• If you hit up the dinner-only Spindletop, the revolving restaurant at the top ofdowntown’s Hyatt Regency Houston, you can slurp up chef de cuisine DrewYeckley’s Chilled Texas Watermelon Soup.
  • Farmers in Japan started growing the melons inside glass cubes and in 2010 aPanama produce company starting importing them to the United States.
  • The perfect summertime treat. Cold, delicious, refreshing and good for so manydishes.

I don’t care what the calendar claims: It is officially summer.

Driving down the street recently, I saw some landscapers breaking for lunch under a large oak tree. One of the men was pulling a giant watermelon out of the truck and carrying it over.

Ah, watermelon.

The perfect summertime treat. Cold, delicious, refreshing and good for so many dishes.

I think the first time I tasted it I was a child at my grandparents ranch down in Poteet, a town renowned for strawberries but also a great place to grow watermelon. I remember being outside and chomping into a big slice that my Grandfather Sutton had chopped off a big green and yellow melon and being shown how to spit the seeds out, as Grandpa warned us that if we swallowed them a watermelon would grow in our stomachs.

Of course nowadays they grow seedless watermelons. Round watermelons. Mini-watermelons. Even square watermelons. Yes, really.

Farmers in Japan started growing the melons inside glass cubes and in 2010 a Panama produce company starting importing them to the U.S. The square melons are easier to transport and fit better inside your fridge. But they are more costly and frankly I want a watermelon that looks like a watermelon. Not a like a Frankenstein fruit.

It’s the state’s largest annual horticultural crop with more than 42,000 acres in 100 counties dedicated to growing watermelons.

Fear not, Texas watermelons are the real deal. And they are plentiful this time of year. The Lone Star State ranks third in U.S. production of watermelons, churning out $50 million worth a year. According to Texas A&M, it’s the state’s largest annual horticultural crop with more than 42,000 acres in 100 counties dedicated to growing watermelons.

The season runs from May through July and growers stretch from the Rio Grande Valley to the Rolling Plains area. And, this being Texas, we have plenty of food festivals to celebrate this summer crop. I’ve been to the annual Lulling Watermelon Thump but haven’t made it to the Stockdale Watermelon Jubilee, one of the oldest watermelon festivals begun in 1937. Closer to Houston there’s the Hempstead Watermelon Festival that turns 23 this July 21.

Get Your Melon On

But you don’t have to wait for a festival to enjoy this juicy treat. Check out any farmers market or grocery store and you’ll find piles of big melons just waiting for you. Local chef are into the spirit as well —with watermelon dishes and drinks popping up on menus all over town.

Watermelon juice is the perfect sip of summer and makes a great base for any hot weather cocktail from martinis to margaritas.

If you hit up the dinner-only Spindletop, the revolving restaurant at the top of downtown’s Hyatt Regency Houston, this summer you can slurp up chef de cuisine Drew Yeckley’s Chilled Texas Watermelon Soup. It’s a yummy blend of fresh blended watermelon, honey, rosemary, mint and fresh citrus juices. Plus a splash of champagne. A perfect palate cleanser between your appetizers and entrée.

And for the month of June at both locations of RA Sushi Bar Restaurant, you can get a twofer of chilled melon delight: the Watermelon Kiwi Shrimp and Melon-Kiwi-Tini combo.

The salad features layers of watermelon, kiwi, orange slices and lychee, topped with shrimp. It’s a light and healthy summer meal.

The cocktail is a blend of Monin Watermelon, Svedka Citron, Shochu and a splash of citrus soda muddled together and served with a garnish of fresh watermelon and kiwi slices.

Watermelon juice is the perfect sip of summer and makes a great base for any hot weather cocktail from martinis to margaritas. Sure, you buy it but why not make your own watermelon aqua fresca at home?

Here’s a recipe from Whole Foods Market:

Six to eight pounds seedless watermelon, cut into two-inch pieces, 
two cups cold water, divided, 
one tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, 
one tablespoon agave nectar or honey (more or less to taste), 
ice cubes, 
lime slices and mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Cut the watermelon flesh from the rind. In a blender, process half the watermelon pieces with one cup of water until smooth. Pour through a strainer into a pitcher. Repeat the process with the remaining melon and water. You should end up with about eight cups of juice. Stir in the limejuice and agave. Pour into ice-filled glasses and garnish with lime slices and mint.

Oh, and add some chilled vodka to the glass for a delightful taste of summer in a glass come cocktail hour.

Bottoms up summer!

  • Whether you are trying to get fit, party, enjoy a leisurely afternoon or unleashthe artsy in you, CultureMap has put together five happenings at Discovery Greenthat deserve a spot on your iCal.
    Photo by Gary Hunt
  • DockDogs is a three-day event of Olympic proportions during which iron poochesswim, leap and retrieve to earn the title of top dog.
  • Or you can just enjoy a stroll through the beaitfully landscaped area. There'sno need for an agenda, just a desire to unwind.
    Photo by John Gollings

Five free events you don't want to miss at Discovery Green: From the dogOlympics to Rainbow

Discovering Summer Fun

It wasn't long ago that what is now the center of downtown outdoor life was industrial land and concrete parking lots. Around $180 million in acquisition and improvement costs later, Discovery Green offers an active park in which to enjoy programs year round.

There's something for everyone. Whether you are trying to get fit, party, enjoy a leisurely afternoon or unleash the artsy in you, we've put together five happenings that deserve a spot on your iCal.

Libations, Cuisine and Movies Under the Stars: Date Night Movies

Not to be confused with the regular movie screenings on the hill, these more intimate gatherings are on the Grace Event Lawn. Bring a picnic blanket and sprawl out on the grass for a flick — Tootsie on Saturday or Dirty Dancing onJune 23.

Grab a snack basket at The Grove ($25), which includes mini pretzel bites with a trio of mustards, parmesan truffled popcorn and homemade chocolate, or choose a three-course prix fixe menu ($45) of ricotta gnudi, salad, choice of Ahi tuna, rotisserie chicken, filet mignon or Texas redfish, and dessert. And for early arrivals, a dance instructor will offer lessons.

It's OK to get romantic, but if you need a room remember the Hilton-Americas is just across the street.

Saturday and June 23. Screening starts at 8 p.m. Free to attend, food and drinks additional.


You know the cuddly fluffy Bichon Frise that cuddles up to you and licks your nose? It turns out some of his cousins are quite the four-legged athletes.

Moreover, they love the water just as much as Houston loves the DockDogs challenge. It's a three-day event of Olympic proportions in which iron pooches swim, leap and retrieve to earn the title of top dog. Discovery Green changes things up a bit this year with the addition of a "Haute Dog" costume contest and a tricks competition.

June 22 though 24. Admission is free for spectators; $25-$40 for participants.

Rainbow on the Green presented by LandRover Houston

Last year, the whole GLBT community went haywire for guest celebrity Anthony Rapp, star of the original cast of Rent. The second annual Rainbow on the Green gets even gayer with disco legend Thelma Houston, whose timeless hit "Don't Leave Me This Way" is as naughty now as it was when it was released in 1975.

Tye Blue hosts, and the event also includes a troupe of local GLBT singers, dancers and musicians.

Oh baby, come satisfy the need in me — you know the lyrics, don't you? We're sure you've got the music in you. Houston needs some Thelma.

June 22, 8-10 p.m. Admission is free.

Discovery Green Flea

For the summer, the monthly antique shopping party moves to the evening to avoid the sweltering heat. Set in the shady meadow behind The Grove, a myriad of vendors morph the grounds into a haven for bargain shoppers and eco-conscious consumers who seek recycled, up-cycled, re-purpose, vintage and playful artifacts, collectibles and furniture.

Look out for a special treasure hunt item hidden somewhere in between the tents. Find it and it's yours to keep.

June 16 and July 21, 6-10 p.m. Admission is free.


Other than it happens in July, this evening fete should be called art-kaleidoscope as it is a commingling of local art organizations looking to show Houston a good time. This combination of film, music, dance and entertainment on the Anheuser-Busch Stage will feature the talents of Q-Fest, Theatre Under the Stars, Avantica Academy of Odissi Dance and other arts powerhouse companies.

At 8:30 p.m. Houston Cinema Arts Society will screen The Wiz starring Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Nipsey Russell.

July 28, 6-10 p.m. Admission is free.

  • Photo by Ruthie Johnson Miller
  • TrinitiRestaurant.com
  • Mercury Baroque musicians
    Photo by George Hixson
  • Mercury Baroque
    Photo by George Hixson

Wine pairings are so passe: Triniti makes dinner special again with musicpairings, conductor included

Foodie News

I've seen wine pairings, beer pairings and even chocolate pairings. Now Triniti has announced perhaps the first-ever dinner with a musical pairing.

Triniti is partnering with Mercury (formerly Mercury Baroque) to choreograph an eight-course dinner and wine tasting menu with music from the 15-person orchestra ensemble, under the direction of maestro Antoine Plante.

"The task is to select musical pieces that will address the nuances of each dish."

The combination of inspirations should be interesting, especially as Triniti, under the helm of chef/owner Ryan Hildebrand, pays much attention to the multi-sensory experience of food, particularly pace and presentation. Marrying that with selections from Handel and Vivaldi (among others) to convey mood should be thought provoking.

"It's interesting and also challenging," Plante said in a statement. "The task is to select musical pieces that will address the nuances of each dish, whether it calls for contrasting themes to address different flavors, something with weight and drama for a heartier dish, or a slow lyrical melody for something sweet.

"If the course is crisp and clean, the music will reflect that too."

The dinner will take place on June 10, and 40 percent of the $220 tickets will benefit Mercury. Hildebrand says that he hopes to create similar collaborations to debut each new seasonal menu with this being summer.

It should certainly take the concept of "a little dinner music" to the next level.

  • I want to sing the praises of a lawn game that was recently introduced to me:Kubb.
  • Because the game uses such rudimentary pieces, you don’t even need to scour theInternet to order your own set (though sets can be found online if you'relooking.)

The greatest lawn game of them all? Forget Frisbee and get your Kubb on

From Sweden with fun

I’m a big fan of lawn games. A picnic isn’t a picnic without a lively round of throwing washers or Frisbee, as far as I’m concerned. What I love about lawn games is how easy they are organize, and how players are able to find that happy medium between competition and rabid intensity.

I’ve never seen a person angrily hurl a Frisbee into the woods after a bad toss, and I’ve gotten to know many acquaintances better after humbly congratulating them as they cover my hard earned five-point washer toss. In my younger days, my friends and I would spend entire weekends at Crystal Beach with people that we had met within hours of setting up an impromptu sand volleyball net.

If you serve it, they will most definitely come.

The game was imported from Sweden, and as you might suspect, is played with square wooden pieces and practical, common-sense rules.

Lawn games don’t just have to be restricted to old classics, though. We live in Houston, after all.

In this city, things are often a bit more . . . eclectic. This is a city where you can get Vietnamese, Greek and Salvadoran food within a block of each other and maybe see an Art Car or three along the way, and I sense that Houstonians might want to approach the traditional lawn game concept with the same adventurous spirit.

This is the city that introduced Major League Baseball to domed stadiums and Astroturf, after all.

With Memorial Day weekend here, I want to sing the praises of a lawn game that was recently introduced to me. Kubb (pronounced “koob”) is a game that satisfies every requirement of what good lawn competition is all about.

The game can be played at the drop of a hat, with as few as two people or as many as 12. It presents an opportunity for players to toss objects at other objects — a strangely common element in these sorts of games — and you can play it virtually anywhere.

The game was imported from Sweden, and as you might suspect, is played with square wooden pieces and practical, common-sense rules. The object of the game is simply to use six wooden batons (officially called “kastpinnars”) to knock down each of your opponent’s line of square blocks (called “kubbs”) before knocking down the bigger middle block, or “king.”

Easy enough, right? Not so fast, pardner.

If one of your kubbs is knocked over, you then must shamefully throw it past the king in the middle (throwing overhand or side-arm is a no-no). Once this happens, your opponent proceeds to set it up for you to knock over again before you start aiming for their kubbs. The key strategy here is to try and keep the thrown piece as close to your side as you can, while keeping it away from the king.

After each kubb is knocked over on one side, a player can then start aiming for the king. Knock over the king after all of your opponent’s kubbs are down, and you win. Knock the king over before the last kubb falls, and you have just lost the game.

What I like most about this game is how clean and simple the pitch (normally five meters by eight meters) looks when a game is underway. There is something immediately appealing about wooden blocks scattered across a field of green grass, accompanied by the dull thud of the kastpinnars as they knock over a few kubbs. There’s also the added bonus that you and your kubbmates might be the first ones on the block playing this strange, wonderful lawn game.

You are sure to arouse the curiosity of bystanders, which may very well lead to some wonderful opportunities for Kubb evangelization.

Because the game uses such rudimentary pieces, you don’t even need to scour the Internet to order your own set (though sets can be found online if you're looking.) All you really need is a 72-inch 4x4, a 72-inch wooden pole, a table saw and a tape measure. Cut the 4x4 into 10 six-inch kubbs and one 12-inch king, cut the wooden pole into six 12-inch batons, pack the game up in your favorite reusable bag, head to Menil Park, and you’re set!

I’ll see y’all on the Kubb pitch, Houston.

An exclusive video tour of Galveston's new Pleasure Pier: Riding over the Gulfof Mexico

CultureMap Video

Step right up, folks: The Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier has opened its gates, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

The amusement park and destination, a Landry's Inc. venture, salutes the historic pier that stood in the same location along the Galveston Seawall from 1948 until 1961. But the new amenities are decidedly modern on the 1,130-foot stretch, jam-packed with shops, food and games.

And, of course, roller coasters.

Though the attractions easily distract, it's impossible for one to forget that the platform is suspended over the Gulf of Mexico.

The Cyclone whooshes. The Texas Tea induces dizziness. The Pirate's Plunge splashes passers-by. Only a few of the 16 rides (13 are currently operational) are along the pier, designed to whirl and twirl and entertain.

"There's something for everybody," Mark Kane, regional director of the Landry's theme park and interim general manager of the Pleasure Pier, tells CultureMap.

Though the attractions easily distract, it's impossible for one to forget that the platform is suspended over the Gulf of Mexico. At each step, visitors get vistas of the gulf and the seawall. Almost all of the rides swing out over the water, where surfers straddle their boards below, alongside the cement pilings. The ocean breeze cools — at least for now.

A Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and a Gump on the Run (both accessible from outside of the entrance gates) ensure that visitors won't leave hungry. You'll also find all of the requisite carnival foods — chips, burgers, cotton candy, pretzels, pizza and more. The Brew Station offers beer, margaritas and wine for adults, and Lolli & Pop's Candy Shoppe has sweet treats for the young and young at heart.

All of the amenities combine to create a family-friendly atmosphere, fun for kids and grown ups, tourists and locals alike.

Find more information about visiting the Pleasure Pier here. Watch CultureMap's exclusive video tour (above), produced by Joel Luks.

  • Photo by Shelby Hodge
  • Tafia

Eat dinner at a top chef's home — or Cook Eat Love at farmers markets: It's agreat foodie summer

Foodie News

OIMBY, short for Outstanding in my Backyard, came together in 2010 as a reaction to the skyrocketing prices for the national farm-focused dinner series Outstanding in the Field. It brought together foodies, some top-tier local chefs and donated local ingredients for an affordable yet memorable experience.

Now OIMBY has returned to Houston with a series of summer dinners at the home of Monica Pope.

"[David Leftwich and Tara Kelly] did it as a cheeky thing: Not expensive, charitable," Pope says. "But in the last five years, of all the things I've done, it's one of the things people are still talking about. It resonated with people."

"It feels very exposing, like 'Yikes, I'm going to have people entering my home, in my backyard,' but it's expressing the importance of all of us doing this," Pope says.

Pope hopes the revived OIMBY experience (organized with Leftwich and Kelly) will help her express her food philosophies, focusing on changing the way people live, not just how they eat. Over the past two years she's transformed the backyard of the house she's owned for 20 years, bringing in a bee hive, growing a butterfly garden and even adding chickens into the mix.

"It feels very exposing, like 'Yikes, I'm going to have people entering my home, in my backyard,' but it's expressing the importance of all of us doing this. It's been a long journey and it ended with a microcosmic world in my backyard, " Pope says. "I want it to be meaningful and beautiful in a way that will resonate, not just cooking hot dogs in the backyard.

"I want people to come and go 'Wow' . . . to see the spectacle. And it's going to be fun, that's the most important part."

Pope will hold the OIMBY dinners on eight Sunday evenings in June and July. Tickets are $40 each, available here or by calling 713-524-6922. Pope says she is still getting the menus and guest chefs in place, but says she's working with vendors to create themes like a pork-driven supper, plus events that will focus on seafood and goat.

Yet OIMBY is only a one of Pope's summer projects. Pope is also starting a farmers market program called "Shop Cook Eat Love." Starting on June 16, she'll lead a group through the Eastside Farmers Market on Saturdays and the Rice University Farmers Market on Tuesdays, teaching customers how to "get the most out of [their] trip to the farmers market," picking out produce and heading to t'afia afterwards to learn how to prepare them, eat their bounty and go home with new knowledge and a new recipe. Tickets are $45 and include the cost of food.

Oh, and when she's not working on either of these projects or at her restaurant, Pope is also writing a memoir.

"I just wanted to push it this summer, personally and professionally," she says.

Are you on board for OIMBY?

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Brad Paisley steals hearts — and a fan's phone — in his Star Trail of Fame RodeoHouston show

a star is born

Just a few hours before hitting the stage for his 15th show at RodeoHouston on Saturday, March 18, Brad Paisley was inducted into the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Star Trail of Fame.

The guitar picker joined the likes of Brooks & Dunn, Reba, Charley Pride, Elvis Presley, Gene Autry (the first performer ever), Roy Rogers, Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Selena.

Unless you are a certified rodeo rat like myself and have spent years stalking the halls of the NRG Center assignments, you’ve likely never seen this wall of gold plaques, located on the second floor of NRG Center outside HLSR’s offices.

Paisley’s star is the tenth on the wall, hanging next to Selena. On Saturday, he spoke briefly at an unveiling ceremony hosted by HLSR organizers.

“There’s nothing like this in the world,” Paisley told the assembled Houston press and rodeo brass on Saturday afternoon. “You guys realize that.”

It’s an honor reserved for the performers who’ve made a pronounced mark on the event. For some, like Reba and Strait, it’s about longevity and universal draw. While Selena (1993, 1994, 1995) and Elvis Presley (1970, 1974) only appeared at the rodeo a handful of times, their appearances have grown into sacred cultural milestones for two distinct demographics.

In Houston, you can age a native by who they first saw at the rodeo, like cowboy cosplay carbon dating. It doesn’t take long into a casual conversation about the rodeo without someone bragging about who they first saw.

Not unlike vegans, it won’t take long for someone to edify you with tales of seeing Elvis’ name on the Dome’s exploding scoreboard, or seeing Selena’s famous outfits in living color on Diamond Vision from the cheap seats. For me, it was being four years old and Strait showing off some of his ocean front property in 1987.

Paisley’s rodeo stops have always been breathers, nights to stretch and enjoy the scenery, like an industry night for the rodeo season. He’s performed at every RodeoHouston held since 2014, and without COVID changing the world’s plans, Saturday night’s matinee would have been his 17th show.

I’ve never heard anyone say an unkind word about a Paisley variety show stop. The rodeo’s starred stage, in whatever iteration, feels like home to him. The Grand Ole Opry and Guitar Hall of Fame member could be the house performer at an all-year rodeo theme park and no one would bat an eye.

He’s grown into an ambassador for a gentler, comical side of modern country music that’s always needed. Running counter to the stuffy modern hat acts, the sterner indie-toned traditionalists, and the rap-liters. Paisley’s the dude playing the hits, showing off his picking fingers, and having a beer with everyone in the room. No one else on this year’s rodeo lineup besides Paisley has recorded a song with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, either.

On Saturday night, Paisley brought the warmth from his plaque unveiling onto the stage in front of a sold out matinee crowd. “River Bank” kicked things off with Paisley’s slashing riverbilly guitar out front.

It only took three songs for Paisley to make his first tour onto the dirt for “Perfect Storm”, which morphed into a cover of “The Love Boat” TV theme song as Paisley took a victory lap on the west side of the stadium. Of course, “Water” was the next song.

Music videos have always been Paisley’s multimedia creative jam and he made sure to sprinkle some gems from his videography into the set and screens. “Waitin’ On a Woman” came with the requisite posthumous cameo from Andy Griffith from the music video. For “Celebrity,” Paisley’s own mascot from the industry-skewering viral video made a minor cameo in the chute seats.

For a foggy mountain jam, Paisley and his band members with instruments that can go mobile joined him on the dirt for a road trip.

“You’re such a beautiful mix of Budweiser, cow shit, and Brut Cologne,” Paisley told the crowd as “I’m Still A Guy” worked its way into the set list.

Paisley stole a fan’s phone for a spell and began to play on Aurora Fernandez Sordelli’s Instagram account, perusing her socials and critiquing her profile. It completely made sense for United States Congressman Dan Crenshaw to sit in on “American Saturday Night,” playing tambourine more than slightly off beat.

Brad Paisley RodeoHouston 2023

Photo by Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo

“The Brad Paisley Variety Hour has been a certified hit for 15 rodeo seasons running and hopefully, we’re only at the beginning of its run.


River Bank

Wrapped Around

Perfect Storm

The Literal Love Boat Theme


Waitin’ On a Woman



Last Time For Everything

Old Alabama

I’m Still A Guy

This is Country Music

American Saturday Night (with Dan Crenshaw on tambourine)


She’s Everything

Longtime Houston news anchor's new commercial success leads week's hottest stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Longtime Houston news anchor boasts serious commercial success in new TV gig. Our columnist catches up with the former ABC13 employee about life as a TV spokesperson.

2. The ultimate Houston list of kid-friendly and family fun for spring break 2023. We've rounded up more than 20 suggestions to beat back boredom.

3. Turnpike Troubadours kick up some red dirt redemption in RodeoHouston's top-selling show to date. Like Ferris Bueller, Turnpike brings together the country music tribes..

4. 9 best Houston bars for 2023 mix legendary local faves with must-visit newcomers. Presenting the nominees for Bar of the Year in the 2023 Tastemaker Awards.

5. Local Foods owner serves up French bistro with caviar service, regional classics, and a duck-short rib burger in Rice Village. The new restaurant is located in the former Thai Spice space.

Brad Paisley joins George Strait and Selena with induction into RodeoHouston's prestigious Star Trail of Fame

paisley park

Country superstar Brad Paisley's RodeoHouston performance on Saturday, March 18 will mark more than his 15th time taking the Rodeo stage.

The amiable singer and crooner will also be inducted into the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s prestigious Star Trail of Fame at 3 pm the same day.

This honor makes Paisley the 10th star honored with a gold plaque to commemorate his years of outstanding entertainment at the Rodeo. For those keeping score (and there are many), Paisley has played at RodeoHouston every year since 2014. He's also famous for his choice of wife, noted actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley.

"Brad Paisley is a great addition to our Star Trail of Fame, as he’s playing his 15th show at RodeoHouston this weekend and continues to be one of our top performers each season," Jason Kane, RodeoHouston's director of entertainment, tells CultureMap. "We’re thrilled to recognize Brad and welcome him to our RodeoHouston family, alongside fellow artists who have helped shaped our show over the years."

As for those other artists on the trail, those include names like the King of Country George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, and our beloved Tejano queen Selena.

Fans who want to check out the official Star Trail of Fame can find it on the second floor of NRG Center outside the Rodeo’s offices.