy!  What an unexpected and unique night.

Hummus and Pita Bread

Hummus and Pita Bread

Oh, and the food was incredible!  We started with Greek red wine.  For appetizers, we ordered the hummus and keftedes, which are little Greek meatballs.  I could have eaten a whole bucket of those meatballs!  So good.  Then I got the traditional gyro and added feta cheese.  As I mentioned in another post, I love cheese.  The gyro was served with a traditional salad, a mixture of cucumber, tomato, feta and onion.

Pastitsio

Pastitsio

David ordered pastitsio, a Greek baked pasta dish that looks similar to lasagna.  The dish is topped with a bechamel sauce, a fluffy cream sauce made from six types of cheese.  So tasty!

This was truly a great meal, and a great story.  We felt like family, celebrating the end of an era.  Everything was a celebration.  This was a happy day for John and his family.  We witnessed the end of something great!  Now, we look forward to the beginning of something new as new owners bring new direction to this great restaurant.

As one last parting gift, a plate of eight pieces of baklava appeared from out of nowhere.  John set the last pastries covered in honey he would make at The Vine before us.  One for tonight, and one to take home for each of us!

Baklava

Baklava

Bodacious BBQ – Arlington

Today you’ll hear from both Rachel and myself as we review Bodacious BBQ in Arlington, TX.

The setting of this little restaurant in a rather industrial part of Arlington seems at first…strange. Like an unexpected oasis. The smell of smoke is very faint as you exit your vehicle, but really grabs you as you walk into the door. Overall, a pretty decent place to grab a plate of BBQ and one that we would visit again.

I must be honest. I was a little concerned about going to get BBQ at a place called “Bodacious.” I kept thinking of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or some wrestler from the 80’s. I didn’t know what to expect. I ended up “Google”-ing Bodacious BBQ thinking, “How many Bodacious BBQ’s can there be?” WOW! Was I wrong! It is apparently a very popular name for a BBQ establishment. In usual BBQ style, there are many claiming they are the original and not to be copied. I guess we would have to see if Bodacious was going to be “rad” or “gnarly” or just sad. In spite of the name, I was pleasantly surprised.

BodaciousBBQAtmosphere: 3 Rachel: This must be a popular place for lunch, because it was very quiet for dinner. Upon entering the building you turn directly to the left and head to the counter to order your food from a cafeteria style setup–trays and everything! From wagon wheel chandeliers to old license plates and antiques hanging from the walls, the decor feels randomly put together. Like most BBQ restaurants, they aren’t as concerned about the environment as they are the food.

Matt: Side comment: The atmosphere explained above does seem to be a “normal” part of BBQ establishments that are not in a rural area. These city BBQ joints all seem to have random “antiques” on the wood walls. I guess they are trying to make up for the fact you don’t pass by a pit, or the floor isn’t dirt. Somehow, BBQ equates not only to delicious meat, but random objects thrown on the walls that were going to otherwise be thrown out but someone said, “Hey that would look good in a BBQ restaurant!”The flipside is, because this is the “norm,” if you go to a place that is elegant and claims it is BBQ, run away…fast! It is a deceitful trick all to charge you more because it is “upscale.” Good BBQ joint equals pit. If no pit, then there needs to be old junk on the wall. If no pit or junk, just say no. If not, you might as well throw your wallet into the nearest pond.

Brisket: 3 Rachel: I’m a huge fan of brisket. I almost always accidentally end up ordering chopped, but because I was being guided by peers, I managed to get sliced. The brisket didn’t have a rub, it seemed like the intent was to let the flavor of the smoky meat shine through. Unfortunately, the pieces I had were a little dry and lean, so not as much flavor; however the meat did pair really well with the sauce.

Matt: The point of this brisket was to showoff the meat and the smoking technique. It lacked flavor for me on its own. It didn’t really seem to be seasoned. It was very lean which did at times seem to make it dry. Yet, it was still tender as it would almost fall apart when trying to pick it up from the plate. The brisket paired very well with the sauce which brought it all together for a very good bite. Also, one thing to look for in brisket is the smoke ring and bark. There was not much of a bark, if any, and the same for the smoke ring, it was barely there. Good brisket will have a very nice smoke ring about .25 to .5 inch smoke ring.

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Sausage

Sausage: 3 Rachel: My go-to choice is usually brisket first and sausage second for judging BBQ restaurants, so I like to think that I know a thing or two. Well, unfortunately, the sausage here wasn’t especially noteworthy except to say it was spicy which I was not anticipating. The texture wasn’t very coarse ground, but it did seem hand-made.

Matt: The sausage left me unsatisfied. It had some nice spice to it and went very well with the sauce. I like a little “kick” in my sausage, so I was happy with the spicy notes. The texture was very “smooth” and not coarse. It reminded me of a mass produced sausage link you could buy in the store. While there is not anything wrong with it, as that has its time and place, I just don’t expect it at a BBQ joint, let alone a Texas BBQ joint.

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Pork Ribs

Ribs: 3 Matt: I love ribs. These pork ribs were decent (Note: Only pork ribs are offered. Bodacious does not serve beef ribs). They were not fall off the bone but still very tender. One thing that I really enjoyed about them was the “juiciness” of them. They were moist and had a decent bark to them. The rub was good, although I found it had a touch of sweetness to it, like they included brown sugar. Not complaining, just an interesting flavor note.They were good, but not memorable. The ribs also paired very well with the sauce.

Sauce: 4 Rachel: The sauce at Bodacious was honestly pretty good. It is served warm by the bowl full, so we gathered that it a pretty important condiment to the success of the establishment. The wonderful thing about the sauce–it paired SO well with everything we tasted. That is a complete win!

Matt: The sauce was very good. It seemed like Bodacious smoked and made their meats just for the purpose of showing off the sauce. The spices in the sauce made the meats come alive and brought out new flavors that were not previously there. It did seem like it was heavy on the vinegar, yet there are these notes of sweet that contrasted the vinegar and spices. The color was a deep red which as was previously noted in our rubric, is very important!

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Potato Salad & Beans

Sides: 5 Rachel: The standard and favorite sides at Bodacious are beans and potato salad. The beans were by far my favorite part. At first, it looked like we were only getting pinto beans in a slightly watery sauce. Lo and behold, I was so surprised to find the flavor of the beans was incredible–they were smoky, salty, slightly vinegary, and had a kick to them. If you enjoy really sweet beans or a lot of the “sauce” that they are soaked in, these are not the beans for you. The potato salad was equally as good–one of our other authors said that it tasted “like momma’s recipe”! The potato salad is definitely mayonnaise based, with very little or no mustard, so keep that in mind. Otherwise, there are hints of salt, celery seed, black pepper, and a slight touch of vinegar. Delicious!

Matt: I have my own thought on those beans in the sauce (aka “Ranch Style beans”) but I will save that for a different time. But, back to Bodacious. Honestly, I am not a fan of beans. For some reason, people love beans and BBQ. Personally, that is a recipe for disaster and I might as well kiss my wife and kid bye for a while since I will be in the bathroom (TMI, I know). Beans are not my go to side, but for many they are. These were actually very good and tasty! They have a very nice spice to them. It is almost immediate and it is not understated at all. It is the “Texas style” of an in your face kick. It is like saying, “Hey, I know I am a bean, but who cares because I am about to judo chop you in the palette with this taste of pepper! So back off!” The spice mixture that Bodacious used is fantastic and it can even be bought if you would like make your own Bodacious beans. As for the potato salad, this is one of my go-to’s. I am a potato salad fiend. I ask Rachel to make it as much as possible but I think she is wise to my shenanigans. Bodacious’ potato salad is not about the mustard base. (Another great debate about should potato salad have a mustard base or not. Even the authors of “From Texas to Beyond” do not agree). The potatoes were well cooked and well seasoned. It was mainly mayo, salt, pepper, celery seed, and pimentos. I thought it was good. It reminded some of home or like moms. Even though it wasn’t mustard base, it was good. I tend to prefer the one with mustard and really enjoy the one mentioned in the previous post.

Service: 5 Rachel: The two ladies working at Bodacious were exceptionally friendly and helpful. Your only real interaction with them is upon ordering and walking down the “line”. We told them we were first-timers and asked what the top choices were–they were informed, and so helpful as we navigated the restaurant. Huge bonus that one of the authors needed to charge his cell phone and they gladly offered to do that for us while we enjoyed our meal! That is service!

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Brisket at Bodacious BBQ

Other things to note: Bodacious is BYOB for those interested. They do meet the requirement of offering cheap white bread, but they also offer a toasted buns instead which is great. They do offer desserts in the form of the popular banana pudding and pecan pie. The price is average for BBQ, although they could be considered on the higher side of the average.

Bodacious doesn’t look like much on the outside which is fine with me, I love dives. The service and sides were phenomenal. The meat was just okay and on its own, lacked flavor. The sauce complemented the meat so well and brought good flavor notes.  The atmosphere was fine with its old signs and knick-knacks. From Texas to Beyond would go back to enjoy some good BBQ.

For a complete guide to the perfect Texas Barbeque experience, refer to From Texas to Beyond’s Ideal Barbeque Pit.

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