Friday, April 3, 2015

Trekking to Tyler and Restaurant Review

Redbud flowers
Tyler, Texas is the ‘Rose Capitol of the World’ (or Texas depending on who you read and just how you see your home state). It’s about 135 miles south east of Fort Worth and a pretty drive, particularly if you take the back roads (US Highway 80 to US 64 or to US 110) instead of Interstate 20 and don’t travel during ‘drive times’. Since the Rose City Artisan and Flower Market was going on and I wanted to see meet two people whose work I admire, we hit the road. Although the wildflowers weren’t quite at their peak, Lady Bird Johnson’s idea to plant them along the highways has made for colorful viewing. We saw a few flowers, but what I enjoyed the most were the redbud trees and the crabapples. Redbuds aren’t red, but rather a hot pink to mauve; the crabapple blossoms are a bright, light pink. It’s been a wet spring so the lush green grass that added a nice base to these brightly colored trees.

Tyler is the county seat of Smith County, and was named after President John Tyler. It’s
L to R: Historical marker, Street sign, Memorial square
nicknamed the "Rose Capital of the World" because of the large quantity of rose bushes processed through the area and it has America's largest rose garden. If you come to the Texas Rose Festival in October, you’ll be treated to a parade, the crowning of the Rose Queen and the overwhelming sight of 38,000 rose bushes in bloom. And roses aren’t the only horticulture focus in Tyler: in 1985, the international Adopt-a-Highway movement originated in Tyler with the adoption of a two-mile (3 km) stretch of U.S. Highway 69.

The Rose City Artisan and Flower Market was located on the grounds of the Goodman-LeGrand house and museum. This lovely, old house was added to the National Register of Historic Places listings in Smith County in 1976, and has been a Recorded Texas Historic
L to R: Goodman-LeGrand house, Beaded bag
Landmark since 1962. The Daughters of the American Revolution designated it an Historic Site in 2010. The house has gone through name changes and adaptation of architectural designs in its lifetime. It was originally named Bonnie Castle and began as a Greek Revival cottage in 1859 on 9 acres (3.64 ha). It was sold to a local teacher who, although he never occupied the house, made it available to families of refugees escaping the Union Army. The house eventually came into the hands of William and Priscilla Goodman who, finding it too small for their family, added a second floor as well as Victorian double galleries. The house was passed down to Sallie Goodman-LeGrand; she and her husband remodeled the house to the current Classic Revival style and added the semi-circular porticos. The day we visited, several young ladies were wandering the grounds and moving through the house wearing period dresses and carrying parasols. It did give us a bit of a smile when they lifted their dresses to go up the stairs and revealed jeans and running shoes hiding beneath those voluminous skirts. The house has, for the most part, the furniture and furnishings that the Goodman-LeGrands left to the city. These are well displayed with information about each room; there is also an informative movie available. Of the objects displayed, my favorites were the beaded purses.

The Market, itself, featured several groups selling plants of all sorts, including rose bushes. Next year we’ll come prepared with our list so that we can take advantage of florae that are more likely to stand the vagaries of Texas weather than what is sold at national chain
L to R: Steve Fuque, Feathers and horsehair pot,
Cynthia and Cindy the Potter
stores. Other groups were selling shawls, sweaters and scarves made from hand-spun wool, with several women giving spinning demonstrations. However, that day my interest was in the ceramics. I had ‘met’ Cindy the Potter through Facebook and wanted to see her work first hand. I was certainly not disappointed at the artistry of her pieces and her willingness to talk about her work. Each piece is hand thrown and therefore slightly different from every other piece; she compounds all of her glazes rather than using prepared mixes. Dave was enamored by the vessels with feathers and horsehair designs; the feathers and hair are actually carbonized into the pots. Of course, several selections came home with us. Another treat was getting to see a high school classmate perform. Steve Fuque and I went to Everman High School many years ago. We’ve both changed a bit, but had a nice conversation about our high school days. Steve performs blues, comedy and folk music while accompanying himself on a guitar. He sang several of his own compositions, along with some ‘old time country’ songs that made people want to get up and dance. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay listening to music as long as we would have liked. With the other attractions in Tyler, I’m sure we’ll go back there, again. Following is more information about what we did while visiting this cute little town (for information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews).

What we did…
Three and one-half carrots
Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum (624 North Broadway Avenue, Tyler, TX; 903-531-1286) is a small, two-story museum dedicated to showing the lifestyle of the rather affluent in the late 19th and early 20th Century. The artifacts are well shown and there is adequate information to make this an enjoyable place to explore. It will take about an hour to go through the house.

What we ate…
Four and one-half carrots
Rick's on the Square (104 W Erwin St, Tyler, TX; 903-531-2415) has been in Tyler for about 20 years. It’s not readily apparent where the entrance is (just to the left of the mural); look for a large ‘Tyler’ sign hung vertically at the corner of Erwin and Broadway, then go a
Top L to R:Cobb salad, Catfish special
Bottom: Rick's on the Square
bit west on Erwin. The building has wooden floors and exposed beams in the ceilings. The art displayed is playful; we particularly liked the bartender and his drink shaker. The food is excellent. Dave had the lunch special: fried catfish, coleslaw, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and three hush puppies. He said that the catfish were excellent; they appeared to be local and fresh rather than frozen. The coleslaw had a semi-sweet taste, with a tang of mustard; this taste was carried across in the tartar sauce that also contained mustard. 
The huge pile of okra was too hot to eat immediately, but when he did get a bite, Dave pronounced them excellent, as well. The potatoes were okay, as were the hush puppies. Be advised: this is a dinner sized serving at a reduced price rather than a smaller portion of food! I had the Cobb salad with fresh avocado; it, too, was excellent. The vegetables were crisp and fresh; the meats tasty; and the cheese added a mellow flavor. Service was efficient; our server was personable and attentive. We would drive to Tyler just to eat at Rick's!
©2015 NearNormal Design and Production Studio - All rights including copyright of photographs and designs, as well as intellectual rights are reserved.