Smokey Mo’s – Austin, TX

On a recent trip to Austin, Texas, we rediscovered a BBQ joint that we first tried in Conroe: Smokey Mo’s. While I may have been enjoying them for a while and somehow never managed to blog about them, they are still producing very appetising and satisfying meals in multiple locations around Texas.

The run of side dishes is pretty standard, and everything is complimentary to BBQ meats, of course. Fries, potato salad, beans, fried okra, corn on the cob, right down to the self-serve bread, onions, pickles and jalapenos.

Trust me, I helped myself to the pickles.

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Two trays of pickles, just like this!

 

My partner helped himself to not one, but two chop sandwiches. The chop is loaded with sauce and chopped bits and pieces of meat. It’s mostly beef with the occasional turkey or sausage bits mixed in.

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Chop Sandwich before any fixin’s were added.

 

The three meat plate is an indulgent sampler of meats and sides. There’s plenty to choose from, too. I picked the turkey-sausage-sliced brisket combination with a double side of slaw. The second slaw was really for Christopher, but it sure makes the plate look as full as my belly got after eating all this.

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Three meat combo plate with two sides.

 

It’s always pleasant to find a bit of the familiar when travelling that’s not your run of the mill fast food. Visiting Smokey Mo’s was definitely a fit of comfort food in a weekend full of exploration.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

 

Cruise Cuisine – Last Night in Sapphire

Due to an unexpected fog which kept the Port of Galveston closed, we were treated to an extra night on board the Carnival Breeze. One more night of fine dining in Sapphire – who was complaining? Certainly not our group!

 

Appetizers

This is a sample of the bread basket that was served every evening in Sapphire. It consisted of baguette pieces, ciabatta buns, and whole wheat rolls.

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Bread Basket

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Shrimp Cocktail

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Candied Salmon

 

Main Course

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Swordfish over Pilaf, with Lemon Reduction and a side of Ratatouille

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Fried Shrimp and Shrimp Fried Rice with Baked Macaroni & Cheese

 

Desserts

Some of the delightful desserts we had encountered previously were again available, so we availed ourselves of the chance to enjoy them once more before the trip ended.

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Nutella Tiramisu

 

The Date & Fig Pudding was a light and fluffy sort of cake, with a passion fruit custard. The intent was to poke a hole in the top of the pudding and pour the creamy custard into it. not only was I able to partake of the dessert, I also had a chance to play with my food in a socially acceptable manner.

There are several of us who can’t wait to cruise again!

–Ann Cathey

Cruise Cuisine – Sapphire Sea Day

On our third “sea day”, a day not in port, but on the open waters, we went along to dinner in Sapphire thinking it would be our last day to experience such a luscious repast. More on that hint in the next installment of this series.

Appetizers

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Beef Carpaccio with shaved Parmesan, Arugula, and Lemon Vinaigrette

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Baked Onion Soup

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Steamed Mussels with Garlic Toast

 

Main Course 

The prime rib was wonderful, shown here with and without the reduction.

 

The creole was billed as being “Caribbean Style” and turned out to be full of shrimp and  veggies, and very mild in heat.

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Tiger Shrimp Creole with a scoop of Jambalaya

 

Dessert

The cherry pie was a bit of a surprise, being very dense, but it was quite tasty with a sweet/tart combination that pleased the palate.

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Cherry Pie a la Mode

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Carrot Cake with Candied Ginger and Caramel Sauce

 

Among all the birthdays we celebrated on this cruise, we were surprised when our anniversary was also brought to light.

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Chocolate Panna Cotta

 

 

— Ann Cathey

Cruise Cuisine – Sapphire

After a tiring day of walking and bussing about in Montego Bay, we settled in for supper with our sunburns and big grins. It was time to chat together about our day’s excursions while our meal was presented to us with leisurely decorum.

We admittedly got a little crazy with ordering items to try this night, but fortunately had table companions who were willing to help consume it all.

Appetisers

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Cannelloni filled with Ricotta, bacon, and shaved Parmesan.

 

Lovely, salty cured ham with sweet and mellow cantaloupe is a definite taste treat.

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Prosciutto ruffles over sweet melon.

 

It wasn’t as if there had not already been jerk chicken that day, but there just had to be more. The sauce was not as spicy hot as the one we had sampled on shore, but it was extremely tasty, nonetheless.

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Jerk chicken wings with jicama slaw

 

I’ve tried ox tongue and beef tongue before now and found it to be chewy and not to my liking. This dish changed all that. The tongue was as tender and flavorful as any well roasted cut of beef I have ever put into my mouth. It fairly fell apart without chewing.

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Braised Ox Tongue with onion marmalade.

 

Main Courses

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Salmon Cakes with lemon, capers and sour cream.

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Grilled Beef Tenderloin in a red wine reduction with polenta.

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Caribbean Shrimp Curry (mild) with coconut rice, lemon grass and chilies.

Desserts

This may have been the most outstanding dessert we tried on the ship, even among all of the truly delicious temptations we had been offered. The warm brioche simply melted in your mouth.

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Sticky Toffee Brioche with vanilla crème and strawberry sauces.

 

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Mango Cream Cake with fresh fruit salsa and mint. Another lower calorie,  no sugar added item.

 

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S’mores Parfait featuring dark chocolate, graham cracker mousse, milk chocolate, and toasted marshmallow.

 

 

There was simply too much to tease our palates with, and we definitely tried to taste everything!

— Ann Cathey

Slow Cooker Recipes from Crock-Pot #2

I like to use slow cooker liners. Whenever I buy a box of them, there is invariably a little handout inside that includes a few recipes. They are great for folks starting out with slow cookers!

Here’s one to help keep you warm this winter!

Beef Stew
Cook time on Low: 4-6 hours
Cook time on High: 2-3 hours
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 lbs beef chuck, cubed
olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup fresh parsley, minced
6 tsp garlic, minced
4 bay leaves
2 cups red or white wine
1 cup beef broth

Directions:
1. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the cubed meat in the flour.
2. Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil, and place over a medium-high heat.
3. Heat oil and sear beef on all sides.
4. Add seared beef and all other ingredients to stoneware.
5. Cover and cook on selected temperature as directed above. Stir occasionally.

Notes:
This recipe also works well with venison or buffalo. Add carrots, wild onion, crimini mushrooms and a little extra garlic to achieve the wilder flavors that make such a wonderful blend with these meats.

It is also tasty with pork, though pork is a much fattier meat. Pork prefers a higher volume of veggies, especially turnips and potatoes.

Additional veggies are always a delight in stews. Add carrots and celery early on so they will have time to soften a bit. Add potatoes or turnips about 1/2 way on Low or 3/4 of the way on High through the cook time.

This is a dish best served with fresh biscuits, over cornbread, or over rice if you have no problems with all the carbs. Serve with a glass of the same wine used in the dish for a lovely accompaniment.

— Ann Cathey

Burger Boy on East Davis – Conroe, Tx

DSC_0186The parking lot sports numerous work trucks in the early morning and at lunch time at Burger Boy. This is a sign in any urban area of plentiful good food at reasonable prices. Add to this the number of local police who pull in for a burger or a shake during the day and you have a pretty accurate indicator that no matter what the place may look like, the food is great.

My traveling partner and I have been fortunate enough to try this no-frills, fast-food outpost several times.

DSC_0184Eating in their small dining room is an adventure, though we have yet to try going through their drive-thru window.

DSC_0178Their menu is pretty eclectic, with not only burgers and fries, but items like gyros, seafood baskets (catfish, shrimp, clams, stuffed crab), BLT’s, and club sandwiches. They also have a lot of daily specials and new menu items posted on hand-lettered signs in the windows.

Some of our favorites so far stand out. Chili Pie Start with a deep layer of Fritoes, then smother them in a meaty chili, a heavy sprinkle of cheddar, and, at your request, a spot of diced onion. The gang at Burger Boy build an outstanding chili pie that hits the spot in summer and warms you to your toes in winter. I am picky about my chili pie, and these folks please me to no end consistently when I visit. BurgersDSC_0180 As you can see, the burgers are stuffed with meat, cheese and veggies. You are welcome to order a single, a double, or if you ask nicely and are willing to pay the extra, a triple. The buns are soft and butter grilled giving them extra flavor and texture. The veggies are always fresh and plentiful, as are the pickles if you ask.

DSC_0183Fried Catfish The catfish is available in a basket with fries, a small salad, and a grilled bread, or in a sandwich with whatever veggies you desire. The fish is always tasty with breading that is neither too thick or overpoweringly spiced. Either serving is a good-sized meal.

FriesDSC_0179 French-fried potatoes only come in one size and flavor, but they are always cooked to a turn, and crispy when fresh. Thick cut, the skin is tender as it cools, while the interior of each fry is soft and sqishy – just like a fry aught to be.

Shakes Always thick and creamy, the shakes and malts here are lovely. They offer vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry consistently.

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If you chance to travel through Conroe, keep your eyes open for this hole-in-the-wall establishment on East Davis, across the street from Fiesta. It’s about a mile off I-45 facing the eastbound side of Davis.

— Ann Cathey

Suggested Wine and Cheese Pairings

Not everyone is an expert at wine and cheese pairings, but everyone should know what they like.

If you are setting up tasty treats for a gathering and would like a simple guide to wines and cheeses (and other tasty ideas), this list is taken from my own experiences. I’m not an expert in the field, but I know what I like and what combinations are pleasing to my palate. I’ve added links to the different types of cheeses and wine varieties for the curious.

If you enjoy Brie, cold or warm, Riesling chilled or at room temperature is lovely. With the Brie, if it is being warmed or baked, add a sprinkle of pine nuts and some jam. Apricot, raspberry or loganberry have all proven to be excellent. Serve with thinly sliced baguettes.

Soft goat cheeses are good with Shiraz (or Syrah). They come in several flavors these days, most notably honey, garlic and herb, and sun dried tomato. Pair these with sliced sweet apples, crisp crackers, or a “party bread” (small loaves baked and cut specifically for canapes).

Parmesan and Asiago are very dry, crumbly cheeses most commonly found grated or flaked for toppings. They are also delightful tasting cheeses and pair nicely with Chardonnay.

Sangria and pink Moscato are favorites to pair with fruits and mild cheeses such as Mozarella and cheddar. These are most often used as dessert wines and tend to favor sweet accompaniments.

Red Moscato and chocolate and dipped fruits are a winning combination. Along with Belinnis, this combination is fun for brunches.

Some traditional standards that are generally true for meats are red wine for red meats, (beef, pork, venison, buffalo, duck), and white wines with white meats (chicken, turkey, fish). I have found this to be true for the most part.

Merlot and Shiraz pair well with grilled red meats. Chardonnay is a crisp counterpoint to may seafood dishes. Sauvignon Blanc goes well with most chicken dishes.

As for cheeses, when in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a good cheddar.

I hope this clears up a little of the mystery of pairing wines, and that you will experiment for yourself to find the combinations that most please your palate.

 

— Ann Cathey

Winking Owl Merlot

Let me begin this writing by saying that I am not a wine drinker. I have problems with the tannic acid inherent in wine, though I find the flavors fascinating, My palate was given a good basic education by my father, who has tasted many wines form all over the world in his lifetime. I took his teachings and have applied them to my passion for cooking.

Winking Owl is a small vineyard located in Modesto, California. It does not have an independent website. Winking Owl produces wines for the private label of ALDI (a supermarket chain originally based in Germany). In spite of being offered for under $5 a bottle, Winking Owl produces some decent little table wines. We have found them to be wonderful for cooking!

Our latest experience was with the Winking Owl Merlot. This richly hued wine is soft and smooth on the palate, though without the customary dryness normally found in a good Merlot. The flavor was distinctive, offering hints of berries.

The first half of the bottle was used to slowly cook a piece of pork in a crock-pot. The second was used with beef. In both cases, the wine took a supporting role, offering a nice bouquet and background to the dish without overpowering the flavor of the meat. It blended well with the garlic and herbs used each time.

DSC_0206Any red wine used in cooking will be absorbed by vegetables if they are allowed to cook in it directly over a period of time. With our pork dish, fresh carrots lined the bottom of the pot used. They took on the flavor of the wine without losing their intrinsic flavor, proving the Winking Owl Merlot not exceptionally strong as some Merlot can be.

DSC_0212With the beef, red potatoes were cooked in such a way to allow the wine to be absorbed. The potatoes, served with a bit of butter and a dash of salt, turned out to have an enhanced flavor rather than being totally overpowered by the wine. We were pleased with the result.

Rather that cooking with an expensive wine that you might be better served drinking, give the Winking Owl Merlot a try in the kitchen. You may be surprised by its versatility in enhancing your dishes!

More information on Merlot wines may be found here.

On a scale of 1-5 –
Appearance: 4
Nose: 3
Flavor: 3
Body: 3
Overall: 3

— Ann Cathey