Food & Wine Restaurant Reveiw

October 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

CRISP

CRISP in The Heights, with its homey entrées and foodie-friendly pizza, garners rave reviews.

by Tom Flynn

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Tucked away in a Shady Acres neighborhood, CRISP has brought new life to an old grocery store.

The renovation to the abandoned supermarket is extensive: the dining room has tremendous ambiance, with brick walls, large murals, dark woods, old stone and wine barrels. Outside is a 5,000-square-foot patio nestled among the townhomes towering over it. Plenty of seating and a central location make CRISP popular at lunch and happy hour; it’s a great gathering place.

Come prepared to relax—the friendly staff is in no hurry to serve. I’ve had several business meetings here and usually find lunch is over before it’s served. Plan on a 45-minute wait for your entrée, but an impressive selection of wines and craft brews will keep you entertained until food arrives.

At first glance, the food appears expensive: beer can chicken, $18; braised short ribs, $24; beef tenderloin, $30. But the portions are massive and can easily be split into two meals. Pizzas are the signature dish. The stone deck–fired, hand-tossed pies come in an array of designer combinations, including Cluck you BBQ, featuring beer can chicken, smoked Gouda, pickled jalapeños, grilled red onions and a Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce. Pies feed two and run from $14–$17.

Sunday brunch is a hit at CRISP. Short rib hash is the star of the menu and mimosas flow freely. Brunch entrées are $10–$12.

CRISP

2220 Bevis

Houston, TX 77008

713-360-0222

www.crisphouston.com

Travel

October 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

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S is for Snow

A Chilling Adventure in Canada

by Andrea Stroh

He shouted, “Gee” and “Haw,” to the dogs as he guided them through the Canadian Rockies; riding the sledlike, century-old, prospectors trekking through mountains searching for gold. The Canadian Rockies seem bigger, better and less traveled than Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Range, a must see for sportsmen and nature lovers. In the Banff/Lake Louise area, you’ll find an unexpected confluence of frontier and modern activities.

The Canadian alpine adventure begins at Bush Intercontinental Airport with a direct flight to Calgary, followed by an hour-long drive to the heart of Banff National Park. Our first “camp” is Deer Lodge, a historic, hand-hewn log lodge built in the 1920s as a teahouse. Its rambling layout and scattering of parlors and antique furniture mirror the character of the national park surrounding it.

Wayward travelers used to stop by Deer Lodge for a good meal in the 1920s; they still serve some of the best food in the area. Charcuterie trays with smoked and air-dried buffalo, peppered duck breast, game paté and elk salami, served with exquisite homemade mustard-melon pickles. Entrées include grilled buffalo rib eye, maple seared pork belly with roasted pepper spaetzle and slow-braised bison short ribs with blueberry port reduction and couscous. The culinary experience alone makes the trip worthwhile.

ADVENTURE

We are in rough, beautiful country; you can die seeing the sights, and many have. In the early twentieth century, the Chateau Lake Louise hired Swiss guides to help their guests safely enjoy the Canadian Rockies. The hotel closed during winters, but the guides stayed and soon introduced locals to skiing and ice climbing. By 1917, the Banff Ski Club was formed and the Banff/Lake Louise area became a year-round destination. The Chateau has continued the tradition and resident-guides take guests cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, ice-skating on the lake and stargazing.

Our resident Mountain Heritage Activities guide is Bruce. He is leading our small group on a snowshoeing expedition. It starts with an interesting and enjoyable tutorial on the origins of the snowshoe and how First Nations tribes shaped and sized them. We practice walking and turning. The biggest beginner mistakes are trying to walk bow-legged, or alter your gait. As long as you focus on keeping your center of gravity over the center of the shoes and keep the tips out of the snow, you will quickly become a snowshoe maven.

We venture through the trees, and along the lake’s edge. Under our snowshoes is 12 feet of snow, and yet there is never a feeling of falling through or losing your footing. Extraordinary views of the glacier, the Chateau and surrounding mountains greet us at every turn. Sounds of an avalanche reverberate through the valley, and we turn just in time to see the snow careening off the glacier’s face. Snowshoeing is excellent exercise and a magical way to experience pristine snowfall in the forest.

After our expedition, we enjoy a proper English tea in The Lakeview Lounge of the Chateau. Over sparkling wine and fruit salads drizzled with Cointreau, we choose from a dizzying array of teas and enjoy the extraordinary views of the frozen lake and glacier out of the mile-high windows.

Another form of frontier transportation is the dog sled. We hook up with the only dog sledding operator allowed within the Banff National Park, Kingmik Mushers. We opt for the Great Divide tour along a 16-kilometer trail through some of the park’s most stunning scenery to the Continental Divide and back.

These are not the fluffy dog teams of Disney movies; these are the real, working, Alaskan huskies of Iditarod and Yukon Quest fame. When we arrive, the dogs are having lunch, resting and rehydrating from their morning trek. We’re encouraged to interact with
them and the crew; we learn about the sport and the fascinating animals that are bred to pull sleds. When it’s time to go, our musher, Cody, buckles us in the sled and harnesses the team. The dogs bark, howl and downright squeal with delight. They hop straight into the air and strain against their tethers in anticipation of their turn to be harnessed. The dogs are so excited, it would be cruel to make them miss the trek.

When Cody releases the brake, the dogs spring forward at a full run. The barking ceases as they concentrate on keeping up and doing their part. The trip is eerily quiet except for the swishing of the sled rails and Cody’s succinct commands. We glide through the snow-covered forest amid mountain peaks, taking in the scenery all the way to the Great Divide. On the way back, we take turns riding on the back of the sled and controlling the dogs. It is the thrill of a lifetime.

For our next adventure, guides
from Discover Banff Tours hand out
ice spikes for our Johnston Canyon ice
walk. The path through the forest and along the rivers leads us past six Johnston Canyon waterfalls, which have frozen into magical formations. The trek is not for the faint of heart. Walking on sheer ice would be near impossible without the ice spikes, but the reward is 100-feet-tall, frozen waterfalls and a good dose of local lore from the guides. For a similar experience at an easier pace, the Columbia Icefield tour uses a specially designed bus they drive on the ice.

SKIING

Lake Louise is a world-class ski resort. With snow from November to May, it has 8,650-foot peaks, 4,200 acres of skiing area over four mountain faces, 139 marked trails and countless bowls. The longest run is five staggering miles long. My Ski Friend is Rob. (Ski Friends is the first volunteer, host program in North America; it provides free, guided, ski tours for skiers of all abilities.) Rob has been skiing these trails for years, which means I never had to dig out my trail map. He’s able to gauge my ability and guide me through trails matching my skill level. There are so many lifts and trails, there’s rarely a wait at the lift, ever. Our last stop is après ski in The Lodge of Ten Peaks, an imposing log cabin full of stuffed bears, cold beer and charming Ski Friends.

Sunshine Village was the area’s first downhill ski resort. You don’t see ski trails until you take the scenic gondola ride to a valley formed by three mountains. Here, trails run in every direction. It’s higher than Lake Louise at 9,300 feet and 12 lifts lead to more than 3,358 acres of skiable terrain. You can ski all day and not see the same run twice. In fact, you can go half a day and not run into another skier.

Sunshine Village has unique accommodations at the top of the gondola. If you are staying at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge ($150 per night also buys you two complimentary lift tickets), you check in at the parking lot, drop your luggage with the concierge, grab your ski gear and spend the day on the slopes. At the end of the day, you’ll find your luggage in your room and après ski by the stone-covered fireplace in the lodge. You’ll find reasonably priced, exceptionally good food and beverages in the saloon, sports bar and their fine-dining option. You can also stay at Buffalo Mountain Lodge, world-class ski lodge, set atop piles of snow from November to May—it has nine acres on Tunnel Mountain at the edge of Banff. Our room has a modern bathroom with a fabulous clawfoot tub and slate shower, a well-stocked fireplace and a breathtaking view of the mountains.

Mount Norquay is the closest ski resort to Banff and one of the oldest, established in 1926. The Cliff House at the peak of the mountain was built in the ‘50s; the beams had to be hoisted up one at a time on the chairlift. Along with the ski trails, Mount Norquay has a snow tubing park. Sliding down the mountain at shockingly quick speeds will get you in touch with your inner child!

I’ve never experienced one place that had so much to offer; the winter entertainment options are endless. Sleigh rides, skiing, ice climbing, snowmobiling, helicopter tours and the new sport of snowkiting are just some of the activities. Pack warmly, plan for adventure and don’t forget “gee” means right and “haw” means left.

A Part of Your Community

October 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

Loves Conquers All

An Ly and her fiancé Hiep Nguyen find love.

by Laurette M. Veres

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An Ly never gave up on love. She met Hiep Nguyen at the gym and it took him a while to get the courage to speak to her. She knew he was the one on their very first date.

On their second date things turned sad. Hiep found out both of his kidneys had been damaged by disease and he needed a transplant. The 26 year old luckily had a sister ready and willing to donate a kidney. Even luckier, the organ was a 100 percent match for Hiep.

An was impressed with his positive attitude and how he grew as an individual as he dealt with the fate he was given. “I fell in love with him during this time,” she says. “After five strong years of learning, growing, maturing and loving, we knew we were ready to take our life and relationship to the next level.”

An is a fan of the creative graffiti walls in Austin. Hiep used the public art she loved as a canvas for his proposal. Her cousin helped him set the stage. As she walked toward the wall, she saw pictures of she and Hiep; he got down on one knee, and the rest is history.

QSCZPV_LZCc7ZLUTqtXCbpvA1Mg3AZjRwHVJWv_QznoAmid tones of ivory, green and coral, she will walk down the aisle at the Heaven on Earth event facility in her Mori Lee gown from Ventura’s Bridal this April 12. Following the service, An will host a traditional tea ceremony in her home. Symbolically and culturally, this is where the couple’s union becomes official—they will then be able to call each other’s parents “mom” and “dad.” She will wear traditional Chinese red and gold at this event, then change back into her wedding gown for the reception at Ocean Palace. One final change will bring back the red and the couple will visit each table, personally thanking their 400 guests for attending.

The bride-to-be is a graduate of Cypress Ridge High School and the University of Houston. She works as a project coordinator at Weatherford. Hiep is in new home sales at Cinco Ranch.

An is the latest real bride-to-be selected by the Bridal Extravaganza Show to appear on billboards citywide. “I would love to showcase to the world what true love and happiness are all about,” she says. “Being the Billboard Bride proves true love does exist and anyone can turn their dreams and fantasies into reality through hard work and commitment.”

 

 


To Africa with LOVE

Houstonian Ida Franklin re-visits an African orphanage with a local church.

by Laurette M. Veres

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How would you spend a million of your hard-earned frequent flyer miles? Houstonian Ida Franklin spent her company’s to transport friends to Africa to lend a hand at a local orphanage.

Franklin, the owner of Venus Construction, spends her days roofing houses, finishing granite island kitchens and any other number of construction projects. However, this summer, she visited Bulembu, Swaziland, with Katy’s Creekside Community Church to help more than 300 orphaned children living with AIDS.

This is the group’s second trip to this area; on a previous trip, they built a playground. “We finished our first playground just as the children came home from school,” says Franklin. “They ran to the swings and started playing. After a few minutes, they all stopped, turned to face us, and sang to us as a thank you,” she recalls fondly. Franklin and her friends’ efforts this summer were to enhance the playgrounds they built in 2009.

Tim Douglas, pastor at Creekside Community Church, says Franklin’s heart is pure gold when it comes to helping others. “She’s a very giving and loving person. She’s been a great driving force for us by donating her time and money. She always goes above and beyond. Ida’s amazing,” he shared.

 

To help with Franklin’s efforts, donations can be made at www.TheCreekside.org.

 

Person | Provenance: Impression Group Show at Esperson Gallery Features Houston Cinema Arts Fest Film Producer’s Still Photographic Art

October 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

Group exhibit will showcase photography by criminal defense attorney Kent Schaffer, forensic scientist-artist Jennifer Hannaford, and new work by Houstonian Kelley Devine

Houston, TX— The Esperson Gallery, located in Downtown Houston’s Mellie Esperson Building (815 Walker Street, Suite 125, at the corner of Travis and Walker Streets), will exhibit “Person | Provenance:  Impression,” from November 1 – December 4, 2013.  The group show will feature photographic work by Houston criminal defense attorney Kent Schaffer, impressionist “police blotter” works on paper by New Yorker Jennifer Hannaford, and charcoal and painted pieces on literature and canvas by Houstonian Kelley Devine.

The nearly all black and white works are grouped to allow the viewer to observe and analyze both close-up and from afar the perceptions created both at first glance and upon more extensive analysis.  The artists’ works help the viewer to evaluate surface reaction versus deeper discernment about the subjects, timing, and circumstances.

Schaffer’s photographic works, which include silver gelatin prints, giclées, and direct aluminum prints, display persons and places that may seem easily identifiable, but in some cases have back-stories that reveal more.  Hannaford, who has for nearly two decades analyzed latent finger prints for crime labs in California, Massachusetts and Texas, creates impressionist works on paper and canvas.  Hannaford utilizes only her fingerprints and black ink to reveal stories of persons who, in many cases, were arrested for standing up for personal beliefs.  Devine creates striking, detailed images of faces, in charcoal, atop literature that ranges from Daniel Yergin’s “The Prize” to more personal documents.

“The images were captured in various countries, and some were shot here in Texas,” said Kent Schaffer.  “They are single moments, or, a grouping of many moments, and the conditions that surround each person or place remain open to interpretation by the viewer.”

Schaffer was also an Executive Producer of, An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story; (directed by Al Reinert) about Texan Michael Morton who was exonerated after serving 22 years in prison for the murder of his wife.  The film, a SXSW 2013 Audience Award winner, will air in 2013-14 on CNN and Discovery Channel, but will first show at the November 2013 Houston Cinema Arts Festival at a separate, Cinema Arts Fest-managed venue during Schaffer’s Esperson Gallery exhibition.

“Kent’s work brings a unique twist to the Esperson show,” said Jennifer Hannaford.  “As for the work I’ll present, each ‘mug shot’ creates its own story of passion and purpose – whether it’s Rosa Parks who stood up for herself and human rights, or on a much lighter side, Jim Morrison, who stood for free speech.  The experiences gained from my work in fingerprint analysis units across the country definitely spurred interest in the motivations of different characters – some heroes, and some classic bad guys.”

Artist Kelley Devine has created new work that will complement the group exhibition via her collection of charcoal-based, intensely detailed faces drawn on literature that has been secured to canvas.

“You can expect some fun pieces to show up on serious works of literature, and some rather intense faces to stare out from fairly lighthearted prose,” said Kelley Devine.  “This is a good preparation for a solo show we’re having in December.”

The artists will attend the opening show – open to the public –on November 1, 2013, at Esperson Gallery.  Schaffer will present a producer’s talk about the film, An Unreal Dream, on a date during the exhibition (to be announced).  To learn more about exhibit or for more information, please visit the Esperson Gallery facebook page or email info@espersongallery.com.

Gallery Hours and Information:

Monday and Friday: 11a.m. – 2p.m.

Tuesday – Thursday: 11a.m. – 6p.m.

And by appointment.

Special Saturday and Sunday hours will be held during the Houston Cinema Arts Festival.  Check Facebook for details.

Tel.713.515.0526

www.facebook.com/GalleryEsperson

 

The Esperson Gallery, in Downtown Houston’s Mellie Esperson Building, is located at Walker and Travis Streets.

THE WENDY CITY

October 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

            In one of the best political movies ever, “The Candidate,” a starry-eyed do-gooder named Bill McKay, played by Robert Redford, is persuaded by a cynical campaign manager, Marvin Lucas, played by Peter Boyle, to run for California governor even though the contest is hopeless. “You’re free, McKay,” says Lucas. “You have a chance to say what you want.” His promise is sealed with a contract scribbled on the inside cover of a matchbook which Lucas hands to McKay. He opens it. “You lose.” Maybe someone should give Wendy Davis such a matchbook cover, even though she is the flavor of the month among Democratic politicos who see her as their best chance to take over the arson-challenged Governor’s Mansion.

            By now we all know her rags-to-pink-sneakers story. Married at 18, divorced with a baby and living in a trailer park by 19. She worked before and after classes while  attending Tarrant County Community College. Davis received a scholarship to TCU where she graduated tops in her class and then graduated from Harvard Law School with honors. Returning to Cow Town, Davis worked as a lawyer then served nine years on the Fort Worth City Council. In 2008 she was elected to the Texas Senate, where this summer she conducted an 11-hour filibuster against Senate Bill 5, a draconian abortion bill.

            That 11 hours brought this obscure lawmaker to national attention. Now the Dems want her to run for governor, and it’s hard to beat a resume like that, except for several reasons. First and foremost: on the ballot she would have a D-for-Democrat by her name, which in Texas these days is akin to having a scarlet A on your chest. Speaking of chests, her war chest is growing, but she would probably face our current Attorney General, Greg Abbott, who already has a $20 million campaign fund and has yet to mount an all-out pocket-picking drive among Texas GOP donors who have very, very deep pockets.

            Davis’ run for governor means Karl Rove will spring into action. Indeed, already the mud slinging has begun, as GOPers have started calling her Abortion Barbie and Retard Barbie. (Attorney General Abbott sent a thank you note to the author of that last title for his cleverness.) Rove will start trotting out dirty little secrets such as she was born in Rhode Island, which is worse than Canada, and it wasn’t until she was 11 that she came to Texas. Then there are her links to the liberal media: She began working at age 14 selling newspaper subscriptions to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Need I say more?

            OK, I will. As a teenager she helped support her mother, Virginia, who had a sixth-grade education, four children and no child support. The mother worked at an ice cream shop. Wendy got a job in an Orange Julius (as in Iscariot) in a shopping-mall food court and later waitressed at a restaurant, no doubt demanding tips. Those pink sneakers were probably made by some 13-year-old in Bangladesh earning a dollar a day. It gets worse. She has been married and divorced twice. “What ever happened to family values?” as Newt Gingrich’s third wife no doubt told Rush Limbaugh’s fourth wife. And her second husband was named — get this — Jeff Davis. Tell that to the next NAACP rally. And that long, blonde hair. Who would want a governor with great hair? OK, forget that one. Anyway, this is a wannabe governor’s resume?

            But the overwhelming disadvantage is she would have that D by her name. She clings on to her Fort Worth District 10 despite GOP efforts to have her gerrymandered out of office. She won re-election last November with a narrow 51.11 percent of the vote. and outpolled President Obama by 15,000 votes. Mitt Romney won that district by 8 points. Now she would be running state-wide during the Dark Ages for Democrats, and to think they ran the Lone Star State longer than the PRI ran Mexico or the Communist Party governed the Soviet Union. But the last time Democrats won a major statewide race in Texas was back in 1990 when Ann Richards was elected governor. That was before some of our voters were born. The 2010 Democratic nominee for governor, former Houston Mayor Bill White, pulled only 42 percent. In 2012, Obama lost Texas by 16 points. Could there be a connection between that Obama rejection and the fact that, when NASA doled out four retired space shuttles, Space City didn’t get one? Nah.

            To make any kind of showing, she needs lots of money, but in the last go-round Texas Democrats were so confident of their own candidates that they gave three-quarters of their campaign donations to out-of-state candidates. If Davis runs, you and I must be ready to get our snouts in the trough. Abbott must spend that $20 million plus, and Dems nationally are talking about spending $40 million on the race if early polls show promise. Get those bumper stickers printed. Buy stock in companies that have TV stations in Texas because about 80 percent of campaign funds go to TV ads. Buy a catering company to feed all those hungry volunteers. Millions of campaign dollars may be spent in Texas over the next year on those two campaigns. We deserve our share. 

            Another problem: The organization of the Texas Democratic Party makes black Friday at a Wal-Mart look like the halftime show by the Texas Aggie Band. They have no leadership, no organization, no funds, no other viable candidates, which is why they want Davis’s name on the ballot. So we can predict the outcome of any Abbot-Davis fight for the governorship. But what do I know? I picked Poland over Germany.  

            Oh, as to the outcome of “The Candidate,” that underdog and under-funded  do-gooder won, leading him to ask his campaign manager, “What do we do now?” Maybe buy new pink sneakers.

 

                                                Ashby votes at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

MAKING AMENDS

October 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

THE VOTING BOOTH — Actually, this election I am marking my ballot in my breakfast room because the Texas Legislature passed a law in 2011 allowing anyone to vote by mail if they meet certain conditions: must be a mailman, age over 100, having been honorably discharged from military service (the Salvation Army counts) and having an Anglo surname. No, I’m kidding. You only have to be over 90.

This packet contains all kinds of dire warnings to prevent voter fraud which  is ironic, not to say moronic, because that huge argument that consumed so much of the last session of the Legislature had nothing to do with voting by mail. The new restrictions were aimed at preventing voter fraud at the ballot box. One problem: no one could find

voter fraud at the ballot box — most examples were anecdotal. It was much ado about posturing.

Throughout Texas ballots will reflect candidates for local offices and local issues: voters in Harris County will be asked if they want to tax themselves to keep the ancient Astrodome. I vote yes because dirigibles are coming back and will need a home in Houston. But every Texas voter gets a chance to vote on amending the state constitution — again. Let me explain. Our current constitution took effect on Feb. 15, 1876, and is the sixth one in Texas history. The previous five were the constitution of Coahuila y Tejas, the 1836 Republic of Texas and the state constitutions of 1845, 1861, 1866, and 1869.

Our last one, the spirit of 1876, was written once Texans threw out the dreaded carpetbaggers who came here during Reconstruction. It reflected the suspicions of government the delegates had formed over the Reconstruction years. They slashed the power of officials along with their salaries and terms of office. They wrote in abolition of voter registration (these were Democrats, obviously), wanted local control of schools, severely limited powers for both the legislature and the governor, low taxation and spending, strict control over corporations, and land subsidies for railroads — the latter two seem contradictory.

Today at 80,806 words, it is among the longest of state constitutions in the nation. As of November 2011 a total of 653 amendments have been proposed, of which 474 were approved by voters and 179 were rejected. However, despite its length, it is not nearly as long as the Alabama constitution nor the California constitution, which has voter initiatives and thus is constantly being changed.

Why is ours so lengthy and so detailed? Simple. Texans don’t like government (pronounced gub-mint) and don’t trust government. This rather cavalier attitude is non-binding when we have a hurricane, fertilizer plant blast or need highways repaired, convicts locked up or our children taught. Otherwise, Texans are rugged individualists, if not blatant hypocrites. So our constitution goes into great detail limiting what our lawmakers can do, and to change the rules they have to ask us for permission. The constitution makes for fascinating reading if, say, you are trapped in a stuck elevator with a life insurance salesman and need a diversion.

Some of these sections have been repealed but there was a section paying for the superconductor supercollider. The document lists treason as a crime and the rights of crime victims – 11 of them. Authorizes Bingo games. Debts are a big deal. The current document prohibits deficit financing for state government, which has kept us out of trouble for years. But it has some loopholes, including a provision that debts may be incurred “to repel invasion, suppress insurrection of or defend the State in war.” This brings up one of the quainter sections dealing with gubernatorial powers: “He (notice not ‘he or she’) shall have power to call forth the militia to execute the laws of the State, to suppress insurrections, and to repel invasions.” Alas, in 1999 the governor lost a key command that goes with the job: ordering out the militia to suppress Indian raids and Mexican bandits. OK, sometimes we take our time to update: provisions for Spanish and Mexican land titles from the Mexican-American War era weren’t repealed until 1969. We had a section dealing with Confederate pensions, and may still.

Texas is real big on water bonds, because page after page of our constitution deals with them. Here’s a section on Dallas County Road Bonds. We have to put everything in writing: The governor is specifically authorized to have use of the governor’s mansion’s furniture. By the way, he or she has to live where the government is meeting, but it doesn’t specifically say Austin. The comptroller and land commissioner have to live at the seat of government. The secretary of state is in charge of the state seal. Pass it on. Up until 1936 the attorney generals salary was set at $2,000 a year. Each county shall have a sheriff. Idiots, lunatics and all paupers supported by any county cannot vote, but apparently an hold office.

Except for treason (treason again?), felony or breach of the peace, all voters are exempt from arrest while voting or going to and returning from voting. So the next time a cop pulls you over for going 60 in a 20, whip out your voter’s registration. Sometimes it’s easier to issue an order than to implement it: The state is to establish and maintain an efficient system of public free schools. In 1871 Texas A&M was established in Brazos County and made a branch  of The University of Texas. Hook ‘em! The Legislature can   regulate littering of the beaches, which once were open to the public..

Talk about micro-management. Here’s a section abolishing the Lamar County Hospital District. Fixing the tax rate for the Comanche County Hospital District takes up more than a page. Counties may provide workhouses, poorhouses and farms. The lawmakers still have the power to put convicts out in road gangs. And to pass fence laws. And allow for county hide inspectors. But what do we do about Indian raids?

 

Ashby amends at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westchase District Farmers Market About to Sprout

October 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

imageDebuts Oct. 24, will run every Thursday, 3 to 6 p.m., one block west of Beltway 8

Westchase District, St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic Church, the United States Department
of Agriculture and more than a dozen local producers have teamed up to launch the Westchase District Farmers
Market.

Vendors will offer fresh, locally-grown produce, beef, lamb, pork and cheeses, as well as prepared food and
value-added products such as jams and jellies, honey, soaps and bread.

The year-round, weekly market will be open Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m., in the parking lot of
St. Cyril, 10503 Westheimer Road (at Rogerdale Road, one block west of Beltway 8).

The Alief area just south of Westchase District is considered by the USDA to be a “food desert,” where
affordable healthy food is difficult to obtain. Westchase District is surrounded by great neighborhoods and
hundreds of thousands of area residents. While these consumers will still shop grocery stores for staples, many
have said they welcome the opportunity to buy locally-grown food in a farmers market environment that creates
a unique gathering location for the community.

The Westchase District Farmers Market is made possible by a $65,000 grant through the USDA’s Farmers
Market Promotion Program. The FMPP supports efforts to improve and expand domestic farmers markets and
other community-supported agriculture programs.

AIDS Foundation Houston’s 13th Annual World AIDS Day Luncheon

October 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

Presented by CHEVRON
Monday, December 2nd, 2013
The Westin-Galleria Houston – Galleria Ballroom
Co-Chairs:  Frank Billingsley
Travis Torrence
Honorary Chair: Jessica Rossman
11:00AM – Champagne Welcome Reception | 12:00PM – Luncheon

As always, thank you for your support!

Orpha M. Palomares
Client Services Assistant
AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc.

3202 Weslayan I Houston, Texas 77027
T:  713.623.6796 I F:  713.623.4029
palomareso@afhouston.org I www.aidshelp.org 


WORLD AIDS DAY LUNCHEON
Co-Chairs:
Frank Billingsley
Travis Torrence
Honorary Chair:
Jessica Rossman
Keynote Speaker:
Phill Wilson, President & CEO of Black AIDS Institute
Tickets: www.aidshelp.org  

12th Annual Rockets Run

October 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

rr13_logo_webThe 12th annual Rockets Run presented by Bowen, Miclette and Britt

The Houston Rockets are committed to promoting community fitness for the entire family while raising money for a great organization. For every participant $3 will be donated directly to the Lone Star Veterans Association. We are also encouraging participants to make additional donations to this wonderful cause. You may make an additional donation during the online registration process. The Lone Star Veterans Association is focused on helping returning veterans who have served after September 11th, 2001. With multiple deployments into combat zones and missions around the world, the newest generations of veterans faces unique challenges when coming home. Their mission is to give every veteran a chance to succeed.

Questions?
Race Hotline: 713-758-7701
Email us: rocketsrun@rocketball.com

www.nba.com/rockets/community/12th-annual-rockets-run

Northeast Houston families invited to Family Health and Wellness Festival Oct. 19

October 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

flier_101813Northeast Houston families invited to Family Health and Wellness Festival Oct. 19           
Highlights include free health screenings, nutrition workshops, crafts

Families in northeast Houston are invited to a Health and Wellness FestivalOct. 19 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. sponsored by Harris County Department of Education Head Start and the Houston Department of Health and Human Services at the Northeast Multi-Service Center, 9720 Spaulding.

Services at the festival include free health screenings for general health, including dental and eye screenings. Free flu shots are also provided. Health-and-nutrition workshops are scheduled throughout the event to promote healthy lifestyles.

The event includes age-appropriate activities which include face painting, moon walks, obstacle courses and nutrition-minded snacks and drinks. Free books and school supplies will be distributed to the families.

“We are really excited to be partnering with the City of Houston and other community partners to highlight the important connection of good health habits to school readiness,” HCDE Head Start Director Venetia Peacock said. “Our activities are specifically aimed at promoting healthy family lifestyles, and the event highlights a variety of family resources and services available to enhance quality of life.”

Sponsors for the event include the following:
United HealthCare; Recycle, Engage and Donate your Books (READ) for Houston; Mutual of Omaha; Lakeshore Learning; HEB; Kroger’s; Culligan; Molina Health Care; and Glazier Foods.

About Harris County Department of Education’s Head Start Area I: Harris County Department of Education Head Start Area I serves families residing in east and northeast Harris County, providing 14 area centers for over 1,100 children and their families. Head Start is a federally funded program that prepares children ages 3-5 for school. It also supports and promotes strong families through parent participation and training. Low-income families and families of children with special needs benefit from services. For more information, call (713) 672-9343www.hcde-texas.org .

About HCDE:  Harris County Department of Education provides education services to the general public and 25 school districts throughout Harris County and beyond. Services include adult education, programs to promote safe schools, after-school programs, therapy services, professional development for educators, special schools, alternative certification for principals and teachers, Early Childhood Intervention and Head Start programs. We offer purchasing procurement, grant development, program research and evaluation, records management, and school finance support. Since 1889, our services continue to evolve to meet the needs of our education public. Visit us at www.hcde-texas.org.

Quit smoking with acupuncture – for free!

October 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

Quit-SmokingThe Great American Smokeout is coming on the third Thursday of November (Nov. 21). To promote healthy living and to give a boost to people who are ready to make the commitment to quit, Houston Acupuncture & Wellness, in St. Joseph Medical Plaza (Midtown) is offering free acupuncture treatments for smoking cessation for the entire week!

“Nobody has to be told that smoking is bad for their health,” says Kevin Leonard, L.Ac., HA&W’s founder and principle acupuncturist, “we all know that. But that doesn’t make dealing with nicotine withdrawal any easier. That is where acupuncture can really help.”

In the mid 1970’s, Medical Doctor Michael Smith, from Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx, developed a simplified protocol of ear acupuncture using just five points to give recovering addicts an option other than methadone to break their withdrawal symptoms. The method proved to be extremely effective in treating all manner of addictions, so in 1985, Smith founded the National Acupuncture Detox Association to spread the information. The treatment became known as the NADA protocol. It is this protocol that HA&W is offering for free during the third week of November.

“The thing is,” says Leonard, “acupuncture is not going to make you want to quit smoking. You’ve got to want that strongly enough for yourself. But once you quit, acupuncture can ease, or even eliminate the anxiety and stress that follows.”

Leonard recommends picking your quitting day and having your last cigarette no later than the night before. Have an appointment scheduled (required), and do not smoke that day. It is best if you throw away all of your remaining cigarettes to remove the temptation, and plan to avoid your biggest smoking triggers for the following days, like drinking alcohol and maybe even coffee.

But is one treatment enough? “Probably not,” Leonard warns. “But we offer follow-up sessions for just $10, not much more than the average cost of a pack of cigarettes in Houston.”

Houston Acupuncture & Wellness (www.HOUacu.com) is a “community acupuncture” clinic, where multiple people receive treatments in one large room. This enables HA&W to provide acupuncture much more affordably than the standard rates in Houston. The normal cost is a little higher than if you are just quitting smoking, but not by much. All manner of disorders, from musculo-skeletal pain, nerve pain and migraines, to digestive difficulties, insomnia, gynecological problems and even infertility, and many other problems, have all been shown to benefit from acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Kevin Leonard is a Licensed Acupuncturist in Texas, holds a Master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and is nationally board certified with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Contact:  Kevin Leonard, 2101 Crawford St., Ste. 320 – Houston, TX  77098 – (832) 477-7887

Omni Thanksgiving Brunch

October 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs

OMNI HOUSTON HOTEL PRESENTS A THANKSGIVING DAY TRADITION

Hotel Hosts Annual Thanksgiving Brunch

 

What:                Thanksgiving Day Brunch

Where: Omni Houston Hotel – located at Four Riverway, Houston, Texas 77056

Date:                Thursday, November 28, 2013

Time:                Seating times are 10:00 am until 2:30 pm

Menu:               Featured items will include; Kids Buffet, Gourmet Omelet Station, Crepe & Waffle Station, Multiple Carving Stations featuring Lamb, Prime Rib, Salmon en croute,  Cornish Hen and Quail, Caviar & Champagne Station, Sushi &                  Seafood Station and a Live Pasta Station, Traditional Spanish Valencia style paella and introducing a Texas BBQ station featuring brisket/ sausage/ whole natural chicken/sweet BBQ sauce

Cost:                Adults – $69.95 + tax and gratuity

Children – 6-12 years – $32.00 + tax and gratuity

Children – 5 and under – Complimentary

 

For more information and reservations about the Omni Houston Hotel, please call (713) 871-8181 or visit omnihotels.com.

About Omni Houston Hotel & Spa

 

Situated on 13 park-like acres in the Galleria/Uptown area of Houston, Omni Houston Hotel features 378 deluxe rooms and suites, is the home of NOE GRILL and BAR – one of Houston’s most acclaimed restaurants, and the Black Swan, its legendary chic, urban bar named for the signature swans that live on-premise. In addition to its award-winning outlets and legendary service, the Omni Houston offers in-room high speed wireless internet access, a 24-hour fitness facility and two outdoor pools. Also on the property is the 10,000 square-feet Regency Ballroom, the Galleria area’s most spectacular ballroom with sweeping, dramatic views of the hotels grounds and the 7,100 square foot luxury full service Mokara Spa.

 

Omni Houston Hotel & Spa is located at Four Riverway, Houston, TX 77056 – telephone 713-871-8181

 

ARE YOU HOV POSITIVE?

October 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE FAST LANE —  We are all zipping along the EZ Tag lanes where the signs clearly state two passengers or more. Odd. It seems the car ahead of me has only one person. Maybe his passenger is in the glove compartment, or more probably that driver is yet another scofflaw. Notice those cars usually sport a 100 Club decal on their windshield. They believe in law ‘n’ order, but the law is for other people.

Maybe we shall see an end to this type of mouth-breather, but I doubt it. TxDOT is about to enforce a new law our beloved state legislators passed: The agency is writing the 28,000 people who have amassed more than 100 violations within a year and owe more than $27 million in tolls on state-maintained tollways. The letters say to pay their fees, otherwise they’ll be publicly outed when the agency lists its chronic violators online. The hope is that shame will get many to clean up their acts, legislators said.

Besides putting their names online, the department will also ban serial violators from state-maintained toll roads, and banned vehicles caught on the toll roads could be impounded and the driver ticketed. This info may be turned over to county tax assessors, who in some counties — like Harris — can block vehicle registration renewal until the debt is paid.

This is rather mind-boggling on two fronts. First, we have 28,000 of our fellow Texans who have amassed more than 100 violations just in the last year (in some cases, officials said, violators have amassed thousands of unpaid trips) and owe ;more than $27 million. Texas has always attracted outlaws, con artists and Yankees (is that redundant?), but this is ridiculous. And if you have run up any number of violations in less than the last 12 months, no problem. Same if you only have 99 violations. The second astounding fact is that no one has done anything about the problem until now. What does it take around here to get the law enforced?

Once I got a hot rocket from the tollway people saying I owed them my first born and my season tickets to ATF raids because I had gone through a tollway checkpoint with a false license plate. Turns out it was my fault — the state issues new car plates to vehicles every 20 years and I neglected to tell the tollway folks I had different plates. This didn’t happen when I was driving getaway cars.

Actually, the violation situation is probably worse because these numbers do not include those scofflaws on toll roads maintained by the Harris County Toll Road Authority or the Metropolitan Transit Authority which operate toll roads in the Houston area. TxDOT owns the Katy Managed Lanes along Interstate 10 West, but its first state-maintained tollway in the Houston area will be the section of the Grand Parkway between I-10 and U.S. 290, scheduled to open in December. On the other hand, massive violations in the Houston area are held down because the Harris County Toll Road Authority works closely with county law enforcement and the tax assessor. In the Dallas area, a regional agency, the North Texas Tollway Authority, manages tollways and has problems enforcing repeated violations. (Amber Young of Dallas held the top spot owing $179,596.43 for a reported 8,366 toll violations.) Thus Houston’s number of violators is about one-fifth the number reported in the Dallas area.

New Menu at the Toyota Center

October 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs

Recently, Toyota Center Chef Romero showcased a variety of Houston-inspired dishes available for the 2013-2014 Rockets season. Here is a sneak peak:

Steak DogsSteak Dogs

Served on a toasted roll, these are steak dogs are available at Haute Dog Stand at the main entrance

 

Portobello & Goat Cheese DogPortobello & Goat Cheese Dog

Grilled Portobello mushroom topped with goat cheese cream

 

 

 

 

Spicy Shrimp Louie & Avocado DogSpicy Shrimp Louie & Avocado Dog

Spicy shrimp Louie salad with fresh avocado, red onions and diced tomato

  • Bacon & Horseradish Dog

Topped with crispy bacon, horseradish cream and Balsamic onions, served on a toasted bun

Korean Steak Taco

Scallion cilantro flatbread tortilla stuffed with Korean marinated beef, spicy aioli, pickled cucumbers and cilantro leaves, available at The Rim stands

Meat Loaf Burger

House-made meat loaf burger with mustard, ketchup and sautéed mushrooms, available in the East and West Club

Green Chicken Enchiladas

Pulled chicken smothered in green tomatillo salsa and jack cheese, rolled in corn tortilla topped with sour cream and Queso fresco, and served with Spanish style rice at Rocket Tacos

Ropa Vieja Nachos

Crispy corn tortilla chips, sweet plantain aioli, house-made cheese sauce, topped with “ropa vieja” (braised beef stew), sour cream and Queso fresco, served at Nothin’ But Nachos on the upper concourse

Pork Belly Tacos

Soft Corn tortillas stuffed with seared marinated pork belly, caramelized onions and banana peppers, spicy red cabbage slaw and salsa Roja available in the East and West Club

Monster Meatballer

Foot long meatball sandwich topped with mozzarella cheese, served on a French roll, and available at Legacy of the Bigs

Houston Tea

Iced tea, Vodka and a splash of lemonade, with a sugared rim served in a souvenir mason jar

Adult Cotton Candy

A variety of flavored cotton candy, such as margarita, mojito, red hots, crispy bacon and coffee, served at State Fair

www.levyrestaurants.com

IS THERE A DRAFT IN HERE?

October 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

As you know, the hot topic of conversation around the office water cooler is that Swiss voters have chosen to retain their military draft. No? Maybe I’m hanging out at the wrong water cooler, after all, water and vodka do look the same. What happened, and why we should care, is that an overwhelming majority, 73 percent, of Swiss voters chose to keep requiring part-time service from each male citizen between the ages of 18 to 34. Women may serve voluntarily. It was the third such vote in 25 years and the majority keeps growing. Pretty soon it will be unanimous.

In a nation of eight million people, about 20,000 soldiers a year attend basic training for 18 to 21 weeks, then keep their uniforms and weapons at home to be ready for rapid mobilization and tours of duty. The Swiss government was all for retaining the draft, perhaps because the army’s reserves now stand at 155,000, down from about 625,000 just over a half-century ago. They don’t seem to need a navy.

This move comes at a time when most European nations and the United States are down-sizing their forces, although in Europe’s case there is not much left to downsize, and they are quite willing to fight to the last American. We spend more on our defense forces than the next 22 nations combined — some studies report more than the rest of the world combined. As an example, the British Army is about half the size of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Yet there are reputable voices that think we should restore the military draft. In June of last year, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan and source for Rolling Stone, called for reinstating the draft. “I think if a nation goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk,” he said at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game.” He got a standing ovation, although it is not clear how many in his audience were draft bait. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has made several attempts to reinstitute the draft on the grounds that a small fraction is bearing a disproportionate burden in fighting the nation’s wars. But his bills die. Earlier this year, Rangel — who earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for Valor after volunteering for the Army during the Korean War — introduced another bring-back-the-draft bill that also would require women to register. “Women have proven that they can do the very same tasks, military and non-military, that men can.”

We have had a military draft during several of our wars, but the Vietnam War left bad feelings about conscripting our young men, so we dropped it. This year marks the 40th anniversary since the draft ended, which brings us to Dwight Elliott Stone, then an apprentice plumber from California, who became the last draftee to be inducted. He  served about 17 months and never had to go overseas. The draft during that time became a joke, with various ways to avoid going to war. Joining the  National Guard or Air National Guard was one, staying in school was another: Harvard College, which had lost 691 alumni in World War II, lost a total of 12 men in Vietnam from the classes of 1962 through 1972 combined. Those classes at Princeton lost six, at MIT two. Then there was that super-hawk Dick Cheney, who got five deferments, saying he had “other priorities,” such as staying alive. Bill Clinton somehow weaseled his way out of uniform. I cleverly dodged the Army draft by joining the Marines, but the only civilian jobs my military experience prepared me for was that as a postal carrier walking for hours in all sorts of bad weather or becoming a Mafia hit man.

Bringing back the draft would cause several problems. We are already down-sizing the military, sending thousands of troops into a job market that is already weak. Where will they go? What will they do? If you are all for a smaller government and lower taxes, how are we going to train, feed, lodge and pay several million more people? What’s the cost of more M-1 Abrams tanks, more jet fighters and some more aircraft carriers? (We have 11 aircraft carriers. No other navy has more than one.) All those unneeded and unwanted military bases the Pentagon is trying to close will have to stay open. But we would save money on recruiting.

Studies show that three out of four American men of draft age are unfit for military duty – too fat mostly, drugs and/or a criminal record. In the current political climate, both sexes would go. What would that do to the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders? There is also the overhead. At the height of WW II in 1945, about 2,000 generals and admirals led a total of 12 million citizens in uniform. Today, we have about 900 generals and admirals and 1.4 million troops. Each top officer requires an office, aides, car, a chauffeur and afterwards a hefty pension.

Our current all-volunteer force is made up of generally better people. Not much fragging at last report. Nearly all of today’s enlisted men and women have at least a high school diploma. Many are college graduates as are virtually all officers. The all-volunteer military has consistently demonstrated its ability from Desert Storm to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. No, we don’t want to copy the Swiss. The idea of the government issuing all our young men and women a rifle or howitzer to take home and put in their closet rather boggles the mind, but it would cut down on the population of Chicago. Remember that line from “The Third Man”: “In Switzerland they had brotherly love — they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” And a good army knife.

 

.                                               Ashby is cannon fodder at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

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CAPELLA PEDREGAL’S TORTUGUITAS KIDS CLUB

October 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

CAPELLA PEDREGAL’S TORTUGUITAS KIDS CLUB: CREATING VACATION LEGACIES THROUGH CUISINE, ART AND DISTINCTIVE FIRST-TIME CHILDREN’S EXPERIENCES

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – September 19, 2013 – Learning is an essential way of life. Combine that with a fun, enriching experience and you have a winning combination. Capella Pedregal’s Tortuguitas (“Little Turtles”) Kids Club aims to deliver such an experience and offers a variety of activities and experiences for children of all ages to enjoy while parents can rest easy, soaking in all that Capella has to offer – activities for tweens and teens are also available.

For families seeking to embark on a multi-generational experience, Capella Pedregal offers the Capella Family Connection Package, placing families in a comfortable luxury setting perfect for quality family time that helps families create vacation legacies worthy of being continued through the generations.

Tortuguitas encourages children to interact with the unique cultural qualities of Los Cabos through activities that are both fun and educational in nature. Whether occasionally communicating with basic key phrases in Spanish, safely playing alongside marine life or partaking in the creation of local crafts, the Kids Club offers children rare experiences and special memories. The Tortuguitas Kids Club features activities as varied as piñata making, outdoor games and story-telling; prime fodder for children to create lasting vacation memories and mementos. Tuesday night is movie night and kids can enjoy their favorite films and snacks on the beach while their parents conveniently attend the resort’s weekly guest cocktail party. Special arts and craft classes include teaching children how to construct seashell necklaces and bracelets (after exploring the beach and picking the perfect shells), origami, mask making and kite building. The Kids Club also has a puppet theater for kids to fully act out their imaginations for one another – encouraging them to form firm friendships while on vacation. When in-season, children can learn about the preservation of sea turtles and receive a tutorial on the resort’s turtle release program. This rare opportunity is not only educational, it is a life-long memory.

Capella Pedregal is also a culinary adventure for kids, immersing them in local culture by introducing them to simple yet tasty Mexican staples such as guacamole or churros – the “Mexican Donut.” Guacamole makes for a healthy snack that is fun for kids to smash and also teaches them about local cuisine. Kid’s can then finish off their meal by rolling their home-made churros in some sugar and enjoying the delicious end-product that parents can even enjoy. Other exciting activities include an interactive Scavenger Hunt where children will use a custom treasure map to gather unique souvenirs of Los Cabos and Capella. They can also master the art of sand castle building on the beach in front of Capella Pedregal and our team of judges will present all participants with awards in categories such as biggest, most creative, to “the most Capella-looking castle.” The resort’s staff can also arrange a swimming with dolphins experience should children like to interact with these gentle creatures and learn of their habits and eco-system. The Tortuguitas Kids Club provides half-day, full day, evening, and week-long programs. A half-day program is priced at USD $25 and full day programs are priced at USD $50. For children under the ages of four, Capella Pedregal offers nanny and babysitting services, which is priced at USD $25 per hour. To further enhance a family getaway, or rather a multi-generational escape, book the Capella Family Connection Package – the package is available to guests staying at the resort’s two, three or four bedroom Ocean View suites and includes: A mayordomo (butler) Daily breakfast prepared by your mayordomo in your suite Family dinner in your suite prepared by a private chef Bonfire on the beach with s’mores Family activity – choice of swimming with the dolphins, snorkeling or a sunset cruise on the Capella Pedregal yacht Family photo shoot on the beach to capture the memories for a lifetime Roundtrip airport transfers from San Jose de Cabo airport (SJD) Welcome bottle of tequila and fresh fruit in your room Refreshment center stocked with complimentary soft drinks, juices, coffee and water Daily afternoon amenities delivered to your room Evening turndown Complimentary wireless Internet Complimentary Kids Club The Family Connection Package pricing starts at: USD$1,510 per night, for a family of four. The package is subject to availability and blackout dates. To book Capella Pedregal’s Capella Family Connection Package or to obtain more information on the resort and its top suites, please call 877.247.6688 toll-free or visit www.capellapedregal.com. About Capella Pedregal, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico The majestic Capella Pedregal resort lies on Cabo San Lucas’ most coveted parcel of land – an extraordinary, 24-acre site at the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. The exclusive haven, comprised of 96 rooms and suites, is just minutes from bustling downtown Cabo, yet seemingly worlds apart thanks to its secluded location within the prestigious Pedregal neighborhood, accessible only by the private Dos Mares tunnel. Capella Pedregal offers unprecedented luxury, sophistication and personalized service ably assisted by a team of Personal Assistants who are available around-the-clock to assist guests with their requests. The property features Beachfront Suites located directly on the beach with beautiful ocean front views. Each Beachfront Suite features an infinity edge wraparound plunge pool with a warming fire pit nearby and are available in one, two and three bedroom configurations. Under the tutelage of French Laundry trained, Executive Chef Yvan Mucharraz, Capella Pedregal’s three distinctive dining establishments feature refined, traditional Mexican dishes which evoke a true Baja feel and unparalleled dining environments. The centerpiece of the resort is the award-winning, 12,000-square foot signature Auriga spa, wellness and fitness facility, which features unparalleled indigenous treatments based on the lunar cycle. For more information visit www.capellapedregal.com. About Capella Hotels and Resorts Capella Hotels and Resorts serves today’s top-tier travelers and residential property owners and is setting a new standard in the hospitality industry. Capella promises the unique benefits of the finest boutique hotels, including superb architecture and interior design, privacy, individualized service and attention to detail – combined with the amenities and activities of the world’s great luxury hotels and resorts. Capella is a brand focused on customer choice, and offers choices that no other hotel company in the world can match. Capella has opened world-class properties in gateway cities and high-profile resort destinations around the world, including: Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel (Düsseldorf, Germany); Capella Ixtapa (Ixtapa, Mexico); Capella Pedregal (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico); Capella Singapore (Sentosa Island, Singapore) and Capella Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) opening March, 2013. Capella has also announced plans for: Capella Bahia Maroma (Riviera Maya, Mexico); Capella Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand); Capella Nahui (Riviera Nayarit, Mexico); Capella Niseko (Niseko, Japan); and Capella Sochi (Sochi, Russia). Learn more at www.capellahotels.com.

HOTEL ELLA DEBUTS TODAY IN AUSTIN, TEXAS

October 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Austin, TX (October 5, 2013) – The highly-anticipated opening of Austin’s Hotel Ella has arrived today, following a multi-million dollar restoration of the historic city landmark known as the Goodall Wooten Mansion. A gorgeous Greek Revival property built at the turn of the 20th century by notable Austinites, Dr. Goodall and Ella Wooten, it is only fitting that the hotel’s grand opening coincides with what would be the couple’s 116th wedding anniversary.

“I’m most excited about paying homage to the couple through what we think their home would have been like today,” says General Manager Steve Shotsberger. “I cannot wait to welcome guests to our ‘uniquely Austin’ property and hear their feedback.”

Dr. Wooten was an avid collector, Renaissance man and founder of the University of Texas, while his wife Ella served as one of the city’s most trend-setting philanthropists. She was one of the first women to attend the University of Texas, and became the first woman to serve on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.  She received a medal for donating more than 8,000 Red Cross volunteer hours in WWI and played host to Austin’s most exclusive fetes. Together, the couple was the inspiration for Hotel Ella’s excellence in design, hospitality and service.

Hotel Ella is minutes away from all things Austin, just three blocks west of the University of Texas campus and a short distance from the Central Business District, Warehouse District and Sixth Street.  Completed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, the hotel’s redesign features 48 elegant yet comfortable guestrooms, inclusive of 10 impressive suites, that embody the spirit of sophisticated, sleek design and never lose sight of well-preserved grand mansion elements. Guests experience impeccable service and amenities that fall in line with the refinement, style, and welcoming nature for which Ella Wooten was so well-known. Even pets experience the ultimate luxury at this dog-friendly hotel.

Captivating public spaces include a cabana-lined lap pool with bar access and surrounding courtyard, a wrap-around veranda overlooking an expansive front lawn, and spacious gathering rooms perfect for meetings and events. Just under 3,600 square feet, the Grand Ballroom is divisible into three separate spaces and creates an ideal venue for events, ranging from meetings to weddings. Original crown moldings and mantle work, replicas of the Wootens’ vast collections, stunning artwork and sculpture honoring Austin’s rich history all make incredible backdrops for social gatherings.

Hotel Ella will also serve as home to signature restaurant, Goodall’s Kitchen & Bar, an elevated neighborhood concept serving familiar, timeless dishes with an updated twist from executive chef and James Beard Foundation member, Scott Mechura. The restaurant and bar will also feature an impressive beer and wine list, along with a craft cocktail menu known as “Dr. Wooten’s Remedies & Prescriptions,” which will satisfy all discerning thirsts and palettes.

Hotel Ella is a short 20-minute drive from Austin International Airport. The hotel’s Cadillac Escalade or sedan offers transportation to and from the airport for a small fee, and ground transportation within a three-mile radius of the hotel is complimentary on a first-come, first-serve basis. Hotel Ella is the only property in Texas that is a member of the exclusive group, Small Luxury Hotels of the World™.  Rates begin at $249. For more information and to make reservations, please call (512) 495-1800 or visit www.hotelella.com.