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Entries in TRAVEL Texas: El Paso (4)


El Paso...In words and pictures

In honor of America's birthday - the wedding of a family friend - and for the sheer fact that I had not been home in 1.5 years, I recently made my way back to the West Texas town of El Paso.  In addition to my sister and her boyfriend coming in from California, my dog, Lucy, and their dogs, Alfie and Zoey, also made the journey.  It was quite a reunion!


<3 Lucy <3Because I'm an idiot honest citizen, I paid American Airlines' $250 round trip "pet fee" for Miss Lucy to be able to fly beside me (as opposed to stowage).  And, while we've flown together once before, I must say that my lil' princess was remarkably quiet and well-behaved. 

By the way, did you know that you can walk your leashed pooch inside of airports?  No?  Me neither! 


Touching down in the "Sun City"Believe it or not, the 100+ degree heat was actually much more bearable than the 80-90 degree temperatures in NYC.  Why, you ask?  Because El Paso has virtually no humidity.


Having arrived close to noon, Mom and I stopped by Cafe Italia and fetched some freshly-baked, wood-fired bread, plus a log of handmade mozzarella.  Next, we went to a nursery that was selling just-picked tomatoes.

For lunch, I made individual insalata caprese "stacks" using sliced tomatoes, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, a small drizzle of each-thick balsamic and olive oil, a fresh basil leaf, a buttery slice of ripe avocado, mozzarella cheese (at room temperature), and finished off with a few minced pieces of garlic.  We used the gorgeous wood-fired bread segments to sop up extra oil and vinegar.

...And for dessert, a "Texas-sized" bowl of cherries.


I watched with admiration as Ofelia, my adoptive grandmother and the woman who taught me how to cook, gathered ingredients and slowly prepared dinner.

The transformation of fresh ingredients to an irresistable pan of chile-con-quesoMaking handmade cheese enchiladas with green sauce...

Post-dinner, we drank pomegranate margaritas and shot off fireworks!  In the front yard, of course.

Pomegranate margaritaTNT, bitches!...

Lucy and her cousin, Alfie (and Zoey - not shown), had a great time playing in the grass.  Chasing their tails.  And swimming in the pool...

Lucy loved the long, lazy days spent chillaxing in refrigerated air...

...and getting lots and lots of attention!

In fact, all three of the pups were included in this year's family "Christmas card" photo!


While I spent my "me time" cooking, swimming, sunning, and catching up with old friends and family, my sister and her beau did some sightseeing...

Her crazy ass walked the bridge over to Juarez, Mexico!...and she came across these cl-ASS-y bar stools!...

I tried to catch the bride's bouquet...and lost out to an 80-something year old woman.  Who was probably married.  Or, at the very least, married at some point in her *long* life.   

That's me with the long hair + raised hands...

In honor of my sister's belated birthday - and to pay tribute to our recent holiday in Hawaii - I made a Haupia (Hawaiian coconut pudding) cake.  From scratch. 


Have you seen a cooler "cooler?"  Me neither!  #onlyinelpaso


Lucy and I were sad to leave...

...but we'll be back for Thanksgiving!



Until next time, El Paso!

The Lunch Belle


Surprise! My 72-hour visit to Texas

Dear readers,

For those who celebrate, I hope that you and yours had or are having a lovely Easter/Passover holiday.  This year, my mom's 60th birthday fell on Good Friday - a day that I conveniently had off from work.  So, having known about this months ago, I decided that it would be fun for me and my sister to fly to Texas and surprise her, day-of.

As we got closer to April 6th, I asked Mom what she had going on for her big day.  "Well, I'm going to a 'sip and see' for Jessica's new baby, and then we'll have Passover seder at your cousin's house."  Really?  Could the woman be any less selfish?  I mean, no offense to Jessica or my cousins, but a 'sip and see' and a seder dinner didn't exactly sound like the ingredients for a 60th birthday celebration.  "Geez, Mom, are you serious?  That kinda' sucks.  You're such a mensch!"  She went on to tell me that she was 110% OK with the lineup, and that her friends had planned a couple of things for her during the week leading up to and after her birthday.  "OK, good.  At least you have some celebratory stuff to look forward to," I said.

Friday, April 6th:  "Happy birthday, Mom.  Did you get the flowers I sent?"  She responded to my text thanking me, and asked what I had planned for the long weekend ahead.  It was 9:30am, Dallas time.  I called her from my bar stool at DFW's Pappasito's Cantina, and we chatted for a bit.  "Oh, that noise?  I'm at Starbucks waiting for a friend," I explained, after she asked what all of the racket was in the background.   Little did she know...

And, two delicious "skinny margaritas" later, it was time to board my flight to El Paso.

Have you ever flown drunk?  Blech, it sucks.  Don't do it!  1.5 nauseating hours later, I arrived in El Paso.  My sister's plane touched down about 5-minutes later.  The timing could not have been more perfect.  "Hi Dad, you can leave the 'cell phone lot,' now.  We're both here and ready to be picked up!"  With bags in tow, Leila and I scurried to the front of the airport and awaited his arrival.   

The plan:  A couple weeks prior, Dad invited Mom to lunch on her birthday.  He told her to be ready at noon, and that he would come by the house to pick her up.  

What really happened:  Dad dropped me and Leila off in the next-door neighbor's yard, and we walked over to our house.  While he circled the block a couple of times, Leila and I rang the doorbell.  "Coming!"  We heard Mom yell.  We made sure to duck so that she couldn't see us from the peephole.  When the door opened, Leila jumped out first.  "Surprise!  Happy birthday, Mom!"   She was shocked.  Ecstatic.  Could not believe her eyes!  "When I heard the doorbell, I thought you were the UPS man," she chuckled.  "I had no clue!  How did you guys pull this off?"

I got my first El Paso Mexican food fix not 30-minutes later, when the four of us grabbed a bite for lunch.

Red-chile cheese enchiladas, rice (EPCC)"You know," Mom said, "you girls were also invited to Jessica's 'sip and see.'  The three of us can go together!"  Jessica has been one of my best friends since high school, so I was more than OK with that plan.  Plus, I had not yet met her little girl.  

The three of us arrived at the 'sip and see' just after 3pm.  "Surprise!"  Jessica was shocked to see me at her front door.  She almost cried!  After all, it had been almost a year since we last saw one another.  Aside from Jess, I got to catch up with plenty of the other guests (...plus their children and/or their pregnant bellies), who also happened to be old, dear friends.  How wonderful it was to have so many great folks under one roof!     

Friday night's seder dinner was nostalgic and, as always, hilarious.  My dad and his extended family are the absolute funniest people on the planet.  Throughout my life, all of the banter and laughter have aided in making boring religious festivities go by much faster.


On Saturday, we grabbed a quick lunch at Mexican fast-food standby, Taco CabanaThink of it what you will, haters - I don't give a damn - their Mexican food makes anything in NYC look Michelin star-worthy.  I mean, what's not to love?  They have a salsa bar.  They make their own flour tortillas.  And, they have that delicious, liquid-y queso dip!

Salsa samplingCheese quesadilla, brisket taco platter, chips, tortillas, quesoCheese quesadillaOn Saturday night, we celebrated Mom's birthday again with a 'special occasion' meal at steak-great, Billy CrewsAnd, no, my family does not abide by any Passover dietary restrictions...

Mmmmm! Fried Rocky Mountain Oysters............Fried green chiles with ranch dressingFilet mignon, twice-baked potato~

On Sunday morning, I woke up to the sight of a couple of ducks...in the swimming pool!

After we dropped my sister off at the airport, Mom and I grabbed an early lunch/brunch at our favorite guilty-pleasure mecca:  Luby's Cafeteria.   Did you know that Luby's serves an all-you-can-eat breakfast on weekends for just $5.49?

Steam table of dreams!The spread: grits, mac n' cheese, roll, OJ, waffle, scrambled eggs, honey-chicken biscuitHomemade breadClose up: gritsClose up: mac n' cheeseClose-up: Honey-battered fried chicken biscuit Close-up: Waffle, scrambled eggs, chicken biscuitAs if we hadn't eaten enough fat, carbs, and other crap over the weekend, we picked up Mexican food from The Riviera for dinner on Sunday night.  To compliment this spread, I made a batch of my famous margaritas


Now THAT, Yankees, is a taco!Rice, cheese enchilada, shredded-beef taco


I had a great weekend in Texas with my family:  We surprised the hell out of my mom for her birthday - I saw a plethora of old friends and family - and I got more than my fill of Mexican and Southern food.  And food, in general, for that matter... 


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


A belated post-holiday update 

It all started on the Sunday before Christmas.  Having returned to my apartment from my building's laundry center, I quickly discovered that I could not find my Blackberry for the life of me.  "Oh crap," I shrieked, when I realized that there was a slight possibility that my phone may have been included in my "whites" load.  And, sure enough, upon pulling my wet clothes out of the machine, my Blackberry landed on my foot.  Damn it.

Two days and a loaner phone later, J and I were off to visit my family in Texas.  And due to Sunday/Monday's hellacious blizzard, what was originally supposed to be a three-day escape turned in to a week-long vacation.  Just hours before our return flight on Sunday, we received an automated voice message informing us that our connecting flight from Chicago to La Guardia had been cancelled.  An American Airlines representative later confirmed that the earliest flight to NYC would be on Wednesday, December 29th.  "Three more days in Texas?" I exclaimed, "Wahoo!"  J, on the other hand, wasn't as thrilled. 

And with that, dear readers, I want to, first, wish you and yours the happiest New Year and, second, apologize for my recent disappearing act.  Be on the lookout for a mouth-watering roundup of my extended holiday in Texas. 

Cheese enchilada plate: La Posta Restaurant - Mesilla, NM

Read it & eat,

The Lunch Belle


El Paso, in pictures

Please enjoy pictures from my recent trip to El Paso, Texas. From the desert landscape to the authentic Mexican food, I regained a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for my lovely hometown.