My quest for the perfect beef ribs


Few BBQ restaurants serve beef ribs, probably as a result of low yield from the purchased weight.

The best beef ribs I have ever eaten are found in Kansas City’s #Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ. Each time I am in the area, a stop at Jack Stack is a must. I’ve frequently even bought additional meals and taken the extra portions back home to enjoy the following days.

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This image was taken from their website!

 

In Texas, as I drive around the area, I have come across a few places that do beef ribs, and even fewer that do it well.

 A favorite spot with top-notch beef ribs is the #Woodshed Smokehouse in Fort Worth. All the fat is cooked off the meat, and the sauce is a wonderful peach-based glaze.

 On a trip to southern Texas last week I decided to stop at a couple of popular BBQ restaurants to try their (supposedly) top-rated beef ribs.

I stopped in Lockhart, home to the best BBQ according to many food critics. #Black’s BBQ might be rated in the top spots, but in my book it does not rise to the occasion. The meat was extremely fatty – both the brisket and the ribs, and a little less than half of my order found its way to the garbage on my way out.

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Two ribs and a slice of brisket at Black’s

On my way back the next day, I revisited #Cooper’s in Llano. I did not remember them serving prime rib during the week, and had to have some – in addition to the beef ribs. Both were great. A tad too much salt for my taste, but a wonderful smoked taste and extremely tender meat. It would be well worth the ride down for a weekend day lunch – if I want to stand in line!

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The pit at Cooper’s

Closer to home we have Kenny’s. Their ribs were good, but definitely not in Cooper’s or Jack Stack’s league. Far from it! Because of proximity I will likely be a frequent visitor, but it has nothing to do with the quality of the ribs, but more with the distance from door to door! Had Tony Roma’s not shut all of it’s area locations, they would still have my vote!

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The ribs at Kenny’s

Can it be?


It has been a good 8 months since I last picked up my 8×10 Zone VI film camera, so I sold it and the lenses I had for the camera.

I am sizing down and reducing the weight I carry around on my trips.  The largest film I will continue to work with is 4×5.

At the same time, I have fully invested in the #Fujifilm X format , with 3 bodies including the new#XX-T1 and several lenses.  I am very impressed with the files and CaptureOne’s handling of the color space.  The latest addition to the X series will be a game changer for the big guys like Nikon.  I can see no reason why I need to lug around 60 pounds instead of 12 pounds of camera gear, lenses, filters, meters, and lights.

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Give to forget, don’t forget to give….


The story begins with a Jew and Muslim sitting next to each other…

Really?  Yep.   Trust me, read on!

During a short flight to San Antonio, two guys sitting next to each other got into deep conversation about life, religion, and travel.  Both had come to the USA to study and both had made the decision to stay and build a new life in a strange land.

It was incredibly easy to go from one subject to another, and we quickly realized that we shared a passion for fried chicken (albeit from opposite sides of the counter), driving in the comfort of our Rolls-Royce, and traveling the world with our kids.

We were there with a common goal: to greet and visit with the children and widow or widower being shuttled on their very own American Airlines charter to the 2012 Snowball Express held this weekend in the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex.

Snowball Express is an all-volunteer, very young charity focused on providing a great, albeit brief, memory to children of military members whose lives were cut short by war since 9-11-2001.

And that was exactly what we were doing aboard this AA flight. Giving so that these youngsters could forget. For four days, they are treated as VIP’s. From the volunteer baggage handlers to the nametag, everything pointed to the VIP status of these kids.

As our lives are just slices of memories stacked on top of each other, these four days are a wonderful way to be able to add some positive slices within the stack of life.

American Airlines provides the greatest chunk of support though the “loan” of aircraft, revenue seats for those families who cannot reach a charter point of departure, and all cockpit and cabin crew who do this on their own time. Next time you see an AA pilot or attendant, thank them for their support to this incredible program.

We picked up the first group of families and saw that Santa had already made it to the gate and was greeting the children who were anxiously waiting for their flight to DFW.

The crew who would be flying the plane back to DFW

The crew who would be flying the plane back to DFW

Mr. & Mrs. Claus will actually celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on December 25th

Mr. & Mrs. Claus will actually celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on December 25th

At our second stop, a steel band was there to give the families a festive send-off. Now shown are the bomb sniffing dog that was a great hit with the younger crowd, and the 30+ men strong Honor Guard.

At our second stop, a steel band was there to give the families a festive send-off. Not shown are the bomb sniffing dog that was a great hit with the younger crowd, and the 30+ men strong Honor Guard.

From the very first minute these children step aboard, the crew does everything possible to begin a memorable 4-day weekend. The airplane was fully decorated prior to departure and during the shuttle to our first destination.  A stuffed animal was placed on each seat assigned to a younger participant.

Now, why can't we fly like this every day. How can you not get off the plane with a huge smile?

Now, why can’t we fly like this every day. How can you not get off the plane with a huge smile?

Experts are asked to make the pre-flight announcements

Experts are asked to make the pre-flight announcements

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Just in case we fill up, volunteers were asked if they would give up their seat and be stowed in the overhead compartments.

Just in case we fill up, volunteers were asked if they would give up their seat and be stowed in the overhead compartments.

Upon arrival at DFW, the volunteers – some 60 to 70 people – made sure the music was at full blast and the volume level of other noise makers was at its peak. For many it was the first reality check that this trip would indeed become a memory filled with laughter, all-day fun, and pampering for the moms. Some families were here for the second or third time; children are welcomed back from the age of 5 until they turn 18.

I made sure I was the first off the plane to capture the reactions of the children getting off the 737.

I made sure I was the first off the plane to capture the reactions of the children getting off the 737.

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Indie Racer, the Brit Martin Plowman, was there to sign photos, pants, shirts, you name it. Even the full-scale fiberglass replica of the actual racecar sporting the Snowball Express logo was in the hotel lobby for the weekend.

The AT&T Center for the Preforming Arts hosted an event, there was a Children Parade, there was Six Flags Over Texas, Fair Park, The Stockyards, and Neiman Marcus opened their store so that kids could buy a Christmas gift for their mother or father. Of course there was no register where they had to pay for the gift selected.  No parent was allowed in the store – this was a kids-only event.

No matter where the event was held, the buses were always escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders.  I am sure these guys were ecstatic with this year’s weather. 70 degrees beats 20 on any day when you are riding a motorcycle.

Martin Plowman posing with one of the Patriot Guard Riders

Martin Plowman posing with one of the Patriot Guard Riders

The highlight (especially for most moms) was the evening at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth.  Performing this evening was none other than Gary Sinise, the actor famous for his roles in Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, The Green Mile, and the hit show CSI New York. Mr. Sinise is also an accomplished musician who not only is extremely liberal with his wallet but also performs for the Troops and causes supporting our Troops with his band, The Lt. Dan Band.

So, were there any slices added to my stack of memories. Absolutely.

Take the 5-year old girl who asks if she can sit on my lap on the bus ride from DFW to the hotel.  She talked about her first birthday party and the people who were there then but not now.

Or, the 3-year old boy who held the dance instructor by the hand and did the electric slide and a Texas Two-Step without missing a beat.

Or, the mom who told about her 6-year old insisting on packing all his clothes in a suitcase back in July for his second trip to the weekend party.

Or, the 12-year old boy wondering if Dallas is where his Dad had gotten the family Audi. All he was sure about was that it shipped from Texas to the house in Colorado.

Or, the young man being helped out of his wheelchair and held up by his mom on the dance floor. Smiling all the way.

Or, the love shown by Gary Sinise towards these children, entertaining them, spending time chatting with anyone and everyone who wanted a minute of his time.

Or, the AA crew who gave so liberally of their time and caring to shuttle the families to and from DFW.

What was planned to be a few hours of “work”, ended up being (start of smile and big wink) too many hours (heck, just keep smiling) hours of volunteering to capture smiles and recording that moment in time when each child “realized” it was okay to  have fun.

A big smile to the front row family members in wheelchairs

A big smile to the front row family members in wheelchairs

I think I can do it on my own now, it's okay to let go on the instructor's hand for a moment!

I think I can do it on my own now, it’s okay to let go of the instructor’s hand for a moment!

I am sure this went to Facebook before the song was over!

I am sure this went to Facebook before the song was over!

This little gymnast has that smile you can never forget

This little gymnast has that smile you will never forget

She is ready for Christmas!

She is ready for Christmas!

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Vocalist Molly Callinan

Vocalist Molly Callinan

Vocalist Julie Dutchak leading the Conga line

Vocalist Julie Dutchak leading the Conga line

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I have given time and funds to many charities or programs over the decades, but this particular weekend will go down as the most incredible experience ever. It does not compare with providing Polio vaccine in Asia, building an orphanage in Haiti, helping at a medical clinic in South America, shivering in a snowstorm to ring bells for the Salvation Army, or comforting and holding the hand of a Hospice patient. Yet, each of those – and so many more – is a wonderful slice in the memory bank.

So, therefore my title…. We gave so the youngsters could forget.

In this season of giving, do your share and give a child an opportunity to smile. Whether this is in time or money, please do your part, but….. Don’t Forget to Give!

I know, this was a long post, but I hope I was able to share some of the great moments that were had by all attendees.  If you want to learn more about the Snowball Express or want to give a donation, go to their website by clicking on THIS LINK.

No matter where the 2013 weekend is held (Dallas is most likely to host it again though), you will be able to volunteer at a point of departure or in the city that will host the 2013 event.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to all the organizers and volunteers who make this event successful.

Finally, if you made it this far, hit the “like” button below so I know at least someone read this. And, if you actually liked it – share this post with your friends! The more people who know about this fine orgsanization, the better off we all will be.

Last, but not least - a photo of one of the volunteers in the make-shift photo studio on the 2nd floor of the hotel!

Last, but not least – a photo of one of the volunteers in the make-shift photo studio on the 2nd floor of the hotel!

p.s.  More about the Nikon D4 crapping out yet again on my next post!

Food Truck Craze


An Ice Cream Sandwich being served with a smile!

A couple of friends encouraged me to go to the Dallas Heritage Village where they were hosting their Thursday night Food Truck night.
The last time I ate at a food truck was in Tijuana, Mexico over 15 years ago. Back then, or even much longer ago when growing up, a food truck was a quick and cheap meal in the middle of the night.

How things have changed!

There were at least 10 trucks there, all serving different kind of gourmet dishes. Thankfully Terry and Janice were there to share with me allowing me to try food from 4 vendors. Each one of the meals would have been too much for one person.

That would have been a shame, because you need to be able to try more than one dish. So memo to self… never go alone!

I tried sushi from Crazy Fish, a Spicy Tofu dish from Good Karma, a Bacon Cheeseburger with a Fried Egg and Blue Cheese from FreeWheelnCafe, a Smoked Brisket loaded Potato from Potato-Potahto, and finished with some shaved ice from Enticed. WOW. All tops, but I will not review the trucks. For that go to Terry’s fabulous website
By 7 o’clock it was full house. Many people came with their dogs; that gave it a nice atmosphere.

Starting next week, the trucks will be there on both Thursdays and Fridays. Pardon me… Trucks will be there. We’ll never know which trucks or how many until the day of I guess!
Well worth the short commute to 1515 S. Harwood in Dallas.

I posted all my photos here.
Photos were shot with the newly serviced Nikon D4.