Ever had a Mexican egg roll? Neither had I until I happened into Conchita's Mexican Cafe in sleepy downtown Kerrville, population 22,000.
The crunchy shell wrapped around chicken and avocado, with a delicate green sauce on top is the creation of owner Theresa Womack.
"I love to create – every day something new," she says.
Her inspiration is grandmother Conchita Garza, who at 18 moved from Mexico City to San Antonio. There Conchita met her husband and the pair settled in Kerrville, where she lived to be 101.
"We were always in the kitchen. She always had her hand in the skillet," says Womack of her grandmother.
"Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) – that was her deal.
"I remember grandpa eating frijoles (beans) with grandma's thick tortillas and then wiping his face with them."
One way to experience a city's culture is through its cuisine.
At the first two restaurants I went to in Pittsburgh, waitresses told me they carry a local beer called Iron City, but they do not recommend it.
So I tried a Pennsylvania Brewing Company Hefe-Weisen that was decent. But after the second non-recommendation for Iron City, I got curious.
"What's so bad about it? Is it made with river water?" I asked.
The waitress assured me it isn't made using polluted water. But she couldn't explain what was wrong with it, either, so I placed my order.
Iron City isn't awful. It's just not good. No complexity, no after taste. Kind of how I imagine "Duff" might taste.
"So, who drinks this stuff? I asked her when she returned.
"Old men from Pittsburgh," she said. "And they love it. They order it by the case."
(Behind the beer bottle, check out a decidedly non-boring building: the gothic-like, glass-sheathed skyscraper that houses Pittsburgh Plate Glass Industries.)
I used to hate whiskey, until a friend bought me a hot toddy containing Maker's Mark. So, while I was in the bourbon hub of our country, I decided to visit the distillery, which is located on a beautiful stretch of land with a spring-fed, limestone-filtered lake.
I learned lots of interesting stuff about the distillation process and saw (and smelled) the giant Cyprus fermentation vats, some of which are 100 years old. The distillery also uses stainless steel and my tour guide said it doesn't produce a taste difference. The vats are empty because the plant is on its annual mandatory shut down period, which lasts about a month.
Maker's Mark produces 850,000 barrels of whiskey each year, compared to 10 million at Jim Bean. Its largest consumer demographic this year has been Australia; last year it was most popular in Japan.
I got to watch factory workers hand dip the bottles with the brand's patented dripping red wax.
And a taste test, of course. The paler liquid is called "white dog" and it's what the whiskey looks like before it's been aged for several years in white oak vats — before it may officially qualify as bourbon.
They say it's sharper and more bitter, and they would never put it on the shelves. Maybe I've had too much Italian desert wine, because I still thought it was drinkable, either way!
Practically. I am becoming adept at creating fantastic RV kitchen recipes that require minimal cleanup or refrigeration. This one's a little decadent but it's cheap and yummy. Peanut butter with bananas and chocolate sauce. Aww yeah. Oh, and the bread is Big Sky Montana wheat. It's sold in all the regular grocery stores in Montana and northern Wyoming and has no hydrogenated oils or preservatives. Wish they would ship it to Washington.
In Harrison, near Pony, I attended a free afternoon educational event at a sustainable, grass-fed beef and dairy ranch run by Mark and Jenny Sabo. There were programs on a variety of creative and effective sustainable farming and building practices, as well as ranching in harmony with wildlife, living "off the grid" energy-wise, hunting for herbs and eating fresh year round.
For $8 I also had one of the best meals I've eaten in a while, along with a tall cool glass of raw milk.
Late nights hanging out at Seattle's Dick's Drive-In are pretty much a required rite of passage for teenagers and young adults living in Seattle, where I'm from.
But it turns out there's another Dick's, under different ownership, in Spokane. The menu is almost the same!
I checked it out on Saturday after the Lilac Parade and thought the food was decent. Hey – a decent hamburger and small bag of fries for exactly $2 is worth coming back for.
As some of you know, I'm into whole, natural foods.
It'll be fun to find all the cool cafes and restaurants across America. I'm thinking I'll have better luck in big cities and college towns. But you never know!
Sunday morning in downtown Spokane I got an organic latte from Natural Start Bakery & Espresso – a cafe with wi-fi that caters to students attending Gonzaga University.
For lunch, an "everything but the kitchen sink" omelet at Huckleberry's Natural Market, a chain with locations in eastern Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
There, I tried yerba mate tea for the first time, with organic milk and raw honey. It smells like horses and hemp; I love it!