It's rather unusual to find someone who has no experience with the holiday classic, The Nutcracker. But I write to you today as one such individual.
Sure, I was vaguely aware of images like dancing mice and a sugarplum fairy. But the nuts and bolts of the story and the ballet, not so much. I knew it was something I had to experience, but simply had never made it a priority. Until this year.
With a good friend, I set out to the Wortham Theatre Center to see Houston Ballet's much lauded version of The Nutcracker. For many in Houston, this is a holiday tradition, passed down from generation to generation. The audience was comprised of young girls no older than five all the way up to octogenarians, all eager to see the story of young Clara and her night of whimsy.
Though light on actual dancing, I was fascinated by the set and action of the first act, best described as "the party scene."...
The craft beer flood gates will soon open at Karbach Brewing Company, which recently announced an expansion adjacent to its current facility in Northwest Houston. Set to open in 2015, the new facility means the Houston brewer will double the amount of craft brewed beer it produces - now anticipated to near 60,000 barrels annually.
In addition to the production expansion, Karbach's new brewery will also offer an
expanded tap room, private event space and kitchen.
Karbach opened in October 2011 with help from renowned brewmaster Eric Warner. Since then, Karbach's brews have continued to make waves. Names like Sympathy for the Lager, Rodeo Clown Double IPA and Weisse Versa Wheat promise to become household names in Texas' growing craft beer movement. The brewery was already awarded "Best in the Fest" at the 2011 Woodlands Oktoberfest.
Those excited to check out the brewery don't have to wait until 2015. Karbach currently offers tasting tours through the brewery on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays, noon to 3 p.m. The informal setting allows participants to hang out among the tanks as they're guided through the brewing process. Food trucks are also typically on site during tour hours. Tours are $7.
Local chefs are coming together to support one of their own this weekend.
Bella-Katherine Curtis lost her 22-year-old business, My Dee Dee's Pie Shoppe, to a fire on November 29. The fire happened one day after the business completed one of its busiest times of year -- baking more than 2,000 pies for Thanksgiving.
When they heard the news, Chef Randy Evans of Haven and Pastry Chef Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar immediately started organizing. Soon other chefs and industry folks came on board. The result will be a fundraiser at Haven this Saturday Dec. 7 from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. Barbecue from Chef Ronnie Killen, other bites, baked goods, music and more will welcome guests who will be asked to donate $50 per person.
"It was heartbreaking to hear of Bella's shop burning down," says Masson, who, along with Evans, led a Southern Comfort Houston Culinary Tour to My Dee Dee's just last month. "She has been baking pies for over 22 years - they are a Houston institution. Bella lights up when she feeds you all the pie you could ever eat. I wanted to do something to help her get back to what makes her so happy."
Other chefs involved in the event include Kevin Naderi of Roost, Chris Shepherd of Underbelly as well as pastry chefs Samantha Mendoza of Triniti, Johnny Wesley of Mr. Peeples and former Houstonian Plinio Sandalio. Sysco is lending support as well and Scott Tycer of Kraftsman Baking has donated a month of kitchen space for My Dee Dee's to be able to continue producing their pies through the holidays.
Finally, there is also an account at Wells Fargo in My Dee Dee's name where donors can contribute to the cause.
Quilting reigned over Downtown Houston earlier this month as the International Quilt Festival pulled in nearly 61,000 total attendees over a four-day period, show officials say.
Quilters, instructors and observers of all ages turned out to explore the unique art form, proving its limits far exceed its grandmotherly image. More than 4,700 people enrolled for the Festival's Quiltmaking Academy, which provided more than 415 classes, lectures, and events taught.
"I am once again thrilled and amazed at the size and scope of not only the show which we produce, but the quilters who come from as near as a mile down the road and as far as across the world to be in Houston," says Festival Founder Karey Bresenhan. "And I am consistently invigorated after each show about quilting as an industry, and quilters as people."
On the exhibition side, there were nearly 1,200 booths and 530 exhibitors.
Plans are already underway for the 2014 International Quilt Festival/Houston, which will celebrate the show's 40th anniversary. Special plans will be revealed in the coming months. The show will run October 30-November 2 (with Preview Night on October 29).
Houston continues to climb the culinary ladder, topping national lists left and right and proving what we (and lets be real... our waistlines) have known for years. When it comes to food, Houston chefs are at the top of the game.
The most recent list by Urbanspoon highlights seven Houston restaurants as part of America's Top New Restaurants of 2013 - the most in any Texas city.
Restaurants that made the cut had to be new, opening their doors in 2013, and were picked based on most liked, viewed and reviewed. A noted trend toward casual and affordable shined through, with average meals ranging between $10-$15.
So which new spots had Houstonites talking? Here are the 2013 restaurants that made the list:
- Coppa Osteria
- Renae's Homestyle Restaurant
- Simply Pho
- The Dosa Factory
- The Pass and Provisions
Still hungry? Check out more restaurants to choose from here.
Readers of Travel + Leisure have spoken, and they believe two Downtown properties and another in the Galleria area are tops when it comes to business hotels.
Hilton Americas, Four Seasons Hotel and the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa were named the best properties for business travelers in the travel magazine's December issue. The ranking is part of T+L's annual World's Best Awards survey.
Travelers were asked to rate properties around the country on a number of attributes. The Hilton had the top local score (92.5), followed by the Four Seasons (90) and the Houstonian (88.75).
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Plans are moving forward for the highly-anticipated Grand Texas Theme
Park, scheduled to plant its roots in March 2015 near New Caney, Texas
off Highway 59 and FM 242. But that's not all. The park is just one
component of a larger entertainment district envisioned for the area.
The full district, called the Grand Texas Sports and Entertainment District, will span 640 acres and will be comprised of these seven themed areas:
- Grand Texas Theme Park
- Big Rivers Water Park
- Ballpark of Montgomery County will play host to both professional- and independent-league baseball teams
- DownTown Texas will be 450,000-square-feet dedicated to shopping and dining
- Montgomery County Event Center will serve as 200,000-square-feet of multi-use space and will also host a professional hockey team
- Grand Texas Sportsplex will offer 90 acres for baseball and softball fields
- Hospitality Village will house visitors in two planned hotels and an RV resort
The 150-acre Grand Texas Theme Park, coined an "educational theme park", will
have all the trimmings of a traditional amusement park fitted with
rollercoasters and other rides, but with a focus on Texas history and
Big Rivers Water Park is a 40-acre site envisioned to incorporate the area's natural surroundings with water slides and lazy rivers. Other nature-themed activities like a wakeboard lake, equestrian trails, petting zoos, and zip lines - are planned throughout the entertainment district.
To help ensure its success, industry heavy-hitters including former AstroWorld general manager Chuck Hendrix and one-time Six Flags Magic Mountain director Bob Logan, have been brought on board oversee all design and theme concepts.
By 2020, officials anticipate 4.5 million annual visitors to the theme park district, which will bring roughly 2,000 new jobs to the area. As many as 1,600 construction workers are expected to be used during the building process, which begins in January.
More details continue to unfold, but for now it seems Texas will soon have a new worthy successor to the once loved Six Flags AstroWorld.
Towering 567 feet high, the San Jacinto monument is the
world's tallest monumental column and stands as a tribute to the 1836 military
victory that won Texas' independence. While this awe-inspiring structure draws
225,000 visitors a year, its museum meant to showcase the historical event
leaves much to be desired.
Since the San Jacinto Museum opened in 1939, relics like the 14-foot-long battle scene painted by Sam Houston's son, Andrew Jackson Houston, and the sword Santa Anna jettisoned while fleeing the battle, have been stored in the museum basement and left unseen. In total, less than one percent of the museum's 18,000 artifacts have seen the light of day - mostly due to inadequate space.
But planning is now underway to remedy that. Funds are being raised to purchase land where the 40,000-square-foot exhibition hall/visitors center is set to open in 2017, just one-mile away from the museum's current location. Though the Texas architect has yet to be selected, one thing is certain: the new annex will provide infrastructure needed by a modern museum, including interactive technology to educate visitors with the site's history and geography.
The 13-acre prospective site, adjacent to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife battlefield historic site, is envisioned to be "a new Herman Park". The hope is to provide a destination, landscaped and equipped with picnic tables and walking trails, to draw not only visitors but also residents of Houston Ship Channel-area communities.
The Downtown hotel property formerly known as the Inn at the Ballpark is now The Westin Houston Downtown.
Landry's Inc. says it has completed the renovation and rebranding of the 200-room hotel located across from Minute Maid Park. Landry's continues to own the property but has partnered with Starwood Hotels & Resorts to manage the Westin.
"We are delighted to join Starwood's world-renowned Westin brand and expect that our newly renovated hotel will attract even more business and leisure travelers who appreciate the brand's emphasis on promoting wellbeing," says Paul Schultz, Landry's vice president of hospitality.
In addition to its 200 rooms, The Westin Houston Downtown offers 6,000 square feet of meeting space, a gym, business center and a dining room.
Fans of The Menil Collection have plenty to look forward to in the coming year, as the internationally-acclaimed art museum recently unveiled plans for a new gateway design on the 30-acre campus.
New York-based Michael Van Valkenbaugh Associates has been tapped to spearhead the design, which will, according to the Menil's press release, include "shaded walkways and lush beds of indigenous plants leading past a new cafe toward the renowned main museum building."
Other additions include the addition of a cafe, designed by Houston's Stern and Bucek Architects, which will make use of one of the bungalows that already exist on the Menil campus. Restaurateur and chef Greg Martin—formerly of Cafe Annie, Taco Milagro and Cafe Express—will operate the new eatery.
The Menil Collection expects to release additional details on the campus redesign in the coming months.