Monthly Archives: March 2009

To Everything There Is Some Seasoning

…wait, did I get that right?

Anyway.  Two things.

Number One:  In case you missed it, today is your last day to pick up the March 19th edition of the Houston Press on newsstands, which contains my review of The Grove in the dining section.  If you’re reading this from France or the future and can’t get a physical copy, here’s a link to the review: Downtown Attraction at The Grove.  Being in print is awesomely fun, as is working with the good folks at the Houston Press.  Which leads us to the second thing…

Number Two:  For those of you who have been following me for a while (whether here at she eats. or at my previous blog), you’ll know that I was never happy in my day job.  To put it mildly.  So it is with great excitement and an affirming sense of self-actualization that I’m happy to announce that I’ve resigned from my day job and have taken a full-time position with the Houston Press as their Web Editor.  I’ll still be blogging about food here and at Eating Our Words, but I’ll be taking on a wholly new docket of responsibilities as well.

To say that I’m merely excited by this would be a massive understatement.  How can you just be simply excited about turning over a completely new page in your life…jumping off a cliff into the great unknown…realizing the goals and dreams you always had for yourself…watching the hustle and sweat finally pay off…moving in an entirely new direction as before?

I’m not excited.  I’m ravenous.  I’m fiercely hungry to do this work and to succeed at it.  I’m feeling more alive than I have in years.  I feel like I’m standing on the stage at my high school graduation all over again, full of hope and joy and elation and passion.

Would that everyone have a chance or opportunity to fulfill their dreams, we would all shine so much brighter.

Thanks to everyone who’s supported me along the way and offered words of praise and encouragement.  I couldn’t ask for better readers, friends and family.  Much love to you all.

–K.

Spirited Houston

Books & Bottles
Books and bottles behind the bar at Anvil.

No, I’m not talking about haunted Houston.  I’m talking Houston’s busy wine, beer and spirits scene.  (Although I could just combine the concepts and write a post about La Carafe.)

I was at Anvil Bar & Refuge yesterday afternoon, getting a sneak preview of the bar in its [nearly] final incarnation and chatting with owner Bobby Heugel for an interview that will come out in the Houston Press food blog later this week.  It struck me — and not for the first time — that in addition to the growing emphasis on local, fresh, organic, artisanal food and restaurants in Houston, we’re lucky to have people pursuing that same level of craftsmanship and attention in the spirits scene.

Pimm's Cup
Freshly-made Pimm’s Cup with muddled cucumber, homemade lemon juice, homemade simple syrup, gin and soda.

Bobby and his crew at Anvil aren’t the only ones in Houston who are once again giving bartending as a profession — and alcohol as a libation – the credibility it deserves.  Cocktails made in restaurants like Beaver’s and Textile (both of which were training grounds for Bobby and his staff, and both of which owe their success in those areas to the likes of the Anvil crew) demonstrate a level of craftsmanship and creativity not seen at places like the Daiquiri Factory, the vulgar intoxi-quarium that used to exist in Anvil’s building.

Likewise, more bars around town are seeking out local microbrews and unusual imports to add to their draft beer selection, aside from simply leaving beer-flavored water like Miller Lite on tap.  Grum Bar and Grill is an example of this phenomenon, their beer selection being extremely limited to only beers that they themselves would drink: no Budweiser or Miller to be found here.  More established pubs like the Ginger Man and the Stag’s Head have embraced the concept of exploring unusual or exotic beers for years, and the beer-drinking public is following suit.

Avery Cask Conditioned Ale
Avery cask-conditioned pale ale at The Petrol Station.

We’re also lucky enough to have a local microbrewery — Saint Arnold — that supplies Houston and points beyond with finely-crafted ales and lagers in addition to being a community-minded organization that does much more than simply create beers.  We even have our own local  association of homebrewers —  the Foam Rangers – and entire shop devoted to the craft, De Falco’s.  Beyond Saint Arnold are many other exquisite Texas microbreweries such as Real Ale in Blanco and Southern Star in Conroe.  And let’s not forget the one and only Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner, Texas.

Wine bars, too, have cropped up around town like Starbucks.  Although each is different in its character, all are devoted to the ideals of exploring and discovering wine and educating their consumers to do the same.  From high-end, glitzy concepts like The Tasting Room to local, neighborhood-y joints like Boheme, it’s never been a better time for oenophiles in Houston.

To whit, I’d like to encourage you to read a few local spirit blogs that do a far better job of explaining and capturing all of this than I do.

Barley Vine:  This man has the word on wort, hands down.  A local hop-head who provides insightful commentary on the Houston beer scene and Texas microbrews. And he doesn’t just review beers; restaurants occasionally make the cut, too.  Writing consistently since 2006, his blog is the best local resource on beer, breweries and news as it relates to the beer world.

Drink Dogma:  A blog established by Bobby Heugel and his partners — including Kevin Floyd and Justin Barrow — to keep the public abreast of their progress on the Anvil opening, it’s evolved into a fantastic resource for cocktail information ranging from the history of certain drinks to their favorite libation literature.

Blue State Carpetbagger:  A wine blog from a man who knows his varietals, Tom Casagrande worked in the wine business in New York City for five years before moving to Houston.  His blog is a great read for two reasons: He’s been blogging continually since 2005, so there’s a wealth of information from prior years and posts and he specializes in recommending inexpensive yet wonderful wines, an especially welcomed speciality these days.

Do you have your own local favorites? Did I miss a beverage blog you can’t live without? Leave it in the comments section below; we want to hear all about it!

And…cheers!

Hot Links, Get Yer Hot Links!

It’s been over three weeks since the last roundup of Houston food writing (yikes!), so let’s get to it!

A few (but not all) of my own posts from Eating Our Words over at the Houston Press:

And some excellent posts from around town:

  • The King of Tex-Mex Is DeadRobb Walsh pays tribute to Matt Martinez, Jr., who passed away last Friday in Dallas.
  • Tofu & BBQ:  You wouldn’t think these two things go together, but Robb shows us that’s not the case.
  • Bargain of the Week: Hot & Sour Soup from 888 ChineseAlison Cook raves about the spicy soup — available for $3.75 per quart — that’s both budget- and belly-friendly.
  • Hue Gone AwaySwamplot uncovers some facts about the oddly-situated Vietnamese restaurant’s recent closure.
  • Mayhaw! Yams! Honey!  Houston Foodie divulges the location of a prime produce market off I-10 outside of Anahuac.  He had me a mayhaw.
  • More Sex!  Less Food!  The Eggheads Proclaimeth:  Another Houston Foodie post, this time at Eating Our Words.  I’m noticing a distinct fondness for interrobangs in his headlines.  This is a well-researched commentary on a recent Stanford University article that had tongues wagging: Is Food the New Sex?
  • Houston’s Professional Food Critics:  A interesting discussion of where new and old media meet with regard to local food writing.  Anonymous Eater at Food in Houston has been on a roll lately, pushing out one thoughtfully written post after another.  It’s been a rare treat.  Check out some of his other great posts below…
  • The Tale of the Pig’s Head:  What exactly does one do with a whole pig’s head?
  • Houston’s Diversity: Food for Thought:  For all our diversity, Houston seems to be missing a few key cuisines.
  • Tasty Salted Pig Parts:  Ruthie at Great Food Houston is currently vacationing in San Francisco.  Read about her adventures with tasty, tasty pig parts.
  • All Is Right in the Food World:  Cory at I’ve Got the Munchies happily notes that our very own Texas Burger Guy is back to blogging after a one-year hiatus.
  • …On Brownies:  Plinio Sandalio, pastry chef at Textile and Gravitas, shares a fabulous recipe for stovetop brownies on his blog, Bakin ‘n’ Bacon.
  • Road Trip Chow Down: Chris Madrid’s in San AntonioH Town Chow Down takes a trip to the famous San Antonio burger joint and conclues that Houston is still the best burger town in Texas.
  • Vegan 3-Bean Chili:  The amazingly talented Shannon at Shabak’s Kitchen shares a hearty recipe for vegan chili.
  • Universal Recycling Techniques:  Dr. Ricky has an incredible compatcness to his writing, and shares in his typically straightforward manner four ways you can recycle leftover food for new meals.
  • Seven Reasons Kroger Sucked Last Night:  And, finally, for a bit of levity, Jeff Balke elaborates on a point we can all agree on, which is that Kroger’s sucks.

Tuesday Trivia: Part Troll

The past couple of weeks have been both good and bad.

Good because I’m still excited about the Textile review, still excited about blogging at the Houston Press, still excited about all the wonderful meals and glasses of wine I’ve enjoyed with friends lately, still excited about writing articles for the Press’ upcoming Menu of Menus edition and still excited about being able to balance everything — work, home, writing, etc. — without too badly damaging any one area in the process.

Bad because I fear that I won’t be able to continue this balancing act, because I’ve been overwhelmed with work from all sides (no, seriously, I do have a day job, despite some peoples’ fanciful ideas to the contrary, and it continues to be quite demanding) and because I’ve been letting the trolls and negative comments — both on my blogs at the Houston Press and on blogs that don’t even belong to me – get me down in spite of myself.  I’m not linking to any of the comments; it’s not worth it and they don’t deserve the attention.  And I’ve begun immediately deleting the particularly nasty ones that discuss things like sex acts and contain vicious personal attacks on my character, as if the trolls actually know me from Adam.

I had a nice discussion with Houston Foodie last night over an amazing dinner at Gravitas, though, which gave me much needed perspective on the whole issue.  This morning, he sent me a fascinating New York Times article that takes a look into the psychologies of trolls.  It makes me sad for what are essentially very damaged and/or very deranged people, taking out their frustrations in the ultimate passive-aggressive medium and cowering behind anonymity.

I’m not new to the Interwebz.  I’m not new to trolling.  I’m not naive or stupid and I usually don’t rise to the bait when I see trolls performing their socially awkward little dances on forums or blogs.  So I’m more disappointed in my own behavior and childish responses than in anything these few people have said, but the only thing to do now is to follow my own advice to countless other people and let them haters hate.  Rising to the occasion only makes me look like the asshole.

So let’s put all this nastiness behind us and instead focus on today’s Tuesday Trivia (or, as I’ve been reminded to call it by Groovehouse on the non-Q&A days, a “survey”).  Let the games begin!

  1. How do you take your coffee?  Don’t drink coffee?  How do you take your tea?  Don’t drink tea?  Good God, man, what do you drink?
  2. My university was practically owned by a bizarre combination of Drayton McClane and Dr Pepper.  We had Dr Pepper hours every Thursday and it was the only carbonated beverage poured on campus.  As a result, I have Dr Pepper coursing through my very veins and would choose it over any soft drink, any day of the week.  What’s your favorite soft drink?  Or, for you Texans, what’s your favorite coke?
  3. Food and wine pairing is a given.  Do you consciously pair your food with beer?
  4. What’s your favorite beverage to cool you down on a hot day?  To warm you up on a cold night?
  5. It was always a huge treat on the rare occasion that my mother put those little silver Capri Suns into my lunchbox as a kid.  What was your favorite drink from childhood?

…and I’ve inadvertently turned this into an all-beverage survey.  No matter.  Drink it up and pour it out in the comments section below.

Getting Some Ink

Not that kind of ink.

If you’re here in Houston, make sure to pick up a copy of the latest Houston Press on newstands today.  Flip over to the dining section and there I be!  In ink!  With my real name and everything!

If you’re not local, here’s a link to the article:  The Tastes of Textile.  (And if you’re intent on leaving a comment on the article, you can do so here.)

This is my first “real” restaurant review, in that someone paid me to do this and then actually used valuable ink and paper to publish it.  I’m still a bit stunned by that.  Moreover, I’m still happily befuddled about being allowed to review such a high-profile restaurant and I know that — undoubtedly — people will question why a bottom-rung, low-man-on-the-totem-pole food writer like me was chosen to review Textile.  I can’t answer that.  But I can say that I’m extremely appreciative for the opportunity.  Working with the folks over at the Houston Press — both on this review and on the food blog (Eating Our Words) has been one of the best experiences of my life so far.

Okay, that was me being sappy.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Now go read the review!

EDIT:  There’s been some feedback on the review this morning, from two different sources.  Plinio Sandalio, the pastry chef at Textile, wrote a short blog about the review.  And H Town Chow Down, one of my favorite local food blogs, has a write-up concentrating on one of the aspects of Textile that bothered me the most.

A Weekend at the Lake

Chef Albert Roux, photos by Jeff Balke.

Chef Albert Roux in the kitchen; photos by Jeff Balke.

After attending a very, very, very soft opening in October 2008, I was invited to the grand opening of Chez Roux — the principal restaurant at the newly redeveloped La Torretta del Lago resort on Lake Conroe — this past weekend.  You can read an in-depth review of the resort itself and its many restaurants over at the Houston Press, where Margaret Downing — our editor-in-chief — hashes out the details.

For my part, I wasn’t overly impressed with either the resort or Chez Roux.  I enjoyed meeting Chef Albert Roux once again; he is an impish, charming little man who doesn’t take himself too seriously, a refreshing quality in a chef of his [extremely high] caliber.  A lot of the dishes were very good — braised short ribs paired with a stunning Cotes du Rhone, octpus cooked in its own ink (a personal favorite of mine), a terrine of foie gras and a mish-mash of other ingredients that was too fatty but had a lot of potential — but so many more of them were downright pedestrian.  Teriyaki quail was a low point, as was a smoked salmon wrapped around salmon mousse — far too much salmon in one bite.  Other dishes were decidedly old school, such as puff pastries in a morel cream sauce.  Delicious?  Yes.  A bit banquety and stuffy?  Yes.

kitchen

Serving straight from the kitchen. Busy, hot, crowded, but wonderful fun.

The resort?  In a nutshell, I was one of the very few people there without an entire matching set of Louis Vuitton luggage and I don’t have a deep yet vapid interest in The Hills, so I was bit out of my element.  La Torretta del Lago caters to a very specific demographic:  Bill and Muffy Wasp, who are going up for the weekend to golf and “spa,” respectively.  They will also inevitably dine in one of La Torretta’s several on-site restaurants — perhaps even Chez Roux — and not understand or care about what they’re eating, but they’ll be sure to pay lots of money for it because they’re being seen in “the right place.”  So, really, it’s a win-win for everyone!

As you may imagine, I clawed my way out of the resort as quickly as possible on Sunday morning.  Choosing not to stick around for breakfast, I instead ended up at a charming little place next to Conroe High School called Egg Cetera.  The owners previously operated restaurants in Maui and San Francisco, so I’m a bit confused as to how they ended up in Montgomery County, but glad.

The restaurant serves an entirely fresh, all-organic menu.  Everything is made from scratch at Egg Cetera: sauces, dips, salsas, etc.  The seafood is freshly caught.  The eggs are hand-gathered yard eggs.  The one single item that’s not organic is the milk, but the high quality of the ingredients shows in the amazing food.  What’s even more impressive is the unpretentious nature of the place and the extraordinarily low prices.  Talking to the owner afterwards, I suggested she needs to open one of these in Houston, like, yesterday.  I’m planning a more extensive write-up — with pictures — of Egg Cetera (and a few other spots we hit while up in Conroe) in the Houston Press next week, so keep your little eyes peeled.

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures that my good friend Jeff Balke took at Chez Roux.  If anything, at least their presentation was stunning.

Previously mentioned terrine.

Previously mentioned terrine.

Salmon mousse wrapped in smoked salmon.

Salmon mousse wrapped in smoked salmon.

Busily plating food in the kitchen.

Busily plating food in the kitchen.

The wine vault at Chez Roux.

The wine vault at Chez Roux.

Braised short ribs with mashed potatoes.

Braised short ribs with mashed potatoes.

Sinfully good.

Sinfully good.

Thursday Answers: The Envelope, Please

Welcome back, barn swallows!

We had a good turnout for this week’s trivia session, considering it was the first real trivia here on she eats. in at least three months.  Eight of you ventured your guesses, but there was only one winner.  Find out who, after the answers!

Answers:

  1. The first commercially-available microwave oven sold for $4,000.  No typos there: a whopping $4,000 (in 1947 dollars, no less!)  Frozen dinners sold for $100 apiece (I might have made that last part up).
  2. The most widely-consumed fish in the world is herring (a.k.a. sardines), which has been a staple food since 3,000 B.C. and is sometimes referred to as the “two-eyed steak.”
  3. Tea bags — like stockings — were once made of silk and were once reusable.  In other news, we were once a much less wasteful people.
  4. Authentic mozzarella cheese is made from the milk of water buffaloes, hence its Italian name Mozzarella di Bufata.  Mozzarella made from cow’s milk is called mozzarella fior di latte.
  5. One ostrich egg can make an omelette that will feed ten hungry people (or five very hungry people).
  6. BONUS:  Your body requires eight ounces of water to process a single ounce of alcohol.  That hair-of-the-dog hangover cure you’re trying?  Not exactly the best idea.

As promised, the reason the questions may look familiar to some is because they came from the incredibly awesome @Foodimentary.  Follow them on Twitter for fantastically bizarre and funny daily food trivia.  No, this isn’t an advertisement.  That would require either @Foodimentary or myself to profit and — sadly, or perhaps wonderfully — no one has yet figured out how to truly profit from Twitter.

Speaking of Twitter, today’s winner just so happens to be the very first person who ever followed me on Twitter (and the person who turned me onto what is now my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Huy), longtime fan and loyal foodie @BigLance!

Congratulations, Lance!  Your win entitles you to a lunch on me at Grandma NoodleBet ya didn’t know there were prizes, huh?  So play along next week!  See y’all then!

Following Erika Ray

I’ve somehow ended up following someone on Flickr whom I don’t know.  Everyone else on my friends list is just that — an actual friend.  So I’m not quite sure how Erika Ray got into the mix.  But I’m glad she did.

Since I don’t know who she is and I really know absolutely nothing about her, I have no idea why she’s in Japan at the moment.  But she seems to be  having a wonderful time.  And I’m having just as good a time living vicariously through the photos she posts nearly every day.  She has an eye for exactly the kinds of things I’d be taking pictures of if I were in a foreign and amusing country.

Below are a few of my favorites along with her descriptions.

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“Sexy water.  For those of you who like to feel on your water bottle.”

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“Giant cracker!  This was fried before my eyes, painted with soy sauce, and then wrapped in seaweed.  Delicious!  Katy and I ate these on a park bench with a can of beer.  Yum.”

3320564739_4312b1d7e5

“Donut-scented shower gel: brilliant.”

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“Someone pissed off the chicken.  Sendai, Japan.”

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“Ummmm…shouldn’t this be illegal?”

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“Truck stop tempura.  Tempura was perfect. Noodle soup hit the spot while the snow came down outside. “

Check out more of her photos here, including trips to Bruges, Barcelona, Rome, Porto and all kinds of fabulous places that I’ve never been.  But it’s like I have now!

Tuesday Trivia: Getting Back to Basics

As a result of last week’s poll, it looks like we’ll be going back to basics here on Tuesday Trivia.  That is to say: straightforward Q&A one week, touchy-feely questions the next.  To quote Baz Luhrman, it’s something for everybody!

And since last week was touchy-feely, that means we’re back to Q&A this week.  So let’s get to it!

Questions:

  1. The first commercially-available microwave oven was sold in 1947.  It was called the “Radarange” and was as large as a modern dishwasher.  How much did it cost?
  2. What is the most widely-consumed fish in the world?
  3. Before Sir Thomas Lipton patented the paper tea bag in 1903, tea bags were reusable.  What material were they made of?
  4. From what animal’s milk is authentic Italian mozzarella cheese made?
  5. Ostrich eggs weigh anywhere from three to six pounds and often take 45 minutes to hard boil.  How many people could one ostrich egg omelette serve?
  6. BONUS:  How many ounces of water must the body use to process and metabolize one ounce of alcohol?  (You’ll be glad you gave alcohol up for Lent…)

That’s it, folks!  Good luck and we’ll see you back here on Thursday with the answers.

(And if these questions look familiar, clever you!  I’ll tell you why on Thursday.)

Oldies & Goodies

Because we all know that nothing says “oldie” or “goodie” like a deep-fried Oreo.

Oldies & Goodies

From this weekend’s World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Cookoff at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Oh, what’s that? You want to see some actual barbeque? Look no further:

Sausage, Brisket & Ribs: The Holy Trinity

Sausage, brisket and ribs: the holy trinity of Texas barbeque.

Under a Texan Sky

All hail the mighty state!