Pisano’s Woodfired Pizza

PisanosPizzaOvenNow we’ve done it.
We went and found another reason why we could live here (in Bend, Oregon). What we found was Pisano’s Woodfired Pizza and what a great find it was! Admittedly, it was an odd time of day to go (Sunday mid-afternoon), they are way out on the edge of town and difficult to find the turn until you’ve done it, but being the only customers there was a bit of a concern. However, our optimism grew when we saw that oven. Karen stuck with the usual pepperoni but there was nothing usual about it. I was a little adventurous and ordered thePisanosPepperoni2PisanosExtremeBBQHawaiian2 Extreme BBQ Hawaiian. I got concerned again as I watched the pizza being made with all the BBQ sauce that was put on, PisanosEdBarbeaubut the BBQ flavor was not over-bearing at all and the blend of flavors was absolutely amazing and complimented the perfect crust wonderfully well. The next time we went we ordered the same thing and had the pleasure to meet the owner, Ed Barbeau. Ed told us about the special ingredients he uses and the awards his pizzas have won in competitions. We think his pizzas speak for themselves – they’ve certainly won us over. I think Ed is a bit of a character, too. Karen was talking marketing with him and she mentioned that if he sold Pisano’s T-shirts she would be wearing one around town. He promptly took his shirt right off his back and gave it to her. 😯 Good thing he had a spare shirt in the back!

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Rat Hole Brew Pub

RatHoleTapsIt was a year ago that we were in Bend, Oregon, navigating the Bend Ale Trail, when we stumbled upon the newest brewery in town at the time, Rat Hole Brewing. Because of their excellent brews, delicious food and friendly hospitality, they quickly became our favorite Oregon brewery. RatHolePorterAndRedSo it’s now a year later and when we arrived back in Bend we didn’t waste any time getting over to see how things were going for Al and Susan at the Rat Hole. It was Monday afternoon and the place was packed. But that’s not surprising with their new food menu and the same great beer. Our favorites are the Fence Post Porter and the Rotation Red. We were amazed when we sat at the bar and Susan not only recognized us but even remembered our names.RatHolePistachiosRatHoleBurgerRatHoleSliders We were delighted to find that they still had those spicy pistachios but we also came hungry so I ordered the Rat Hole Burger and Karen had the Rat Pattie Sliders. Both were outstanding and we’ll be anxious to try some of the other items on future visits.

We did stop by a couple of days later for “just a beer”. RatHoleWampusCatsWhat we weren’t expecting was live music but once The Wampus Cats started playing we weren’t in any hurry to leave and stayed for the duration. Rachel played the guitar, banjo, fiddle and harmonica and Matt gets a great sound from his resonator guitar. They were a lot of fun and we enjoyed their show … and the Fence Post Porter!

We were fortunate enough to be here in Bend for Rat Hole’s 1st Year Anniversary Party. And what a great party is was! Tent
They had a tent,
there was grilling,
drawings for cool stuff,
live music from four groups and,

of course,

Rat Hole beer!

We were a little disappointed at first because they were limited to only four of their beers for the party and the porter was not one of them. But that still left us with the Rotation Red and their Rat Hole Rye IPA which are both outstanding. However, a little while into the festivities, Al and Susan came over to our table and discreetly handed us two Fence Post Porters! That slight disappointment from earlier was long gone but this made us feel quite special.

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Many, if not most, of the motor homes we see on the road are towing their cars behind them “four down” which is something you cannot do with most cars these days without either some modification or risk of damaging the car’s transmission. There are some cars, though, that are designed to be towed without damage, (especially Jeep products) and we see a lot of those. Our car is not one of them. However, being front-wheel drive, it can easily be towed “two down” on a tow dolly. This has worked very well for us but last year we had problems when one of the rims failed to hold air, stranding us in Amarillo over the weekend until we could buy a new rim. Then 500 miles later the other rim failed in the same manner. This motivated us to get a spare rim and tire before heading out this year. Our tow dolly is a Demco Kar Kaddy SS. The SS is for “Space Saver” because the ramps and the tongue fold up to half of its extended length at only 67 inches. It is a great tow dolly and other than the issue with the two bad rims it has treated us well. TowDollyStrapThat is until the morning we tried to leave Durango and one of the tire straps broke as I was ratcheting it down. Since we were trying to get an early start none of the places where we hoped to find a new strap were open yet so we had to wait to start making phone calls. The first place was an RV dealer but they had no straps. Then we tried the two U-Haul dealers in town – nope. Auto parts stores? No. TowDollySo we were resigned to the fact that Karen would have to drive the car to our next destination in Salt Lake City and we started calling trailer and RV stores there in hopes that we would not make a habit of towing an empty dolly. Finally an RV supply store, State Trailer who is also a Demco dealer, said they had one in stock and they were open until 7 that evening. That was double good news because we had a seven-hour drive ahead of us and since it was Saturday, if we didn’t get there in time we would be stuck until at least Monday. Well, we did get there in time and headed over to their parts department to let them know what we were there for. We were escorted over to the aisle with the towing supplies and I was happy to see they had a Kar Kaddy SS, all new and shiny on the showroom floor. That turned out to be a triple blessing because after three clerks failed to find the strap we needed and could only offer a generic strap that would not fit our trailer, we were finally able to convince the manager to sell us one of the straps off of their Kar Kaddy. Thank you, Matt and State Trailer!
LosCucosChipsAndSalsaLosCucosElTexanoOur problem was solved LosCucosALaCartewith enough time left in the day to go get cleaned up and head over to the other reason we travel through Salt Lake City – and that is Los Cucos Mexican Cafe in Sandy, Utah. The chips & salsa, El Texano dinner, and a la carte enchiladas were just what we needed to revive us from a long and tiring day. We weren’t sure why Karen’s two enchiladas came on two separate plates but they were delicious just the same.
TowDollyNewStrapsKnowing that our other original tow dolly strap could fail at any time as well, I found an online source and ordered three new straps so that we would have two new ones in use on the dolly and two spares. The new straps arrived today and if we ever find ourselves in need of a spare, I just hope I will remember where I stored them.

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Durango Eats

FiredUpPizzeriaAfter our failed attempt for pizza in Amarillo, we were anxious to get downtown to one of our other very favorites, Fired Up Pizzeria. We each had the Margherita with pepperoni, well done (crispy) and a Ska Pinstripe. Although that combination is hard to beat, you can bet that we will keep trying. While there we got some recommendations from the couple sitting next to us for other places in town to eat. FiredUp1bFiredUp2One of those was the same we got earlier from Mark at Brew Pub & Kitchen. So the next day we decided to try Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen. ChimayoSign2 Their menu had several things that sounded good. Karen wanted a pizza but without pepperoni on the menu she took a chance and ordered the Orange Chipotle Chicken specialty pizza. I did not want another pizza but that orange chipotle was intriguing so I opted for the half rack of baby back ribs with orange chipotle BBQ sauce. The ribs were good, tasty and tender but that sauce was tooChimayoRibsChimayo sugary-sweet for my tastes and was nothing like the excellent flavor of the pizza Karen enjoyed.

Another recommendation we got for pizza is a place called J.Bo’s Pizza & Rib Co. and with a name like that, we couldn’t resist.JBoPizzaRibCo I figured if Karen could have pizza three days in a row I could certainly do ribs twice in as many days. Karen’s pizza was piled up with way too much salty pepperoni but other than that it was okay. The ribs were pretty good in spite of the boring barbecue sauce. One would think that by day four we would be ready for something other than pizza or ribs, but one would be mistaken.JBo'sJBosRibs The next day we ventured back to Fired Up for more wood-fired, authentic Neapolitan pizza. It would be the next day CarverBrewingLogobefore we changed our routine and still nothing was certain until Karen ordered the chicken Ceasar salad and I went with the Rodeo Burger at Carver Brewing. Without a doubt, it was their beer that brought us back to Carver. We both had a Colorado Trail Nut Brown Ale and briefly discussed where to eat but after looking at their food menu neither of us could come up with a reason CarverChickenCeasarCarverRodeoBurgerto search any further – another excellent experience in Durango eats.

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Durango Breweries

When we were here last year, we visited each of Durango’s five breweries and determined there are only three worth the effort. The first one we checked out this time is also the newest and has the unimaginative name, Brew Pub & Kitchen. BrewKolePorterIn spite of that deficiency, their brews are quite tasty and this day we both had their Kole Porter, a very smooth session ale (low alcohol). CarverNutBrownAndStoutWe also had a good conversation with Mark, a semi-local, who gave us some good tips for places to eat in Durango. The next day we headed back downtown and to Carver Brewing. We were lucky to get two seats at the bar because the place was packed with folks watching some soccer game on the big screen TVs. Our attention, however, was on the Colorado Trail Nut Brown Ale and the Iron Horse Oatmeal Stout in front of us.

That evening Karen and I stopped by Ska Brewing just to have a brew. SkuPinStripeKaren tasted their Buster Nut Brown Ale and their Estival Cream Stout and since she couldn’t decide on which one, she had them both blended together in a pint – turned out really good, too. I had the Special E.S.B. and thought it tasted a lot like their Pinstripe Red Ale JessJamesand that’s not bad at all. We soon struck up a conversation with the local couple we were sitting next to, Jess & James. BusAndRainbowThey were fun to talk to but the eight o’clock last call came very quick and it was time to go. As we stepped out, we were treated to a bus in the parking lot and a rainbow in the sky … sweet!

There is a fellow VW bus owner that I know from the VW enthusiast web site, The Samba. Last year when we were here, we got a picture of his bus and I posted it online which started a conversation. We both thought it would be cool to meet BreweryBluegrassin person this year and we arranged to do so on Thursday evening at Ska. We were told it was BBQ night at Ska and there would be live music and a crowd so Karen and I arrived early. We were delighted to hear the sounds of a bluegrass band (called JRPT) as we walked across the parking lot to where the action was. I went back to the car to grab our folding chairs, got an E.S.B. for me and another blend of nut brown and cream stout for Karen, and we settled in to wait for Rich to arrive in “The Bone Bus”. When I saw his bus pull into the parking lot, BaileyRichMilesI headed over, introduced myself, and got a tour of his ’68 tin top Westy. Rich and his wife, Bailey, and their baby, Miles, had recently returned from a two-week, 3000-mile camping trip out to California and back – in his 46-year-old bus! We had a great time getting to know them, talking VWs and getting the low-down on Durango. We like this place a lot and, you know, WCLH.

Posted in Barbeque, Beer, Colorado, VW Bus | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Never On Sunday

If you have followed our blog much, you probably know that when we head north we always plan an overnight stop in Amarillo so that we can indulge in one of our favorite pizzas at 575 Pizzeria. I have written about it so often that at times during the six-hour drive from Mansfield I contemplated what I could possibly write about their pizza again. I mean, it’s a really good pizza, and they seem to always have a couple of really good craft beers on tap, and I’ll post another pizza picture … not very interesting, I think.

However, after getting to our Oasis RV Resort spot, getting all hooked up and settled in, and just starting to think about getting cleaned up and heading over, Karen takes a look at their web site and discovers … they are not open on Sundays … and it is Sunday. doh

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On the Road Again

And we are on the road again, prepared as always to discover new favorite places to eat, have a beer or spot an old VW bus. Taking no chances, we will also revisit many places that we have discovered before. One of those places is Veracruz Cafe in Cedar Hill, Texas. VeraCruzCafeSince we were only staying in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for two nights we had to make the dining choices count and Veracruz is always an excellent choice. It is also one of the only places where we will both pass on a beer in favor of their delicious margaritas! After a wonderful meal of Carne Texolo and Enchiladas Mexicanitas, that was over way too soon, we drove down to Burleson to watch the Fourth of July fireworks with my brother, Mark, and his girlfriend, Christie, and her family. It was a great evening and spectacular fireworks show.

The next day, we met up with Mark and my other brother, Gary, and his wife, Vanessa, at another favorite Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth, Mercado Juarez. We rediscovered how good this place is last year on our way throughMartinHouseBrewing KarenMartinHouseand it makes me almost wonder why I would have moved away from here so long ago. After lunch we headed over to Martin House Brewing for their Saturday afternoon open house. They have several good ones and our favorite is their Pretzel Stout, brewed with crushed sourdough pretzels.

It was a quick trip through this time but we’ll get to spend more time on our way back through in the fall; enough time to visit more family and friends, discover some new breweries that will be opening soon, and more than likely, return to Veracruz and Mercado Juarez as well. One of us keeps saying, “we could live here” whenever we visit and although I’m the reluctant one, it definitely wouldn’t be all bad.

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So I had to go to Chicago for my job. It was for training on new software and the class was going to last two weeks. I had the option to stay through the weekend in the middle or fly home and then fly back. Sounded like a great opportunity for Karen to fly up for the weekend and we could try all of those famous Chicago-style pizzas, so that’s what we opted for. By noon on Wednesday, though, I had determined this software training was an incredible waste of time. Three-fourths of the training was on software that my company hadn’t even bought and the virtual machine that I was assigned to do the lessons on did not work and after three days the instructor still hadn’t done anything about it, so I bailed on the class, called my boss, explained the situation and that I would work from the hotel room the rest of the week but my wife was flying up and we were going to stay through the weekend. The stupid things that big companies do never cease to amaze me – and I thought I had seen it all!

On the first evening there, my work colleague and I went to Giordano’s on the recommendation from the front desk at the hotel. All I can say is that it was filling. This is not my idea of good pizza and I was sure Karen wouldn’t like it either, so I knew we could mark this one off the weekend pizza-binge list. Chicago_UnosTwenty or so years ago I had eaten at Chicago’s Pizzeria Uno and thought it was excellent so we made that our first night out the day Karen arrived. With much anticipation we had a beer at the bar while waiting for a table but were soon very disappointed. The pizza we were served was nothing like the amazing one I remembered from long ago or the very good one we both had at the Uno’s in Fort Worth only a couple of years ago. This is what Chicago is famous for? Really?

IMG_3473There were still opportunities for this town to redeem itself from a terrible start so we turned our attention to breweries. Our first was Lunar Brewing in Villa Park. IMG_3475It is more of a neighborhood bar that happens to brew beer but the Total Eclipse Stout we both had was pretty good. The next brewery we found was Revolution Brewing. After several tastes Karen settled on the Mother of Exiles pilsner and I chose their Bean Gene robust porter with coffee. Neither was anything to get excited about. It was time LouMalnatito give pizza another try. After driving along the lakefront and dealing with lots of traffic, we settled on Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria on State street. It was Friday night and crowded but the long yet reasonable wait for a table was buffered by the available bottled Poet oatmeal stout and the hopes of a pizza worthy of our anticipation. While it was the best deep-dish pizza we would have during this trip, it just didn’t hold up to our expectations or the really good thin crust Napoletana style pizzas that we really like. The next day we visited two more breweries, Half Acre Beer Company (Nordic Baltic Porter) and Atlas Brewing (Burnham Brown Rye Ale)FornoRosso but we were still looking for a better reason for having made the trip at all which led us to find Forno Rosso Pizzeria Napoletano. This might have been a great pizza if only they would have cooked it long enough, like we asked. Thin, gummy crust isn’t what we were looking for, either. This was quickly becoming one long weekend.

IMG_3489Sunday was our last day to turn things around. We started at Piece Brewery and Pizzeria. Believe me, I was there only for the brewery but Karen couldn’t resist and ordered a pizza which was nothing special (about what you’d expect at the ball park) but their Flatiron Stout was very good, so I had another. IMG_3472The highlight of the entire trip turned out to be Texas barbeque at Smoque BBQ. We learned about this place from Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and it was just as good as it looked on TV!  Google maps then took us to Lyons, Illinois, where we found BuckleDown Brewing. Karen had their Shady Aftermath robust porter and I had the Stompbox American imperial stout. Both were IMG_3498excellent! Continuing further out of the city, we found Flossmoor Station Brewering. Between us we had their Pullman Brown, Iron Horse Stout and Panama Red Ale. Those and the conversation with the local we sat next to made for a great visit. Since our weekend was coming to a close and we had one IMG_3500more pizza on our to-do list, we headed back to Chicago and Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria. This was another find from Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives and their specialty is thin crust pizza, but considering all of our other Chicago pizzas this trip our expectations were set low … and those expectations were met. Yet another pizza that may be good for what it is, but not what we want in a food called “pizza”.

All in all the trip was very disappointing and especially considering it was early April and still winter, we definitely could not live here.

Posted in Barbeque, Beer, Pizza | 7 Comments

Birthday, BBQ, Brewery and a Bus

Yeah, it’s been awhile since our last post but there hasn’t been much to blog about since we started on the master bedroom/bathroom remodel project in our sticks-and-bricks house. The only travel has been a couple of solo back-to-back business trips to Massachusetts and then to Colorado – definitely nothing blog worthy there. So, it being my birthday, we decided to do a day trip into Houston and do what we would do if we were on the road – eat good barbeque and visit a brewery! GatlinsBBQ1The best barbeque we’ve found in Houston, by far, is Gatlin’s BBQ in the Heights. We know the routine: get there early, wait in a long line, order and enjoy! GatlinsBBQ2Our timing was excellent and we lucked out getting one of the three tables inside. Karen had the sliced brisket sandwich and I ordered brisket and ribs. We both agreed that we have to do this more often!

KarbachTapsSince it was Saturday, there were a few choices regarding brewery “tours”. KarbachDarkLagerThe one we chose was Karbach Brewing Company because we’ve never been there before and it was close by. For our first beer we both had their Mother-in-Lager which was good, refreshing and tasted much lighter than it’s dark color would suggest. KarbachFriendsOur favorite beer today, though, was the Sympathy for the Lager, an amber-colored, crisp and delicious, Bavarian-style lager. We had found a couple of empty seats at one of the community tables and had a great time meeting new friends, Pong & Jackie and Jeremy & Crystal and talking beer, travel, family and faith.

KarbachBus3As an added bonus to what was already a great day, we spotted this VW bus driving by just as we pulled out of the parking lot. We had to chase them down a little way to get the photo but that’s what we do when we travel, even when this close to home.

Posted in Barbeque, Beer, Texas, VW Bus | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hill Country Breweries

StoneMountainAfter two days of barbeque overload we were ready to indulge in some really good Tex-Mex. So, after driving around north of Marble Falls looking at some property we’d seen online with killer hilltop views, TheMaxicanwe made our way just a little further north to Burnet and The Maxican, our favorite hill country Mexican restaurant. The chips & salsa were just what we needed and Karen’s Mexico City Tacos and the Tacos a la Plancha that I had were delicious. We followed that up with one of the best Tres Leches desserts either of us can remember. DoubleHornBrewing

Our next stop would be back in Marble Falls at Double Horn Brewing, a great little brew pub we have to visit anytime we’re nearby. They have a good selection of their own beers in addition to guest beers from other local area brewers. dunkelweizenToday, Karen had the Antler Amber and I chose the Burn Out Rye which was a little hoppy but not too much, especially for an IPA. I followed that up with the Dunkelweizen, a malty wheat beer that was not as dark as the name suggests but very good.

We knew that just two towns to the south on CoffeePorterHighway 281 was Blanco, the home of Real Ale Brewing and that, this being Friday, they would be giving free samples from 2 to 5. We also knew, from looking at their website earlier, that their Coffee Porter was back in season and we hoped to find that on tap. We were not disappointed. We also sampled their 15th Anniversary Ale, a Russian imperial stout, and their Pumpkin Spice Ale. It’s actually a good thing getting the little 4-ounce tasters so you can try several different beers. After another Coffee Porter it was time to get home and let Jake and Peggy out for a walk.

On the way home I had a great idea. We could drive back down to Wimberley and Middleton Brewing to have that Pepperhead Ale. And since they welcome dogs at their taproom, Jake and Peggy could go, too! The dogs always get excited to ride in the car but when they do it’s typically to either go to the groomer or the vet so it never ends well for them. KarenPeggyBeerDavidJakeBeerApparently, Jake started remembering this on the way to the brewery and was really worked up by the time we got there. They both settled down, though, once they had a beer in front of them. This was their first brewery and they had a good time. Even though they didn’t get any beer they did get to lick the condensation off the glass.

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