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.

Categories: Food, Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Mark Your Calendar – Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival April 20-21

This weekend is the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival
April 21-22
Antique Car Show and John Denver Tribute Concert…(free) – April 21
Historic Preston St. Garage Sale – April 20-21
BBQ Cookoff at Knights of Columbus Hall – April 20-21
Don’t miss it!
More information here 

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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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Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Brings Almost Five Decades of Hits to Arlington Music Hall

Any entertainer will tell you that being in a band is sometimes just as stressful as being married to 3 or 4 people at the same time. Those that remain together after a couple of years are fortunate, and those that make it past ten years have achieved more than most. The award winning Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has weathered many years together, after their first performance in 1966.  Since then they’ve accumulated a string of hit songs and tallied up countless road miles together. Last Friday night, they rode into Arlington, and entertained a willing crowd for a few hours, that seemed to fly by all too quickly.

Individually, the band is comprised of Jeff Hanna, John McEuen, Jimmie Fadden and Bob Carpenter; collectively their  musicianship and songwriting skills are formidable. They’ve spent a lifetime not only being ground-breakers, but also, bridge builders, carrying the tradition of great music of forward in its purest form, for future generations.

On Friday night, their sole purpose was to entertain, and they hit the target spot on while rockin’, pickin’ and twangin’ their way through a handful of newer songs interspersed with a healthy representation of their greatest hits from Fishin’ in the Dark and Mr Bojangles to Dance Little Jean and Face on the Cutting Room Floor, just to name a few.

What makes the NGDB legendary is much more than their accumulated platinum and gold records; it is their stellar musicianship, and how the spotlight at center stage is shared as much as possible, while showcasing the versatility of the band’s talent. Last Friday, Jimmie Fadden stepped out from behind his drums, and into the spotlight with his harp,  and Bob Carpenter left his keyboard to perform The Broken Road, with Jeff Hanna accompanying him on guitar. John McEuen, who originally helped found the band, could, and has been, a one man show, himself. He switched instruments at ease, and his talents, whether they be on mandolin, fiddle or banjo, are an integral component that helped create the band’s signature sound.

No NGDB show would be complete without a performance of their biggest and most recognizable song, Will The Circle Be Unbroken and the band not only didn’t disappoint, but they also kicked things up a notch, by calling up Rudy Gatlin to the stage to help them sing it. It was a fitting end to an evening well spent, with good music and good friends.

Find out more about the band, and their music at: http://www.nittygritty.com/

The Arlington Music Hall’s Country Music series continues with even more of your favorite country music artists. Lined up to appear soon are:

George Jones – April 27th
Leroy Van Dyke, Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius and Rex Allen Jr. –  May 11th
Bryan White – May 26th
Deryl Dodd –  Jun 22nd
Gene Watson –  Aug 3rd

Find out more here.

Categories: Culture, Music | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tonight at the Arlington Music Hall

The legendary Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will be singing all of your favorites. If you can’t make it, tune in here and we”ll be sure to give you all the highlights!

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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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Fort Worth’s Water Gardens — An Oasis Amid a Concrete Jungle

Fort Worth has many green spaces, peppered across its landscape of cement and glass, and fortunately. most of them are free for the offering. One of these such places is located in the middle of the downtown core. The contemporary park stands in stark contrast to its history. The area known as Hell’s Half Acre was notorious in Fort Worth’s early years, for its brothels, gambling and gunfights.

The refreshing oasis was a gift to the people of Fort Worth from the Amon Carter Foundation, and designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Built in 1974, the futuristic park is best experienced first-hand because pictures just don’t do it justice. Although the expanse appears to be almost completely taken  up by water and cement, the area also touts over 500 species of plants and trees.  In the hot days of summer, the Water Gardens offer heat weary visitors a refreshing place to unwind.

Although swimming is definitely prohibited in the all of the pools located on the site’s 4.3 acre spread, the abundance of shade trees and cool misted air from the pools themselves will definitely help you cool down. It’s a great place to walk, relax and think, with its three very distinct pools set amid an artistically designed urban landscape of tiered cement blocks, against the backdrop of Fort Worth’s towering skyscrapers. The entire park is a vital, moving piece of art.

Quiet Pool

Philip Johnson, the architect for the project, took inspiration from the childhood literary classic, Alice in Wonderland, when designing the park and nowhere is it more evident than when you go down the narrow stairs to the Quiet Pool. As you descend the staircase, you can’t help but feel larger than life, but as you reach the bottom, the space opens up. The pool is large, towered by bald Cyprus trees with the towering skyscrapers of Fort Worth for the backdrop. You feel as if you’ve entered a land of giants. Taking into account all of the ways a body experiences a space, the architects paid particular attention to the element of sound in its design, and its effect is tangible as one embraces the serene calmness of the park’s Quiet Pool, as a sheet of water cascades down the walls, and enters the tranquil stillness of the pool.

The downtown core serves as a backdrop for the sereneness of the Water Gardens' Quiet Pool

Aerated/Dancing Pool

The architects considered the Aerated Pool the most difficult, in terms of moving from vision to reality. The space, built  forty feet under ground, consists of forty evenly spaced fountains that continuously spout droplets of water, that dance across the pool’s surface. The tiered blocks surrounding the pool, offer many places to sit and watch the mesmerizing display.

Forty fountains are used to make the water dance on the surface of the Aerated Pool

Active Pool

The Active Pool will take your breath away the first time, and every time,  it comes into view. Cascading waterfalls drop down 36 feet of the labyrinth’s tiered cement walls into a shallow pool below. The site sadly is also where a tragedy of epic proportions occurred in 2004 that resulted in four deaths. The city closed the park for an extended time, until the adaptions could be made to the design to make it safer. Although the safety measures are significant, as a parent I would caution you to watch your young children carefully around the pool area, particularly as you descend the stairs down into the pool’s center.

The Active Pools live up to their name, and are the Water Park's most photographed pool (photo by Brian Roper)

The Water Gardens are one of the architectural treasures of Fort Worth. The list of reason’s why a visit to the park is a must, is a long one, but topping the list for me is that it’s free of charge, dynamic and a great place in this busy city to relax and cool off on a hot day.

The Water Gardens are located adjacent to the FW Convention Center in the downtown core, between Commerce and Houston Sts. Pack a picnic lunch, a book you’ve been wanting to read, or someone special and experience the serenity for yourself.

Categories: Culture, Places to Visit and Explore, The Great Outdoors | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Tornado State of Mind

I watched our television set in horror Tuesday, as semi-tractor trailers were being tossed about like matchbox toys, as the news anchor reported that yet another tornado touched down in the Metroplex area. By days end, up to thirteen twisters were spawned from violent storm system that mercilessly made its way across North Texas.

At the same time, on the other end of the phone with me, watching the same horror unfold, was my friend Dorothy. I’d like to say she had a sixth sense, and instinctively knew that I needed her calm, experienced presence as I sat there alone and terrified, but I am pretty sure she saw my frantic status updates on Facebook. I had stepped outside a few minutes prior to take a picture of the incoming clouds, when I heard tornado sirens in the distance. I bolted inside, locked the door, turned on the television and updated my status. That sequence was sum of everything I knew, or rather didn’t know about safety during a tornado warning.

Thankfully, my friend helped steady my nerves, even though the storms ferocity was much closer to her in Euless, than it was to me in the Cultural District of Forth Worth. The Arlington funnel cloud was headed her way, and yet she was there to calm my nerves. She is an amazing friend. She told me where I needed to go to be safe, and what I needed to do — covering myself with cushions or the futon mattress, not to go under furniture, move to the inner area of the house, away from windows. For two hours she held my hand, through that telephone wire until the last warning for my area had faded.

As a transplanted Northerner, I often watch in amazement at how nonchalant the average Texan is, when the possibility of severe storms are forecast. They’ll raid the stores when a skiff of snow is predicted but they seem to take the Spring storm warnings in-stride. I admit, much to the chagrin of my friends, take the warnings seriously. So much so that my partner had to take two days off of work during the last predicted storms, to help ease my fears. Fears, that in reality, turned out to be unwarranted, as the storms greatest threat was an abundance of rain, absent of any tornadic activity. This past Tuesday morning, I assured him, with my bravest face, I’d be fine. This time however, the weathermen had been spot on.

Now, in the aftermath of Tuesday’s storms, people are aiming to pick up the pieces of their shattered homes, businesses, communities and lives. The latest storm reminded me of photographs my partner had shown me of a storm that did come a little closer to our home.

I wasn’t here that fateful day, March 28th of 2000. I most likely was somewhere very much north of here dealing with a skiff of snow, but in Fort Worth the sky turned a pea soup green color around dinner time as a tornado ripped through its downtown area. The destruction was massive. Homes disappeared completely, and others that remained were without walls, windows and roofs. Skyscrapers had their windows blown out, and pieces of metal were twisted as if they were simply thin wires, rather than thick pieces of steel. My partner shared the pictures he took as he walked around the area he called home, a mere twenty four hours after the storm had ravaged the city. It looked like a war zone, just as our neighbor’s communities must look in to them today.

It’s been 12 years now since that fateful day in Fort Worth. Other than the memories it seared into the brains of those who lived in Fort Worth at that time, the post tangible evidence of the storm is a makeshift piece of art, a set of four steel posts, bent to an 90 degrees by the relentless wind force. They had once held up a billboard sign, but have been moved a few feet over, and stand in front of the Arlington Heights post office serving as a constant reminder of just how powerful the storms can be here.
After the winds died down in late March of 2000, the bulldozers moved in. New condos went up in the place of buildings that had been destroyed. Other buildings were repaired and on the lower economic end of the scale, the lots were simply left empty, or homes boarded up, still standing empty a decade later – which, I suppose, in the end, is probably the most poignant reminder of losses left in the wake of that historic storm.

Although this past Tuesday may have been the weather’s time to rage, Wednesday and every day thereafter, it is our time to shine. Let us not forget  those who will need a hand up to recover from Tuesday’s tornadoes, until the work is done. They will need help piecing together their lives, rebuilding their homes and restoring their faith.  There are many ways to help. Here are a couple of links that have been circulating to give you a starting point.

WFAA – How to Help Out With North Texas Tornado Relief

NBCDFW – Donate for Tornado Relief

Remembering the Storm of March 28 2012 – Fort Worth, Texas
photos by Brian Roper

Downtown Fort Worth Skyline - March 30 2000

Homes that were destroyed during the violent storm,
were either torn down, or left empty

One of the few fatalities of the storm, was a homeless man who had taken shelter behind a brick facade in front of this building

The former Bank One Tower was converted to condos after the storm. This building and many of the other high-rise office in the downtown area received extensive damage

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Get Them While You Can

Be sure to get out to see the wildflowers while you can

This past weekend we went to the spot where we found the first bluebonnets of 2012, and they are beginning the process of going to seed.

If you haven’t had a chance yet, this weekend might be one of the last best chances you’ve got to enjoy this year’s banner year of wildflowers in full bloom.

Enjoy!

Categories: Admin Posts, The Great Outdoors | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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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