Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Donut Burgers – For the Best of Two Worlds!

On a recent trip south to the Lake Jackson/Clute area, Suzanne and I decided to try a new restaurant. After an online investigation, we chose a restaurant named Asiel’s on Mammoth Lake. Asiel is the nickname given to the 14 foot tall Columbian mammoth fossil dug up in what is now called Mammoth Lake. The word Asiel means “created by God”. Originally a commercial sand pit, the Columbian mammoth bones were discovered in May of 2003 by workers of the sand pit. Today the lake is used primary by scuba divers to practice and get certified and by triathletes to practice their open water swimming.

While the mammoth artifacts were what first caught our attention, there was another unique feature of this restaurant that made it a must see.  The Asiel’s menu features a “Donut Burger”!

Now I’ve seen quite a few things added to burgers in my many travels across Texas including cream cheese, chili, all kinds of peppers, many types of cheese and of course bacon.  But one thing I’ve never seen added to a hamburger is dessert!  Not to mention the fact that a hot fresh donut is one of my favorite desserts. So as you can imagine, the idea of a donut bacon burger was something I could not pass up. I quickly volunteered to give the heart-stopping burger a try and off to Clute we went.

Arriving at our destination on Dixie Drive North, the first promising thing we noticed was the full parking lot. People flock to good food. We felt confident we would not be disappointed. Upon entering the restaurant, we were quickly seated in a comfortable booth. Off to one front corner were the artifacts of the mammoth dig that we came to see. Out the back, we had a good view of the lake. But all I could think about was ordering the Donut Burger. The menu described it as a 1/3 pound patty with bacon and cheese surrounded by a donut on either side. (If you are really hungry, you can get a ½ lb. patty instead). I went all in, ordered the burger and threw in some Onion Rings to boot! Suzanne opted for a less heart stopping Continental Turkey Burger.

While we waited for our food, I checked out the mammoth fossils. The pictures of the dig on the wall were just as interesting as the fossils themselves. I can’t imagine mammoths roaming the Lake Jackson area at all. The native people who killed this one must have been pretty brave and hungry.  Guess they didn’t have Donut Burgers back then!

Back at the table, as I waited eagerly for the food to arrive, I couldn’t help but wonder how someone could come up with the idea of replacing the buns on a hamburger with donuts. This restaurant loves their bacon.  They devote the entire Wednesday night menu to bacon including bacon appetizers, bacon entrees, and bacon desserts. Knowing this, I tried to imagine how they may have come up with the idea of a donut bacon burger.  I can see it now, the owner and chef sitting around one morning talking about bacon.  How could we enhance the experience of eating bacon?  Why surround it with a juicy cheese burger of course.  But how can we take it one step further, they may have mused as the enjoyed their morning coffee and hot Shipley’s donuts from the shop down the street.  Then it dawns on them, to make the bacon burger better… add donuts!

     Soon, our food arrived as described. The Donut Burger was bigger than I envisioned. This is one Texas-Size Donut! The bacon and cheese looked just as desirable.  My first bite was heavenly. The sweet donut had the texture of a fresh-made donut cooked by Shipley’s (a local mainstay donut shop in Texas). The sweetness was equally contrasted by the salty, earthy flavors of hamburger, bacon and cheese. The large Sweet Onion Rings were hot and tasty in their own right. I liked the thick, fish fry style batter coating. Coaxing Suzanne into trying a little piece of the Donut Burger and onion rings brought a surprising “thumbs up” from her. She claimed her CPR certificate to be current and that my life insurance was paid up in full. I didn’t care. I ate all the food on my plate!  Thank goodness I convinced her to try a bite, I’d hate to have to admit that I ate the entire burger by myself.

     Since I am writing this story, you know that I survived the calories and cholesterol from this meal. Suzanne and I had an enjoyable relaxing lunch. Our waitress was wonderful as was the manager who checked on me after I finish my meal. So if you are out and about near Clute (like going fishing in Freeport), stop by Asiel’s Restaurant and try their Donut Burger as you see Texas Thru My Back Door!  

We challenge our readers to join in our fight against breast cancer.  Visit Suzanne's new blog "My Equations for Life" as she reflects on life B.C. (before cancer) and A.D. (after diagnosis) and help support new early cancer detection research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center with our Go Fund Me project below.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bone Spirits – Farm to Bottle Distillery

On a recent trip to Smithville, Suzanne and I discovered that there was a distillery in town. This sleepy little town surprises me every time we visit. We learned that Smithville has been used for many films such as Hope Floats starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr., The Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, Natural Selection starring Rachael Harris, Doonby starring John Schneider and Bernie starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey. Quite an impressive talent of stars I’d say. Those stars rise and fall but there is one rising star that is here to stay in Smithville. This shining star is Bone Spirits, another entrepreneur story that makes me glad I live in Texas. 

An unassuming two story metal building with a small sign on the outskirts of town stands lonely on this quiet street but, once you enter, you can sense the pride and joy of making great products. The compact distillery is impressive. Up the stairs to the tasting room Suzanne and I went. As we entered, the owner of Bone Distillery, Jeff Peace, greeted us with a big smile and offered up a place at the bar. It didn’t take long for him to start telling us his story of success in creating this distillery. Hard work and knowledge from working at another distillery allowed him to build and craft his own version of excellence in distilling liquor.

Eager to please us, Jeff offered up samplings of his Smith’s Vodka, Fitch’s Goat Moonshine, Moody June American Dry Gin and Fitch’s Goat 100% Corn Whiskey.  As he poured up each sample, Jeff gave us a little background info on the name selections and the locally sourced ingredients. All tasted good, but my favorite turned out to be the Moody June American Dry Gin. I’m not usually a gin drinker, but this stuff tasted great! Made from handpicked botanicals with juniper and citrus notes, this gin is outstanding.  Yes, you guessed right. I bought a bottle without hesitation. And yes, I’m drinking some now while I’m writing this story!

Jeff likes to call his methodology “Farm to Bottle”. He sources as much of his ingredients as possible from the local farmers and gives back to the farmers distillers grains for them to pick up to use as soil fertilizers and livestock feed. This sustainability idea is good for the success of all involved and builds a great community network of families.

As a proponent of buying local products and goods (Texas Made), I hope you will check for Bone Spirits in your local liquor store such as Spec’s. If they don’t carry it, ask them to order some. Or better yet, do like we did and take a daytrip to Smithville and score some from the source. You’ll be glad you did. In the meantime, I’ll finish my tasty Gin drink while I think of my trip to see Texas Thru My Back Door!

We challenge our readers to join in our fight against breast cancer.  Visit Suzanne's new blog "My Equations for Life" as she reflects on life B.C. (before cancer) and A.D. (after diagnosis) and help support new early cancer detection research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center with our Go Fund Me project below.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bay City – A Town Not On The Bay!

If you have driven out Highway 35 along the Texas Coast between Houston and Corpus Christi, you have gone through the town of Bay City. The most interesting thing to me is that the city does not reside next to any bay. Actually, the town was given its name as a reference to its location on Bay Prairie. Who would have thought that?

We have driven though this town many times and never have stopped, but today Suzanne and I drove specifically to Bay City just to see what we could find. Bay City is full of activity during the week. As the county seat of Matagorda County, the downtown district is bustling. Across from the County Courthouse we found our first stop, The Fat Grass Restaurant. Located in an old historic building, the ambiance is delightful. The large wooden bar makes you feel like you are living in the past, but with modern amenities.

The Fat Grass Restaurant got its unique name from the English translation of Matagorda, which means fat grass or thick brush. To me, Fat Grass sounds better than Thick Brush so I like the name they chose. On to the more important stuff - like the food. Suzanne ordered the Mahi Thermidor with roasted squash and fingerling potatoes and I settled on a Chicken Fried Deer Steak with cream gravy, mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans. Both dishes were great and the service was excellent. What a wonderful way to start our day in Bay City.

With full stomachs and smiles on our faces, Suzanne and I decided to walk around the square. We found a few antique stores to browse through and ran across the Matagorda County Museum. The Museum was an unexpected delight.  We enjoyed seeing the prized brass cannon from Robert de LaSalle’s ship, along other artifacts from the recovered shipwreck. The museum also included Indian artifacts, pioneer items and an Alamo Shrine. 

One thing that was unique for a small town museum was their Children’s Museum. Nestled in the belly of the historic Bay City Post Office building, it provides kids (and grandpas) an opportunity to live out their fantasies in an early 1900’s setting. I can’t wait to take my grandson, Drayton, to drop our horses off at the stable, mosey on over to the General Store for some Root Beer and candy. Who knows we might even get a haircut and shave at the Barber’s Shop, try out the wind-up toys in the Toy Shoppe, read a book in the one room schoolhouse, or write a letter to mom at the old post office and tell her we are heading west for a new adventure. Oh, we better stop by the bank and get some money! Hope we don’t run into Jesse James or Billy the Kid. What a fantastic place to EXPLORE.

After Suzanne lassoed me and led me out of the Children’s Museum, we returned to our car. The temperature was starting to get hot (typical summer Texas weather) so we decided to drive around town in air conditioned luxury while looking at some of the architecture of old homes. Suzanne and I found many homes we would like to own! As the afternoon sun started to set out west, it was time to hitch the wagon up and head home from another great daytrip as we visit Texas Thru My Back Door!

We challenge our readers to join in our fight against breast cancer.  Visit Suzanne's new blog "My Equations for Life" as she reflects on life B.C. (before cancer) and A.D. (after diagnosis) and help support new early cancer detection research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center with our Go Fund Me project below.