Was this a dream?
“Victoria Palms has a new chef, and he would like to prepare different dishes for you to try.”
It was as if the sun peered through the dark clouds, the rain stopped, and the Hallelujah Chorus was emanating from the skies above.
I arrived at the Victoria Palms restaurant and new chef Erick Gonzalez came to my table a few minutes later, already having been bestowed with the brightest and freshest looking Cobb salad that I’ve seen in a long time. Its freshness was spectacular, like its presentation, and it was a great way to start off.
That was just the beginning.
One after another, Chef Erick sent the dishes out. For appetizers there were fried pickles with a chipotle sauce and smidge of pickled red onion, buffalo cauliflower with blue cheese crumbles and a deep-fried pork.
Throughout my delicacy of dining, I also partook in some pan seared salmon with baby marble potatoes and mango salsa, a delicate and amazing seared hanger steak with a demi glaze, mashed cauliflower and heirloom carrots, smothered pork chops, and local vegetable kabobs.
I made my way through most of these delicious creations and noticed one thing immediately, Chef Erick knows how to cook and knows how to pair or couple his dishes. For example, there were just a few pieces of the pickled red onion that accompanied the lightly battered fried pickles, but they accentuated the dish. They weren’t too strong where they overwhelmed the taste, something that can be difficult to do when using pickled foods of any sort.
Each dish was not only presented beautifully, but the combination of tastes couldn’t be any sharper. While there have been many tastes formulated on a plate, not once did they dissolve into one another. I could taste each individual item, as if each unto itself, and they always complemented the dish as a whole.
The hangar steak combined with the creamy mashed cauliflower won my heart. The tenderness of the perfectly sized slices of meat mixed with a fork full of the best tasting and textured mashed cauliflower I’ve ever eaten had the Hallelujah’s crescendoing through every delectable bite.
“I want to elevate the level of what we serve,” he told me. “I want to see what the customers want and give that to them in the best way.”
He certainly won me over. Even the Cobb salad with its mix of greens, chopped bacon, tomato, avocado and more created a delectable explosion of flavor that only intensified my insatiable hunger, wanting to know what else was on its way. The salad, like everything else, tantalized the taste buds, with mouthful mixtures of crunchy (bacon, lettuce) with smooth (avocado, blue cheese crumbles). The colors were so distinct in the presentation that it almost seemed a shame to mess with it… but just almost.
Then, just before the food coma started creeping in and I started fading out, I was presented with dessert – a warm bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. I have a firm belief about bread pudding – it’s either great or just not. This, like everything else, was beyond scrumptious and the bread mixed with the scoop of fresh ice cream as if they should never part one another or be seen in any other dish.
The trip was more than just a meal. It was a delightful culinary experience.
I visited Lobo Del Mar on South Padre Island for a meal.
I ended up with two. Call it Christmas in March. It was a joyful eating experience.
As I perused the restaurant’s menu while sitting out on its bayside patio, I was first pleasantly surprised by a large and impressively varied menu. After deciding that it would be in my best interest to let someone else decide for me what to eat, I asked owner Ben Little what he recommended and we decided on the Loboviche as an appetizer and the Caveman (“It’s stacked,” Ben warned me. Yeah, I’ve heard that before, I thought to myself.).
My server brought the Loboviche quickly to my table and I could hear those she passed by saying “look at that,” or “wow” as a 32-ounce chalice-like scone was placed before me on a plate surrounded by tortilla chips. Just the look of this mega-appetizer of house made ceviche mixed with shrimp cocktail was a sight to behold.
Still, I thought, it is just an appetizer.
I was wrong – it was more than a meal. The menu described the heavenly mixture as a “generous portion.” They failed to mention “generous portion” meant a small country. To top it off, it was so delicious and fresh that I decided to finish it before I began my monstrosity of a main order.
That just did not happen – not even close.
Two hours later upon my arrival at home, my daughter, who claims she does not like shrimp, and her friend, who almost did a cartwheel when I asked if they would like the Loboviche from Lobo Del Mar, dug in and completed what I couldn’t.
While many who visit the island are defeated by the blazing sun or “one too many,” I was taken down by an appetizer – but what a way to go.
Later in the evening, I attacked The Caveman, a towering sandwich described as having “huge layers of juicy ½ pound beef brisket patty, grilled sausage patty, grilled ham, crisp bacon, pepper jack, cheddar and Swiss cheese with lettuce, tomato, onion, on a bun w/ skewered hand-battered onion rings.” The description could have said it all like this – A caveman would be proud (and with veggies).
This was not just only mouth-watering with a powerful pack of smoky, cheesy love, but it too was a lot to handle. This time, however, I would not let it defeat me. So much food – and I chose a side of cole slaw. This may have been the best slaw I have had in years. I am glad I ate it first. I would not have been able to eat it until my food coma subsided.
Most people go to South Padre Island for the beach, the sand and surf. Then a restaurant decision comes to play. There is nothing wrong, however with going just for Lobo Del Mar. In fact, I recommend it…and then, maybe, go to the beach. You will have earned a good nap after a great meal.
Genres: Original Christian songs (country/southern gospel) written by Rich and/or Joanie, Classic old hymns, traditional Christian songs, and plantation songs from an era gone by.
Specialty: Sharing God’s Love through Word and Song Website: JesusCrossMyHeart.org
rich ‘n friends … wealthy in friendships
FOREVER TOGETHER …. we are all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, and we will spend eternity forever together in heaven.
Band …. not like a band with instruments, rather like a band of brothers standing for the same purpose … to bring others into His family.
Mission Statement: Luke 14:23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
Joanie and Richard are from Tok, Alaska and Shane is a Missouri man. We started ‘making a joyful noise’ together in 2007 and go wherever the Lord opens a door. We love to sing for our Veterans to give a little something back to the proud men and women who have given so much for our freedom. We have crisscrossed America singing and sharing the Gospel at Veterans homes and hospitals. We also love to sing and present God’s Holy Word at Nursing homes… sharing the Love of God with our Senior Citizens puts a smile on our hearts. We’ve also been blessed to preach through our music at churches from Alaska to Florida! We look forward to sharing God’s Love this winter with established churches and the RV Park Chaplains here in the Rio Grande Valley. We will be here until March 2021 unless God calls us home before then!
Shane, our oldest son isn’t always with us as he is still in the ‘working class’ …. not retired like Joanie and Rich. When Shane isn’t with us, we just go by…. Rich and Joanie Ware.
What a joy …. this will be our second year as ‘Wintertainers’ in the Rio Grande Valley and we look forward to a busy year sharing the Good News with everyone.
Home Church: Chapel of the North, Tok, Alaska 99780 Pastor Terry Brigner
Bookings/Contact: Jesuscrossmyheart@yahoo.com, (573) 220-8782, Rich; (618) 691-8348, Joanie
Genres: Rock/Island Music, 50’s, 60’s and Country
The Castaway is Dennis Craswell, an Original Castaway, known for being a million-dollar seller of the famous song “Liar, Liar.” He currently plays solo with occasional guests. He plays in Minnesota during the summer and most of his winter is spent playing on South Padre Island and all around the Rio Grande Valley. He and Rich are currently regulars on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at Laguna Bob.
Read more: The Castaway
Specialty: Taking requests and crowd interaction
Jason Whorlow is entering his eighth year entertaining Winter Texans. He has been nominated and won several awards during this time. As well as becoming in high demand for his extremely versatile, unique and interactive show. Jason has had crowds of 400+ singing along to Sweet Caroline with their hands raised high in the air and couples dancing emotionally to "I can't help falling in love" and "Unchained Melody."
Read more: Jason Whorlow: The Piano Man