Avalon Diner: Sticking Around for Another 70 Years…Hopefully

I’ll cut to the chase.  Despite what you may have heard, Avalon Diner is not closing.  Avalon Drug Store, next door, IS closing.  Our beloved diner is NOT.

You can read more here, at Houstonist.

Now who wants to get a butterscotch malt this weekend to celebrate?

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The Weekend in Food

Friday

6:00pm:  Richard having after-work drinks with coworkers.  Curl up on couch with ice-cold can of Tecate and freshly-picked Mexican limes from lime tree in backyard.  Watch reruns of “Clean House” with Niecy Nash and bask in her ferociousness, while also feeling much better about the state of my own closet.

8:30pm:  Richard comes home hungry.  Peel self off couch to make him a sandwich, then quickly go back to K-shaped indentation and finish watching old episode of “Shameless.”  Show became infinitely more interesting after we actually passed through Wythenshawe in February and I could see, firsthand, how horridly realistic the show is.

Saturday

8:00am:  Leaving house to pick up mother for morning of shopping.  Need coffee.  And a bagel.

8:30am:  Cup of coffee in hand, at mother’s house, ready to head out to Canino’s on Airline.

9:00am:  Taking detour to “Asian market” somewhere “on Main,” according to mother.

9:30am:  Have taken Main all the way from 610, past I-10, through downtown and are now sitting next to the old Sears.  Elusive “Asian market” no longer holding our interest.  Adkins Antiques is, however.

9:40am:  Adkins not yet open.  Breakfast tacos sound good!

10:00am:  At Guadalajara Bakery for breakfast tacos.  Line is almost out the door.

10:30am:  Finally have chicharrones and pastor tacos.  And a can of coke.  And some empanadas.  This, coupled with the bagel, is quickly turning into a competitive eating type of day.

10:45am:  Driving over to The Guild Shop while trying to eat chicharrones tacos.  We have completely given up on Canino’s at this point.

10:50am:  Inevitably, spill bright orange chicharrones down the front of white shirt.

11:00am:  Change into mother’s extra shirt (she dresses in layers, like we’re going on a hike or something).  Despite her claims to the contrary, it is not a flattering look for me and does not match my shoes or purse or jeans or general age.  But it’s also not stained with pork skin juice, so it’s got that going for it.

11:30am:  Leave The Guild Shop emptyhanded, to the great relief of both our husbands.

11:40am:  At the Mega Marshall’s across the street.  Will probably not leave emptyhanded here.

12:15pm:  Sure enough!  I score two shirts; mother scores a purse.

12:20pm:  Is it time for lunch?  No, we just ate…

12:25pm:  But we could have bubble tea!

12:45pm:  Drinking an icy watermelon slurpee (mother) and a red bean cream tea with tapioca (me) at the Teahouse on Westheimer, while checking out categories for latest Houston Press “Best of Houston” nominations.

1:15pm:  Okay…how about lunch now?  We are such piglets.

2:00pm:  Eating a late lunch at Tacos del Julio on Long Point.  Charro beans are velvety and decadent as always, while the enchiladas de pollo aren’t as good as the plain enchiladas de queso.  I fill up very quickly (big surprise!) and take the rest home to Richard.

3:00pm:  At home, chilling on the sofa (once again) while Richard plays his new Championship Manager game and munches on enchiladas.

5:30pm:  Wake up, with a pile of dogs on top of me.  Realize I fell asleep while watching “How Do I Look?” and Daisy and Lucy decided that it would be a good idea to just throw themselves into the mix, too.

6:00pm:  Head out to Walmart to rent a DVD.

7:00pm:  End up back home with dog food, cat food, box of kettle corn, cheap lipstick, bobby pins, grilled chicken wrap from Sonic for Richard, vanilla coke for me, and the rented DVD.

8:00pm:  Happily munching kettle corn while watching 27 Dresses.  Richard is bashing his head against the wall as plot hole after plot hole after cliche after cliche parade across the screen.

Sunday

7:00am:  Taking DVD back to Walmart.

7:45am:  End up back home with lightbulbs, pint of milk and breakfast burritos.  Leaving the house is a dangerous activity for my wallet, it seems.

8:00am:  Make tea for Richard and prepare to take him breakfast in bed.

8:05am:  Except that he’s already lumbering down the stairs, sleepily mewling “Tea?  Tea?  Tea?”  Do I think ahead, or what?

8:30am:  After breakfast, Richard tunes the TV to Fox Soccer Channel for a day of footie.  I leave to take pictures for upcoming Houstonist article.

9:00am:  On Washington Avenue, stopping every 10 feet to snap pictures.  Glad there are no cars here on Sunday mornings.

10:00am:  Finished with Washington Ave, head downtown.

10:10am:  Father calls to tell me he bought me a dumpling press last weekend.  Score!  You all know where the next dumpling and/or pierogi crawl will be now…

10:30am:  Snapping along Buffalo Bayou.  Fat man in a kayak in water.  Looks like Jabba the Hutt balancing precariously on a toothpick.  Trying to be discreet about photos.

11:00am:  Man fishing in Buffalo Bayou.  Has a bucket of fish already.  I wouldn’t eat fish out of that water even if I was guaranteed a free stomach pump and round of amoxicillin afterwards.

11:30am:  Heading home, when parents call.  Want to go to lunch at Tacos del Julio again.

12:00pm:  Still full from breakfast, just having some flan.  It is SO good.

1:00pm:  Head home and pick up Richard.

1:30pm:  At Starbucks, enjoying a quick spot of tea.

2:00pm:  Hitting up Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Home Depot, pricing fixtures and tile for long-delayed bathroom remodel.

4:00pm:  Drop Richard off at home, pick mother up to go makeup shopping.

5:00pm:  Too much money later, mother has entirely new stock of makeup from Sephora.  Sadly and bitterly poke through my own supply of Rimmel and L’Oreal knockoffs.

6:00pm:  Back home again, eating another bowl of kettle corn for dinner.  Watching Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Have to turn it off at the funeral bit; too sad.

8:00pm:  Shower, facial, pedicure.

9:30pm:  Fall asleep waiting for toenail polish to dry.  An exciting end to the weekend.

Blue Nile

I finally got around to writing up Blue Nile after eating there two weeks ago with some fellow Chowhounds. Sure, I’ve eaten there before — I’ve even written about it here at she eats. — but I decided to give it the Houstonist treatment and, hopefully, introduce a wider audience to the gustatory pleasures of Ethiopian food.

Houstonist Bites: Blue Nile

Caveat: that’s not a picture of the actual food at Blue Nile. My camera was on the fritz that day (quelle shock, I know!) and I managed to find a photo on Flickr that looked very close to Blue Nile’s food. Thank you, Creative Commons license!

If you’d like to see some pictures from that afternoon and some pictures of the food we actually ate, head over to Food In Houston, where anonymouseater graciously put up a slide show of our meal.

If any takers want to hit up Blue Nile with me one of these afternoons, let me know. It’s pretty close to my office and I’m feeling the doro wot urge once again…

Tastes Like Plagiarism!

From the union of two of the most unlikely news sources in the world — The Bulletin (an alt-weekly out of Montgomery County, Texas) and Slate (a hugely popular online magazine out of Washington, D.C.) — comes a fascinating story of plagiarism and deception that’s only beginning to unravel.

If you want to catch the entire story from the very beginning, check out this Slate piece, published yesterday by music writer Jody Rosen: Dude, You Stole My Article.  Capsule format: Rosen discovered through an anonymous email that the “music writer” for The Bulletin had been cribbing his articles — sometimes changing a word or two — and then passing them off as original material.  When he dug deeper, Rosen found that the “music writer” had been doing the same thing with other published material from other music writers for years.  When Rosen attempted to contact The Bulletin to inform the “editor” of the situation, then things really got crazy…

Our very own Alison Cook — a food writer for the Houston Chronicle, just in case you’re not local — caught the Slate article almost as soon as it came out and was intrigued.  She did a little digging of her own into past Bulletin issues and soon found that it wasn’t just music articles that were being plagiarized; food articles were, too.

Which food articles were the result of outright theft?  From whom did The Bulletin lift their material?  None other than the reigning king of Tex-Mex, local author and Houston Press food writer Robb Walsh.  Read Alison’s entire article about it here: Barbecue & plagiarism at Montgomery County’s Bulletin.

Some might say, “Hey, it’s a free publication.  They aren’t hurting anyone.”  Bullshit.  It may be a free publication, distributed in dimly-lit bank lobbies and dirty Jiffy Lubes throughout the bustling metropolii of Conroe and New Caney, but they’re selling ad space.  They’re generating revenue.  And they’re making money off material that isn’t theirs to make money off of.  Someone else busted their ass to create those articles, and some disingenuous asshole comes along, steals it, and passes it off as his own.  It’s no different than stealing someone’s credit card number and buying a plasma TV: it isn’t yours, you can’t use it for profit!

One can only imagine what bizarre twists the story will take from here.  I’m placing bets right now, though, that “music writer” Mark Williams doesn’t really exist at all, and that the entire publication is run by the shady editor, “Mike Ladyman,” who I imagine also runs the sales desk and the distribution/circulation desk.

Anyone want to start placing their bets on how many more publications The Bulletin has plagiarized?  The over/under is at a clean 100 right now…

Ming’s Dynasty Ended

From HAIF this morning comes the sad news that Ming’s has closed.

Yet another casualty of the diminshing classic Montrose restaurant scene, whose losses have most recently included Golden Room (closed until at least September, and which may or may not reopen as the same restaurant) and the beloved Felix Mexican Restaurant, the closing of Ming’s is one more notch in the belt for the developers and condo-builders who are busily skeletonizing the neighborhood to make way for further gentrification.

Some may not miss Ming’s, as it has been described as a “highly overrated dive” that serves “more mall food than restaurant food” along with a warning that “good service is not something you will find here.”  One reviewer described it succinctly: “If you enjoy difficult parking, eating cheap food in a small shack on styrofoam plates with plastic utensils, then this is definitely the place for you.”  People were definitely not impressed with their “hairy” chicken wings.

The point, however, is that it was a dive.  You didn’t go to Ming’s expecting ground-breaking cuisine or authentic Chinese food.  You went there with your friends on a lazy Saturday afternoon spent browsing the stacks at Half-Price Books or searching for junque at the resale shops down the road.  You met there for a cheap dinner before hitting up Proletariat (also gone now) or Numbers.  You revived yourself there on Sundays when the brunch crowds at La Strada or Baba Yega proved too noisy or self-absorbed.  You took in the weirdness, people-watched, enjoyed the ebb and flow of a cross-section of humanity coming in and out for egg rolls and Chinese eggplant.

Ming’s was Montrose.  Sure, it’s just one small restaurant on a little corner, but it’s representative of a larger issue, a growing sense of discomfort and sadness. 

You’d think that I’m opposed to progress; some kind of anti-development, real estate Luddite.  I’m not.  I just find myself looking around lately and realizing: this isn’t my city anymore.

See ya, Ming’s.  You had a good run.

Off the Grid

I’m not gone in body, just in spirit.  I’m still here in front of the same laptop as always, except that the past few days have been hectic and busy and, sad to say, leave no time for writing.

But I haven’t forgotten about you.  To make up for my extended absence (well, extended for me), I leave you today with an extended poem from David Wojahn.  Yes, I’m on a postmodern poetry bent lately…

David Wojahn is one of the great masters of free verse and is also — like our last two poets — still happily with us.  Originally from Minnesota, he is now a professor of poetry at Virginia Commonwealth University and once taught at our very own University of Houston.  In 2007, he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Interrogation Palace, but was edged out by Natasha Trethewey.

Today’s poem is from his book, Icehouse Lights, and is rich with visual imagery, shared memories of childhood and thick, sweeping, brilliant strokes of sadness.  It’s a highly representative example of his poetry, of which Richard Hugo once said, “David Wojahn’s poems concern themselves with emotive basics: leaving home, watching those we love age and die, the inescapable drone of our mortality.  Yet as poems, they are far from usual. They help us welcome inside, again and again, the most personal of feelings.”  A perfect poem for a gloomy day like this one.

Wine

like cups of wine thrown back into the bottle
—James Moore

1

Midnight
and the pipes knock,
the language of steam.
George has played his flute
all night in the living room,
short pieces, stopping abruptly,
beginning again and again
in search of the right note.
Now he is a child wading into a lake,
learning to swim underwater
in the light the sun brings
to the sand on the lakebed.
I watch him scoop up handfuls of sand
and stone in the blurred green water,
holding them to his face,
just learning to see.

2

Today was the shortest day of the year.
I slept through the afternoon,
waking to lamplight,
to plants watered after sundown.
Outside the neighbors
try to rouse their cars.
Ignitions grind and howl.
The engines complain,
led aimlessly into darkness.
I drink wine straight from the bottle,
and I’m already drunk when my father phones,
talking of the job that’s no good,
the money that’s gone,
the spine that sways like a willow tree.
He would weep if he could.
They want to put me in traction,
give me a back brace
for a year and a half.
Who is this stranger who asks me for nothing?

3

I want to talk and,
Father, what can I say?
The winter nights are dark red.
We begin to live underwater
in small rooms
filled with flutesong,
the shades pulled down.
We cannot let go of this darkness.
We sit inside it, touch its walls,
like wine poured back into the bottle.
We write at midnight
with music in our rooms,
calling our fathers in the black evening.

4

Tonight I am wine.
My father is wine.
The glass sits on the table, full,
with no one to drink it.
This afternoon I dreamt
my father was running to meet me
and slipped on the ice
into a hole in the lake.
The scene kept repeating itself,
and I never reached him in time.
A thick film clouded his face
like the eyes of my grandfather
who died blind, whose last words
were white, it’s white.

Now I swim down
to meet my father in the water,
cupping his temples in my hands.
He is crying into my palms,
and I can’t yet see his face.

Pre-Coffee

Me, this morning, pre-coffee:

Coworker:  Mira, traje pan dulces!

Me:  Huh?

Coworker:  Traje pan dulces!

Me:  Oh, hey, someone brought pan dulces!

Coworker (annoyed now):  Si, traje pan dulces.

Me:  Who brought the pan dulces?

Coworker (walking off in a huff):  ESTÚPIDA.

Me:  Mande?

I feel that I’m somehow becoming less fluent in Spanish with each passing day that I work for a Mexican company.  How can this be?

And the pan dulces were delicious.  Especially with coffee.