Galveston Weekend 2016 - Day 2

Day Two

The gibbous moon has followed us on our adventure and tomorrow it will be a full moon. Our trip ends today, so this is somehow fitting. Many people want to squeeze as much into each trip as they can, but I feel more comfortable with savoring a few things. If I do too much, I lose track of what I've done. I came to Galveston with two goals. Many years ago I was here with Nameless for an art festival and we got lost at night. We drove past the Sacred Heart church and Bishop's Palace, and ever since that evening I have longed to return to visit these incredible buildings. Also, I am at the coast, so grilled shrimp is required. Every time I mentioned this to anybody, they let me know that I'd be more likely to find fried, but where there's a will there's a way.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston. A blindingly white building on 14th and Broadway, I was trying to read the historical marker, but it was so very hot outside and so very bright that I gave up. It has a classic cruciform layout with St. Joan of Arc on the left (the nerve!) and St. Térèse of Lisieux on the right. In the middle was Christ, with Mary and Joseph to each side. The support beams and sanctuary are brilliant white carved plaster and the pews are good, solid wood. (I know, I should know the type of wood, but I don't. But, they do look old...) There is a definite French influence going on here. The original building - destroyed in the 1900 hurricane, was French Romanesque and the current building gives a nod to this as well. Nicholas Clayton designed the original building and he designed the dome in the reconstructed building after the 1900 storm. He is the same architect who designed the Bishop's Palace across the street, which was originally built for the Gresham family.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Galveston, TX

The Bishop's Palace. This was not built for a bishop, but for one of the most influential families in Galveston, the Gresham's. The exterior is overwhelmingly ornate and I couldn't manage to capture it on camera - not in a way that did it justice, anyway. Nameless pointed out that the "basement" was really just the first floor, but we are in the coastal region. I don't imagine that having part of the house under the ground would be a very good idea. And, the servants have to have a basement to be in, so there you are. It is complete with creepy back stairwell that the children and servants could use to avoid coming into contact with the adults and their guests.

The walls are wood, the fireplaces are marble, where the walls meet the ceilings there are decorative motifs or stamped linoleum. The dining room ceiling has a fresco that Mrs. Gresham painted. Off of the dining room there is a conservatory of zinc. The grand staircase in the entrance is enough to see, even if that's all you saw. The wood, the carving, the pulpit at the landing. Everything is designed to impress. Hand-carved wood adorns every space in the house. They have it very sparsely furnished because they wanted to have only the original furniture. A couple of the items, chandeliers and that sort of thing, were not original to the house. But, electricity was not original to the house, so some exceptions have to be made. They were among the first to have electricity, just like they were among the first to have gas fixtures before that.

Part of me winces at the decadence, but a larger part of me very much appreciates the people whose talents were used to create the house. The wood paneling and parquet floors are exceptional and the carved wood everywhere is the work of experts.

Grand Staircase seen from the Entrance 
In the Kitchen

Grand Staircase seen from above

After those two buildings we drove around the historic district before returning to the house for a siesta. Later in the evening we ventured out to visit The Strand, which seems to be similar to Austin's 6th street, but with a larger variety and less actual liquor. Most places served things made of wine or beer, so that one can walk around with their drinks in hand. Neither of us was very hungry, but we did stumble across an ice cream parlor that served taffy, candy, ice cream, sodas, malts, coffee and if I had been the tiniest bit hungry we would have stayed in there longer. (For one thing it was blessedly cool. June at the coast is hot and muggy!)

It was very interesting to see the buildings that seemed to have withstood Hurricane Ike, those that did not and those that have sprung up since. The Pleasure Pier that I mentioned before (calling it a boardwalk) was where a resort used to be - a hotel that I had seen when I was in Galveston before. Hovering over the water, it did not stand a chance with that sort of storm, and the pier was rebuilt to house Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company and a carnival of rides. I wasn't going to pay to enter, but we did walk around the entrance while waiting for dinner across the street at Fish Tales, where there was a 45 minute wait, and where I DID manage to find grilled shrimp, thankyouverymuch.

Glowing building we happened to park next to

Buildings on the Strand, they seem to have withstood the storms 
This building seems not to have withstood the storm, right across the street from the Glowing building

While at The Strand we noticed that they had blocked it off. This didn't surprise us, as they do this with Bourbon street in NOLA and 6th St. in Austin. One of the shopkeepers, though, had no idea that they had done that and was rather surprised. (And not a little concerned about her own car parked inside the cordoned-off area.) As it turns out, Sunday is June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, and there was a parade planned. We saw bands on trailers pulled by trucks, a slew of Corvettes, marching bands and dancers and then we saw a very dark sky come over faster than I've ever seen a storm collect. It quite literally rained on their parade. We sat on the sidewalk under one of the deep overhangs in front of the buildings while it rained. We saw a glowing building, catching the light from a sun that we could not see, along with a double rainbow. If your parade has to be rained out, a double rainbow is a nice consolation.

Rain on The Strand

Double Rainbow and a Glowing Building

Where the rainbow ends

After The Strand, as I mentioned earlier, we went to Fish Tales. We had planned to go to Gaido's, but this one looked just as good and quite a bit less snobbish (and quite a bit less expensive.) I finally got my grilled shrimp in a light sauce on a bed of rice pilaf and grilled veggies. Nameless had fried coconut shrimp. All of if was exquisite, even if the portions were smaller than I had anticipated.

Grilled Shrimp

Coconut Shrimp

Then, in the same vein of not doing too much, we decided to retire after dinner. Frankly, I was still hungry, but I had ice cream from the previous evening and potato chips at the house. I had books to read, so I was set. I overheard Nameless say to a friend on the phone that this has been a very relaxing vacation. That makes me feel good. He doesn't relax often, and his anxiety goes up when he spends money so, Friday's trip to buy gems did nothing to put him at ease. And, I agree. It has been a relaxing vacation.

Pizza Margherita Experiment

July 22, 2012

I mentioned a problem earlier that I had looked at my expenses. That post had to do with my attempt at breaking my addiction to going to the nearby corporate coffee shop, which I still enjoy doing. I like to sit and watch the people there, aside from drinking the coffee. At the same time that I looked at how much I spend on coffee and covert people watching I looked at how much I spend a month on food and clearly I should weigh 458 pounds by now. The lesson from all of that is that I've been broke for the past 6 months and didn't realize it and that I will be broke until the 2nd week in November. I don't know how this works out, but I did a basic budget and that's what it tells me. This is assuming, of course, that I keep within my budget, which allows for much less money being spent on food.

I've been eating at home. Sandwiches, salads, chicken, sausage, rice, pasta... things that I have in the house already or don't cost that much. I do allow myself fresh vegetables. However, I've also felt the need to be more creative with my food because, while I buy good deli meat, sandwiches get old after a while.

I have a basil plant, so I did a search for things that I could do with it. The most popular was a pizza margherita. There a zillion different varieties of recipes so I read a few and decided to do something that would work for my home.

First is the crust. I'm not about to buy yeast and begin making bread. One of the ideas was to do something quick, so making a crust, though it would be immensely fulfilling, would be too involved at the moment. Maybe later. I decided to buy a crust, but when I got to the store a focaccia bread in the bakery caught my eye and it was about the same price, so I picked it up. Of course, it's almost universally understood that pizza margherita is supposed to use a very thin crust, but I'm not trying to be traditional here.

I wish, I WISH that I had had homegrown tomatoes. I picked up a vine-ripened tomato. I already had mozzarella cheese in the fridge. It's not the balls of fresh cheese, though that would have been even better. Again, we're thinking budget and I already had this ingredient.

So, I cut the bread in half. It was slightly over a foot long, and that's a bit much for one sitting. I brushed the half with olive oil – after drizzling it from my Jason Hooper hand-thrown ceramic olive oil bottle. I put very thinly sliced tomato, I put kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on the tomatoes, and added mozzarella sliced about 1/4 inch thick. I tore up pieces of basil, sprinkled it across the top, and drizzled the whole thing with more olive oil. Then I put it into on a cookie sheet into the oven, preheated at 400º. Almost all of the recipes called for 8 – 9 minutes, but this was done in 6.

Once I took it out of the oven, I added more fresh basil to the top.

Result: I would probably skip the basil before cooking; I think cooking it killed the flavor. Again, using home grown tomatoes would make it SO much better (I just LOVE home grown tomatoes) and I can see that a thinner crust would be good, but this bread toasted and was slightly crunchy and was wonderful to eat even without anything on top. Another thing that is almost universally agreed is to be spare with the ingredients – don't cover every millimeter of crust with stuff.

The tomatoes cooked down to be like a sauce and I had layered mozzarella on top of some of the pieces, and basil on some. I did a pretty good job of mixing up the stuff on top for a variety of flavors in each bite.

I will definitely do this again. I will also try to find a market for homegrown tomatoes because there's just nothing like fresh homegrown tomatoes to make life better.

Thank you for reading.