Bistro Provence

Location:  Bistro Provence
Date:  November 14, 2007
 

Robb Walsh, who is quite possibly my favorite food journalist and who we Houstonians can proudly call one of our own, has a timely review of Bistro Provence up at the Houston Press.  I say “timely,” because I just ate there for the third time two weeks ago.  I had mixed emotions about my last visit, so I’m glad to see that a professional food critic has vindicated my feelings about the place, whether he knows it or not.

We took my Day Job boss to Bistro Provence for her ten-year anniversary with my company.  Since there were six of us, I called the restaurant the day before our lunch to make sure that they could accomodate six people during their busy lunch rush.  The person who answered the phone sounded harried and uninterested at the same time, even though I made sure to call around 3:30 pm (hoping to catch them in between the lunch and dinner rushes).  He snootily told me that they don’t accept reservations, something of which I’m very well aware, and I told him so.  He responded with, “Okay, then you know we don’t take reservations.  Just show up and you’ll be seated.”  And then abruptly hung up the phone.

The next day, the group of us showed up at 12:30.  The parking lot was full, as always, but we were heartened by the fact that several tables outside on the popular patio area were empty.  Inside the restaurant, several other tables were empty as well, but they were all two-tops: nothing large enough to accomodate our group.  Every table seemed to be inhabited by — quite fittingly — actual French people enjoying their traditional long lunches with bottles of wine.  The boss loved the quaintness and “authenticity” of the place, and she happily agreed to wait for a table.

…this was a bad idea. Continue reading Bistro Provence

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The Red Lion

Location:  The Red Lion Pub, Houston, Texas
Date:  November 10, 2007

If you formed an opinion of the Red Lion strictly based upon the piss-poor grammar and misguided attempt at political humor showcased on the front page of their website, you probably wouldn’t be too disillusioned during your visit to their actual restaurant.  I, however, only recently discovered their website and was therefore unprepared for the disappointment that awaited behind the heavy, wooden doors.

Before we begin, let me kick things off by saying that I love English cuisine.  I might be in the minority on this, as most people seem to think that English cuisne is too starchy or bland for their tastes.  But give me a steaming Cornish pasty or delicate Yorkshire pudding any day of the week, and I’m hot to trot.  I don’t find English food to be at all bland, provided that it’s been prepared correctly.  Like anything else, it can be cooked appallingly poorly and presented in a likewise unpalatable manner (such as Scotched beef, which can easily look like someone sicked up on top of a pile of mashed potatoes).  But when it’s done correctly, it is something delivered straight from the Gods of Comfort Food Heaven.

I’d been to the Red Lion on many, many occasions prior to this evening’s meal, but always for a pint or two of Boddington’s after dinner or before a movie.  Once, Richard and I made the mistake of ordering their $4.00 papadom basket, which sounded like a deal amidst their sea of overpriced menu items until we received our basket and saw with great chagrin that it contained exactly three papadoms, each roughly the size of a small corn tortilla.  That should have been my first indication that you don’t always get what you expect at the Red Lion. Continue reading The Red Lion

Kicking It Down A Notch

Bam! Food Network pulling plug on Emeril Live

NEW YORK — Food Network is kicking Emeril Lagasse down a notch.

The celebrity chef’s Emeril Live, which has been on the air for 10 years, will cease production Dec. 11, Food Network publicist Carrie Welch told The Associated Press.

“However, Emeril is under contract with Food Network,” Welch said Tuesday. “We love him, we support him and look forward to a long partnership with him.”

Welch wouldn’t comment on Lagasse’s contract.

Asked why the show was canceled, she told the AP: “The only reason would be that it hit a ton of television milestones and, you know, all good things come to an end.”

The Food Network will continue producing Lagasse’s The Essence of Emeril, and he will take part in “specials and other development opportunities in the future,” Welch said.

The network also will air reruns of Emeril Live.

“I am deeply appreciative to all the unbelievable staff — many who have been with the show since the beginning — and all the loyal viewers, and the many talented guests who have appeared on the show through the years,” Lagasse, 48, said in a statement provided by Welch.

“I look forward to continuing my association with the Food Network with The Essence of Emeril, and I have lots of new ideas cooking,” he said.

Emeril’s show was the first show that I ever watched on the then-young Food Network.  I was immediately taken in by his warmth, his chuckling and shuffling around the kitchen, the way he interacted with his audience and the sheer joy he seemed to exhibit while cooking for people.  I grew up on The Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child’s The French Chef, but I’d never felt an immediate magnetism like Emeril’s before.  I like to think that most people felt that way the first time they watched him, too.  But in recent years, the show had grown stale and boring while a new crop of TV chefs grew up around it, decreasing its relevance with each passing day.

Emeril helped to launch the current wave of televised foodie-ism, from the grating annoyance that is Rachael Ray and half-assed fakery that is Sandra Lee, to the raw passion of Anthony Bourdain and manic energy of Alton Brown.  In a way, I’m sad to see him leave the airwaves for now.  But in another, more emphatic way, I’m glad to see him move on.

For as interesting and trailblazing as he once was, I believe Emeril’s river has more than run its course.  The man has become a parody of himself, with his endless catchphrases: “BAM!” and “Kick it up a notch!”  The low point came when he repeatedly and loudly applied the former catchphrase to cinnamon-flavored toothpaste in a commercial that ran — briefly, mercifully — earlier this year.  As far as I’m concerned, “BAM!” was the unfortunate precursor to the headache-inducing “EVOO” and its ilk, and both deserve to be put down once and for all.

So, good-bye Emeril.  I can’t say that I’ll miss your show or your catchphrases, but I’ll miss your anchoring presence.  I hope to see you again soon in another incarnation.

Anthony Bourdain will probably miss you, too.

she eats.

And so it begins…

For some time now, I’ve been intending to combine the two things I love most in life (aside from family, friends, oxygen, a beating heart and all that nonsense…): food and writing.  This little corner of the blogosphere will be about food, restaurants, products, wines, beers — if I can ingest it (legally) or I can cook/bake/prepare food with it, I’ll write about it.  And you can rest assured that I won’t mince words, I won’t be dull and I will be a faithful reviewer and updater to my readers, whether they be one or one billion.

So…let the games begin!