Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A quick note on cheap tourist eats

We were at the River Center Mall yesterday, and normally we don't post about chain restaurants, but were sufficiently impressed to point out that there are tasty cheap eats at the Big Easy Cajun Grill in the food court - Thomas got the bourbon chicken sandwich and loved it said it was moist, tender and tasty and it was very cheap. With all the overpriced restaurants around, this makes a good option for a low budget, but good meal on the go!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cigar Review: Fuente Between the Lines

Val here, this one is just my commentary because I picked up this cigar at the Lone Star Cigar Bash to try them.

I wanted to try it because Thomas loves the short stories, and this was the same size and shape, but with a barber pole wrapper.

This was a rather pleasant smoke.  The wrapper was attractive with light and dark tobaccos, however, the difference in the leaves meant I needed to touch up the cigar a few times to keep it burning evenly.  It started off middling, but as it got towards the middle it had an excellent mix of flavors.  I would try this one again, but might prefer something other than a barber pole wrapper since I ran into several burn issues between the different tobaccos.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Amore Cafe

This past weekend we went to Amore Cafe. For full disclosure, a friend of ours works there. However, we are not the type to sway our opinion of a place for that reason, in fact we are likely to be more critical, because we know the level of customer service our friends are likely to offer their customers.
Belly dancer

Overall: 4.5/5
Atmosphere 4/5
Food: 5/5
Value: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Noise level: fluctuates from quiet to moderately loud
TV: yes
Wifi: No
live music/entertainment: some nights jazz band, some nights belly dancer

She says:
Amore Cafe has been around for a while, but recently has been under new ownership and management. It is a hookah cafe on the North west side of town, near Military and 1604. It is nestled in a shopping center with three busy nightclubs.

First Impression:

Our first impression, from the parking lot it has a nice sign, chairs and tables out front. We are not likely to sit outside because the view is mostly of cars. Management told us that they will be putting up an awning over the tables, and make it a nicer place to sit. However this would be a great place to sit if you like to people watch and check out all the folks club-hopping. The exterior speakers are a bit loud, likely to cover the sounds of the nearby clubs. Inside the music is somewhat softer, though the volume fluctuates with what is going on.

The inside is nicely decorated in earthy tones and jewel tones. Couches with patchwork brocade and pillows, with a bit of privacy provided by some beautiful screens gives you a sense of intimacy when sitting with your date and/or your friends.

Initially the music was a bit harsh and unpleasant - when I go to a restaurant with a particular cultural or ethnic background, I want to hear that culture's music. I love middle-eastern music, and the rhythmic drumbeats tend to help me relax. A quiet word to a member of the staff switched the music from 80's rock to what I was hoping to hear. So the tendency towards loud or jarring music is well balanced by the responsiveness of staff to the needs and requests of their patrons.

These wooden screens were nice, not a fan of the tv screens though.
The big downside for me was the presence of televisions playing the basket ball game. I don't know about other people, but for me, going to a hookah place is about smoking some good shisha, eating some good middle eastern food and talking and relaxing with friends. Sports games don't have a place in that - yet - with the location of this place, I can see where it appeals to some of the guests. I would recommend limiting it to one tv, or arranging them so it is possible to sit somewhere and NOT see a screen.

The Food:

Nomnomnomnom. Sorry - I have been dying for a good shawarma, as I have not had any since I moved from Houston, where I would get them at Droubi's. Naara, one of our other favorite places, does not offer it. So when I saw shawarma on the menu, I knew right away what I was going to order for dinner. The appetizer offerings were ok, but not a lot of what I like (as we know I am the finicky one), so we ordered the hummus. I am meh on hummus most of the time, but when we ordered it I mentioned that I liked the oil they put on it, and so they brought it to us and it was amazing. Best hummus I have ever had. The pita were on the toasty side, which went well for it - but makes them harder to eat once cooled, however they will bring you more pita, so all is well. It is also a great value at only $4, if I recall correctly.

The shawarma was excellent. Sliced chicken, garlic sauce, tomato and pickle (I asked them to hold the lettuce because I don't like hot lettuce) and the flavors blended nicely. Thomas got a different chicken pita sandwich, which was tasty, but I liked the shawarma better. It was a good price, and we added french fries because we weren't in the mood for rice. The fries were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. They were a bit on the salty side, but since the sandwiches were not salty it worked well together.

We enjoyed some Turkish coffee with our meal, only downside is it is served unsweetened, and so it took me a small cup or two to figure out how much sugar to add to get it where I like it - not a big problem, I was just used to getting it pre-sweetened elsewhere.

The hookah was interesting, as we decided to blend something different - jasmine and rose - very fragrant, but the jasmine is just a bit astringent and the rose couldn't balance it - so next we tried grape and rose on the recommendation of Cecelia, and it was...good, but not what I was expecting - I thought it would be more of a concord grape type flavor, but it was a muscat flavor - once over the surprised taste buds, it rapidly grew on us - I still prefer rose and raspberry - but the muscat grape offers some possibilities.

The Service:

The staff at Amore is focused on customer service. Jeanette was our waitress, and she was very polite and attentive. Brought out everything exactly as we ordered it, and kept our water glasses full. Frequently a staff member would drop by the table and see if we needed anything - sometimes that can be annoying at places, but they have managed to balance availability with respecting patron's space and privacy, and manage to ask in a non-needy non-intrusive way. Just a quick "How is everything? Can I get you anything?" and then they are off, and you are back to your conversation like nothing happened. We really like that - at the busiest point, we had at most a few minutes to wait in trying to get a staff members attention to get more coals, which is excellent.
Josh is pretty cool.


We had a good time, and not just because our friend Josh works here. The other manager and the owner both came to chat with us and they are open-minded, friendly, and eager to provide an excellent experience for their guests. This place under the new ownership has a LOT of potential to be an outstanding chill place to hang out in the evening or late evening, and their plans for improvement are exciting. I recommend this place.

He Said:

Amore is the Hookah Cafe that Could....

The decor is nice and alters well with just lighting changes. Almost all of the tables are separated by gorgeous hardwood screens and it has a very tasteful contemporary feels that includes elements of Older Middle Eastern culture with just a touch of "hipness."

The couches were comfy and there were plenty of pillows to prop or adjust for personal comfort. The music was all over the map. American 80's and 90's when we showed up to "classic" Eastern music with a few modern sounding tracks. Till the belly dancer showed up and then it was just alternating too loud and then not loud enough. A suggestion to the staff was all it took to settle it down. They were very responsive to patron feed back.

2 big screen TV's dominated the room and even with the sound off were very distracting.

The crowd was a mix of slightly older middle aged folks to frat boys/sorority girls. Nobody made too much of a disturbing scene as you might expect with that kind of diversity.

Overall, it felt like a cool place that was just fighting to find it's own identity.

The food was really nice and in good portions for the price. I had the grilled chicken tawooka pita and Val got the Chicken shawarma. Both were very tasty and flavouful without being too alien in spices and texture.

We tried a blend of Rose and Jasmine in the hookah and it was a little harsh at first due to a combination of our inattentiveness and the staff's inexperience. A helpful young lady got our hookah all sorted out and everything was smooth.

Once again, in regards to the hookahs, a nice blend of contemporary and old school. The hookahs were just as nice as other hookah cafes I'd been to but had modern elements like no engraving or paint on the vases but the pipe part was very tasteful and modern. The Coal Guy was a little overzelous a couple times with our hookah but was quickly fixed.

Overall, Amore looks to have a good future. Being right in the middle of several clubs it offers an oasis of relaxation and if it decides to stay open late would make an excellent after hours meetup spot.

First it needs to settle into what it wants to be.

We'll be going back.

Amore Cafe Mediterranean Lounge on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cigar Review: Finck's - Travis Club Family Blend

We got this cigar at the Lone Star Cigar Bash, and smoked it at a friend's house later that evening.

Finck's describes the cigar as " full-bodied, rich combination of Cuban-seed Nicaraguan long filler, Broadleaf binder and exquisite, silky-smooth Ecuadorian Shade wrapper."

She said:
The Travis Club Family Blend is a very well rolled cigar, the ash held on a long time before dropping.  It had a good draw, and was a pleasure to smoke.  The flavor was very earthy with strong mushroom notes, overall a somewhat complex flavor that is unique to any cigar I have ever tried.  I would say the strength was on the lower end of medium, but the flavor really stands out.

This is not on my list of all time favorites, but it is high on my buy for the occasional change of pace list.

He said:
This was kind of a surprise. Travis Club's are a decent cigar but are usually on the really mild side and I prefer a little bit stronger cigar. The Family Blend it a great addition to the Brand. It has a fuller flavor and just enough strength to make it a very enjoyable smoke. There was some hints of mushroom and earth, almost like a Padilla Miami, but not quite as strong.

This was a well constructed cigar and needed touching up only a couple time during the evening.

This is a solid addition to the Finck's Family stable of labels.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bavarian food - and cakes - to die for at Bavarian Restaurant

The Bavarian Restaurant at 5512 FM 78 in Kirby is THE place to go for amazing Bavarian food

Atmosphere 4/5 stars - like eating at someone's home
Noise - fairly quiet, with cool music in German. It is easy to converse in there.
Service - 5/5 excellent! The servers and owners remember returning customers.
Food - 6/5 - We really love this place
Value - 5/5 - great prices, and very large portions

This restaurant can be a bit tricky to find, it is easy to pass, and in an odd part of town, but it is WELL worth the effort to find.

Val here - Do you like Schnitzel?  How about Schnitzel as big around as your head?  I am not joking here, generally Thomas and I cut it in half, and put it in a to-go box, then eat what is left on our plate (the rest makes an awesome breakfast the next day).

My favorite dish there is the Jaeger Schnitzel, with brown gravy and mushrooms.  Thomas tends to get a variety of things, such as the Gypsy Schnitzel and the Curry Schnitzel (which is rather yummy too). The potatoes are a must - they are just right - carmelized with onions...

The best nights are Wednesday and Thursday when they often have a special where if you purchase a drink, your meal is only 10.00, which is a savings of about 4.00 a plate.  Spend that on dessert, you won't regret it.

This cake weighed a ton.  It was amazing.
Horace is the owner, and primary genius behind the recipes at the Bavarian Restaurant.  He moved here from Germany and has lived a really interesting life.  He told me some great stories last weekend while I was picking up a cake for Thomas' birthday.  What I thought I was getting - a simple hazelnut cake that would be tasty - what I got - the ambrosia of cakes that would make a god weep for joy and has forever ruined all other cakes in our minds - there can only be one cake - a cake from Bavarian Restaurant - no really - it was that good.

I might have cried a little when I had the last bite. I mean, look at that.
Not two, not three, but six amazing layers of thin, moist chocolate cake with a rich, but somehow still delicate tasting hazelnut frosting, topped with whole hazelnuts.  There are no words that can encompass the amazing mind-blowing flavor of this cake. For only 35.00. Seriously one of the best values in town. (Call at least a week in advance for specific cakes, or to order a whole one.)

In fact Thomas and I should be nominated for sainthood because there was one piece left and we let Goggles have it even though she had gone out for the day and it was sitting
 in the fridge, taunting us with its deliciousness.

With the economy being the way it is, Horace could use more business - they are open for dinner Tuesday - Saturday night 5 - 9, and Fridays for lunch 11 - 2.  They accept reservations, and do some small scale catering (pick up only, not full service) for events.

Thomas here:

My Dad took me here a couple years ago. We LOVE German food and love it even better when it is like a home cooked meal. Some places you go feel stuffy or overly "Germanized" (like some tourist trap or a overly done kitsch hole)...

The Bavarian Restaurant is neither. It is like eating an exceptional home cooked meal at the home of a favourite Uncle. Horace and his staff go over and beyond to make the food tasty, atmosphere relaxed, and everyone comfortable.

If you know nothing about German food, the staff here will answer all your questions and even make recommendations about personal favourites.

Speaking of personal favourites, try the Curry Schnitzel! A Hearty/Sweet red curry sauce on one of Horace's incredible schnitzels. Ask for a "to go" box as soon as it hits the table. That way you don't eat the whole thing and hurt yourself. Plus, It makes a great companion to your eggs for breakfast the next morning.

Seriously though, everything on the menu is wonderful. Bratwurst with a crispy skin but moist inside, Slow roasted pork shoulder with caramelized skin, Home fried potatoes that make you homesick for that German Grandma you never had (or did), rotkraut, spatzle, potato dumplings, German potato salad, and even the green beans are to die for.

The lunch menu for Friday is clean and concise. You can get the best of the best and get back to work full of Germanic bliss without being so stuffed you need a nap.

Besides the food, Horace the owner/chef comes out whenever he can to talk to his customers and share his life with you, Will tell you most of his recipes, and even make suggestions to help your cooking style. All of the waitstaff chat with customers and it becomes a second home. Even John signs for the hearing impaired.

After everything is said and done, save the room and get dessert! If you put a slice of the Black Forest cake on a plate and balance it on your head, your tongue will beat your brains out trying to get to it. Fresh cherries, moist cake, and savoury chocolate... Hazelnut cake. strudel. stollen...

Now I'm going to have to go soon.

PS. Here's a picture of the Birthday cake that Val got for my Birthday Party recently. 6 layers of chocolate and hazelnut heaven. At a very reasonable price.

Bavarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Car Repair in San Antonio - Dalbert's is the place to go.

Val here - sorry things have been hectic at Thomas' work, and the end of the school semester for me, so we haven't updated as much.

If you are anything like me - you don't get your oil changed every 3000 miles.  You might mean to, but money is tight, or you are distracted by any of the other 900000 things you need to do in a day.

If you are like me, you might know a bit about cars, but not terribly much and probably get sales folks trying to sell you all sorts of services for your car.

Well I had to get an oil change done, and Thomas swears by Dalbert's on 133 Dinn Dr. in San Antonio.  I have gone there a couple times, but it really struck me this time that they not only offer great service - generally getting to my car pretty quickly - but that they never sell me services that I don't need - they look up what is recommended for my car, remind me to try to not go more than 5000 miles between changes, and preferably under 4000, and oh yeah, my front breaks are getting thin and I should take care of that.

I appreciate that in a mechanic.  Simple advice, no pushiness.
They have been around forever it seems, and hopefully remain there.

In the past they have been kind enough to drop me off at my house or pick me up if my car needs a lengthier repair.


Finding a good, honest, affordable mechanic is hard these days. When my first mechanic that I found here in S.A. went out of business I was stuck asking around with friends, customers, and co-workers about finding a new one. Both my truck driver and superintendent recommended Dalbert's to me about 8 years ago.

They are near my house, honest as the day is long, and actually seem to like their job.

I had them do all the routine maintenance on my '01 PT Cruiser, My Ex-wife's conversion van and now my new(ish) car and Val's car as well.

No pressure or judgement from these guys but plenty of good advice and fair pricing on the labor and parts..

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

By popular demand: Thomas getting his groove on...

At the Lone Star Cigar Bash, the band Fuego was calling people up to the stage to shake their grove thang, and when they saw Thomas in his kilt, they just had to get him up there.

He tried to get his dad to go up, but they said "No, YOU. In the funny pants."

The camera is shaking because I am laughing so hard.

Thanks Joe!

San Antonio Joe is another great San Antonio blog.  He is a great guy and an excellent writer. He posts food reviews and other commentary about our fair city. Check it out!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lone Star Cigar Bash Overview... post 2


TomTom from Tomatoes to Tomatillos

We are looking forward to doing this again next year!

We went to the cigar bash with our friends from Austin - the folks over at Tomatoes to Tomatillos, and we joined up with other friends from the Cigar Club of San Antonio, which meets at the Finck's West Avenue store.  They are a great bunch of guys, and we enjoy their company.  

She said:
Where to start?  We had an amazing time and cannot wait for next year's Cigar bash.  It is rare I enjoy spending time in a crowded room with that many people all talking at once.  However the folks that gather around Finck's events tend to be good, salt of the earth type folks that even if you don't see eye to eye with them, you don't seem to have any trouble kicking back and agreeing to disagree while smoking some of  Finck's fine cigars.  

Cigar Rolling Demonstration from Finck's
Some people with the kind of success that the Finck family has had might be arrogant, but they are just as kind and salt of the earth as their clientele. Other cigar humidors might charge expensive membership fees, but not Finck's.  Every man and woman is welcome to sit down and enjoy a cigar in their tastefully decorated lounge, and that is a beautiful thing

The Location:
Pedrotti's North Wind Ranch was nice, but definitely decorated like a ranch for people to enjoy who have never seen a ranch before.  It was fun and hokey and cute, and a great place to hang out and have fun.  If you are looking for somewhere to have a party in San Antonio, I highly recommend it. 

Pedrotti was kind enough to give Finck's a discount on the site rental, and since the event was for charity let us smoke inside, which was nice because it was kind of hot outside. 

It took us a bit to figure out where to go, really it would be my biggest suggestion for next year - if it is at a big place with more than one entrance, have a few more signs with directions. 

There was a sea of people, everyone seemed to be having a good time.  We were hungry, so we went to get some food, bopping to the music that Fuego was jamming to.  

The Food:
The food was a great variety - chicken tacos, beef tacos (not really my thing), chicken wings that were rather tasty, some VERY good brisket sandwiches (sorry Thomas...), and different crudities and cheeses. There was a good variety of interesting desserts.  I want to find out who catered for them, the range and variety made for a buffet of food almost anyone could enjoy. There was water, iced tea, beer and wine for the guests as well as a cash bar. I enjoyed the margarita I had from the bar - very well mixed, and it went very well with my cigar.  

The Cigar Reps:
Thomas talking to the rep from Miami Cigars
After we ate, we went around to view the tables and see what the vendors were offering.  Too many deals to count.  I kind of felt bad for the guys at the Xikar booth - they kindly donated lighters for everyone, and there was a constant line for their table of people wanting their lighters filled.  

There were a lot of great deals, most at 25% off.  I might have bought more, but many of the cigars I haven't tried yet, and rarely buy a full box. Miami Cigars was there with their LaSirena - our favorite, but we just bought a box. 

 I didn't want to try a lot of my new cigars because there were so many people smoking I was afraid of missing out on the full flavor of them.  I ended up being tempted by a 5pk sampler from Fuente, it featured a barber pole Short Story, an Opus X, and some different types of Gran Reserva.  At Xikar, I grabbed a new punch, because the two-piece punches I bought all keep losing a piece.  Finally Casa Magna had a 3pack of Sanchos of their Colorado blend, and Thomas thought I would like those a whole bunch.  It came in a nice tin that will hold my new punch and lighter well, and they are just the right size for a short smoke break. 

The Cigar:
Imperiales - tasty, but a light draw...
Back at the table, I decided to try the Imperiales - Leon Jimenez- which was a donation from Miami Cigar.  It was the first one that came to hand, that wasn't one that I really wanted to try somewhere where the smoke wouldn't confuse my taste buds.  I had never heard of it before, so I was curious.  It had a great flavor, strong coffee notes, burned well as far as ash goes, but I had to re light it a couple times because the draw was so light.  Will definitely get more of these as they would make a nice morning cigar. 

As the night went on we had a great time with all of our friends, talking and chatting and smoking cigars.  

The evening:

Thanking the volunteers
At the end of the evening Bill Finck Jr. and his daughter Emily honored those who were in service or who have served in a way that made my eyes tear up (but I am sensitive like that) and then they called up everyone who volunteered from the cigar company representatives to store employees and others who helped out.  For me, that acknowledgement of everything that went in to making an awesome event just added a crowning jewel of class and graciousness to the whole endeavor.  

In summary, if you have a chance to go next year, take it.  This event is more than worth the money, and all proceeds go to charity, because that is how they roll. 

Thank you Finck's.  You honor your community and your country in the way you give back.  

He Said:
The Texas Cigar Bash was wonderful! I've never been to an event like this before so didn't know what to expect. I've been to customer appreciation event's thrown by the Finck's before though and knew it was going to be "Top Shelf" all the way. I wasn't disappointed at all.

When ticket sales started Val got us tickets for My Birthday. We had tickets 17, 18, and 19. I cornered Rosemary at the store and expressed a concern about the catering. (I have a beef and seafood allergy and it is hard for me to get good food at big events in Texas because they always have one or the other.) She addressed my concern up front and Emily e-mailed Val when the menu was set to assure us that there would be foodage available for me.

That is the kind of care that the Finck Family shows their regulars.

Getting the the Ranch was easy and parking was surprisingly easy. After a minor misdirection and winding up at a Lion's Club Luncheon we got to the Cigar Bash side of things. Check-in went smooth. Upon arrival we each got a rockin' Cigar Bash duffel with the cigars, a magazine, the Xicar lighter, and other stuff in them. It was a little overwhelming to walk into the main room and the sea of humanity that was there. It was like a Gun Show, but for cigars. We checked in with Dad and then went to check out all the Vendors there.

 All of these folks were selling their wares at great prices. Next year I'll budget to buy more. All of them had some great swag for box purchases and such.

After wandering around and chatting with folks we decided to hit the food room. There were a couple good looking cheese tables and salad bars with a Brisket/BBQ cart and taco bar. Everything was very tasty (Chicken tacos, Caesar salad, hot wings and bean & cheese quesodillas) and the dessert table was overloaded with all kinds of good stuff. The air of casual friendliness was very cool here. Folks asked to join our table and we all chatted like friends and we said our goodbyes.
Thomas with his Oliva Serie O - he gives it 2 thumbs up.

After hanging out and noshing we went back to the main room.

There were multiple drawing for some great door-prizes.

The Band Fuego rocked the house.

While there I smoked the Oliva Serie O from my duffel of smokiness. Nice full flavored stick with hints of spice. I tried Val's Imperiales. Very nice and tasty but with a very light draw.

Finck's and Fisher house Director
As the evening came to a close, Bill and family called the Director of the Fisher House up to explain about all the great work they were doing. They had all the Active duty, retired and prior service folks stand to be recognized and then called all the volunteers and vendors to the front to thank them.

Thank You to all the folks at Finck's   for a great time and all that you continue to do for our community.

Lone Star Cigar Bash post one of ?

Val here,

SORRY! I wanted to live blog the event but my phone died :(
Next time I will bring extra batteries.

Let's just say that I was very impressed.  It took mere moments to check in, Finck's did such an excellent job of staffing the event, everything seemed to run so smoothly.

The food was excellent, the band Fuego was rocking, the vendors were fantastic!  I don't have time to do a lengthy post, and will glorify it later in text tomorrow.

Bill Finck Jr.  and family were wonderful hosts.  He asked me what he could do to improve it other than give us some Perdomos, and I didn't really have anything to say to that, because all the cigars in the set were lovely.

Thinking about it later I can think of 3 things.

1) signs in the parking lot so I am not wondering around lost in my heels trying to find out how to get in
2) better ventilation - it got a bit smokey in there with hundreds of people smoking and the poor girls rolling cigars looked like their eyes were giving them trouble because of it...
3) draw my ticket for the raffle next time (just sayin'...)

The bags were custom with the store logo on it.  Instead of 20 cigars, however, there were 19 (no big deal since the ones that were in there were AMAZING) plus a xikar lighter and a copy of a cigar magazine.  Way cool.

So in the bag was:
1) Finck's Commerce - Reserva Privada (Premiered at the event...)
2) Finck's Travis Club Family Blend (Just released last month!)
3) Finck's Lamb Club Cubano
4) La Gloria Artesanos Retro Especiale - looking forward to trying this - seems it won't officially release until late summer/fall
5) Oliva Serie O
6) PDR 1878
7) Fuentes Gran Reserva
8) Alex Bradley Black Market
9) Xicar - HTC Corojo
10) Rocky Patel Renaissance
11) Padron (not sure which one, doesn't say on the label)
12) Drew Estate Natural
13) Casa Magna Colorado
14) San Cristobal Elagancia
15) H. Upman 1844
16) CAO - OSA Sol
17) La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero
18) Imperiales - Leon Jimenez
19) Makers Mark

At the event I tried the Imperiales.  Later that night I tried the Travis Club Family blend - both were quite good, Thomas had the Oliva Serie O and then later the Travis Club Family blend too.  We will blog about  all that and more tomorrow.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Vacuum Coffee Pots - They are powered by Black Magic. (Some might call it physics)

Val here...

So we began to have trouble with our coffee pot.  Thomas got tired of it and got rid of it.

That left us with dunn dunn dunn.... the Vacuum Pot.  It looks innocent enough...for a stainless steel contraption that looks like it belongs on the bench of a Satanic Alchemist...

Thomas used it occasionally to make coffee when he wanted a GOOD cup of coffee.

It mystified me. Thomas would put water in one end and coffee in another - it would start bubbling like crazy and he would do that mad scientist laugh and cackle about taking over the world and then there was coffee.* 

Das Devil Pot.
Once he left me with it going, said to watch for the bubbling and turn it down, but I turned my back for a moment and then there was angry hissing and an ominous gurgling sound.  I turned around and there was black muck everywhere...

So yeah... we are back to the vacuum pot, or as I like to call it, the devil pot. 

Did I mention I am in grad school?  Grad students are coffee powered reading machines.  When deprived of coffee, we just kind of curl up and die...

Did I mention I am not at my best in the mornings?  Typical grad school exhaustion from late nights plus narcolepsy plus never been a morning person?  

I only had one way to get the fuel to survive... master the devil pot.  Not just succeed...I had to be able to master it in the zombie like state I am in when I drag myself out of bed.

Now Thomas has brought his daughter Goggles up steeped in the lore of the black magic devil pot.  She would cackle maniacally as she flaunted her evil coffee making skills. 

I would try and try ... either it exploded, or in fear of the explosion I took it off the heat too soon and it would just sit there and mock me - a murky muddy puddle of water and coffee grounds. Thomas or Goggles would roll their  eyes and work their evil charms on it and I would have coffee. 

Then one day, mumbling incantations under my breath (and figuring out that the stronger the change in temperature, the better the vacuum would work) and I had coffee. Score 1 for Val (We will ignore the unfairly high score the devil pot had - it was cheating)

Now I, too have become an expert in using the black magic of vacuum coffeemancy.  Sometimes, though I wish for the simplicity of pushing a button and getting coffee.

I fear for my mortal soul, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do to survive.

*This might be slightly exaggerated from what really happens.

Thomas Here...

Magic is just science you don't understand. Just sayin'. 8^)

BTW, The Black Magic Devil Pot is a vintage stainless steel vacuum pot.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Get your tickets for the Lone Star Cigar Bash! Discounts for Veterans

The folks over at Finck's Cigar Outlet posted this yesterday. Their Lone Star Cigar Bash is promising to be one epic event.  This is our favorite humidor/Cigar shop.  Thomas and I get out there whenever we can.

If we want this to become an annual event, we have to make sure it is big big big.

How can you beat getting one ticket 80% off when you buy one full ticket.  You just need to have served in the military or be active duty, police, or fire department.  Finck's has always been generous to those who serve our country.  And that ticket still gets you everything a full priced ticket does.  Go ahead, call them up, you know you want to...

This event goes to benefit Fisher House - a home away from home for the families of wounded soldiers.  I think this is a charity we can all get behind.

Thank you to the Finck family, who makes these amazing events possible and to the vendors who are participating, and to the generous customer that made this discount possible.

So who will be joining us out there Saturday?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Yum Yum Indeed! - Yum Yum Thai on Nacogdoches

Yum Yum Thai
13777 Nacogdoches
Ste 101
San Antonio, TX
Price Range - inexpensive
Indoor seating only, no television
Music is Asian, played at a moderate level, good for conversation.  Great place for a casual date.
Atmosphere: Very nice, tastefully decorated
Service: Excellent
Value: Incredible.  High quality meals for very reasonable prices, good sized servings.
Overall: 5/5 stars.

She said:
This is one of our regular places to eat.  We go here fairly often in the rotation, so obviously we like it well enough that it is going to be somewhere we go again and again.

Our good friends initially recommended this restaurant, and so we gave it a try.  Oh my goodness.  After the first trip, we kept returning.  We often went to Thai Chalurn on Walzem (and we still do...) but when we have the time to drive out to Yum Yum (which is a lot further from where we live) we get there whenever we can.

The owner and her husband run the restaurant.  She cooks and he is the host with the most.  Kind and courteous, with an excellent memory for faces, he greets and seats the guests whenever he is in.  The waitresses are all sweet and helpful, and if there is something they cannot help with, he comes over and makes sure everything is right.

The restaurant is fairly new, and business is good, but they could do with more customers - so I definitely urge you to give this a try.

This restaurant has a flexible menu and they are great at working with allergies.  All of their ingredients are fresh, and everything is made from scratch.  I tend to be a bit less adventurous than Thomas, so once I find a favorite dish, it is hard for me to order anything else.   I usually get the Orange Chicken, with an appetizer of spring rolls.  Thomas has ordered all over the menu, often getting Laab with pork, and Tom Yum Gai with chicken.

Good news for spice lovers and spice haters - they are VERY flexible as to how hot you order things.  Warning though the difference between hot and Thai hot is exponential.  Do not get the Thai hot unless you really want to burn something off. Thai hot is hot enough that Thomas only gets it sometimes (and this is the man that picks thai peppers off the bush and eats them at work).

Now for the details: Their orange chicken is a crispy fillet of chicken breast, breaded and fried to perfection. It continues to be a bit crisp after the sauce is added, but it is never dry, and never greasy.  The sauce is sweet without being overpoweringly sweet, and they remember just how much Thai pepper to add to it for me.

The spring rolls are crunchy, and the sauce is sweet with a touch of Thai pepper.  The flavor is incredible, and Thomas is happy he can eat them.  They make them with chicken and vegetables and noodles and they are to die for.

I could not do the Laab or Tom Yum Gai justice, so Thomas will come back and post about those.

He Said:
This is one of our favourite places to go out. It is a hole in the wall place that delivers World Class food and service. Fine dining on a family budget.

Everything on the menu is great. I have tried everything that I can (Beef and seafood allergies suck) and have found it all amazing. Pad Thai, Laab, Tom Yum Gai, Spring Rolls... I just can't relate how good and fresh tasting the food is. The bulk of the peppers and other produce they use are sourced locally. So if you are a localvore, this is the place for you.

This Husband/Wife duo take their customer's satisfaction seriously and do everything they can to make sure that everything is right.  Their waitstaff and HusbandOwner keep your drinks filled and table cleared without hovering and the Wife/Owner runs the kitchen like I can imagine her kitchen at the house is. When She isn't cooking She'll come out and chat with the diners and make facetime (one of the things I look for in restaurants.)

If you like Thai food, go eat there. If you've never tried Thai food, go eat there. If you don't like Thai food, they have an excellent Chinese menu, go eat there!

Yum Yum Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon