Bière française: existe-t-il?

…et s’il fait, est-il bon?

That’s the question that one of my favorite bloggers, Croque Camille, has bravely attempted to answer in a recent post about French beers.  An American ex-pat pastry chef living in France, Camille is living the dream while eating and drinking her way through the bounty of incredible foods and wines that France has to offer.

But I posed the question to her one day: are there any good French beers?  It’s a reasonable question, as one always hears about French wine, but never French beer.  Their neighbors all make fantastic beer — Belgium, Germany, even Italy — so why not France?

Camille and her husband purchased a few French microbrews and began their journey towards discovery.  Their first beer, Etoile du Nord — a hoppy blonde that sounds terribly promising at first glance — is reviewed here:  Worthwhile French Beers.

Does it live up to the standards set by French wine and cuisine?  Find out for yourself…

The Saga Continues…

The pizza vending machine saga is far from over.  In fact, we have only begun to plumb the depths of machine-vended atrocities.  Wallstreetfighter has additional information on the rise of the machines, and has captured one of these diabolical monsters on film:

New Levels of Culinary Repugnance

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into your office breakroom…

Black Food Is In

From The Root comes this interesting story about the health benefits of dark-colored food:

Black food is in. And we’re not talking about your grandmother’s fried chicken or Aunt Sadie’s peach cobbler. Instead, it seems that with food, the darker it is, the better it is for you.

Wait…what?  Aside from the really awful “darker the berry, sweeter the juice” jokes that this begs, could that intro have been any more blatantly racist?

I guess since it’s written by a supposedly black author at a black website, it’s okay.  Right?  …not really.

Number One, fried chicken and peach cobbler are no more “black” foods than cornbread and catfish.  Those foods are Southern foods, traditional Southern cuisine.  Not “black” cuisine.  Both blacks and whites in the South eat foods like grits, barbecue, sweet potato pie, okra, field peas and collard greens.  Always have, always will.  What a ridiculous idea that certain foods are “blacker” than others.  Which leads me to…

Number Two, the insinuation that black folks only eat fried chicken or peach cobbler is offensive.  Why not just throw watermelon and pink lemonade into the mix and further stereotype yourself?  Even better, we can go back to old-timey advertisements like this:

Or some classic old Cream of Wheat ads:

While the rest of the article was interesting, that intro almost completely turned me off from reading it.  Nothing like setting a group of people back fifty years or so.  Well done, The Root.

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:


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!

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

A Big Girl Question

I honestly don’t know if I’m classified as a “big girl” or not.  I hadn’t given it much thought until this very second, when I decided to post this awesome question from one of my favorite websites: Manolo for the Big Girl.

Perhaps I toe the line between “average girl” and “big girl.”  Perhaps it’s all a matter of perception: I shop in the “regular sized” stores and clothing departments, but I’m sure that society probably views me as a “big girl.”  Perhaps clothing designers think that if you’re five-foot-nothing, then you must also be 100 pounds with no discernable breasts, making shopping for clothes more difficult than it really ought to be.  All I know is that I’m not a stick insect, I like to eat, and I’m happy with both of these things.

So, back to my original intent here.  Plumcake and Francesca have such a wonderfully witty way with words (ack!  that’s a lot of alliteration!) and reading Manolo for the Big Girl every morning jump-starts and invigorates me.  Take Plumcake’s excellent description of her lunch a few days ago:

  • Two sliced-up Braeburn apples.
  • One red plum with only most of the sticker removed. Rest of sticker to be discovered between teeth at later date.
  • Odiously hateful organic peanut butter. Technically peanut butter the same way my best friend from college is technically a virgin.
  • One cup peach-flavored probiotic kefir (yogurt’s smug, Nader-voting cousin) mixed with some crunchy sprouted-grain cereal that tastes like angry sweater.
  • And her later description of her coworker’s lunch:

    Is it because she was hauling some sad, Dickensian-looking microwaved meal and wanted to show solidarity?

    Love, people.  Anyway, Plumcake asks an interesting question at the end of her post, which I think merits a read and an answer.  Check it out for yourselves…

    The Big Question: You’re Eating THAT?!


    I don’t normally participate in “tag” type blog memes (especially when they have nothing at all to do with food), but this one was too good to pass up…

    The Rules:

    • Type your answer to the questions into flickr search
    • Using only the first page, pick an image
    • Copy and paste each of the urls in the Mosaic Maker

    The Questions:

    1. What is your first name?
    2. What is your favorite food?
    3. What high school did you go to?
    4. What is your favorite color?
    5. Who is your celebrity crush?
    6. What is your favorite drink?
    7. What is your dream vacation?
    8. What is your favorite dessert?
    9. What do you want to do when you grow up?
    10. Who/ what do you love most in life?
    11. Choose one word that describes you?
    12. What is your Flickr name?

    The Mosiac:

    1. Katharine Hepburn & Cary Grant, 2. Bento 5506, 3. Stratford Clock Tower, 4. Meeting the pregnant princess of the forest, 5. Colin Firth having coffee dumped on him, 6. Campari & Orange, 7. A place like no other, 8. Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, 9. Be seeing you, 10. Danesford School Camp, Towyn, Wales c1967 01, 11. Inconsistent Menu, 12. 2

    And here’s the part where I get to tag a few fellow bloggers:

    Have a blast, troopers!

    And thanks to the truly delightful Lucky Kitty for tagging me, even if she doesn’t know me in real life.  😉

    The Weekend in Food


    6:00pm:  Richard having after-work drinks with coworkers.  Curl up on couch with ice-cold can of Tecate and freshly-picked Mexican limes from lime tree in backyard.  Watch reruns of “Clean House” with Niecy Nash and bask in her ferociousness, while also feeling much better about the state of my own closet.

    8:30pm:  Richard comes home hungry.  Peel self off couch to make him a sandwich, then quickly go back to K-shaped indentation and finish watching old episode of “Shameless.”  Show became infinitely more interesting after we actually passed through Wythenshawe in February and I could see, firsthand, how horridly realistic the show is.


    8:00am:  Leaving house to pick up mother for morning of shopping.  Need coffee.  And a bagel.

    8:30am:  Cup of coffee in hand, at mother’s house, ready to head out to Canino’s on Airline.

    9:00am:  Taking detour to “Asian market” somewhere “on Main,” according to mother.

    9:30am:  Have taken Main all the way from 610, past I-10, through downtown and are now sitting next to the old Sears.  Elusive “Asian market” no longer holding our interest.  Adkins Antiques is, however.

    9:40am:  Adkins not yet open.  Breakfast tacos sound good!

    10:00am:  At Guadalajara Bakery for breakfast tacos.  Line is almost out the door.

    10:30am:  Finally have chicharrones and pastor tacos.  And a can of coke.  And some empanadas.  This, coupled with the bagel, is quickly turning into a competitive eating type of day.

    10:45am:  Driving over to The Guild Shop while trying to eat chicharrones tacos.  We have completely given up on Canino’s at this point.

    10:50am:  Inevitably, spill bright orange chicharrones down the front of white shirt.

    11:00am:  Change into mother’s extra shirt (she dresses in layers, like we’re going on a hike or something).  Despite her claims to the contrary, it is not a flattering look for me and does not match my shoes or purse or jeans or general age.  But it’s also not stained with pork skin juice, so it’s got that going for it.

    11:30am:  Leave The Guild Shop emptyhanded, to the great relief of both our husbands.

    11:40am:  At the Mega Marshall’s across the street.  Will probably not leave emptyhanded here.

    12:15pm:  Sure enough!  I score two shirts; mother scores a purse.

    12:20pm:  Is it time for lunch?  No, we just ate…

    12:25pm:  But we could have bubble tea!

    12:45pm:  Drinking an icy watermelon slurpee (mother) and a red bean cream tea with tapioca (me) at the Teahouse on Westheimer, while checking out categories for latest Houston Press “Best of Houston” nominations.

    1:15pm:  Okay…how about lunch now?  We are such piglets.

    2:00pm:  Eating a late lunch at Tacos del Julio on Long Point.  Charro beans are velvety and decadent as always, while the enchiladas de pollo aren’t as good as the plain enchiladas de queso.  I fill up very quickly (big surprise!) and take the rest home to Richard.

    3:00pm:  At home, chilling on the sofa (once again) while Richard plays his new Championship Manager game and munches on enchiladas.

    5:30pm:  Wake up, with a pile of dogs on top of me.  Realize I fell asleep while watching “How Do I Look?” and Daisy and Lucy decided that it would be a good idea to just throw themselves into the mix, too.

    6:00pm:  Head out to Walmart to rent a DVD.

    7:00pm:  End up back home with dog food, cat food, box of kettle corn, cheap lipstick, bobby pins, grilled chicken wrap from Sonic for Richard, vanilla coke for me, and the rented DVD.

    8:00pm:  Happily munching kettle corn while watching 27 Dresses.  Richard is bashing his head against the wall as plot hole after plot hole after cliche after cliche parade across the screen.


    7:00am:  Taking DVD back to Walmart.

    7:45am:  End up back home with lightbulbs, pint of milk and breakfast burritos.  Leaving the house is a dangerous activity for my wallet, it seems.

    8:00am:  Make tea for Richard and prepare to take him breakfast in bed.

    8:05am:  Except that he’s already lumbering down the stairs, sleepily mewling “Tea?  Tea?  Tea?”  Do I think ahead, or what?

    8:30am:  After breakfast, Richard tunes the TV to Fox Soccer Channel for a day of footie.  I leave to take pictures for upcoming Houstonist article.

    9:00am:  On Washington Avenue, stopping every 10 feet to snap pictures.  Glad there are no cars here on Sunday mornings.

    10:00am:  Finished with Washington Ave, head downtown.

    10:10am:  Father calls to tell me he bought me a dumpling press last weekend.  Score!  You all know where the next dumpling and/or pierogi crawl will be now…

    10:30am:  Snapping along Buffalo Bayou.  Fat man in a kayak in water.  Looks like Jabba the Hutt balancing precariously on a toothpick.  Trying to be discreet about photos.

    11:00am:  Man fishing in Buffalo Bayou.  Has a bucket of fish already.  I wouldn’t eat fish out of that water even if I was guaranteed a free stomach pump and round of amoxicillin afterwards.

    11:30am:  Heading home, when parents call.  Want to go to lunch at Tacos del Julio again.

    12:00pm:  Still full from breakfast, just having some flan.  It is SO good.

    1:00pm:  Head home and pick up Richard.

    1:30pm:  At Starbucks, enjoying a quick spot of tea.

    2:00pm:  Hitting up Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Home Depot, pricing fixtures and tile for long-delayed bathroom remodel.

    4:00pm:  Drop Richard off at home, pick mother up to go makeup shopping.

    5:00pm:  Too much money later, mother has entirely new stock of makeup from Sephora.  Sadly and bitterly poke through my own supply of Rimmel and L’Oreal knockoffs.

    6:00pm:  Back home again, eating another bowl of kettle corn for dinner.  Watching Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Have to turn it off at the funeral bit; too sad.

    8:00pm:  Shower, facial, pedicure.

    9:30pm:  Fall asleep waiting for toenail polish to dry.  An exciting end to the weekend.

    Houston Restaurant Week: RSVP Now!

    In case you somehow missed the news, Houston Restaurant Week is upon us.  August 11th through the 17th is right around the corner, and with only seven days and 52 restaurants to choose from, you’d best git bizzy if you want to get a table.

    Refresher course: prix-fixe menus at each restaurant are $35 each.  Some restaurants have a set menu, others allow you to choose your courses from a short list.  Some offer wine free of charge, others don’t.  The $35 doesn’t include other beverages, taxes or gratuity (and you’d better tip!).  $5 from each meal goes directly to the End Hunger Network, which provides nutritious meals to needy people throughout Houston.

    The participating restaurants and their menus can be found here:

    My write-up (with many more details) can be found here at Houstonist:

    Chowhounds are busily organizing RSVPs for certain restaurants, which can be found here:

    You’ll see that we’ve got VOICE, *17, Arcodoro, Gravitas and a few others covered.  Other reservations will come soon, so anyone who wants to accompany us for an evening will have their choice of venues.  Please feel free to chime in here or on the Chowhounds board if you want to come along!

    I’m in charge of events at the lovely Le Mistral, where we’ll be eating dinner at 7pm on Tuesday, August 12th.  I have six spots reserved, so whomever wants to come had better grab your place fast!

    The Weekend In Food


    4:30pm:  Leaving work early to make it over to the Miracle Berry party at La Strada.

    4:45pm:  In car, on autopilot, listening to NPR like a good white person.

    5:00pm:  Due to brain’s autopilot feature, have instead randomly pulled up to Grotto, not La Strada, which is on the wrong end of Westheimer.  Sighing heavily and slightly annoyed, pull out of parking lot and head towards right end of Westheimer.

    5:15pm:  Autopilot once again subconciously engages as public radio voices drone hypnotically about the 1968 Democratic convention and Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.

    5:30pm:  Before I know what’s happened, I have completely left Westheimer and driven over to Shepherd and West Gray in River Oaks, where I have now pulled up in front of La Griglia, which is — once again — NOT LA STRADA.  My brain has the weirdest internal mapping features sometimes.  It’s like I put an incomplete address into a GPS and the thing is just directing me to the closest match.  What kind of weird fumes did I inhale as a child?

    5:45pm:  Using all my power of extreme focus (which, coincidentally, includes turning off the radio), I manage to make it to the actual La Strada, which is NOT in the Galleria (Grotto) or in River Oaks (La Griglia) but is in Montrose.  Yes.  La Strada.  Finally.  For a more spatial representation of how dumb I am, please feel free to click here.

    6:00pm:  Inside greeting friends and having a pretty good G&T.  Good turnout so far.

    6:15pm:  My word (that’s a trademarked East Texas phrase, folks, thankyouverymuch).  This place is getting packed.

    6:30pm:  There are over a hundred people here???  This Miracle Berry thing has spread like wildfire…

    6:50pm:  Have eaten tiny berry, noshed on food, been surprised as some, not at others, and am now standing around comparing my tasting experience to others’.

    7:00pm:  Rushing out to make tail end of dinner party at Mom’s house.

    7:45pm:  Swing by house to pick up Richard.

    8:00pm:  At party just in time for dessert: chocolate molten lava cakes with ice cream.  Oh, heaven.

    8:15pm:  Probably due in part to the lasting effects of the berry, this is the best dessert I’ve ever had in my life.  Much sweeter and deeper-tasting than normal, without being overly sugary.  Bizarre.

    8:30pm:  Enjoying company of parents and East Texas cousins.  My cousin Kurt sounds exactly like Willie Nelson when he talks; my cousin Had sounds like Boomhauer (yes, his name is Had).

    10:00pm:  Go home, go to bed.  I am no night owl, sadly.


    8:00am:  Sipping grande bold from Starbucks, working on plethora of Houstonist articles to post today, tomorrow and next week.  It’s easier than trying to write one every day.

    12:00pm:  Richard and I are eating leftover crab and corn chowder (with huge chunks of crab, shrimp and crawfish) and beer bread from last night’s dinner party.  So good; even better than having it the first time around.

    1:00pm:  Heading out to Starbucks (again, yeah, shut up) to try the new Vivanno smoothie that Jay wrote about last week.  Richard likes the orange-mango-banana blend, but pronounces it “not sweet enough.”  I prefer the chocolate-banana, but not enough to want it on any kind of regular basis as it tastes too similar to Slim Fast.  We are both very meh about the smoothies overall.  My buddy Food Princess appears to have liked it even less, even with a gigantic straw.

    4:00pm:  Driving to The Woodlands with Richard and my parents to have dinner and go to the Heart / Journey / Cheap Trick concert (listed in order of importance, obviously).  Drive to The Woodlands isn’t so bad anymore since there are actually areas up there worth visiting now, instead of just a concert venue stuck out in the middle of a knot of pine trees.

    5:00pm:  Eating dinner at Cru, favorite place in The Woodlands.  Having a wine flight AND a cheese flight.  Maybe some people wouldn’t call this “dinner,” but I do.  Mother has pear and gorgonzola pizza (delicious), Ralph has chicken with haricot verts and fingerling potatoes (also delicious) and Richard has crab cakes (also, also delicious, although not as good as Raia’s last weekend).  My cheese flight is sinfully good, with Roaring 40s Blue, Humboldt Fog and a beautiful, plump carving of Robiola.  Served with honey, pears, grapes and “rustic” bread, this could not be a better dinner.

    6:00pm:  Walking off great amounts of cheese and wine, heading to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell pavillion.  Lines take forever.  They’re confiscating incredibly stupid things, like OFF!

    7:00pm:  Sitting on the lawn with family and Ralph’s cousins, watching Cheap Trick take the stage.  Meh.

    7:30pm:  Although, it must be said that “I Want You To Want Me” will never get old.

    8:00pm:  Sun has dipped below the rear wall of the pavillion lawn, slight breeze has cooled everyone off, pleasantly comforting “concert” smell of beer, cigarettes, freshly-cut grass and a million different perfumes and colognes is permeating the air.

    8:30pm:  Heart takes the stage.  I never thought I’d actually get to see them live; have loved them since I was but a wee thing.

    8:45pm:  Nancy Wilson is kicking ass up and down the stage.  Ann Wilson’s voice is every bit as spine-tingling and heart-shattering as always.  I heart Heart.  So.  Much.

    9:30pm:  Encore!  “Crazy On You” and an absolutely breathtaking cover of Zepp’s “Going to California.”  I am more determined than ever that I was born in the wrong decade.

    10:00pm:  Journey is on, with insane little Arnel Pineda hopping and whirling about the stage like he’s hopped up on a case of Jolt Cola.  Close your eyes and he sounds exactly like Steve Perry.

    11:30pm:  Heading home.  Richard has fallen asleep in the backseat of the Tahoe; very cute.


    8:00pm:  Have resisted the allure of cheap, questionable breakfast food (McDonald’s) but not cheap, questionable iced coffee drink (McDonald’s).  One outta two ain’t bad.  Right?

    9:00am:  Working on Houstonist articles yet again.

    11:00am:  Getting dressed for today’s Chowhound lunch.  Yay!

    12:30pm:  At Blue Nile with fellow Chowhounds.  Discussing massive hit that was Miracle Berry party and last night’s tenacity dinner (which I didn’t attend, obviously).  Order plate upon plate of food, honey wine and Ethiopian beer.

    2:00pm:  Stuffed with yessiga wot, tibs, doro wot, injera and fifteen different kinds of lentils, waddle out of Blue Nile.  Intend to head over to Houston Center for Photography’s Lens Libs exhibit.  Sidelined instead by cursed lower back pain.

    2:30pm – 8:00pm:  Curled up in miserable ball on couch, popping Advil and Kava Kava to fend off back pain.  Reading Nigel Slater’s amazing memoir, Toast, is making life bearable, though.

    8:30pm:  Watching video that Richard rented: “Untraceable.”  It’s awful, but a welcome distraction nevertheless.

    10:00pm:  Attempt to go to bed.  Sleeping will be mostly untenable tonight, I’m afraid.

    And I was right.  Boys and girls, I am as tired as a whipped mule this morning (afternoon?).  Hope y’all had a good weekend.  I’m off to get some more coffee…