Dam Good Food

My best friends and I have been best friends for going on 22 years now.

Christmas 2008
I’m the one in the green footie pajamas.

As happens when you get older, move away, get real jobs, get married, have children and find your lives filling up with the kind of activities that aren’t as important as they seem at the time, we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like.  So when we do find ourselves in the fortuitous situation of all being in the same city — and free of family and/or work obligations on the same night — we enjoy the hell out of that night.

This past Saturday night, I took my friends to Beaver’s for dinner.  Even the ones who live in Houston had never been before, so it was a treat to get them out there.  The thing I like about Beaver’s is that you get the feeling of having a special meal in a cozy, out-of-the-way spot without any of the pretentious trappings (and without the pretentious prices).  The waitstaff, bartenders and chefs are all serious about their trades, and it shows in every aspect of your meal.

The drinks, in particular, at Beaver’s are stunning.  This is old news, of course, but I tried a few on Saturday that were new to me.  The Rosemary Rickey is an old favorite, so I branched out to their Southern Gimlet (good if very strong) and later to a Mayahuel Fizz, a margarita-style mixed drink made with mezcal, rosemary syrup, foamed egg whites, lime and a dash of bitters.  Although small, it’s a revelation.  You’ll never want to drink another margarita anwyhere else, ever again.

Mayahula Fizz...or something.
Mayahuel Fizz, garnished with a sprig of rosemary. 

I would be writing this mini-review for Eating…Our Words if only Robb Walsh hadn’t done a smashing piece on Beaver’s only a few short months ago.  You should go and read it —  Busy Beaver’s — not just because it’s a spot-on review, but also because I really have nothing else of merit to add to what he wrote.  The place has improved drastically since Jonathan Jones took over and has genuinely returned to its intended purpose as an upscale icehouse/BBQ joint that takes its food seriously yet still has a fun time.

On Saturday night, I ordered the house special: a whole roasted pig.  My jaw dropped when the waiter described the special, until he quickly assured me that the entire pig wasn’t delivered to the table, only select parts.  Damn.

This Little Piggy Went to Beaver's
Whole roasted pig with kale and beans.

The parts I received were wonderful, with only a few rather tough exceptions.  A large, delicious chunk of pork loin was accompanied by a generous portion of crispy fried pork skin.  A few cuts of tender pork butt (the shoulder, not the actual butt…) and a few not-so-tender cuts of other shoulder meat rounded out the plate.  The entire collection was presented on a bed of sauteed kale and slow-cooked beans.  Although the beans could have cooked for longer (they were a bit too al dente for my preferences), the flavor was amazing — tangy and sweet without being cloying — and the dusky kale served as a perfect counterbalance.

My friends, for their part, enjoyed their macaroni and cheese, brisket sandwiches, fried pickles, beer-cheese dip and other assorted items as much as I’d hoped they would.  Comfort food taken to the next level was the keyword of the night, and we all had a wonderful time.  If Beaver’s continues this strong run, they could easily become my favorite restaurant of 2009.

Merry Christmas! Love, She Eats.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

I hope you’re all having a very joyful Christmas morning filled with family, friends, laughter, love, presents, stockings, or whatever makes your hearts happy.

While I initially considered doing a Christmas post on my favorite Christmas songs (not really apropos here) or favorite Christmas recipes (far more pertinent, but played out), I eventually decided that those were entirely boring.  Instead, I figured I’d let you all have a laugh at my expense as I share some pictures from Christmases past:

Christmas 1982

Christmas 1982

This was my mother’s third and final attempt at getting me onto this strange man’s lap. You can tell that I’d been crying for about sixteen hours straight by this point by how puffy and unfocused my eyes are.

I also like the fact that the harvest gold velour chair gives the entire tableau a creepy, “come see Santa in his living room, little girl” vibe. You have to give the man points for the awesome handlebar mustache, though.

Christmas 1983

Christmas 1983

A year later, I was much happier to sit on Santa’s lap. I attribute this entirely to the fact that there’s an actual holiday backdrop, as opposed to what looked like some dude’s seafoam green basement the year before.

The placement of Santa’s hands in this photo is entirely discomforting, however. I hope that he was just admiring my corduroy jumper.

Christmas 1984

Christmas 1984

By 1984 (or possibly 1985, I really have no idea), we were back to the creepy, sullen Santa model. For my part, I’m oblivious to the gaze of death that Santa is giving the photographer, one that reads “This had better be the last goddamned child today; I can’t feel my legs and my beard smells like formula and Elmer’s glue.”

Also, believe it or not, this was not taken inside of Space Mountain. True story.

Christmas 1986

Christmas 1986

1986 was a happier year, with a happier Santa and a happier background. You’ll note that I’m in my private school uniform, complete with blinding white tights and bow that looks like a small bat died on my head.

1987 would not find me in the same uniform, as I was taken out of private school and thrust into the wilds of the public school system for reasons too legion to elaborate upon here.

Here’s looking at you, kids, and wishing you all the best this Christmas.  From the bottom of my hear, thank you all for reading, commenting, emailing, and just generally being awesome readers.  I couldn’t ask for more this Christmas than y’all.

Food Blogging for Free Bites?

J.C. Reid, a fellow blogger at the Houston Press and the man behind the awesome Houston Foodie site, has written a very interesting article today on Eating Our Words that all food bloggers should read:

Will Blog for (Free) Food?

In the article, J.C. describes a recent event that was attended by several area food bloggers (as well as other non-food bloggers) at a new restaurant, Saute.  The restaurant fed us for free, in exchange for an honest appraisal of their food and constructive criticism.  As you may imagine, this arrangement represented a very, very, very thin line between business-minded reciprocity and outright bribery.  Was that line crossed?

More importantly, J.C. asks:

Even a few years ago food bloggers wouldn’t have registered a blip on a restaurateur’s radar. But a funny thing happened on the way to making a dinner reservation. People started reading even the most obscure food blogs to find out where and what to eat. So what’s a restaurant owner to do?

Food blogging has made a strange and rapid rise lately, perhaps due in part to so many people recognizing that — in all honesty — it’s not hard to do.  You have to have at least some formal training to be an art critic, for example, but any yahoo with an America Online account can now stand upon a soapbox and rant loudly to the internet about the poor service or overly-expensive food or low-quality steak they received on any given night.  Everyone eats, right?  So everyone should be able to criticize food!  Right?

I’m not the only one who’s noticed this trend.  But, being as I have no formal training myself other than working in a restaurant and a small cafe for brief stints (as well as having a chef for a mother), I’m not one to cast stones.  Instead, I’m far more interested in your opinions.  Have food bloggers become — to use the colloquialism — too big for their britches?  Are restaurants and the general public paying too much attention to the opinions and whims of the great untrained, instead of genuinely talented and respected food writers?  Go and read J.C.’s article, and leave your comments there.  Let us know what you think!

Full Week, Full Belly

The busy season at work is drawing to a close, and it can’t come quickly enough.  Every day this week has been filled to bursting with meetings, angry employees, conference calls and perilously-close-to-crashing hard drives.  Enough, I say!  Basta!  Weekend, here I come.  I hope you’re ready.

The upside to this week is that I’ve had a lot of good meals, just by sheer happenstance.  Monday afternoon saw a lunch meeting with some brokers at McCormick & Schmick, where I had a good — if undersalted — lobster bisque and crabcakes.  Monday night brought me to Corkscrew, where I shared several exquisite bottles of Malbec and Côte du Rhône alongside a small but potent cheese plate with my dearly beloved Houstonist coworkers.

Tuesday afternoon was chilly, but I shook off that chill with a shepherd’s pie and a half-pint of Boddington’s inside the warm confines of The Black Labrador.  Tuesday night found me out to eat once again, this time at Saute with a few fellow food bloggers and food lovers, sampling some items off Saute‘s menu and a few that are under construction.

Wednesday’s lunch was scavenged from the one gift basket we received this year at the office and had at the desk amidst piles of emails and invoices, but dinner on Wednesday was a favorite around the she eats household: breakfast for dinner, all from scratch.  I made buttermilk biscuits (which I liberally coated with butter and honey as soon as they came out of the oven), fried eggs and the best damn hashbrowns with sauteed onions this side of Waffle House.  Despite this, Richard couldn’t resist dousing his entire meal with HP Brown Sauce.  You can take the man out of England, but…

Thursday was almost a blow out: an all-day seminar with dubious midday chicken luncheon was narrowly avoided by ducking out of the seminar early, and heading over to Pho Huy with Cindy for a hot bowl of pho tai bo vien.  Thursday night found me surrounded by even more Vietnamese food: delicious banh mi at Monica‘s annual Christmas party, which were preceeded by a killer Sazerac made by the skillful hands of Bobby Heugel at Poison Girl.  And as if all of that wasn’t enough, I had a positively enormous slice of the best pie I’ve had in years: Intern Jen‘s famous homemade chocolate bourbon pecan pie.  Her pies are normally in quite a bit of demand and go for, well, more than I could normally afford to pay for a pie.  But now I’ve seen the light; $20 is nothing for a pie that damn good.

Today found me once again at Pho Huy for lunch, this time for a bowl of bun thit nuong cha gio with Jeff (who had his first Vietnamese food today, so congratulate him!).  I guess when I find a new favorite place, I get slightly obsessed with it.  (I love you, Pho Huy!  Call me!)  Dinner was not yet more Vietnamese, however.  Instead, it was a delicious — if protein-filled — meal of black beans with veggie tamales, which were filled with green chiles and more black beans (and which were graciously given to me by a Christmas-spirit-filled friend…it’s not Christmas without tamales, after all).

The weekend will begin quite early tomorrow morning (er…this morning, I suppose) with a drive to Fort Worth for early Christmas with my father’s side of the family, so no updates for a while.  Be brave this weekend, sweet potatoes, as you navigate the treacherous malls and parking lots and freeways during this last, frenzied weekend before Christmas.  I’ll be back here again on Monday, perhaps with a few stocking stuffers for you all. 

Until then!

De-Link-Cious!

Hope you all had a good — if dreary and somewhat wet — weekend!  Things were busy, busy, busy around the she eats household as usual, with lots of Christmas shopping and, of course, eating to be done.

I made it to the brand-new H-E-B (yes, the 127,900-square-foot monstrosity on Bunker Hill) twice this weekend and grabbed a bunch of pretty sweet items, including some delicious red pepper hummus, fresh naan bread, really cheap sockeye salmon, a divine-looking organic tea sampler, a six-pack sampler of Real Ale, a beautiful bouquet that was only $10 (!!!), some organic veggies, a chunk of Plugra butter that was going for only $2 (!!!!!) and a loaf of English toasting bread for Richard.

To whit, I did a quick post on the new store for Eating Our Words, which you can read here:

Among the other posts from last week that you might have missed:

  • Perry vs. Perry:  The ridiculous saga of a Dallas restaurant that’s changing their name to avoid being confused with the Houston steakhouse chain.
  • Update: Snot What You Thought:  A follow-up to the Steaz green tea mystery from last week.
  • 86’d at *17:  Another executive chef’s departure from a once-promising restaurant leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.

And in other blog news, Mike McGuff has a guest blogger this week who put together a list of local restaurants that are great for giving out-of-town guests a flavor of Houston (or just for treating yourself).  The guest blogger is the current editor of Zagat and has written several editions of Houston Dining on the Cheap, so he knows his stuff.  Go check it out!

It Snot What You Think

As a follow up to this morning’s post (and in response to a few questions I’ve received), let me clarify that my new freelance position with the Houston Press does not change my affliation with Houstonist.  I have a deep and abiding affection for Houstonist (and so should you!) and will always be loyal to them.  To that end, I will still be writing for Houstonist.

However…I will not be writing food articles for Houstonist.  That pretty much goes without saying.  But for those of you unfamiliar with my non-food writing, I do write all manner of other articles for them (such as concert reviews and historic retrospectives) and will continue to do so.  The Houston Press, though, will be my first priority from now on (even over she eats., it’s true).

With all that said, check out this afternoon’s post over at Eating Our Words:

Sneeze Green Tea

Seriously.  Check it out.  It’s like a train wreck.

Onto Greener Pastures

And by “greener,” I mean that some crazy people have decided to PAY ME to do something I love.

Big announcement time.  Deep breaths.

That’s right…yours truly is now an official contributor for our very own hometown Houston Press.  W00t!  That means I’ll be blogging over there at Eating Our Words a near-daily basis, so you can head over there also on a [hopefully] near-daily basis and check out my ramblings, along with the much more professional ramblings of Robb Walsh and Jay Francis.

I’m not abandoning she eats., however, so don’t despair.  I’ll never abandon my first love.  You’ll still be able to read my Weekends in Food, Tuesday Trivia, Wednesday Food Poetry, etc.  But I’m saving the juicy (and non-personal) stuff for the Press.

I can’t wait to see your bright, shiny faces over at Eating Our Words.  So without further ado, here’s my first post:

Putting Dr Pepper on the Map

Enjoy!