The Art of Charcuterie

My first “real” feature for the Houston Press, “Designer Meats,” came out last Thursday. It was the third attempt at writing a full-blown feature in a couple of months, as my first two ideas fell though.

Charcuterie is something I’ve always been interested in, and was planning on doing a series of blog posts for Eating…Our Words about the various chefs around town who were reviving the craft here in Houston (seeing as how it’s already experienced a long overdue renaissance in other cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco).

So when my other two stories fell through, this seemed like the perfect answer: combine all those blog posts I was going to do into one, full-length story. Brilliant! Except for one thing…

I found out through the course of interviewing various chefs that some charcuterie — in particular, the hard cured meats that are hung to dry — is considered illegal in Houston. It seemed ludicrous to me that a food preparation technique that has been around since the dawn of man and is still used throughout the world to this day would be illegal because U.S. health laws are still in the dark ages compared to, say, Europe. On the other hand, this wasn’t why I set out to do the story and I eventually turned in my copy with no mention of the illegality of the situation.

You can probably guess what happened next. Continue reading The Art of Charcuterie

Testing the Water

Among the things I now get paid to do (such as make ice cream sandwiches out of Pop-Tarts and eat them) is test whatever makes its way into the Houston Press offices, especially if it seems (a) interesting and/or (b) sublimely ridiculous.  Luckily, the LifeBag water filtration system came to our offices just in time for hurricane season and our editorial assistant, Blake, had the brilliant idea of finding the most disgusting water in Houston and seeing what the LifeBag would make of it.

Our first idea was to take water from Buffalo Bayou and attempt to make it potable, clumps of unidentified detritus and all.  But then we noticed some language on the side of the filtration system that warned against using raw sewage (and seawater, for that matter).  So, obviously, Buffalo Bayou was out.

We didn’t want terribly clean water, though, and set about thinking of the nastiest water we could put into the LifeBag without potentially compromising our health and wellbeing.  We finally settled on the duck pond at Hermann Park, at which point Blake set off to gather water for our test.  A transcript of his conversation with two concerned gentleman at the duck pond, as well as the results of our test, follow here:

The Facts of LifeBag

If the above isn’t enough to convince you to go read the post, here are two added bonuses: (1) there’s video and (2) after the pond water experiment, we tried filtering vodka.

Go.  Read.  Now.

Battle Michelada

The ballot and the remains
The ballot and the remains

Even though our own Plinio Sandalio once competed on Iron Chef (Battle Mango, alongside Chef Robert Gadsby), those guys have nothing on our boys and the Battle Michelada.

An impromptu michelada throwdown was organized on Twitter within the span of a few days after a fellow food blogger mentioned that she couldn’t find a good michelada in Houston. Before long, the discussion had evolved into a full-blown showdown between three of Houston’s best culinary talents.

Read all about it here to find out who won and to watch the video of the contest (which yours truly narrated, National Geographic-style).

Bacon vs. Tofu: The Battle That Never Was

I am particularly proud of this morning’s bacon-related item in the Houston Press, a blog post and an accompanying slideshow of the 11 reasons that tofu is not the new bacon. It’s heretical to even suggest otherwise.

Check out the blog post first and then check out the slideshow.

A preview: “Tofu is one of the most peaceable objects on earth: mild, unobtrusive, yields easily and has no real qualms about taking on the flavors and textures of other things. That’s why no one will ever make an automatic weapon out of it.”

You know you want to read it.

Is This Thing On?

Fish & Scallop Pie with Leek Mash

Test, one, two. Test, one, two.

Is anyone still here?

Buttermilk Pie

There. I thought those might do the trick.

I’m not dead. Far from it; in fact, I’ve been busier than ever lately. Funny how that happened. Here I was, thinking Now I can fully concentrate on writing and editing and social media and bunnies instead of doing all of that while performing all the duties of my day job – I’ll have more spare time than ever! Not so much. Instead, I’m busier than I can ever recall being in my life. But it was a nice thought while it lasted. Especially the bit about the bunnies. The fluffy, fluffy bunnies…

Anyway, life at the Press is wonderful. I enjoy my job more than I ever could have expected, although – as with all good things in life – it comes with the constant terror that it might all be taken away at a moment’s notice. Don’t act like I’m the only one who thinks that way. Whereas before, I batted at things like pageviews and linkbacks as if they were cat toys – interesting diversions, but not all that important to my trifling little blog – they have now become my very own Sword of Damocles. I live and die by pageviews now. Although I’m sure I’ll become more comfortable with it over time, for now I’m all too terrified of not meeting our pageview goals each month, something which has all but overtaken any enjoyment I take from writing for the time being.

That said, I was in print again last week with my review of Manena’s, a lovely Argentinean deli and pastry shop off Westheimer. If you missed the print edition, you can still read it online. And a million thanks to Jeff for being the first person to take me to Manena’s and making me wonder how I’d missed such a little jewel all this time.

As for my other food writing, I’m still at it (links below). I’m still plugging away at the photography, too. Some of my recent slideshows for the Press have been the most highly-viewed each week, so I’m both pleasantly puzzled and excited to have them so well-received. A sampling, for your clicking pleasure:

And, of course, you can keep up with my food photography over at my Flickr account.

Now, to the meat of it all: what I’ve been writing…

Continue reading Is This Thing On?

To Everything There Is Some Seasoning

…wait, did I get that right?

Anyway.  Two things.

Number One:  In case you missed it, today is your last day to pick up the March 19th edition of the Houston Press on newsstands, which contains my review of The Grove in the dining section.  If you’re reading this from France or the future and can’t get a physical copy, here’s a link to the review: Downtown Attraction at The Grove.  Being in print is awesomely fun, as is working with the good folks at the Houston Press.  Which leads us to the second thing…

Number Two:  For those of you who have been following me for a while (whether here at she eats. or at my previous blog), you’ll know that I was never happy in my day job.  To put it mildly.  So it is with great excitement and an affirming sense of self-actualization that I’m happy to announce that I’ve resigned from my day job and have taken a full-time position with the Houston Press as their Web Editor.  I’ll still be blogging about food here and at Eating Our Words, but I’ll be taking on a wholly new docket of responsibilities as well.

To say that I’m merely excited by this would be a massive understatement.  How can you just be simply excited about turning over a completely new page in your life…jumping off a cliff into the great unknown…realizing the goals and dreams you always had for yourself…watching the hustle and sweat finally pay off…moving in an entirely new direction as before?

I’m not excited.  I’m ravenous.  I’m fiercely hungry to do this work and to succeed at it.  I’m feeling more alive than I have in years.  I feel like I’m standing on the stage at my high school graduation all over again, full of hope and joy and elation and passion.

Would that everyone have a chance or opportunity to fulfill their dreams, we would all shine so much brighter.

Thanks to everyone who’s supported me along the way and offered words of praise and encouragement.  I couldn’t ask for better readers, friends and family.  Much love to you all.


Hot Links, Get Yer Hot Links!

It’s been over three weeks since the last roundup of Houston food writing (yikes!), so let’s get to it!

A few (but not all) of my own posts from Eating Our Words over at the Houston Press:

And some excellent posts from around town:

  • The King of Tex-Mex Is DeadRobb Walsh pays tribute to Matt Martinez, Jr., who passed away last Friday in Dallas.
  • Tofu & BBQ:  You wouldn’t think these two things go together, but Robb shows us that’s not the case.
  • Bargain of the Week: Hot & Sour Soup from 888 ChineseAlison Cook raves about the spicy soup — available for $3.75 per quart — that’s both budget- and belly-friendly.
  • Hue Gone AwaySwamplot uncovers some facts about the oddly-situated Vietnamese restaurant’s recent closure.
  • Mayhaw! Yams! Honey!  Houston Foodie divulges the location of a prime produce market off I-10 outside of Anahuac.  He had me a mayhaw.
  • More Sex!  Less Food!  The Eggheads Proclaimeth:  Another Houston Foodie post, this time at Eating Our Words.  I’m noticing a distinct fondness for interrobangs in his headlines.  This is a well-researched commentary on a recent Stanford University article that had tongues wagging: Is Food the New Sex?
  • Houston’s Professional Food Critics:  A interesting discussion of where new and old media meet with regard to local food writing.  Anonymous Eater at Food in Houston has been on a roll lately, pushing out one thoughtfully written post after another.  It’s been a rare treat.  Check out some of his other great posts below…
  • The Tale of the Pig’s Head:  What exactly does one do with a whole pig’s head?
  • Houston’s Diversity: Food for Thought:  For all our diversity, Houston seems to be missing a few key cuisines.
  • Tasty Salted Pig Parts:  Ruthie at Great Food Houston is currently vacationing in San Francisco.  Read about her adventures with tasty, tasty pig parts.
  • All Is Right in the Food World:  Cory at I’ve Got the Munchies happily notes that our very own Texas Burger Guy is back to blogging after a one-year hiatus.
  • …On Brownies:  Plinio Sandalio, pastry chef at Textile and Gravitas, shares a fabulous recipe for stovetop brownies on his blog, Bakin ‘n’ Bacon.
  • Road Trip Chow Down: Chris Madrid’s in San AntonioH Town Chow Down takes a trip to the famous San Antonio burger joint and conclues that Houston is still the best burger town in Texas.
  • Vegan 3-Bean Chili:  The amazingly talented Shannon at Shabak’s Kitchen shares a hearty recipe for vegan chili.
  • Universal Recycling Techniques:  Dr. Ricky has an incredible compatcness to his writing, and shares in his typically straightforward manner four ways you can recycle leftover food for new meals.
  • Seven Reasons Kroger Sucked Last Night:  And, finally, for a bit of levity, Jeff Balke elaborates on a point we can all agree on, which is that Kroger’s sucks.

Getting Some Ink

Not that kind of ink.

If you’re here in Houston, make sure to pick up a copy of the latest Houston Press on newstands today.  Flip over to the dining section and there I be!  In ink!  With my real name and everything!

If you’re not local, here’s a link to the article:  The Tastes of Textile.  (And if you’re intent on leaving a comment on the article, you can do so here.)

This is my first “real” restaurant review, in that someone paid me to do this and then actually used valuable ink and paper to publish it.  I’m still a bit stunned by that.  Moreover, I’m still happily befuddled about being allowed to review such a high-profile restaurant and I know that — undoubtedly — people will question why a bottom-rung, low-man-on-the-totem-pole food writer like me was chosen to review Textile.  I can’t answer that.  But I can say that I’m extremely appreciative for the opportunity.  Working with the folks over at the Houston Press — both on this review and on the food blog (Eating Our Words) has been one of the best experiences of my life so far.

Okay, that was me being sappy.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Now go read the review!

EDIT:  There’s been some feedback on the review this morning, from two different sources.  Plinio Sandalio, the pastry chef at Textile, wrote a short blog about the review.  And H Town Chow Down, one of my favorite local food blogs, has a write-up concentrating on one of the aspects of Textile that bothered me the most.

Just Another Manic Linkday

Congratulations!  You made it through yet another soul-killing Monday with at least a few shreds of your dignity and sanity still intact.  You deserve some links.

First, my own links from the Houston Press:

  • Depart From Me!  I Never Knew You, Eaters of Bacon:  An article about Joel Osteen’s decision to preach his personal diet to his congregation at Lakewood Church, in which I am accused of being “condescending,” “ignorant,” “offensive,” disrespectful, hateful, controversial and perhaps anti-Semitic.  We all know that only the first six of those are true.  27 comments and counting!
  • Taking Stock of Galveston’s Restaurants:  Surveying the restaurant situation on the island five months after Hurricane Ike.  Bonus: pretty pictures!
  • Spring Is Here at MAX’s Wine Dive:  Serious food porn lies ahead.
  • Monica Pope Is Plum Crazy:  Free cooking classes, taught by the cuisine queen of Houston using fresh, local ingredients?  Sign me up.
  • Avery Cask-Conditioned Ale at the Petrol Station:  It gets oddly and worryingly poetic towards the end.  I feel like the IPA is going to take out a restraining order against me any day now.
  • Bawitda-Brew:  They’re making Kid Rock brand beer.  You can kill yourself out of a desperate lack of hope for future generations now.

And now links from around town:

Okay, don’t fill up on just links.  You’re going to spoil your dinner.  G’night, y’all!

What’s the Story, Linking Glory?

Wrapping up the week with a few links to what’s been going on around Houston this week:

Missed anything?  Let me know in the comments section below.