Great Dates Houston

February 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Edit

26 Great Dates

26 Thrill-seeking, Toe-tingling, Laugh-a-minute, Sexy, Meltdown, Great Dates

Tired of the same old dinner and a movie? Had enough of boring dates, mind-numbing chit-chat and awkward exchanges? If so, it might be time to spice up your relationship. Whether you’re just getting to know each other or maybe you know each other too well, every relationship needs a romantic spark now and then. These hot spots can definitely set the mood.

Sexy Surroundings

1. Days of Wine – There’s lots of romance at the bottom of a wine bottle, and we’ve got some great places to crush some grapes while crushing on your date. Start at La Carafe downtown and enjoy your bottle upstairs by the stained-glass window. Then journey to the Wine Bucket Bar. Try the “tasting,” where the selections change each evening. Then head for some delightful fusion cuisine at Scott’s Cellar. Owner/chef Scott Chen will match his world-class wine list to your meal. Round out the evening at the Post Oak Grill’s bar. La Carafe (713) 229-9399, Wine Bucket (713) 942-9463, Scott’s Cellar (713) 785-8889, Post Oak Grill (713) 993-9966

2. Morning Call – Not all dates end with a goodnight kiss. Pack a picnic breakfast for two, and watch the sun come up. Would you want to start your day any other way?

3. Fantasy Spree – Pretend you need spare no expense. Strap on your high heels, knot up your favorite tie and experience a journey of flavors – five steaks with five sauces – at the delectable Chef g’s. Cruise over to Momentum Porsche and test-drive the hot red Porsche 911. Then head out to Quenton Elliott and try on a stunning diamond necklace. Chef g’s (713)522-5551, Momentum Porsche (713) 596-3000, Quenton Elliott Jewelry (713) 528-1641

4. King and Queen for the Day – The Four Seasons will set the stage for the perfect 24 hours of romance. This once in a lifetime offer includes a suite, Dom Perignon, Tiffany & Co. crystal flutes, roses, dinner from Quattro served by a private butler, massages, monogrammed bathrobes and breakfast in bed. Four Seasons (713) 650-1300

5. What’s Old is Gold – Coast down to Galveston and spend the day perusing antique stores. Note for guys: Knock her socks off by knowing the differences between Regency, Queen Anne, Chippendale, Empire, Art Nuevo and Louis XIV, XV and XVI. Double bonus points go to the man who knows what a highboy is and casually mentions how interesting it is that the highboy is the only piece of furniture unique to America. But don’t try to act like a know-it-all. You don’t.

Share a Dare

Conversation or the lack thereof can be the quicksand of dating, but an awkward silence or a blundered sentence can occur in any relationship. That’s why it helps to plan an activity – doing something can definitely take the edge off.

6. Up, Up and Away – At Bear Creek Balloons, they create an unforgettable hot air balloon experience, including a picnic celebration with champagne, croissants, cheese and country sausages. Bear Creek Balloons (281) 463-0080

7. Rock ‘n Bowl – Midnight bowling makes novel use of your parents’ pastime – pins and balls mixed with loud rock music. Don’t worry about making a strike, just try and keep it in the lane. Jillian’s (713) 263-0303

8. This is a Test – Relationships are always competitive on some level – for one thing, you’ve got to know if someone’s a sore loser or keeps score or cheats. And nothing tests a person’s patience like golf. You’ll learn more about your prospective partner in 18 holes of regulation play than you would by dating them for 18 months. Does she count her strokes correctly? Does he improve his lie? Longwood Golf Club (281) 373-4100

9. Winner Takes All – Dating is a gamble, but even if your date’s a loser, you can win at the Gulf Greyhound Park. Depending on how your luck runs, get a club box and eat upstairs, or settle for beer and nachos from a concession stand in the cheap seats. Gulf Greyhound Park (409) 986-9500

10. Be a Tourist for the Day – Tell the concierge at the St. Regis you’re in town for the day and want to see the attractions that are most widely recognized around Houston. Take his/her recommendations and a camera. Bonus points: Make a postcard with one of the pictures from the date. St. Regis (713) 840-7600

11. Clay Together – Decorate pottery at a create-your-own-art store, and stroll the pros at the pottery/antiquities exhibit at the Menil Collection afterwards. Think Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in “Ghost.” Bonus: The pottery store accidentally gives you a great excuse for a second date, in that your finery has to be picked up a few days after you paint it. The Menil (713) 525-9400

12. A Day of Beauty – Nothing says “emotionally available” like a guy in a mud mask trying to be macho. A gentle touch can mean so much. Tovas (713) 439-1414

13. White Trash Bash – Wearing sweats, a white undershirt and plastic sandals, start with a sack lunch. Speed over to a stock car race at Texas Motor Speedway, and down a hearty white zinfandel on the porch to top it off. Don’t forget to borrow appropriate transportation for the day – a Dodge Charger will do nicely. Texas Motor Speedway (817) 215-8500

14. Block that Point – Go to a college or high school sporting event you know nothing about. Cheer for the underdog just as their parents would. The kids will appreciate it, and you can learn together.

15. Movie Star Status – Charge up the camcorder and make a video of the first half of your date. After dinner, edit said video and add a soundtrack with your sweetie. Note for soundtracks: Avoid sappy, as well as psychotic.

16. Break a Sweat, Not the Bank – We’re all worried about our figures. And the couple that runs together stays together. Head to Memorial Park for a quick three miles, and share a light picnic afterward.

17. Spin Cycle – Take your and your date’s dirty clothes to a laundromat and have a picnic while your skivvies spin. There’s nothing like matching socks with your lover.

The Dinner Date

Dining is very similar to dating: You’ll never know what you like until you try it.

18. Laughing Matter – Dine at midtown hot spot Farrago; calamari and fish tacos are crowd pleasers. Then head to the late show at Laff Stop. Just don’t try to copy the headliner when you leave. They’re pros, you are not. Farrago (713) 523-6404, Laff Stop (713) 524-2333

19. Reservations Required – Reserve the ultra-swank M Bar and have your own private South Beach experience. St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin is just up the street. Order out fresh oysters (when in season) and other tasty treats like marlin, grouper and salmon. Light candles, and dine on the famous “bed.” M Bar (713) 222-1022, St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin (713) 227-1511

20. Forget About the City – Dig into grilled buffalo rib-eye, wild boar or elk loin while enjoying one of the most romantic patios in town. The outdoor patio is dimly lit and overlooks a lush setting created by Buffalo Bayou. You’ll quickly forget the bright lights and big city are a few blocks away. Rainbow Lodge (713) 861-8666

21. Jazz it Up – Shoot by the Black Lab for dinner, and journey upstairs for jazz at Cezanne. It’s quiet enough to talk and dark enough that she might not notice the cheese soup on your nose. The Black Lab (713) 529-1199

22. Love is Only Two Steps Away – Have some casual Mexican fare at Los Tonyos and mosey down Alabama to Blanco’s for some live country music and sawdust shimmying. Los Tonyos (713) 521-2815, Blanco’s (713) 439-0072

Dinner and a Movie

It’s the obvious option, and the least imaginative. You spend two hours in parallel silence, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have something to talk about over dinner. Next time, why not offer a surprise answer to the old question, “How about dinner and a movie?”

23. Deli Style Dinner: Bring home deli sandwiches.

Movie: “When Harry Met Sally.” Whether you re-create that famous scene is entirely up to you.

24. Southern Style Dinner: Grill up some good ol’ down-home barbecue right in your own back yard.

Movie: “Gone With the Wind.” After devouring ribs and slaw, you can vow never to go hungry again.

25. Workday Style Dinner: Take out from Friday’s.

Movie: “Office Space.” Jennifer Aniston was never going to leave with you anyhow.

26. Single Style Dinner: Munch on a burger and fries from an all-night diner.

Movie: “Swingers.” You are so money.

Robert Earl Keen

February 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Edit

Pick Texas Music

The Lone Star state sound is as unique as those who play it.

by Tom Flynn

Drug charges, divorce and bankruptcies. As the David Allan Coe song points out, Texas country music back in the ’70s, conjured up visions of long hair, whiskey rivers, fallen angels and Hill Country rebels without a cause. The personal lives of our heroes of yore seemed to gain more national exposure than the music they created. But through it all, loyal Texas listeners have kept alive the rough, unpolished style of music composed and played by writers and performers such as Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Waylon Jennings. It has played loudly and proudly from LPs, 8-tracks, cassettes and CDs for more than 30 years. While most radio stations prefer to play refined country music from Nashville, Texas country music is played constantly in smoky bars, classic cars and cowboy Cadillacs. Along the way, it has inspired a new line of talented young artists poised to bring national attention back to Texas country music. But the question remains: Can they?

By most accounts, the current godfather of Texas country music is Houston native Robert Earl Keen. For 20 years, Keen has been playing college campuses, dance halls, taverns, front porches and, more recently, to sold-out crowds at his Texas Uprising concerts, where he features the latest up-and-coming artists. He has succeeded in taking his style of music and his Texas Uprising show from capacity crowds in the Lone Star State to huge crowds in such unlikely places as California, Utah, Nashville and Washington, D.C. Following his lead, and their own hearts, are a slew of new artists trying to make it big. Making it big in the Texas country music scene in Houston in the mid-90s meant landing a gig at Blanco’s Bar and Grill on West Alabama. About eight or 10 years ago, Gary P. Nunn, of “I Want to Go Home With the Armadillo” fame, walked into Blanco’s and bet his paycheck on the fact that he could attract people to listen to his version of Texas country music. His success inspired Blanco’s management to change its venue from cover bands playing top 40 country to Texas country music. According to local lore, the Firehouse Saloon and other dance halls soon followed suit, and a resurgence of Texas country music began in Houston. Blanco’s is still featuring the Texas sound, but today’s big Texas country stars play to sold-out crowds at The Woodlands Pavilion and Rodeo Houston. While Gary P. Nunn was rocking the house at Blanco’s, Lyle Lovett brought national attention back to the Texas country music scene. Lovett, a long-time friend of Robert Earl Keen, was splashed across tabloids and featured in gossip columns nationwide when he married, and soon divorced, actress Julia Roberts. But Lovett’s brand of music, grass-roots country mixed with pop, jazz and big band sounds, never matched the popularity of his personal life. Texas music was once again famous, though most people didn’t know what Texas music was. So, will Texas country ever gain wide exposure for being what it is, a unique, unpolished style of music? KIKK 95.7 FM, “the station that sounds like Texas,” changed its radio format to feature Texas country music. A lineup of Nashville artists mixed with a healthy helping of local stars brought music from Cory Morrow, Roger Creager, Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, Jack Ingram and John Evans to new listeners. Local fans praised the station for the opportunity to hear their type of music on the radio. But the fans who raved about “the station that sounds like Texas” tuned in recently to that frequency and instead heard Smooth Jazz, The Wave filling the airwaves. KIKK and the Texas country music format it supported was off the air. Inside Houston recently put the question of the future of Texas country music to Roger Creager, one of the state’s most entertaining country music performers. Sitting at the Firehouse Saloon, cold beers on the table and his band setting up stage equipment in the background, this energetic performer stepped out of his stage persona and put on his business hat. His realistic view of the Texas country music revolution might explain the future of this genre for himself and other Texas artists. Creager is confident that Texas country music is on an upward trend. “I remember somebody sometime back saying to me that you’ll know when Texas country music is catching on because you can follow the money trail – sponsorships, signing record labels and signing bonuses, stuff like that.” Creager himself has earned an Anheuser Busch ZiegenBoch beer sponsorship. “Landing a sponsorship from ZiegenBoch and Anheuser Busch made me feel that, although I haven’t arrived yet, I’m getting there.” Creager is not the only one who has scored on the Texas country music money trail. Others include Cooder Graw, Pat Green, Cory Morrow, Robert Earl Keen and Charlie Robison. So how does the Texas country music movement gain national exposure? Creager says the whole movement probably won’t. “A whole movement does not rise together. I don’t think that’s even possible. It has to happen at the individual level. If you look back in the ’70s, Willie made it, Waylon made it, Merle Haggard did. But there were several others from that genre who didn’t. The Dixie Chicks used to be considered part of this genre, but they are not considered Texas country music now, they’re just country. I think that’s probably what’s going to happen. Charlie Robison signed with a major label, Columbia I guess, and they put a lot of money into videos. Record companies sign individual artists with the intent of selling millions of records. When that happens, that artist has made it,” says Creager. “You’ll have a few (Texas country music) individuals that get to that level, and they will change the sound of all country music. A little more raw. A little more edgy.” Creager’s method of ensuring he is one of those who make it to that level is by “creating the best music possible – and busting my ass.” His business message is clear, too. Don’t count on the Texas country music revolution to make you successful, he says. Take the steps to make yourself one of the successful Texas country stars. Whether or not Texas country music gains national exposure matters little to Houston fans. Access to the best Texas music artists is available here virtually every week. The Firehouse and Blanco’s consistently feature Texas musicians. The John Evans Band plays to loyal crowds every Thursday night at St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin downtown. Historic Gruene Hall, known for featuring Texas country music legends, is about two hours away. Each fall, Garden in the Heights features a different Texas musician weekly for three months. And rodeo time is here. Look for Texas country stars during rodeo performances and in the Hideout tent following the main show (Roger Creager is in the Hideout March 4). Local fairs, festivals and honky-tonks invest their entertainment dollars in Texas country musicians. All you have to do is get out of the house to experience the homespun music that’s changing the sound of country. ih

Beach Bums in Texarkana?

February 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

This is Go Texan time, the period every year when dentists and dishwashers dress up like Tom Mix and play cowboy. It is also sort of a Thanksgiving Day when, between belches, beer and barbecue, we give thanks for there being a Texas.

But wait! Stop for a moment and think: What if God had decided to create the Earth with no Texas – just a bigger Gulf of Mexico with beach bums in Texarkana and Nuevo Laredo yelling, “Surf’s up!” Maybe God could have become chapped at what humans were doing with his planet and decided to punish Earthlings by placing Texas on, say, Saturn.

With no Texas, some things are certain. Oklahoma University couldn’t field a football team. The casinos in Louisiana would never have been built because there would have been no one to frequent them. CBS wouldn’t have had a news anchor since April 16, 1962. There would be no Alamo to remember, San Jacinto to celebrate or Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders to ogle. The world would not have that wonderful Tejano music. “Arkajano music” just doesn’t sound right. And, gad, no Tex-Mex food. The closest would be New Mex-Mex food, but our neighbors to the west put disgusting red chili sauce on everything.

To be sure, the thought of an America without Texas would delight a lot of people who take great pleasure in ridiculing our occasionally eccentric behavior. Those Texas-haters couldn’t tell Texas jokes. For example, on July 14, 1996, a British business leader in London asked U.S. Ambassador William J. Crowe Jr., during a discussion about reuniting Northern Ireland with Ireland, “How would you feel if Mexico took back Texas?” Replied the ambassador, “You’ve asked the wrong man that question. I’m from Oklahoma. We’ve been trying to give Texas back to Mexico for a hundred years.”

If there were no Texas, the Pentagon would have headaches. In “Travels with Charley,” Nobel laureate John Steinbeck looked around this state and wrote: “Among other tendencies to be noted, Texas is a military nation. The armed forces of the United States are loaded with Texans and often dominated by Texans.” Nothing has changed. Gen. Tommy Sands, heading the war in Afghanistan – and, if it happens, the one in Iraq – is from Midland. The next commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps is Gen. Michael Hagee from Fredericksburg, a town which also gave the military the young son of hotel keepers, Chester Nimitz.

If there were no Texas, we would all live somewhere else. Where would you be? Squatting in the snow back in Syracuse, which, incidentally, has a domed stadium. Hmmm. Wonder from where that idea sprang? George W. might well be president, but he’d have to take Vladimir Putin to the Bush ranch in Connecticut. No Texas? That means no Aggie Band, no Texas Instruments (does “North Dakota Instruments” have the same ring?) and no rodeos – they were hatched in Pecos.

No Texas obviously would mean no Houston. So our happy homes would be at the bottom of the Gulf, overseen by Cajun shrimpers with far fewer customers. The nation might still have Enron, except that Lay, Skilling and Fastow were all from out of state so they would have wasted some other city. No Houston? No Texas Medical Center? All those people would have to go somewhere else to be healed.

But there is a Houston, and there is a Texas. God was feeling benevolent the day he created Texas and made Houston its headquarters. OK, at this point some of you are thinking, “Hey, get off it. Cut the fuzzy feel-good. What about the traffic?” Excellent point. We have overbearing traffic jams because too many people want to come here to partake of our Mosquito Festival and, also, because Bob Lanier and Tom DeLay have drivers. Yes, we have an inefficient City Hall because not only do we have a strong mayor form of government, we have an absentee mayor form of government. And, true, we have pretty rotten summers. On the other hand, this year, our winter falls on a Friday. Would school children years hence really want to memorize, “Newark, the Eagle has landed?” Go Houston. Go Texas. ih