Make Your Voice Heard…In Pearland

Awesome reader David sent me an e-mail today that said, in part:

I thought you might be interested in combating the sprawling of big-chain restaurants in the Houston area. The new ‘WaterLights District’ that is being constructed in Pearland is polling to select the restaurants for their new riverwalk-style project…

Yes, Dave. Yes, I am.

I don’t live in Pearland, but I will support anything that encourages more local establishments / restaurants in the Houston metro area.

For those of you who don’t live in Pearland and / or don’t run in commercial development circles, the WaterLights District  is one of the many efforts to develop pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use, high-density “city centers” in various parts of Houston.  The first attempt in The Woodlanads was such a success, that now many other areas / suburbs are throwing their proverbial hats in the ring, too.

One such development is taking place directly across the street from my neighborhood: City Centre, which is being developed in the footprint of the old Town & Country Mall and which will be a sister development to the wildly successful Town & Country Center, from which it is only separated by a small street.  City Centre will be a mix of lofts, brownstones, high-end retail and restaurants, boutiques, a sprawling gym and an arthouse movie theatre.

In that same vein, Pearland is developing the WaterLights District, which has the added bonus of being located along a landscaped waterway with development on one side and a planned Presidential Park & Gardens along the other, to feature giant busts of various American presidents.  Ever wonder what on earth was going on with those enormous heads in that parking lot off Taylor?  I know I’m not the only person who went over there on the weekends to take pictures of them…  Well, now you know.

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And here’s where it gets really interesting: The WaterLights District’s developers are asking for the public’s input when it comes to choosing restaurants for “The Grand Canal.”  I was pleasantly surprised to see a wealth of local restaurants in each category (I’m going to close my eyes and pretend that I didn’t see the disgusting Cracker Barrel and Olive Garden among the choices, though…).

I’m not sure how much bearing the public’s opinion will ultimately have on which restaurants are chosen, as I can’t really see the guys from Nino’s or Hugo’s or Vincent’s (just as examples) developing into “chains” or wanting to get involved with a project this cumbersome.  And whatever the public says, it’s ultimately up to the individual restaurant owners as to whether or not they want to lease space here.  But it’s a good tool to measure public interest and I appreciate that they’re making the effort to feel out their audience.

So, have at it, Pearland and non-Pearland residents alike.  Want to see a Taste Of Texas on the Grand Canal?  How about a reincarnation of the Rainbow LodgeGo cast your vote and make your restaurant patron voice heard.

The Memorial Grill

The Memorial Grill
January 14, 2008

On my first visit to The Memorial Grill, I wasn’t disappointed.  It was Christmas Eve and the hubby and I were exhausted from shopping and wrapping presents, and we simply picked the first place we saw that was open for lunch that day.  My husband swears by the place, since they serve enormous portions that satisfy his Sasquatch-size appetite (not to imply that my husband is a Sasquatch, as he’s not at all; he’s quite fit and has a metabolism that I’d personally shank someone to have).  But while I wasn’t disappointed in The Memorial Grill, I didn’t come away that impressed, either, and told my husband that I wanted to return a second time during their busy lunch hour and try to glean a better feel for the place.

So today when my lunch companions requested some “basic meat and potatoes,” I suggested The Memorial Grill.  I feel a bit foolish now.  But more than that, I feel bad that I didn’t enjoy the restaurant.  I really wanted to like it.  I like the small-town feel of the place; I like the fact that they’re surviving in a notoriously unlucky location; I like the fact that they’re making an effort to give the neighborhood a comfortable place to hang out, hit up after school, meet after swim practice or have a decent business lunch in the Energy Corridor.

They just need to make more of an effort.

The Memorial Grill is the kind of place that I would imagine could benefit from a Gordon Ramsey-style intervention show.  It has good bones; it just needs someone to flesh them out and straighten them up.  There are good points: pleasant — if a bit pedestrian — decor, excellent music (Yes! and Jackson Browne and other assorted 1970s soft-rock hits) played at the perfect volume, what could be a good location if it didn’t seem to be cursed and a fairly good menu.

Then it starts to fall apart a bit.  The menu, while good, is too diverse.  It’s the kind of menu that screams to me — screams to anyone who’s worked in the restaurant industry — half this stuff is frozen and nuked!  I’m always put off by large menus, as you’re never sure whether or not your dinner will have been shipped in from Sysco’s two weeks ago and kept in cold storage until it was microwaved per your order. Continue reading The Memorial Grill

Beer-Cheese Bread

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe since I wrote about it last month and, well, I’m scatterbrained.  But a few lovely readers have taken advantage of the shiny, new EMAIL ME! feature to the right to remind me.  Thank you, readers!

So without further ado, I present:

Beer-Cheese Bread
Serves: 6

1 bottle of beer (12 oz)
3 cups self-rising flour (King Arthur makes the best…)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter (melted, divided into two portions)
1 cup grated or shredded cheese (optional)
 
Mix together all ingredients until well-blended, including the first half of the melted butter.  No kneading necessary, but I do mix it with my hands a bit towards the end.  It will be nice and sticky when mixed together.

Pour/scrape into a lightly-greased loaf pan (2 small loaf pans or one large) and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Halfway through baking, take the bread out of the oven and pour the rest of the melted butter on top.  You’ll know the bread is done when the top is golden with a bit of brown.  Remove from oven and serve warm.

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To me, the best part of this recipe is the fact that the bread is incredibly versatile.  You don’t have to knead it, you don’t have to let it rise and you can either make a sweet, breakfast bread by leaving out the cheese or a dusky, savory bread by using a darker beer (say, Shiner Bock or St. Arnold’s Amber) and an adventurous cheese.

Lately, I’ve been using finely grated sheep’s milk romano, which of course pairs nicely with the hearty bean and vegetable soups that I’ve been making to accompany the bread.  The romano is sharp and salty, which contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the sugar and the yeasty taste of the beer.  All in all, I’m quite a big fan of the romano cheese in the bread.

But there are also the good standbys: mild Cheddar and finely diced chives (about half a cup) make a delicious appetizer-style bread.  And Monterey Jack or Colby Jack with minced jalapeños makes a great Mexican-inspired bread, especially if you use Dos Equis or Tecate for the beer.  And you can always leave the jalapeño seeds out if you’re seeking flavor instead of fire.

Leave out the cheese entirely for a light, slightly crumbly bread that’s great to serve with jam and butter as a breakfast treat.  And if you use the cheapo beer (like Miller Light, which — normally — blech, but it’s okay here), there’s almost no taste of beer whatsoever — just a light, yeasty taste which is very refreshing and clean tasting.  So no one needs to know that you’re serving beer bread for breakfast!

Have fun, experiment and let me know what you come up with!  I’m always interested to see what concoctions people create out of this simple recipe.

Happy baking!