Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Isle of Capri hotel sports steampunk look

If you’re not familiar with the “steampunk” look, think Victorian/wild west gone science fiction. Now imagine this old-fashioned, adventurous look with leather, vintage luggage and period electrical lighting paraphernalia setting the mood at Isle of Capri Tower Hotel. The $15 Million renovation snazzed up the rooms, too. After a ribbon cutting, I got to tour spacious rooms with light granite looks, great views of Lake Charles and soaker tubs.
Otis & Henry’s created signature cocktails for the evening and guests enjoyed samples of oysters, red fish, prime rib over garlic mashed potatoes and – the showstopper – lamb on the bone. Chef Matt Smith says salt, pepper and olive oil are all he needs for such good meat, and they use the freshest meat possible.
“Our steaks are where it’s at,” Smith said.
Through the chamber of commerce over there, I met Dennis Bevers of Cutting Edge Advertising, and he does business in Port Arthur. He shared some great memories he had of our city, and he gave me a letter opener that looks like a gator. He says it is perfect to remove the veins from shrimp.

Silver shoes
I can’t be the only one who thinks of casinos when I see “lucky” silver and gold shoes. Now I’ll ask you to think of who said “When my feet hurt I can’t think.”  The answer is Abraham Lincoln, according to a box of Flat Out shoes. These comfy ballerina-style flats roll out of a little box and conform to your aching feet. Some airports sell them out of vending machines, l learned after I literally spent a night in an airport. But the obvious best time to have these shoes is after a night of lookin’ good in high heels, then feeling like you need to dance a little longer. Hit to get your style.

“Pure” is how I’d describe an organic vodka that can make Americans proud.
American Harvest Organic Spirit goes back to the roots of old-country spirit and new ideas.  Handcrafted in small batches from organic winter wheat grown on a family owned and sustainably managed American farm, it is distilled and bottled in Rigby, Idaho using water from aquifers deep beneath the Snake River plain. One Nation, One Spirit is how creators want to be known.
You can see yourself in a Polo ad while sipping this, or you can gather round your Southeast Texas family for a smooth spirit and lively conversation. Of course, I sampled this on the rocks so that I could share my experience with readers. It’s a nuance thing and very good. Here are some ideas from mixologist Todd Richman that can combine produce from your All-American garden:

2 ½ parts American Harvest
½ part dry vermouth
Pour over ice, stir and strain into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with an olive or lemon twist

Local Harvest
2oz American Harvest
3 cucumber slices
3 fresh lime slices (Sliced thin)
4 basil leaves
1/4oz Agave Nectar
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and add ice.
Shake well and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
Garnish with 1 cucumber slice, 1 basil leaf and 1 lime wedge
Grand blend
Grand Marnier has recipes for their blends, and I have some ideas of my own. A little drizzle goes a long way into making everything from yogurt to sliced fruit a lot more elegant. This fall, look forward to House of Marnier Lapostolle – producers of the iconic Grand Marnier liqueur – launching the second limited edition release blend in their Signature Collection Series, Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach, and a tribute to the creation of Grand Marnier liqueur in 1880, Grand Marnier Cuvée 1880.
I tried the delicate raspberry peach blend in a small glass. Remember there’s also an orange essence in this sip of goodness. Once you get a bottle home, make it last into the holidays, and consider picking up an extra for hostess gifts. Try adding it to your favorite bubbly or play with something like this:

GM Raspberry Peach Cosmo
Created by mixologist George Carney
2 ounces Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach
1 ounce cranberry juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Clubbing, naturalists and D.J. Hot Sauce


Mom ready to hit the club
We’d just caught a vintage movie at the McFaddin-Ward House visitors center when my mom asks if she can take us to the Logon Café. What? It was about 9 p.m., on a Thursday. It was nearly our bed time. She wanted to go out to hear live music?
I knew she wanted to hear Sons of Santos, featuring Soberon brothers Luis and Nick, who we saw grow up at St. Jude Catholic Church in Beaumont. So we all want out and had a beer, and loved the singing and music, which included cello music. We also loved the mixed crowd, because grandmas and parents were also out to admire. These guys are really, really good.

Master Naturalist
Leila Melancon calls herself a Nature Girl.
“My grandfather raised me on the sea wall,” she said.
She learned to love crabbing and fishing from her grandfather, who lived behind the conch shell wall at Eddingston Court. I met her on the marsh and it’s no wonder her group was attracted to the dragonfly that landed on some tall grass. It’s a unifying symbol of the Sabine-Neches Master Naturalists.
“You’ve never heard of it, right?” she asked about her group.
I smiled big and shook my head. She’d caught me.
“Everybody’s heard of a Master Gardener,” she said.
Her fun-loving group is a division of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Parks & Wildlife. Meloncon, who said she was thrilled that I could easily spell and pronounce her Cajun last name, claimed she was just about the most unscientific one in the bunch. She noted a science teacher, retired engineer and environmental lawyer were involved, but others are folks who just love the outdoors. They are fun and funny, too. Some of them were quick to jokingly point out that “naturalist” does not mean “nudist.”
If you want to get in touch with these NATURALISTS, call (409) 882-7010. Another posted criteria: Someone who's NOT afraid of digging in the dirt and slogging through the mud while giving back to the community.

DJ Hot Sauce
When I heard DJ Hot Sauce would be at the Mexican Heritage Society Fiesta, I thought I want to go hear Hot Sauce. As I’m writing this, I don’t even know if that is a man or woman, but I think a spicy moniker like that would make Hot Sauce turn in a stellar performance, so I’m in.
Robert Moreno Jr. is vice president of the Fiesta, set for Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center, and he said the Mexican community really wanted Grupo Flash back. They got it, and for an extra hour of party time.
Sponsors include Motiva, Southeast Texas Arts Council, All State Insurance and BBVA Compass Bank. Day admission is $8 adults and $5 for senior citizens and children aged 11-17. Younger children will be admitted at no charge with a parent or guardian. Tickets will be $20 for everyone after 6:30 p.m. The schedule is:
·         9 a.m. – Doors open
·         10 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. – Opening ceremonies, presentation of flags, opening speaker and guests
·         10:20 a.m.  – Children’s costume contest
·         11 a.m. – DJ Hot Sauce, master of ceremonies and music throughout
·         11 a.m.-2 p.m. – Tiny, Little Miss, Junior and Miss Mexican Heritage pageants
·         2-3:30 p.m. – Mariachi Real Mexicanisimo
·         3:30-6 p.m. – Mexican Heritage Society Folkloric Dancers, with Nancy Chavez
·         6:30-7:30 p.m. – Queens Courts Promenade
·         7:30-8:30 p.m. – Cazadores, de San Luis
·         9 p.m.-1 a.m. – Grupo Flash, De Nueva Rosita, Coahuila

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A CopyKat you'll want to have for dinner

Stephanie Manley of Kingwood is a copy cat. Look her up at for recipes of what your favorite restaurants make. That’s why “Dining Out at Home Cookbook 2” begins with a note to readers: eat out more! Patronize mentioned restaurants to see how close these recipes come to the original.
Armed with this book you can whip up Benihana Fried Rice, P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps, Luby’s Pecan Pie and pages of stuff to make your mouth water. A little knowledge may be a dangerous, and delicious, thing. I love her little introductions to each recipe and beings as she’s a Texas girl, I can tell I’d love to visit in her kitchen.

Maybe everybody knows how to bake a potato, but to get the skin crispy like Outback Steakhouse does, rub vegetable oil over each potato and sprinkle with kosher salt. No need to pierce the skin, she writes. Keep the moisture in to make it nice and fluffy. You’ll never go back to your old ways, she adds.

I’ve grew up with my parents taking me to both the downtown Beaumont Picadilly on Sunday mornings and later the Parkdale Mall one on Saturday nights. The author says everything tastes like your grandmother made it. That’s why, of all the recipes in the book I could share, I pick this one:

Cream Gravy from Picadilly Cafeteria
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 ¾ cups whole milk
½ teaspoon salt
ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and flour. Cook the butter and flour together until they form a nice paste, stirring constantly. When the paste develops a nutty, fragrant smell, 2 to 3 minutes, slowly add the whole milk. The mixture will begin to thicken. Once all of the milk is added, turn the heat down to a simmer, and season with the salt and pepper. Allow the gravy to reduce by one-third, about 15 minutes. Yields 1 /14 cups.

Playing Footsie
Tea tree oil has got it going on. I love that cool, natural sensation to perk me up on a hot day. It instantly lifts my spirits in any form, and I found a new one. Foot Therapy Tea Tree Oil Foot Spray is organic and the Footsie Foot Brush is, you love it, shaped like a foot, and offers pure bristles. It’s supposed to be the ultimate to get a foot massage from someone else, but a sprits of this is something you can do all by yourself. Look up for more good stuff for your body.

Even though I walk daily, comfortable shoes is about my only thought toward “gear.” After supporting the Pleasure Island Bridge Half Marathon, set for Nov. 9 this year, I’ve learned a bit about what passionate runners deal with. I’ve heard them talk about Body Glide, which looks like a little deodorant stick, but is dubbed as the original anti-chafe balm. Now there’s a Body Glide for Her with pink packaging that says right there it’s good for bras, thighs and feet to soothe under arms, stop burning and hot spots. No oils go on you and its sweat and water  resistant. The tag line is “Use it now, no worries later.” On my level, it falls into the category of things you didn’t know you needed. But now that you know it’s out there, don’t you want to walk/run a little faster? Glide over that turf.

Wipe out
I wouldn’t have imagined a saline wipe could feel so fresh. We’ll all want Fresh Faces after everything from a long day at the office to a long night at the club. If you’re a work out woman, pack some in the gym bag.
Little Busy Bodies created Boogie Wipes, saline-infused products under the Puffs brand. Now Puffs Fresh Faces present moiste saline tissues in Fresh Scent, Light Lavender, fragrance-free and with a touch of Vick’s. I love the lavender and I know I’m not the only one who associates a touch of Vick’s with healing. That saline touch does wonders on a stuffy nose and can prevent that raw feeling from constant nose blowing.
For makeup removal, Fresh Faces combines the power of makeup remover, soap and moisturizer.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lovin' Lake Charles

Lovin’Lake Charles
Mom wanted to hit Lake Charles, so a quickie day trip was born. The Lake Charles Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau was our first stop and we got greeted by a topiary alligator outside, a crawler in the lobby, and Clotile, one of several gator art works gracing the inside. The bureau will offer you a stop to enjoy a cup of Community Coffee while viewing the lake, pose with Jean Lafitte, pick up a fleur di lis key chain or brochures on the Boudin Trail.
I read a book, shopped and took in the beach at L’Auberge du Lac while she did her best at the casino and I got a Le Café lunch treat of very good gumbo.
A super-cool end-of-day treat was attending a reception at Gallery by the Lake, an Associated Louisiana Artists group. Artist Barbara Haviland had some Cajun scenes on display and sometimes gives classes at this downtown Lake Charles gallery. I loved visiting with her and her husband, Sam, who I know through Texas Artists Museum. Everyone at the gallery treated us like Port Arthur royalty, and we also loved some giant chocolate chip cookies from nearby Sweets & Treats. I called them “bombs” and my husband and I agreed they were in the top cc cookies we’d ever experienced. We kept thinking the baker must have a different name for them, but they’re simply known as cookies over there.


Joey Elizondo of Giuseppe’s Sicilian Restaurant in Port Neches said he’s proud that Port Arthur News readers voted his restaurant as having the “Best Lasagna.”
“I think Stouffer’s is going to send a hit man out on me,” he joked.
He was totally joking.

Sea Rim's new West Dune Boardwalk
Summer 2013 won’t be complete without your family’s visit to Sea Rim State Park, which has some new features to show off. The West Dune Boardwalk is a big, showy gateway to five miles of natural beach and there’s a rinse-off area so that you don’t take home all that sand. Take a marsh walk on the improved Gambusia Nature Trail, then head across the street to the park’s marsh unit. Come with your flat-bottom boat, canoe or kyak and hit the new paddle trails.
These are the latest in a series of  park renovations, Ben Herman, superintendent, said. The boardwalk area includes a fence for sand and foliage build up so dunes can build up. Herman is hoping for 20 feet of dune to replace those lost to hurricanes.
Improved camping provisions and roadways are in the works. Regular park admission is $3 a person. The park entrance is on Texas 87 South, 10 miles west of Sabine Pass. For details, call Herman at (409) 971-2559.