Monthly Archives: September 2008

Tuesday Trivia: Part Holy Crap It’s Back!

Wow.  I know, right?  So, anyway…

Last night was spent at Del Frisco’s with the lovely Jenny of I’m Never Full (and now Citysearch!), attending the check presentation party to wrap up Houston Restaurant Week, which you can read all about here:  Y’all Raised $78,877!  Needless to say, that was pretty awesome.

Also awesome was the lovely cabernet that was flowing freely, courtesy of Messina Hof.  And that brings us to today’s trivia theme: beverages.  You know how I love a good theme…

  1. Which of the following beverages was not available to American pioneers during the 19th century?  Carbonated water, iced tea, vodka, or beer?
  2. Chicory is well-known as a coffee substitute.  What common nut was also used throughout American history to make coffee when no coffee beans were available?
  3. Although we may view it as an all-American beverage, lemonade has actually been a popular drink since medieval times.  Where was it first served and enjoyed?
  4. Diet sodas were introduced in the 1950s as a way of marketing artificial sweeteners to the general public.  What company patented the first diet soda?
  5. Most species of domesticated livestock have been milked — and the milk enjoyed by humans — at some point or another in history.  But which of these animals has not been used as a source of milk?  Yaks, donkeys, horses or pigs?
  6. BONUS:  In Western culture, the milk of what animal was favored over the cow until the 16th century?

Drink it up, folks!  See you all back here on Thursday for the answers…

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El lunes de las hamburguesas!

I’m still here, chicharrones!  It’s just been a busy day ’round la oficina.

There isn’t much of a Weekend In Food to report, unfortunately, because most of the weekend was spent with a mitre saw and a blasted tape measure.  However, I did manage to find time to go and try out The Lake House at Disco Green and I LOVED IT.  LOVED.  IT.  In fact, I did a whole Houstonist* write-up (along with slideshow) on it here:

Houstonist Bites: The Lake House

In fact, in fact, it appears to be Hamburger Monday over at Houstonist.  Witness:

Little Big Changes at Ming’s

…in which I discuss in my typical ridiculous, over-the-top style how a late-night slider joint (Bryan Caswell’s Little Big’s) will be taking over the old Ming’s restaurant in Montrose.

And then there’s Groove’s awesome photo of the day, which is a retro-ed up shot of the classic Lucky Burger on Richmond:

Lucky Burger

There are worse ways to start your week than with burgers, people!

See you all back here tomorrow for a long overdue round of Tuesday Trivia…

*P.S.  Did you see?  Houstonist won the 2008 Houston Press Reader’s Choice award for Best Local Blog!  Shibby!!!

Thoughts for the Week

It’s been a mighty busy week, folks.  Sorry for the dearth of postings.  Post-hurricane dealings combined with the busiest time of year at “real” work do not a happy blogger make.  I’m afraid I don’t have enough coherent thoughts to form an entire post, so here’s a collection of things I’ve been thinking about this week:

I really like the song “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us” by Sufjan Stevens.

I also really like the song “Handlebars” by Flobots.  I especially love the video.

In fact, I really like this entire playlist that I’ve been listening to at work this week: Yeah, This One.

I was eating a lot due to hurricane-related stress, something which I was wondering to myself…could this be a primitive survival mechanism?  Eating as much food as possible in the face of a natural disaster, to thereby ensure that I will have enough layers of fat for my body to feed on if food were to somehow vanish like overhunted herds of mammoth?

Of course, now that all the hurricane-related stresses have moved on, I have all new stressors with which to contend.  And, for some reason, these stress points make me not want to eat.  I haven’t had dinner at all this week, breakfast has been black coffee every morning and lunch — if I’m lucky — a tuna packet or some Ramen.  I just can’t work up an appetite for anything at all.

Looking back on the week immediately after Ike, I am amused at how our concepts of hospitality changed when we had guests over without power.  “Would you like a lukewarm Tecate?  We have some granola bars and beef jerky — please, help yourself!  Here, I’ll point the tiny, black and white, battery-operated TV your way — I know it’s been a while since you saw the news.”

But bringing neighbors together truly was the best part of Ike — if a hurricane can have “best” parts.  One night when I went to visit her, my mother had cooked dinner for all the neighbors on her cul-de-sac and washed their clothes (hers was one of the only houses with power).  We all sat outside on the driveway, even though there was A/C in the house, and enjoyed the food outdoors.  We had become accustomed to sitting outside in the evenings without the mindless roar of the TV, the endless distractions of power.  It was singularly pleasant.

Life has somewhat returned to normal with power, but I miss sleeping with the windows open at night.  I miss not having cable TV.  I miss not having a phone.  I miss candlelight.  Strange, right?

At a family dinner last weekend, I was forcibly reminded of the time I spent in jail at the HPD’s Mykawa Substation.  My mother said that I should write a “review” of the jail food.  While I would love to, I sadly declined the offer of oxtails (I love oxtails normally, but I’m not so sure I’d like “jail” oxtails) and bologna sandwiches that day.  Next time I’m thrown in jail, I promise that I will eat the food and report back.

This is the coolest new website I’ve discovered in a long time: Food Timeline.

Did you know that I had over 15,000 hits the week before last from that lousy pizza vending machine article alone?  Who would’ve thought a pizza vending machine would prove so popular?

I didn’t do a lot of eating out post-Ike, but rather hoovered up all the food I could at home.  The few times I made it out that week, the restaurants were full of vacant-eyed people looking like they’d just escaped Sarajevo.  It was creepy.

Last Tuesday at lunch, I ended up sharing a table at Panera Bread with a UH grad student who was completing a paper for a sociology course.  She only had a cup of water — wasn’t actually eating anything at the restaurant, just plugging in her laptop — and said that she was simply frantic to the get the paper done on time.  Her professor hadn’t given the class any kind of extension for the paper, despite the fact that none of them had power.  Made me feel a little bit better about work that week…

My boss is still without power.  Yeah, the awesome one who brings me taro buns.

So are a lot of people here at work.  Has our company even acknowledged that we had a hurricane?  Nope.

Several more of my friends are also power-less.  How is it taking CenterPoint this long to get everything back on line?  MJ, I’m thinking about you, prezactly.  🙂

I haven’t been able to write a single Houstonist article this week and I’m feeling pretty miserable about that.  Could you write one for me?

I promise to be back next week with actual food-related postings and articles.  No, really.  In the meantime, visit one of the lovely bloggers listed on the right-hand of the page side there.  They aren’t schlubs like me and are actually posting on a regular basis.  Go be friends with them.  They rock.

You all rock.

See you next week.

John’s Hurricane Adventures

Boy, am I glad that John made it through the hurricane safe and sound.  Because if he didn’t, XYZ would be dead.  And I wouldn’t have anything to post today (busy time of year at work…).

And it just so happens that today’s XYZ posting is so extraordinary that it’s going on the front page (read: I have nothing else to post today).  So here you go, folks: John’s adventures in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

***

SURVIVOR MAN

Since many of us here in Houston were without supplies post Ike I figured that I too should feel how you felt and therefore eat how you, the reader possibly ate. I will therefore go one week without power and without visiting the store. In fact, I will go 2 days without power before I begin, to rot my food. I unplug the fridge Friday night.

Monday: I have power and AC. You don’t. I go to the breaker and kill the power. I am going to be in for a tough 5 days. For breakfast I am in for a hurricane treat. Rice Crispies and beer. The milk theoretically would have already been pretty gross and the beer, well that would go in the cooler and have been saved. At first I am ready to quit and just drink the beer and go back to sleep but after a few spoons I write a wonderous poem.

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Catalina Responds

Aaaaaaand…that’s all folks!  🙂

We provided free wi-fi and electricty for anyone and everyone (after making the decision to cap the plugs, we set up charging stations in front of the cafe where the wi-fi signal is still strong, oh and by the way, some jerk stole one of our power strips).

For anyone that did not have money, we gave them coffee any way.

Our bakery has not been able to resume operations, so we have no pastries. I provided anyone that was desperately hungry with granola bars and water (for free)

I worked as hard as I could to take care of peoples needs, and quite honestly my feet are a bit numb from standing for so many hours. Those of you who know me, know that I work as hard, if not harder than any one of my employees. I guess it is easy to over look all the good that people do and definitely more entertaining to criticize them. You can have what ever opinion you want of me, but I have one question for everyone. What did you do to help your community?

The way people are acting, you would think we got hit by a hurricane or something.

We still have free wi-fi and electricity for anyone who wants it. If you have an extra power strip we are short one.

You can read the rest of the comment here.

Catalina Coffee Doesn’t Care About Its Customers

The good thing about having a blog is that when you feel like you were, perhaps, in a bit of a snit when you wrote a particular piece or item or post, you can always go back and edit it later.

With that in mind, I’ve put the rest of this article after the jump.  Several of my lovely friends and readers pointed out (both here and in private) that I don’t know Catalina’s side of the story and, anyway, this didn’t personally happen to me, so I really ought to chill out.  Which…yeah.  They’re right.  Also?  I’m thinking of instituting a new policy whereby I don’t write anything for 24 hours after having a wicked fight with someone, since my judgment seems to be a bit skewed afterwards.  🙂

So we’ll wait to hear Catalina’s side of things, if that ever happens.  And until then, you can continue to read (and comment) below the cut.

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The Friday After Ike

A week ago today, Richard and I were dragging lawn furniture and potted plants inside the house, grumbling about the work we were probably doing for nothing.

***

The previous night, I’d gone to Randall’s to stock up on supplies.  The store was as busy as it always is on an early Thursday evening; no more, no less.  The only hint of an impending hurricane was the depleted bread aisle.  Everything else, included bottled water and canned goods, was well-stocked.  People were friendly.  Cashiers were mild-mannered.

Driving to Chase to withdraw some cash, the roads were trafficky with rush hour commuters.  I began to notice that every service station I passed was empty; signs out front proclaimed them devoid of fuel.  Only two gas stations along the entire drive ended up having gas, and those two had lines of cars spiraling out for blocks.  Things seemed to be getting ever more ominous along the way.

At the bank, the normally quiet lobby was filled with a long queue of customers, anxiously fingering their withdrawal slips and eyeing the people in front of them, shooting them looks that said You’d better not get the last $500 at this bank.  Is this what a bank run looks like?  If so, it was surreally quiet and orderly.

After getting some cash out of the ATM, I got back on the road and headed home.  Traffic had picked up noticeably, as people were becoming ever more frantic in their searches for gasoline, cash and bottled water.  I wanted to tell them Just go to Randall’s!  They’re fully stocked!  But people seemed to be working themselves into a frenzy as the night approached.

I rolled the windows down in the car; a grim silence lay over the streets.  Cars moved agonizingly slowly.  No one played music on their stereos or honked their horns.  There wasn’t any talking or laughter to be heard from the parking lots or sidewalks.  People shot furtive glances at one another in gas lines.  Everyone’s expression read the same: Panic.  Fear.  Panic.  Fear.  You would have thought that zombies had just invaded or that a nuclear strike was imminent.  Is this what the end of the world looks like?  If so, it was surreally quiet and orderly.

At home that night, I cooked some salmon with wild rice and green beans.  Made a salad with some homemade vinaigrette.  Opened a bottle of wine.  I was determined to have a nice dinner despite the endless newscasts of impending doom, death and destruction.  Richard and I relaxed on the back porch, enjoying a famously beautiful Texas sunset as we ate and having a wonderful Thursday night.  After all, we had the day off tomorrow…

***

Friday was different.  Not many people dared to leave their house.  Most were glued to the televisions, where the National Hurricane Center had now declared that anyone remaining in Galveston (which was a good 40% of the population) would face certain death.  Around the house, I arranged and prepared things: filled giant tubs with water and stuck them into the freezer to make ice blocks; piled all our batteries in one area, all of our candles and matches in another; made a quick trip to Spec’s to replenish our wine and beer supply; took one last shower; filled the bathtub with water and filled two five-gallon tanks with even more; made sure any and all projectiles were removed from the backyard; went to check on my mother and returned with a nifty hand-cranked radio (yes, I’d forgotten to get a radio).  On the TV, news stations were showing the powerful tides in Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula, how they’d already covered much of the coast and were flooding houses far in advance of the actual storm itself.

Friday evening, I sat down to write a few last articles for Houstonist before we surely lost power.  Afterwards, Richard and I watched What Not To Wear on TLC and flipped back and forth between CNN during commercials.  We snickered at Anderson Cooper in the rain down in some tiny coastal town that he didn’t know how to pronounce.  We finally went to bed around 11pm, the rain having picked up considerably in our part of town by that point.

***

I woke up at 4:30am, the wind howling and shrieking outside.  The trees were being battered senseless outside our bedroom window.  The power was already gone.  I cranked our radio up and listened to KUHF as they described the massive fire that had taken Brennan’s and badly injured some of the employees who’d stayed behind to take care of the restaurant.  I found out later that those employees were the famous GM, Carl Walker, the sommelier and his little girl.  My mother called to check on me; conserving batteries on our phone, so we didn’t talk long.  I finally fell back asleep around 5:30am and woke up the next morning at 8am to a changed world.

***

Today, almost a week has passed.  We’re still without power at our house; our water came back on Wednesday night.  Our stove and water heater are both electric, so no hot water or cooking to be done yet.  We received a notice in the mailbox from our HOA, letting us know that because we’re on a strange grid, it could be another four to five weeks before we have power restored.

I was fortunate enough to get a generator from my father, but it can only be run for a short time each evening.  The food that was in our fridge is now sitting in garbage cans out by the curb.  Unfortunately, since Waste Management is running very far behind now and hasn’t picked up any garbage in a week, the entire neighborhood smells like the Fresh Kills landfill in Jersey.

On the positive side, I was finally able to get some gas in the car yesterday.  I found a service station with no lines (!), that accepted something other than cash (!!!) and where the gas was only $3.39 a gallon (!!!!!).  And even though I’ve been at work since Monday morning, at least we have power and internet here.

In even happier news, there was no damage to our house at all.  We had a lot of branches and limbs and some trees down.  And there was a very real threat of flooding, but we managed to contain that early on.  We’ve cleared all the debris and restored order to our house and yard; it looks now as if nothing happened.  In fact, as I was telling a friend yesterday, the majority of Houston is like that: cleaned up, yet eerily quiet.  Only around 45% of the city has power right now.

We’re very fortunate, much more so than the poor people down on the coast or even the folks up north in areas like The Woodlands, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

***

So…how has everyone else fared?