Bob Armstrong Dip

As someone who was raised in Dallas, I never really knew exactly who Bob Armstrong was, but I did know about his famous queso dip. Offered as an appetizer at Matt's Rancho Martinez, and catered to many a Dallas party, Bob Armstrong Dip is seriously the best queso I've ever had the pleasure of trying. 

In honor of Texas Independence Day, I thought I'd share a little background on this addicting queso concoction and offer up a recipe adapted from Homesick Texan

About 43 years ago or so, Robert “Bob” Armstrong walked into Matt’s El Rancho in Austin and asked the owner’s son, Matt Martinez, Jr., to surprise him with something new. Bob Armstrong was the Texas Land Commissioner at the time, and was not only a powerful guy but also a regular customer. Matt wanted to make him happy. 

The story goes that Matt went into the kitchen, grabbed a large bowl and ladled into it some taco meat. Next, he hid the taco meat under a generous helping of creamy chile con queso and finished with dollops of guacamole and sour cream on top. He then took the bowl out to Bob and presented him with his kitchen creation. 

At first Bob looked at the bowl, wrinkled his nose and said, “That’s just queso. I wanted something different!” But Matt insisted he try it and when Bob dipped his chip into the queso and discovered the layer of taco meat, he grinned and proceeded to eat the whole bowl without further comment. 

The next day, people came into Matt’s El Rancho asking for a bowl of Bob Armstrong’s dip. None of the wait staff knew what the heck they were talking about until Matt Martinez, Jr. figured out they were asking for the off-the-menu queso he’d made for Bob the day before. Apparently, Bob Armstrong had returned to the Texas state capitol and told everyone they had to try Matt’s queso with taco meat, guacamole, and sour cream. And at that moment, a chile con queso legend was born. 

In later years, other queso compuestos, as that genre of chile con queso is called, also rose to prominence—quesos such as Kerbey Lane’s Kerbey Queso topped with guacamole and pico de gallo, and Magnolia Café’s Mag Mud with its refried black beans layered into the silky cheese. But Bob Armstrong Dip, as Matt’s queso creation is now officially known, may just be my favorite. 

You can now find Bob dip in both Austin and Dallas, where Matt Martinez, Jr. later moved to open a few restaurants of his own. 

Ingredients for the taco meat:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 bell pepper, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1 jalapeño, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of cayenne

Ingredients for the guacamole:
2 Hass avocados, peeled and pitted
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
Salt

Ingredients for the chile con queso:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 jalapeños, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound American cheese, shredded
1 cup grape tomatoes, diced
Salt
Sour cream, for garnishing
Tortilla chips, for serving

Instructions:
To make the taco meat, in a large skillet heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the bell pepper, jalapeño, and onion. While stirring occasionally, cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. 

Add the ground beef to the skillet, along with the cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until everything is well combined and then cook the ground beef for 15 more minutes, or until browned. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat and drain any excess grease. 

Meanwhile, to make the guacamole, mash together the avocado, lime juice, and cilantro. Add salt to taste. 

To make the queso, in a saucepot heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the jalapeño and onion. While stirring occasionally, cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. 

Leaving on the heat, stir in the cumin, black pepper, and cornstarch until the dry ingredients are well combined with the vegetables. Pour in the chicken broth and while stirring cook until the sauce has thickened, which should happen in a couple of minutes. 

Turn the heat down to low and working in batches, slowly stir in a handful of the cheese. After it’s melted into the sauce, repeat the process until all the cheese is added. Stir in the tomatoes, adjust seasonings, and add salt to taste. 

This makes a lot of queso, so you can either serve it in individual bowls or in a larger dish, such as a 9-inch square dish. To assemble, layer along the bottom of the dish the taco meat, then pour in the queso and then top with the guacamole and sour cream. Serve warm with chips. 


Yield:
10-12 servings

Author:
Adapted by Lisa Fain from Matt Martinez’s book Matt’s Culinary Frontier

A Little Beach Town Called Delray

I've spent the past few weeks in preparation for this week in particular. It's officially my last week living in South Florida. While in the process of closing one chapter of life and opening another, there are always bittersweet moments, yet there never really seems to be a right way to say goodbye to the place or people you will soon be leaving.

A box of shells souvenirs I packed up for the move to Dallas

A box of shells souvenirs I packed up for the move to Dallas

In honor of this chapter of "my beach life" closing, I'd like to share what I've found to be the best of Delray Beach in hopes that one day if you are looking for a nice little place to escape by the sea, you'll think of this quaint little beach town just 20 minutes south of Palm Beach. 

Schaffer's Tea Room on Swinton Ave

Schaffer's Tea Room on Swinton Ave

Where to Eat:

Schaffer's Tea Room: Step inside this cute little beach bungalow located right off of Swinton Ave to discovery an incredible sensory experience with cozy reading nooks, a room filled with teas sourced from around the world and a table filled with locally made treats. 

Luna Rosa: My favorite brunch spot. It's located right on A1A across from the beach and has pretty much anything you could ever ask for in one place. Hint: Get their early to put your name on the waiting list. 

Green Owl: A mom and pop diner from a bygone era that serves the most simple breakfasts - think scrambled eggs, white bread toast, black coffee. Tip: Cash Only

J&J Seafood Bar and Grill: This small Delray oyster establishment has been ranked for having the best Oysters in Delray for years. Even with the the newer, trendier seafood joints popping up in town, your hotel concierge will tell you that this place is still the best. 

Park Tavern: If you like new American food with a trendy bar scene, this is your spot. Tip: You have to order the deviled eggs!

Kilwins: The most amazing homemade ice cream I never had before coming here. They have seasonal flavors like pumpkin pie as well as your traditional all American vanilla. Hint: Look for fresh fudge samples by the front entrance. 

Home furnishings from Morley, Delray Beach

Home furnishings from Morley, Delray Beach

Where to Shop: 

Nest: The cutest little antique shop ever. They have everything from art deco inspired lucite chairs from the 70's to ottoman's draped in vintage fabrics. 

Periwinkle: Best clothing and accessories on Atlantic Avenue. New arrivals daily from designers like Diane Von Furstenberg, Trina Turk and Joie. Also, don't forget to check out their sale room for some great last season finds. 

Wags to Riches: This is my favorite place for an afternoon smile, literally. Inside the store is filled with the cutest little real puppies from Morkies to French Bulldogs. Even if you don't need a pet, you have to at least stop by and say hi. 

Morley: A favorite new store on Atlantic Avenue filled with the best home items for your beach bungalow along with clothes from cult-favorite jetsetter brands like Calypso. The store is also man-friendly with several men's clothing lines and and even a tiki bar and TV for watching the games!

The Seagate Beach Club, available exclusively to guests of the Seagate Hotel & Spa

The Seagate Beach Club, available exclusively to guests of the Seagate Hotel & Spa

Where to Stay:

The Seagate Hotel & Spa: Huge hotel rooms, great seafood restaurant, incredible spa, a private country club, beach club and walkability to the beach. This is by far the nicest hotel on Atlantic Avenue with direct beach access. 

The Sundy House: This Victorian home turned hotel is known for its five star service, serene rooms and incredible Sunday brunch. 

The Colony Hotel: Located right in the center of downtown Delray, The Colony is built inside of a historic building boasting old school charm, early morning yoga classes and ease of access to all the amenities that Delray has to offer. 

5 Questions for Brenda Bogart, Artist

I still remember the first time I saw Brenda Bogart's work. I was just 6 years old and staying at my friend Rachel's house. Rachel and her sister - who is just a year older than us, shared a wardrobe filled with an enviable selection of B's T's. If you aren't familiar, B's T's was "THE" clothing line to wear as a kid growing up in Dallas in the 90's.

Fast forward fifteen years and I was in the gorgeous home of  B's T's founder, Brenda Bogart, preparing for a joint holiday trunk show - showcasing her art and my jewelry. After a successful run with B's T's, Brenda experienced a long-running interior design career under Trisha Wilson & Associates and eventually started her own interior design firm, Bogart Design Group, Inc. Eventually, Brenda decided to try her hand at painting, and when she did, she never looked back.

Brenda Bogart

Over the years, Brenda has become a source of inspiration to me as someone who doesn't just conform to what is expected, but instead, pushes the boundaries to produce what she loves.

Brenda's passion for creativity is evident through the work she produces and the life she lives, for this reason it's such an honor to feature her as part of our 5 Questions Series. 

I hope Brenda's outlook will inspire you as much as it has inspired me!

1. The inspiration behind my art...

The human face and its story constantly inspire me. Reading biographies have been a passion since I was a young girl and I often listen to the stories of the people I am painting.

2. The best advice I ever received...

Eliminate unnecessary drama from my life.

Studio

3. Success looks like...

Making money doing the thing I love to do the most.

4. Happiest when...

I'm happiest when I am in my studio creating, and I am simultaneously up to date on my desk work. This almost never happens so I spend a great deal of time torturing myself, feeling like there is something else I should be doing instead of being in my studio. Each day starts in my studio, looking at my current work while waking up to my first cup of tea. The day ends, looking over what I created that day. Somewhere in between, I rationalize how I don't need to do my desk work that day. 

Faces

5. One thing I wish I could tell my younger self...

Pursue your artistic self. Be who God created you to be, not whom you think everyone else wants you to be. 

For more of Brenda's work, follow her on Pinterest, Instagram or check out her blog here. Also, If you're in the Dallas area, be sure to stop by Blue Print - along with Brenda's art, you might just fall in LOVE with the entire store!