The Nannerpuss

When I was a child, I was obssessed with It, the cheesetastic 1980s miniseries based on the Stephen King novel.  We had videotaped it (remember videotaping, kids?) when it originally ran on CBS — we even hit pause during the commercials! — and the VHS cassette soon became one of my fondest friends.

I would eagerly pop It into the VCR when I got home from school in the afternoons and early on Saturday mornings when most other children were watching G.I. Joe and The Smurfs.  I knew every line of dialogue and nursed an enormous crush on a young Jonathan Brandis before his Seaquest DSV days.  There was only one problem: the movie terrified me.  For every day I watched it, I would have horrific nightmares when I went to bed that evening.

My mother eventually solved the problem by breaking the VHS cassette and throwing it into the trash (thanks, Mom!).  But I fear that I’m now developing the same type of relationship with the new Denny’s commercial starring The Nannerpuss.

I can’t quit watching it, yet it’s obviously terrifying.

They should have just called that banana thing Pennywise and been done with it.

A Bitter Brew

There’s something foul afoot in coffeehouses along the Washington Avenue corridor lately.

Catalina Coffee
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jeremey

First came the sad tale of Catalina Coffee and their owner’s bizarre snit immediately after Hurricane Ike, in which he bolted metal plates over all the wall sockets and turned off the wi-fi so that his customers wouldn’t be able to charge their electronics or access the internet despite the majority of the city being without electricity.  When asked about these “alterations” and their effect on his customers, his response was “Customers? I don’t care what customers want. What matters is what I want. I opened my own shop because of that.”

He eventually apologized, stating that ” 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.”  But the apology came too late for a community of customers that was utterly repelled by the initial actions the coffee house, and many people have stayed away from Catalina ever since (and at last report, those metal plates are still on the wall sockets).

And out of this Thanksgiving weekend comes an even stranger story: the owner of The Daily Grind, down the street from Catalina, appears to have totally and completely lost her mind.

no thanx to the taggers
Photo courtesy of Flickr user chuckwheat.

It began simply enough:

This past Sunday my wife and our friend decided to meet for a late breakfast. At my suggestion we tried the Daily Grind on Washington. I hadn’t been there in a while and had been meaning to as their breakfast sandwiches are fantastic.

My wife and I arrive and our friend was at the counter ordering her food. Excited as we’re up next we both order the breakfast sandwich with coffee. The woman(#1) behind the counter notifies us that they may be out of  croissants. Checking she confirms that they are out. The key ingredient in their breakfast sandwich is the croissant so we cancelled our order and I ordered the Migas, my wife ordered an omelet with potatoes. Two simple orders.

”That will be $26.35 please.” Woman #1 said

“Are you freaking kidding me? For a half order of migas, one omelet and two coffees?” I screamed in my head.

I paid without mentioning my displeasure, it was a nice day and I wasn’t going to ruin it by complaining about being overcharged for eggs, potatoes and tortillas. Flag #1

The story is best appreciated in its entirety, suffice it to say that an otherwise benign — if expensive and extremely late — meal ended with the owner kicking out Jason and his wife while screaming expletives at them in front of the entire restaurant:

“Get the fuck out of here you pieces of shit and never come back!” She screams again.

“Go to fucking IHOP.” She says while flicking her hand as if to shoo us away.

Now say what you will about IHOP and their menu but at least they have a code ethics and the big rule in that code of ethics that all businesses in the service industry adhere to is; The customer is always right, even when they aren’t.

Well, we were and now this woman is going insane. My wife and I have never backed down from a fight before so this woman has obviously gotten our blood boiling.

“Are you serious.” I say to her still trying to figure out if I am still asleep or not.

“Get the fuck out of here! Get the fuck out of here!” She screams again.

If you’re anything like me, you’re completely nonplussed at this point.  The Daily Grind has been dead to me for a while, ever since their prices increased and their service and food quality conversely decreased.  The last time I went there, I also waited nearly an hour for my food (but at least there was a good coffee selection).  There are too many wonderful places to eat breakfast or brunch in Houston to put up with that kind of service.

But this story is definitely a new nadir.  I — along with Jason, I’m sure — would love to hear an apology or even an explanation, a la Max from Catalina Coffee, who at least had the balls to face his critics.  I can’t imagine what scenario would have pushed the owner — the owner, fer chrissakes! — of The Daily Grind to act this way towards paying customers who did nothing other than request the food they’d paid for, but I’d love to hear her excuse nevertheless.

The story has made its way quickly out of the blogosphere and onto Twitter, where news — good and bad — about local customer service spreads like a wildfire set with gasoline.  I think it goes without saying that The Daily Grind is going to be dead to a lot more people after this.

Scotch Eggs, Sauerkraut & Turkey Legs

In what is perhaps my unhealthiest entry to date, I’m going to chronicle a few of the things that Jenny, Aaron and I shoveled into our mouths this weekend at the Renaissance Festival.

Before we even got on the road to Plantersville, we headed over to Teotihuacan for breakfast.  Had to give our stomachs a little bit of a warmup session beforehand, after all.

Chips & Horchata

Jenny got a margarita (it’s 5:00 somewhere, I suppose), Aaron a coffee, and for me? A huge glass of ice-cold horchata. Teotihuacan serves some of the best horchata in town. This is the real stuff, too. None of this powdered mix crap.

Chorizo!

My “grande breakfast” platter came to the table with a heaping mass of eggs and spicy chorizo, refried beans and freshly-made tortillas. As Jenny says, when you can nearly see through them for all the lard, that’s when you know they’re good. And for only $3.99, it’s pretty much the best damn deal around for breakfast.

An hour and a half later, we were finally pulling up to the parking area outside of the Renaissance Festival.  While I could take this entire post to expound upon the depth and breadth of weirdness that we encountered at the Ren Fest, I’ll instead direct you to Houstonist for more on that subject.  For now, we’ll just discuss the food.

Continue reading Scotch Eggs, Sauerkraut & Turkey Legs

Monday Morning Melons

Good morning, sweet potatoes!

It’s a busy day around the office, so you’ll have to keep yourselves occupied with the comments sections below.  You have your choice of debacles, though: the vending machine pizza atrocity or the far more interesting high-fructose corn syrup debate.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this mosaic (so addictive, I tell you!) of my delicious, juicy breakfast:

1. Canteloupe, 2. Sectioned canteloupe, 3. cut canteloupe no red corniers, 4. Canteloupe 

Be back this afternoon with a few reviews…

Washington Avenue: A Long Day’s Journey Into Tacos

AIEEEEE!  It’s finally posted!  Go to Houstonist and check out my latest Urbanist article (with lots of photos), which took far too long to write than it should have.  Topics covered include:

  • the new Benjy’s (not to replace or be confused with the old Benjy’s)
  • El Rey Taqueria
  • The Daily Grind
  • Max’s Wine Dive
  • Pearl Bar
  • Guadalajara Bakery
  • …and more

And here’s a link for your browsing pleasure:  Urbanist: Washington Avenue.

/self-promoting off

Go Go Taro

I think my boss could see that I was in a state this morning, miserably sipping a Cappucino Delight-flavored SlimFast (which neither tastes like cappucino nor could ever be called “delightful”) as I rolled into the office.  She took pity on me and insisted that I take her taro bun for breakfast instead.

Let me tell you, people.  There’s nothing better in the world after choking down a hateful, metallic-tasting concoction of skim milk, canola oil, gum arabic and God only knows what else than being able to bite into a sweet, chewy, fragrant taro bun:

Taro Bun

The taro bun is heaven and all is right with the world.

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.

Rhymes with “Starbucks”

On the heels of news this morning that Starbucks is closing 61 stores in Oz, in addition to the 600 here in the States, comes this amusing conversation I overheard at Einstein Bagels this morning.

Side note: I love Einstein’s coffee, probably a little too much.  Their house vanilla blend is addictive.  I’ve got the worst sweet tooth.  Also, the Einstein I go to every morning for my coffee fix is run by the most hilariously foul-mouthed crew of bagel slicers on the west side.

Shakawniya (yes, that’s her name; it’s on her badge, so shut up):  Guuurl, didju hear about Starbucks?

LaNita:  Naw, what now?

Shakawniya:  They closin’ a bunch mo’ stores.

LaNita:  I know that, heifer.

Shakawniya:  Naw, more!

LaNita:  Where more?

ShakawniyaAustralia, girl.  They can’t get they shit straight up here, down unda, over here, over there, innywhere!

Chorus of laughter from all Einstein workers.

Shakawniya:  Sheeeeeeet.  F*ck Starbucks, man!

LaNita:  That’s right!  F*ck ’em!  Who’s next?  Whatchoo want on yo’ bagel, baby?  We gotcha bagels right here!  And yo coffee!

Nothing like a little healthy competition, eh?

Breakfast Strata and Buttermilk Apple Cake

I suppose it’s a good sign when the food you make for your coworkers is eaten far too quickly for you to even take one picture.  In the words of our (far younger) temp: “Yo, K, they tore that shit up!

So you see how sticking my face in there even for one picture would have been dangerously similar to sticking your arm in a piranha tank.  I should have just taken a few before I left the house this morning…

Since the food was such a smash, I figured I could at least post the recipes here, if not the pictures.

The breakfast strata is a straightforward recipe that we’ve all seen a million times, but I tweaked this one based on the ingredients I had on hand and my coworkers’ predictable tastes.  It ended up a million times better than any other strata I’ve made before, and will now be my go-to breakfast casserole.  Hope you enjoy!

Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Strata
Serves: 8 to 10

1lb. ground sausage
8 slices white bread, cubed
2 c. potatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 c. shredded cheese
8 eggs
3 c. whole milk (none of this skim milk crap!)
2 Tbsp Worcester sauce
2 tsp Potlatch seasoning (if you don’t have this, just use seasoned salt)
4 to 5 big pinches of koshering salt
several good grinds of black pepper

Don’t preheat your oven!  This strata — like all others — needs to be refrigerated overnight to set.  You’ll bake it tomorrow…

Cook your ground sausage in a pan over medium heat.  I prefer hot Jimmy Dean sausage, but my weenie coworkers don’t.  While it’s cooking, dice that onion.  After the sausage is cooked, remove it from the pan to drain on some paper towels but leave the drippings in the pan.  Saute the onion in the sausage drippings until translucent.  When done, combine the onion and sausage in a bowl and set aside.

Add the vegetable oil to the sausage/onion pan (see? all cooked in one pan!) and heat over medium.  Once the oil is hot, add the diced potatoes and cook until slightly browned, turning often.  When finished, remove the potatoes from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Cut the bread into cubes.  Take half of the cubed bread and toss into a greased 13x9x2 casserole dish.  Toss in half the cooked potatoes and half the shredded cheddar cheese on top of the bread.  Spread the sausage and onion mixture evenly across the top of the bread/potato/cheese mixture.  Then take the rest of the bread, potatoes and cheese and toss on top.  Basically, you’re making three layers here (I’m seriously terrible at writing recipes…).

In a separate bowl, beat the eight eggs together well.  Add the three cups of milk, Worcester sauce and Potlatch seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour egg and milk mixture evenly over the three layers in the casserole dish.  Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove the casserole dish from the fridge and let stand for 30 minutes.  During this time, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  After 30 minutes has passed, put casserole dish into oven and bake for one hour (60 minutes) or until set and cooked in the center.  Enjoy!

Buttermilk Apple Cake
Serves: 6 to 8 

This recipe would normally be used to make muffins.  However, upon remembering last night that I loaned out my muffin tins, I made this into a coffee cake-style recipe at the last minute.  Although still delicious as muffins, I rather liked the cake instead.  It was a unique twist on what everyone initially thought was coffee cake until they got to the sweet little nuggets of apple inside…

1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
1 c. brown sugar, divided into 1/4 c. and 3/4 c.
3/4 c. walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon, divided into 1/2 tsps. (please use real cinnamon here, not cassia!)
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 and grease a square baking dish.  Combine 1/4 c. brown sugar, walnuts and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and remaining cinnamon (I added just a smidge more cinnamon here than 1/2 tsp.).  In a separate bowl, combine remaining brown sugar, buttermilk, vegetable oil, beaten egg and vanilla.  Add dry mixture to wet mixture a little bit at a time until just barely blended.  Add the diced apple and mix well.

Pour batter into baking dish and top evenly with brown sugar/walnut/cinnamon mixture.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  If desired, sprinkle top with confectioner’s sugar after it has cooled off.  Enjoy!

Image courtesy of Flickr user StarbuckGuy, who does awesome nature photography.