6th Annual The Woodlands Idol – Finals

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on November 7, 2012 in Concerts |

Sixth Annual The Woodlands Idol

The Finals – That’s a Wrap

After three preliminary rounds and one exhausting semi-final, the sixth annual The Woodlands Idol came to an exciting – albeit sometimes confusing – end.

The finals had a new MC, Kelly Williams of YourTown TV; she did a great job, but it was also a little obvious she wasn’t as comfortable in front of the crowd as her predecessor. There was also a forty-minute delay due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control – the uncontested ‘most beautiful’ judge, Dana Tyson of Sunny 99.1, suffered a minor medical emergency and wasn’t able to be there – so we were in a bit of a holding pattern until Robert Bell could make it to Papa’s and fill her shoes. And what would a night fraught with tension be without one or two technical glitches with the music?

the woodlands idol winners for 2013

As this was the finals, each contestant was required to sing two songs. Most of the contestants chose two different genres to cover, but for those that didn’t, both of their selections were – of course – country. It’s like those guys read our blog and still want to mess with me. Just kidding! I know I’m in the minority with my anti-Country music tendencies…

Once the contest finally got started, Jessi Cowart (#1) was up first with Reba’s “Fancy.” Maybe it was just pure nervousness, or perhaps it was because she had to be first, but she did miss a cue early on in the tune. She recovered well, though, and finished the tune strongly. Next up was Zachary Jones (#2), who, talk about missing cues, really seemed to struggle with Matchbox 20’s “If You’re Gone,” first rushing the chorus and then missing several cues throughout the remainder of the song.

After the first two contestants, however, missed cues quickly became a thing of the past when Jon Sheptock (#3) gave a perfect performance of Michael Bublé’s “Home,” I only wish his vocal volume could have been adjusted a bit higher than the background music; it was difficult to hear him clearly at the back of the room. The next contestant was Morgan McKay (#4), and her fearless performance of Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl,” which warranted a lot of audience participation.

There was a hiccup of some sort with Timothy Blair’s song choice, so we skipped ahead to Jordan Burmeister (#6), who took the change-up in stride like a pro. Though she started a little on the timid side, by the ending ‘for you are mine,’ of Etta James’ “At Last,” everyone in the room wanted to be hers. Problem sorted, Timothy Blair (#5) was able to go next, selecting yet another classic from the seventies with Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night In Georgia” and did as well as I expected; with little variety in his song selections, there’s little variety in his performances. This of course can help or hurt a contestant, depending on the whims of the judges.

Daryl Bullinger (#7) Country-crooned “I Can’t Love You Back” by Easton Corbin with so much conviction I think every woman in the place wishing he’d give it a try. Breaking that spell – in a good way, but still – was Niki Uzell (#8) who rocked Gretchen Wilson’s “All Jacked Up,” though again, it would have been better if her vocals could have been at a better volume level compared to the background music.

Finishing out the first half of the evening was Heather Wiley (#9), who took on Adele’s “Rolling In the Deep” while giving it a bit of a Country-twang. I didn’t think it really worked for her, though, and the result was less-than-perfect, with the higher, longer notes getting missed. Finally, gamely battling a chest cold, Jake Muck (#10) gave us his rendition of Mario’s “Let Me Love You,” and maybe it was the cold, but I really started to notice how very ‘boy band’ and nasally Jake sounded.

We took a bit of a break to let everyone catch their breath and stretch their legs, then we were right back into the competition.

daryl bullinger of spring performing easton corbin's i can't love you back at the 6th annual woodlands idol finals

Each contestant was now up for what would be their final attempt to win over the judges and be selected as this year’s The Woodlands Idol. Starting us off again was Jessi Cowart, who seemed much more relaxed this second time around and did a great job with Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” Written by Johnny Cash and Charlie Williams, the tune has a decidedly country-rock feel to it, and Jessi brought that into her performance beautifully. Sticking with that country feel, Zachary Jones covered Tim McGraw’s “Down on the Farm” next, and it just seemed to me that he didn’t get after it with as much enthusiasm as some of his earlier performances. The whole thing seemed a little too level – too single-noted.

Jon Sheptock wowed the crowd again when he stepped up with Lone Star’s “Amazed.” Jon really has a beautiful singing voice, and I found myself thinking if he keeps it up, I’ll be able to someday say, “oh, I totally knew him way back when no one had ever heard of him…” Morgan McKay growled and danced her way through a rousing rendition of Reba McEntire’s “Why Haven’t I Heard From You?” and Timothy Blair was up next, and as though determined to prove me right, sang The Temptations “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” his choice from the first preliminary. I’ll give him this much; what he lacks in vocal variety, he makes up for in showmanship. To quote Maroon 5, he’s got “the moves like Jagger.”

Since she’d shown so much promise with such a range of vocals and variety of song types, I was really pulling for little Jordan Burmeister. I’m going out on a limb, here – I hope she doesn’t mind that I keep calling her little. I mean, she is a full-grown, married woman, after all. She’s just very short and adorable (I could eat her up!). Anyway, she belted out Adele’s “Rollin’ In The Deep” with fantastic enthusiasm, and was always aware of where the microphone was in relation to her mouth, careful to pull back on the louder, carried notes and to bring it back in for the softer, quicker ones.

jordan burmeister of spring performing adele's rolling in the deep at the 6th annual woodlands idol finals

Daryl was up once more and the word that sticks out at me from my notes was that his performance was very sweet. He sang Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe,” and if you’re not familiar (as I wasn’t) it’s a great storybook song about ‘Old Man Wrigley,’ the love and loss he experienced and how he passed words of wisdom on to the young man that was his neighbor.

Niki Uzell belted out Carrie Underwood’s “I Told You So” a little too strongly – it just wasn’t her best performance of the contest. Then Heather Wiley gave us her version of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” but it lacked the deep, moving soul that I’m accustomed to hearing in Alicia Keys’ music. Finally, Jake Muck closed out the competition with what I had hoped would be a great take on a relatively new song, Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” but again, Jake was a bit nasally and seemed to be attempting to sing the song at a higher register or key than what the music called for.

With that, the judges’ scores were tallied up, and though there were winners announced that night, a review of the scores later revealed a tie and some shuffling had to be done. In the end, Daryl Bullinger came in third place, Zachary Jones and Morgan McKay tied for second place and the title of 6th Annual The Woodlands Idol went to Jon Sheptock. Some of those were my choices, and some weren’t, but like fantasy football, my opinions and my choices don’t matter, only the official choices of the judges do – and they made some good ones. Now I just can’t wait for next year, where I hope to see some returning favorites and some fresh talent try their hand at becoming the next The Woodlands Idol!

For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.

For pictures of the finals event, check out our Flikr Album.


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6th Annual The Woodlands Idol – Semi-finals

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on October 24, 2012 in Concerts |

Sixth Annual The Woodlands Idol

The Semi-Finals

This was it – the semi-final had thirty contestants which had made it through the preliminaries for the sixth annual The Woodlands Idol competition in either the first, second or third rounds – and there were high moments of excitement and disappointments.

Once again the majority of song selections were country – well, okay, only a slight majority; okay… it was really close to just half and half. But you know how I feel about country music. Aside from my musical preferences, I still wouldn’t have wanted to be a judge. It had to have been tough to choose just nine of the thirty (well, twenty-eight) semi-finalists to move on to the finals in two weeks. There were several song repeats from the first three rounds, but only once by the same contestant; an error that is a disqualifying event, incidentally. Contestants are not allowed to sing the same song more than once in preliminaries, semi-finals or finals; so each person should be prepared to perform at least three songs.

the woodlands idol second preliminary winners for 2013

I don’t have room here to give a run-down of all 28 contestants’ songs, but of the nine judges’ picks, there was some real variety. First up to make it into the finals was Morgan McKay (4), with a rousing rendition of Reba McEntire’s “Why Haven’t I Heard From You?” with so much enthusiasm, it was hard to get a clear picture of her. She was dancing all around and having a great time. At the other end of the spectrum, the first male to advance was Timothy Blair (9), performing another selection from The Temptations, “I Wish It Would Rain.” He’s a guy that likes his classics. We had to take a quick break to allow for Jon Sheptock’s previously recorded performance of Daughtry’s “Home,” as he was unable to attend the semi-finals due to extenuating circumstances. It was a little hard to hear him over the din of the crowd in the house, but he did great. Two more in quick succession to get in were Heather Wiley (#12) in the most fun/interesting/unusual selection of the night with “Cowboy’s Sweetheart” by LeAnn Rimes, complete with yodel and Jake Muck (#16), channeling his boy-band style covering Ne-yo’s “Because of You.”

It took a little bit, but the next one to make it past the judges was Niki Uzell (#22) with her take on the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon.” That was the very song performed by Myi Watson a few weeks back, who unfortunately didn’t show up for the semi-finals.

Rounding out the final nine judges’ picks for finals were Zachary Jones (#27), with another fun performance; he chose Jason Aldean’s “Crazy Town.” Zachary’s extremely enthusiastic on stage, and very at ease. Next was little Jordan Burmeister (#29) leaving Adele behind from a couple weeks back for a little country, belting out Martina McBrides’ “Broken Wing.” And finally it was #30, Daryl Bullinger, who gave us a stirring performance of Garth Brooks’ “More Than A Memory.”

And even though there was a lot of great performances, I was still disappointed a few times. First of all, Jim Tillmans – who hotly crooned out “Fever” in Round 1, was the other no-show of the night. Then my other favorite crooner, Brian Kennedy (#17), didn’t make the cut with his rendition of Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good.” I was really sad, I liked them both a lot. I also really liked (okay, loved), Cale Reneau’s performance of “Creep” by Radiohead in Round 3, but he just didn’t hit the mark this time around with the judges when he covered Blues Traveler’s “Hook.” I get it, though, I suppose. The really fast, almost white-rap parts of that one are hard to get your tongue around.

My final disappointment of the night was when Jessi Cowart (#18) didn’t make it past the judges. She’s a fantastic singer, even with the obvious nervousness in her stage presence. But if practice makes perfect, she’ll still get her chance, as she was voted in as the People’s Choice for the finals after a fantastic performance of Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m The Only One.”

Jessi garnered all kinds of applause, shouts and screams from her cheering section, which is pretty clearly the way she got voted in – she had a huge fan-base. And as for that stage-fright I thought I detected? Well, like I said, I’m not a judge. Plus it really seemed to wear off the further into the song she got. By the end I was cheering out loud for her, too!

jessi cowart of the woodlands performing melissa etheridge's i'm the only one at the 6th annual woodlands idol semi-finals

The final round is just days away, and the excitement is palpable. I can’t wait to see who the judges pick to be named the next “The Woodlands Idol!” The choice will be tough, and I think no matter who gets in, they all deserve the accolades they’ve received throughout this competition.

Come to the Finals, hear them for yourselves. Finals on Friday, November 2. All events are being held at Papa’s Ice House in Spring. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at the Chamber offices, by mail when you download the ticket order form and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better, as space will be limited. For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.

For pictures of the semi-finals event, check out our Flikr Album.

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6th Annual The Woodlands Idol – Round 3

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on October 10, 2012 in Concerts |

Sixth Annual The Woodlands Idol

Preliminary Competitions – Round Three

The third round of preliminaries for the sixth annual The Woodlands Idol competition was by far the largest of the three, having more competitors than both the first, and second round – and far more stand out performers.

The song selections for the night were all over the board – from as far back as “How Great Thou Art,” the Christian hymn originally penned in 1885 and made famous by numerous of musicians, to as contemporary and recent as Adele’s “Rollin’ In The Deep,” and everything in between. We heard yet another two performances of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” opera, with The Phantom of the Opera’s “Think of Me,”, a whole spectrum of country tunes (of course), classics like Nat King Cole (“Orange Colored Sky”), Etta James (“I’d Rather Go Blind” and “At Last”) and Nina Simone (Feelin’ Good – in a performance that nearly made me cry [and not tears of joy]), even The Eagles (“Hotel California”), Uncle Kracker (“Drift Away”) and Joss Stone (“You Had Me”).

the woodlands idol second preliminary winners for 2013

There were a total of 29 competitors this week, and while things started off pretty good – four contestants in and we had our first preliminary winner of the night, Bridgett Cooper (#09) with a goose-bump-enducing a Capella rendition of the late Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Niki Uzell (#11) gamely followed immediately after with George Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning”. Cherrie Boston (#12), gave a heartfelt performance of Etta James’ At Last, which would ultimately make her the People’s Choice Winner – and after that there was a long, long… long dry-spell. I can honestly say the bizarre and hodge-podge mixture of the next nine contestants was difficult to sit through. Perhaps if I’d had a few drinks it’d been easier. But I digress. Next up was Aaron Del Bosque (#22), who selected Billy Currington’s “Let Me Down Easy,” and though he seemed to warble a little bit on each verse, made good with a strong performance of each chorus. The second person to perform Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” was Debbie T. (#28), and in my opinion (and the judges’) did a better job than the first.

After Debbie, the performances seemed to build up steam as one right after another would ultimately go on to be preliminary winners. Mary Goldknopf (#29) gave a strong performance of Evanescene’s “My Immortal”, and from there the tempos increased, with Jordan Burmeister (#1) channeled Adele, managing to stray far from the teleprompter and look relaxed and engaged as she belted out “Rollin’ In The Deep”. Syndni Doughtie (#2) was next, with Nat King Cole’s “Orange Colored Sky”, which was both old-fashioned and cute at the same time. There was a tongue-twisting segment about a minute in that didn’t phase her in the least. Zachary Jones (#3), who earlier in the evening appeared to be getting restless, looked like he was having a great time while making every word his own as he smiled, danced and sang Josh Thompson’s “Beer On The Table.”

Once again this week we had a couple of returning contenders; Aaron Del Bosque (#22) was a 2012 Semi-finalist, and in what could be described only as providential, the night was brought to a close by Cale Reneau (#5), a 2011 Preliminary Winner.

As he was the last of the evening, Jackie of Tunes of Texas (the guys providing all the music for the competition) stepped down off the stage and came over to have a seat next to me. We hadn’t actually talked much prior to that point, but he nudged me, gave me a ‘just wait’ll you see this’ knowing smile and said, “get ready.”

‘Get ready for what?’ I wondered. I was tired. The music cued up, and it was a slow and steady beat. I kind of knew I knew it… but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Then Cale started singing and of course, only a few words in and I immediately remembered it was Radiohead’s “Creep.” He was already doing a great job through the first and second chorus, but then –

Then, something magical happened. Two-and-a-half minutes in to what was clearly going to be a full song (versus being cut off at the three minute mark) Cale built up all the sweet, tortured anguish of Thom Yorke, never missing a single moment of the ever-increasing high notes that make up the bridge… “She’s running out the door – She’s running, She run, run, run, run… Run,” which brought raucous applause from everyone. When Cale was done, Jackie just looked at me and said, “Told ya.”

cale reneau of the woodlands performing radiohead's creep at the 6th annual woodlands idol preliminary

So for the second time in one night, I had goose bumps. And for the second time in three nights of competition, I was completely amazed at the level of talent we have here in The Woodlands.

I mean, sure, I’ve been singing since I was five, and performed in Concert Choir in Junior High – but that was a long, long time ago. I don’t even like getting up to talk in front of people, much less sing. I do have a pretty good ear, and have been known to pluck out a tune after a few short tries on my keyboard. And if it could speak, my steering wheel would attest to my carrying a tune quite well with the radio. But these guys? The ones on their way to the Semi-finals next week? Wow. To paraphrase Radiohead, “They’re so $&%@ing special.”

You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Come to the Semi-finals, hear them for yourselves. The semi-finals are on Friday, October 19, and finals on Friday, November 2; both are ticketed events. All events are being held at Papa’s Ice House in Spring. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at the Chamber offices, by mail when you download the ticket order form and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better as space will be limited. For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.

For pictures of the third preliminary event, check out our Flikr Album.


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Exclusive – Katz’s Holiday Catering Menu

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on September 26, 2012 in Restaurants, Services |

Katz’s Katers!

Katz’s Never Kloses

As many people know (and others may not know), Katz’s roots begin in New York, by way of Austin. Though no relation to the “When Harry Met Sally” “I’ll have what she’s having,” Katz’s Delicatessen, there are a smattering of funny little coincidences. For instance, that Katz’s Deli is on Houston Street in NYC, and currently co-owned by three people, two of which are Martin Dell and Fred Austin. Dell, Inc. (no relation) was of course founded in Austin, Texas. Marc Katz (Barry’s father) moved the family from New York when Barry was 10, eventually opening the original Katz’s Deli in Austin in 1979, where Barry Katz grew up, was bitten by the foodie-bug, and went on to study at the Culinary Institute of America and the restaurant management program at Florida International University, before eventually opening his own Katz’s in Houston in 2000.

Barry Katz

…Well that was fun.

But returning to the actual purpose of this write-up, Katz’s infamous motto has a slightly different meaning than what most people associate with it. While it’s true the downtown Houston location is open 24 hours as the Austin location was; the less-well-known meaning stems from Katz’s industry-rare commitment and ability to accommodate last minute catering orders at both Houston-area locations. “We can handle catering orders big or small, with as little as two hours notice,” Barry told us. “Of course, we may not be able to get certain catering menu items out on that short of notice, but that’s the beauty of it – our catering menu is so large, and so diverse, we can come up with something to fit your needs,” explained Sandi Maslak, Katz’s catering manager for The Woodlands area.

“We just don’t want to say ‘no’ to people,” Barry added. In order to be that flexible – not to mention being able to cater full-spread breakfast buffets all across town before the sun comes up, or bring some hearty meals to an office full of executives burning the midnight oil – the catering side of the business relies on the kitchen staff of both locations to be at the top of their game all the time, at any time.

Exclusive Holiday Menu from Katz's Express in The Woodlands

Click to Download Katz’s Holiday Menu – Available November 1


Holiday Catering Menu

Beginning November 1, customers will be able to place orders from the new Holiday Catering menu. Some of the stand-out selections include the Katz’s Combo ($9.99 per person), which includes sliced turkey breast, turkey-ham, gravy, cranberry sauce, a buttered roll, dressing, a choice of two sides (from garden salad, Caesar salad, broccoli cheese rice casserole, sweet potato casserole, corn casserole, macaroni and cheese, glazed carrots, buttered corn or pan-fried cabbage) and a peppermint or plain brownie.

Also available is a Corporate Package ($10.99 per person), which would give each person one of seven entrees (turkey breast [with dressing and cranberry sauce], turkey-ham, blackened chicken Alfredo, half a citrus-glazed Cornish hen [with pecan rice dressing], stuffed chicken breast [with sun-dried tomato-basil pesto Bechamel sauce], pot roast [with potatoes and carrots] or grilled salmon [+$1]), buttered roll or garlic bread, and choice of two sides (those listed above, plus roasted asparagus, scalloped potatoes or garlic mashed potatoes).

And when you’re really going for that ‘I had no idea a deli could do that’ meal for your guests, coworkers, friends or relatives, may we suggest the Signature Dish? Each person gets their own whole citrus glazed Cornish hen with pecan rice dressing, a buttered roll or garlic bread, and their choice of two sides from all of those listed above. All of that, expertly made, beautifully presented, for only $17.99 per person.

For large groups (50 or more) there is the option of an Appetizer Carving Station ($4.50 per person, plus carver), which includes a choice of one meat (herbed roast beef, oven glazed turkey breast, or glazed turkey ham), split rolls, horseradish sour cream, spicy mustard, herb aioli and au jus.

Speaking of appetizers, the holiday appetizer options include everything from the timeless fruit & cheese or vegetable & cheese displays with gourmet crackers, to new and unique items like the spinach & artichoke dip or the Italian Torte (pictured) made with cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh pesto, served with toasted bagel chips.

And don’t forget dessert! In addition to the always-available Gourmet Dessert Platter (pictured), which includes generous

An Italian Torte from Katz's Express in The Woodlands

The Italian Torte,
Served with Toasted Bagel Chips

Gourmet Dessert Platter from Katz's Express in The Woodlands

A Portion of a Gourmet Dessert Bar

slices of an assortment of dessert bars, homemade brownies and beautiful chocolate covered strawberries ($55, serves up to 25) – for the holiday season, enjoy Holiday Croissant Bread Pudding or perhaps some White Chocolate Raspberry Eruption.

The Katz’s Combo, Corporate Package and Signature Dish packages above require a minimum of 10 per order; but if you have a smaller crowd, there are plenty of options on Katz’s every day catering menu. Take a look:

Katz’s Catering

Katz’s has every meal, for every occasion, for any size crowd – completely covered. The menu that is available for catering orders is incredibly large, containing many dishes and sides that aren’t available when you dine in at either location. And it’s not just deli-type foods, either. On Katz’s breakfast menu, for instance, there’s the Hearty Bagel Bake: layers of bagels, turkey-ham, potato pancakes and cheese baked into a warm casserole. Katz’s offers five different breakfast buffets: a Belgian Waffle Breakfast, Pancake Breakfast, French Toast Breakfast, Build Your Own Breakfast Taco Bar (all $10.99 per person, minimum 10 per entree) and the Big Business Breakfast Buffet ($14.99 per person) with scrambled eggs, potato pancakes, huge fresh fruit bowl, choice of one meat from spicy sausage, turkey-ham or beef bacon; choice of bread from silver dollar pancakes, waffles, French toast, wheat toast or croissants – with all the necessary butter, syrup & jam.

We’ve only just covered the first four of the 22-page catering menu Katz’s offers. There are dishes big and small, from all sorts of nationalities. Items like Bite Size Chicken Cordon Bleu, or Chicken Dijonaise, a Lemon Chicken Piccata or for vegetarians, Grilled Veggie Quesadillas. There are eight different salads, plus a build-your-own salad bar, three different sizes of customizable box lunches, platters with everything from deluxe sandwiches to a bagel and lox platter. Plus those desserts! Makes us wish we had more people working for us! 😉

Exceptional Experiences for the Customer

Sandi and Barry filled us in on just how well that well-oiled machine can work. First of all, there’s the training. It’s weeks-long, it’s intense, and yes, there’s a test at the end. Everyone has a job to do, and most everyone can also do most anyone else’s job. Which is why it’s perfectly normal to see Barry himself working the line, chopping, cooking, baking, packaging. And then there are of course the checklists, “the most colorful highlighting system of lines and charts you’ll ever see,” Barry says. All of this comes together to bring the customer a complete, worry-free, no-hassle catering experience.

Sandi explains, “when we bring your catering order to you – and here in The Woodlands area, I do everything I can to be right there with the drivers delivering it – everything is included. We bring in the chaffers, the sternos, the plates, napkins, flatware; if you order drinks, we’re bringing cups and ice, if you ordered coffee, we’re bringing the sugars, sweeteners, creamers and stirrers, if you ordered tea, fresh lemon wedges… you get the idea. And we set it all up, too. Tell us where you want it and what time, we come in, set it all up. It’s beautiful, it’s complete, and you’re the hero.” Another unique thing that Katz’s does is treat the person placing the catering order to a complimentary box lunch or salad. And just like when you dine at Katz’s, when they cater, no one goes hungry. The same great portion sizes you see at the restaurant carry over into the catering side. For instance: a typical pan of Lasagne is cut into 12 servings, 3 x 4. At Katz’s, it’s nine servings (3 x 3). For a lot of people, that’s enough for two meals! Same thing with say, the Build Your Own BBQ Sandwich Bar; no small quarter-pound/pre-cooked-weight servings of beef, sausage or chicken per person. Servings are much larger, and based on post-cooked weight.

We can’t possibly cover it all here – there’s just too much! For just a fraction of an idea of how good some of these things are, check out our most recent review of Katz’s Express . And if you’re in the Woodlands area, including Conroe and Spring, give Sandi Maslak a call at 713-836-0337; she can tell you all about Katz’s catering and answer any questions. All throughout the greater Houston area, check out Katz’s Catering page, where one of the five dedicated catering staff can help you get your order squared away, or you can even order online – a whole new way to get your Katz’s – that just went live! And starting October 1, be sure to mention the John Cooper School when you place your catering order. Katz’s is donating 10% of all catering orders to the John Cooper School through December 31, 2012.


Katz’s Express
19075 I-45 South (Northbound)
Shenandoah, Texas 77385
936 321-1880

Katz’s Breakfast Review

Katz’s Revisited

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6th Annual The Woodlands Idol – Round 2

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on September 26, 2012 in Concerts |

Sixth Annual The Woodlands Idol

Preliminary Competitions – Round Two

The second round of preliminaries for the sixth annual The Woodlands Idol competition was quite a bit different than the first, but every bit as fun and entertaining.

The majority of the contestants went with country music selections, both classic and contemporary. But musical genre isn’t the point – what matters is that the song being performed by the contestant is one that they can truly perform. That would be my one bit of advice for any contestant regardless of the song – get that performance down. Practice it all the time. Memorize every word, every beat, every pause. Know when you need to take a breath and when you’re going to have to sustain a note to the point of breathlessness. Don’t strive to sound exactly like the professional artist – the judges aren’t looking for impressions. They’re looking for talent.

the woodlands idol second preliminary winners for 2013

While doing a little research this week, I discovered a number of our contestants this season are returning from previous seasons – including a past Woodlands Idol! In Round One, 2011 The Woodlands Idol winner Frankie Pizano competed again, singing Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” and moving on to the semi-finals. Jim Tillmans was the third place winner last year, and is once again on his way to the semi-finals. Lacey Prieto has been a preliminary winner for the past three years and has done it again this year. And this season’s Round One People’s Choice Winner, Tara Leigh, was a preliminary winner in 2011.

Only one of the Round Two Preliminary Winners had placed in previous years; Jake Muck (#2), a Semi-finalist last year, once again moved on to the semi-finals with his performance of Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me.” Jessi Cowart (#4) nicely covered Reba McEntire’s “One Promise Too Late'” followed immediately by Morgan McKay (#5) and her rendition of Martina McBride’s “Broken Wing.” Heather Wiley (#7) was probably my favorite of the night, nicely handling LeeAnn Rhimes’ “Blue,” and then three guys in a row made it in; Paul Sarver (#9) sang a soulful “Me & Mrs. Jones,” by Billy Paul, Jay Kersh animatedly performed Patsy Kline’s “I’ve Got Your Picture,” and Daryl Bullinger covered Conway Twitty’s “Goodbye Time,” which was semi-recently also covered by Blake Shelton. By the way, if you’ve only become a fan of Blake since he began his own judging career on The Voice, you’ve got to check out the mullet he was sporting back when he covered “Goodbye Time.” Rounding out the top nine of the evening were Myi Watson (#15) performing Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder & Lead,” a popular choice, and Marie Miller (#16) gave it another try after not making the cut in Round One, singing Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.”

Suprising many of the long-time Woodlands Idol fans was Bradley Jackson (#12) not getting selected by the judges, or winning People’s Choice, as he has been a preliminary winner the past three years running, and a semi-finalist in 2011. It could have been due to his choice of song, U2’s “With or Without You,” he did seem to struggle with this tough one for many people.

This week’s People’s Choice Winner is Karen Gathman (#1), who had performed Stevie Nicks’ “Gypsy,” and more power to her; trying to get all those lower-register notes and not go flat takes some real effort, which is probably why this difficult song is more often better covered by men.

Keep in mind, gentle readers, this is entirely my own opinion, and no reflection or relation whatsoever of the official judges of The Woodlands Idol. It’s also my opinion that of those that didn’t make the cut and were hoping to get voted in by becoming The People’s Choice, it could have been Christine Carlson (#14). She did a pretty good job with Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet.”

myi watson of houston performing gunpowder and lead at the 6th annual woodlands idol preliminary

For pictures of the second preliminary event, check out our Flikr Album.

If you haven’t attended one of the first two rounds of competition so far, you really are missing out. And if you’ve been to the first two and are supporting one of the preliminary winners when they go on to semi-finals but haven’t picked up your tickets yet? Don’t wait till the last minute to get them!

The third and final preliminary round of The Woodlands Idol is Friday, October 5. That’s the last night which is free to attend. The semi-finals on Friday, October 19, and finals on Friday, November 2, are ticketed events. All events are being held at Papa’s Ice House in Spring. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at each of the preliminary events, at all of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce free business networking events (see our Event Calendar for dates and locations), at the Chamber offices of course, and by mail, when you download the ticket order form and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better as space will be limited. For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.


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Kim Son’s Birthday

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on September 16, 2012 in Restaurants, Town Center |

Kim Son – The Woodlands

Celebrating Kim Son’s First Anniversary In Style

The Kim Son Restaurant in The Woodlands recently celebrated it’s one year anniversary. While it might seem a small achievement to most, it is cause for a Dragon Dance. The restaurant site has seen several name plates come and go over the years, all of them obviously not able to survive. This is not to say that Kim Son will or will not be able to survive for another 12 months – but we certainly hope for the best.

We have enjoyed lunch and dinner at Kim Son a few times now, so we were excited to be included in this invitation-only event to celebrate their first birthday. The festivities include several rounds of appetizers including sushi, vegetable rolls, dumpling egg rolls, vegetable egg rolls, crab wontons, spicy tuna on fried wontons, chicken satay, crab rangoons and tofu spring rolls, as well as samples of Cinco Vodka, and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.

The Dragon Dance was an incredible display of agility and athleticism on the part of the multitude of dancers, as well as wonderful showmanship. The “dragons” interacted with the guests both outdoors at the party and indoors at their tables. At various points throughout the 20-minute show, there were fire-breathing dragons, spinning and jumping dragons, and even a tug-of-war for a “snake” found beneath a container.

Dragaon Dance Kim Son

Check out our Facebook page for more photos of the Dragon Dance at Kim Son.

From Wikipedia: The Dragon Dance (simplified Chinese: 舞龙; traditional Chinese: 舞龍; pinyin: wǔ lóng) is a form of traditional dance and performance in Chinese culture. Like the lion dance it is most often seen in festive celebrations. Many Chinese people often use the term “Descendants of the Dragon” (龍的傳人 or 龙的传人, lóng de chuán rén) as a sign of ethnic identity, as part of a trend started in the 1970s. Another derivation is from (農的傳人) i.e. the descendants of Shennong, the legendary first king of the Chinese people who taught them agriculture, law and medicine, the foundations of civilization.

The dance team mimics the supposed movements of this river spirit in a sinuous, undulating manner. The movements in a performance traditionally symbolise historical roles of dragons demonstrating power and dignity. The dragon dance is a highlight of Chinese New Year celebrations held worldwide in Chinatowns around the world.

Dragons are believed to bring good luck to people, which is reflected in their qualities that include great power, dignity, fertility, wisdom and auspiciousness. The appearance of a dragon is both frightening and bold but it has a benevolent disposition, and so eventually became an emblem to represent imperial authority.

Kim Son The Woodlands First Birthday Kim Son The Woodlands California Rolls
Kim Son The Woodlands dumpling rolls Kim Son The Woodlands Chicken Satay
Kim Son The Woodlands Vegetable rolls Kim Son The Woodlands Tofu Spring Rolls
Asian Restaurants A-MAsian Restaurants N-Z

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C M Floral Design & Events

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on September 12, 2012 in Business Spotlight, Services |

CM Floral Designs & Events

Any Event on Any Budget

Business Spotlight

For fourteen years, Carolyn Easely, founder of CM Floral Designs & Events has provided her unique talents and beautiful designs to residents and businesses across The Woodlands area. CM Floral Designs & Events recently relocated from a smaller, storefront location on Rayford Road, to a spacious, 4,000-square-foot location on Budde Road, which houses a large and efficient work space for floral designers, a showroom to showcase different tablescapes, centerpieces for events, an expanded selection of silk flowers, in-house linens, and a spacious warehouse to store all of their inventory.

We sat down with Carolyn at her Grand Re-opening event1, and discussed the many benefits of their new location… as well as the one – albeit small – hitch. “No one knows where we went!” Carolyn said with her characteristic smile and laugh, “We’re here and we’re better than ever,” she went on. And indeed, it has been a change for the better.

CM Floral Designs & Events has become known for the personal touch and unique designs in their floral arrangements, gift baskets, silk flower arrangements and interior decor. But over the years, they have also brought many of event-related services into their repertoire. Now, with their new location on Budde Road, all of those services are located under one roof. And now more than ever, whether you need a quick bouquet on the way home to get you out of the doghouse – or you’re planning an event for hundreds of guests – CM Floral Designs & Events can provide you with ideas, designs and accessories.

table linen rentals for weddings and parties

Rather than picking out your linens at a party rental store, and your candelabras at another, or your centerpiece crystal at yet another location – CM Floral Designs & Events has all of this and more right there in the store. No more worries about whether a particular shade of tablecloths is going to coordinate with the ribbons on the staircase or the flowers in the centerpieces; at CM Floral Designs & Events, you create the experience you want with everything you need at your fingertips. Or perhaps you only have the barest of outlines for what you want, and you’re not sure how to bring it together. At CM Floral Designs & Events, you can see tables that are completely laid out in a rainbow of color schemes – from a minimalist design with classic lines and single-color themes to the topsy-turvy world reminiscent of Dr. Seuss or Alice’s Wonderland.

CM Floral Designs & Events always has high quality, fresh flowers on hand which come in directly from their distributor. The result is truly beautiful arrangements which tend to last much longer than typical floral arrangements. Carolyn’s floral designs with a whimsical touch are custom tailored for each customer and purpose. Carolyn and the experienced staff at CM Floral Designs & Events can create beautiful bouquets for birthdays and anniversaries; unique sympathy designs; corporate arrangements for lobbies or common areas; holiday decor for homes and offices – and so much more. Carolyn tells us, “I once made an anniversary bouquet for a couple who had a bit of an inside story between them involving Red Bull®. It might sound silly to an outsider, but when she saw the Red Bull® & Roses bouquet he presented her, he tells me she actually cried a little.” Carolyn has dozens and dozens of similar stories from clients over the years, many repeat customers which have come to depend on her exclusively to always have something new up her sleeve.

silk flowers for weddings and parties

Numerous wedding and event venues in The Woodlands area also work exclusively with CM Floral Designs & Events – and have for many years. Hotels such as The Woodlands Waterway Marriott & Convention Center and Hyatt Market Street, The Woodlands; restaurants such as Amerigo’s and Kirby’s Steak House and many, many more. The reputation and relationship CM Floral Designs & Events has built with these and other area companies means that her Information Center – freely available to anyone who comes into CM Floral Designs & Events – is stocked with vendors such as caterers, photographers, videographers, DJs, bands, photo booths and limousine services; every service one might need to coordinate any type of event of any size.

So if you haven’t had a chance yet, stop in at CM Floral Designs & Events’ new location. It is truly a thing of beauty tucked into the woods. While you’re there, you can watch Carolyn and her staff work their magic right in front of you in their open work area. You can also browse amongst a selection of fine gifts and jewelry items – perfect for that last minute birthday, graduation, shower or anniversary gift. Once you see the personal touch CM Floral Designs & Events can put on your floral arrangement, gift basket, centerpiece or corsage, you may find all those other ‘assembly line, take-it-or-leave-it’ florists simply pale (or wilt?) in comparison.

CM Floral Designs & Events is located at 25915 Budde Road, right at the south-eastern edge of The Woodlands. Call them at 281 362-8977 or visit their website at CMFloralDesigns.com for simple directions from anywhere.

silk flowers for home and office

1 CM Floral Designs & Events Grand Re-opening event was catered by Katz’s Express. We were pleasantly surprised by the samples of dishes and desserts we tried while we were there, and learned from Sandi Maslak, their Catering Manager, that they’ve just put the finishing touches on a new holiday catering menu, which will become available beginning in the 2012 holiday season. Keep checking back with us for exclusive information about these exciting changes. (return to article)


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6th Annual The Woodlands Idol – Round 1

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on September 10, 2012 in Concerts |

Sixth Annual The Woodlands Idol

Preliminary Competitions – Round One

If for even a second you thought you weren’t missing anything by coming out to the sixth annual The Woodlands Idol competition… if for a moment you thought there was no way anyone around here could compete with those selected to appear on American Idol or The X Factor… you, my friend, are sorely mistaken.

Understand that I say this as one of those who, before last Friday, thought the exact, same thing. ‘No big deal. Just a local singing competition, nothing more than karaoke with a prize.’ Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

the woodlands idol first preliminary winners for 2013

We’ve all seen it; the video someone links on Facebook or sends in an e-mail with some guy or girl bursting out in song and blowing the judges (and audiences) minds. I’ve fallen victim to goose bumps or jaw drops many times myself seeing those. Now imagine getting to be there for those moments. That happened at least three separate times last Friday, as I sat and watched seventeen different local amateur singers put their own spin on songs as vastly different as those performing them.

Rebecca Adams (#2) did a great job with Wynonna Judd’s “What The World Needs Now” – which, I have to say, even as someone who’s not a fan of country music, is a version I love far more than the original, classic version. Speaking of country music, Carly Winsman (#6) channeled Miranda Lambert quite well with “Gunpowder & Lead”, and Lacey Prieto (#14) didn’t do too bad herself with Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name”; both of them gamely hitting their marks with those growling, angry girl sounds. In a tie for ‘guys that sound just like Michael Bublé’, Bryan Kennedy (#5) crooned a smooth performance of “Georgia On My Mind” and Jim Tillmans (#17) gave us all a bit of late-summer “Fever.” Bringing up the rear with the oldest songs of the night was a none-too-shabby Frankie Pizano (#15), who threw in a few dance moves while singing Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” and Bridgette Crabtree (#16) and Timothy Blair (#8) brought in the ’70s vibe with Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and The Temptations “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” respectfully.

But the one that completely blew my mind (and everyone else in the audience that night – not to mention the judges, Scott Thompson, of Wildfire Entertainment, Dana Tyson, of Sunny 99.1 and Michael Fuller, of Fuller’s Vintage Guitar) was lucky #13 Jon Sheptock.

Jon stepped onto the stage looking just a little bit nervous. He had a sense of humor, though – cracking a joke about the mispronunciation of his last name based on his not filling out his application himself. And when the recognizable first notes of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” started, it was immediately apparent Jon was in his element.

jon sheptock of huntsville performing superstitious at the 6th annual woodlands idol preliminary

Jon hit and held every low, high and sustained note with such perfection it would have made Stevie himself proud.

Following the judges picks for the nine performers to go on to the semi-finals, the public is invited to select a People’s Choice winner to also go on to semi-finals. For the first round, Tara Leigh (#1), who performed LeAnn Rimes’ “Crazy Women.” For pictures of the first preliminary event, check out our Flikr Album.

Now, here’s the thing; you can see about 12 seconds of Jon’s amazing performance, as well as all the other first round finalists, in the YourTownTV.com video, or you can come out and be a part of this amazing competition by attending the next two rounds of preliminaries, and getting tickets to the semi-finals and finals coming up. Trust me, being there is sooooo much better. Go. You’ll thank me.

The second preliminary round of The Woodlands Idol is Friday, September 21, followed by the third preliminary round on Friday, October 5. Those two nights are free to attend. The semi-finals on Friday, October 19, and finals on Friday, November 2, are ticketed events. All events are being held at Papa’s Ice House in Spring. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at each of the preliminary events, at all of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce free business networking events (see our Event Calendar for dates and locations), at the Chamber offices of course, and by mail, when you download the ticket order form and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better as space will be limited. For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.


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The Legendary Rocker…Joe Cocker

Posted by Janet Werner on July 22, 2012 in Concerts, Music, Reviews |
Joe Cocker at The Woodlands Pavilion

Joe Cocker 2012

Referred to as the greatest white soul singer on the planet, Joe Cocker’s unique fusion of rock and blues, as influenced by Ray Charles and Chuck Berry, differentiated him from mainstream rock at a time when rock and roll was morphing into the psychedelic phase.

Who wasn’t mesmerized with the 1970 “Woodstock Festival” documentary of Cocker’s performance of the Beatles cover, “With a Little Help from My Friends?” Who was this madman with the raspy voice, flailing his arms and playing the air guitar? To even attempt a Beatle song at that time was heresy, yet his bluesy arrangement and physical intensity won the crowd over, and they’ve never wavered in their loyalty. Although not original material, he made this and numerous other covers uniquely his own with his blues arrangements, sometimes surpassing the originals in record sales.

No musical career spans a half a century without a whole lot of talent and a little help from your friends. Friends Paul McCartney and George Harrison allowed Cocker to use another one of their songs, “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” on his 1970 live album and film by the same name…Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Drawing equally on rock and soul, the album was mostly comprised of covers: from rock…The Rolling Stones, The Box Tops, Bob Dylan; and from soul…Ray Charles, Sam and Dave, and Otis Redding. The album featured a huge choir, brass section, and several drummers. The deluxe 2-record set was an amazing production, and so is his 2012 tour performing many of these popular covers.

Among Cocker’s accolades: the duet, “Up Where We Belong,” which Cocker recorded with Jennifer Warnes for the soundtrack of the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman. The song was an international hit, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Pop Performance by a Duo,’ and the Academy Award for ‘Best Original Song.’ Cocker and Warnes performed the song at the awards ceremony.

Where does Cocker rank as a blues rocker? The late great Ray Charles called Cocker his one true disciple. I saw the great Ray Charles perform “Unchain My Heart.” Which version was better? It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Both are great for you and you savor them differently. One’s not better than the other, they’re just different. Well, compare for yourself in these YouTube stock videos.

JOE COCKER – unchain my heart – LIVE

Ray Charles- Unchain My Heart (Original)

Editor’s Note
Joe Cocker w/ Huey Lewis & The News * July, 2012 @ CWMP

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