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Among Senate Republicans, Arkansas 'Cheese Dip' Prevails Over Texas Queso In Taste Test

Five stories that have North Texas talking: The first black Santa at the Mall of America? He’s from Irving; a 20-pound cabbage won a Georgetown fourth-grader $1,000; the Dallas Arboretum welcomes its millionth visitor this year; and more.

The Wall Street Journal started this whole ordeal. The news outlet published an article in November with the headline, "Don't Tell Texas, But Arkansas Is Laying Claim To Queso." The author says Arkansas has long lived in the shadow of Texas and southern states when it comes to regional specialties, like fajitas, gumbo and barbecue, and the state finally thinks it can reasonably take possession of queso as a local delicacy. Except they call it “cheese dip.”


Obviously, it sat with Texas as well as the whole peas in guac suggestion from The New York Times did.

Then, it got political. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman of Arkansas held a blind taste test Wednesday to see how cheese dip from Heights Taco and Tamale Co., based in Little Rock, and queso from Dallas’ Uncle Julio’s compared.

In a weekly meeting, Senate Republicans minus Cotton (His wife was in labor Wednesday) each sampled the two products and voted for the best one. And somehow, it was the Arkansas cheese dip. Read more from The Dallas Morning News. [The Dallas Morning News, Wall Street Journal]

  • The first black Santa at the Mall of America is a retired U.S. Army veteran from Irving. He returned to Texas from the wintry north (Minnesota) on Monday. Larry Jefferson was chosen for the historic job after Landon Luther, the co-owner of the Santa Experience photo studio in the mall, wanted a more diverse Santa,theStar-Tribune reports. Jefferson has Santa gigs at the Uber office in Dallas, the S.M. Wright Foundation's Christmas in the Park at Fair Park, and this weekend at the Irving Wal-Mart, The Dallas Morning News reports. [The Dallas Morning News]
  • The Dallas Arboretum welcomed its millionth annual visitor Wednesday. That’s a record number of patrons to visit the arboretum and botanical garden in a single year. In 2015, 930,000 guests visited. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is located at 8525 Garland Road in Dallas. [Dallas Arboretum]


  • One way to earn $1,000? Grow a 20-pound cabbage. Ryan Ash, a fourth-grader at Grace Academy in Georgetown, won a savings bond for his a massive 19.6-pound cabbage for the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program, the Austin American-Statesman reports. More than 87,000 students participated in the program. Ash apparently has the greenest thumb, but his plant started out at just two inches tall. Children can register for the cabbage program at [Austin American-Statesman]


  • The 2016 election has come and gone, but voting season has just begun. As the year wraps up, it’s time to decide the “best of” well, everything, it seems. You can start with KERA by voting for your favorite episode of “Think” with host Krys Boyd. Your votes will help determine which shows you’ll hear the week of Dec. 26-29. Be sure to cast your ballot by Dec. 16. And our sister station, KXT 91.7, wants to know your favorite tracks of the year by Dec. 12. Hosts will play them all day on Dec. 31 to close out 2016. Vote for your top five here. [KERA, KXT]

Correction: The Dallas Arboretum welcomed its millionth visitor Wednesday not today.