So last week I told you about our days as residential real estate agents in California, but I still haven’t told you how that led to us start Spot On Images. Here’s the rest of the story.
When the Bubble Burst
We enjoyed the good old days in real estate, but they ended when the bubble burst. I’ll share a secret with you, I was sort of glad to be out of it. We made a lot of money, but I really didn’t like most of the tasks that went along with selling homes – with one exception, I loved creating those brochures and writing the descriptions for the MLS.
Bill loved real estate and he never understood why I didn’t. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he did most of his work behind the scenes and I was the one out there showing houses and writing contracts. Bill loves it so much that even though our licences expired, he’s kept his fingers in it. We have rent houses and we’ve sold our own homes. While most folks can’t wait to hire an agent or they begrudgingly put the FSBO sign out in the yard, Bill is totally energized by the whole process. He’s taking pictures, creating a website for the home and guiding me through every step of the process with alacrity. OK, so I’ll go ahead and confess, I really do enjoy creating the brochures and writing the web content.
Real Estate is Back
So back to our real estate photographer friend who was leaving town. He was entirely too nice to take our money, when we offered to buy his business. Instead, he showed Bill the ropes and encouraged him to start his own business. For almost all of our marriage, even when we were selling real estate, Bill’s primary occupation has been investing, so I assumed his interest in real estate photography was just a bit of nostalgia. Boy, was I ever wrong!
While he’d never completely abandon his investing, he’s automated it to the point that he has time for his other passions. When the real estate photography bug bit him, he started buying camera equipment of all sorts. He spent his days getting a feel for his new toys and getting up to speed on all the latest technology. There was no question of his expertise. He’d started taking photography lessons in his twenties and it’s been one of his passions ever since. Most of the great travel photography on this blog comes from him. As far as his photographic abilities are concerned, he could have hung out his shingle the day he decided to do this, but that’s not how he does things. He dots his i’s and crosses his t’s.
As he exercised his photography muscle he also started working on me. He praised my marketing expertise and reminded me of all those people who said they bought my listings because of the words I had written. In the guise of sharing with me what he’d been learning in his research for his new business, he pointed out how important the internet and social media were to the success of real estate agents. He was being nice about it, but here’s the bottom line, I was about to be back in real estate, too.
So what did I think about getting back into a business I’d been happy to get out of. Come back next week and find out!
TRAVEL HERE: SECRET SERVICE MIGHT BE A BETTER NAME FOR ROCKWALL’S NEW RESTAURANT
If you lived in the Rockwall area and I told you a new restaurant was located behind the Sonic on Ridge Way, you’d have a clue about where to look, but unless you actually went behind the Sonic, you’d never find Standard Service. The restaurant fills a space on the back side of a crossfit gym. The only signage is on the front of the restaurant and can’t be seen from any of the nearby streets. You’d never see it if you turned next to the Sonic and headed to Lowe’s, which is the destination of most of the traffic.
My Secret Agent
Loree Posard Kiethly does my hair and she’s my primary source of info about what’s happening in Rockwall. I have no idea who all sits in her chair, but they have the inside scoop on all kinds of things, from what restaurants will open soon to where the local swingers rendezvous.
“Have you been to Standard Service?” I thought she’d found a new garage or service station, but come to find out it was a new restaurant. Then she told me its location – near a corner I pass pretty much every time I come or go to my house. I didn’t want to accuse my friend of lying, but it sure didn’t sound like a good spot for a restaurant and I certainly hadn’t seen it.
The gist of her information was that a restaurateur opened Standard Service as test, because he was considering building near The Harbor. As soon as he opened the awkward test location, he instantaneously had a loyal following, so the lake-view restaurant is a go. Obviously, a trip to Standard Service was required.
The Standard on a Sunday Afternoon
Our visit to Standard Service was on a Sunday afternoon in May. Perhaps the traffic was slow because of May’s many distractions, like moms and grads and brides. We also arrived mid-afternoon, rather than at a meal time. Most of the patrons were at the bar gazing into the multiple tv’s spread around the restaurant.
Bill and I walked away from the experience with two totally different impressions.He loved the place. The tall shelves full of wine and liquor were fascinating to him. He thought it had a good vibe for a local place and a good number of patrons for a Sunday afternoon. He didn’t particularly like what he ordered, but said he’d come back and try something else. He couldn’t wait to get home and tell a friend who’s opening a liquor store about the tall shelves.
That wasn’t me. To me the layout was confusing. We entered a foyer that seemed like a dead end. Once we got our bearings we saw double glass doors to the right. There seemed to be two bars, one on each side. The primary bar is to the right and then another smaller one is on the left. There aren’t many tables. The look is industrial, complete with the exposed air conditioning ducts – not one of my favorites.
The service is good enough to put a lie to the name of the restaurant, but I wasn’t crazy about the food. It wasn’t bad. The small burger had an unnecessarily greasy bun in my estimation, but it did have a reasonable price. The sweet potato fries were the food hit of the day.
Much of the things I don’t like about Standard Service have to do with my personal taste, so that should be taken into consideration. The industrial look of it, the televisions all over the place, the paper service items – these might be the very reason you would visit, but they don’t beg me to come back.
So, should you go visit Standard Service? If you live out here in Rockwall County – I’d say, for sure. If you’re out here anyway, you might as well, because while our restaurant selections have been improving since I got here a few years ago, this is about as good as it gets. No reason to drive over from Dallas until the new place by the lake gets built.
Come on back Wednesday, for tales about the Fairmount in Heliopolis, Egypt and then next week I’ll share another Dallas area adventure.
AT HOME IN HEATH: GRASSROOTS EFFORT WOOS SPECIALTY GROCERY CHAIN
It happens more frequently than I want to admit. I go to an event and come home the chairman of something. Poor Bill! That usually translates into imposing on him for something. He rarely gets to just show up and enjoy anything. Instead he ends up sitting at a table registering people, bringing an ice chest of iced beverages or staying afterwards to clean up. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but it still happens.
Trader Joe’s Call-to-Action Meeting
So, my weekly Wednesday Bible Study was over. We were gathering up our things to leave when a new member of the group asked me if I knew about Trader Joe’s? Did I ever? We discovered it when we lived in California, had been thrilled when they moved to Dallas and were loathe to leave it to move out here in the boonies.
Come to find out there was a community meeting that evening about getting Trader Joe’s to come to our area. I assumed there would be a representative from the company there to test community’s interest, so I promised to go. Instead, there were a few Rockwall city and county officials and twenty-five or so citizens.
One of the officials got up. First, he explained the criteria most companies used to choose new locations and why we fell short of most companies prerequisites. Then he talked about a development board that went after industrial-type companies to boost our economy and then explained why Trader Joe’s did not qualify for that program. Finally, he let it be known that everyone was well aware there was a groundswell of interest in having a Trader Joe’s in the area, but there really wasn’t anything the city or county could or would do about it.
During his talk the man referred several times to the four or five items Trader Joe’s had on their list of requirements, but he never mentioned exactly what they were, how many we met and how far away we were from meeting the rest. So I asked. He said he’d get us the information, but we haven’t seen it yet.
Then the meeting continued and we found out City of Rockwall Council Member Scott Milder and his wife Leslie had taken our interest a little further than the other gentleman. They’d talked to a Trader Joe’s store manager and found out there were indeed criteria the company had for new locations (which the store manager didn’t know) but because of the company’s culture they paid a lot of attention to customer feedback – like location requests on their website, subscription addresses on their Fearless Flyer and social media.
The next thing I know they are asking for someone to represent the community in our efforts to get the grocery chain to our area – the term they used was “point person.” The room was suddenly very quiet. Something told me the silence wasn’t going to go away and I also knew few in the room had as much experience with social media and organizing volunteers as I had. I glanced at my husband to see what he thought and then raised my hand. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but Trader Joe wasn’t going to die from neglect on my watch.
After the meeting I handed out my cards to anyone who wanted one and collected the list of attendees from Bethany Browning, the Community Relations Manager for the City of Rockwall. I was suddenly in charge, but I was quite unsure exactly what that meant. The rest of my week was very busy and the next time I even thought about Trader Joe’s was the following Tuesday.
My first call that morning was from Bethany. Sebastian Robertson from Channel 8 News was coming out to talk to Scott about the Trader Joe’s meeting and the Facebook page. Bethany thought it would be good to have a representative from the community there, so she called me. My other choice for the morning was cleaning house, so I went to City Hall.
When he arrived, Sebastian took Scott outside and interviewed him. The process took about twenty minutes and they pretty much covered everything that needed to be covered. I thought I’d missed my fifteen seconds of fame. We walked back into the building and into an office. Sebastian sat me down and set up the camera. I was about to be on TV, but I hadn’t combed my windblown hair or touched up my dry-as-a-desert lips.
The results of the interview are in this video: WFAA Channel 8 News. I had been involved in the project for less than a week and I hadn’t done much of anything except show up for a meeting and hang out at city hall. Still Sebastian made a star out of me, in spite of my windblown appearance.
Getting My Ducks in a Row
In the days since the interview I’ve been getting organized. I sent out a few emails and posted some notices on social media sites. That, along with Channel 8’s report has caused a flurry of activity on our Facebook page. The page has gotten about a thousand likes since the meeting in early February. The site had only gotten 2300 likes in the year and a half it has been up, so I’d call that progress.
Please like our Facebook Page. You don’t have to be from the area and no salesman will call. If you do live in the area, then check out our new webpage. The site gives you a list of things you can do to help the cause and you can subscribe to stay abreast of developments. If you’d like to really get involved, just let me know. I’m sure I can find something for you to do!
I’m getting more organized every day, but I’m still making it up as I go. If we get that Trader Joe’s in Rockwall County, I’ll let you know.
As much as I love Dallas and all the excitement associated with it, there’s a certain charm to living out in the boonies. On a recent Saturday I joined other Rockwall County residents to watch the Kiwanis Christmas Parade. Let me tell you about it.
Suburban Parades I Have Loved
For a city girl, I’ve spent a lot of time out in the burbs. For instance, when we first moved to California, we lived in Los Osos. I don’t think it even qualified as suburb. The entire county of San Luis Obispo is about the size of Garland, one of Dallas’ suburban cities. I most often heard Los Osos referred to as a bedroom community, whatever that means. One thing I knew that it meant was your GPS couldn’t find us.
As tiny as Los Osos was, it had a thriving sense of self. There was a grocery store, some branch banks, a few restaurants and a smattering of professional offices, but not much in the way of shopping.
We did have a holiday parade, however. (Not a Christmas Parade, mind you, because they are ever so much more politically correct in California.) I know about the parade, because I was in it one year as a member of the South Bay Women’s Network. Someone knew someone with an antique car which carried a few of our members and the rest of happily trotted along behind the car with our dogs. I don’t think we had a reason for including the dogs. We just thought it would be more fun. The guys weren’t in the parade. Their job was enthusiastically cheering as we went by.
The other big parade in the area was the Cayucos 4th of July Parade. Cayucos was even smaller than Los Osos, but they had a lot of tourism because they were a beach town, while Los Osos was on the estuary. Neither the Los Osos or Cayucos parade had bands, drill teams or floats – just enthusiastic residents who were willing to march down the street with other residents. The Cayucos parade had been around longer and was a bit more raucous, but both were a lot of fun.
So, my California experience prepared me to enjoy the Kiwanas Christmas Parade. I wasn’t expecting the Tournament of Roses Parade, just an entertaining morning of community. I got just what I bargained for.
The Rockwall Parade
Each month my HOA produces a magazine that fills me in on what’s happening in my area. When December’s copy arrived, it informed me the Kiwanis Christmas Parade would be a part of Rockwall’s Hometown Christmas Celebration in Downtown Rockwall. It also said the parade would start at 9 AM. Here’s what I love about this place. I left my house in Heath at 8:45 and was standing along the parade route by nine.
I enjoyed rubbing elbows with my fellow Rockwallers, but by 9:20 the fun was beginning to wear thin. I mentioned the parade’s absence to someone nearby and she too was getting restless. That’s when a more seasoned Rockwall County resident told us the parade did begin at 9 AM, but it started at the high school. Well, darn! I marked that up for future reference.
Finally, around 9:30 we began seeing evidence suggesting the parade was about to reach Downtown. By 9:45 we had a parade. It was a much bigger deal than anything Los Osos offered. The centerpiece was a marching band and drill team from Rockwall Heath High School. There were scores of beautiful horses, carloads of waving people and tons of “floats”, only these “floats” didn’t exactly float. Each was on a trailer being pulled by its own huge pick up truck. I’d positioned myself at a corner and sometimes the crowd had to be rearranged for the pickups and their trailers to make it around.
It was a perfectly beautiful morning and I had a lot of fun. Next year I’ll either leave home a little later or find a place closer to the high school to watch it. Here’s some shots of the fun event.
One of the most important things that has happened in recent history happened at The Mellow Mushroom. On a wet, cold Sunday night Bill and I stumbled into the restaurant and I got Bill to put his promise never to build a house again in writing – on a napkin at The Mellow Mushroom – and yes, I do still have that napkin!
Weird Place with Good Pizza
You know the kind of day I’m talking about. The kind of day that only comfort food will fix. We were very tired and very dirty after spending the day at the build, but we were also starving.
The interior of the restaurant is a throw back to those funky pizza joints you went to back in college. There’s the slightly naughty suggestion that someone on something came up with the decor. Odd colors, bare floors, bargain seating and tables. Oh and big cutouts of strange things that look like they showed up during a bad acid trip. Not your basic slick-looking, up-scale pizza joint.
When I tell you the waitstaff has a lot of tattoos and odd hairstyles, I’m not being judgmental, I’m just trying to describe the place to you. Our second visit was actually on Mother’s Day and I had a nice conversation about mommies with the girl whose hair was purple/orange. She had a nose ring and tattoos, to boot. The uniform is jeans with a white t-shirt and of course, they roll up the sleeves on the t-shirt so you can see the tatts better.
Weird Crust, But Tasty
We had the Special or whatever you call the pizza with a little bit of everything on it. I thought it was good. Bill thought it was marvelous. So marvelous that he asked about the crust. We got a lesson in flours and molasses. Truth be told, pizza doesn’t exactly fit in my South Beach Diet, so I have no business eating it. I try to forget pizza, not cherish my memories of it. Bill doesn’t feel the same way. The Mellow Mushroom became his go-to pizza joint.
Above and Beyond
Even if I try to pretend that pizza does not exist in the same reality that I do, one thing I can’t overlook is service. Bill and I have made return trips to the big MM and Bill is very intentional about telling folks to go try the delicious pizza with the molasses crust. I just enjoy the ride whenever we go. It’s like a short time-travel vacation that makes me want to wear go-go boots. You do know what go-go boots are, don’t you?
On our most recent visit we were snickering over the indifference of our waiter . One thing he was not indifferent about was his hair. It was gelled into a very exact line down the center of his head. However, he couldn’t have cared less that the kind of beer I requested from the menu wasn’t exactly what they had in the frig. He wasn’t abrasively indifferent. I think indifference was the tool he used to keep rudeness at bay.
The table next to us was having pretzels and several pizzas and several dishes of pasta. I was beginning to worry that their carbs were going to migrate over to my hips. One of the tween-agers spilled her soda all over the table. We rejoiced at our childlessness and I thought maybe the waiter’s indifference sprang from a need to deal with the craziness of tween-agers at all. He seemed as if, in other circumstances, he might eat them for tapas.
Suddenly, out of nowhere a manager showed up with an apology. Seems our pizza was overcooked. I mean they figured it out before they brought it to the table and were courteous enough to let us know why things were taking awhile. I hadn’t actually noticed that it was taking any longer than usual, but I did appreciate the cheese bread they delivered with the apology. Of course, I could only eat a small corner I tore off, but it was gooey and on the house.
The pizza came out right behind the cheese bread. In the meantime the tween-agers left. The waiter was much more pleasant, so maybe I was right about the tapas. And in chatting with him we discovered that he was the one who blew the whistle on the pizza. I must have had him all wrong.
Should you go to The Mellow Mushroom? Certainly! You really need to experience the decor and waitstaff. Bill says the pizza is wonderful – but I wouldn’t know, because pizza does not exist in my reality.
Yes, you’ve heard me whine about the grocery shopping in Heath – as in we have no grocery stores in Heath. I have to go over to Rockwall just to get carton of milk. I know I was spoiled back in Dallas, but I’ve had to up my game. For produce, I’ve found the Farmers Market. My other secret weapon is Costco.
Joining the Dark Side
Y’all know I’m not a Walmart Shopper. I once had a membership to Sam’s, but about all they had that made any sense for me to buy, in the quantities they offered it, was a few paper goods. There was no Sam’s out on the Central Coast and we didn’t catch Costco fever when it came to town. After six years we were back in Dallas and never had any particular reason to join either Sam’s or Costco, once we returned. Then we moved to Heath and I started cooking most of our meals at home. Suddenly, grocery shopping took on a whole new meaning.
We also met Omar and Nohelly. They really know how to entertain. My husband loved everything they put out for us to eat and drink and when he’d compliment them, they’d point him towards Costco. Between my grocery store whining and all the delicious things at our friends’ house, Bill decided we needed to become Costco Members. Oh yes, and there was the cheap gas thing, too.
Our First Visit
So one afternoon on a weekend, we joined Costco and took a stroll through the store. I was initially overwhelmed by the size of the things they sold and dismayed to discover that many of things I buy the most of they didn’t carry at all. Sugar-free, fat-free and low-salt are barely in Costco’s vocabulary, but my beloved South Beach Diet demands them. Still, our bill was somewhere in the neighborhood of $200, so something must have seemed tempting.
The Hard-Boiled Eggs Did It
One item we picked up on that maiden voyage was a package of twenty-four hard-boiled eggs. I was buying them six at a time for somewhere in the 3-4 dollar range. The 24 pack was five something. Bill and I had a difference of opinion. He thought buying six at a time was wasting money. I thought buying 24 at a time would mean wasting food. We bought the package of 24 eggs.
The twenty-four egg package was divided up into four smaller packs of six, but I just knew we weren’t going to eat 24 eggs before some spoiled. Well, I was just wrong. They’ve got some special super-duper technology that helps keep the eggs fresh AND we eat a whole lot more hard-boiled eggs than I realized. Maybe there was something to this Costco thing after all.
I Kept Going Back
Over the next few weeks I kept going back. As we ran out of things I usually bought at Kroger, I’d go see if Costco offered them and how they were packaged.
My first big haul was from the frozen food department. South Beach has a lot of fish recipes and hauling in the fish du jour was taking up a lot of time. I discovered that much of the stuff in Kroger’s seafood case wasn’t actually fresh fish. It was just de-frosted fish. I got to thinking that perhaps I could de-frost my own fish and what I saw in Costco’s freezer beat what was in Kroger’s freezer all to heck. Costco had Wild-Caught Sockeye Salmon, Halibut, Ahi Tuna, Pacific Cod, Mahi Mahi, Tilapia, Raw Shrimp and Boiled Shrimp. So I got a bag of each and moved it to my freezer.
South Beach also has a lot of chicken recipes. So when I ran out of chicken I got a bag of breasts and a bag of thighs from Costco. Bless their hearts. The pieces came individually wrapped, just like the seafood. I’d been buying the bargain packs at Kroger and then repackaging them in dinner-sized portions for the freezer. Suddenly, no more chicken slime to clean off my counters.
Not everything worked for us. Take the huge packages of rotisserie chicken, for instance. It tasted heavenly, but try as we might, Bill and I could not eat it up fast enough. So, then I discovered grilled chicken strips in Costco’s freezer. Now we have it in our freezer.
The Cupboard is Full
So now, my little freezer is stuffed to the gills with everything from broccoli florets to ground beef individually wrapped in 1 pound packages. I’m proud of those raw ingredients. I used to keep frozen entrees and breakfast items in there.
My pantry has gi-normous Splenda, Coffee-Mate, Raw Walnuts and other great big packages. I wrote the date I opened them on the outside. I think it will be some time next year before we actually use up the entire bulk package of Splenda. The Raw Walnuts move pretty fast around here, though.
I’m also giving canned goods a try. First, it was Chicken Broth. After all, they did have the low-salt variety. Then it was canned tomatoes. Back in my pre-Costco days, I’d buy tomatoes that already had Italian seasonings on them AND they were low salt. Costco’s are low-salt, but no seasonings. Next to my 12-pack of canned tomatoes is a 12 pack of tomato paste. Then I broke down and got a 6-pack of canned salmon and a 6 pack tuna – water-packed, of course.
Paper-goods? A no-brainer! Cleaning supplies? Yep! Sodas? Diet Dr. Pepper in 36-packs and ICE flavored sparkling waters! And I love the big bottles of Pellegrino. Kalamata olives? Sure! A tub of tzatziki? Why not! And there’s some Prosecco in the wine department that’s very impressive.
I Still Need Kroger
Though Kroger’s weekly sales figures must have plummeted since I discovered Costco, they need not fear. I’ll be in weekly. Costco doesn’t sell Pinot Grigio in a box. They don’t have Bill’s flavor of Kashi Cookies or Cinnamon Pecan Special K. Blueberry-muffin flavored yogurt? Only at Kroger’s. And Ricotta for my nightly South Beach Diet dessert. M-M-M-M-M! The list goes on.
But if I ever need to make Red Lobster Cheese Biscuits, I know where to go.
Well, we’ve been living in our new home for about four months now. It’s beginning to feel like home. One thing I’ve learned is that grocery shopping is a whole lot different out here than it was back in Dallas. A couple of years ago, when Trader Joe’s came to Dallas, I explained how I was smack dab in the middle of grocery store heaven. That is no longer so.
Grocery Shopping in Rockwall
I’ve had my ear to the ground for things to enhance my life on the eastern edges of the DFW Metroplex. Though I don’t remember when or where I first heard of the local farmers market, I knew immediately it was something I wanted to check out. I adore vegetables, especially the kind you get from real farmers, as opposed to the water-sprinkled display in the local supermarket.
In Dallas, with Market Street, Central Market and Trader Joe’s just around the corner from me, I really had all my produce needs taken care of. In Rockwall, we have Walmart, Target, Kroger and Aldi. I refuse to shop at Walmart, our Target doesn’t have a produce section and Aldi is hit or miss. That leaves Kroger. They have an extensive produce section, but it falls short of what I’m used to. One day when I asked after shallots, I was directed to the seafood department.
We also have a Costco out this way and their produce is absolutely gorgeous. However, there is only two of us in this household. I’m just now figuring out how to cook. I’m not ready to take up canning. Everything at Costco is super-sized. I’d have to open a restaurant to justify purchasing one of their gi-normous offerings. That left the farmers market.
Visiting the Rockwall Farmers Market
The Rockwall Farmers Market is held every week, rain or shine, on the square in Downtown Rockwall. (That’s at 66 and 205, for the non-locals). They’re just about to finish up with a major renovation down there, so on my visit I had to maneuver around some construction hazards, but that frustration will soon be gone. It looks like the finished product is going to be lovely and a boon to the farmers market.
The market is open 8 AM to noon and that, in part, is why it took me four months to get there. I’m always up early, but I come up here to my office and get distracted by a project. Before I know it, the morning is gone and I’ve missed the market again. This week, I was determined to leave my office and get to the market by 9. I did it.
I made my way through the construction and found a parking place without too much effort. I grabbed one of the shopping bags I keep in my car and headed to the row of awnings around the square. Right away I could tell this was going to be a treat. I could have gotten everything I needed, and more, at the first booth, but what fun would that have been?
The mix of vendors is about one half farmer and one half other stuff. The other stuff is everything from toffee and coffee, to honey and tamales. I plan to give the other stuff a closer inspection on my next visit, but on this particular day I was on a mission. I’d been looking forward to this visit, because the only thing in my crisper was a wilting stalk or two of celery.
I had planned to walk through the entire market before buying anything. It’s not like it’s all that big, but about halfway to the end of the first row, I was stopped in my tracks by some of the most beautiful basil I’d ever seen. The gorgeous stems seemed to be growing out of an ice chest and the air was full of their appetizing aroma. The price was a dollar a stem. Thinking of the sorry excuse I get for fresh basil at the grocery store I asked for two. I could have gotten by with one and had plenty to share. Lesson learned – and I’ll be back. I may get the Australian basil next time. The vendor said it had a hint of cinnamon to it.
I made it to the end of that row and turned the corner. There was only one half of a row more. At the end of that row I spied some chubby cucumbers that had my name on them. Bill eats a lot of cucumber, but I’m not fond of those huge waxed creatures offered for sale at the grocery store. These nubby chubbys looked good enough to bite, right then and there. A basket of them was $4. That seemed a little steep, but then I thought of the last foot long green thing that followed me home from Kroger. Sure it had been cheaper, but it hadn’t sung to me the way these guys were doing.
I headed back towards the basil, when some big juicy blackberries halted me in my tracks. I found myself standing next to the delicious looking berries wondering what it would take to make them mine. “Five dollars a basket or three baskets for $12.” I started wondering what I would do with three baskets of blackberries when they let me know I could mix and match the baskets. That sounded pretty good, because some strawberries were already flirting with me. Not wanting to overload myself with fruits, I ignored the grapes and glanced towards the vegetables. That’s when I saw a mixed basket of squash. “I’ll take three for $12, the blackberries, some strawberries and the mixed squash.”
Walking back toward where I had entered I watched for any kind of lettuce, but I guess that’s not a Texas crop. I knew I still needed some tomatoes and purple onions. Then I saw the asparagus. Yep, you guessed it. Four dollars a basket. Another $12 invested in local farmers.
After a year of building our home in Heath and several months of living in it, we’re finally getting around to visiting some of the restaurants in downtown Rockwall. We’d visited The Londoner and Bin 303 much earlier in this process, but recently we made it to the Fatted Calf.
Diner or Dinner?
So, I’d heard several people rave about the Fatted Calf, but their descriptions made the place sound more like a diner than someplace to have dinner. I had it mentally bookmarked in the brunch category.
Then we made a trek to downtown Rockwall on a Friday night. We’d seen construction going on around the square, but we’d never paid too much attention. Having to negotiate it for parking made us actually look at what was going on. I’ve got to tell you it’s a mess right now, but it looks as if it’s going to be pretty amazing when they get through.
Stepping around the construction mess, we first dropped by an outdoor venuewherea duo were singing away about some woman’s headache. It was probably worth more attention and we plan to find out how often they have this kind of thing, but we were hungry.
Our destination was actually Zenata’s, but when we got there it was WAY too loud. We were looking for a quiet, perhaps even romantic, spot for dinner and we’d heard it was a Mediterranean restaurant. It was a very loud pizza joint. We sat for all of about 45 seconds and almost beat the hostess back to the door.
My next thought was Oscar Delta, a restaurant around the corner, which we pass by frequently, but we came up on the Fatted Calf first. I didn’t think I was anymore interested in diner food than I was the noise at Zenata, but Bill convinced me to at least check out the menu. The Fatted Calf is not a diner.
Table for Two
Folks in Rockwall must go somewhere else besides Rockwall on Friday nights. Well that, or they’re over at The Harbor and the I-30 Restaurant Row. There had been a nice crowd at Zenata’s but Fatted Calf was empty. Maybe that’s because, like me, everyone thinks it is a diner.
Come to find out the Fatted Calf actually has a split personality. According to our waitress, the restaurant opened as a diner, but added dinner later, which may or not have coincided with their relationship with the owner of Culpepper’s and The Oar House. Apparently, the news hasn’t spread as far as it needs to or they would have had a few more tables filled. There were several folks enjoying themselves at the bar, but up there where the food was served Bill and I were all alone.
My emotions were having a bit of a bouncy ride: Enjoying the improvements downtown and the musicians; Finding Zenata’s and then leaving; Thinking the Fatted Calf was a diner and being pleasantly surprised by the menu, but feeling apprehensive about all the empty seats. Then the waitress mentioned Culpeppers and The Oar House, which the restaurant was associated with in some way. Well, I loved the steak I had at Culpepper’s and the musicians who had been playing when I visited, but The Oar House experience had not been as good. All this and I still had to figure out what I was going to eat.
What in the World is Perloo?
According to the menu, Low Country Perloo is “BASMATI RICE/SHRIMP/ROASTED CHICKEN/PEPPERS/SMOKED SAUSAGE/ SCALLION BUTTER.” Bill decided to be brave and try it, in spite of the waitress’ less than enthusiastic recommendation, “It’s not my favorite, but people seem to like it.” She was more excited about my choice, Ted’s Crab Cake.
When the plates arrived they both looked great, but Bill seemed to be crazier about his food than mine. The crab cake was fine. I have no complaints, but it wasn’t a standout entree for me. In fact, what I liked best on the plate was the “CORN MAQUE CHOUX.” It was about the most delicious corn I’d ever had in my life. When I googled it I discovered it was pronounced Corn Mock Shoe and it’s a Cajun dish. Call it what you will and I’ll just call it scrumptious. Also on my dish was something that looked and tasted like mashed potatoes, but the menu claims is lobster bisque. I think it was mashed potatoes.
So do I think you should go visit the Fatted Calf? I’d say it would be a nice night out. I’m planning to go for brunch someday, because the menu for that meal looks appealing, but since Sunday is our usual brunch day, I’m not sure how I’m going to work it in. Come back next week and I’ll have some more recommendations for you.
TRAVEL HERE: CULPEPPER’S HOSTS FRANK MARTIN GILLIGAN & JOE GAVITO
It started earlier in the week on Facebook of all places. I have a cousin down Houston way who is heavily into their music scene. If Gene Alton likes a band, then it’s a good band. He posted a video that I don’t even think I watched, but I noticed one of the comments was from Joe Gavito.
Who in the world is Joe Gavito?
Now Joe Gavito probably isn’t a household name where you live, but he features large in one of my childhood memories. I moved to Dallas in 1966 at the age of eleven. Back then I had no idea I was going to love Dallas as much as I do. I was pretty partial to Augusta, GA which had been my previous home. I can tell you this, Mapquest says there’s about 930 miles between Dallas and Augusta, but when you’re eleven years old, it’s more like 930 galaxies.
See, I was the cat’s meow at T.Harry Garrett Elementary School. My friends were Grayson Bailey, Caroline Swink, Patty Harrison, Margie Ann Bowers, Donna Rice and Martha Bowling. None of us liked Judy Moody, because she had a mean streak, but we all harbored crushes on her brother Tommy and that new guy, Paul, who had moved in at the end of the street.
We lived in the right neighborhood and attended the right church. I even took ballet from the right ballet school, piano from the right teacher and belonged to the right scout group. My dad had the right kind of job and we owned season tickets to The Masters. Life was good. I was about to enter sixth grade and I’m sure that along with my peers on Persimmon Road, I would have put on my white gloves and attended the right social dancing classes.
In Dallas I was nobody. We lived in a rent house in a modest East Dallas neighborhood and were still looking for a church. There was no ballet or scouts and my piano teacher was not remarkable in anyway. Dad still had the same job, but it didn’t carry the same cachet in Dallas and he’d forfeited his season tickets. And social dancing? HA!
I didn’t look like my Dallas peers either. When we got word my dad was transferring, Mom had already purchased my wardrobe for the school year. My wool plaid skirts, knee socks and penny loafers were all the rage over in Augusta, but Dallas had moved on to mini-dresses, fishnet hose and kitten heels – in sixth grade. No one in Georgia would have dreamed of heels until they were in their teens!
I suffered through my sixth grade year and dreamed of social dancing classes in Augusta. I wondered who had been lucky enough to be Tommy Moody’s partner and if there was any chance it would have been me if we’d stayed there. (Probably not, since over the summer I’d shot up at least a head over everyone in my class, especially Tommy Moody.)
Then came the invitation to Cynthia Rodger’s birthday party – Cynthia of the long blonde hair, mini-dresses, fish-net hose and kitten heels. Now I can imagine a conversation in which Cynthia’s mother told her that if she was inviting the rest of her class to the party that funny girl from Georgia would also have to be invited, but I was too unsophisticated in those days to even think of that. Instead I was over the moon. I was going to Cynthia Rodger’s birthday party!
I remember very little from the party, except for Joe Gavito. This suggests that I probably did not have the rapturous time I had hoped to have at the soiree, but it’s still a party I can’t forget. We were kids. Eleven-year-olds. I still had a hard time chewing gum and walking. Joe Gavito sat down at a drum set and played Wipeout. It was the coolest thing I had seen up to that point – and I’ve never forgotten it.
Nearly five decades had passed when I saw Joe Gavito’s name in my Facebook feed, but something prompted me to ask if he happened to be the Joe Gavito who attended sixth grade at MT Reilly. Lo and behold, he was. He even remembered the awful cat’s eye glasses that I wore – something else that had been just the thing in Augusta and absolutely the worst thing in Dallas. What’s more he was still in the music scene AND he had a gig around the corner from me on Friday night. Talk about coincidences!
I decided right then and there, in honor of the magic Joe created so long ago, I was going to hear him on Friday night. My husband reluctantly agreed to go, with the same excitement one might expect if I’d asked him to join me for dinner with my college sweetheart. My best friend agreed to go, because she always agrees to do whatever I want to. I extended the same invitation to several others and ended up with about seven interested couples. Before the end of the week, two couples had conflicts and my bestie’s husband got sick, but we still had a table-ful.
The official name of the act is Frank Martin Gilligan. He’s a singer/songwriter in the country/western vein and Joe plays backup. I didn’t know what to expect. I was just in it for the fun.
Frank started off with a few cover songs and then moved into his own music. The cover songs were good. His songs were great. He’d sound good singing pretty much anything, as he demonstrated by singing both Willie Nelson songs and a hit from Les Miserables. When he added his own amazing lyrics to the sound, it was rapturous. I hate to sound like a groupie, but my best friend studied opera and she agreed on both counts.
We planned to stay for one set. We stayed for two and Deb was still there when we left. Between sets I chatted with Joe. That’s when I found out that Frank Martin Gilligan had been the moving force behind Mason Dixon. I remembered Mason Dixon! Frank dropped out of the music scene to raise his family, but that task being done he’s returned to his first love – and that’s a good thing for you and me. Joe says that thanks to the internet, the new CD, Silver Dollar, is enjoying some success through online downloads for the media. In fact, Frank got a call from a DJ in Australia that wanted him to know how much they were loving his music Down Under.
The title song “Silver Dollar” is a ballad about the path an 1890’s Silver Dollar might have gone, in it’s journey to a friend’s pocket. I loved this feel-good song about the history of our great nation, but it wasn’t the only selection he played from his disc. I caught tears in the eyes of my companions during “I Remember Who She Is”. See if you can listen to it without crying. The CD is one great hit after another. You’ll love it.
One more thing. Joe Gavito was not playing drums. He’s moved on to the guitar. (In fact, the more I think about it, he was probably playing drums at the party I remember so well. Memories blur over time.) He juggles between two instruments as he accompanies Frank and he’s great on both of them, but one was a very small guitar from Tacoma that he says is called a traveling guitar. Whatever it’s called, it sounds like a mandolin and Joe is a maestro at picking on it.