House of Pies and Pies and Pies

Not long ago, I wrote a piece for Eating Our Words about National Pie Day (what, you missed National Pie Day?).  And as a precursor to both the piece and Pie Day itself, I met a group of friends at the House of Pies on Kirby to do a little “research” and “preparation” (I’m nothing if not dedicated).

House of Pies (or House of Guys, if you’re fabulous) has about 30 different pies on their menu at any given time, in addition to regular diner food and the best tater tots — although House of Pies calls them “cottage fries” — in town.  Their house speciality is the curiously-named Bayou Goo pie.

Bayou Goo at House of Pies

According to their description, the Bayou Goo is “pecan crust with a layer of sweet cream cheese, then a layer of vanilla custard swirled with chocolate chunks and topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.”   Meh.  Frankly, I expected more “goo.”  You know, some caramel or something, at least.  But I gave it a whirl.

I was just as uninspired after a few bites as I was after reading the description.  The miasma of contradictory flavors and textures left me disappointed.  I guess there’s a lot to be said for clever naming and rhymes.  Onto other pies, then…

The Texas pecan fudge pie was heavenly and heavily rich.  The slice alone felt as if someone had plated a brick, but Lord was it good.  The French blackbottom (“a layer of chocolate , then a layer of French vanilla rum custard with lots of whipped cream and chocolate shavings”) and the apple were also good, but the sleeper hit of the night was the unobtrusive strawberry-rhubarb.

Served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the strawberry-rhubarb pie was everything I think of when I think pie: flaky, fruity, mildy sweet and just slightly gooey. It utterly melted in my mouth. The sweetness of the strawberries was — as expected — perfectly offset by the tart rhubarb.

While I’m certain to try different pies during subsequent trips House of Pies, I’m afraid I’ve found my favorite and will find it hard to stray.  I’m loyal like that.  I guess I’ll just have to order two slices at a time — a strawberry-rhubarb and a ____________.  Oh, the terrible things I have to endure for the love of food.

Where Does a 300 Pound Gummy Bear Sit?

My friend Elaine is a fantastic photographer who occasionally works with miniatures, producing detailed and intriguing work that I could never come close to replicating.  In a lot of her miniature photographs, she incorporates foods or beverages that give the picture a whimsical sense of scale.

I particularly love this latest set:

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Check out more of Elaine’s miniature photography here at Flickr.

Happy Halloween!

Hope you’re all enjoying a happy Halloween so far!

We’re gearing up for a serious potluck lunch here at the office — tamales and empanadas are out in full force — so this afternoon should be filled with the sounds of overly-full moans and heavy sighs from people who’ve overindulged in the feast and are no longer as comfortable in their skintight flapper or pimp outfits as they were this morning.  Thankfully, yours truly came prepared in a roomy Dynamo jersey and jeans.  I plan ahead like that.

To celebrate the day, here’s a great article from one of my favorite websites, Serious Eats:

Halloween Recipes Roundup

The great thing about these recipes is that they’re perfect not only for Halloween, but for the rest of the year, too.  Hellooooo, spiced pumpkin bisque!  So enjoy those autumnal ingredients, crisp spices and yummy root vegetables while the cool weather lasts!

And as one last treat, can you guess the best and worst Halloween candy?  Don’t worry if you can’t; MSN is there to be a spoilsport and try to convince you that everyone loves Tootsie Rolls and sticks of gum for Halloween!  Don’t fall for it.  You’ll be hated almost as much that woman at the end of the cul-de-sac who gives out toothbrushes and can’t figure out why her house always gets egged.  Stick with Snickers tonight and you’ll be golden.

Happy Halloween!

Mo’s Bacon Bar: The Meaning of Life?

As I believe I’ve made perfectly clear here in past posts, I love pork. I love pork belly, pork cheek, pork snout, pork loin, honey-baked ham, hot dogs, pancetta — if it’s pork, I love it. And I love no pork-based item more than I love bacon.

A strong runner-up to pork in the Food I Live For Battle is chocolate. Chocolate on its own is lovely, but I really love chocolate when it’s been smacked around a bit and perked up with an unexpected ingredient, hence my total foodgasm over Starbuck’s Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.

When I heard about Vosges Haut Chocolate’s new creation, Mo’s Bacon Bar, I knew it was only a matter of time before we’d meet and fall madly in love. My totally rad friend Groovehouse obtained one for me this week, and it’s totally on, people. The love affair has begun.

As with every Vosges bar, the packaging is just as fascinating as the chocolate inside. I giggled as I read the back of the package, which smacks strongly of food porn:

Beside my chocolate-laden cakes laid three strips of sizzlin’ bacon, just barely touching a sweet pool of maple syrup. And then, the magic—just a bite of the bacon was too salty and I yearned for the sweet kiss of chocolate and syrup, so I combined the two. In retrospect, perhaps this was a turning point; for on that plate something magical happened, the beginnings of a combination so ethereal and delicious that it would haunt my thoughts until I found the medium to express it—chocolate.

It’s always nice to see I’m not the only one that holds such intense feelings for bacon and/or chocolate.

Following their instructions, I opened the package and broke off one small square of the smooth, dark chocolate, rubbing it with my thumb to release the dusky aroma.  Upon first glance, it looks like any other bar of chocolate.  Where is the bacon?

Still following instructions, I snapped off one small piece from the square and popped it into my mouth.  Ah.  Yes.  There it is…

The bacon is buried deep inside the bar in the most delicate little nuggets.  I was fascinated, and kept breaking off successively smaller pieces of the chocolate just to see the bits inside.  For such small pieces, they pack a hell of a punch.  Not aggressive or overwhelming, just an unexpected salty rush with just the faintest hint of sweet maple syrup.  It’s a pairing made in food heaven.

In a move that’s surprised even me, I’m now viciously hoarding the rest of the bar, determined to make it last as long as possible.  Greedy, rapacious me?  Who hoovers up anything set in front of her?  Hoarding food?  I know; it’s stunning.  But that should give you an idea of just how damn good this chocolate bar is.

I’d suggest getting one of your own, since any attempt to take mine would result in teeth and/or scratch marks.  It wouldn’t be pretty.  You can order it online at Vosges for a mere $7.50, or simply head down to your local Whole Foods Market and raid their Vosges section yourself.

p.s.  The answer is no longer 42.  It’s now Mo’s Bacon Bar.

I Scream, You Scream…

We all scream for $0.31 scoop night at Baskin-Robbins!

Tomorrow night, for one night only, from 5pm to 10pm, Baskin-Robbins is offering small ice cream scoops for $0.31 to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Association.  Of course, the $0.31 is a creamy, delicious ploy to get you in the door, but why not consider donating to this very worthwhile cause while you’re there?

Baskin-Robbins is donating $100,000 to the fund, so round up your friends or kids or kids’ friends or friends’ kids and get down to Baskin-Robbins tomorrow night to take advantage of this treat and help out our nation’s firefighters!

More information can be found at Baskin-Robbins’ website.

The Official Ice Cream of Texas

Over at my second home, Serious Eats, a fellow foodie posed the question: what ice cream would best represent your home state?

There were 54 answers the last time I checked — at least one for each state — but only one person had represented Texas, and…it wasn’t what I was hoping for:

Blue Bell Ice Cream is #1 brand in Texas. There are four food groups in Texas: barbecue, tex-mex, chicken fried steak and Blue Bell. Their best seller is Homemade Vanilla.

While I can’t argue with the food groups — they’re pretty much spot on — I’ve got to believe that we can come up with a more creative flavor than boring old vanilla to represent the Lone Star State.

So, fellow Texans, what ice cream flavor do you think would best represent our fair state?  It doesn’t have to be an ice cream flavor that anyone — even Blue Bell — currently makes.  Be adventurous!

Farmers’ Market

Before you read this post, please take some time and read this thought-provoking, insightful and worrisome Op-Ed piece from this weekend’s edition of the New York Times, My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables), and remember one thing:  the moment that you start taking money from a governmental organization, you’ve given up a small piece of your freedom.  Farm subsidies and the ensuing restrictions are just one of the many problems associated with allowing the government to manage and interfere with peoples’ lives on such an intrusive level.

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Okay, that said, on to the pictures:

Favor de no mayugarlos
“Please don’t squeeze the avocados!”  Augh!  But they’re so squeezable!

My mother and I went to the giant Farmers’ Market on Airline this past Saturday.  We stocked up on produce for the week, she for her clients (my mother is a professional chef, but cooks for private clients only) and me for my bewildered husband and I to eat.  Husband: “What’s a pomelo?  Did you really buy five pounds of oranges??”

Nadia vende mas barato
It’s true!

Needless to say, speaking Spanish is very useful if you’re shopping at the market on Airline.  However, for those Spanish-challenged Houstonians, some of the signs are helpfully translated for you.

Pozole?
Want to make some pozole? Start here.

The sheer quantity of dried goods sold at the market could fill the Goodyear Blimp twice over.  They even sell real cinnamon, not just dried cassia.

Habaneros, Front & Center
Hot, hot, hot.

Every stand had at least one enormous box of habañero peppers for sale.  They looked like little nuggets of gold panned from a stream.

Mole!
Mole!

Don’t have time to make mole from scratch? Don’t fret; you can buy it premade here. And it’s good.

Giant Carrots
Egads!

The market also sells some of the largest, beefiest carrots known to man. They make your storebought carrots look puny and sad by comparison.

Fresh Eggs
I like the brown ones.

In the mood for fresh eggs? You can find any size, shape and color egg that your little heart desires at the market’s Egg House. It’s a giant, walk-in cooler the size of a mobile home that houses beautiful, fresh eggs from floor to ceiling. Just grab a carton and fill it up.

After walking around for a good hour, and purchasing three giant boxes of food and produce for paltry $45, total (including beets, watercress, potatoes, 10-15 onions, cornmeal, avocados, bananas, pineapple, pears, apples, leeks, spinach, cabbage, okra, dill, various oranges, eggplant, spaghetti squash, honey, strawberries, etc.) we headed next door to El Bolillo, a panaderia that’s just as popular as el gran mercado on Saturday mornings. Continue reading Farmers’ Market

3.14159265 Day Is Coming!

Fellow food blogger and all-around cool cat Krysta over at Evil Chef Mom has come up with what is guaranteed to become a food blogging tradition in years to come: 3.14 Day, also known as Pie Day, which will take place on — of course — March 14th (3.14, if you still aren’t getting it…).

Participants in Pie Day will bake their favorite pie, post the recipe and post pictures of their pie creations.  I’m no baker, but I do make a mean Chess Pie, which will be my contribution to Pie Day.  Also, I’m of the mind that more people need to be introduced to the wonder and glory that is Chess Pie (a.k.a. Vinegar Pie, but only if you’re about 85 years old).

I have no idea why it’s called Chess Pie; I don’t care to speculate on the etymology of its name, as there are probably hundreds of possible origins for its strange moniker.  All I know is that it’s delicious and comforting and unlike any other pie out there.

I’m not going to elaborate too much on the Chess Pie right now; that will be saved for 3.14 Day.  But if you’d like to participate in 3.14 Day yourself, head on over to Krysta’s page and let her know.  Sadly, there will be no mass sharing of the pies, which somewhat deflates the fun, so you’ll just have to imagine how that Buttermilk Pie or Rhubarb Pie actually tastes.

Or…you could make it yourself, which is kind of the point.

Until then…happy pie-ing!

The Brutal Licorice Fist of the Witch King of Angmar

If you’re anything like me, the Battle of Helm’s Deep was far and away your favorite part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Also, if you’re anything like me, any chapter in which that blowhard Tom Bombadil appears is your most hated part (even more hated than the laborious and extended Entmoot).

Anyway, like I was saying…  If you’re like me, then you’ve also probably wistfully wondered what the Battle of Helm’s Deep would look like if painstakingly recreated with Gummy Bears, Sour Patch Kids and licorice ropes.  Well, wonder no more.

Behold!

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This glorious masterpiece of sugar and orcs was created by the boys over at Miss(ed) Manners. You must go and read their write-up of the process and ingredients behind their recreation, complete with detailed pictures and hilarious captions.

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It’s a trebuchet made out of a Tootsie Pop, people. Pure brilliance.

And — if after you’ve taken in the grand sight of Gummy Bear Uruk-Hai being pwnt by a Sour Patch Kid Gandalf and an army of Sour Patch Kids Rohirrim on gummy horse steeds obliterating Gummy Bear orcs*** — you’re still craving more sugary Tolkien goodness, then look no further than this:

The Battle of Pelennor Fields and the Siege of Minas Tirith!

minastirith1.jpg
Holy mother of God. This has got to be the coolest thing I have ever seen. Also: I am such a dork.

This elaborate setup appears to have taken much longer to create and uses many more ingredients. Take, for example, the Lord of the Nazgul and his Fell-Beast made from black licorice ropes and a fully-functioning Grond (the battering ram) reimagined with red licorice ropes and peppermint candies:

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I mean, this is art, people.  If you look closely, you can even see tiny drops of blood where the Lord of the Nazgul has just killed Theoden and, per the boys at Miss(ed) Manners, “…beaten the sweet out of Merry and Eowyn.”

One can only imagine what depths they will plumb for next year’s Christmas project.  Minas Tirith, being the hardest battle to effectively recreate, leads me to ponder whether or not they peaked too early.  Perhaps next year will be a series of vignettes — the Council of Elrond, the ridiculous and hated Entmoot, the aftermath of the destruction of Isengard — or maybe a faithful recreation of The Shire and all their lovely little gardens and pubs.  Your guess is as good as mine…

***If you understood at least 75% of this without having to reference Wikipedia or any other source, then there’s a strong chance that we could be in love, or at least lifelong friends.

And massive props are due to Food Goat for pointing out the link in the first place.