Food

Historic Blue Bonnet Bakery is Ready for Fort Worth’s Annual Stock Show

tx pie

The historic Blue Bonnet Bakery on Camp Bowie Blvd. in Fort Worth is putting its best cookies and pies forward as it readies for the annual Stock Show and Rodeo that will be taking place just a few blocks away. In addition to Pies adorned with a top crust in the shape of the great Lone Star state, you can find sugar cookies in the shape of horses, pigs, big blue lone stars and colorful cowboy hats and boots.

The Blue Bonnet bakery has been a mainstay in Fort Worth since 1934.  They’re locally famous for their petit fours, monkey bread and double fudge cake.  They also serve a lunch menu, with dining space available in and outside of their location on 4705 Camp Bowie Blvd.

Their current location was previously a church, built in the 1920’s.

Menus, operating hours and other information can be found online at http://bluebonnetbakery.com/.

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Day Trippin’ to Athens, Tx – East Texas Arboretum

Athens Texas, is much like many of the small towns the dot the quilted landscape of Texas. It is underrated and overlooked, despite the fact that beneath its sleepy, Americana facade there are many local treasures waiting to be discovered by passersby who are willing to spend a little time digging.

A stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of urban sprawl that is the Metroplex, the quaint, laid back town of Athens gives city dwellers a chance to reconnect with their roots, spread their wings and breathe deeply. To be honest, I’m a country girl and if I don’t manage to get the occasional breath of fresh country air, I begin to wither. Not only did I feel unwithered by days end after my day trip to Athens, I felt revitalized, connected and inspired.

My friends and I headed east, away from Fort Worth on 1-20, before taking the exit for Highway 175. Before long, as the city skyline faded in the rearview mirror,we noticed that the flat, cement covered byways have given way to rolling green hills, covered with black walnut, hickory and oak trees, that were dotted with clapboard homes with gingerbread trim, and aged barns with an occasional Lone Star flag painted proudly on its roof.

As we drove up the back-road to the gate of the arboretum I could already tell  that this was going to be an afternoon in the kind of natural setting that pleases me most. Against the backdrop of wide open fields with majestic oaks that offered shade from the afternoon sun for a handful of grazing horses, the last of this season’s wildflowers hung on for one last show of color as patches of black-eyed susans, and lavender phlox rested at the feet of spiraling honeysuckle vines and wild plums climbed the rustic fence posts. A closer look revealed the ominous looking Texas bull-nettle plant that promised fruit later this summer, for the most daring scavenger.

If Athens is filled with ‘waiting to be discovered’ treasures, the East Texas Arboretum is undoubtedly its crown jewel. Tucked away on over a hundred acres, the Arboretum’s Executive Director, Teresa Glasgow, tells us this is where the the Piney Woods and Prairie regions of Texas meet. It was also soon obvious that this is also where history, art, nature and wildlife are melded together to make an enjoyable and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

These days hands on experience with such a vast cross-section of nature is sadly a rare experience for some children, but at the Arboretum, the World of Nature is within ready reach. Supported by the generosity of its patrons, benefactors and the public, the non-profit gardens is an experience waiting to happen. Not only will visitors find vibrant, colorful gardens to stroll through, but thanks to the tireless efforts of Glasgow, and a handful of volunteers and board members, the East Texas Arboretum is a living, breathing and growing educational experience, a recreational venue and a history preservation project all rolled up into one.

The back section of land is a combination of wetlands and forest, accessible by easy grade hiking trails, including a portion designed to be accessible for wheelchairs. Keep in mind you’re in a living breathing environment, and as such you may encounter things you may not have experienced if you’re entirely city born and bred. It is always a good idea to plan well and be educated when communing in nature. Fortunately education is a large part of the Arboretum’s mandate and mission. They spend considerable time and effort educating the next generation about the value of preservation and conservation, igniting sparks of passion, while instilling respect for the environment for which they will inherit the responsibility to conserve and protect for their children.

Here you will find the familiar and fragrant beauty of magnolia trees and bushes of gardenias, but there are other native plants and flora to discover, such as the carnivorous pitcher plant that thrives in the wetland’s bog area. A short walk past through the woods, past the Two Doug Bridge, (look for the beaver dam on your left hand side) you’ll find yourself standing a top of the wooden observation deck, where you can spot the yellow clusters of the pitcher plant peering our from the thick overgrowth. A few months from now, as summer fades, this entire area will be painted with the vibrant hues of Autumn, and it will definitely warrant a return visit.

A bit farther down the path you will find yourself crossing over to the other side (of the creek that is) via a 115 foot wooden  suspension bridge that connects the new trail with the older one, taking you full circle back to the Arborteum’s main grounds.  It was 85 degrees the day we went on this short hike, and if we’d been back in Fort Worth we’d have been reaching for the A/C switch, but out underneath the canopy of trees, accompanied by a slight breeze that rustled through the leaves, the temperature was perfect.

History also takes a front row seat at the East Texas Arboretum, offering visitors a first hand look at how Texas’ settlers used to live. The Wofford House, built in 1851, was relocated to the Arboretum in 2001 from its original location, near Fincastle.

A living museum, as well as a tribute to days gone by, the house is decorated with period furnishings and memorabilia down to a backyard kitchen garden complete with a well-dressed scarecrow, the rockers on the front porch, and ready set tables in the kitchen and dining areas. It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine how peaceful it would feel to sit on the porch, with a glass of sweet tea after a hard day’s work in the summer, and watch the sun go down.

Almost next door to the Wofford House, is ‘Granny’s Little Schoolhouse’, a replica of a one room schoolhouse from the 1800’s. It was built in 2007, as a tribute to Genevieve  Monkhouse, a long time area school teacher. Here children that visit the Arboretum relive history first hand, while learning about the area’s botanic environment.

While the venue has something of interest for all ages, children are especially welcome here. Valued as future conservators, they are at the forefront of the educational programs offered by the Arboretum. Each year hundreds of children visit the area with school or club groups to learn about the wonders of nature, first hand. And when the learning is done, children of all abilities will find the play area to be a great way to let off some steam. The playground boasts two playhouses, a butterfly garden, sand play areas, and a unique slide built into the side of a hill.

The venue is dotted with miniature gardens to meander through,  water gardens with  flowering lily pads and trickling streams, and arbors that invite visitors to sit a spell. Most of the gardens, buildings and displays were made possible by generous donations. The governing society also rents out the facility, in order to help raise funds for operating and expansion costs. The large pavilion at the center of the groomed gardens and its picturesque backdrop is the perfect setting for a wedding or any other special occasion. The facility also hosts its own events to help offset costs, including a yearly gala and garden concerts.  On Sunday, May 26th they will host a dedication for the new  Garden in the Forest and the handicapped garden trail at 2 p.m.

In addition, each Tuesday night in August, the Arboretum will host Strolling in the Park, where visitors will enjoy a social evening complete with music and star gazing. There are also plans for an Art in the Park event and in August, keep your eye out for a possible Elvis sighting. More information will be posted on these special events on their website and Facebook page.


Grass does not grow under the feet of those responsible for operating the Arboretum, and expansion plans and fund-raising efforts are always underway. As Executive Director, Teresa Glasgow has a long wish list of things she’d love to see happen, and given the extensive growth and development the venue has seen under her direction over the past few years, it’s a safe bet they will be happening sooner rather than later. On the wish list are a number of projects including new inclusive play ground equipment, an amphitheater, security cameras and a lavender field.  Recent additions to the park include the Maury Ward Windmill, Texas Garden and the Kathy Glass Gazebo.

While You’re In the Area 

Athens’ wonders don’t stop at the Arboretum although it is a great place to start. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day. The entry fee of $2.00 per person over 12 years of age, is a bargain by any standard. When you’ve had your fill of beauty, fresh air and history there are ziplines, museums and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center to keep you busy. We plan on taking a trip back in the Fall to explore all of these and more, but don’t wait for us to give you the scoop — discover the East Texas Arboretum and Athens, Texas for yourself.

Where to Eat

If you’re looking for a local restaurant that fits into a day of discovery and history, I recommend Ochoas Mexican Restaurant. The family owned eatery has been in the Athens area since 1969 and is now operated by the sons of the original owners. The decor is quaint, the people are friendly and the food is some of the best Tex-Mex cuisine, and the most extensive, and varied menu I’ve encountered, since arriving in Texas.

The restaurant’s emphasis is on customer service, and serving memorable meals is definitely a way to make that happen. I recommend the Grilled Steak Queso Fundido as an appetizer, followed by the Puffy Tacos. If you’re still hungry the sweetness of the sopapillas, drizzled with honey and melted butter are a mouthwatering way to end your meal.

As we left Athens later that day, the last burst of color streaked across the sky, while a longhorn cow fed her new calf, and rain rusted windmills churned gently in the evening breeze. The three of us were headed home to the Metroplex, with our spirits rejuvenated and our minds churning with all of the things we’d learned that day, and on the wind was a promise made by each one of us, that we would indeed  be returning.

How to Get There

You can find the Arboretum at 1601 Patterson Rd. in Athens, Texas.
Entry fees are $2.00 for those over 12 years of age (payable on the honor system)

You can find out more about the East Texas Arboretum by visiting their website at www. eastexasarboretum.org  or by locating them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/The-East-Texas-Arboretum-and-Botanical-Society.

Categories: Culture, Day Trips, Food, History, Places to Visit and Explore, Restaurant Reviews, The Great Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy 50th Old South Pancake House

Not much has changed since the grand opening of the Old South Pancake House, if you discount the location and the syrup carousels that used to adorn each table, at least according to my boyfriend, who’s grandfather worked as a cook in the original location, a few hundred feet away from where we were sitting this morning.

Fifty year’s later The Old South Pancake House has established itself as a FW institution, offering breakfast and other menu items 24/7. The award plaques on the wall as you enter tell the tale of five decades of exemplary customer service and great home cooked food.

Today, May 15th, marks the 50th anniversary celebration of those successful decades, and to celebrate Old South is offering free pancakes! From 6 a.m. until midnight today you can order a short stack of delicious hotcakes and discover for yourself why it is that they’ve stayed in business so long.

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Restaurant Review: Serrano’s Burgers, Arlington Texas

He came home from work last week with a handwritten map scrawled on piece of scrap paper. “We’ve got a new restaurant to try next time we’re in Arlington,” he told me, looking pretty pleased with himself. Truth is, he loves discovering new, out of the way, eateries as much as I do.

“What kind of place?” I asked.

“Burgers.”

I was quiet. Unless they’re homemade, I prefer a different type of meal. His one word answer conjured up thoughts of mass produced, cookie cutter fare on a sesame seed bun kind of meal. The recommendation had come from a co-worker he tells me, noting my silence.  Apparently, the two of them had be exchanging photos during a break at the factory, and after my guy had shared his Canadian vacation pictures, the other man shared some photographs he’d taken for the menu of his sister’s mom and pop restaurant. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, it had been enough to lead to a hastily hand drawn map.

The opportunity to check the place out came sooner, rather than later, as Saturday night had us making our way through Game Day traffic on I-30 to attend the Arlington Music Hall Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue show. We’d left a little earlier so we could try out Serrano’s Burgers first, before attending the show.

We had been warned that it was a small place, easily missed if you aren’t looking and sure enough, as our GPS announced that we’d arrived, a quick look around from left to right had us scratching our heads and doubling back to take a closer look. We finally found the location, in the center of a small strip mall,  cozily tucked away between a Hispanic Pentecostal Church and Jackson’s Groceries.

I’ve eaten out enough to know that one should never judge a restaurant by its exterior, so we were undaunted by the nondescript facade that greeted us. Inside, the venue was indeed as tiny as promised. “So small you’d have to go outside to change your mind” is the phrase that is most apt. The decor was pleasant, despite the size, with eye pleasing colors and wall coverings, that let you know this was not your typical fast food restaurant. There were four tables with ladder back chairs on one side of the small room, and an ordering counter on the back wall that displayed a large colorful menu sign overhead. A flat screen television set tuned into the customary sports network channel hung on an opposite wall. There were only two other groups dining when we entered, so we were in luck as far as finding a place to eat.

We approached the counter. For those of you who have been served by people who are irritated that they’ve had to leave an intense text conversation in order to do their job, you’ll know just what I mean when I tell you how pleased we were to be served by a  very hospitable young man, who patiently waited while we decided what to order.

The pictures on the menu board were indeed as mouth watering as I’d been told. Serranos serves meals all day long from breakfast tacos, to a lighter lunch menu that includes street tacos (pork, steak or lengua (tongue))  and tortas, as well as a selection of burgers. The house burger is the Serrano Burger, which included both serrano and jalapeno peppers.

“Are Serrano peppers hot?” I asked, my green Northern upbringing shining brightly for all to see.

A man sitting at the table directly behind where we stood, injected with one word “Hot!” Judging by his obvious southern drawl and wide opened eyes as he uttered the single word, I quickly concluded that the house burger was best left for the more daring.  We both settled for the Bacon Cheeseburgers for a very reasonable $6.50 each, that included fries and sat at a table.

The friendly man behind the counter, soon brought out or drinks, which earned further bonus points with me. This was definitely not a McBurger place. He reappeared again shortly after that, with the order for another table, and took the time to come and tell us that our meal would be right up. He was right.

Now — just because the service was fast, let me promise you this was far from assembly line fast food fare. The meat is apparently not frozen which explains the quick turnaround time from order to table.

The burgers are handmade and the bacon is real. The over-sized buns were grilled and the produce used for the toppings was crisp and fresh. The serving sizes are more than ample for an evening meal. This was no sissy burger, but rather, an honest to goodness, two handed masterpiece that had me sighing contentedly after one bite. The fries were seasoned, and definitely not greasy. This was a five star burger served in a down home, mom and pop establishment, that I hope will be around for years to come.

After dropping just a little over $14.00 for two platters and two drinks, for a meal that was as delicious and fresh as it would have been if I’d made it at home, coupled with prompt, friendly service from someone who seemed genuinely happy to take our order, I know we’ll be going back again very soon.  This is hands down the best burger I have eaten anywhere, ever.

Serrano’s Burgers is located at 1821 S. Fielder Road, in Arlington, Texas.

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For those of you following the recipe portion of this blog I’ve moved them over to this site to make them more accessible and searchable. I will continue to review restaurants and share the events, culture and lifestyle posts about Texas here. I hope you’ll find something you enjoy in both sites. For those following this blog — stay tuned. I’ve been under the weather for a few days, but I’m back full strength and have a lot of things to share with you!

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Restaurant Review: Summers Cafe

Last Sunday morning, we woke up to the aftermath of storms that had hit our neighbors to the north, with a vengeance. We’d been up most of the night watching the radar, and when Sunday morning arrived we felt as if we’d been placed in Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down, sans the beer. The last thing I wanted to do was cook our usual full country breakfast, so the solution was obvious. We needed to visit Summers and let them do the cooking for us.

The cafe is located on a lonely stretch of the Jacksboro Highway, and against the storm clouds that morning, it looked even lonelier as we were the first to arrive. Everyone else must have been hunkered down, eating cereal or toast.

To be honest, the outside of this place isn’t the fanciest, which, to be honest once again, is why we knew the first time we visited there, that the food was going to be great. We were spot on. There’s nothing fancy about their offerings — just the basics — biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon and hashbrowns just like I’d have made at home. They also serve lunch, but we’ve only ever gone for breakfast.  I call it an honest breakfast — simple, straightforward and affordable. Two cups of coffee and two hearty plates of country breakfast came to just over $10.00.

As the wind howled and rain poured relentlessly, we ate a meal that fortified us for the rest of the day as the storms moved on through.

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Restaurant Review: Drew’s Place

Drew’s Place Serves Up Home Cookin’ Southern Style

When I go out to eat, I prefer to feel as if I’m eating at home. I want to feel welcomed and I want the food to taste as if it came from someone’s kitchen, as opposed to out of a box or container and heated in the microwave.

We’d been meaning to try Drew’s Place out for awhile, but we usually remembered on a Sunday, which left us disappointed, since its the one day of the week that the restaurant is not opened. When you consider that it’s family owned and operated, it makes admirable sense. Finally this past Saturday we found the doors open, and the lunch hour rush had passed.

Criteria Number One was met as soon as we walked in the door, as were led to a table by a waitress with a welcoming smile, and a warm demeanor. It was as if we were guests in her home.

 We ordered sweet tea, and by the time she arrived back at our table with mere minutes later, we knew what we wanted to order. The menu had no shortage of southern favorites – fried chicken, catfish and pork-chops, but we had our heart set on the special we’d seen on the sign outside the front door — chicken fried steak.  The special stood out to us for two reasons. First, chicken fried steak is one of our favorite eat-out choices, and secondly the special of $7.99 included our sweet tea. As experienced diners, we knew that most restaurants more than made up for the discounted specials, with the prices they charged for the beverages.

Choosing the sides was a little more difficult – we had a choice of two each, and narrowing it down wasn’t easy, when presented with choices such as collard greens, mac n cheese, and beans. In the end I we both chose the mashed potato and I settled on the candied yams, and my dining companion chose fried okra. We had a choice of cream or brown gravy, and cornbread or toast, as well.

In a matter of the same amount of time that it took for our sweet tea to be served, our dinner was brought out from the kitchen. The chicken fried steaks were each served on its own plate, with the sides individually accompanying them, on another. We were both pleasantly surprised and appreciative that the mashed potatoes were cooked just the way we like them, fried – just like Grandma used to make them. The candied yams were delightful and the fried okra, a vegetable side that we find difficult to master, and easy to ruin, was wonderful. I could tell my partner was enjoying himself, because he didn’t utter a single word to me until we’d finished eating and then, he did something completely out of character — he ordered dessert – a lovely, moist, to-die-for piece of chocolate cake for us to share.


In the end, we both walked out with full bellies and a smile, and our wallet was only just under twenty dollars emptier. We’ll be going back very soon.

If you’re looking for a meal, that makes you feel as if you’ve been invited to sit in at friend’s dinner table – I recommend Drew’s Place whole-heartedly. The service is friendly, without being overbearing, the prices can’t be beat and the food is as good as Grandma makes! It’s the kind of place friends recommend to friends.

Drew’s Place is located at 5701 Curzon Avenue  Fort Worth, TX  and their phone number is (817) 735-4408.

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RECIPE: Pecan Pie Bars

There’s no more southern of a dessert than Pecan Pie, but I wanted to make something I could pack easily in lunches. The solution? Pecan Pie Bars. They were quick and easy and almost as good as the real thing.

Pecan Pie Bars

Crust 

Combine the following in a bowl until well mixed and then spread on the bottom of a 9/13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of icing sugar (powdered/confectioners sugar)
1 cup of butter

Filling

Cream together:

1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs

Add:

1 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 stick of butter (melted)
a pinch of salt
2 cups of pecans

When well mixed, pour over the baked crust and put back in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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RECIPE: Crock Pot Pinto Beans and Ham with Maple Cornbread

The best part of holiday feasts, can be the multitude of recipes you can make with the leftovers. We’d purchased a full sized spiral ham last week and since there are only two of us, we’re going to be eating  the leftovers for quite awhile. My goal is to find enough varied recipes that will make the process enjoyable, rather than boring. We’ve carved it up, and separated into freezer bags, but I wanted to use the hambone first. We’d been given a large bag of pinto beans from a friend, and we’ve been looking for recipes to help use them up — so it was a natural to pair those with two of them together. As an accompaniment I made a pan of maple cornbread that turned out perfect! Here are both of the recipes…. enjoy!

Crock Pot Pinto Beans and Ham

Soak 3 cups of pinto  beans overnight in enough water to cover them. Check to see if you need to add water, as the beans will absorb most of it.

In the morning rinse the beans and boil them in fresh water for 30 mins. Strain and add to the crock pot.

Add the hambone and 2 cups (give or take) of chopped ham.

Add:

1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Add enough water to cover. Cook for 9-11 hours on low, checking water levels occasionally and adding as needed.

Maple Cornbread 

Ingredients

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/4 maple syrup
6 tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

Melt 2 tbsp of the butter in 8×8 pan.
Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, and remaining wet ingredients in another. Mix each well. Combine into one bowl. Pour into 8×8 greased pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes of 425 degrees.

*can be served as is, or with butter and maple syrup on top.  This recipe is a winner. You’ll be making it over and over again.

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RECIPE: Griddlecakes Like Grandma Used to Make – almost…

This recipe, in its original form, came from my friend John Hancock’s grandmother. I made them this past Sunday, in order to test drive them, before I passed them on to you. They were a hit. Light, tasty and golden brown – -and best of all — easy! John has graciously given me permission to share his recipes here so you’ll be seeing more of them. Without further adieu, here are Grandma’s Griddlecakes…

Grandma’s Griddlecakes (original recipe)

Ingredients

1 and 1/4 flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp oil
2 eggs (beaten)

Method

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.  In separate bowl mix the remaining ingredients, before adding to the dry ingredients. Add a little water if the batter is too thick.  Cook on an electric griddle set at 350 degrees. F. (I used a cast iron griddle and set my gas stove on medium heat). Flip once, when edges look dry and  bubbles have formed.

John says: If you would like to improve on Grandma’s recipe, substitute the flour for 3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Flour and 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour~ Substitute the sugar for Turbinado raw cane sugar. I’ve been cooking griddlecakes for many years, and I must say, the ones made with almond meal are the absolute very best.

I am certain my initial effort was as perfect as Grandma made them, but I was pleased with how easy they were and how great they tasted.

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