Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hello Lone Star State!

After a few frustrating weeks for Jimmy in Florida, we are really happy to be back in the Lone Star State. I admit, after growing up in Utah and going to college in Colorado I never thought I would call Texas home. But after six years here I have really grown to love this State, it’s people, and I too have a sense of pride when I see the Texas flag. (I assure you my mother is having a heart attack as she reads this. Don’t worry mom, Utah will always be home!)

You couldn’t engineer a more perfect stop for the Walker family than Houston. There are not many weeks out of our hectic year where the stars align, and both our passions take place in the same city at the same time, but this week is one of them. And with Jimmy’s long time sponsors, Insperity, calling Houston home, it makes this week even more special.

With Houston being the fourth largest city in America, to say it’s easy to get lost here is an understatement. Two main freeways circle Houston like big racetracks – the Sam Houston Tollway and the 610 Loop. Between the 610 Loop and Downtown, are some of Houston’s most exclusive and historic neighborhoods and prime real-estate for shops and restaurants. I am going to focus on a few special spots that are “inside the loop” to make this big city feel a bit smaller.

EAT.

LA. Chicago. New York. These cities will gasp in horror when I say Houston can beat them all, or at very least, go toe to toe when it comes to spectacular cuisine.

First off is Ibizia located between midtown and downtown. The goal of owners Grant Copper and Chef Charles Clark was to create a sleek and sexy setting where the patrons, chefs and servers can all interact and enjoy an amazing dining experience. The open kitchen, contemporary d├ęcor and the 4,000 bottles of wine ensconced on the wall do just that. The first time I was fortunate enough to eat at Ibiza was when I was an intern at Compaq during college. I remember the food being amazing but lets face it, I was a starving college student so at the time cup-o-noodle was amazing. But ten years later, Ibiza is still in the same location and Cooper and Clark are still creating Mediterranean cuisine truly worth remembering.

Considered by many to be the Holy Grail of Houston dining, the fact that Mark’s American Cuisine is located in a renovated 1920’s church is appropriate. Winner of numerous culinary awards, including the #1 rating since 2001 by Zagat’s Houston Restaurant Survey, the list of Chef Mark Cox and his restaurants achievements are endless. Houston resident and TOUR player Chris Stroud and his wife Tiffany are big fans of the restaurant, and they will be the first to tell you that Mark’s lives up to the hype. The Recommended Menus of the Chef’s personal choices change daily and use the freshest seasonal ingredients. On your next trip to Houston, be sure to make a reservation at Mark’s for a meal you will not forget.

SHOP.

Located at the Westheimer and Drexel streets just off 610, be sure to check out Highland Village. For more than 50 years, Highland Village has been a Houston shopping tradition. Today the center is a mix of carefully selected national retailers and unique boutiques. Be sure to check out Tootsies, an upscale boutique that carries shoes, denim and contemporary and classic collections from American and European designers. Valobra is a spectacular southern jewelry and antique store located in Highland Village and, are also a big sponsor of this week’s Pin Oak Charity Horse Show. (More of that to come!)

Highland Village is perfect for late afternoon shopping paired with an evening dinner, in one of Houston’s unique districts.

STAY & GOLF.

The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa are situated on 18 acres of wooded bliss, in the heart of Houston and just outside the 610 loop. The 289 guest rooms are elegant and offer floor to ceiling wooded views, offering guests the chance to relax and have all the city stress melt away.

Whether you choose to de-stress via the spa or workout route, The Houstonian has two amazing facilities for guests. The 125,000 square foot workout facility has been voted as one of the nations top-10 fitness centers, and guests have access to three resort style swimming pools, a rock climbing wall, boxing ring, tennis courts, 30 certified personal trainers and group exercise classes.

At Trellis, the spa at The Houstonian guests will be treated to one of the most beautiful and functional spas in the country. With 17,000 square feet of space and over 100 wonderful treatments, Trellis is definitely worth a visit while staying at The Houstonian.

Also, while a staying at the hotel, guests have access to Redstone Golf Club’s Tournament Course where the Shell Houston Open is played. Although it is a bit of a drive from the hotel, the Tournament course at Redstone designed by Reese Jones and David Toms, is well worth it. At over 7,400 yards from the tips, the course is one of the longer on TOUR and always in meticulous shape especially in the spring by the time the TOUR heads to town.

ETC.

This week is a special week for me because not only is Jimmy playing golf in our home State but I am riding in the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show. The show is one of the oldest and most prestigious charity horse shows in the country and a social and fundraising event that is unique to Houston. The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show benefits the Texas Children’s Hospital, one of the country’s leading pediatric hospitals and #3 in the nation for cardiac care, as well as the Ronald McDonald House.

After our son was born last year, he was quite sick and spent 10 days in the NICU. While we were there, we became friends with some very special people named the Johnsons. The Johnson’s son Field was born with some heart issues and has undergone a few surgeries to correct those issues. His latest was done at Texas Childrens Hospital and Field’s mom, Lisa, raved about how wonderful the doctors and the staff are. And the Ronald McDonald house really helped them feel welcome while staying in Houston.

So not only do I get to participate in something I love, but it also benefits a cause that is near and dear to our hearts. And, by the way, little Field is doing amazing and our boys will be friends for life.

I hope I have helped make this large city feel a bit smaller. Head out to Redstone to support the golfers and be sure visit the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy to watch some of the best equestrian athletes from around the country. The $15,000 Hunter Derby takes place at 7:30 PM on Friday evening and the $35,000 Pin Oak Grand Prix starts at 7:45 PM on Saturday.

Cheers!

2 comments:

  1. Thanks, sweet friend! Miss you guys!

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  2. Erin~ Thank you so much for your amazing and accurate discription of our beautiful city of Houston, Texas!!! I have to say that the restaurants here DO "hold their own" against LA, NY, Chicago, etc.!! And, Mark's is one of my absolute favorites...esp. ~~ dining in the church balcony!! Take note guys & gals ~~ VERY ROMANTIC!!
    I came across your blog and instantly became a loyal follower! My husband, Taylor Smith, used to play on the PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour, etc. for many years prior to his sudden passing away in 2007! Together, we got to enjoy many of the travels that you and Jimmy do now! Your blog is a moment of joy for me as it brings back so many wonderful memories! Great job & idea!! Keep up the good work!:)
    BTW~I live in Katy and was at the same horse show at the Equestrian Center as you mentioned! It's A MUST for anyone who loves horses and Texas Children's Hospital!

    All the best to you & Jimmy! ENJOY EVERY MOMENT TOGETHER!!!

    ~Shelly Smith

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