America’s, Houston, Texas
January 3, 2007

Oh, America’s.

What is there to say about you that hasn’t already been said dozens of times by dozens of other food writers?  You are such a bulwark of the Houston restaurant scene.  You and your little ones, Churrasco’s and Amazon Grill, define an entire category of dining in Houston that didn’t exist before you did.  Out of the void, you created “New World Cuisine” and we’ve been slavishly devoted to you ever since.

There are things about you that I don’t like; just minor imperfections, really.  I don’t like that most of your food tastes too similar — like Hungry’s, you seem to employ the same spice blend on about 75% of your menu items and it tends towards the repetitive.  Good, but repetitive.  And I’m always slightly — just so slightly! — disappointed in your steaks, since you always season them with the aforementioned spice blend and I’m a girl who likes her steaks naked, save for a pat of butter and a little sprinkling of salt.  But I’ve learned not to order your steaks and instead focus on other, often neglected areas of your menu.  Your seafood is consistently wonderful, as is your pork.  And because of these minor imperfections, I seem to love you even more.  You are like Cindy Crawford or Lauren Hutton — tiny blemishes or gaps only seem enhance your true beauty.

Let me tell you what I ordered last night:

  • America’s Tower, because none of us could decide on an appetizer.
  • A spinach salad with manchego cheese and a perfectly sweet and tart viniagrette.
  • Cerdo, served with an artichoke stuffed with spinach and goat cheese
  • Bread pudding with coconut ice cream

I was very tired when I came to visit you last night.  I couldn’t think straight, except to judiciously avoid the chimichurri sauce on my plantains because you do tend to use too much garlic there.  But I was so tired that I couldn’t possibly look over the entire wine list and decide on something to go with my meal.

Because of this, your always expert waitstaff brought me a glass of La Crema pinot noir and It.  Was.  Divine.  It was otherwordly.  It was so good that I wouldn’t have cared if the price per glass was a pound of flesh and my firstborn child.  But the wine wasn’t very expensive at all!  It was very, very reasonably priced.  So not only did our waiter bring me an unbelieveably good glass of wine to go with my meal, he also didn’t employ the occasion to bring me the most expensive wine on the menu.  I was doubly-impressed.  Do you see how much I love you?

But my love extends further than just wine.  The pork (cerdo) was perfectly cooked with just a hint of pinkness and it didn’t taste anything like the Churrasco steak or the succulent little marineros or anything else that normally bears your signature spice blend.  I was so happy that you let the pork speak for itself.  And the artichoke that was artfully balanced on top was gushing forward with melted goat cheese, spinach and a bit of clarified butter.  It was the ideal sauce for the pork.

My love for you even extends to the simple but delicious spinach salad.  It was all spinach, no filler, with extremely gracious shreddings of manchego cheese throughout.  And the viniagrette, as I stated before, was a wonderful blend of sweetness and sharp tartness.

America’s, my dear old friend, I know that demolition/construction in the Galleria area is making life tough for you.  And I know that the long, drawn-out construction of this new BLVD Place whozamawhatsit (which is taking fooooreeeeveeeer) has got to be frustrating.  But just make me a promise during all of this craziness:

Don’t ever change.

Avoiding The Sweet, Creamy Center

Just as I was railing against Wal-Mart yesterday, here comes an article from Wired that details — with fantastic graphics — how the center aisles of your grocery store are “ground zero” of the obesity epidemic in America.

Want to find something healthy in the grocery store? Stick to the periphery: Most chain supermarkets arrange produce, dairy, and meat along the perimeter of the store, leaving the more processed foods and impulse buys in the middle. That’s where you’ll find foods with the highest “energy density,” or calories by weight, which makes those aisles ground zero of the obesity epidemic.

The first graphic can be somewhat misleading, as it seems to demonstrate that the most expensive items are located in the produce section.  But this isn’t true.  The most expensive items per calorie are located in the produce section.  This means that you’d need to spend $20.00 in the produce section to get an item of food with 100 calories in it, whereas you’d only have to spend $2.00 in the snack food section for your same wallop of calories.

I know it’s too small to read.  So go to the article to see it full-sized.

But are those snack food calories the same calories that you’d purchase in the produce section?  No; of course not.  And more importantly, you don’t have to spend $20.00 on produce to get quadruple the nutrition that you’d get from a lousy $2.00 bag of Bugles.

More succintly put, you’re going to get way more bang for your buck if you purchase $10 in food from your produce section than if you spent the same $10 in the snack food aisle.  Not just more food, volume-wise, but more nutritional content as well.

The remainder of the article is quite short, but the infographics speak for themselves.  It’s a good read, so check the rest out here.