Drink Sprunk!

If it were possible to have a crush on a website, I would carry a huge torch for Serious Eats.  I’ve waxed rhapsodically about them plenty of times before, but today’s example really nails why I so completely adore them.

Ed Levine, that clever cat, has taken the already-beloved (even though it only came out yesterday) Grand Theft Auto IV and dissected each of its in-game Liberty City eating establishments in an attempt to corrolate them with their respective New York City counterparts.

Yes!!!  My inner gaming nerd and inner food nerd are giving each other sloppy, dorky high-fives while grinning like morons as I type this.

While I haven’t yet purchased the game (because when that happens, no one will hear from me or my husband for days, so we have to make the proper notifications first), I’ll be out roaming the streets of Liberty City myself once I do, laughing as I make the patrons of The Bean Machine spill coffee on themselves and attempting to get Niko Bellic blitzed at the Steinway.  Games truly bring out the worst in us, no?

Read more of Ed Levine’s fascinating and hilarious article over at Serious Eats, and check out all the New York City restaurants and landmarks that have unwittingly made their way into gaming history.

Image courtesy of www.seriouseats.com.

UPDATE:  Even more locations spotted!

Culinary Capitals

MSN.com offers up an article today on U.S. cities that are considered the “capital” of a particular food.  Some are familiar and expected, while others come out of left field.

It should come as no surprise that Cincinnati is the chili capital of the world.  Even though chili is often though of as a Texan or southwestern dish, it was actually invented by a man from Cincinnati named DeWitt Clinton Pendery in 1890.  Granted, he moved to Ft. Worth shortly afterwards and brought his recipe with him, but Cincinnati’s claim to chili fame was thus born.

Cincinnati chili is wildly divergent from Pendery’s original recipe and from the more standard meat-and-beans based dish known around these parts.  People (yours truly included) may argue that the three-way, four-way or five-way sludge served by Skyline Chili and Goldstar Chili and their many competitors isn’t “chili” so much as strangely-sweet meat stew with spaghetti, but you can’t deny the fact that Cincinnati is all about chili.  After all, Cincinnati has more chili restaurants per capita than any other city in not just the nation, but the world.

More surprising entries in the food capitals article?  San Francisco is apparently the burrito capital of the nation — although one could argue that it’s more accurately the capital of Godzilla-sized burritos the size of a toddler, and not the burritos that Tex-Mex fans know and love — and that Hammonton, New Jersey, holds the widely-contested title of blueberry capital of the world.

Locally, several Texas cities have made boastful claims including the tiny town of Friona, Texas proclaiming itself the cheeseburger capital of the nation.  However, as the article points out, perhaps the boldest claim of all comes from Lockhart, the supposed barbeque capital of the world.  I’m not knocking Lockhart, by any means, but I hear that Luling would like a word with them outside…

What do you think?  Is your town a capital of a random food item?  Do you think barbeque is too great a conquest to be claimed by one master?  Share your opinions below!

Images courtesy of www.netitor.com and www.nataliedee.com.

I Scream, You Scream…

We all scream for $0.31 scoop night at Baskin-Robbins!

Tomorrow night, for one night only, from 5pm to 10pm, Baskin-Robbins is offering small ice cream scoops for $0.31 to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Association.  Of course, the $0.31 is a creamy, delicious ploy to get you in the door, but why not consider donating to this very worthwhile cause while you’re there?

Baskin-Robbins is donating $100,000 to the fund, so round up your friends or kids or kids’ friends or friends’ kids and get down to Baskin-Robbins tomorrow night to take advantage of this treat and help out our nation’s firefighters!

More information can be found at Baskin-Robbins’ website.

Au Revoir, Chef Schmit? J’espère Pas…

Cleverley’s blog greets us with sad news this morning:  Philippe Schmit is no longer with Legacy Restaurants.

Most of you will remember the equally sad revelation this past November that bistro moderne was closing, as the Hotel Derek’s new management clearly had no idea of the quality and talent that they had under their own roof with Schmit and and no ability to appreciate that fact that bistro moderne had succeeded — triumphantly succeeded, at that — where so many other restaurants had failed in the past.

Houston foodies waited with baited breath to see where Schmit would land and when he took the rather unusual step of partnering up with Legacy Resturants (the company which operates Tex-Mex haven Ninfa’s and sandwhich chain Antone’s, among others), we cocked our heads but still sighed with relief: “He’s staying here!”

Cleverley made a rather prescient observation in her blog about the move back in January:

In culinary terms, this is a rather unconventional relationship move for Schmit. I am reminded of another top-level, high profile, fine dining, celebrity Houston chef who formed a relationship with a mostly non-fine dining group with promises of his own signature restaurant in the future. When he found himself cooking Tex-Mex in a trailer, he hit the road – quickly. This happened a few years ago and it all turned out OK for this chef. He is doing superbly now. Now I’m not drawing any comparisons, I was just reminded of this story.

I think she could start a psychic business on the side if this whole restaurant guru thing didn’t work out for some reason.

So here we are, back to November again, waiting and hoping that Schmit will remain here, in the city that loves him, despite the way it’s treated him in the past year.  Stay with us, Philippe!  We promise we won’t hit you no more, baby!  We’ll change!  And, hopefully, give you that signature restaurant you’ve long deserved.

Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle.

Batali and Bastianiches!

Attention Houston-area fans of Italian cuisine!

In case you weren’t already lining up outside Central Market, pup tent under one arm and dog-eared copies of Molto Italiano and The Babbo Cookbook under the other, Mario Batali, the great lion himself, and Joseph Bastianich (restauranteur, Batali’s partner in crime and son of the sainted Lidia Bastianich) will be greeting fans and autographing books this Thursday, May 1st from 2:30pm to 4:00pm at the Central Market at Westheimer and Weslayan.  For more information, check out Central Market’s website here.  Tickets can be picked up at the Guest Services desk, one per person.  Your ticket is good for you and one friend, so choose wisely.  According to Alison Cook, there are only a few tickets left, so hustle on over there!

If you’re in Dallas or Austin, and also want your chance to meet some Italian culinary legends, take heart: Joseph Bastianich and the patron saint of Italian food, Lidia Bastianich, (squee!!!) will also be at the Dallas Central Market on Friday, May 2nd for a meet-and-greet and book signing (contact store for more details on tickets and times at 214-509-9215).  Dallas foodies: I am so jealous of you right now.  That might be the only time you ever hear me say that, too, so note this for posterity.

Austinites won’t be able to meet Mario or Lidia, but will be treated to an event that I think is just as special: a wine class with Joseph Bastianich at the North Lamar location this Wednesday, April 30th from 6:30pm to 7:30pm.  Tickets are $20.00 per person, and I imagine the class will fill up pretty quickly (if it hasn’t already).  More details can be found here.  Bastianich will also be signing books that afternoon in the wine department, from 2:00pm to 4:00 pm.

Images courtesy of Wine Spectator and New York Magazine.

Sunday Evening Coming Down

Two recent discoveries of differing importance yet similar amusement level:

  1. Viet World Kitchen: a vertiable online Bible of Vietnamese cuisine, recipes, techniques, history and even pronunciation (huzzah!).  If you are even one bit interested in anything to do with the intriguing and intoxicatingly rich culture of Vietnamese food, you will love this website.  Click on the “What’s Cooking” section for a list of interesting articles that will keep you occupied for days.  Of special local interest, the author of the website makes note of the fact (under the “Shopping & Dining” section) that Houston not only has one of the largest Vietnamese communities in the United States, we are also home to the Southeast’s (I’ll let that one go…) largest Asian indoor mall, the popular Hong Kong City Mall.  She notes something I’ve always found odd: although it’s named after Hong Kong, the mall actually houses mostly Vietnamese stores and restaurants.
  2. Apparently, God and I don’t have all that much in common after all: he hates onions on pizza (caution: NSFW language ahead).  I also happen to prefer my Patrick Swayze in Donnie Darko instead of Roadhouse.  But that’s a discussion for another day, and probably another blog.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend, folks!

Image courtesy of www.visithoustontexas.com.


P.S.  If you’re wondering about the title for some reason, listen to this and relish the man’s talent.

P.P.S.  If, after that, you’re still in the mood to take my music recommendations, buy this right now.  You’ll never look back.

Manna Which I Ate In The Desert

For Christmas, my mother gave me an anthology called American Food Writing, which I’ve been happily devouring.  Some passages are excerpts from larger books, such as My Antonia or Kitchen Confidential.  Some are reproduced magazine articles from the 1940s or 1960s.  Still others are portions of autobiographies or historical records, such as The Journals of Lewis & Clark.  And, of course, my favorite food writers are well-represented: MFK Fisher and Ruth Reichel.

I’ve been reading the book in fits and starts, haphazardly reading one piece from the front, then the back, then the middle — wherever the book opens to, really.  And this morning I wanted to share with you all my favorite passage so far.  This comes from a chapter in Mary Antin’s memoirs, The Promised Land, and showcases everything I love about food writing:

All this came to me in that instant of tasting, all from the flavor of ripe strawberries on my tongue.  Why, then, should I not treasure my memories of childhood feasts?  This experience gives me a great respect for my bread and meat.  I want to taste of as many viands as possible; for when I sit down to a dish of porridge I am certain of rising again a better animal, and I may rise a wiser man.  I want to eat and drink and be instructed.  Some day I expect to extract from my pudding the flavor of manna which I ate in the desert, and then I shall write you a contemporaenous commentary on the Exodus.  Nor do I despair of remembering yet, over a dish of corn, the time when I fed on worms; and then I may be able to recall how it felt to be made at last into a man.  Give me to eat and drink, for I crave wisdom.

Happy weekend, everyone.