Review of the BT Longhorn Saloon & Steakhouse (***½)

Posted on August 31st, 2009 in Brenham,Engineerboy,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy
BT Longhorn Saloon & Steakhouse in Brenham, Texas

BT Longhorn Saloon & Steakhouse in Brenham, Texas

In Brenham, TX there are only a handful of non-chain, sit-down dinner restaurants, and the BT Longhorn Saloon & Steakhouse is one of our very favorites.  It’s high up in our dining rotation because of its combination of good food, friendly service, and kitschy atmosphere.

The Longhorn is located in historic downtown Brenham, and is just a block off of the main street, meaning that it’s convenient both to us Brenhamites whose day-to-day activities regular take us downtown (court house, banks, shops, etc) and to visitors, who typically tour the Blue Bell Creamery and then head downtown for dining and shopping.

It’s located in one of the historic old buildings (pictured at right), and the interior has soaring high ceilings, the floor is wood planking, the decor is upscale western kitsch, and they have a massive, beautiful wooden bar.

The service is also very friendly, and usually prompt, although they are sometimes slammed at the height of tourist season.  But even with a small wait, the food is worth it.  We’re addicted to their crab cakes, which comes with fresh wild greens and a delicious creamy sauce.  I typically have a steak, and it’s usually very good, and have also delved into other offerings and specials, like fish, pork chops, chicken, burgers, sandwiches, etc, and all have been very, very good.

Also, their offerings run from moderately priced fare like burgers and sandwiches, up to surf and turf with lobster and filet mignon, so you should find something that fits with your particular dining budget.  And although some of the higher-end items are pricey, the overall atmosphere is casual and friendly, but with some style and polish, so whether you’re dining mid-scale or upscale you should expect a very enjoyable experience here.

Wonderful Weagle

Posted on August 24th, 2009 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

Wonderful Weagle - the Gentle Guardian

We have three dogs, but Weagle is definitely the queen/alpha.  She was our first, and we got her from the pound when she was just six weeks old and was so tiny she could snuggle in the palms of our cupped hands.

Her name has evolved over time – her given name is Princess Buttercup, but when she was a puppy she had a distinctively Beagle-esque face and howl, and since her exact ancestry was unknown we figured she was some mix of Rottweiler, Beagle, and who knows what, and we started referring to her as Rottweagle (Rottweiler+Beagle), which eventually got shortened to Weagle. 

Weagle is now 8 years old – not ancient for a dog, but her muzzle is getting whiter, her bones are getting creakier, and she’s getting crankier.  But her primary directive is, and always has been, securing and protecting the pack.  She is ever vigilant for trespassers and ne’er-do-wells, and she has never quite accepted that the mailman clambers up onto our porch every single day, in a gross display of border aggression that she meets with strongly worded warnings.

She also is a creature of habit, and if the household routine doesn’t run on schedule, she lets us know with hoots and chuffs – and even barks, if things go completely off the rails (by her definition).  For example, if we stay up later than normal, she’ll go stand in the dining room and chuff at us, prancing and lowering her head like a Lipizzaner.  We can hush her up for a while, but she can get quite bratty about it, and her ultimate insult is to go to bed without us.   She doesn’t sleep, she just lays there petulantly so that she can glare at us when we finally do close up shop for the night.

And although Weagle is a gentle and loving soul with us, her pack-mates, I have no doubts that if an intruder were to enter our house with ill intentions, he’d have a lot of trouble on his hands, as well as blood on his clothes, and either he’d run off to live to fight another day, or Weagle would fight to the death to protect us.  There is something quite comforting and primal in knowing that our household is protected by such a vigilant and capable guardian.

Another example of this is that wherever we go, however our furniture is arranged, or if we stay elsewhere, Weagle always goes to bed laying so that her eyes (and teeth) are pointed at the door.  Always.  It took us a while to figure it out, because she would sometimes contort into such inefficient positions on the bed, but we finally saw the light and now factor her protectiveness into our sleeping logistics.

Which brings us to the inspiration for this post, which is an incident that occurred last night.  Yesterday (Sunday), we had a brief visit from The Girl, who came

A Day in the Life of a Typical American, or how I learned to stop worrying and not be hypocritical about ‘socialism’

Posted on August 16th, 2009 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Health and Fitness,Politics by EngineerBoy
Keep the Government Out Of My Life!

Keep the Government Out Of My Life!

A day in the life of a typical American:

Your alarm clock rings, having been powered through the night with an uninterrupted flow of electricity generated by a power company that is a regulated monopoly with great Salesforce Benefits.

Your alarm clock didn’t catch fire overnight, nor did any other product in your house, because their safety is regulated by consumer product watchdog agencies and federal trade regulations.

However, if you had somehow had an accidental fire, you could have picked up your phone (regulated monopoly) and called 9-1-1 (municipal service) and had the fire department (municipal service) on site within minutes saving your home and possessions.

As you move through your morning routine in your house, which is still standing because it has been built to meet building codes, you turn on your television and watch the news and weather channels, both controlled by the FCC.

You get an accurate weather forecast from the NOAA, which has gotten detailed satellite imagery from NASA, and see that today will be rainy.  Fortunately, your drive to work will be unimpeded because the local flood plain has been scrupulously mapped and flood control reservoirs and runoff controls have been established to protect you from all but the most egregious conditions.

You eat your breakfast, which doesn’t kill you because of FDA controls, and maybe take your medicines, which also don’t kill you.

You get in your car for your commute, secure in the knowledge that your government-mandated seat belts, air bags, and anti-lock brakes will help protect you from the weather, and your tires meet the government codes for handling on slick streets – as do the tires of all the other cars on the road.

The roads do not wash away in the rain because they are built to meet government codes for roadways, and you check the clock – which is 100% accurate because it is synchronized with the atomic clock at the US Naval Observatory via the nationwide radio signal – and see that you’ll make it to work with time to spare.

You drop your kids off at public school, then you stop for gas, secure in the knowledge that the gasoline is free from impurities and meets the operating requirements of your vehicle, and will be delivered via a mechanism that is 100% compatible with every vehicle on the road by virtue of governmental standards.

You live through the work day in an office that meets OSHA standards, and have your lunch in a cafeteria where the food is safe by virtue of regular inspections and staff training mandated by the government.  You get your paycheck, as guaranteed by law for the work you have performed, and head for home.

Your drive home is not interrupted by criminal activity or civil unrest, because the local police officers, sherrifs, constables, and guard forces ensure the peace and tranquility of society.  Also, when you arrive home, you find that

District 9 (***½)

Posted on August 15th, 2009 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy
Prawns a la Apartheid

Prawns a la Apartheid

If you are planning to see District 9, I urge you to stop reading reviews and just go see it.  It will best be seen with as little foreknowledge as possible, so that the film can be experienced without preconceptions.  I will warn you that this film is not for the squeamish, and the R rating is well deserved.  I don’t recall there being any sex or nudity, and the language isn’t all that bad, so you can infer from that where the R rating comes from – the violence, evil, and inhumanity.

You’ve been warned, the information starts flowing below – seriously, just go see it, then come back here.

Really, just go.

Okay, for those still reading, this film as that rare cinematic gem in that it is both completely unique and absolutely entertaining.  It took a few minutes to get my bearings as the film started, but I was quickly absorbed into the story and felt like I didn’t blink for the entire running time, except when diverting my eyes from the carnage on the screen.

We jump into the middle of a story where a gigantic alien spacecraft is hovering of Johannesburg, South Africa, and has been there for 20 years.  The aliens on board, numbering in the millions, were “rescued” by earthlings and put into a holding camp, which over the years devolved into a ghetto.  The aliens are referred to, derogatorily, as “prawns” because of their resemblence to roughly human-sized shellfish.  The prawns from the ship seem to be all be from a worker-class, and aren’t particularly smart, communicative, creative, or industrious.

They do have language, consisting of very alien-sounding clicks, grunts, and squeals, and they can understand English, and the human governmental workers that interface with the aliens can also understand their language.  The prawns are enamored of cat food, and the local Nigerian criminals are only too happy to provide it to them, at a price.  The Nigerians are also accumulating alien weaponry, even though each weapon is genetically locked and can only be fired by the aliens.

As the movie opens, the residents of Jo’burg are tired of having the aliens around, and a private conglomerate called MNU has been contracted to build a new settlement for the prawns 200 miles outside of town, and then forcibly relocate the aliens there.  Technically, the aliens have rights and there is at least a superficial attempt to try to make it all seem legal, but the aliens don’t really understand what an eviction notice is, so the logistics are kept on track by private mercenaries, who are only too happy to…uh…incent the prawns into cooperating.

MNU puts a man named Wikus Van De Merwe in charge of the move.  Wikus is a middle-management type, not really too bright or ambitious, not really evil, either…just sort of banal and thoughtless.  He doesn’t seem like he’s spent any time examining the awe-inspiring fact that humanity has

Michael Vick is Back in the NFL

Posted on August 15th, 2009 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Sports by EngineerBoy
An Eagle?  More Like A Vulture...

An Eagle? More Like A Vulture...

So, Michael Vick is out of prison after serving time for illegal dog-fighting, and is returning to the NFL as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.  I believe that everyone deserves a second chance, and while I would prefer to have never seen or heard of this chump ever again, I can’t begrudge him the fact that he’s served his time and is going on with his life.
For a refresher on his recent history, see these previous posts:

Michael Vick Needs Psychological Treatment
Michael Vick Should Be Thrown To The Dogs

Although it’s rare, I’m sure that it’s possible for people to undergo fundamental changes in their psyche, and it may be the case that Vick has done exactly that – he had it all and then lost it all, and his fall from grace could have been enough to lead to a soul-searching epiphany wherein he achieved the enlightenment to understand that it is simply and completely wrong to  torture and kill animals that are trusting and innocent.

But I seriously doubt it.  Tigers rarely change their stripes, and people rarely change their fundamental nature.  Torturing dogs ranks up there with beating children in my book – not that the life of a dog is comparable to the life of a child, but that the mental state of a person who can inflict pain and horror onto a being that is completely dependent on, trusting of, and subservient to them is the same in both cases.

But, again, everyone deserves a second chance.  Many people who are violent to their own children are passing on what they learned at home growing up, and if they take steps to break the cycle that is an admirable thing.  Michael Vick has claimed that the torture and abuse of dogs was part of his culture growing up, and I hope that what has happened is that he has seen the light and realized that what he did was horrific. 

However, my fear is that his essential nature hasn’t changed, and all he has learned is that he shouldn’t have gotten caught dogfighting, and that he will simply find some other outlet for his narcissistic sociopathy that will lead to his re-downfall.  I am not wishing for this to happen, and hope that it does not…but I fear that it is the most likely outcome.  I just hope nobody else gets hurt in the process.

Scott’s Perfect Iced Tea

Posted on August 10th, 2009 in Engineerboy,Recipes by EngineerBoy

Sweet Texas Iced Tea

When I was a young teenager, my family would always tell me, “You make the *best* iced tea!”.  I was quite proud of my iced tea, and would make it regularly for the whole family, and I always made sure we had iced tea available in the summer.

However, as I got older and wiser, I realized that while I was quite competent at making iced tea, my family had most assuredly been overstating its superiority because they knew that such praise would keep me in the kitchen slaving over a hot pot of boiling water.

Their behaviors (you know who you are!) were right on the border between encouraging and exploitative, but one of the side-effects is that years spent making iced tea has led me to a recipe and method that has become quite good, if I do say so myself.  It is a far cry from my original tea-making days, but it is still in keeping with the spirit of good, old-fashioned Texas sweet iced tea.

5 family-sized Tetley Iced Tea Blend tea bags
1 family-sized Luzianne Green Tea bag
1 regular-sized Lipton Mint Tea bag
¾ cup Florida Crystals Natural cane sugar

Revere Ware 3 quart sauce pan
Tupperware Impressions 1 gallon pitcher
Measuring cup
Nylon spoon
Stainless steel strainer (fine mesh/net)

Fill the 3 quart sauce pan with water up to within approximately ¾” from the top and bring to a boil.  While the water is heating, put all the tea bags in the pitcher, removing the paper tags from the Lipton and Luzianne tea bags (the Tetley Iced Tea bags are string-less and tag-less, made for iced tea!).

Once the water is boiling, *carefully* pour it into the pitcher over the tea bags.  Give the pitcher a few seconds of stirring to fully immerse the tea bags, then set aside and let it steep for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes are up, remove all of the tea bags (one at a time, and squeezing the excess tea out against the inside wall of the pitcher so that it runs back down into the pitcher).  Once the tea bags are removed, place the strainer over the (empty) sauce pan, and pour the tea through the strainer and into the sauce pan.  This step filters out any tea leaves that may have been released by the tea bags, which have a tendency to fall apart about 20% of the time.

Pour the strained tea back into the pitcher, add the 1 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Note that this step is crucial because you want to dissolve the sugar in the water while it is still warm.

Once the sugar is dissolved (only takes 5-10 seconds of stirring), add ice and/or water to bring the tea level up to an inch or so below the top of the pitcher (leaving room for the lid to snug down without getting into the tea). 

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Posted on August 9th, 2009 in Engineerboy,Recipes by EngineerBoy
Sweet, spicy, and tasty!

Sweet, spicy, and tasty!

We’ve been on a fish taco kick lately, trying various combinations of fish, salsa, toppings, and preparation methods.  Yesterday we cooked up a grilled pineapple salsa that was really tasty, and was great on the fish tacos, recipe as follows:

3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 fresh garlic clove
1 fresh jalepeno
2 cans pineapple rings in juice
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup chopped purple onion
2 limes
2 tbsp sesame oil

Combine the four dry ingredients (sugar, chili powder, salt, garlic powder) in a bowl and mix thoroughly.  Drain and spread the pineapple rings out on plates or a cookie sheet and sprinkle one side with the powder mixture, flip the rings and sprinkle the other side.

Heat a skillet on medium-high until hot, then add the sesame oil.  Swirl the oil around to coat the inside of the skillet and pour off the excess oil.  Add the pineapple rings in batches making sure that each ring sits flat on the skillet, and brown the pineapple on both sides – about 2 minutes per side.  Set the rings aside to cool.

Slice open the jalepeno and remove/discard the seeds, then chop finely.  Chop the cilantro and onions, and mince/mash the garlic clove.  Slice the pineapple rings into small wedges about ¼ to ½ inch across.  Combine the pineapple, cilantro, onions, jalepeno, and garlic, and squeeze the juice of two limes and mix thoroughly.  Refrigerate for an hour (or more) to allow the flavors to combine.

Options and alternatives:  As with all sweet/spicy dishes, feel free to dial the flavors up and down to taste.  Also, if you feel industrious, fresh pineapple would be great, as would cooking the pineapple on the grill (like with a flat basket and/or in large strips).

The salsa went great with our fish tacos (complemented with tasty Texas Twisters Creamy Cilantro Cotija sauce from H.E.B for you Texans), but should also be good with pork or chicken, or just with chips.  Yum!