Dining with Dad
The more cynical among us might suspect that Father's Day is yet another obligatory shopping event foisted on us by an unscrupulous greeting-card industry. (Actually, a Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, came up with the idea while listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909.) Whatever: It's still a great occasion to honor the man who put food on your table, or watched while your mom did.

Your Dad can revel in your filial piety at the weekend-long "Honor Thy Father" celebration at the Messina Hof Wine Cellar (4545 Old Reliance Road, Bryan, TX; [409] 778-9463). There's the Blind Wine Challenge on Friday (it's your dad who gets the blindfold, not the wine that's sightless), accompanied by a five-course repast for $99 per person. Saturday, sign him up for cooking school with chef Jimmy Mitchell of the Rainbow Lodge, $65 per person, half off for a friend -- you, perhaps? The twist is, he'll also learn to compost the leftovers. Sunday's grand finale is a vineyard-view Father's Day luncheon of grilled tuna steaks or beef tenderloin, topped off with an estate-bottled port 'n' cream sundae ($20 to $25 per person, $10 for kids). To make a weekend of it -- $159 for all events -- ask the helpful folks at Messina Hof for a listing of nearby bed and breakfasts; their own single-room B&B is already booked.

Ruth's Chris Steak House (6213 Richmond, 789-2333) figures fathers already have a backlog of neckties and aftershave, so they're offering a combination debit card/gift certificate to let him eat a serious steak instead. The "sleek plastic" card fits any wallet and can be purchased and used at any Ruth's Chris location nationwide. (Nice if your dad's a traveling man.)

More modest but no less manly alternatives include the barbecue cookoff and Cajun catfish fry at the 12th Annual Texas City Funfest (June 1821; for information, call [888] 860-1408); the chili cookoff at the Cedar Chopper Festival in Cedar Park (June 1920, [512] 258-8007); or the family-oriented Juneteenth Celebration at the George Ranch Historical Park in Richmond (June 1920, [281] 343-0218) for more barbecue, corn on the cob and cool watermelon.

Perhaps Pops would rather kick back in the Laz-E-Boy you gave him last year and enjoy the Food Network's macho meals marathon weekend. Warm up with Emeril Live! "Manly Man I & II" broadcasts on Thursday and Friday, and Saturday's "Dad's Day Off" show. Then stay tuned for the all-grilling program block that kicks off at 1 p.m. Sunday, hosted by chef Bobby Flay of New York's Mesa Grill.

Or you could always get Dad flowers. No, seriously! Red roses are the official flower of Father's Day. Take that, Hallmark.

-- Margaret Briggs

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Margaret L.Briggs