Heads Up!

Sadly, the Cost Plus (also known as World Market) location on the Katy Freeway (by Town & Country) is closing its doors.  The store claims that the heavy construction on the Katy Freeway has reduced its customers to the point where remaining open is no longer feasible.  I am utterly bereft about this.  I adore Cost Plus and am now faced with the undesirable commute into the Galleria in order to continue shopping there.

With the Katy Freeway/Memorial location closing, a new store will be opening up in Webster.  And while that’s not a whole lot of help to those of us here on the west side of town who love, adore and depend on Cost Plus for things like specialty foods and high-quality, low-cost wines, there is one tiny silver lining to this dark cloud:

Cost Plus has their entire stock of wine on sale for 25% off.

The wines they stock are — like I said — generally very high quality, so expect that it will be picked over soon.  I would suggest getting to the store early tomorrow morning in order to get the good stuff while you still can.

If wine’s not your bag, Cost Plus also has their entire inventory marked down by 25%.  That means all speciality foods, coffees, beers, chocolates, teas, you name it — is 25% off.  The discount also extends to their beautiful furniture, housewares, jewelry and home decor items.

So, in other words, if you’re currently stalking me, let me make it easy for you: I’ll be at Cost Plus early tomorrow morning, greedily picking over things like the vulture that I am.

Continuing a Theme

I never realized before that xkcd had such a plethora of food-related cartoons.  And here I was, only appreciating them for their Linux humor…..

I especially like the name of the restaurant in this one…

A better ending to the Diet Coke & Menthos myth…

Come on, you intrepid home scientists.  You know you want to try it out…

Go on, Wikipedia it…

Frankly, I think the Frosted Bacon Flakes would be delicious.  I scare myself sometimes…

I do this with bagels and tubs of cream cheese.  It’s a dangerous, but delicious, cycle indeed…

Have a good weekend, everyone!

The Fruit Spectrum

If you thought I could just let this one go by, well, then, you were sadly mistaken.

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This cartoon, from my favorite web comic xkcd, is simply entitled “F*** Grapefruit.”  The full-size version can be found here.

What you can’t see from the picture is the caption that appears when you hold your cursor over the comic at its original website:

Coconuts are so far down to the left that they couldn’t even be fit on the chart. Ever spent half an hour trying to open a coconut with a rock? F*** coconuts.

While you may not agree with the placement of the fruits on the spectrum, you have to love the idea.

Personally, I would place those crappy seeded grapes much further left.  Who likes spitting out seeds?  It’s not the most ladylike activity.  I hate seeded grapes.

Also, this proves that my friend Jessica was right about a potential business venture: pre-packaged pomegranate seeds.  Sure, picking the delicious little seeds out of a pomegranate is fun for, like, five minutes when you’re about eleven years old.  But it sucks for everyone else.  And they stain like nothing else in this world.  Those definitely need to be further left, but also much higher on the tasty side.

Food + Politics

Note:  This article in no way endorses any candidate or political party.  For purposes of this blog, you may consider me entirely politically neutral.  I am the Switzerland of politics.  …here, at least.

It goes without saying that food can be a political tool or an unscientific measure of someone’s political leanings.

Wine and champagne loosen money clips at fundraising galas, while enterprising pollsters set up homemade voting booths in their garages, complete with coffee and brownies for voters.  Meanwhile, people across the nation make broad and asinine assumptions about a person’s political viewpoint based upon what they do or do not eat.  A sushi eater?  A Bordeaux connoisseur?  Must be a Democrat.  He drinks Pearl in a can?  She likes brisket?  Must be a Republican.

Food has an enormous impact on every other area of our lives.  Why not our politics?  The insightful and witty ella over at From Scratch regularly mixes food and politics on her blog with entertaining and interesting results.  And today, courtesy of Houston TV personality Isiah Carey, we encounter a new intersection of food and politics: Wine Drinkers for Obama.  Isiah writes:

I’ve seen Women for Obama, Teens for Obama, Lesbians for Obama, Houston Professionals for Obama, Seniors for Obama, Obama for Obama but I was a bit surprised to find ‘Wine Drinkers for Obama.’ That’s right, apparently a group of wine drinkers who meet periodically in Houston have formed a political group to support Barack Obama.

Interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem that Mr. Obama really needs support from the wine drinkers of the nation, in light of this recent article in The Nation:

In crude political terms, Obama won the “wine track” and lost the “beer track.” That didn’t happen in Iowa.

Obama’s attracted a great many Democrats, liberal and centrist, who want an alternative to Clinton. But if Obama wants to prevail beyond New Hampshire, he needs to get the beer track back.

Perhaps some ambitious beer-drinkers out there need to create a “Beer Drinkers for Obama” support group.  Or, if they’re of the Hilary Clinton persuasion, perhaps a “Wine Drinkers for Clinton” group is more in order than a “Wine Drinkers for Obama” group.  It would appear that — for now — he has that contingent well-covered.

In the meantime, if you live in Houston and happen to be both an Obama supporter and a wine drinker, “Wine Drinkers for Obama” will be meeting tonight (February 27th) at 6pm at that foodie mecca, Central Market.  More details can be found here.

Food Blogging

You may have noticed a some shiny new widgets over there to the right, just below my Flickr stream.  Riiiight over there, under the “Food Blog (Onion) Rings” heading.  Yes, those!

These four groups are blog rings in which I’m active.  Why?  Because they’re fun and educational and a great way to see new content that you might otherwise never stumble upon.

The most recent blog ring I’ve become involved in is Great Cooks!, as you can see below:

Now, this is by no means an implicit measure of my cooking talent (as some of you know…), but Great Cooks! is a wonderful way to get more involved in the foodie blogging community.  To find out more, simply click on their icon above or click on one of the icons over there to your right…

If you have a food blog, consider joining one of these awesome foodie rings, or at least get involved in message boards like the ones at Serious Eats and Chowhound.  You’ll meet some great people, exchange recipes, get involved and have a more expansive and interesting time while blogging than you might otherwise have.

Happy food blogging!

While We’re On The Topic…

…of celebrity chefs, one that seems to arouse and inspire almost homicidal tendencies in otherwise normal foodies is — you guessed it — Sandra Lee.  Now, I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of hers.  I think her “recipes” are tacky and unhealthy (and I rest my entire case for this on her vomitous-looking and blatantly offensive Corn-Nuts-and-popcorn-coated Kwanzaa Cake).

But I certainly don’t hate her.  And I have to admit, I’m kind of madly addicted to her “tablescapes,” albeit in the same way that I’m addicted to watching Intervention on A&E.

Sandra Lee
Don’t stare into her eyes for too long…

But I will say this for the woman: aside from being (mostly) self-made despite having a seriously, V.C. Andrews-style messed-up childhood, no other TV personality has ever managed to shut down a Serious Eats thread in less than seven hours:  Semi-Homemade With Sandra Lee.

Despite its name, Serious Eats is normally the kind of happy-go-lucky foodie community where we all love each other and trade recipes and laugh at silly news articles and fawn over things like toaster phones and anthropomorphic pickle costumes.  It is definitely not the kind of place where claws and fangs are usually unsheathed.

But today, the mere mention of Sandra Lee’s eponymous television show managed to evoke — within the span of six short hours — comments that were vicious enough for the site admins to shut the entire thread down.  Now, you can judge for yourself exactly how malicious the comments were (not nearly as bad as they could have been, if you ask me), but I’m dumbstruck that any thread sandwiched between “Mormon cooks-cookbook project” and “Leg O Lamb” on an otherwise easygoing forum could rise to the level of such bile in an impressively short amount of time.

Hey, say what you want to about her…but she elicits a response in people every single time.  There’s no such thing as bad P.R., right?

Back To Basics

I’m back…sort of.  I’m still pretty loopy from the pain medication (what kind of doctor prescribes morphine these days?  not that I’m complaining, mind you, it’s just…bananas and very confusing).  And I slept for 48 hours straight, missing what all of the weathercasters were apparently referring to as the “best weekend on record” here in Houston.  Damn.

It’s taking me about five times as long to do anything right now, including typing.  I feel like molasses on a cold day; like a 45 LP played at 33 1/3 rpm.  And — most distressing — I’m not hungry.

I was only hungry for about an hour yesterday when I woke up sometime around midmorning to Bobby Flay, that little shrew-faced man-harridan, devoting an entire show to beefless burgers.  What?  Beefless burgers?  Why?  Irritating already…

But.  Oh.  Tuna burgers.  Like, fresh, sushi-grade tuna burgers with this tapenade aioli that looked like savory divinity.  And chicken cobb burgers with my two.favorite.things.EVER: bacon and blue cheese.  And these scrumptious little Mediterranean turkey burgers that were stuffed into hearty pitas with fresh apple raita.  Oh, God.  I was suddenly and desperately starving, and all I could eat was Jell-O!

And then I had an epiphany.

I don’t hate Bobby Flay.  How could I have hated him all these years when he makes such amazing food?  How have I ignored this simple, basic fact for so long?  I watched his nimble, clever hands work and I drooled — and not from the medication, either.  His food was so fresh and basic and accessible, but without being pedantic or contrived.

And here’s where I was going wrong: I was concentrating so much on his tannic personality that I couldn’t get past it long enough to appreciate his talent.  True, in some areas, you may never be able to ignore a strident attitude or general arrogance.  But cooking is not one of those areas.  If you can produce — and produce well — it doesn’t matter.  I don’t care how much of an asshole he may be in real life or even on his show, I now love Bobby Flay.

Ebuillient and satsified with my newfound live-and-let-live attitude towards celebrity chefs, I rolled back over and fell asleep, while dreams of tiny turkey pitas danced in my head.

Popsicles, Ice Cream and Jello — Oh My!

Well, folks, I’m sad to say that I won’t be around until next week at least, so no new blog entries for a while.  I’m having some minor surgery tomorrow and will be goofily doped up on pain meds for a few days afterwards, but will be happily subsisting on the above-mentioned items while I heal.

Got any good ice cream recommendations?  You know where to send them…

Peace, love and popsicles!

Bánh Mì Me, Baby

My whole office smells of pickled daikon and shredded pork skin.

Normally, this would be a bad thing.  But today it’s the pleasant aroma reminding me of the lovely bánh mì I had for lunch today.  My friend Sarah and I had a sudden craving for bánh mì at lunch as we drove through Houston’s enormous Chinatown/Little Saigon on our way back to the office after running errands.

Bánh mì is a kind of sandwhich that’s a tribute to the intoxicating mix of cultures stemming from that short period of time when Vietnam was called “French Indochina.”  The bánh mì developed as countryside food — a portable, working man’s lunch — made from French baguettes and meat with uniquely Vietnamese toppings, such as Vietnamese cilantro, daikon and pickled carrots.  My bánh mì today was absolutely crammed all of those veggies, as well as thick pieces of fresh jalapenos.  The sandwich doesn’t weigh you down or make you feel overly full; it’s a light, sweet, refreshing meal that provides a happy pick-me-up in the middle of the day when you most need it.

We stopped at the famous Lee’s Sandwiches on Bellaire and — after indecorously salivating at the mere smell of the place upon walking inside — proceeded to pig out on shredded pork bánh mì and cà phê sữa (strong coffee with condensed milk, on ice: the original Frappucino).  The tiny woman behind the counter at Lee’s initially questioned my order: “Are you sure you want that?  It has pork skin in it.”

My answer:  “If I didn’t know it had pork skin in it already, and you were just now informing me of that fact, I would want it even more.”

She just stared at me blankly; to be fair, in retrospect, I wasn’t making a lot of sense.  I was just trying to get across the point that YES, I LOVE PORK SKIN MORE THAN YOU KNOW.  PLEASE HURRY UP AND MAKE ME A SANDWICH.  I need to work on my verbal communication skills, I think.

The sandwiches at Lee’s are beautiful, delicious and enormous.  I ended up packing away half of it and saving it for later, hence the pleasing smell currently permeating my office.  But I couldn’t come back with just half a bánh mì.

Sarah and I poked around the rest of Lee’s (which is huge and more like a deli/market than just your average sandwhich shop), trying to decide which pastries we wanted to bring home with us.  We finally ended up at a little counter where a man was making tiny puff pastries — similar to choux — with dollops of durian-flavored custard inside.  We hung around staring at the process for long enough that he finally just started handing them over to us.  We ate the little pastries with gleeful abandon, despite his warnings that they were “so, so hot!”  Of course, after sampling so many, we had to buy some and left with two bags full of hot durian pastries.

Back at my office, I took one of the bags to my boss — who is Vietnamese — and she pounced on them as quickly as Sarah and I had.

“Where did you get these?!” she asked excitedly.  “Ah!  I see!  You go to Lee’s without me!”

“Hey, at least I brought you something,” I replied with a grin.

“The boys will be so happy when I bring these home,” she laughed.  “You make me good mom tonight!”

There’s nothing like good Vietnamese food to cheer you up on a nasty, wet, rainy Thursday.  Feeling down?  I suggest a bánh mì and some coffee and pastries.  They’ll cure what ails you.

Tag!

Krysta over at Evil Chef Mom has tagged me to participate in a meme.  The idea behind this particular meme is that one posts five random facts about themselves, along with accompanying pictures which represent that fact.  Fair enough.  But since this is a food blog, after all, I’m going to try and keep these facts as food-related as possible.

Onward!

Fact #1:

I am married to an Englishman.

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He loves tea. A lot. He does not, however, like Tony Blair. But back to tea.

When we first started dating, I made it a point to learn how to make the most killer cup of tea possible.  If my husband were to refashion Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, he would create an entirely new tier of the pyramid between “Physiological” and “Safety” simply called “Tea.”  You can see, then, how it would be very important that I — as a hopeful future girlfriend, fiancee, wife — would learn how to make a perfect cup of tea for the man I love.

My husband prefers his tea on the weak side (in my double-espresso opinion…), with plenty of milk and real sugar.  I think it’s very indicative of his personality, and I’ve discovered that you can tell a lot about a person by how they take their tea.  Richard is sweet, traditional and calm — just like his tea.  He’s the ideal counterpoint to my brash, eccentric and flighty personality. 

I perfected the tea-making art about three years ago and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.  I highly recommend seeking out that one thing that your significant other just adores and learning how to either (a) make it or (b) appreciate it.  I’ve also done this with soccer (a.k.a. football) and HP Brown Sauce.  Keys to a happy marriage, indeed.

Fact #2:

I am afraid of grilling things.

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I am not afraid of other people grilling things.  I just don’t like doing it myself.

I am terrified of turning on the propane tank on our patio grill.  I don’t like lighting the charcoal in other, charcoal-based grills.  I don’t like being that close to open flames and/or combustible gases and liquids.  I am afraid that I’ll do something wrong and the next thing you know, there will be a mushroom cloud and a smoking crater where the Coleman used to be. 

Alternately, I’m afraid that I’ll totally undercook the meat and put someone in the hospital with E. coli where they will contract a medicine-resistant staph infection and die.

I’m also afraid that I will accidentally set my eyebrows on fire.  In short, I will leave the grilling activities to my husband, my father and anyone else willing to undertake the potentiality of a painful, fiery death. Continue reading Tag!