Thursday, December 2, 2010

The First Annual Restaurant Review

December 2, 2010

So, immediately you say, “a restaurant review? You?” I’m entitled. I may not be the foremost authority on food, preparation, or presentation, but I know what I like. I know when the food tastes good. I know when I am pleased with the service. What else is there?

So we (yes, today I have a partner on my travels) start out, making sure we have everything necessary. And even though I always tend to forget something (see previous article) we hastily load up and start out on our journey. And a journey it shall be. You see, I decided to review a rather unknown restaurant just a little farther from the house than your typical evening dinner out. We decide to make it a two or three day trip and spend the first night at my sister’s house in Canyon City, about three hours away. We begin by making the first gas station so that we need not be bothered by fuel on this first leg of the trip, which was rather uneventful. About halfway there we did pass the exit to Kyle, and remembering my prior experiences in Kyle we decided to avoid that exit. We arrive at my sister’s with plenty of daylight remaining and ample time for socializing. After a modest amount of exploration around the area, and wanting to get an early start the next morning we head to bed plenty early. And just so that we would have something to write about my sister’s house decided to contribute some material of its own. They have a rather large grandfather clock situated just outside the bedroom door where we were to sleep and every fifteen minutes it decided to let loose with a melody that lasted about fourteen minutes (or so it seemed) at a volume which did not disturb me, due to my failing hearing, but kept Jackie up all night. It seemed the logical solution would be to close the door, which we did, but then revealed the next of our disturbing events. The alarm system control panel was set to glow constantly. And it was bright! So, either we tolerated the light or the sound. I was quite happy with either but Jackie never could make up her mind and simply never got any sleep all night. I guess draping a dry wash cloth over the alarm panel was just too easy of a solution..

We got an early start the next morning as expected and stopped off at the local donut shop for a cup of java and something to settle our stomachs for the long trip ahead of us.  I decided for a cinnamon roll and a dozen holes and Jackie requested a hot dog kolache without the pastry part of it. Just a hot dog? Who eats just a hot dog for breakfast?

En route to our destination, somewhere beyond Sonora or so, but not yet to Fort Stockton we came upon an area where all you could see on the horizon was windmills. Not the Holland style windmills nor the water well type of structure, but those new electric generating windmills. In this part of the country there are multiple plateaus situated above valleys, or even flat areas, and the plateaus are simply lined with these tall white electric generating windmills. It rather reminded me of all the aborigines lined up on the ridges in the movie Quigley Down Under. For as far as you could see there were windmills. From the south horizon to the west, and continuing on to the north, nothing but windmills. Now I realize where all those propeller blades you see passing through town are headed. I remember wondering why I never see any of the pedestals on trucks headed this way. Maybe they are manufactured elsewhere and thus do not pass through my neck of the woods.

Additionally we began seeing more than just hills and high plateaus. We were now seeing small mountains in the distant. Mountains that would soon grow to epic heights to those of us that have spent our lives in east Texas, but still referred to as hills by those in Colorado, Montana, and others. As we traveled into those mountains I could feel my truck struggling to get up and around those hills. In fact, it seemed that even though we were going downhill it struggled. I doubt that it was the thinning air as fuel injected engines are not supposed to be affected by altitude changes. After setting up the GPS I could see that even though it looked like we were often travelling downhill we were, in fact, steadily increasing in altitude. It actually sickened me slightly, but then, a lot of things do. It was almost like being in the fun house at the carnival.

I knew we were getting to West Texas when we started seeing towns that have been mentioned in John Wayne movies. El Dorado, Blanco, Ozona, Sweetwater, and several others. It took all I could to keep from taking a side trips to each one just to be the standard tourist.

We arrived at our destination of Sierra Blanca, Texas at about four in the afternoon. I would have thought for sure that we would be simply wasted after the long day on the road but we actually felt pretty good, so we decided to explore just a little. Ok, by now you have come to realize that this really isn’t about a restaurant review, haven’t you? We did have another reason for making this trip out west. Jackie had purchased some property out this way some years back and this would be my first trip out here. Of course, it was mule deer season and breaking out the 270 for a deer or the 204 for a predator of some sort was not out of the question. From the hotel where we were staying for the night to the property turned out to be about 60 miles. She didn’t mention that. Of course, I found out that a trip to the grocery store in these parts is in excess of 70 miles one way most of the time. We arrived in the area of the property shortly before sunset only to discover that the fall rains had washed out not only one, but two areas of the road just before her property. Not wanting to deal with it all this evening we decided to abandon the property viewing for the evening and head into town for a bite to eat before turning in.

We decided on one of the only two places in town to eat, La Familia Restaurant and Gift Shop. Well the gift shop portion of the place was already closed so we sat down at a table near the register. The only other occupied table was just next to where we sat. We were promptly greeted by a young Hispanic female. Jackie ordered a fajita enchilada while I decided on the Mexican Plate so that I would have a sampling of several things. The young lady took our order then visited the next table, presumably to check on their drinks or whatever. The waitress handed one of the customers at the table something that looked like a check, but instead of the couple heading to the register to pay they passed it right up and headed into the kitchen to prepare our order. Turns out it was the cooks sitting at the next table. Jackie’s order was ready a couple of minutes prior to mine and sat on the counter under the heat lamps for those minutes. I was seated to where I could watch the cook at the grill prepare my meal. On several occasions she took a squeeze bottle of what looked like oil and squirted it not only on the grill itself, but also on absolutely everything she cooked. But, I was open minded and willing to reserve any comments until I had tried it, which finally did come.

Jackie proceeded to unwrap her enchilada to find nothing but fajita meat wrapped in a corn tortilla. No rice or beans. She had to request hot sauce (we did not get any chips & salsa) and sour cream to dress it up some. The sour cream came in a small package which actually made us feel a little better as the cleanliness of the place was rather short of the local gas station restrooms. My meal consisted of a Chile rellenos, two cheese enchiladas, taco, rice, and beans. The taco meat had no real seasoning in it at all so it was not much more than lettuce and tomato in a crunchy shell with some chewy something on the side. Having tolerated the taco I moved on to the chile rellenos. Now, all the chili rellenos I have had in the past was filled with seasoned hamburger meat or something. This one came to me flat leaving my to wonder what was waiting for me inside. As it turned out it had no filling in it at all. My chile rellenos was simply a fried pepper. Next was the cheese enchiladas. How could someone mess up a cheese enchilada? Cold is one way, and cold it was. As it turns out the beans and rice was the best thing found at La Familia Restaurant and Gift Shop. See? It is a restaurant review after all.

The next morning we headed out to the property with sufficient help to get all the way to the property. The local ‘guide’ that accompanied us seemed well enough equipped to handle most any situation but even he had to manually fill in a ditch or two just to get to the property. Then he decides to drive off into a huge ditch and get completely stuck so that I had to break out my chains to get him free. It was about that point that we decided to simply walk the remainder of the way and avoid any further chance of losing our transportation completely.

Many times, when walking around on my property, I dream about a variety of things. This particular property reminded me of the many John Wayne movies I have seen over the years. One specific one, in fact. McClintock! One certain passage in that movie applied to this property. As I recall it goes something like this… “This land hates the plow. Serves pretty good for cattle. But you just can’t make it go on the Mesa verde.” I really believe this about Jackie’s property. Even the mesquite has better sense than to try to survive there. Tumbleweed is obviously formed when bushes intentionally chew themselves off at the ground to free themselves so that the wind might blow it to another county. There was not much there but rock. Lots of rock, limestone, talc (or whatever talc is made from) and sand. There was sand everywhere. On everything. In everything. Around everything. There was sand in the air. So much so, that you could not see more than a mile or so. It didn’t appear as a widespread sand storm, but then, I have never seen a sandstorm short of the movies.

We did see several herds of pronghorn antelope, but no deer, although we saw evidence of both in abundance. Being a week into deer season explains why they are keeping a low profile.

Not wanting to be left alone out on the ‘mesa verde’ we decided to leave once our guide’s truck was freed. There was no communications available at all. Cell service was non existent and if we were to get stuck ourselves we would be sort of on our own unless the amateur radio that I had brought along could raise someone local. We decided to go on into El Paso for the remainder of the day just for sightseeing.

There is not much in El Paso, and if it were not for Fort Bliss we would not have been at all entertained the entire afternoon. As it was we ended up in New Mexico for lunch just to say we had been there this trip.

We started back early the next morning and was over 100 miles into our trip before we found anything open to get breakfast or even a cup of morning coffee. We drove all the way back not even stopping at my sister’s. It took an entire day for me to recover from this trip and we both decided that the next trip out we are going to fly. I think we would rather enjoy the pat down by the TSA instead of the intolerable 700+ miles in the pickup.

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