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Country Bumpkin’s

Country Bumpkin’s

This summer during the great rains, one of the news stations had a story about a tiny restaurant tucked between Cypress and Tomball. People braved floodwaters to get there.  If you hadn’t been there, you’d probably think those out in the deluge slightly nuts, but it is a pretty damn good burger ……

The restaurant is Country Bumpkin’s.  Not my kind of name….at all….but it is my kind of burger.  Country Bumpkins is nestled on Telge Road out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s itty-bitty—I think I counted only seven or eight tables—and it’s only open Thursdays through Saturdays, although hopefully their open days will increase.

Their specialty burger is the Bumpkin Burger:  a double sandwich combination of a smoky chopped brisket and a cheeseburger.  The buns are toasted and the veggies are fresh.  Another incredible burger treat is the Ring of Fire:  this cheeseburger uses pepper jack, the veggies include jalapenos, the mayonnaise is SPICY and it’s topped off with an onion ring.  TBH, I did have to remove a few of the jalapenos toward the end.  Even though I loved the taste, I was afraid that my stomach would not love me later.

The prices are super reasonable.  Burgers range from four to almost six dollars.  BBQ plates are around $10.00.  I’m looking forward to going back and trying a non-hamburger.  The next table diner had a catfish plate that looked first-rate, and the menu listed a chicken fried steak baked potato that sounded good although that definitely sounds like a sharable lunch.  Other diners have also sworn by the peach cobbler although there was no way I could tackle that after my Ring of Fire.

Country Bumpkin’s can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Country-Bumpkins-Cafe/212381876755

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Country Bumpkin's on Urbanspoon

Mud Street Cafe – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Outside Mud Street

It would have been too….too… to shout, “Eureka!” in Eureka Springs, but I did consider it.  Excuse me, can I move here today?  I absolutely adored everything about this small spot in Northwest Arkansas…..well, except for the fact that I can’t actually move there.

But this isn’t a travel blog so I’ll just tell you about a wonderful little restaurant:  Mud Street Café.  Mud Street Café sits at the base of a hill of antique shops, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants.  At the top of the hill is the most picturesque hotel I’ve just about ever seen.  I wished we had had a chance to stay at the Crescent Hotel and Spa and do the ghost tour (they are supposed to be lots of fun).The entire town is a little paradise for shoppers, but we chose Mud Street Café because it’s one of the places to choose if you can’t visit all of them.  First, to get there you descend a steep flight of stairs lined with numerous accolades for their food, coffee and dessert.  I never would have thought that eating in a restaurant with no windows would be appealing, but it is.  It feels cozy and unconventional.   The bohemian atmosphere goes through the wait staff and décor.  Wonderful hand painted chairs and dining tables pulled up to sofas are some of the seating options and the coffee bar has an assortment of flavors and syrups for diners to choose the exact combination for their palate.

Ken and I chose a French Dip sandwich with provolone to split.  The roll was perfectly toasted and the tender roast beef was just the right amount of doneness.  The accompanying au juis was freshly made—none of the powered stuff that many restaurants use.  Served with chips, it was a perfect amount to split if one still wanted to leave room for dessert—which I did after seeing the assortment in the dessert case.

I asked the waitress (of course) which dessert was the best.  She suggested the chocolate mousse cake with caramel bourbon sauce. Now Ken isn’t a fan of chocolate or cake so I thought I might get most of it, but he definitely ate his share of this dense, almost cheesecake like experience.  Our waitress brought the caramel bourbon sauce on the side just in case one of us didn’t care for it.  She could’ve brought a gallon of it to our table.  I think I need to figure out how to make that stuff, because it was amazing.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas is quite a long way from Houston, but if the good Lord is willing, I’ll be eating at Mud Street Café again before too long.

Mud Street Cafe on Urbanspoon

Please let me know what you think of Mud Street Cafe.  I’d love to hear from you.

I Want to go Back! Backstreet Cafe

Texas Flat Iron Steak


On a warm April evening, we had an amazing meal at a charming restaurant in the River Oaks area. Now, if you know us, you know that we don’t normally go places that are super costly to eat, but since it was our anniversary, we thought we’d splurge on someplace a bit more upscale.

Choosing a place was difficult. We wanted great food and outdoor dining. We didn’t mind spending a bit more than usual, but we still aren’t the types to spend $100 per person for dinner. We decided on Backstreet Café off of Shepherd because the reviews were excellent and it seemed anniversary worthy. I checked online for reservations, but there we no tables available, but when I telephoned, the wonderful hostess said she could get us in and even get us back patio seating if we didn’t mind eating arriving at 6:00.

The restaurant is in a beautiful old home, with the bricked in back yard serving as the back patio. Giant trees canopy the tables and market umbrellas give further protection from the elements. The clientele was dressed in everything from cocktail dresses down to jeans, but the jeans wearers still looked impeccable. These weren’t Walmart jeans—more like True Religion and Lucky (I know some of the ladies want to know this). The wine list is extensive, but I chose homemade sangria to start off the evening. Soon warm sourdough bread arrived at the table. The texture of the bread was perfect—hard, chewy crust and soft interior.

I couldn’t decide between two appetizers, but when the waiter raved about the crab cakes being more crab than cake, we decided to split that. Although the portion was not large, the outstanding flavor and amount of crab more than made up for the size.

Ken chose a goat cheese stuffed chicken for his entrée. It was served on a bed of rice and vegetables. I’m not much for goat cheese, but it was really exquisite. I ordered a Texas flat iron steak, medium rare. It was accompanied with a fresh, grilled jalapeno stuffed with mushrooms and undoubtedly some of the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever eaten. I have no idea what cheese they used or special seasonings, but it was amazing. It did not taste like kid macaroni, but was rich and delicate all at the same time. It had been baked in its own ramekin, and came bubbling hot.

Their desserts all sounded wonderful, and had we not been so full we might have ordered two different ones, but since both of us were pretty full, we decided to split. Since I had chosen the appetizer, Ken chose the dessert. He chose a fresh banana tart. It was served with dulce de leche and crème fraiche, and was a perfect light ending to a perfect evening.

Now, please scroll down to the bottom of this post and tell me your favorite place to go for an enjoyable outdoor dining evening in the Houston (or within driving distance) area. It doesn’t have to be upscale (please—my bank account would appreciate it!) just good!
Backstreet Cafe on Urbanspoon

Such Wicked Intent. When does obsession become madness?

I must confess, I begged the wonderful assistant marketing manager at Simon & Shuster for an early copy of Such Wicked Intent, Kenneth Oppel’s second installment in the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein.  I LOVED This Dark Endeavor (see “There is a Passion in You That Scares Me,” November 2011).  I danced around the room when TDE was put both on the Texas Lone Star and the TAYSHAS reading lists (it has also won many other awards—but hey, I’m a Texan and our awards are more important.  Chillax, please—Texans are not known for our humility, and I’m just kidding around).  I was thrilled that Summit Pictures purchased the movie rights.   With all that going on, I knew there was NO WAY for me to wait until the August 21st release date for Such Wicked Intent. so Venessa at S&S hooked me up with a sequel that is every bit as good (and perhaps even better) than book one. 

Now, if you haven’t read This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, please do so.  It’s amazing.  Even if you don’t read TDE though, you can still enjoy Such Wicked Intent.  It’s brilliant that way.  Most sequels either spend an inordinate amount of time filling the reader in on back story while those who read book start flipping pages, or dig right in to book two leaving those who finished book one a while ago (or didn’t read it at all) in the dark and confused.   Oppel weaves what readers need to know from book one into book two—never so much at one time as to make the reader think they can skip paragraphs. 

I am completely against spoilers so I must be very careful here so that you will go read This Dark Endeavor.  Such Wicked Intent picks up with Victor and Elizabeth a few months after the end of This Dark Endeavor.   Victor has burned the Dark Library but in its ashes finds something completely unknown but also somehow familiar.  When he learns that he can enter the spirit world, he cannot resist knowing what is beyond death, even if it puts his own life and soul at risk.  There, amid the black butterflies, he and Elizabeth discover heightened abilities, intelligence, and passions.  How can he possibly resist Elizabeth now?    In the spirit world, Victor discovers how to bring the dead back to life.  But should they come back?  As the butterflies enter the world of the living, and their purpose becomes twisted, Victor, Elizabeth, Henry, and Konrad have some disturbing decisions to make.

Scarier than book one; preorder or buy from a bookseller here.

Sweet Evil: A Sweet Read!

Sweet Evil

What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences? This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels in the modern world. Anna, a tenderhearted Southern girl, was born with a sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen that she discovers her true heritage—that she is the daughter of a guardian angel and a fallen one.  The ultimate good girl, Anna, has always had the advantage of her angel side as a means of balance against her demon side, but when she meets the alluring Kaidan Row, son of the demon of Lust, her willpower is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna. 

A cross-country trip forces Anna and Kai to face the reality that hope and love are not options for their kind. When it’s time for Anna to confront her demons, will she choose to embrace her halo or her horns?’  – Summary from back of advance reader copy

Wendy Higgins has written a yummy, decadent YA paranormal romance that satisfies a teen’s wild abandon desires and a parent’s hopes for restraint.  Anna Whitt has lived her whole life knowing she was different, intrigued and pulled toward things that she knows will take her down the wrong path, but always choosing to stay pure in body and spirit….and then she meets Kaidan.

 ‘ He was smokin’ hot.  As in H-O-T-T hott.  I’d never understood until that moment why girls insisted on adding an extra t.  This guy was extra-t worthy….

This guy was sexy like it was his job or something.’

Actually, it is his job. Kaidan, a nephilim, has the sole purpose in life to lead girls astray.  He does his job very well, because if he does not fulfill his assignment, he will be put to death by his father, Pharzuph, otherwise known as Lust.  But Kaiden is nothing if not honest with Anna.

“I do whatever it takes to get their clothes off, and then I attempt to make it so they’ll never be with another person and not think of me.   I know secrets of the human body most people don’t even know about themselves.  And when I leave, I know they’re ruined when they’re begging me to stay.”

What girl would not want to meet Kaidan?  He is bad news from the get go.  He is every parent’s nightmare.  When Anna has to take a road trip with Kaidan to find out things about her past, she finds herself weakening to Kaidan’s draw.  Can she hold it together not only to protect her heart, but to protect her virtue?  When she finds out the secrets of her past, does she even have a choice or is she doomed because of her birth?

I liked that Higgins shows the inner conflict that teenage girls feel when they want so badly, but they also want so badly to be good.  Some of Anna’s other attributes did not seem as realistic:  caring what she wore because it distracted boys (please, if girls live in the South in the summer they want to wear short shorts—boys be damned) but I guess since Anna is half angel, her ultra consideration toward others can be forgiven.

Who would enjoy this book?  Two groups:

High school girls that feel their inner angel and inner demon fighting it out.  Girls that really do want to do what’s right.  Girls that want to know passion, but know how that path can so quickly go astray. 

Adult women who remember what it’s like to be in love with someone who is all wrong.  I’m way beyond my teenage years, but I really liked it.  I enjoyed the way Kaidan made Anna feel—the can’t catch your breath explosion of heat. 

At approximately 450 pages, the book seems long when you first pick it up, but it’s a fast read when you can’t put it down.  More good news.  This book will be released as a paperback or e-copy on May 1, which makes it an affordable summer treat.  Grab it and head for the beach! 

For more information or to purchase, click here.

Unraveling the Mystery

I’ve been on such a reading frenzy that I haven’t had much time to write, but I’m going to start catching up, one book at a time.   Just finished…..

Unraveling Isobel, Eileen Cook, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 18665067349.  Released January, 2012:

Isobel is a smart (and slightly smart-alecky) high school senior.  Her mother has just married a man whose former wife and handicapped daughter died only one year ago.   Isobel now has to relocate to an island off the coast of Washington and, needless to say, she is not happy to make the move.  To make matters worse, she now lives in a half-run down gothic mansion with an irresistibly cute but incredibly rude stepbrother.    Eerie things start happening:  drawings appear in her sketch book, shells stacked below her bed, ghostly images and strange noises.  Is it the ghost of the young, handicapped girl?  Is it the early stages of the schizophrenia she may have inherited from her dad?  Or is it her new stepdad, Dick, trying to make her think she is going insane? 

Some short passages that made me smile:

First up:    

‘When you’re seventeen and the only friend you have in town is a stuffed animal that doesn’t even belong to you, I think it’s safe to say your life is officially in the shitter.’

Second is a conversation between Isobel and her mom:

‘“I thought we talked about the fact that you need to focus on your schoolwork.  Art isn’t a practical or useful way to spend your time.”

“You think I should spend all my free time learning physics?”

“Don’t be smart with me,” she warned, completely missing the irony.’

Finally, Isobel’s thoughts as she has an encounter with  her new hot stepbrother:  

 ‘Nathaniel cleared his throat and I realized he was trying to take his hand back, and I was holding on to it with a death grip.  I dropped his hand like it was a burning log.  Oh God, I was turning into a stepbrother groper.’

Cook’s use of realistic teen language prohibits me from putting it in the junior high school library (it drops a couple of f-bombs and there are many references to Dick being a dick—doesn’t that sound like a teenager?).  I’d let my own junior high aged daughter read it (if she ever read).  I’d consider it appropriate for most teen readers—just not in a school junior high library.   As the movie played in my head, I gave it a PG-13 rating.   I enjoyed the frank discussions of the stigma of mental illness.  Too many books offer so little hope to teens that may have an issue such as this in their family. 

Not a perfect book, the ending was a little too neat for me.  Worth purchasing for teenage girls who want a little horror, a little romance, a gutsy heroine, and a happy ending.    (reviewed from ARC)

“There is a passion in you that scares me.”

Cover Art

This Dark Endeavor, by Kenneth Oppel

‘We found the monster on a rocky ledge high above the lake.  For three days my brother and I had tracked it through the maze of caves to its lair on the mountain’s summit.  And now we beheld it, curled atop its treasure, its pale fur and scales ablaze with moonlight.’

So begins This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, the new novel from the Printz Honor winning author, Kenneth Oppel.  Published in August 2011 by Simon & Schuster, this novel is a haunting character study of the young man who later created the most famous monster in history.   First in a series (hurry up with number two, Mr. Oppel!), we get to know Victor as a sixteen-year-old teenager.  Oppel has remarkably captured Mary Shelly’s famous character as an impetuous teen.  Oppel uses the gothic language of Shelly, and while much easier to read than the classic, it is by no means “dumbed down.” 

In This Dark Endeavor, Victor’s twin brother, Konrad, falls mysteriously ill in the family’s chateau in Geneva.  Victor must embark on a dangerous journey to obtain ingredients for the forbidden and illegally obtained Elixir of Life.  He enlists the help of his distant cousin, Elizabeth, and his best friend, Henry Clerval for his expedition, but, as it says on the front flap of the dust jacket, “the purest intentions can stir up the darkest obsessions.”  Victor finds that he is drawn to Elizabeth, and his desire is only strengthened by the discovery that Konrad and Elizabeth are secretly in love.  Why should she love Victor’s twin and not him when they both are “the same?”

As you can probably tell, Oppel’s Victor Frankenstein is not exactly likeable, but I felt sympathy for him.  It takes a great storyteller to make the audience care about someone so flawed, but Victor’s tortured soul is appealing. 

Although this seems a poor analogy, reading this book reminded me of the excitement I felt before watching the disappointing-to-me Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace.  I grew up on Star Wars IV – VI—I knew the evil of Darth Vader—but I wanted to see what could possibly transform a young boy into “Darth Vader.” 

My biggest concern regarding this book is that with a title mentioning Victor Frankenstein, students will expect in-your-face horror.  It’s not that kind of horror, although there are some tense and gruesome scenes in it.  It’s a glimpse into a soul that creates a sense of foreboding.  It is a beautifully written, haunting tale, creepy and tense.  The horror comes from within ourselves as we watch a young man head down a path that will bring about destruction and death.  We are watching the descent, knowing that from the bottom of this pit, there is no coming back.

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