Recipe for a trip to Texas

Trip to texas DSC6684

I recently went to Texas to look at real estate and visit family, as many of you may know. What you don’t know is that I made up most of my ambitious itinerary as I went along, which had me zigzagging across the state with little time to breathe, let alone properly relax.

My aunt has a saying, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” My travel plans were cobbled together at the last minute, and while my spontaneity prevented me from seeing and doing everything I wanted to, I would not say that my trip was a complete failure.

I ate heartily, took hundreds of mouth-watering photos, had the pleasure of watching the Democratic convention with two of my favorite Democrats—my grandma and my mom—and managed to both make and see good friends. That said, I’ve made a list of guidelines to follow next time I travel, just to make the trip a little less stressful.

1. Buy your plane ticket well enough in advance so you’re not forced to fly into a city that you don’t plan to spend any time visiting. This will not only save on travel time but you’ll also be less road-weary when you finally do reach your destination.

2. When you go to a place where you don’t know anyone, it’s best to book a room before you get there so you’re not driving around dodgy parts of town late at night looking for a place to sleep. And you’ll probably find a better deal than $200 a night at the local flea-bag motel.

3. If you’re going to travel 500 miles out of your way to look at one building and you decide that you don’t like it, next time ask the real estate agent to show you other properties that you might like to see instead of just saying to her, “Kay. Thanks. Bye!”  This will make better use of your time and energy.

4. Yes, it’s very fortunate that your new friend, the lovely owner of the local winery, not only introduced you to a woman selling a house that you did like, but also invited you to a harvest party at her vineyard. However, next time you go somewhere where you don’t know anyone, bring a book just in case you don’t make new friends and the hotel doesn’t have a TV. You can only squint at your iPhone for so long.

5. If your plan is to eat six meals daily of all the foods you can’t get in New York City, make sure that there is something open on a Monday besides the local pizza joint. Yes, the slices at the Pizza Foundation are indeed awesome, but a homesick Texan doesn’t go to Texas to eat Italian. Plus, this will save you from having to eat half your meals at the gas station, as addictive as deep-fried jalapenos and burritos may be.

6. Listen to your grandmother. When she says it’s time to hit the road so you won’t hit traffic, don’t dilly dally by eating two more slices of her homemade chocolate pie; there’s nothing more stressful then being lost on strange suburban roads during the evening rush hour. Especially when your rental car has a scary warning light flashing at you, which, according to the nice gas station man, means you’ve been driving with the emergency break up since Huntsville. (Note to self: Mom is right, one should never buy a used rental car because fools like me have spent time behind the wheel.)

7. Always ask before taking photos in a restaurant. Some restaurant managers get upset when you’re taking pictures of their food, and you don’t want a repeat of what happened to you two years ago in Alabama, especially when you’re dining with your mother. You want her to be proud of you, not emabarrassed to be seen with you.

8. When you only have half a day in a town, and you really want to see certain people, please make sure you contact them at least three days before you travel. Otherwise they might not get your message until after you’ve returned home, which will be disappointing.

9. If a beloved restaurant has been rumored to be closing and you have the opportunity to eat there one last time, don’t get upset and leave in a huff if they fail to acknowledge your presence after half an hour. Yes, it’s shoddy service but clearly they had more important things on their mind besides selling you a plate of migas and bacon-laced refried beans.

10. And last but not least—if it’s Hatch green chile season, be sure and buy at least three pounds to bring back to New York City, that one pound you brought back just wasn’t enough.

  1. Anonymous

    Lord woman, why on earth would you wanna move to Marfa?

  2. So, does this mean you’re moving back to Texas?

    The pictures you’ve posted look so good, it’s killing me. I must get back to Texas soon!

  3. What a great post! You are such a good writer. I am completely drooling at all the food photos here. My kind of food!

  4. Lee Anne

    Are those steak fingers with gravy in that final picture? I am so craving those right now–they do not have them in Georgia. Since I’ve been pregnant, they are all that I have been thinking about. Maybe I’m hallucinating.

    Good travel tips–my husband and I return home to Texas about twice a year, and it’s always hard work to fit in everything when there’s so much family to see and food to eat.

  5. Oh, Homesick Texan at least you had some Hatch
    green chile. I’m from New Mexico, and have relatives on the Rio Grande. Do you think they’d send some of Hatch’s finest export for my chile fix out of the kindness of their own hearts? Noooo! They have to be bribed with a
    batch of Alaskan seafood. The hoops we jump through for comfort food. I’m hungry now…

  6. 1 pound of chile? I bought 40 pounds at the Hatch Chile Festival and it isn’t enough.

    I did a write up on the festival for those who didn’t get to it.

    We loaded up on Ranch Style Beans too.

  7. Double the blessing

    Wow it sounds like you learned alot. We are going for a visit in October, I will use some of your tips.

  8. Kimberly Phipps

    Las Manitas closing? What a shame. But hey–maybe you’ll eventually make some $ off some of the no doubt beautiful photos you made, and it will help offset the $200 fleabag motel night…HATE that…

  9. So this real estate purchasing thing is pretty serious? Very exciting! I want to hear more.

  10. That last link made me gasp audibly. Well…one less thing to be homesick for, I guess.

  11. Hill Country Hippie

    Got any favorite recipes to share, one what to do with those Hatch chilies?

  12. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    I’m laughing — I can think of several places I’ve been where I could substitute for Texas and be describing similar experiences — wonky rental cars, airports in the middle of nowhere I wanted to be…. but those are the trips we remember.

  13. I heart Hatch chiles. I bought several pounds for roasting and then freezing to enjoy all year.

    That BBQ looks like Lockhart BBQ…is it? Mmmm…

    Anjea in Austin

  14. Good luck with the real estate hunting! I’m just back from two weeks in NYC and Boston, having photographed quite a few meals; the only weird reaction I got was one waiter offering to buy my iPhone. Now I’m back in the UK, so anything Texas related will have to be home made; I don’t cook much, but luckily my brother loves to – and after living in Houston for a few years, does pretty good chili, fajitas etc. Just as well, with a plain old beef burrito on the wrong side of the $20 barrier in the only ‘Mexican’ restaurant here!

  15. Sabayon

    Lee Anne, I do believe those are fried pickles. If they aren’t they still made me go “oh, fried pickles, I miss fried pickles”, and made me immediately change my dinner plans for my first meal back in Texas from Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen to Katz’s.

  16. Lisa Fain

    Anon–What do you have against Marfa?

    Lissa–Not necessarily, though it if fun to dream about.

    Kalyn–Thank you! And the food tasted even better than it looks.

    Lee Anne–Yep, they’re steak fingers. You can’t see it in the photo, but it also came with a big slice of Texas toast.

    Kkryno–The hoops we jump through indeed!

    Greg–Wow! That’s a lot of chiles. I set the limit at 3 because I’m not that strong though if need be, I could probably manage about 20 pounds.

    Double the Blessing–Have fun in Texas!

    Kim–OK, so it was really only $150 but with taxes and all it felt like $200.

    Julie–I don’t know if I’m going to buy something there or not–I think I’m going through some sort of midlife crisis. But I’ll definitely keep you posted!

    Ashley–Sad, isn’t it? Though I understand Las Manitas may reopen down the street.

    Hill Country Hippie–I was thinking I might share my Hatch green chile apple pie recipe with y’all.

    Lydia–I reckon some of these things are pretty universal, though the rental car was fine–it was the driver that was wonky.

    Anjea–Yep, it’s from Kreuz.

    James–$20 for a burrito? That’s criminal. Glad you enjoyed your time in NY and Boston.

    Sabayon–Nope, they’re steak fingers but you’ve given me an idea for a blog post!

  17. Yes you are going through that “I miss Texas” phase! Been there done that. But when you go back – is it really the same? Or do you just wish it was and can’t wait to get home with your bag of goodies (memories)?

    Recently went back to Texas in March. Same as you did not make plans and missed seeing many things. However, I did make the BBQ run through Luling and Lockhart! Didn’t bring back peppers, but I did haul back a huge longhorn skull! Why? I don’t know!

    Keep posting I love your blog!

  18. Ha. Those are some great rules, and applicable to most anywhere. You’re like Martha with her “gentle reminders,” but about travel, and with sass. I love it. Sounds like it was a fun trip, despite some hurdles. Can’t wait to hear more!

  19. Theresa

    Two weeks from today, I fly out of London to Houston to eat my way round the great Lone Star State!

  20. Ah love it! Did I see Kreuz Market in there? Or am imagining it? Plan on going to Dallas end of the month to visit family. I’ll be stocking up on Mexican food and BBQ. I’m just wondering how I’m going to carry back the bison meat I want to bring with me.

  21. Sounds like your itinerary was FULL! Love those photos. The first one of that taco started the drooling process, and by the time I reached the last one, I was approaching being dehydrated! So … what’s the verdict … moving to Texas?

  22. It is just awesome going back home, getting your fill of your favorite foods and seeing family. I learned the hard way, always bring back my favorite foods and then some as it doesn’t seem to last long. Glad you had a good trip!

  23. Pretty mean posting those photos while many of us are still visiting South Beach… 😉



  24. Culinarywannabe

    Love the comments – hope the trip was fun thru it all! So does this mean we are getting a Texan cooking school anytime soon??

  25. I just discovered your blog yesterday looking for a recipe for homemade biscuits b/c my pioneer mix ran out and we were all hankering for biscuits, gravy, and chorizo & eggs for brunch. I love it!! I'm in Texas, Houston then Austin and back in Houston again. my trips back to Austin & central Texas totally center around hitting my fave spots to eat. I lived in NY, but only made it one year because there was no mex or texmex, no open spaces, and it was too darn cold. I don't know how you do it. Great blog, and thanks, the biscuits turned out great and I had no idea I would be capable of mixing all the ingredients together from scratch-I picked your recipe because you assured the reader it really wasn't that hard… Thanks!!!!

  26. Ha ha, I never saw that Alabama story before. Too funny. I’m glad I got to squeeze a visit into your very busy schedule. And that you let me vent endlessly about my stupid job situation. Now there’s a fun topic of conversation! PS – I had a couple of interviews today (fingers crossed)!

  27. tbsamsel

    No loss for Las Manitas. It was on the precious side.. this place is still there and a lot better.

    There’s a place on Cesar Chavez called Las Cazuelas (between
    Comal and Chicon) that allegedly serves food en el estilo potosino.
    In the style of San Luis Potosi. We walked through the door and it
    was Mexico. After 3 minutes sweat was pouring off me and a duo called
    Los Navegantes was playing. The waitresses don’t speak English. Los
    Navegantes was playing their final song, “No Volveré,” when our
    plates of steaming enchiladas were brought out. Huge portions,
    prepared from scratch. When I took my first bite, I was transported
    to the particular heaven that deals exclusively with superior
    enchiladas. They have a huge menu. We will

  28. Texasann

    You always make me smile. So very glad you enjoyed time with your mom/g-ma. Still smiling.

  29. Anonymous

    I’m an Austinite currently in the UK for several weeks and would kill for some Las Manitas right about now…I need to drown my depression watching the political crap currently going on….

  30. Brian Edwards

    You just made me homesick…funny how a familiar plate of mexican food can make me miss my mom!

    Someone asked about chili recipes. I recommend an easy one but one of my favorites from my time in NM. Tortilla, slice of roasted green chili, a good cheddar. That’s all. Pure heaven.

    Marfa is not a bad idea, by the way, if the stars align for you to move there. I’m from that part of Texas – my parents are from Pecos. It has its own beauty…its called miles of sky and some of the best people in the country.

  31. deceiverofmen

    haha, i made the same mistake in #1 the last time i visited home (early august). There’s never enough time. I never make it out of houston with all the people I’ve got to see.

    I’m not much into hatch chiles, but i brought back tons of mexican candy (the watermelon lollipops with chile) seems every new yorker i’ve given them to are smitten. And my friends from east l.a. are happy to have a piece of home (even if it was actually, from texas). Not to mention i’ve got half bag left after giving gifts. yum, chile lollipops.

    I’m hoping your next trip to texas is smoother (and no less eventful)!

  32. This post gave me a good laugh. I think that I’ve done all of the above, including eating pizza in Marfa when I really would have preferred steak or Mexican food.

  33. I am heartbroken about Las Manitas.

  34. Anne Stesney

    Oh. My. God. Those steak fingers are making my stomach do excited little flips.

    Speaking of exciting, how fun to explore houses and dream about moving. I say it the thought makes you giddy happy, do it!

    Love, Anne (Who has moved more times than she can count.)

  35. Vicky Lynn

    Just a nosy question – are those Dairy Queen steak fingers? Cuz Texas Dairy Queen is a whole different species from all other DQs. In small town Texas, Dairy Queen is THE place for all the retired old men to gather for coffee, gossip and politics. You can learn some mighty interesting stuff if you hang around long enough. And you can’t go wrong with steak fingers, gravy, Texas toast, Peanut Buster Parfait or a Dilly Bar.

  36. Lisa Fain

    Angela–That’s a tough question–nothing is ever the same which is why they say “You can never go home again.” I love that you dragged back a longhorn skull–very cool. I want one!

    Ann–It was a fun trip, and despite my whining, the hurdles did make it more fun!

    Theresa–Bon voyage–you’re going to have a blast!

    Jerry–Yep, that’s Kreuz. And just how many pounds of bison meat are you planning on bringing back with you?

    Paula–I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll let y’all know as soon as I know!

    Kim–I always try to bring food back, too. If I were smart, I’d bring an extra suitcase.

    Kim–After this trip, I need to return to South Beach.

    Culinarywannabe–Hmmmmm, don’t know about the cooking school just yet, but will let you know when I do!

    Lana D–Welcome! And it’s tough sometimes being here in NY–you make do, but trips back home are a must.

    AT–I’ve got them crossed! God luck w/ the interviews–I know you’ll do great.

    Tbsamsel–I did not know Las Cazuelas, but will definitely try it next time I’m in town.

    Texasann–Glad to make you smile!

    Anon–Yeah, don’t get me started…

    Brian Edwards–I know–it’s the power of food! And I agree, that’s a magnificent and absolutely gorgeous part of Texas.

    Deceiverofmen–You’ve just given me an idea–looks like I need to teach myself how to make lollipops!

    Bee–Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one!

    Neil–Yes, me too.

    Anne–Aren’t they seductive? I could eat a basket or two right now!

    Vicky Lynn–Yep, those are from the Marfa DQ.

  37. James (Texan in Upstate NY)

    Aw, I knew those were DQ steak fingers! Made my mouth water.

    Good thing we had chicken fried steak at home tonight.

  38. Lisa, we recently did a cruise through Elgin, Luling, Lockhart to sample the fine cuisine that is Central Texas BBQ. I got greased up good with sausage drippings in Luling. I loved Smitty’s in Lockhart. We’ll do Kreutz again in October. I also love Louis Mueller’s in Taylor. Brought home some yummy sausage from Elgin. It’s the best packaged sausage that I’ve ever had in my LIFE (age 48).

  39. DQ steak fingers in Texas=The Best

  40. shell524

    Happened across your blog through some random internet clicking.

    My boyfriend and I are both Texas expats living in Brooklyn. Our trips home are almost completely planned around what we want to eat where. Tex-mex (El Fenix, Cantina Laredo, or Joe T. Garcia’s), good Texas home-cooking (Mama’s Daughters’ or Mecca…), BBQ (haven’t made it to Cooper’s in FAR too long…), Gulf seafood (Casey’s)…. TOO much good food, too little time. And I always come home a good 5 pounds heavier. :p

    We have a tentative plan to take some of our NY friends on a food tour of our grand home state. They’ll freak, and it’ll be SO much fun. 🙂

  41. deceiverofmen

    Hoping your family is okay! I know its hard to get ahold of everyone right now, but from the people I’ve reached, it sounds like most are okay, just without power.

  42. Chel's Leaving a Legacy

    The picture of the brisket and sausage made my heart happy.

    And the DQ steak fingers… I miss those so much! We have DQ here (N. Ga) but they don’t have steak fingers. You should’ve seen the look on the lady’s face when I ordered them once. Texas Stop Sign indeed. I love it.

    Thanks for the reminder to not be tempted to buy a rental car. Yeah. Good idea. 🙂

  43. Living in the SE I can relate to wanting to eat at certain restaurants when we are home. Enjoyed your blog,

  44. Farmer Jen

    I miss Texas too.

  45. pheenobarbidoll

    I don’t have anything against Marfa, per se. But it took me 35 years to get out of a small west texas town..

    They’re harder to get out of than in to.
    And after about age 1, you’ve pretty much done all there is to do. (and everyone knows what you’ve done, too) *S*

  46. that sausage looks amazing.

  47. kelliebean

    I’m a homesick Texan, too. I especially miss my favorite small West Texas towns. 🙁

  48. The only thing I would miss about Texas is the Tex-Mex food … that is, if I ever get out of here! 🙂

  49. I just found this site.. What a delight. Having lived in Miami for 10 years before returning to west Texas, I so relate to all ya’ll still away from home. Ever tried to find real Tex-Mex in Miami? What a nightmare… served you black beans with everything.. I missed it so much I would fly in home made tamales from Helotes.

  50. I like your posting.I found it on blogs of note. I am a big fan of Texas and spent summers growing up there,visiting my dad in Victoria,TX. I love the state it’s my second home, Alabama being my first. Great pictures-I’m hungry now and I want to go visit my dad!

  51. Mmmm…steak fingers!

  52. Hi, from Rankin, Texas, just about an hour south of Midland and 20 minutes from some ASESOME DQ Steak fingers! Having lived in Texas my whole life, I guess I’ve taken it for granted that all DQ’s have steak fingers with that yummy cream gravy and Texas Toast to dunk it in, your picture certainly does it justice! First time to visit your blog but I’ll definitly visit again!

  53. Anonymous

    My husband and I are both Austinites but have been living in the northeast corner of England for the past few years. We just returned from a month-long vacation to Texas/Oklahoma/Colorado to visit family and friends. I made a “wish list” of everything I wanted to eat while we were home — Tex-Mex, BBQ, cajun, Amy’s ice cream, even a good ol’ Wendy’s Frosty! I never thought I could miss food this much.

    After reading your blog, I thought of something I forgot to put on my wish list. There is a restaurant in Austin called Hoover’s Cooking. They have an awesome breakfast called “Chicken ‘n’ Cakes” where you can choose a chicken item (pieces of BBQ chicken, fried chicken, BBQ chicken wings, chicken ‘n’ dumplings) AND pancakes (buttermilk, blueberry, gingerbread, sweet potato, banana, and hoe cakes – like cornbread except flatter). Talk about down home cooking (and eating)! My favorite is the BBQ chicken with hoe cakes or sweet potato pancakes drizzled with maple syrup. Yum!

  54. Quirky B

    Oh my goodness! I really need to get together with my grandmother and mother and have a southern food cooking day. That would be the BEST DAY EVER!

  55. Losferwords

    Marfa Lights!!!!

  56. For stress-less trips, ever tried having a party and inviting everyone you want to visit with while you’re in town? Not as intimate but you can see more people in less time.

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