Thu November 20, 2014 10:07 am By Andrea Valdez

Texas Monthly December 2014 cover fine destination dining
Unless it's one of the places featured in our December issue cover story. 

Holiday season is upon us, a time when we dream of comfort food of all stripes, goblets of eggnog, or better yet, a scenario when someone else does the cooking for us, and then turns down the bed after a blissful foot-rub. To that end, we compiled a list of ten far-flung travel destinations that specialize in fine dining in first-class style. And be warned: If you make the Wanderer travel a long ways and lay down a king's ransom to stay at your hotel, your operation better be tight or she'll call you right out. 

Switching gears, on November 4, when you exercised the privilege of casting a ballot (and if you didn't, it better be because you voted early!), you may have noticed it was the first gubernatorial election in 12 years that Rick Perry, Texas's longest-serving governor, wasn't on the ticket. To help put his tenure in some perspective, I've never known another governor of our state in my adult life. For what is probably better context of what those fourteen years really mean, check out this nifty infographic. Speaking of those elections, due to the power of the Internet, the day after the votes were tallied, we released Editor-in-Chief Brian D. Sweany's unsolicited—though excellent—advice to our governor-elect, Greg Abbott. (And also speaking of free advice you'll wanna read, this guy dispenses the sage stuff each month.) Senior editor Erica Grieder also unleashed some political knowledge on our readers in the immediate aftermath of the elections, with an in-depth profile of Dan Patrick, our new lieutenant governor, the most powerful elected official in Texas. She also conducted an exit interview with the outgoing guy. 

If you're not quite ready to look too far ahead into our political future, perhaps you can gaze backwards a bit longer. Learn more about the seventy-year-old murder case that still haunts Texarkana, or Buddy Holly's famous glasses. Imagine a time when Austin was overrun by tramps, the precursor to hipsters. Or transport yourself back to 1949, when an all-but-forgotten teenager from Houston invented rock and roll. But don't look back too long lest you fall victim to good-ol'-days syndrome, an affliction currently crippling Radioshack (I mean, c'mon guys, using Weird Al as your holiday spokesman? You can do better than that.)

But, wait, wait, let's look back just a bit longer. At the year the magnificent Michael Hall has had. It has been a banner year for Mike. He alerted people to "The Greatest Music Producer You've Never Heard Of." He gave a voice to Richard LaFuente, a man who served more than two decades in prison for a crime he didn't commit. He edited a powerful essay written by a man who watched the person who murdered his father be put to death. And before there was Serial, the number-one downloaded podcast in America, Mike wrote a five-part 25,000-word opus reported over the course of a year that's already been optioned by some Hollywood types. He wrote a beautiful, award-deserving story about fiddling. And then he closes it all out this month with this gripping and powerful tale about Charles Moore, the reverend who set himself on fire in the parking lot of a Dollar General in Grand Saline last year. There's a ton more Mike wrote this year (seriously, check his contributor page out), so drop him a line and let him know how much you appreciate his excellent journalism. Though he might not respond immediately because he'll be too busy working. 

The rest of the December issue is fabulous too. Read it from beginning to end. And if you're consuming it online, on your tablet, or on your phone, please don't hesitate to email me with questions/comments/concerns.

Tue November 18, 2014 12:20 pm By Texas Monthly Staff

This holiday season, as you traverse the roads of Texas, you'll no doubt consume a dangerous amount of Buc-ee's Beaver Nuggets and Whataburger What-a-Meals. Even a sit-down meal at a small-town cafe—which we love as much as the next Texan—could leave you wanting for something a little different than burgers and chicken-fried steaks.

So before you hit the highways, pick up a copy of our December issue, which features our list of ten far-flung destinations whose impressive food and memorable settings are not only worth traveling for, but deserve an overnight stay. This exhaustively researched list comes from a small but stalwart band of our writers who traveled several thousand miles to uncover ten places where the food is so tempting, the beds so Goldilocks-worthy, and the sights so seeable that you could easily make them a weekend’s destination. Our choices range from a gracious Victorian manse in East Texas to a stylishly rehabilitated railroad hotel in West Texas.

To help you get a jump on reservations, we've provided the list below. But if you want to know what makes them worth the visit, pick up our December issue, on newsstands Thursday: 
  • Rough Creek Lodge and Resort, in Glen Rose
  • Fire Oak Grill, in Weatherford
  • Stillwater Inn, in Jefferson
  • Sage Hill Inn Above Onion Creek, in Kyle
  • Rancho Loma, in Talpa
  • Vaudeville, in Fredericksburg
  • Inn at Dos Brisas, in Washington
  • Gage Hotel, in Marathon
  • The Turtle, in Brownwood
  • Maiya’s, in Marfa
Wed November 5, 2014 2:47 pm By Texas Monthly Staff


In a tradition dating back to 1974, we've annually produced the Bum Steer Awards, a dishonorable distinguishment bestowed upon the nitwits and knuckleheads that make news across the state—and nation—when they misbehave. Every time we release the latest batch of awards, our dear readers write to us, providing their own Bum Steer headlines. And pretty often, they're pretty funny. Not funnier than ours, of course [editor's note: lead Steer writer Rich Malley told me I have to write this or he'll make me go hunting with Dick Cheney]. When we get these submissions, we sometimes wish we had put them in the magazine.  

Well, we're done wishing in one hand and you-know-what-ing in the other. In this digital age we live in, we've realized we can turn to you for instant feedback—a double-edged sword if you ever read our Facebook comments. Anyway, before we unveil the winners of our 2015 awards, we thought we'd ask our readers to take a crack at writing some Bum Steers headlines for us. Mostly because deadline is looming, we're tired and lazy, and we're looking to get some free work out of people (please don't read this Department of Labor). So if you've always fancied yourself to be a funny girl or guy, here's your chance for fame in the form of getting your name and submission published in the January issue.

Leave your witty, quippy headline for one, two, or all of the three steers below in the comments section, or tweet us @TexasMonthly with the hashtag #bumsteer (that character restriction will really encourge pithiness). 

1. The San Jacinto Battle Monument and Museum failed in a public bid to lobby the Illinois State Military Museum to loan Santa Anna’s wooden leg from its collection. The Texas museum has long coveted the item, though Santa Anna got the prosthetic after losing his leg while fighting against the French in Mexico, two years after his defeat at San Jacinto.

2. Kendall Jones of Cleburne sparked widespread outrage for Facebook photos from a hunting trip to Africa. The photos show the 19-year-old beaming as she sits next to or on top of the many exotic wild animals she killed, which included a lion, a rhino, and an elephant. Responding to a torrent of criticism, Jones suggested that some of the animals had only been tranquilized.

3. Lufkin police responded to a domestic dispute in which a man charged that his sister had slapped his wife in the face with a catfish.

(And for a little inspiration, here are the headlines for last year's Bum Steers.)

Fri August 15, 2014 9:19 am By Brian D. Sweany

On August 8, 2014, a U.S. district judge ruled against the NCAA in a highly anticpated case that centered on a college athlete's ability to receive payment for his image, likeness, or name in television broadcasts or video games. In S.C. Gwynne's cover story on UT athletics in the September issue of Texas Monthly, the Longhorns's new athletic director, Steve Patterson, spoke at length on this topic, and his view remains that athletes should not receive compensation while playing for a university. Below is an sneak preview of September issue's cover and excerpt from the story "Can Steve Patterson Fill This Stadium?" available on newsstands August 21. 

Winning and making sure UT’s revenues stay ahead of those of competitors like Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, and Alabama are things Patterson must do to keep his job. His biggest challenge in his first years, however, may well have nothing to do with how his teams perform. 

The sports world is engaged in a contentious debate over the issue of paying student-athletes. It is no secret that they generate huge revenues for colleges but get no cut of the profits. Meanwhile, universities who pay executives and coaches record salaries—Charlie Strong is in the $5 million–plus range—stand accused of the “systematic, ongoing, prolonged abuse of thousands and thousands of innocent young men and women,” in the words of Illinois congressman Bobby Rush. The NCAA and its members have recently faced an endless barrage of complaints, and the critics are abetted by recent studies, such as the one conducted by the National College Players Association, showing the purported “fair market value” of players. For a Texas football player, that would be $567,922. The study also showed that the average full athletic scholarship fell $3,285 per year short of covering the actual cost of college attendance.

The issue has coalesced in a wave of lawsuits that challenge the very nature of the NCAA’s amateurism model. One led to a ruling in March by the National Labor Relations Board that Northwestern University football players are employees and have the right to unionize. Though the case is being appealed, college athletics is collectively holding its breath. If the ruling is sustained, similar cases, with major union support, will likely be brought against public schools like Texas. Another alleges that universities deliberately set limits on scholarships, which fall below the actual cost of attendance, and yet another argues that colleges unfairly make billions off athletes’ likenesses without compensating them.

With the largest budget in college sports, Texas is perhaps the preeminent example of collegiate amateurism in America. One might not expect Patterson, with his largely professional sports background, to voice passionate opinions on this subject. But at a time when many NCAA officials are running for cover, he is one of the few major college ADs publicly defending the current system. 

“We have allowed ourselves to be trapped,” he says. “All of us, the NCAA, colleges, coaches, and athletics directors. We have done a very poor job of talking about what college athletics really is all about for the 99.5 percent of student-athletes who will never play professional sports. We have allowed ourselves to have a discussion about that half percent.” He points out that athletes who make it to the pros have an average playing career of only four years. “They have a half century ahead of them after they are done playing,” he says.

Patterson’s argument begins with his conviction that both the scholarship and the college degree are enormous benefits to student-athletes, many of whom would not have gone to college otherwise. “I don’t think college athletes are the equivalent of minor-league football players,” he says. “They are students who wouldn’t get into the university but for the athletics and wouldn’t stay in the university but for the sports. If you look at them as a group, approximately eighty percent of them are the first in their families to go to college. In American colleges in general that group has about a fifteen percent graduation rate. With athletes, the rate jumps to between seventy-five and eighty percent. That is because of the resources the university puts toward helping them.” At the University of Texas, the tuition, room, board, books, fees, and other support in a scholarship are worth an average of $65,000 a year. “That is more than the average household income in the United States,” he says. “I don’t see how they are being shorted.”

But what about athletes like Vince Young and Johnny Manziel, who create huge benefits and revenues for their universities, from fund-raising to ticket sales to sponsorships and licensing? Shouldn’t they at least be allowed to monetize their famous names? “No,” he says categorically. “I am not saying they did not benefit the university. But you have to understand that both parties benefit. The university is largely creating the value. The athletes are trading on the value the universities have created. No corporations are going to be lining up to pay them money out of high school. They also get a huge benefit on the college stage by having such assets as strength coaches, nutritionists, psychological support, tutors, mentors, media training. All of that costs money. It is too easy for those in the sports press to say, ‘You are manipulating and using these kids. You are giving them nothing.’ We are not giving them nothing.” 

There are also practical problems with paying athletes, Patterson says. He suggests that if schools pay Young or Manziel, they are going to be sued by athletes on the soccer or basketball or rowing teams, looking for equal pay. “That would almost certainly happen,” he says. “And if you have a situation where the students are employees, you will have to either hugely increase revenues or cut costs and eliminate teams.” 

Patterson insists, at the same time, that he is not opposed to high school students’ turning pro immediately. It’s just that he thinks it is usually a poor option. He cites baseball as an example. “If you want to go to the minor leagues, ride the bus from Biloxi to Beloit and sleep in a Motel 6 and not have nutritionists, tutors, trainers, strength coaches, and everybody else who works with you at UT, if you think that is a better deal, God bless you, go do it,” he says. “I personally think it’s a better deal to come to UT and get a degree, even with Augie screaming at you for four years.”

Read the entire story here

Mon July 21, 2014 10:25 am By Andrea Valdez

For our August cover story, we asked thirteen famous Texans—including Willie, Laura Bush, and Liz Lambert, among others—to show us their favorite place in the state. Below is our cover, featuring Willie's favorite spot: his ranch near Spicewood.

This is highly visual piece, and to capitalize on the natural beauty of Texas (our collective favorite place), we're turning to our Instagram account to showcase the beautiful photography that will accompany this story. Over the next few weeks, we'll unveil the rest of these pictures, taken by one of our favorite photographers, Jeff Wilson.

But we know each of you has a favorite place in Texas—and we want to see them. Post images of your most beloved spot on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, and tag the image #myfavetexas. We'll publish our favorite of your favorites on our account and on