Tag Archives: Central Texas

Christmas Cheer at Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas

Christmas Tree at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, TexasBecause I’ve married a persistent man, we attended Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas, on Saturday, December 10, 2016.  Honestly, Mr. Carter wasn’t going to let me get away with not driving to Wimberley on this particular night, and I’m so glad that he persuaded me to go.

The night air was heavy with drizzly rain and, in the outlying areas around Wimberley, light fog obscured our view as we drove down the winding roads. Neither the rain nor the cool weather could stop the festivities, however. Townsfolk and visitors lined the streets as people walked from shop to shop, sipping wine and hot cocoa.

Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival is an annual event hosted by the Wimberley Merchants Association. The festival’s been in existence since 2007. The cool thing about the festival, and the premise from which the festival springs, is that you can shop until 10:00 p.m. that night.Metal Reindeer at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festvial in Wimberley, Texas

The only shopping we did was window shopping, I’m sad to say, as there were so many lovely wares to be found. However, my husband, Dave, and I had a blast looking at the various wares in the shops that were open.

It truly was a winter wonderland with the misty rain and surprises in every shop we stopped to browse in. Our first stop was for coffee at Sip! on the Square. Dave and I ordered spiced Mexican mocha lattes that were absolutely delish! The lattes warmed our insides while we walked the streets and took in all the sights and sounds. (We’ve visited this coffee shop in the past while on the road for business, and it’s such a delightful place. Please give this merchant your business as they will surprise and delight you with all kinds of yummy drinks!)

Laura Townshend Carter and Dave Carter at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas
Laura Townshend Carter and Dave Carter

Every corner had a band or solo artist performing. There was also so much food and drink to experience; it was far too much for Mr. Carter and I to swallow in one night.

We’re total goobers, I know. It’s easy to see from the photo that my husband and I don’t let a little rain stop our plans. Wet hair? No problem! Just keep on with the fun and smile, smile, smile!

The truth is, fire pits were strategically placed around the square so Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas.it was quite easy to warm up. If you stood still for more than a couple of minutes, someone associated with the festival would offer you $2 in Wimberley bucks (play money that was equal to real money at participating area merchants) to purchase or put towards pretty much anything your heart desired. We also participated in a raffle which was a nice way to donate a little money. Congrats to the person who won!

Because Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival has had almost a decade to improve and refine the event, everything ran smoothly. The festival even had…wait for it…drum roll…belly dancers! The two women who danced were spectacular and I thoroughly enjoyed photographing the ladies. See for yourself!

Belly Dancers at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas
Belly Dancers that ROCK!
Green Belly Dancer at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas
Green Belly Dancer
Red Belly Dancer at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas
Red Belly Dancer

 

Aren’t the ladies beautiful? Each one had colored light to dance within, which made for a surreal effect. Swaying to the music, I was captivated by the dancers’ charm. In the crowd, many of us photographed and videoed the experience.

Do you remember making cartoons on the edge of your second-grade writing pad, then flipping the pages quickly to watch a horse canter or a fish swim? I have so many photos that I can run quickly through them on my iPhone and make the ladies dance. (Yes, I’m  a bit of a creative nerd.)

But I digress. Walking on through the night, Mr. Carter and I stumbled upon the following merchants on the square. Here is the story of our experiences.

Aunt Jenny's Attic at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas
Aunt Jenny’s Attic

Aunt Jenny’s Attic sells creative gifts and European collectibles. We didn’t go into this marvelous shop, but it looked quite enticing. From what I understand, lovers of unique, one-of-a-kind pieces easily fall in love with Aunt Jenny’s Attic. Looking at the outside of this boutique, I must admit that I love Christmas soldiers and royalty, so Aunt Jenny’s Attic got top marks from me for the decorations. The red and green outfit for the King, combined with a sweet, bearded face deserves a photo (even if he is just a seasonal decoration). The garlands and large wreath were also photo-worthy.

Kiss The Cook at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas.
Kiss the Cook

Kiss the Cook features bakeware, cookware, tools and gadgets. They also do wedding registries and recipes This is another shop we didn’t enter, but it sounds like quite a bit of fun. As an avid foodie and wannabe chef (not really, but I dig cooking and experimenting with new recipes), Kiss the Cook sounds like it could be tons of fun to peruse.

Upon seeing the sign, my first impression was that Kiss the Cook was a restaurant. (What a darling name, right?) I did my research, however, and found exactly what the shop does. Had to say I was a little disappointed, but only because I’d love to kiss the cook who feeds me exceptional meals!

Cottage on the Square at Christmas Eve A Winter Festival in Wimberley, Texas.
Cottage on the Square

Cottage on the Square is a quaint bed and breakfast that lies within the Wimberley town square. I’m sure the building holds many old secrets and history we may never know. Not only does the downstairs serve as a vintage shop, but this B&B consistently receives high ratings from its guests.

The structure of the old home engaged me and I wanted to follow the stone path inside and never come out. Dave and I will revisit this little bed and breakfast, neatly tucked into the middle of Wimberley, when we come this way again for business. Who wants to stay in a hotel when you can have a B&B?

Life Inspired at Winter's Eve A Christmas Eve Festival in Wimberley, Texas.
Life Inspired

And our last stop as we walked the Square was Life Inspired. At this store, you’re seeking a gift for a special person. To quote Life Inspired, “This is inspired gift giving.”

Truthfully, I can’t tell you much more than that, because we were making our way back to where we started at this point, and we did not enter this shop, either. However, looking at the careful way the entrance and sitting area is decorated, I think anyone would be more than happy with the wares Life Inspired offers. Check it out, and come back here or to the Big Grey Horse Media Facebook page to talk about it.

The Bazaar at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas.
The Bazaar

Course, if you know me, I’ve always got one more surprise up my sleeve. As we walked back to the car, I noticed The Bazaar. What could be more fun than dressing up as a sexy Santa and Mrs. Claus?

The Bazaar is conveniently located in both Wimberley and Austin. I’ve visited the Austin location, and it’s a fun journey through various costumes, lingerie, and more. It’s something everyone should do at least once in their lives. Even better if you’re shopping for that unique costume to take you through the Texas Renaissance Festival, Halloween, or a very sexy Christmas.

We had a blast at Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival! It was tons of fun and we encourage you to participate next year. If you go with an open pocketbook, all the more fun, I’m certain. We thank the Wimberley Merchants Association for hosting the event and putting on such a good time. Quite a bit of thought went into the festival and we really appreciate all the hard work that went on behind the scenes. What Dave Carter and I experienced was seamless.

You can’t ask for much more than that.

All of us at Big Grey Horse Media wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas From Big Grey Horse MediaMerry Christmas and  Happy Holiday Season.

May your days be merry and bright –

And may all your Christmases be right here in Texas!

 

Takeaway

Visit the Wimberley Merchants Association to keep up with next year’s Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival.

Wimberley, Texas, is a mecca within Central Texas. If you’ve not been there before, check it out. Should it ever happen that Dave and I are not able to live where we do, Wimberley would be the next stop for us.

 

 

 

 

 

Media Preview Party at the Grand Opening of Smashburger in Waco, Texas

Smashburger on Foodio54

Smashburger on Urbanspoon

Danny Gallagher is Big Grey Horse Media’s newest contributing writer. His first assignment was to attend the media preview party for Smashburger in Waco, Texas. Being the agreeable guy that he is, Danny attended and sampled the food for us. Reading through this piece, I am very curious to try Smashburger during the upcoming horse shows in Waco and in Katy.

Hamburgers are a classic part of the American diet because they seem so simple and almost ordinary in their preparation, and yet we have 147 different ways to present them to the hungry masses. Sure, they are just a flat slab of ground beef with a thick piece of bread on either side, but mankind has somehow found a way to improve upon an already perfect marriage of protein and carbohydrates.

Staff at the new Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
The staff of Waco’s first Smashburger gets ready to open its door to the public.

Global fast food chains, for instance, have their own spin on the burger, whether it’s the triple decker, special sauce tower known as McDonald’s Big Mac, or the pork-infused, sandwich eating challenge we call Wendy’s Baconator. Some offer small, bite-sized burger snacks like the famed White Castle Slider or the massive, behemoths of meat, cheese, and bread such as the Hardee’s Monster Thickburger. Both, however, are usually eaten when the person is either drunk or hungover, and this rarely leads to a positive emotional and physical outcome.

Today’s eater on-the-go has more health conscious thoughts on his carb-riddled mind, even as he craves something naughty-yet-nourishing as the noble burger. Some chains have tried to cater to this new consumer by offering a more carefully prepared form of comfort food with fresher ingredients and lower calorie offerings. It’s still an unapologetic form of the classic American burger, but these menus offer an interesting mix of artery clogging goodness and some healthier alternatives for people with the nerve to actually stick to a diet plan for longer than five minutes without saying, “I’m starting right after this last french fry. OK, this one. No, wait, this one. I really mean it after this one. Well, I can’t let the rest of these go to waste…”

Smashburger is a strange, unique mix of the two. The establishment encourages patrons to stop, sit, and eat their food rather than have it thrown to them through a car window. However, Smashburger’s menu isn’t full of health food, either, just because it doesn’t come in a wrapper that can be cleverly twisted to serve as a portable holder for the person who doesn’t have time to actually stop and look at what he’s putting into his mouth. You’d be surprised how many people end up getting a big bite of their wallet or cell phone, since both usually have the same nutritional value, except wallets don’t have the same amount of trans fats.

KWTX's Taina Maya at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
KWTX’s Taina Maya samples Smashburger’s Classic Chicken Sandwich during the media preview party.

Smashburger’s Waco branch mostly follows the same model as the rest of the 300-plus locations across the country and parts of Canada. It sits in a quaint little shopping area. Parking was plentiful for the media preview party, but it looked a little small for a place that’s about to get a huge influx of customers. Remember, too, there’s no drive-thru lane. It might be best to visit during its non-peak hours or when you’re not pressed for time.

Nick Canizales eats at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
Nick Canizales takes a bite of the BBQ, Bacon and Cheddar Burger.

The decor of the restaurant also matches the core of its locations. The Smashburger brand revels in mild art-deco decor with rounded, red lamps dangling from the ceiling and large, monochrome portraits of families enjoying a good ol’ American meal. Since this is a new location, it is practically pristine, and the staff seems eager to keep it that way as long as it can stay open and attract a steady stream of hungry customers. Of course, if you’re in a place like Smashburger, you’re more likely to care about the food anyway.

Thomas McConkey at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
Shift leader, Thomas McConkey, loads a batch of menus in preparation for Smashburger’s hungry customers on its opening day.

The menu goes slightly beyond the usual selections of burgers, fries, and large, addictive cylinders of caffeinated colas. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re trying to watch what you eat or are just sick of the usual finger food, Smashburger does offer some interesting alternatives with mixed results. Of course, if you’re in the mood for a regular pile of fries, you’re in luck. Smashburger offers a thinly stripped french fry that feels very close to the old shoestring potatoes your grandmother would put on the green bean casserole at Thanksgiving. These french fries are easy to get addicted to because they taste so light and crispy. Just make sure you get a batch that’s been freshly fried since the fries turn stale and soggy real quick as they cool off.

Customers can also order a number of different finger foods. My favorite was the fried jalapenos, something most restaurants get wrong because they just fry the whole thing and stuff it with processed cheese. Smashburger slices their jalapenos almost paper-thin and lets them float in the frying oil for just a few seconds, creating a tasty, almost delicate layer of crispy fried goodness. The spice level is good, but minimal.

Smashburger also sells a tasty side of fried pickles and a side of lightly grilled vegetables as healthier finger foods. The onion strings, however, became my least favorite of the bunch. They tasted like a handful of fried something that may or may not have had a speck of stringy onions in it.

Sides at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
A collection of Smashburger’s sides including fried pickles, onion strings, and fried jalapenos.

The main courses offer a fairly wide variety of burgers and sandwiches that cater to different tastes and offer an interesting range of healthy alternatives. The difference between Smashburger’s burgers and the rest is literally in the title. Each patty is smashed with a special press that sears in the natural flavor of the meat and gives each beef disc an interesting, seared, crispy edge that becomes less well done as you work your way to the middle. Smashburger also serves their burgers on egg buns.

District manager Brad Brown smashing a burger at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
District manager, Brad Brown, shows where Smashburger gets its name from by preparing a smashed burger on the grill.

 

 

The Regular Burger

The Classic Smash at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
Classic Smash Burger

Just about every burger joint has to get their most basic hamburger right. It’s the foundation for the rest of the menu because if they can’t accomplish something tasty with the most basic burger ingredients, then there’s no way they can do the same with more complicated ingredients. Thankfully, Smashburger gets its most basic burger right. The meat is lean and comes loaded with vegetables, a must for any good burger, since any schmuck can slap a piece of meat between two pieces of bread. This burger also has a tangy, special sauce if you’re sick of the usual ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise mix.

 

The BBQ, Bacon, and Cheddar Burger

BBQ, Bacon and Cheddar Burger at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
BBQ, Bacon, and Cheddar Burger

The BBQ, bacon, and cheddar burger was easily the best of the comfort food bunch. It’s got a nice, rich, tangy barbecue sauce smothered with those fried onions that don’t work so well on their own, but do a nice job of complementing the mix of tastes this sandwich offers. Most of the burgers aren’t very greasy on their own, but a BBQ burger needs a little grill runoff to complete its smoky texture and flavor. I’m not suggesting that Smashburger serve this burger with a grease dip or anything (which I immediately regret writing because somebody is probably trying to patent that idea as we speak).

 

The Truffle Mushroom Swiss Burger

Truffle Mushroom Swiss Burger at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
Truffle Mushroom Swiss Burger

The truffle mushroom Swiss burger was easily the least appetizing of the bunch. Mushroom burgers aren’t my first choice, but they can be good if you’re looking for something hearty that’s light on veggies and just above eating a plain, ordinary burger. This burger, however, didn’t taste right. The bar was set pretty high, but the truffle mayonnaise was just too rich and overpowering. The mushroom felt soggy as it soaked up what little grease was already in the cheese and beef patty. Adding an egg bun to the mix didn’t calm my stomach.

 

The Texas Burger

Texas Burger at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
Texas Burger

Each Smashburger location offers a special, local burger to the menu and in this case, the Texas burger was kind of a disappointment. It was tasty, but it didn’t seem to stray very far from the norm. In fact, there is only one difference between this burger and Smashburger’s regular creation: mustard. Granted, Smashburger already has a BBQ burger, but it doesn’t seem necessary to put a burger on the menu with an ingredient that you can put on yourself, depending on how lazy you feel and how much energy you’re willing to expel with the muscles in your hand and arm.

 

The Spicy Veggie Black Bean Burger

Spicy Veggie Black Bean Sandwich at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
Spicy Veggie Black Bean Burger

If you’re trying to watch your weight, Smashburger offers some creative burger alternatives. This black bean patty is meat free. That might be considered a sacrilege for some parts of a state that prides itself on its ability to consume cows per capita. However, it’s actually a pretty tasty treat that won’t fill you with regret as it fills you up. The spicy veggie black bean burger is loaded with fresh veggies. The patty is made entirely out of black beans, which does have a weird texture for a burger, but is quite hearty and flavorful. The spices give this hippie option a real kick, like putting a flame-shooting engine on a Toyota Prius. It’s not necessary, but it helps it stand out from its meatier brothers.

 

The Chicken Classic and Avocado Club Chicken Sandwiches

Classic Chicken Sandwich at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
Classic Chicken Sandwich

Smashburger also offers two chicken alternatives including a basic grilled chicken sandwich with vegetables, and an original twist on the chicken club with avocado and a ranch-mayo dressing on the whole grain bun. The chicken could have been a little plumper and almost felt lost in the mix of toppings and sauces, but the avocado club had such a wonderful, flavorful mix that it was easier to overlook.

Avocado Club Chicken Sandwich at Smashburger in Waco, Texas.
Avocado Club Chicken Sandwich

 

Takeaway

Smashburger is located at 1230 N. Valley Mills Drive in Waco, Texas 76710. The phone number is 254-400-2749. Visit Smashburger online for menus, online ordering, and more.

 

Images courtesy of Danny Gallagher.

 

Fresh, Delicious, Juicy: Smashburger Comes to Waco, Texas

Smashburger logo
Image courtesy of Smashburger.

Disclosure: Big Grey Horse Media received an invitation to Smashburger’s Media Preview Party. However, it was my decision to write this piece and the invitation did nothing to sway my views of Smashburger except to raise my awareness of the brand. Big Grey Horse Media endorses and supports companies that use fresh ingredients and you know, we love gourmet fast food! Danny Gallagher, one of Big Grey Horse Media’s contributing writers, will be attending the Media Preview Party. We eagerly await his post and yummy photos!

Fast food becomes gourmet when Smashburger comes to Waco, Texas. The company began as Rich Schaden’s dream in 2007. Consumer Capital Partners funded the venture, which has grown into 39 restaurants in Texas, and over 200 restaurants worldwide.

Smashburger interior
Photo courtesy of Smashburger.

What sets Smashburger apart is the food. We’re not talking about regular fast food, folks. This isn’t McDonald’s. We’re talking about fresh Angus beef that’s never been frozen. The name Smashburger comes from the technique used on a 400 degree, flat grill, where the Angus beef burgers are smashed.

How many fast food burger joints can lay claim to that?

Smashburger is also unique because each restaurant offers a bit of diversion. Regional tastes are kept in mind when the menu is prepared.

Classic Onion Burger with Shake at Smashburger
Photo courtesy of Smashburger.

Milkshakes crafted from Haagen-Dazs ice cream, fresh toppings and condiments, salads, chicken burgers…gotta say that writing this post has me feeling worked up and hungry. I’m not a big beef burger fan, but when I do crave a juicy, delicious burger, it must be fresh and high quality. And yes, Afriel and I plan on eating at Smashburger when we’re out and about. Why not?

BBQ Bacon Cheese with Fries at Smashburger
Photo courtesy of Smashburger.
Avocado Chicken Club at Smashburger
Photo courtesy of Smashburger.

The choices are great folks, from what I can see. A company that’s focused on quality gets my vote every time. Fast food’s become an important commodity in today’s landscape of busy families and big business in America. However, fast food can quickly get away from value when poor menu choices are offered. Value does not equal cheap prices and crappy food. Making people sick because they are poor or crunched for time isn’t helping folks live the American dream (if that even exists!).

I dig what Smashburger (and companies like it) are doing.

Responsible choices, ya’ll.

 

Takeaway

Smashburger is located at 1230 N. Valley Mills Drive in Waco, Texas 76710. The phone number is 254-400-2749. Visit Smashburger online for menus, online ordering, and more.

 

If your company would like Big Grey Horse Media to attend your events, please contact me. We’re hear to spread the word about brands we love.

 

Get Ready, Austin – Dover Saddlery Opens Soon!

Newspaper Taxi - Jenny Paisley Riding ClinicDover Saddlery is coming to Austin! The grand opening weekend is November 8-10, 2013. This is an exciting time for Austin equestrians.

Since I began riding again in 2005, Dover Saddlery’s been a favorite tack shop stop. I’ve not had the privilege of going to an actual Dover store because they are too far away. The internet, once again, levels the playing field. I love shopping at Dover’s online store. (Afriel and I have a wish list two miles long!)

What keeps Dover rockin’ with the equestrian scene is the tack store’s ability to warehouse and supply so damned many items. Everything from medication to supplements, saddles to barn equipment, and a plethora of equestrian attire. And more! Dover really has cornered the market with 1) inventory and 2) price.

I’ve heard a few people complain about Dover on Chronicle of the Horse forums, but I’ve Double Jeopardy - Blue Ribbon Summer Festival IInever had a problem. Twice, in all the years I’ve ordered from Dover, items went missing en route to my home. Not a problem, however. Dover’s excellent customer service team apologized and reshipped immediately. Now that’s how you handle customers you value.

Now Dover Saddlery has made its way to Central Texas. It’s great for us because I’d love to visit the storefront and meet the team running it. We also have very little competition with the few tiny tack stores, so this is good for business. I hope to see Dover trailers at the horse shows in Zone 7, too.

Dover, is that going to happen?

I’ve received my special invitation to the store’s private VIP reception. I’ve also received other literature compiling some grand opening specials. This Dover store will cater to the following disciplines: hunter/jumper, eventing, and dressage (no surprise). Check out the goodies! When you come for the grand opening weekend, you may win a $500 shopping spree. Every equestrian knows $500 won’t go too far – ha! – but this is a mighty generous prize from a great brand.

There will also be door prizes, samples, giveaways, and the opportunity to meet Dover Saddlery product advisors.

Thanks for a fantastic year of riding, Dover! You were a BIG part of the success I found with Newspaper Taxi and Double Jeopardy.

Double Jeopardy - Blue Ribbon Summer Festival II    Newspaper Taxi - Jenny Paisley Riding Clinic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Takeaway

Dover Saddlery is located at 8820 Burnet Road in Austin, Texas 78758. The phone number is 512-452-8100. Store hours are Monday thru Thursday, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

 

Clean Up With the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

Dirty car? No problem! Clean up with the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas.In spite of a mediocre rating on Yelp (and many complaints), we visited the Finish Line car wash. My daughter’s little car was dirty inside and out. Trips to the barn, trips to school, and traveling out of town plus normal wear and tear had the Dodge a complete mess.

One filthy car. A team of workers. Massive equipment with soap, water, and brushes. Could the Finish Line rise to the challenge of making our car look brand new?

Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

There’s an array of services to choose from, which can give a cause to pause when you’re in a hurry. I hadn’t been to the Finish Line in over 10 years. To say that I was overwhelmed is an understatement.

Various services at the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

We picked a package, drove up, and were immediately swarmed by the first team of workers. We got our stuff out of the car and walked inside.

Inside the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

What I remember (from prior visits) was the service and friendly atmosphere the Finish Line offered. While the service and friendliness remained, there’s now gratis massage, shoe shining, and refreshments. What more could two girls want?

We skipped having massages and cleaning our shoes (we were wearing sandals – too bad!), but we did linger and watch our car go through the indoor washing cycle. I’m a sucker for car washes. And yes, you can deduce that I’m easily amused.

Satisfied that the car had been washed, I went to the front desk to pay the bill. The young woman at the desk greeted me with a big smile. I got warm fuzzies because this, folks, is customer service at its finest. I chatted with her a bit, paid the bill, and began looking at all the goodies we could partake in.

Refreshments at the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

The Finish Line certainly treats its customers well. We didn’t partake in any of the refreshments, but other people lounged while sipping coffee and eating ice cream cones. What’s really cool is you can leave a donation for the Finish Line’s charity of the month when you choose your refreshment. When we visited, Habitat for Humanity was the chosen charity.

Gotta add that the Finish Line is CLEAN. Something else I look for when I frequent a business.

Service with a smile, gratis food and drink, soothing massages, and clean shoes. Oh, and a sparkling clean car, too.

Yep. The Finish Line did a spectacular job of cleaning the car, inside and out. If I had to be grouchy and complain, it would be that the place was so darn busy, it took some time to get the car finished. I’m not going to gripe about that, however. The crews were working as quickly and efficiently as they could.

My thoughts? The impression I’m left with is how nice everyone was. Even the guys who shooed us out of our car, when we drove up, were smiling. The front desk representative was personable, gracious, and friendly. The guy who gave us back our sparkling clean car was a gentleman. That’s professionalism, folks, pure and simple. Professionalism means smiling and doing the best job that you can. Professionalism means treating your customers right. The Finish Line gets several gold stars for fostering a great environment that’s conducive to good business.

Takeaway

The Finish Line is located at 2900 Bee Cave Road in Austin, Texas 78746. The phone number is (512) 328-9274. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Winter hours are posted on the company’s website. During this season, the Finish Line closes at 5:30 p.m.

Eating Jelly Bread With Fischer & Wieser

Jelly Bread With Fischer & WieserWe recently had the pleasure of eating jelly bread with Fischer & Wieser. If you haven’t heard of Fischer & Wieser, you’ve probably been living on another planet. The dynamic duo are located in Fredericksburg, Texas, where they’ve been working hard to perfect jellies, sauces, mustards, salsas, and more.

I bought the famous Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and the Charred Pineapple Bourbon Sauce at HEB. And to be honest, I bought these sauces on a whim. I had absolutely no idea who Case Fischer and Mark Wieser were.

One tiny teaspoon taste of goodness – that’s all it took. Both sauces set me on fire! I suddenly wanted to know exactly who these men were, and how to find out more about their brand and their company.

I won’t go into a rehash of Fischer & Wieser’s history, because it’s beautifully told here. However, be sure to take a peek if you haven’t visited the F&W website. It’s definitely worth a look.

I love jelly bread. Don’t know why, but it’s a simple and easy fix when I am craving sweets but don’t want to eat something unhealthy or junky. And I can tell you that since I discovered Fischer & Wieser, there’s been plenty of jelly bread and jelly toast to munch on.

Afriel and I made simple, open-faced jelly toast. We had to share these gorgeous photographs – if you haven’t tried what Fischer & Wieser are selling, run and get some RIGHT NOW!

Jelly Bread With Fischer & Wieser

Dig the chucks of pineapple. Love the velvety smooth raspberries. So yum!

Jelly Bread With Fischer & Wieser

Now if that jelly toast doesn’t take you straight to heaven, I don’t know what will.

If you’re into branding (I am!), check out the inside of the jar tops.

Fischer & Wieser Branding

Fischer & Wieser.

Fischer & Wieser

Takeaway:

Fischer & Wieser have built an empire in the Fredericksburg area. There are two stores you can visit as well as two bed and breakfasts. Das Peach Haus has information here, and F&W on Main can be looked up here.  There will be more posts about Fischer & Wieser – you can count on it!

 

Do you need help branding your company? I work with small and medium-sized businesses that struggle with marketing, content marketing, and social media. Contact me and let’s get your project started!

Chili’s in Waco, Texas: Unremarkable & Forgettable

Chili's Bar and Grill on Foodio54

Chili's Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

We’ve talked about it – neither my mother, nor I, prefer chain restaurants. Visiting Chili’s in Waco, Texas, is an example of why we feel this way. It’s not that the food is bad, it’s that the company managing the restaurants creates dishes flavored for the American norm (or what is considered to be normal). My mother and I have ventured to the Chili’s in Marble Falls over the years for birthday parties and family outings, and we always knew what to expect. Our meals were nothing special, just plain, old, chain food. I expected to have a similar experience at the Chili’s in Waco, and was extremely disappointed.

I ordered the Monterey Chicken®, a blackberry limeade, and cheesecake. The blackberry limeade was absolutely delicious! Chili’s was smart to create a drink using a berry other than the usual strawberry or cherry. The blackberry added a depth to the drink that neither a strawberry nor cherry could create. Having worked at Sonic my senior year in high school, I made many different drinks. Chili’s limeade blows all the others out of the water! My experience at Sonic allowed me to create just about any Sprite-based drink I desire, and the blackberry limeade is one I will make at home.

The Monterey Chicken® came with a side of broccoli and mashed potatoes. When the waitress asked if I was sure that I wanted to keep those sides I should have taken the hint. It was a big mistake to not listen. The broccoli was cold and the mashed potatoes were dry. I could tell both sides had been sitting out for a while.

The Monterey Chicken®  isn’t what I would normally order, but I wasn’t in the mood for something fried. The chicken wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. It had a sweet, tangy barbeque sauce underneath the Monterey cheese with freshly chopped chives on top. Decent, but not memorable.

The big problem with my food was the inedible sides, which became colder and dryer in a matter of minutes after my entree arrived. I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t like to eat cold food. Next time I’ll listen when the waitress gives me a cue. I never thought I’d think this about the Chili’s in Marble Falls, but they do a much better job than the Waco location.

Since I make cheesecake, it’s hard to judge others because there’s nothing like diving into a freshly baked cheesecake. However, Chili’s cheesecake was good. It came with a little container of strawberry sauce for drizzling, and I enjoyed eating the dessert later in my hotel room.

My overall impression of this Chili’s is not good. The fact that my food came cold and dry is extremely unappetizing. The highlight was the blackberry limeade. That said, I will not be visiting Chili’s in the future.

Laura’s Perspective

I’ll be upfront with my feelings: I don’t have brand loyalty to Chili’s, and I only visit the restaurant because someone else wants to go. The Chili’s in Marble Falls is one of the few restaurants in the area that our entire family can eat at without complaining. For many years, Chili’s was one of my mom’s favorite restaurants.

It’s not that Chili’s is bad – it’s that Chili’s is the same, time after time. The seasonings that are used can be found in just about every menu item the restaurant has, and it’s tiresome. However, I’ve become aware of what I can stomach when I eat at Chili’s. A trusty favorite has been the shrimp Alfredo dish. How can anyone mess it up?

Chili’s in Waco did an excellent job of crapping all over this dish. When my order arrived, I was already done with my tall glass of what tasted like sewer water over ice. Having choked one sip down, I looked at the plate of Alfredo in front of me. The first thing that caught my attention was the shrimp: It smelled old. The second attention-grabber was the appearance of the Alfredo sauce. It looked like something out of a packet – thick, dark, and curdled.

Needless to say, I didn’t eat much of the meal. It was disappointing and an experience I will not repeat. However, the company of my horsey friends and wonderful daughter made up for the disaster on my plate.

I’ve read online reviews of the restaurant being dirty, and I can confirm that. Everything – from the menus to the tables to the floor to the chairs – needs a thorough scrubbing. This was one of the most unpleasant dining experiences I’ve ever had.

Avoid the Chili’s in Waco, Texas. Enough said.

Takeaway:

Chili’s is located at 5804 Bosque Blvd in Waco, Texas 76710. The phone number is (254) 776-8330. Major credit cards are accepted. Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 10:45 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10:45 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., and Sunday, 10:45 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Cathay House in Waco, Texas: Good Chinese Food

Cathay House on Foodio54

Cathay House on Urbanspoon

The Cathay House in Waco, Texas, was quaint. If I hadn’t known it was a restaurant, I would have driven right past it. Just by looks alone, it would not be my first choice for an Asian dining experience, but we know not to judge a book by its cover. And overall, this book wasn’t too bad.

We started off with a friendly waitress who was very patient with our large group order. I ordered the cashew nut chicken which came with a choice of soup and either fried or steamed rice. I chose the egg drop soup and the steamed rice.

I’ve never been a soup fan. I’ve never been successful finishing a bowl of soup, even if I like it. There’s a first time for everything, however, because I ate every drop of Cathay House’s egg drop soup! It was eggy, brothy, and not overly salty. I felt the portion size was perfect for the accompanying meal. Some restaurants serve appetizers the size of an entree. This is ridiculous on many levels, and it’s a waste of food unless you’re sharing with someone else. Cathay House did a good job with portion control. The bowl of soup aroused my hunger instead of satiating it.

The cashew nut chicken came with broccoli, mushrooms, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and cashews in a brown sauce. The dish would have been perfect if it hadn’t been overrun with water chestnuts. This was disappointing because the amount of water chestnuts overwhelmed the dish. I felt Cathay House’s chef skimped on the chicken to save money. I can’t recall eating a water chestnut, so I’ll give Cathay House kudos for making this vegetable tasty and something I’d want to eat again. The brown sauce was perfectly seasoned and smooth. The rice was fluffy and not too sticky. Our server brought a large bowl of rice for our table of six, but it wasn’t enough. Thankfully my fellow diners were polite and rationed the rice. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been enough.

I try to not be biased when going to Chinese restaurants because I don’t have the greatest impression of them. Granted, the area I live in is just starting to become developed so there aren’t a lot of authentic Chinese restaurants around. My problem with most Chinese restaurants is the food tends to be greasy and salty, which seems to appease most American taste buds. I know this works for some people, but not for me. The only great Chinese food I ever had was when I was nine and Mom took the family to visit a friend in Houston. He took us to a great dim sum restaurant. That was only the true, authentic Chinese food I’ve ever had.

My overall rating of Cathay House is a bit mixed. I liked the service, the soup, and the brown sauce, but not the amount of water chestnuts compared to the rest of the vegetables and chicken. Another bowl of rice for our group would have been nice. I think the owners have a few things to improve, but they are not a bad Chinese restaurant. Maybe it wasn’t their best day and they were a little low on supplies (not a good excuse, but I understand the restaurant biz and it isn’t perfect). I would go back again just to see if the cashew nut chicken dish is a bit better. Next time we are in Waco, Big Grey Horse Media will definitely return for a follow up review.

Laura’s Perspective:

After the first show day of the Blue Ribbon Summer Festival II, we (the Coraggio show team) huddled over our smartphones to determine which restaurant we should eat at. I was craving Chinese and suggested Cathay House. I’d never been there before, but the online reviews were strong. Why not give a new place a try?

I’m glad that we did. Cathay House in Waco was a good choice: The food was authentic, the staff was pleasant, and our large group of horsey girls was easily accommodated.

Being the noodle head that I am, I chose the vegetable lo mein with chicken rice soup and an egg roll. The serving was so large (typical at a Chinese restaurant), I took home several leftover servings to eat later. The lo mein was good – I was impressed with the flavor of the overall dish, which was riddled with plenty of fresh veggies to pick through with my chopsticks. It was hard to choose which dish to try as Cathay House’s menu is quite extensive. The egg roll was also good, and a separate order, as my meal only came with a bowl of soup. And speaking of soup, the chicken rice soup was the winner of this meal. The serving portion was perfect, the broth was delicious, and it was mixed with just enough rice to make the soup interesting. I’ve tried other chicken rice soups that tasted like they were made from a seasoning packet. I’ve also had chicken rice soup that was overflowing with rice, which misses the point of this dish. The chicken pieces in the soup were utterly delish, in case you’re wondering.

It’s a shame I was tired and overheated from a day’s worth of showing my horse, seeing old horsey friends, and supporting my equestrian team. I was way too exhausted to explore my egg roll at Cathay House, which means I missed the opportunity to eat it fresh. There’s nothing better than a piping hot egg roll smothered with hot mustard sauce.

Takeaway

Cathay House is located at 825 Wooded Acres Drive in Waco, Texas 76710-4545. The phone number is 254/776-1072. The staff was wonderful at dividing up our group’s order and I paid with my credit card.

La Quinta Inn & Suites Woodway in Waco, Texas

We enjoy a good hotel room when we’re on the road. I’m not too picky about accommodations because when I’m traveling, I spend little time in my hotel room. What I need is a place to lay my head after a long day. This post is a shout-out to the La Quinta Inn & Suites Woodway in Waco, Texas.

We were turned on to La Quinta Inn & Suites by my trainer, Paige Erwin. She stays at La Quinta Inn & Suites exclusively when she’s horse showing. Her reason? The hotels are nice to stay at and they allow dogs (Paige has three furry kids).

The La Quinta Inn & Suites Woodway in Waco is amazing. We came in around lunchtime on a Tuesday to check in. Because there were no rooms clean that I had reserved, we were upgraded to a small suite. I already got the horse show rate for the Blue Ribbon Summer Festival II, so this was a deal.

What do I love most about La Quinta Inn & Suites? The hotels are clean, you can pick up fresh fruit, coffee, and yogurt in the morning – complimentary – before heading to the show grounds, and the staff I’ve encountered (Houston and Waco) are professional and helpful. My little dog is always welcome, I make reservations either online or via the phone (to ensure I get the horse show rate), and the rooms are nice. We love the microwave and mini-refrigerator in each room – it’s a must for busy travelers.

Call me a geeky girl, but I dig the “Wake Up on the Bright Side” shower curtains. And the super comfy beds. It really doesn’t get much better than that!

Dinner at On the Border in Waco, Texas

On The Border Mexican Grill and Cantina on Foodio54

On The Border on Urbanspoon

Horse shows are fun because you have the chance to eat out and catch up with horsey friends. At the Blue Ribbon Summer Festival II, our first night out we chose to eat at On The Border in Waco, Texas.

We started off with some chips and salsa and ordered guacamole as an appetizer. The guacamole tasted fresh with good spices. It was mild enough for anyone to eat.

I ordered the hand-rolled enchiladas suizas. The dish came with three chicken enchiladas topped with a tomatillo cream sauce, with rice and refried beans on the side. The meal was prepared well and had good seasoning. The shining star in this dish was the tomatillo cream sauce. It was tangy, light, and creamy. The cream helped the sauce stay smooth and added another flavor dimension.

We took the Border brownie sundae to go. It came with a walnut brownie, vanilla ice cream, and two containers of chocolate and cinnamon sauces. It was very decadent. The brownie was moist on the inside with a little crinkly crust on top. Both my mother and I enjoyed the cinnamon sauce. I’ve never had a cinnamon ice cream sauce before and will definitely be making one the next time I’m in a mood for a cool, summer treat.

While I’m not a fan of chain restaurants, On the Border is one I would visit again.

Laura’s Perspective:

I’ve eaten at On the Border before, but not in Waco. I’m not a fan of chain restaurants, but it never hurts to try. I was pleasantly surprised by On the Border. The restaurant was clean, well organized, and packed with patrons. Our server rocked – he was prompt, courteous, and friendly.

My entree was the street-style mini tacos. I chose roasted pork, but you can have chicken or fajita steak. I’ve grown very fond of these little bites of goodness and am eager to try street tacos wherever I go for Mexican food. Honestly, this dish was too much for me to eat after a day of schooling at the show. Granted, these tacos are small and there were only three, but it was too much for one meal. I took the sides (rice, beans, avocado slices, pico de gallo, and red chili tomatillo salsa) and two street tacos back to the hotel.

Utilize the lime and extras when you eat street tacos. This type of taco typically comes in a corn tortilla and is served open-faced. Squeeze the lime over the tacos and be generous. The freshness of the lime coupled with savory meat is to die for! If you have a special salsa served with the tacos, use it. The chefs know what they’re doing when the elements of these meals are paired together.

Mentioning the fresh tortillas is necessary. If you’ve read our blog for any length of time, you know how we adore fresh, homemade, hand pressed tortillas. On the Border does not disappoint.

I shared the guacamole with Afriel and it was delightful. Way too much to eat in one sitting, but my hungry daughter had no problem polishing it off. The brownie dessert was enjoyed – very much – in our hotel suite later that night.

Takeaway

On the Border is located at 4320 W. Waco Drive, Waco, TX 76710. The phone number is (254) 227-5040. Prices are reasonable and credit cards are accepted. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.