An evening of ping pong, potluck and garden party fun in Fort Davis

A couple weeks ago, we had the distinct pleasure of attending a garden party and ping pong tournament at the beautiful pool house of our neighbors Lanna and Joe Duncan. A simple game of ping pong somehow morphed into tournament status, and then grew into a garden party with cocktails and lots of potluck appetizers.

When Joe and Lanna bought their Fort Davis home from Joe’s grandmother’s estate, the backyard was essentially a pasture. You’d never know that now, looking at the expansive green lawn that is completely sticker-free (quite a feat to accomplish in Fort Davis) that surrounds the sparkling swimming pool, shaded by lush treescape. Decades ago, they planted 20 trees and grass in the former pasture, and now are rewarded with a true oasis in the high desert.

Left to right: April, Bill, Bob, James. Last names omitted to protect the identity of the not-the-winning-teams of ping pongers.

Lanna and Joe know how to host a party – hospitality flows through the Duncans’ veins in such a natural way. Moving from ranching to tourism, Joe’s parents owned the Hotel Limpia from the 1950s through the late 1980s, and Lanna’s parents once leased the Fort in Fort Davis, before it became a historic site, having acquiring it in hopes of attracting tourists to Fort Davis back in the 1950s. The parents were friends before either Joe or Lanna were born.

Living in Dallas, Joe and Lanna purchased the Hotel Limpia from the family in 1990 and moved to Fort Davis full-time to remodel, restore and run the hotel and restaurant, and have made a fabulously indelible mark on West Texas and the Southwest ever since.

While they no longer own the Hotel Limpia with the first (and still the only) bar in Fort Davis and Stone Village Market, they do own the Hotel Paisano in Marfa, El Capitan Hotel in Van Horn, the Lodge in Cloudcroft and a number of lovely historic homes that are vacation rentals in Fort Davis.

Our neighbor Stephen Bright with his doubles-partner Bill Manhart won the tournament, which lasted for several hours of fast-paced pinging and ponging. “Ping pong” tends to be the name of the game used by more by garage players, while “Table Tennis” is used by players that formally train in the sport. I think some of our better players that night were more of the table tennis variety.

Left to right, Joe Duncan, Bill Manhart, Stephen Bright, Lanna Duncan with the much-coveted traveling trophy rumored to be created by Marfa artist Camp Boswell.
Left to right, Joe Duncan, Bill Manhart, Stephen Bright, Lanna Duncan with the much-coveted traveling trophy created by Marfa artist Camp Boswell.

The long-ago professionally-trained-bartender in Joe never let our margaritas run dry, and our inveterate hostess Lanna is also an impressive ping pong and table tennis player… even if the non-skilled player across the table had been someone other than me.

Anne and Lanna, right after they smoked me and Debbie at ping pong. I’m really bad at it. Really.

Personally, I prefer to visit with friends and enjoy appetizers rather than showing off my semi-lack of hand-eye coordination in front of a crowd. I find it so interesting to see what favorite appetizers friends and acquaintances bring to a potluck party.

I was torn between making homemade hummus (but didn’t cook the dried beans in time), and a classic old favorite of mine, spinach artichoke dip. Other folks that also brought dips of different types that required tortilla chips seemed to all bring blue corn tortilla chips. We had blue corn tortilla chips all over the table. It was a terrific spread.

I didn’t take a picture of my spinach artichoke dip before-hand, but I did take one of the barely dippable remnants at the end of the evening.

It's a good sign that your dip was a success when there's barely enough leftover for a chip or two.


Many thanks to Lanna and Joe Duncan for a lovely evening with friends and neighbors, food and laughter. What a delightful evening it was!


Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip

(Note: I put the artichoke hearts and spinach in the food processor to eliminate chunks. It became a smooth consistency and very green)

8 oz. cream cheese, well softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
2/3 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese
Pepper to taste
14 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts, can liquid drained, squeeze artichokes to drain excess liquid, chopped
6 oz. frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed to drain excess liquid (used about 2 cups of fresh spinach)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub olive oil inside and along the edges of a one-quart baking dish. In a mixing bowl, stir together cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic, parmesan, mozzarella and pepper. Stir in artichokes and spinach. Spread mixture evenly into prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven until heated through and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Serve warm with tortilla chips, crackers or toasted baguette slices, or serve over your favorite pasta. Serve it cold on endive leaves for a pretty appetizer.

Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche



2 thoughts on “An evening of ping pong, potluck and garden party fun in Fort Davis

  1. You can’t possibly be that bad at ping-pong my friend, lol. I think your being modest. Your giving me a lot of options to go visit Fort Davis, by the surroundings I’m gathering that’s it’s greener than I imagined.


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