The Weekend In Food

Friday

6:00 pm:  Heading over to the Volcano for preliminary crawfish strategizing.

7:00 pm:  They have Divine No. 6 on draft!  MJ rocks for cluing me into this.

7:10 pm:  And it is truly divine.  Sweet but with dark underpinnings, hoppy but slightly fruity, tangy but grounded.  So many descriptions, so little time.

8:00 pm:  Time to head home and get some rest for tomorrow’s activities.

Saturday

6:00 am:  Richard wakes me up, already dressed in his running clothes for this morning’s race.  He’s like a very excited puppy.

6:02 am:  As soon as he leaves the room, I fall back to sleep.

6:30 am:  Richard wakes me up again.  Excitement has turned into annoyance, as we are now running late.

6:35 am:  Leave the house with no makeup on, without brushing my hair and wearing the shirt I slept in with some ratty old jeans.  No coffee either.  I am looking HOT.

6:50 am:  We’re at the trailhead for the race…  Where is everyone?

6:55 am:  Ah, yes.  The race actually starts at 8:00 am, not 7:00 am.  Now I’m annoyed, too.

7:00 am – 7:45 am:  Sit in parking lot, mock early-morning cyclists with their clackety shoes and uber-tight shorts.  NO ONE wants to see your junk through Spandex, especially this early in the morning!  Get some decent clothes!

8:00 am:  Race starts.  I wave goodbye to Richard and read the NY Times on his Blackberry while he’s gone.

8:27 am:  Richard returns, super sweaty and upset about coming in 12th place.  I think 12th place is fantastic, if only because I couldn’t even finish a race, much less come in 12th.  Once again: wildly divergent opinions abound.

8:30 am:  Richard horks down two bananas and a bag of plantain chips, douses himself with cold water and declares that he’s ready to leave.

9:00 am:  Home again.  Just enough time for a shower and a little breakfast before heading out again.

9:30 am:  Why is it so damn hot in this house?

9:35 am:  Richard has turned off the air conditioning AGAIN.  I stomp off to grumble at him.

9:36 am:  Richard defends himself by saying that he’s freezing.  I counter by informing him that it’s because he’s sitting naked, directly underneath the air vent, while reading the sports section.  He defends his right to sit naked; we compromise by relocating him to a position that’s NOT directly in the path of the air conditioning.  I ask if he’s considering taking a shower today, or just letting the sweat dry into one of our upholstered chairs.  No answer.

10:30 am:  Fed, showered and dressed.  Checking email.

11:00 am:  Leave house to pick up BBQ from super-secret location for Chowhound’s BBQ Smackdown at 12:30.  Richard is still naked, reading the sports section, as I leave.

11:30 am:  Get to super-secret location, where order for brisket and ribs has already been placed and confirmed.  They are CLOSED.

11:31 am:  Super-secret location no longer a secret.  VIRGIE’S BBQ ON GESSNER, YOU SUCK.  Thanks for closing with no notice and not calling to let anyone know you wouldn’t be able to provide the order which had been placed well in advance, and which had been confirmed just 12 hours prior.  Ass clowns.

11:35 am:  Call Jenny, panicking.

11:40 am:  Jenny calls in a rush order to alternate BBQ restaurant.  I drive from Gessner and Tanner (NWish Houston) to Kirby and 59 in fifteen minutes flat, without using I-10 at all.  I have never been so proud of myself.

12:00 pm:  At Goode Co. BBQ, picking up order of ribs, brisket and jambalaya.  They have packed everything as requested in unmarked containers with no Goode Co. packaging, and the order is perfect.  They are so awesome.  Begin mad rush over to Washington Avenue for BBQ Smackdown.

12:30 pm:  At Pearl Bar on Washington, nowhere to park.  Eventually park by homeless guy who gets excited when he sees me carrying two giant boxes of food.  When he realizes they aren’t for him, he spits at me (AT me, not ON me — so no big deal, really).

12:30 pm – 3:00 pm:  BBQ Smackdown underway.  Excellent turnout of Chowhounds — about 30 people here to judge the contest.  Hanging out with I’ve Got The Munchies, Eating Our Words, I’m Never Full and Food In Houston as we chow down.  Pearl Bar is very cool, with great jukebox and assortment of board games and hula hoops.  Like a bar for six-year-olds.  Nothing in the Smackdown is blowing us away yet, but the sides that people brought (like the coleslaw that was specially made for us by Houston’s, and the summery couscous) are very good.  An awesome afternoon, all in all.

3:15 pm:  Winners are announced.  Of the six participants in the blind taste test (in two different categories, ribs and brisket), Pierson’s won the brisket by a long shot and Luling City Market won the ribs by a slim margin over Pierson’s.  We are all surprised at how low we ranked Goode Co. BBQ (fifth and sixth).  Other contestants included Kozy Kitchen, Burns BBQ and The Swinging Door.

3:30 pm:  Cleaning up BBQ mess.  What to do with all this extra sauce?

3:45 pm:  Heading right back to Kirby and 59 to the Volcano for the Houstonist Crawfish Boil.

4:00 pm:  Crawfish boil prep is in full swing with other Houstonist staffers.  Much chopping of veggies, sorting of spices, separating wristbands and purging of live crawfish is underway.

5:00 pm:  Monica and I have the easy job, sitting in the A/C and putting $5.00 all-you-can-eat wristbands on people.  Feeling bad about other Houstonist staffers in the heat, boiling crawfish and handing out beer flats to hungry, demanding people (especially Groovehouse, who has the nasty, back-breaking job of purging the crawfish).  Richard is here, though, “supervising” my wristband activities to make sure I don’t put them on too tight, too loose, catch arm hair in the sticky part, etc.

6:00 pm:  This place is a MADHOUSE.  I’m glad we have 500 pounds of crawdads, cause there are a LOT of people here.  Caroline Collective peeps come and go, as do a few Dynamo staffers.

7:00 pm:  Passed out the last of the wristbands.  We are officially not selling any more wristbands, so as to conserve precious few crawfish resources we have left.  Start collecting trash and used beer flats, taking to dumpster, rinse and repeat.  Yay!  Jenny is here!

8:00 pm:  Taking a break to eat a batch of mudbugs with Richard.  They are SO GOOD.  Bargas is the boiling badass.

8:30 pm:  Richard goes home, as I prepare to get back to work.

9:00 pm:  Help with the last few batches.  Spill boiling water on my foot while removing crawfish from pot.  Ouch.

9:30 pm:  Last batches of crawsfish are served.  People seem to be satiated.

10:00 pm:  Houstonist staffers sit down and eat last few flats of super-spicy crawfish, drink frozen screwdrivers and veg out.

10:30 pm:  Residual cleaning of boiling area and help to load the propane and propane accessories into Bargas’ car.  Glad it’s a rental, cause this crap is dir-tee.

11:00 pm:  Foot still on fire, but holding a frozen screwdriver against it seems to help.

11:30 pm:  Talking into the night.  Very tired, but very happy with crawfish boil and turnout.  Houston and Houstonist both rock.

Sunday

Day spent in bed, miserable from back cramps, aside from a few waking periods to do grocery shopping and watch a double-feature starring the brutally-hot Ryan Gosling.  Lars and the Real Girl and Stay — both highly recommended.

How was your weekend?

And the Livin’ Is Easy

Sometimes, for no reason in particular, I make nonsensical lists of songs on Seeqpod.  It’s a favorite activity of mine and obviously has no relation to food.  So if you came here for the food, you’re probably not going to be too interested in my musical ramblings for the next few paragraphs.

Anyway, here are a couple of the “mix tapes” I’ve made over the past months:

Down Tempo

Upbeat

Miscellany

Relaxed

You might notice an underlying theme here, which is that none of these songs have anything to do with each other (and also contain some pretty embarassing song choices).  With that in mind, I set about to create a mix tape that actually has some semblance of structure to it.

So, with that said, I present to you: Summer Songs!  These are songs that — mostly for no reason at all — remind me of summer.  Some of the choices might be utterly mystifying to you (Beth, by KISS, for example), but we all have our strange little summer memories, don’t we?

Enjoy the non-food-related mix tape and tell me: what songs remind you of summer?

UPDATE:  Summer Songs playlist fixed, thanks to Croque Camille.  🙂

Crawfish: The Food of the Gods

 

That’s right, mudbuggers!  It’s time for the best crawfish boil this side of New Iberia.

Houstonist (my other home) will be hosting a $5.00 All-You-Can-Eat crawfish boil, complete with corn, potatoes and elusive Houstonist staffers, this Saturday evening beginning at 5:00 p.m.  We’ll be boiling 500 pounds of crawfish (500 pounds! ye gods!) at Under the Volcano in Rice VIllage.  Our boilmaster, a Louisiana native, is quick to point out that we will be boiling the crawsfish the “correct” way, which is to add the super-spicy seasonings directly into the water.

Speaking of super-spicy, The Volcano serves some of the best cocktails and frozen concoctions in town to help put out that fire after you’ve put a pound or two of crawdads away.  Plus, there wil be lots of friendly people and cool Houstonist schwag to make the evening well worth your while — especially for only $5.00!

For more information, head on over to Houstonist’s website and RSVP if you plan on coming.  Hope to see you there!

Thursday Answers

The weeks keep passing so quickly these days! I can’t believe it’s already Thursday and already time for the answers to Tuesday Trivia. With no further adieu…

  1. El Pollo Loco — the crazy chicken! — was founded in the seaside town of Guasave back in the 1970s.  It is true that Denny’s purchased the chain in 1983, but most people don’t realize that Denny’s turned right around and sold it (along with all their other holdings) four years later.  Today, El Pollo Loco is a privately-owned company headquartered in Irvine, California, and operating in Mexico and the United States.
  2. Wendy’s introduced the drive-through window in 1971 at their second store in Columbus, Ohio.  McDonald’s didn’t incorporate this concept until 1975.  Of course, the folks at In-n-Out Burger had the first modern “drive up” service, created in 1948, but Wendy’s created the modern drive-through as we know it.
  3. Ancient Romans were the first to sell food from stalls in the street.  One of the most popular “fast food” items of the day was botulus, a blood sausage made from salted pork.  In fact, botulism takes its name from botulus, as the first diagnoses of botulism were in response to people eating bad botulus sausage (botulus meaning “sausage” in Latin).
  4. One out of every eight Americans has received a paycheck from McDonald’s.  That means at least a few of you out there have worked for Mickey D’s.  Own up, folks!
  5. Americans spend an average of $134 million on fast food each year, more than they spend on education, car payments or computers.  Amazing, if frighteningly unhealthy.
  6. BONUS:  Catching up to us in almost every facet of modern life, including consumption of natural resources and automobile ownership, China is the second-largest consumer of fast food in the world.  Throw their huge smoking habit into the mix, and we aren’t exactly creating very healthy world superpowers these days.

So…who won?  Once again, we congratulate the mighty Pooh!  Congratulations, Pooh!

Although she and The Grumpy Chef were tied for first place, the tie-breaker was their answer to queston number three.  The Grumpy Chef ventured “Persian,” while Pooh! couldn’t make up her mind and offered both Greece and Rome.  These two are neck and neck each week, I tell ya.  One day we’ll just have to play Final Jeopardy to see who reigns supreme.

Until next week…happy eating!

Super Happy Fun Land

My husband and I have interesting little conversations sometimes, like this one yesterday:

Me:  Ow!  The dog scratched my nose and lip!  Bugger!

Richard:  Here, let’s have a look.  Oh, yeah.  That looks pretty nasty.

Me:  *goes to look in mirror*  Hmm.  I don’t see anything…

Richard:  Oh, right; that’s just your face.

Super H Mart

The other day as we were taking a short cut down Westview, I pointed to Super H Mart as we passed Blalock and we had another of our short but ridiculous exchanges.  “Look!  That’s where I’m going for our Chowhound lunch tomorrow, Mac!” I exclaimed excitedly (quick note: I call my husband Mac, even though his name is Richard…that isn’t confusing, right?).

“What is it?”  Richard asked.

“It’s a Korean grocery store cum food court.”

“Shouldn’t it be called Super K Mart then?”

“Yeah.  I think that name was already taken, Mac.”

Pulling up to Super H Mart the next day, I could barely wait to get inside and get at the much-ballyhooed food court and fish counter.  I had purposely not eaten anything for breakfast or lunch in anticipation of the gorging that was soon to commence.  And, boy, was I ever NOT disappointed.

Super H Mart is a chain of Korean/Asian grocery stores based in California, with locations throughout the United States.  They have a heavy presence in the Northeast and are finally opening stores in Texas with concurrent grand openings in Carrollton (a heavily-Asian suburb of Dallas) and good ol’ Houston.  The location in Houston is in a refurbished Randall’s and the Super H Mart folks have done such a fantastic job of it, that you’d think the place was brand-new.

Absolutely sparkling inside, Super H Mart is entirely devoid of the typical smell associated with Asian markets such as Hong Kong Market and Komart.  Fellow CHs and I debated whether or not that spicy-cabbagey-fishy smell would come with time.  But there’s so much more to Super H Mart than just food: you feel as if you’ve been transported into a high-end mall in Seoul, complete with a perfume shop, bakery, home appliances and housewares section, jewelry store and accessories boutique.

As we waited for fellow CHs to show up, I roamed around to begin taking pictures.  This, apparently, is frowned upon by the employees at Super H Mart, as I found out when a large Korean lady with a ladle came out of the back of store to angrily chase me away when I took a picture of the kimchi bar.  During the rest of my visit, I took my pictures slightly more surreptitiously and ultimately escaped unscathed.

Let’s let the rest of the visit be told in pictures, shall we?

Super H Mart Produce

This photo makes it look as if Super H Mart wasn’t crowded.  Nothing could be further from the truth; the place was absolutely crammed with people.  I guess I just caught a lucky moment here in the produce section.  Their produce is fresh and seriously cheap.  My mother and I filled our basket with lots of goodies here, including jackfruit and arugula.

Super H Bakery

The bakery — well-known Korean-owned chain Tous Les Jours — is directly on your right as you come in.  If you don’t want to spend the afternoon in a guilt-ridden carb-induced coma, move past as quickly as possible.  Otherwise, prepare to fight the crowds and get some freshly-baked bread with walnut creme in the center or a few savory red bean rolls.

Super H Cakes

Need a cake for a special event?  You won’t find cakes like this anywhere else in Houston.

Toreore

The famous ToreOre chicken stand.  Motto?  “Chicken & Joy”  What’s not to love?  Their sweet and spicy chicken lives up to its name, with a delicately sweet and crispy exterior that gives way to a dark rumble of spiciness that doesn’t fully hit you until around a minute after you’ve taken a bite.  Highly recommended.

Super H Mart Food Court

The rest of the food court, which includes Korean Snack (with ramen and other little snacky bits), Fisher’s Market (for sushi and udon), China Factory and Sobahn Express.  The latter offers a tempting array of bimbimbap and bulgogi, but isn’t actually “express.”  During our visit, orders were taking upwards of one hour to prepare.

Food Sprawl 1

Some of the many dishes we ordered, including a dragon roll (which was excellent, save for the imitation “krab” that was used in the center), ramen with dumplings, mayonnaise shrimp and a salmon roll.  The ramen in particular was wonderful, but the sushi was only average (as to be expected at a Korean fast food court, I suppose) and the drink selection was poor.  I hoped for cans or bottles of green tea or jasmine tea, at the very least.  Instead, there was only a limited selection of canned Coke products.

Cold Noodles

Cold noodles, similar to the Vietnamese dish I love so much — bun.  Something else to note about the food court is that tables and chairs are pricey real estate.  People arrive early and stake them out for large groups, and are not very friendly when questioned about it.  You can always get your food to go, of course…

Food Sprawl 3

Everything else destroyed — including my favorite dish of the day, the kimchi fried rice — CHs turned to a bag of fresh lychees for dessert.

Super H Kimchi

All your kimchi are belong to us.

Little Octopus

Last but not least, my favorite: baby octopus.  One day, I shall return for you, my darlings!

I wish that I’d gotten more pictures of the store itself, but — as I said — I didn’t want to leave with ladle marks across my back.  Want to see more?  You’ll just have to check out Super H Mart for yourself!

Tuesday Trivia

Don’t you ever just feel like a little snack sometimes?  Something that you know is bad for you, that sends you on a shameful guilt trip after you’ve eaten it, that holds no nutritional value, and that is probably made of “parts” or some form of partially-hydrogenated substances?  Then today’s Tuesday Trivia is for you.

This Tuesday’s round of questions is brought to you by this super-creepy original-recipe McDonald’s commercial:

I wouldn’t have bought a burger from that clown.

Questions:

  1. What popular fast food chain, with locations throughout Houston, was founded in a small coastal town in Sinaloa, Mexico in 1975?
  2. Which fast food restaurant introduced the drive-through window in 1970, allowing you to gorge yourself on burgers without ever leaving the comfort of your wood-paneled station wagon?
  3. Which ancient civilization literally invented fast food, selling ready-to-eat meals from stalls in streets and markets?
  4. One out of every eight American workers has received a paycheck from which fast food restaurant?
  5. How much money do Americans spend on fast food every year?
  6. BONUS:  Which nation is the second-largest consumer of fast food after America?

Good luck, Fry Kids!  And watch out for the Hamburgler…  Answers on Thursday.

The Weekend In Food

Saturday

8:00am:  Still vaguely depressed about having to eat normal food.

9:00am:  With the hubby.  Getting coffee and two tiny vanilla bean scones at Starbucks.  Barista: “You only want two?  They’re three for $1.95, you know.”  Me:  “If there were three of us, I’d order three.  I just want two.”  You don’t want to question me before I’ve had my morning coffee, lady.

9:05am:  These scones taste like Elmer’s glue mixed with white flour.  Gag.

9:30am:  Getting back into the car, driving into town to take some pictures.  Richard testing out his new sat-nav system, even though he has a human sat-nav sitting next to him.

10:00am:  At Dunlavy and Indiana, taking pictures of mid-century apartment complex before it’s demo’d to make room for — you guessed it! — a parking lot.  Break into several units, despite plethora of “no trespassing” signs.  Having fond memories of breaking into abandoned Paul Quinn College campus for pictures and hiding in meat locker after being chased by Dobermanns.  No Dobermanns here.  UPDATE: Pictures of apartment complex can be found here, at my Flickr account.

10:05am:  Richard sitting in the car, still playing with his sat-nav as I brazenly break laws right and left.

10:15am  Several units still have refrigerators and stoves, cooking implements, pots and pans, etc. inside of them.  Loathe to open refrigerators; can you imagine what was left in there if they left behind their dishes and silverware?

10:30am:  Run into Lauren Meyers, who is also documenting the apartments before they’re gone.  With a much better camera, of course.

11:00am:  Onto Washington Avenue, taking pictures for an upcoming Urbanist article.

12:00pm:  Stopping at Wabash Feed Store for doggie treats and possibly more herbs for herb garden.

12:10pm:  Why can’t I have chickens???  Think of the fresh yard eggs!  THINK OF THE EGGS!!!

1:30pm:  Home again.  Richard eating on six-foot party sub that he bought on Friday.  He is a man of simple tastes.

2:00pm:  Watching Holland vs. Russia Euro Cup match with beers and wasabi-flavored potato chips.  Mmm.

5:00pm:  Crap!  Big Lebowski party tonight!  Need to figure out a costume.

5:10pm:  I have black things.  I’ll be a nihilist.

6:45pm:  At the Big Lebowski party at Caroline Collective.  Very few other people in costume, most as Walter, Maude or the Dude.  I feel like a twit.

7:00pm:  But at least they have free Oat Sodas and Caucasians.

9:00pm:  Two dudes are *thisclose* to starting a fight over seating arrangements for the movie.  Very unDude, and also my cue to leave.

Sunday

8:00am:  On my way to El Bolillo off Airline for some pastries, with Daisy for company.

9:00am:  After too many detours to look at random houses, have two sacks of bolillos and empanadas and marranitos.  Mmm.

9:15am:  Think I’ll go to B&W for some meat.

9:30am:  Line out the door.  Nevermind.  Can’t leave the dog in the car for that long, and definitely can’t take her into a meat market.

10:00am:  Over at my dad’s house, tidying up for his Open House today.  Want to buy a really nice Heights home in the Norhill district?  It’s got a pool!  And it’s super, super cute!!!

11:30am:  Heading home, trying to avoid craziness on I-10 by taking Long Point.  Vieng Thai, I love yoooooooou!

1:00pm:  Haven’t eaten breakfast or lunch yet in anticipation of lunch event with Houston Chowhounds at Super H Mart.  Am finally here and READY FOR KIMCHI.

1:05pm:  Get yelled at by crazy, ladle-waving lady for taking pictures of kimchi bar.

1:15pm – 3:15pm:  Eating frenzy.  OM-NOM-NOM-NOM.

3:30pm:  Stuffed.  So stuffed.  Can barely move.  Review and photos to follow later this week.

4:00pm:  Must.  Nap.  Off.  Food.

6:30pm:  Heading back into town for dinner at Dolce Vita with Midwife Crisis.  More food already?

6:45pm:  At Midwife Crisis’ house.  AIEEEEEEEE!  She has made me HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES!!!

7:30pm:  Waiter just brought order of BEST APPETIZER EVER: roasted beets with horseradish and walnuts, garnished with chives.  Am suddenly very hungry again.

9:30pm:  Finally on our way out of Dolce Vita.  Reivew and photos to follow later this week.

How was your weekend?

Eating Good in the Neighborhood

Listening to NPR on the way home last night, when this dreck came on:

Tell us how the recession is affecting the way you live.

But like a train wreck, I couldn’t change the station.  I listened as whiny hipsters called in bemoaning the fact that they have to “buy day-old bread” and that they’re considering “taking up fishing” to supplement the fact that they can “no longer afford fresh fish.”  The distaste in their voices for both of these activities was truly stunning.

It went further downhill when another caller spoke plaintively of the fact that she can no longer afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, and is instead living solely off frozen dinners.  Give me a MF’ing break.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a MILLION times: fresh produce — especially at local farmers markets — is always cheaper (and better for you!) than anything frozen, boxed or processed.  Clearly, frozen-foods caller never actually purchased fresh produce to begin with or she would know better.

And then the segment reached its nadir: A caller on the verge of tears explained that for her 21st birthday, she wanted to go somewhere nice for her birthday, but instead her family took her to Applebee’s.  Her voice cracked as she spoke of this humbling and sorrowful experience.

…what?  Excuse me?  My friend, did you ever stop to consider that your family took you to Applebee’s for dinner because you’re a whiny, spoiled bitch and they hate you?  I mean, you have the nerve to come on national radio and COMPLAIN that your family took you out to dinner for your birthday?  And because it didn’t live up to your exacting expectations, you’re going to ball them out in a public forum and act like fucking Scarlett O’Hara having to make dresses out of Tara’s ruined curtains?

Dude, I don’t like Applebee’s either.  But you’ve got a lot of nerve to bitch about being taken out to eat — especially during this terrible “recession” that everyone is buying into — when there are people literally starving to death throughout the world, people living with war and famine and unimaginable poverty, people living on the fringes of societies who have NOTHING, while you eat your Three Course Classic and the waitstaff brings you a free piece of cake.

You know what?  Shut the hell up.  All of you whiny people, just shut the hell up.

Damn.