Olivia: Wherein I Try To Mask My Massive Disappointment and Jealousy

Dining scene abuzz with new Olivia restaurant

This was the restaurant that Richard and I were supposed to enjoy during our visit to Austin this past weekend.  Sadly, grownup life interferred and I was chained to Houston (and a long-postponed bathroom remodel) instead.  Noelle and Cory — with whom we were supposed to dine that night — blogged about their trip to Olivia, which should make me happy that at least some friends were able to enjoy a fantastic time.  I, however, remain totally wrapped in childish resentment and hatred for them and their fancy dinner.

Okay, so I’m not that terrible…  But take a look at Noelle’s post on Olivia (and the pictures!!!) and tell me you’re not just an eensy bit jealous yourselves:

Olivia

I would have stabbed each and every one of you to get at those lamb tongues.  Also, are the drawings the most fabulous thing ever?  Or what?  And I love the “Age: 33” and “Age: 35” on both.  Nice touches, guys.  🙂

And as if you needed one more reason to be jealous of them?  They were on Trading Spaces a couple of years back and apparently got a pretty bad-ass couch out of the deal.  Damn you, Noelle and Cory!

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A Kiss For A Pomegranate

We haven’t had a food poem in a while, so I dug up a juicy one for y’all…

Today’s poem is from Alberto Rìos, an Arizonan poet born in 1952 who inhabited two worlds growing up: the Mexican world of his father and the English world of his mother.  The result is the kind of poetry that reminds me strongly of Gabriel García Márquez’s magical short stories.  Today, Rìos is the Regents’ Professor of English at Arizona State University (coincidentally, my incredibly talented uncle is the Regents’ Professor of English at the University of Arizona just up the road) and recently published a memoir about growing up on the Mexican-U.S. border, called Capirotada: A Nogales Memoir.

I love everything about this poem: the feeling of anticipation, the palpable energy from the crowd and from Ventura herself, the way that Rìos sets the scene so perfectly that you can taste the dust in the air, feel the heat of the sun and the jostle of elbows, hear the livestock scuttling underfoot, and grasp the sense of grandeur and awe that can come from one small kiss.

The Pomegranate and the Big Crowd

Ventura because she was hungry and because
She was curious—but more because she was curious—
Took the dare, a kiss for a pomegranate.
Everyone gathered, her friends and his. Everyone
Watched: the boys, the girls, the pigs and the chickens,
And more. Moving to the front were the children
She and Clemente would one day have,
And the children of those children, too,
Gathered and loud with everyone and everything else,
Loud as the pigs and fast as the chickens
Though she could not see them.
Still, they crowded her, and she could feel
Their anxious breathing.
This boy Clemente whom she would kiss
She would have kissed even without the pomegranate,
Though she could not say it
And was glad of this game. He suited her,
She thought. He had a strong face.
He felt what she felt. She could see him look around
But not at their friends. She could see him
Feel the shiver of the children they would have:
Their son Margarito, his two sisters
Both of whom would become nuns
If just to pray enough to take care of him,
This boy so serious he would seem like a stranger
In their arms, serious enough by himself
To make up for Clemente and Ventura
And for all the laughter
They themselves would feel,
This curious child who, as an old man
Would never trust a doctor for anything.
And his serious wife to come, Refugio,
And her sisters, Matilde and Consuelo as well,
All the people who would follow this kiss,
So many of them, and their children, too,
Everyone stood there, arms up, everyone watching,
So much noise in this moment,
This quick lending of herself
To his cheek, the way Ventura would later kiss
All these impatient children of theirs. The kiss
Seemed so small, but was filled with itself.
This small moment of affection she gave this boy
The quarter-second that it took:
There they all stood, waiting with the crowd
Egging them on, hefting the pomegranate
And pushing them toward each other.
Clemente and Ventura in that quarter-second lived
Their lives, a quarter-second not finished yet.

tenacity: Summer’s End

Randy Rucker has put together another excellent menu for his upcoming tenacity dinner, one that showcases some of my favorite summer foods in his own different and powerful way:

  • Japanese hamachi, daikon radish, watercress consommé & ruby red grapefruit
  • Live scallop, badia a coltibuono olive oil, preserved papaya puree & candied kombu
  • Composition of tomatoes, fromage blanc & shaved bonito
  • Local corn soup, miso, Gulf shrimp & malabar spinach
  • Confit of Louisiana frog’s legs, fennel, smoked potato gnocchi & foamy parmesan water
  • Crispy pork rillette, celery branch, almond cream, green apple & kecap manis
  • Soft bittersweet chocolate, basil seeds, sweet & sour hijiki & cherimoya soup

If you know me at all, you know I’m excited about the frog’s legs in particular.  Frog’s legs are one of my favorite meals — and an underappreciated one, at that — a Southern treat, the sweet, delicate meat of the legs rivaling any other meat you’ve ever tasted.  I’m fascinated to see what Randy does with this particular item, and how it will pair with some of the more exotic dishes, such as the Japanese hamachi and the live scallop.

The rest of the menu, however, seems to be inspired by Randy’s old restaurant, laidback manor.  The intricate, experimental dishes made with deeply Southern ingredients — Gulf shrimp, local corn, tomatoes — this is a Randy Rucker dinner you don’t want to miss if you’re still grieving over the loss of laidback manor.

The dinner will be at the Modern B&B tomorrow night, September 4th.  Randy is still taking reservations; you can RSVP by emailing him at rrucker79 at hotmail dot com.  And just to refresh your memories on how awesome his dinners are, read on:

tenacity

tenacity, part two

Regurgitation

It’s been a busy week, folks.  And not just for me:

Restaurant News Recap

I may or may not try to make this a semi-regular feature on Houstonist.  The pro is that I think it’s nice to have all the news aggregated in one area, so that you don’t have to skip around to a bunch of different news articles and food blogs to catch up on all the news that’s flying around.  Plus, I really enjoy linking people to food blogs that deserve attention and could possibly gain new readers as a result.

The con is that I really don’t enjoy regurgitating someone else’s news.  That’s why I tried to keep each item short and sweet and just link back to the original article.

Y’all tell me what you think.  Should I try to make this a regular feature for Houstonist?  Or just let the news filter out into the world in its natural progression?