Yep, if there's anything that defines Texans' rebelliousness, it's that they've decided to live in Texas. Damn the incessantly hot and humid weather, the parched earth, and the large, untamed landscape. What do Texans do? They build huge, air-conditioned cities, till the land and herd the cows, and connect the vast state with huge 12-lane freeways. I'm not sure I have the cojones to live in Texas (well, primarily because I am female), but I had an absolutely brilliant time spending my Memorial Day weekend in Houston & San Antonio with my lovely family. Ain't no better way to spend a weekend vacation than by eating, sweating, and eating some more.
Day 1: Hot damn, I'm in Texas.
Given the lukewarm weather in Minnesota, I was obviously looking forward to the much, much warmer weather in Houston. I got a word of warning from my aunt via Facebook post, saying it's going to be hot in Texas. I remember thinking, "Meh, how different could it be?" Answer: VERY. The moment I stepped out of that airport, it felt like Manila all over again. Every skin gland in my body started screaming "Where the hell are we?!" My cellphone said it was 83 degrees, but it felt more like 93. Funny thing, this wasn't even the hottest time of the year; whereas once it hits 90 degrees in Minneapolis, people start bitching, in Texas it's just another May day.
As eager as I was to eat food that -- in my mind -- defines Texas (beef brisket, Tex Mex, Whataburger and the like), I was far more excited to get my Filipino food on. You know how you don't know how good you've got it until it's gone? Well, that's how I feel about not having Filipino restaurants in Minnesota. So, my first stop straight from the airport was Filipiniana Restaurant at Bissonnet Street. It may not be the best Filipino buffet in the world, but it was still damn good. Every dish was ridiculously rich (read: rolling in oil) and flavorful, from the bistek to the humba, the classic adobo and the peanut butter goodness of kare-kare. I was home; and the humidity in the restaurant really made me feel like I was home in the Philippines. How nostalgic!
After suffering from a ridiculous food coma, we headed back to Katy to rest up and then headed straight to see the Menil Collection in Houston's museum district. It's amazing what oil money can buy, like an entire gallery full of amazing artwork, open to the public for free. They have everything from post-modern pieces (including a disturbing 'artwork' made of wax and real human hair...it makes me shiver just thinking of it), but also artifacts from Pan-Asian and African cultures, as well as some surrealist paintings from the likes of Brauner, Max Ernst, and a few Picasso pieces. I'm so glad my family was there to infuse some humor into an otherwise somber (and oftentimes WTF?) art viewing. You could never get all artsy-fartsy around us before someone calls you, well, artsy-fartsy.
We then headed to the beautiful Hermann Park in the middle of Houston, which has an amazing lake, a venue for concerts (like the Motown evening happening when we were there) and a gorgeous garden. It was the perfect place to take a lovely stroll with my beautiful cousins, and just take some glamor nature shots while I'm at it.
Dinner was quintessential Texas, as we headed to Spring Creek Barbecue for some honest-to-goodness food, cafeteria style. The meats were succulent (especially the sausage, which I all but stole from my cousin's plate), the sides were unlimited (but of course!), and the sweet tea was refreshing.
After a full belly and a viewing of Tangled (which I admittedly bawled my eyes out to), I prepare myself for our field trip to the home of the Alamo, San Antonio, TX.
Interesting Texas fact: They are the only state that can fly their state flag at the same height as the US flag, because they were once an independent country. And they sure love their flag.
Day 2: Remembering (or learning about) the Alamo.
I woke up bright and early to the smell of Kolache buns, which are these amazing pastries filled with every kind of meat you can think of. I don't think I've ever had anything like it, and I want some now just thinking about it. Especially those sausage, cheese, and potato ones? Yes, please!
San Antonio is about 3 hours from Houston, so we got a pretty good beauty rest until we stopped at Buc-ee's, which is like an overblown gas station convenience store (think a miniature version of Wal-Mart) with everything from Texas souvenirs to hats to beef jerky to Kolaches (yay!) to Buc-ee's Nuggets and more. As the cliche goes, everything's big in Texas, and this place was no different.
We began our tour of San Antonio (or, really, my tour since I was the only newbie in the group) by visiting the 4 "other" missions in the San Antonio mission trail: Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada. Since it was a Sunday, there were masses going on in some of the missions (like at Concepcion); it was inspiring to know that some missions are actually still functioning up to this day. It was also nice that all missions had air-conditioned areas, because that day was insanely hot.
|The six flags of Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, Confederate, Texas Republic, and United States of America|
|Margarita es bonita|
|A-maaah-zing enchilada platter smothered in cheese and sour cream.|
|The lovely crew about to get some Mexican food on|
Whereas Sunday was very productive and exhausting, Monday was lazy and relaxing. Another former staple that I lost upon my move to Minnesota were huge Asian supermarkets, so I was more than eager to hit up 99 Ranch and stock up on my Filipino junk food and other goodies. Afterwards, we ate at a good ol' Korean restaurant, introducing the fam to Korean food's greatest hits: bulgogi, bibimbap, banchan, and seafood pancakes.
In the afternoon, we went for some local Shiner beer and crawfish (my first time eating it!) at the Pub Hub, and continued on the food trip for some more good barbecue from Big Daddy's. Hot damn I love the q.
|So much work for little meat, but somehow still worth it!|
Two weeks and ** lbs. later, I'm still missing Texas. Sure, the weather's gotten better here in Minnesota, but there's definitely a lot more adventures to be had in that kick-ass state, where the food is plentiful and delicious, the heritage is rich and proud, the weather is caliente, and the people are friendly and loving. But you still don't wanna mess with them, probably.