Variety is the spice of life they say. And that couldn’t be truer when it comes to food and drink. I’ll save the food for another day, because a recent experience of mine that inspired this post definitely centered on drink. The craft brew industry in Texas has exploded in the last decade, and what were once small microbreweries like St. Arnold, Real Ale, and Karbach have become household names among beer lovers. If you are a Victoria resident or visitor and enjoy sampling some high-quality brews, I very much suggest attending the Pint Jockeys Beer Tastings at the Del Papa Distribution Center, located at 3907 E. Rio Grande St. Held on the third Thursday of every month, they typically host a representative from one of the state’s notable craft breweries that the company distributes. Oh, and did I mention that the tastings are completely FREE? This past tasting in February, Matt Lorfing of Houston’s Karbach Brewing Co. stopped by to tell the crowd of about 50 tasters a bit of Karbach’s history and more details on the beers being offered that day. These weren’t your everyday light beers either, with such offerings as the Rodeo Clown Double IPA, Weekend Warrior Pale Ale, Weisse Versa Wheat Bavarian-style hefeweizen. If that gets your mouth watering a bit, then the Pint Jockeys Beer tastings are definitely for you.
Eating well can be a challenge. With more documentaries, news articles, and the like coming out advising us to eat organically-grown fruits, vegetables, and grains, sometimes a simple trip to the grocery store can feel overwhelming. However, if you are looking for a short trip and a low-stress shopping environment, check out the Victoria Farmers Market every Saturday from 9am-2pm in the Pattie Dodson Health Center parking lot located at 2805 N. Navarro St. This Saturday I was able to score some fresh cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and squash. There were also a variety of other vendors selling homemade items such as soaps, salsa, noodles, spices, local honey, and fresh herbs and plants. Needless to say I’ll be making some return trips. Also, if you get a little hungry with all that shopping swing by and order some grub from the Guerilla Gourmet food trailer by Chef James Canter usually parking by the vendors. The food always tastes amazing and James tries to utilize locally-grown fresh ingredients. You can learn a little more about Guerilla Gourmet by visiting their website at www.ggfoodtruck.com
With the Christmas and holiday season inching closer, it’s time to start thinking about buying those gifts for your family and friends. A great place to start would be to check out some of the locally-owned retail locations here in Victoria. Find unique, special gift items and support our local businesses; it’s a win-win! There are several shops near the Downtown Victoria area such as Days Gone Bye where you can snag apparel and jewelry including the sought-after ‘Pandora’ brand. Head over to Santa Rosa Pottery for one-of-a-kind handmade pieces. Find a variety of great items including books, chocolates and more at Charlene’s Gifts with A Special Touch. Cross out several names on your list by visiting the Town and Country Shopping Center at the intersection of Laurent and Airline streets. There you can find stores like Color Me Paisley, Pidder Padder, and The Market of Victoria.
There are a lot more great retail locations within the city. Check out the shopping listings on our website for a full list of retail locations!
Do you like a good scare every once in a while? Halloween always brings about cool events in Victoria. The following are some great happenings to help fill your calendar. Soak up a tad of Victoria’s vast history at the Victoria Preservation Inc. Annual Cemetery Tour. Live re-enactors in full period costume tell the stories of Victoria citizens of years past. The Texas Zoo hosts a great family-friendly and safe trick-or-treating event with their “Zoo Boo”. Victoria companies and organizations will be present offering goodies for all the kids. What would Halloween be without scary movies? This year marks the inaugural Frel’s Fright Fest, a three day showcase of independent and classic horror films, along with a special screening of the timeless 1922 Vampire Classic “Nosferatu” complete with a live orchestral accompaniment. Most people can say they’ve been to a haunted house on Halloween, but how many haunted zoos can you go to? Be sure to check out the Texas Zoo’s annual “Haunted Zoo”; for this event it is probably best to leave the little ones at home as it can generate some real scares.
Also, be sure to catch the Dia de los Muertos Festival in Downtown Victoria and at the Nave Museum. This Mexican holiday is marked by its celebration of life and for remembering loved ones who have passed. The festival features a somber March of Remembrance, children’s arts and crafts, food vendors, face painting, live music, performances by ballet folklorico and a Mercado. See below for a complete list of dates and for more information.
Annual Cemetery Tour
Catholic Cemeteries I & II
Click here for more information and to get tickets
The Texas Zoo
Click here for more information
Frel’s Fright Fest
Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts
Click here for more information and to get tickets
Oct. 29-Nov. 1
The Texas Zoo
Click here for more information
Dia de los Muertos Festival
Downtown Victoria & The Nave Museum
Click here for more information
Bootfest has sure had its share of bona fide country talents take the stage, and our Saturday night, Oct. 4 headliner for Bootfest 2014, Aaron Watson, certainly fits the bill. With seven #1 singles on the Texas Country Chart, Aaron has carved out quite a career in the Texas Country Music scene and has established himself as one the genre’s top stars. Raised in Amarillo and currently living in Abilene, Aaron hasn’t strayed from his roots as a musician and earned his success “the old-school way” by selling records out of his backpack as a student at Abilene-Christian University and playing to small crowds that continued to grow. Play any one of his singles and you’ll quickly see that Aaron is still pure country, even as the genre as a whole has displayed a lot of changes in the last several years. His most recent album release, “Real Good Time”, is loaded with full-force fun swingers (“Real Good Time”), tongue-in-cheek romps (the satirical “Hey Y’all”) and slow, heartfelt tunes (“July In Cheyenne”). Watson’s philosophy has always been to make good, wholesome, fun music that’s reflective of what he believes in. His performance at Bootfest 2014 will help make this year’s festival the best one yet.
See Aaron Watson live in concert for FREE Saturday, October 4 at Bootfest 2014 in Downtown Victoria, TX. Go to our website at VisitVictoriaTexas.com for our full schedule of entertainers and for more details on Bootfest.
Did you know that you can try your hand at an ancient weapon that predates even the bow and arrow, right here in Victoria? At the Museum of the Coastal Bend you can do just that with atlatl spear throwing. Basically, just think of it as an oversized dart that rests on a wooden holder of sorts. The form isn’t so hard to get down; if you’ve ever thrown a baseball you should be pretty much prepared. It’s incredible to think that the ancient peoples of the Coastal Bend region used to take down prey as large as mammoths with such simple a device! The museum staff is happy to set up targets for any visitor upon request, during regular business hours of course. Have some extra fun and request their mammoth targets so you can get the feel of going after the big game. Happy hunting! The Museum of the Coastal Bend is located at 2200 E. Red River (at the Victoria College), and is open Tues.-Sat. 10am-4pm and is closed major holidays. Call 361-582-2511 for more information.
Victoria is one of the oldest cities in Texas, founded by Martin De Leon in 1824. Let that date sink in for a little bit. Victoria is older than 26 of the states in the United States. With that long of a history, there are bound to be quite a few interesting stories to be told. If you were ever curious about some of the more curious of nuggets from Victoria’s past, several new installations in town are here to help. The “Victoria Trail Through Time” is a series of beautifully designed displays in Downtown Victoria and Riverside Park that tell the tales that have occurred during Victoria’s amazing history. So take some time to check out these fascinating stories from years gone by.
Downtown Victoria Locations:
-Fossati’s Delicatessen: “The Macaroni Line”
-Corner of Juan Linn St. and Main St.: “Jose Maria Jesus Carbajal”
Riverside Park Locations:
-”Round Top House and the Great Comanche Raid”
-”Steamboating and the Guadalupe”
-”Margaret Wright: The Mother of Texas”
-”Presidio la Bahia Mission Espiritu Santo”
If you’re like me, you suffer from occasional cases of electronic overload. It’s no secret we’re a little bit overly-stimulated these days. Be honest, how much time do we spend in front of a screen? Many of us use one (or several) for work. Then we go home, and likely spend some more time with one (or several). I know that I need to recharge a little from time to time, and I don’t mean my laptop. One of my favorite ways to do just that is to unplug and spend some time in nature. We are very lucky to have such a large and beautiful park here in town in Riverside Park. But did you know that there is an incredible nature area and trail in the park, the Athey Nature Area? This week I set out to explore this little piece of wilderness for myself, and let me tell you it was a much needed break from the hustle and bustle.
The trail really has two main entrance points; you can enter by the Hiller House at 3003 N. Vine St. or in Riverside Park near Riverside Stadium, which is where I started my trek from. The first part of the trail is a very well-done and smooth concrete path that’s perfect for any activity whether you are biking, jogging, or just going for a stroll like myself. It wasn’t long before I found myself enveloped in a lush green canopy and surrounded by a variety of native Texas vegetation. Now I’m no expert birder but there was an incredible variety of bird songs echoing from the trees which made this hike that much more enjoyable. I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of cardinals in the area too as flashes of red and brown darted in and out of the brush before me. About halfway through this part of the trail I saw some deer in a nearby field, and was pretty sure that was the closest I’d get to larger wildlife species. Not long after the trail turned from smooth concrete to a crush white limestone, and the vegetation changed from a pecan and oak forest into more of grassland dotted with elm and post oak and knee high grasses. As I continued onward I felt like to I could hear something moving in the brush nearby. Glad to have my camera nearby in case I’d be the first to get a not-fuzzy photograph of Bigfoot, a fully-grown doe jumped out of the brush a few feet in front of me and darted across the trail. Safe to say I wasn’t quick enough with the camera on that one. Not only that but a few minutes later I saw to my left about four or five does watching me intently. Shortly thereafter the trail surface changed again, and I was now on a basic gravel and dirt path. This part of the trail felt a little more raw and the vegetation reflected that of a hard South Texas brush with low-hanging mesquite. I really enjoyed taking a few pics of an almost surreal-looking dead tree that was stripped of its leaves and had hanging Spanish Moss in their place. As I neared the exit of the trail a hidden reward laid waiting for me when I found a dewberry wine loaded with mature fruit, which I naturally had to take a quick sampling of. I may even head back this week to pick a bag or two!
Be sure to take a little time out of your schedule and let your senses be flooded with the beautiful sights and sounds of the Athey Nature Area.
If you’re ever looking for a good cup of joe in Victoria, and want to avoid the typical chains you see in pretty much any city of decent size, a great alternative is Huvar’s Artisan Market and Catering in Downtown Victoria. Not only do they have incredible coffee from a full barista station, but a good variety of breakfast options to boot. You can choose from such delectable options as white chocolate & raspberry scones, chocolate chip muffins, banana bread, and smoothies. Unfortunately for myself I’m on a pretty strict diet these days so I couldn’t sample any of the pastries, but still had a tasty breakfast with cinnamon oatmeal and a fruit bowl. For my choice of coffee I took full advantage of the barista station offerings and elected for a latte with cinnamon. An excellent choice in hindsight as it was flavorful but easy drinking and very well-balanced. So if you ever find yourself looking for a different breakfast experience besides the hustle-and-bustle of a fast food joint and want a more authentic coffee drinking experience, you can’t go wrong with taking a little trip to Downtown Victoria and Huvar’s.
Huvar’s Artisan Market and Catering is located at 110 W. Juan Linn St. and is open Monday-Friday, 7am-3pm.
What do different kinds of drinks mean to you? Typically when I think of rum I imagine a beach, a frozen fruity drink under a little umbrella, and too much Jimmy Buffett playing in the background (ask anyone who knows me well, I can’t stand him). Gin? Martinis, James Bond- that whole image. And tequila? Really, I have to say personally I didn’t have much of an idea. So when I heard that the new restaurant on the top floor of One O’Connor Plaza in Downtown Victoria, The Sendera, would be opening a specialty tequila bar, I felt compelled to expand my knowledge base. And I have to say I’m glad I did. First thing you should know about The Sendera is it has a great atmosphere. Being on the 12th floor of One O’Connor Plaza in Downtown Victoria, it has hands-down the best views of the city available. The owners, Dennis and Louise, went for a cool upscale ranch house vibe with different art pieces of horses and cattle, ranch scenes, and dark leather furniture. But a really eye-catching feature is the “Sendera Cantina” tequila bar. And they mean tequila. As is stands there’s about 120-130 different labels of tequila there, with a goal of reaching around 150. The bar itself is literally glowing, with a quartz top lit from beneath. I began my culinary excursion with one of the bar’s signature tequilas, the Maestro Dobel. A blend of three different types of tequila, it was a perfect drink to sip on the rocks with a lime wedge. Next came an order of pork bellies from their new tequila bar appetizer menu-and they did not disappoint. According to the bartender, they are cured for 36 hours, braised in root beer, and topped with a mango salsa. And with a generous portion to boot, they were excellent. Of course The Sendera is first and foremost a steakhouse, so I had to go with a 12oz. rib eye. It was cooked to perfection and the side I ordered along with it, the creamed spinach, had a rich creamy flavor and was a perfect complement to the steak. With happy hour specials and live music on Saturday nights, The Sendera Cantina is the perfect place for some post-work libations or a night out with friends. Visit The Sendera at One O’Connor Plaza, 12th floor. Open Monday-Thursday 11 am-10 pm, Friday 11 am-midnight, and Saturday 4 pm-midnight.
I consider myself a live music fan. I also consider myself a bit of an explorer, searching every nook and cranny of the cities where I’ve lived. So the fact that after nearly two years in Victoria I hadn’t been to the revered Schroeder Hall was a bit of a travesty to say the least. After all, it is the second oldest dancehall in Texas and has hosted legendary country music entertainers over the years. Luckily, I won tickets to the Taste of Country Christmas concert last Saturday, featuring Nashville country up-and-comer Thomas Rhett.
Just a short 15-minute drive past the brush and pastures of Upper Mission Valley Rd., and left onto FM 622, brings you to the rear of the hall. As soon as you drive up, you see it’s a true Texas dancehall with cars parked all around in a large field next to the main hall. With a tin roof and simple, white exterior, Schroeder Hall could easily pass for a rustic barn – save for the neon sign. Once you’re inside however, you get transported back to a time when everyone went to local dancehalls for the weekend shindigs. Being from the Czech and German dancehall-heavy region of south-central Texas, I felt right at home at Schroeder Hall. The low-set ceiling is lined wood beams and frilly, plastic banners. The bar only serves beer to concert-goers (customers can bring their own liquor but set-ups must be purchased at the bar). Tables line two sides of the hall and the stage is set deep in the back – leaving plenty of room for dancing or for getting up close to the performers. If you love country music, Schroeder Hall is the place to go for a genuine Texas experience you won’t soon forget.
UPCOMING CONCERTS AT SCHROEDER HALL:
December 20, 2014: Josh Abbott Band
December 28, 2014: Kevin Fowler
December 31, 2014: Restless Heart
January 4, 2014: Aaron Watson
January 11, 2014: Granger Smith
February 8, 2014: Stoney LaRue
I’ll admit it. I can be a bit of a Scrooge when the holiday season kicks off. Not that I try to make family and friends less enthusiastic about the holiday season, but sometimes it can be hard for me to get that overriding enthusiasm for this time of year right off the bat. Maybe it’s the bombardment of ads, or news of several shoppers ending up incarcerated from a scuffle over the last Wild Wacky Mega Bike. However, for the past few years I’ve found a great way to get in the spirit is by taking in some of the great holiday events in Victoria with family and friends; it’s a great way to make the holiday season truly special and memorable. The Victoria Bach Festival presents Conspirare Christmas this Thursday, December 5th at the First United Methodist Church. A unique holiday celebration fusing hymns, carols, sacred and popular music, there will be several amazing vocalists on tap, most notably the Grammy-nominated Ruthie Foster, to belt out some of your favorite classics. Follow up Conspirare with the Lighted Christmas Parade event Saturday in Downtown Victoria, which typically features over 100 entries annually, from corporate floats to marching brigades of local organizations dressed as elves and the like. Finish off your Christmas revelry with Victoria’s Ballet Theatre’s annual production of the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker” at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts December 12-15. Be sure to call ahead and get your tickets because this is a popular performance year in and year out. Of course you’ll still need to do SOME shopping. For that, try some of our great local retailers or the Victoria Market Days on Saturday, December 14th in Downtown Victoria featuring a variety of vendors, some of which who sell unique handmade items. For more details on all of these events, check our online events calendar and for shopping information see store listings on our website. Oh and I almost forgot- Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
These days it seems there’s a lot going on in Victoria. Every week or so there seems to be some cool festival, fundraiser, or other kind of special event happening. And a big part of each is live music. Victoria is really lucky to have the quality of musicians of we do here in town. Want proof? Just take a quick tour of the local music venues on any given weeknight or weekend. Are you a big two-stepper and a fan of country music? Guys like the Scott Taylor Band, Clay Crockett & the Shotgun Riders, & Jeremy Halliburton of crank out tunes on the local honky-tonk and dancehall circuit at places like Dodge City Nightclub and Schroeder Dancehall. More of a rocker? Catch acts like Dr. Yahagi and the Mended Hearts at Rosebud Fountain and Grill or The Hot Attacks, The Mudcatz, and Crossroads at Steve-A-Reno’s Rock and Roll Blues Bar. If you’re looking for a more laid-back vibe, I’d suggest the outdoor patio at the Pumphouse Riverside Restaurant and Bar or Greek’s 205 Bar to hear Jerry James, the April Hall Band, or Andrea Marie & the Magnolia Band play a mix of folk and acoustic. For a little Tejano or salsa, head to the Golden Gecko where you can catch The Krystals or Two Step Dancehall and Lounge. Naturally that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There really are so many great artists and live music venues to choose from here in Victoria. Download the track “Victoria, TX” by one of Victoria’s own, Dr. Yahagi & the Mended Hearts! Check out their website at dryahagi.com for more info and to purchase their new CD “Heart Surgeon”!
CDs are also available at Hastings in Victoria and the Citizens Medical Center coffee shop and gift shop. Check out the band’s Facebook page and listen to 106.9 Klub Rock for Dr. Yahagi’s monthly appearance to talk about music and heart-related news and tips.
Victoria’s renowned barbecue spot, Mumphord’s Place, was named one of the 50 Best Barbecue Joints by Texas Monthly magazine not long ago. Alerted to this distinction, the Victoria Advocate sent in its own newspaper taste-test team to sample the ‘cue themselves.
Naturally, the staff at the CVB figured we needed to do the same so I gladly volunteered for the assignment, declaring I had bona fide barbecue credentials. I grew up in this area and since my grandpa owned what was once Mr. Bar-B-Q in Edna, I’ve had my fair share of solid barbecue meals.
On first arrival, Mumphord’s has the look of what you might expect of one of those hole-in-the-wall barbecue joints. Driving up you’ll notice the red and white brick/stone façade and wooden-posted front porch. Near the back of the small parking is a large wood stack and the dark, smoky pit area. Any barbecue aficionado can tell that when you spot those two landmarks, it’s a good omen for the quality of your forthcoming meal. When you walk inside you are greeted with a bit of a hodgepodge of decorations. The walls are lined with a mix of items ranging from old athletic jerseys and mounted deer heads, to family photos and a proclamation to the Mumphord family from former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin. An interesting touch for a barbecue joint was the large screen TV in the middle of one wall playing a rerun of “Bones” on TNT.
The staff was pretty friendly and had no problem joking around with guests. I was glad to know that I wasn’t the only first-timer to this seller of smoked meats; I ended up seated by a trio of ladies enjoying chopped beef sandwiches on their first lunch break to Mumphord’s. For this task I was only a team of one, so I couldn’t exactly take on the full spread of meats and sides they had to offer and elected for a three meat and 2 side combo. For meats I chose your South Texas staples: brisket, sausage, and pork ribs. Never being a big fan of coleslaw or potato salad, I tried to order the green beans and pinto beans. Emphasis on “tried”. Word to the wise, at Mumphord’s when they say “double bean” it doesn’t mean one of each type of bean. I ended up with a pretty good heaping of pinto beans on my plate. At first I was disappointed in my error, but after I got a quick bite of the beans I figured I was ok. They were pretty flavorful and had that good texture; not mushy, but not crunchy and undercooked either. Sorry for the tangent, I’m sure what you really want to know about is the barbecue…
I started with the pork ribs, and while I found them to be a little more rib than rib meat, they still had a good smoky flavor. As for the sausage, I grew up in the Moulton area, about an hour north of Victoria in pretty much the heart of the Czech-German area in South Central Texas (Hallettsville, Schulenburg, Shiner, etc.). The kind of sausage I grew up eating usually has a little more pepper in it and is a bit coarser and meatier. Still, I really enjoyed Mumphord’s offerings in this category as it had a rich, even flavor and was pretty tender which was a nice change.
My favorite part hands down was the brisket. Quite honestly, I’ve never understood the whole “melt in your mouth” thing people on Food Network and what not gush about in reference to meat. Meat shouldn’t “melt” in your mouth; that’s not natural. Mumphord’s brisket was flavorful and tender but with enough texture to feel like I was eating the actual brisket meat and not some brisket/fat concoction.
The sauce happened to also be one of my favorite parts of the meal. It was a light blend that didn’t run all over the place, and at first bite had a sweet taste that by the time you were done chewing had a tangy zing to it. And to top it all off, the sweet tea was pretty good too.
All in all I have to say that I definitely saw why Mumphord’s is considered by some as one of Texas’s top BBQ spots. But rather than just take my word for it, be sure to taste for yourself some time!
Mumphord’s Place is located at 1202 E. Juan Linn St. and is open Monday-Thursday 11am-7pm, Friday 11am-9pm, and Saturday 11am-6pm. For more information call 361-485-1112.
A prominentTexan was quoted as saying recently that old Victoria is one of the prettiest places in Texas. After taking a quick mental tour around the Lone Star state, stopping at some of my favorite places along the way, I decided he was spot on. Founded by Martin de Leon in 1824 and with more than 100 landmarks and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, old Victoria provides a charming home for residents and businesses and a stunning backdrop for festivals and special events. The distinctive design of architect Jules C. Leffland can be seen in many of the homes in old Victoria and noted Texas architect J. Riely Gordon designed the 1892 Victoria County courthouse, voted one of the ten favorite historic courthouses in Texas.
An easy way to explore our downtown is to pick up one of our Old Victoria Driving Tour Guides here at the Victoria CVB Visitor Information Center and head on down Main Street to De Leon Plaza where the tour begins. The driving tour guide and map will help you wind your way through our historic downtown as well as provides a photograph and the story of each of the 84 truly amazing, historic buildings and sites included in the tour. It also describes a couple other important historic sites like Tonkawa Bank and Evergreen Cemetery and tells the story of why Victoria is known for La Calle de Los Diez Amigos, the Street of 10 friends.
I have the privilege of both living and working in old Victoria. I love to stomp around downtown, feeling history ooze between my toes or ride my bike through the neighborhoods, imagining the breeze is whispering stories of old as I pass by each gem. I confess a particular fondness for numbers 74 and 75 on the driving tour. Both of these grand old dames are survivors, for sure. They were built in Indianola and withstood the devastating 1886 hurricane after which time their owners wisely dismantled them and moved them to Victoria. I don’t mean to take away from the other historic buildings on the tour; each one is special with a fascinating story of its own.
Do yourself a huge favor and invite your favorite someone along on the old Victoria driving tour. Enjoy the beauty of Victoria and step back in time for just a little while.