Thursday, August 19, 2010

Taste the Heat

The heat's not getting to you.

You do smell chiles.

Crews at Fiesta Foods at 1012 S.E. 10th Ave. and Amigos United at 3300 E. Interstate 40, are roasting peppers from Hatch, N.M., the chile capital of this region at least, if not the world.

Fiesta Foods has a double-barrel roaster going in the parking lot at S.E. 10th and Arthur St. I saw it today while driving back from an afternoon appointment.

Amigos United will wrap up its Get Fired Up Hatch Chile Roast Festival this weekend. Roasting time runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it's a complimentary service for customers who purchase a full 25-pound case or a half case.

These are the peppers that inspire all New Mexico restaurants to ask, "Red, green or Christmas."

Sometimes, I want the purity of either red or green, and sometimes there's nothing like the heat of both topping your enchiladas.

So who loves chiles? Any good recipes to share?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Downtown redux

Rana Klein answered my online question about readers' wish lists for downtown Amarillo in two words: A river.

Believe it or not, a river -- or waterfront of some sort -- made it into a draft of a 1991 Strategic Action Plan for Downtown Amarillo.

I dusted off the copy I had from covering that revitalization effort (kindly referred to around here as decades of "instutional memory") and realized the ideas that a consultant and residents here came up with back then aren't too far from what wound up in the 2008 Downtown Strategic Action Plan being pursued now.

A different consultant with a different resident committee also sees the need to connect our downtown entertainment corridor, Polk Street, with Amarillo City Hall and the Amarillo Civic Center complex.

Both plans proposed to do that with greenspace and sidewalks that will attract pedestrians.
There's no river in the 2008 plan, but there's the idea that the connector should be inviting.

So, before I give you a recap of the wish list developed in our Facebook discussion two weeks ago, I'll ask you to answer this:

Do you work downtown? Do you walk between appointments and to lunch? What would it take to turn you into a more willing pedestrian?

Here's the wish list -- add to it if you want.
  • Outdoor tejano music festival
  • A baseball stadium/NOT a baseball stadium (comments mixed for and against)
  • Better shopping area
  • Jack in the Box, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Dave & Buster's
  • Night life
  • More sidewalk cafes, coffee houses, bakeries
  • A river
  • More entertainment options "especially for the older crowd who has outgrown the 'club scene'"
  • Drive-up coffee shop
  • Regular movie theaters, dinner movie theaters, live dinner theater
  • Comedy clubs
  • A water fountain/feature where kids can play
  • Jazz or piano bars
  • A place to buy fuel
  • A convenience store
  • More neon

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Free samples!

OK. Forgive me.

No giveaways here.

But I'm testing the theory that freebies are the best way to drag you in the store -- or in my case, the blog.

Sam's does it. United Supermarkets do it.

They station the folks with the little carts and microwaves and bites of pizza on napkins or cheese squares on toothpicks.

We eat our way through the stores, and I'll be the first to admit I'm apt to put something I like in the cart no matter how much willpower I try to summon.

I'm a product sample pushover.

Do you buy? And when you cave in, what do you get? Do you become regular buyers of something you sampled or is it a one-time fling?

If you can't recall your sampling behavior, you'll have another chance to experience it at United Market Street, 2530 S. Georgia St., in Amarillo this weekend.

United's Market Street locations will host a Best of Texas Expo from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Complimentary samplings may include Texas Gulf Shrimp and Cooked Crawfish farm-raised in Wichita Falls; Fredericksburg's Opas Smoked Sausage Wraps with Texas Mustard; Casa Rica and Mi Pueblo Tortillas from Plainview; and Market Street's own Patio Sangria.

So, munch! And let me know about your discoveries.

I may need to try them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Salad days

It's silly. I wrote that headline without even knowing the origin of the phrase.
But when I looked it up, I found it fits our Amarillo downtown redevelopment efforts thus far.
The meaning: days of youth and inexperience. Translated: We're new at this revitalization game.
But Santa Fe, N.M., isn't. And we could learn a lot by looking to the West.
I viewed the New Mexico's City Different through different eyes on a recent trip. And then I wondered: What downtown changes might make Amarillo, if not a City Different, at least a city with a vibrant enough core to draw visitors, whether from neighborhoods across town or across the region?
Several downtown revitalization groups are trying to figure that out, too. Might it be the aquatic center that's been a topic of possibility?
What features would persuade you to stay downtown rather than fleeing at the end of a business day? What would make you load up the kids and drive in on a weekend?
I snapped this shot at the Santa Fe Farmer's Market, which now draws thousands to the newly redeveloped Railyard District several times a week. Local produce farmers. Flower growers. Raisers of grass-fed beef and organic chickens. Fresh eggs, creamy goat cheese, homespun yarn. Guitarists, cellists and other musicians.
The entire indoor and outdoor marketplace bustles, a showcase for producers and artisans. Chefs in white jackets select vegetables alongside families with kids in strollers and tourists with cameras.
Could this happen in our downtown?
Join in the conversation. Post ideas, and let's talk.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Moon over Walmart

OK, "Twilight Saga" fans, Walmart stores in Amarillo and Canyon will host Twilight-themed parties late Friday night.

The parties will open the Walmart "Twilight Saga Shops" and coincide with the DVD release of the series' latest film, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

The release parties are set for 11 p.m. at Walmarts at:

-- 4610 S. Coulter St., Amarillo
-- 3700 East Interstate 40, Amarillo
-- 4215 Canyon Drive, Amarillo
-- 5730 W. Amarillo Blvd., Amarillo
-- 1701 N. 23rd St., Canyon

Information from the mega-chain shows that Walmart plans giveaways for the first 100 people in line at party locations. Some stores also will have more giveaways in Twilight trivia contests.

And of course, there will be merchandise. Lots and lots of merchandise. After all, that's Walmart's biz.

To find out more, check out Walmart's Twilight page. The site also features movie trailers "especially made for those fans that prefer to watch more scenes with their favorite vampires' or favorite wolves' scenes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More than a door ding

The honor code takes a hit with Allstate's release of claims data showing how many hit-and-run accidents it handled in 2009 that involved a parked car.

In Amarillo, 71 percent of the insurance companies hit-and-run claims included a parked vehicle.

That puts Amarillo close to the 69 percent national average Allstate compiled from 200 of the United States' largest cities.

None of the 200 cities, however, could claim a "hit while parked" rate of less than 50 percent, according to Allstate's findings.

But what's up with Sterling Heights, Michigan? In that city of 127,349 residents, Allstate's claims showed 94 percent of the hit-and-runs involved cars just sitting by, minding their own business.

Makes you kind of afraid to park there.

Most states, including Texas, require a driver responsible for an accident with an unattended vehicle to notify the owner. But often there's no note or attempt at contact.

If you come out to discover your car has been crunched, here's what Allstate recommends:

Survey your immediate surroundings. Look for the other driver or a note on your windshield.

Call the police to file an accident report.

Get the facts at the scene. Ask people nearby if they witnessed the accident, write down what they saw and get their contact information.

Check for surveillance cameras. If the accident occurred in a parking lot, the incident could be on tape.

Take pictures. Allstate recommends you keep a disposable camera in your car if you don't have a camera in your cell phone. Shoot the damage and the surroundings.

Contact your insurance company. Report the incident immediately.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Score your food

A new United Supermarkets partnership might make it harder to casually toss Twinkies in your grocery cart.

The Lubbock chain has joined with NuVal Nutritional Scoring System to add nutritional scores to the shelf price labels of products in its Colleyville and Frisco Market Street stores. (See the "31" on the hotdog-bun shelf tag?)

Plans call for the nutritional program to be rolled out to all United Supermarkets, Market Streets and Amigos stores across Texas by the end of the year.

United calls the program a means of helping guests cut through confusing nutrition information to make educated decisions about food quickly.

The NuVal scores food between one and 100. The higher the score, the better a product's nutrient value. A team of nutrition and medical experts developed the NuVal rating system, without retailer or manufacturer influence, according to a statements of both companies. (It's probably just as well that I loaded this photo too small for you to read the NuVal scores for candy bars.)

The NuVal system recently received official endorsement from the American College of Preventative Medicine.

Dr. Mark B. Johnson, ACPM president, said the system could help people to make better food choices.

“We believe that arming consumers with easy-to understand, at-a-glance, information about the nutritional quality of the food they purchase, at the point of purchase, can have a significant impact on changing their eating behaviors,” Johnson said.

NuVal scoring fits with United's "Living Well" campaign and its participation as a founding member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.

The foundation has declared a mission of reducing obesity by 2015, and members have committed more than $20 million to the joint initiative to raise awareness about the importance of balancing a healthy diet with physical activity.

Find out more on the foundation's facebook page. NuVal's got a facebook, too.