Wednesday, April 30, 2014

“They Have the Best Beignets…

outside of New Orleans.” we were told. We have always thought that the second best—after the legendary Café du Monde in the French Quarter—were those served at the Coffee Depot in Scott, LA. But, willing to be proven wrong, we set off one noon to the Gumbo Diner for lunch with a serving of beignets.
“Offering the first true American Diner option for the area in years, owners Danny Hart, Johnny Smecca, and Joey Smecca recognized a demand on the island. ‘With Southern breakfast staples, chicken & waffles, tasty burgers, and the best gulf fried shrimp on the Texas coast, this soon-to-be Galveston legend has something for everyone’” (
“Minimalist decor

and a Gulf view give the eclectic fare a starring role.
"Breakfast features timeless diner favorites, from eggs and sausage to biscuits and gravy, as well as…chicken strips on a Belgian waffle with butter and maple syrup. Come lunchtime, po-boys, entrée salads, and heaping bowls of gumbo take center stage. A few dashes of Tabasco enlivened our otherwise excellent crawfish étouffée, and we cheered the chopped salad, the diner’s version of a Cobb, flanked with six jumbo boiled shrimp. Despite the name, the L’il Daddy serving of eye-opening seafood gumbo delivers a generous bowl of shrimp, oysters, and crab; the Big Daddy is large enough to wash in” (
Both of us decided to eschew the gumbo. It was a Tuesday and the plate lunch that day was
blackened tilapia with lemon butter sauce and two sides. But we both decided on po-boys—the full soft shell crab for Chuck and the “shorty” BBQ oyster for me.

All of the seafood po-boys at the Gumbo Diner come dressed with Tabasco infused mayo, cocktail sauce, shredded cabbage, pickles. You don’t often see shredded cabbage on a po-boy other than at the famous (and we think over-rated) Mother’s in New Orleans. That’s too bad. I like the extra crunch that comes with the substitution of cabbage for lettuce.

Both of our sandwiches came on really good toasted rolls, which is always a good start, but the oysters on my sandwich left much to be desired.
When I asked our server what they meant by BBQ, I got a somewhat confusing answer (after our server consulted with at least two other staff members) that the oysters were fried and then a special sauce added. Well, this sauce completely obscured the taste of the oysters.

Chuck fared better with his soft shells. You could actually taste the sweet crab.
Now for the beignets. Are they the best outside of New Orleans? No. But they probably fall in second place—or third depending on how you look at it.
A few days following our 3.0 Addie lunch at the Gumbo Diner, we headed back to one of our new favorites—Medicinal Purposes. Anyone interested in the story behind the name, the décor, and the owner can refer to our blog of April 4, 2014 titled “The Trouble with Tuesday.”

He so liked the grilled brat on our previous visit, so Chuck decided not to tempt fate and ordered the same again.
And again a large and juicy sausage sat in a toasted roll and topped with sauerkraut and red bell peppers. Since they were out of the Cajun fries, his sandwich came with shoestring fries that I think were lightly dusted with cinnamon.
I ordered the day’s special—the meatball marinara po-boy with house-made chips.
The roll contained four large meatballs which were soft, but not mushy. And there wasn’t so much of the marinara, and it didn’t hide the taste of the meatballs. And the potato chips were delicious. They were a bit thicker than a kettle chip and had been lightly coated with Cajun/Creole seasoning.

To round out the meal we shared an order of onion rings that were nice and thin but had a somewhat thicker coating than we prefer.
As I said in my longer blog about Medicinal Purposes, were we Galvestonians, I would probably be a regular fixture at this 5.0 restaurant.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Brunch at the Galvez

Our brief tour of the magnificent Galvez Hotel in Galveston, Texas, (see yesterday’s entry) prompted us to return the next Sunday for the hotel’s acclaimed brunch buffet. We were seated in the beautiful high-ceilinged Galvez Bar & Grill, but we did notice that the large event spaces were also being used. And we were somewhat surprised to find the buffet tables set in the lobby where, when service was at its height, diners were required to dodge departing guests who were rolling their luggage through the buffet. Had I been running things I would have spread the buffet through the larger event spaces—but who am I to criticize? (This photo was taken later in the day when the crowds had dispersed.)
As with most brunches, the offerings included traditional breakfast foods along with lunch/dinner choices. If you were in the mood for breakfast, you could have Eggs Benedict, waffles, omelets (these latter two made to order), bacon, sausage, and blueberry topped cheese blintzes. If you were in the mood for lunch, you could choose from iced seafood (shrimp, raw oysters, smoked salmon, and king crab legs), gumbo and clam chowder, Caesar salad, roasted and mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, vegetable medley, pasta, bourbon glazed ham, jerk chicken, chipotle glazed pork loin, and prime rib.

After receiving our mimosa (Chuck) and glass of champagne (me), I ventured forth to create my first plate and to reconnoiter the set up.
I returned with a plate containing chilled plump Gulf oysters, boiled shrimp, and smoked salmon. Perhaps I am longing for Louisiana, but I couldn’t help but wish that the shrimp, which were large and well-cooked, had been boiled with some crab/shrimp/crawfish boil seasoning.
Chuck came back from his initial foray with what you—I certainly did—might find to be an unusual assortment of food.
His plate contained a few shrimp, one roasted potato, a cup of clam chowder (which was somewhat unusual since it contained corn and peas), a piece of cheese, a couple of slices of bacon, and the vegetables (green beans, zucchini, and cauliflower [which he shoved to the side], which had been sautéed with garlic.

I next sampled a cup of decent, but not great, seafood gumbo that contained the Cajun holy trinity of onion, celery, and green bell pepper along with shrimp and okra.
Chuck’s next plate contained more of the garlic sautéed veggies, more bacon (This was very good bacon.), two more roasted potatoes, and two very thin slices of prime rib.
While the prime rib was, for the most part, nice and medium rare, we couldn’t help but compare it unfavorably with the thick slabs of prime rib we were served at Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, Oregon.

My turn again. And you will note that I have thus far managed not to consume a starch or vegetable. This streak continues, and I returned with (from left to right) the bourbon glazed ham, chipotle glazed pork, and jerk chicken.
The ham was juicy and tender and not the least bit salty; the pork was cut too thick for my taste, and therefore, I think, too tough and chewy; and while I am not sure how authentic the jerk chicken was (I have limited experience with Jamaican jerk.) it was not overly spicy and rather tasty.

Chuck was a bit more selective with his third plate and only returned with more roasted potatoes and more prime rib.
He ate enough potatoes that noon for the two of us.

It was time for dessert, and again comparing the Galvez unfavorably with Seven Feathers, I found the choices of peach cobbler, cheesecake, lava cake, bar cookies, and ice cream to be rather uninspiring. So instead I selected a cheese blintz from the breakfast station along with a good-sized portion of tangy bleu cheese.
The blintz’s creamy center was encased by an ultra thin pancake and the slight acidity of the blueberries cut the richness of the dish.

Before going for his dessert, Chuck wandered off to photograph the pianist who had entertained us while dining.
On the way back to our table, he took a turn for the dessert table. Here three native Galvestonian women (Bonnie, Daisy, and Dottie) struck up a conversation with him. After covering topics of travel, sights to see, and a bit of Galveston history, he gave them a card with our blog address on it.

(And not long after that meeting, they read some of the blog entries and passed on the information to Clyde Steddum, the Vice Chairman of the Galveston Park Board of Trustees. The next thing we knew, the four of them and Clyde’s wife Margo dropped in for a visit. What a pleasant surprise. This was followed with an invitation to join them at the next Sunday church service and lunch together after church.)

Back to Brunch.

Following the conversation at the dessert table, Chuck returned with a slice of good, although not overly memorable, cheesecake.
Through our meal, I kept thinking back to the Seven Feather’s buffet where we were served equally good if not better food at half the price. So my rating of 4.0 Addies reflects that comparison.

To review the role of Adler and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

Monday, April 28, 2014

When I Say "Galveston"...

what's the first word that comes to mind?

The Sept. 8, 1900 hurricane that hit Galveston was the worst natural disaster in United States history to that point in time, and remains the country’s deadliest natural disaster killing an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people. More than 3,600 structures were destroyed including the entire wharf front.

And for many people outside of southeastern Texas, that is the “first-word” response they would make to “Galveston.”

And it is this association with “The Great Storm” that Clyde Steddum would like to expand for the city of Galveston. Steddum, the Vice Chairman of the Galveston Park Board of Trustees, was kind enough to read some of our blog entries on Galveston and noted, “You discovered many of the features of this city that make it great.” (How we met Clyde is a story that we’ll tell tomorrow.)

One of the city’s gems that we have not visited until recently is what C. Grant Mitchell, President of Mitchell Historic Properties and producer of the documentary “The Great Storm,” calls “a great symbol for Galveston. It is a symbol of strength and resilience.”
It is the Hotel Galvez & Spa®, a National Trust Historic Hotel of America, and the only historic beachfront hotel on the Texas Gulf Coast.
“Hotel Galvez opened on June 10, 1911, at 6 p.m. and was immediately proclaimed ‘Queen of the Gulf.’ Within a year of opening, it was deemed the ‘best arranged and most richly furnished seaside hotel in America’ by Hotel Monthly. When the hotel opened in 1911, it had 275 guest rooms with a room rate starting at $2 per day.
“In the early 1920s, families across the country began flocking to Galveston’s original beachfront hotel. ‘Moving in’ to Hotel Galvez for the summer was a common trend among wealthy families, many of whom spent from six weeks to six months in the hotel, paying a mere two dollars a day for luxurious accommodations.

“Between 1920 and 1932, Hotel Galvez served as headquarters for the International Pageants of Pulchritude, the beauty pageants that were predecessors to the Miss Universe Pageant.
“The hotel functioned as a working facility for the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, and in 1944 the hotel was awarded an ‘honorable discharge’ from its duties.

Considerable restoration work has occurred within the past 21 years:
-- In 1993, it was purchased by its current owners who launched a $20 million restoration to reflect its 1911 origin.
-- In preparation for the hotel’s 100th anniversary in June 2011, hotel owners completed an $11 million renovation.
-- More recently (May, 2013), the owners completed a $900,000 renovation to its lobby,

and bar area, which is now home to the Galvez Bar & Grill”

And speaking of the Bar & Grill....

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The End of the Day

As one recent afternoon gradually approached evening status, the sky looked as though it might present us with a colorful farewell to daylight.

I grabbed my camera and headed to the lagoon by the RV park on the western city limits of Galveston, TX. I passed another party interested in other types of end-of-day activities.
There was a large cloud band at this time, but I thought that we would be blessed with streams of sunlight this evening.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
― Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds
Surprisingly, the sun was already near the horizon when I first noticed the color in the sky.
So, when the sun appeared beneath the cloud band, we were treated to a sunset whose colors seemed to rise from the horizon.
And at this point, I just decided to enjoy the colors

"Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting."

– Richard Paul Evans

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Art Around Galveston

In the brochure identifying the art located around the city of Galveston, Texas is the following:
"Public art does more than decorate the spaces we share. It informs and enhances our sense of community. It links us across time to the imaginative work of previous generations."

Below are some examples of the city's art, covering a range of artistic themes.
Sculptor, Arthur Williams; 1967

This welded and pressed steel sculpture is coated with lustrous dark brown automotive lacquer.

Dignified Resignation
Sculptor, Louis Amateis; erected 1912

This bronze sculpture depicts a Confederate soldier after defeat.

Mural by Roederer and Weber; 1905

Three-panel mural of Texas historic motifs
Painted by Cara Moore, 2001

Sculptor, David Adickes

This oversized cornet of white concrete over a steel skeleton served as a stage prop at the New Orleans World’s Fair before being placed in Galveston in 1986.

Sculptor, Louis Amateis; 1900

Dedicated on San Jacinto Day (April 1, 1900), this monument honors the heroes of Texas Independence. A 22-foot high bronze figure of Victory (cast by Nelli Foundry in Rome) sits on a 50-foot granite pedestal.

Two examples of the many murals on the fences and walls of St. Vincent’s House.

Tarpon, segmented steel fish
Artist, Dwight Brown; 1995

Trompe L’Oeil
Artist, Richard Haas, 1976

Decorating the façade of two otherwise plain buildings, these faux cornices and window ledges date from the 1976 Bicentennial.

Chess Board
Designed by Edwin A. Eubanks; 1994

The oversize chessboard is paint on concrete with accompanying imported chess pieces.

Compass Rose
This is a terrazzo representation of a nautical compass.

I thought these last two examples of advertisements on a brick wall were interesting.