Sunday, June 12, 2016

Texas Spirit(s). Or not.

While in Fort Davis, we saw this poster hanging outside of the library:

We all agreed that sounded like a good way to spend a few hours out-of-doors on a weekend. Well, I might have voted a few more times than the other people in the group but they were good sports.

Tom and I had only been to one chili cookoff before and that was in Southern Oregon. That time the chili that won was the one most like canned Nalley's. Remembering my grandfather's chili, I was sure that it had to be better in Texas. That turned out to be true.

The cooks in their RV's descended on Davis Mountain State Park for the party. Husband and wife teams, husband vs. wives, fun! It's not too dissimilar from dog shows. I could see getting into something like this.

Here's Cathy getting her beads (a la New Orleans) from a guy in an Alligator suit. He was trying to get our votes. I still have my beads.

Before going we had a good-natured debate about whether or not chili should include beans. I said emphatically "no" while others insisted that it should. Now we have the answer. Well, kind of . . . 

There were two parts to the competition: 

First the "competition chili" for the panel of judges. No beans. Smooth and there can be no discernible pieces of stuff in the chili, as seen in the pot above. 

Second the "throw down" chili which can include tomatoes, beans, anything else the cooks want to add. (To me, this is called "filler".)

Admission included small plastic cups and spoons for tasting, plus a ticket. We were able to sample the competition chili as long as it lasted. There were many more pots of the throw down. After sampling we put our tickets in a can at the booth we liked best for the "People's Choice Award".

This is the lady who won my vote, and the others followed suit. I didn't hear who the final winner was.

There was only one rather majorly large problem with the Chili Cookoff.

No beer.

The only thing to drink was water.

Can you even imagine? Note that some of the chili were freaking HOT! In both senses of the word.

So leaving the chili festival we headed back to the small town of Fort Davis in search of something to ease the pain. Limited choices. Stopped in a little Mexican Restaurant even though we weren't hungry figuring that we could down some chips with the liquid. 

No Cervaza! No Margaritas! No nada!

Three of us headed to an ice cream shop while one checked out the restaurant next door

It turns out there are two places in town to buy alcohol. One is the bistro in the back of the Hotel Limpia which nobody in our current party has ever seen open. The other is a store where you can buy a "membership" in order to purchase beer inside. We were told that there was a city ordinance. 

Since then I have checked via google and cannot find any reference to either Fort Davis or Jeff Davis County being "dry". And Fort Davis is listed as "an unincorporated census-designated place". So how are there ordinances?

The city of Alpine resides in Brewster County, where the Sheriff recently lost a lawsuit pertaining to "In God We Trust" and crosses on the patrol cars. But at least there is beer!

Our traveling companions had visited Big Bend Brewing before, so we took a trip there. Just one problem: an entire tour bus full of people. Youngish people wearing fancy western-style wear including things like matching cowboy hats with their name stitched on. And that was only the girls.

These were not West Texas people, for sure. We were told that they must be "Dallas People", with apologies to any readers who fit that profile. It meant that there was standing room only . . . so I spent some time sitting out front browsing FaceBook. Eventually someone rounded up some extra sitting spots for those of us not with the tour group.

We met some really interesting young people who were staying at El Cosmico, shared beers and stories, and everything got better. Way better.

Next Stop: Railroad Blues.

Which as it's name suggests sits adjacent to the tracks.

Authentic. A locals bar. 

Moving on in order to get food as well as alcohol, we visited The Saddle Club.

Gourmet small plates and yes, there is at least one saddle at the bar. I give it a high recommendation.

Just because the blooms on this tree out front were so pretty.

At last it was time to leave West Texas. We were told that there was a "Texas Wine Country" near Fredericksburg so we went to check it out.

A quaint German style town though rather touristy. 

As it was we only had one nice day before nature ran us out of town. 

The first big plus that would almost make it worth living in Texas:

 A cross between Freddies and Trader Joes and maybe Bevmo. We still have some chicken fajitas in our freezer we have saved to share with our friends.

Of course we had to make a side trip to Luckenbach. I guess everybody does.

On to the winery experience.

First up was Messina Hof. So memorable that we had to go pull the one bottle we bought there out of the "wine cellar" to read the name on it. The tasting room was quiet as we visited on Tuesday. The tasting room had a staff of one who did not know very much about wine.

He knew just enough to refer us on down the road to Grape Creek Vineyards.

Pretty facility and some of their wines weren't horrible. BUT. If you are not a member of their wine club you are shuttled off to a side bar for the peons. It ended up ok as at least the woman behind the counter did appear to know something about wine and had heard of California and Oregon before.

Final stop: Becker Vineyards.

A winery at which is was nearly impossible to get anyone to even take our money for tasting. And once they did, the young lady behind our end of the counter could barely be civil enough to wait on us. When questioned about wine? "Oh, I don't drink it." Like it's a sin. 

Oh. Come to think of it maybe that was the problem.

We did not visit the winery with sign below but the name struck me as fun. But . . . ummm . . . peach wine?

Here's a google earth view of the area. What you don't see? Very many grape vines. 

We were told that most of the growing area for the vineyards was on the high plains up around Lubbock. These are just "tourist wineries". Things learned and we probably won't bother to go back.

Especially in the spring.