So long, Big Tex. Let's do it again next year, buddy.

Another season has come and gone, dear readers. This past weekend, the 2014 State Fair of Texas closed up shop after its nearly month-long run and set some new records, both in ticket/concession sales and overall attendance. The weather was beautiful, the live music offerings were quirky and varied, and the newest food temptations were both as ridiculous as always and strangely tasty.

So, now our cholesterol is a little higher; the scale is tipping a couple of pounds in the wrong direction, and we've consumed enough fried dough to last us until...

Well, until Thanksgiving anyway, right?

Regardless, let's take a look at some of the weirdest, and most tantalizing, food choices that the fair had to offer this season (as sampled by yours truly):
  • The Original State Fair Brew - Funnel Cake Ale - This was one of the best newbies of the season, if we're being honest. Upon ordering, I thought I was going to get a sickly sweet, dessert variation of the fried favorite in a cup. Instead, what hit my taste buds was an IPA inspired bitter that wasn't sweet at all, but had a refreshing, yeasty taste. Compliment that with the powdered sugar-lined rim and you got a beer that tasted like Texas Beer. Imagine that. Nicely done, folks. Nicely done.
  • Chicken Fried Bacon - Okay, this one I could have lived without. While the actual product was exactly what was promised, it lacked any seasoning, spice or Texas flair that would have made it a tasty new favorite. Instead, I got a greasy paper bowl with four or five pieces of relatively flavorless bacon strips in a personality-free batter. A valid attempt at taking something fattening, and making it more fattening. But it wasn't worth the calories this time around.
  • Twisted Texas Tacos - Holy crap, now we're talking. What looked like it was going to be a doughy mess of too-much-fried-foodness, instead emerged as one of the best dishes this side of the corn dog. The taco was filled with slightly fried pieces of barbecued brisket and topped with fried okra, cheese, poblano corn and slaw. Oh. My. Goodness. My taste buds are still doing the happy dance after downing this bad boy. I'm currently working on re-creating this one at home.
Top off those three choices with some adult beverages a roasted corn stalk or two and a LOT of walking, and you have another rockin' season this year. 

Sometimes it's easy to ask ourselves as we sit in traffic for 20 minutes on I-30, brave the shady parking lot attendants, and walk a mile and a half into the fair grounds, why we're doing this exactly. What is it about this event that keeps us coming back each and every year? It's frustrating. It's expensive. It can be a pain in the ass, frankly.

Well, that's easy folks. It's home. The State Fair of Texas reminds us of why we live here. Wrapped in all of the excess, you find a bunch of really good people setting up shop to entice us with uniquely Southern items and trinkets. You have fantastic food and familiar music that sets the tone for this region; and you have a bunch of friends and families that want nothing more than to get out there with the people closest to them and have a good time. The smell of barbecue and beer are everywhere. People are smiling and riding rides while Big Tex looms large overhead with that oddly shaped hand, beckoning us into the grounds.

Opinions may vary, but for this State Fair fan, that's reason enough. See you next year.

 - Richard Dennis


Three words, Texas Culture Hubbers: Thirty. Rotating. Drafts.

It almost goes without saying that any burger and beer joint that opens in the Big D is going to have a lot to live up to, especially considering the wealth of choices and availability of good beef in the area.  However, if the youthful energy, spirited crowds and cool Greenville Ave. location are any indication,  then the freshly hatched Dallas Beer Kitchen seems to be off and running in the right way so far. The DBK features nearly three dozen selections of suds ranging from local and hard to find to globally accepted and admired. The menu is movie themed (complete with cinema style popcorn) and features fat Southwestern-inspired burgers that take their names from famous films, as well as thick fries and creative desserts. Dallas might just have another long-lasting, and tasty, favorite on its hands. 

1802 Greenville Ave. Suite 110, 214-484-2481

- Richard Dennis

Source: Where Magazine/Morris Publications


As the newest blogger to grace the hallowed grounds of the Texas Culture Hub, I thought it fitting to introduce myself a bit, give you the lowdown on where I'm coming from (literally and figuratively speaking, folks) and tell you a little bit about the fledgling posts that I'm leading off with this week. 

First off, like many of you, I'm a tried and true Texan. I love every nook and cranny of this great state, from the Corral Theatre in Wimberly to the legendary music (and lack of air conditioning) that emanates from Gruene Hall. This big, eccentric and utterly fascinating Lone Star State has always held a special place in my heart. 

In fact, I love it so much that I've spent the last decade of my life writing about it. All of it. The good and the bad, the quirky and the mainstream. If it exudes a Texas flavor, it's a ripe subject for me to discuss, rave about and mull over. I could be grooving to the jazz and blues-infused rhythms of Lyle Lovett or chasing down chorizo-stuffed jalapeƱ doesn't matter. Nothing says home to me like the warm weather and Southern appeal that Texas holds. 

So, to start off my time here at the Hub, I wanted to post a couple of my past pieces to give you a sense of what interests me, what some of my posts might look like going forward, and to get your opinion. I'm kicking things off with a piece on one of my favorite subjects: FOOD. Tex-Mex, in particular. Got your attention? Good! Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Lastly, seeing as how it's that time of year again, I thought I might attempt to lure you into a trip down a foggy passageway, or through a dark hallway by taking a look at some of the most spine-tingling haunted houses that litter the metroplex during this time of year. So, gather your nerves and click on Haunted Texas if you'd like a taste of some of the creepiest goings-on around town this October.

That's all for now, my fellow Hubbers. I'm glad to be a part of the Texas Culture Hub and the Tumbleweed TexStyles family, and I hope to hear more from you as I continue. Now grab a cold one and get to reading!

 - Richard Dennis


Everyone is familiar with the zesty crunch of a good plate of nachos. To the uninitiated, it could seem that these simple but delectable creations have always been with us. After all, who would need to invent a nacho? Take some cheese; put it on a deep-fried chip, top it with sour cream or guacamole, and it’s finished. But where did it actually start? A quick Google search confirms officially that it all began in Piedras Negras, Mexico in the early 1940s by a man named Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya. The story goes that Anaya threw the blessed union of cheddar cheese, tostadas and jalapeno slices together (using remaining ingredients from the day) to appease some last minute lady patrons to the Victory Club restaurant where he was employed. For whatever reason, the gamble worked, the dish was a huge success, and the recipe stuck. Now, nachos are devoured in restaurants all over the world, every hour of the day. From the sloppiest ballpark concoction to the most distinct gourmet creation, nachos, like so many other dishes native to the Southwest, are standout symbols of a cuisine that has been birthed and re-birthed countless times throughout history: Tex-Mex.

When you think of Tex-Mex, many tantalizing images come to mind. Whether it’s the cheesy goodness of a plate of enchiladas and refried beans, the toasted aroma of a bowl of freshly made corn chips or even the sweet temptations of post-dinner empanadas or sopapillas, this hugely popular fare has been a mainstay of U.S. culture since before the second World War. While Texas and Mexico are the obvious inspirations, Indian influences (such as the addition of cumin) are also credited to the perfection of the recipes. Also, despite the misleading sound of its handle, Tex-Mex isn’t, strictly speaking, Mexican food at all. It’s a purely American concoction crafted on American soil; but it has been made famous by the talented Mexican chefs and culinary artists that grew up enjoying more traditional versions of these one-of-a-kind creations in their family kitchens.

In fact, Jorge Cortez, owner and operator of Mi Tierra in San Antonio’s El Mercado (or Market Square), doesn’t see this unique collaboration as any kind of who-did-what or who-gets-credit-for-what at all. He sees it as a natural progression of history and inspiration. “Tex-Mex evolved according to the tastes and influences of the country,” he states. “It stands right alongside the music, tradition, and unique artistry of the region. It’s what America is about.” One need only experience the aromatic emanations from the 24-hour Mi Tierra itself to tell you that Cortez is right on the money. It isn’t a competition, or question of authorship. The winners are the patrons.

Strictly speaking, the purely Mexican originations of Tex-Mex actually tend to lean more towards a simpler, more old-fashioned style of cooking; with the spices, time-honored recipes and much-loved ingredients getting their basis in Mexico’s customs. However, the U.S. eventually brought something decidedly different to the table. The American influences led to the “beefing” up of the spices, the sauces, the meat, and the overall heartiness of the dishes. It was this combination that led to Tex-Mex evolving into much of what it has come to look like today. Now characterized by large portions, an affinity towards beef and pork meat products, flour and corn ingredients, and an assortment of beans like black and pinto, Tex-Mex has become a beautiful amalgamation; a distinct blending of sensibilities born out of these separate cultures and turned into something wholly original. To some, it’s the perfect plate.

Mr. Cortez even wryly volunteered that he loves to tell his cooking staff the fairytale story of the Mexican and American ranchers who went to work together with their homemade lunches in tow. According to Cortez, “The Mexican rancher had a dozen enchiladas made up of simply corn tortillas and meat, while the American brought his wife’s homemade chili.” Curious, they decided to share their meals, and to their delight, enchiladas with con carne sauce were born. As any lover of Tex-Mex can attest, that particular dish has been a staple of the fare for generations.

While Tex-Mex endured some backlash because of its tradition-bending, supporters like Cortez are happy to argue that the flavors are simply a well-orchestrated symphony “originated in the markets and plazas” of the Southwest region. Starting with eager-to-please restaurateurs serving up generous portions of food to soldiers, families and the myriad of travelers and newcomers to San Antonio and the surrounding areas, and continuing right into the modern area where Tex-Mex is found in some form in many places throughout the world; the sights, sounds, and smells of this delicious cuisine are as far-reaching as the influences it draws from. At its best, Tex-Mex cooking seems to represent many of the melting-pot aspects of the country. Not much unto itself, but melded together it becomes something greater than the individual ingredients alone. Like a good plate of nachos, it’s the layers, not the individual parts that create the masterpiece.

 - Richard Dennis


Originally Posted in the San Antonio Guestbook in an article entitled, “What is Tex-Mex?”
Used with permission from Morris Publications


As the leaves begin to turn as orange as the store pumpkins, and the chills in the air become a reality, it’s time to turn our attention to that most horrifying of holidays. Whether you fancy a low-key slog through a ghostly hayride, or a pulse-pounding trip into the bowels of an eerie castle, there’s no time as frightfully delicious as Halloween. So wrap your favorite sweater just a little tighter and keep the hot chocolate close; it’s time to explore the goriest and goofiest October happenings in the Big D.

Just a short jaunt out of Dallas and into the foreboding realms of Waxahachie, this blood-curdling “Halloween Theme Park” awaits. Residing on the same grounds as Scarborough Faire, Screams offers thrill-seekers a truly rousing experience complete with themed food, haunted mazes, activities and shows, and spooky hayrides. The grounds are family friendly and range from slighter scares for the little ones to more terrifying temptations like the newly opened Castle of Darkness for the older monsters. 2511 FM 66, Waxahachie, 972-938-3247,

Thrillvania Thrill Park and the Verdun Manor
Be warned, trespassers. Touted as one of the most popular haunts in the country, this one-of-a-kind location offers a full night of scares with eight different attractions ranging from the 3D Labyrinth of Terror and the Maze of Chaos to the haunted Voodoo Bayou and of course the werewolf-themed Verdun Manor itself. There’s even a brand new 4D spooktacular this season designed to petrify even the bravest of patrons. Interstate 20 and Wilson Rd., Terrell,

The Boneyard Haunted House
Guaranteed to leave no hair un-raised, this bone-chilling Arlington favorite has earned a national reputation as “the world’s largest haunted house” and features over 2,800 square feet of terror. Willing adventurers take an adrenaline fueled (and nearly hour long) walk through every kind of fright imaginable. Both truly visceral and all in good fun, this one isn’t for the faint of heart. 2921 E. Division St., Arlington, 817-451-2663,

Reindeer Manor
Hold on tight, and get ready for a wild night. A DFW favorite for nearly four decades, the Haunted House at Reindeer Manor is not only an actual house, but it might actually be haunted as well. Steeped in real history going back to the early 1900’s, this frighteningly unique creep-fest prides itself on showcasing a realistic and truly unnerving experience. Ominous farmland and macabre undertones almost dare visitors to run as they make their way through the grounds’ three different haunted attractions. Our condolences. 410 Houston School Rd. Red Oak, 972-514-RATS,

- Richard Dennis


Originally posted in Where Magazine/Morris Publications
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