Flavor Tripping

It’s finally here, folks!  Houston’s first ever Flavor Tripping party, organized by none other than the amazing Jenny, of I’m Never Full (and head hound of the Houston Chowhounds chapter).

Jenny has ordered a batch of those miraculous miracle berries and reserved the upstairs dining room at La Strada for this rare event and it’s not too late for you to come and join us as we trip the light fantastic, foodie-style.  We’ll be there this Friday evening (July 25th), starting at 5:30pm with the actual tasting beginning at 6:00pm.  Here’s what’s in store for the party:

  • A stock of miracle berries, one per person, which will chemically alter your taste buds for at least one hour and change the way that all foods and beverages taste.
  • Our own bartender with cash bar and happy hour prices, including a special $5 cocktail created specifically by La Strada for the event.
  • The entire second floor of the restaurant all to ourselves.
  • And a huge spread of food including fresh citrus, other fruits, veggies, various stinky cheeses, salt & vinegar potato chips, pickles and bologna sandwiches — all of which have been chosen specifically for their strange interactions with the miracle berries.

All of this, including the food, is only $15!

To reserve your spot (or for more information about the Flavor Tripping party), be sure to visit Jenny’s website and RSVP today.  You can also email her for more information: berryfairyhouston (at) gmail (dot) com.

I hope to see some of your bright, shiny faces there!  And if you can’t make it, don’t despair; I’ll be back with a detailed report and pictures (of course!) next week.

Get Yer Farmers Markets Righ’cheer, Folks!

Because I’m not a fan of retyping entire articles that I’ve already written, here’s a link to today’s feature I wrote for Houstonist:

So Fresh And So Green

It’s a (more or less) comprehensive listing of the various farmers markets around town, along with their website, days and hours of operation and their specialities/quirks.

Enjoy!

And eat local!  🙂

Eating Good in the Neighborhood

Listening to NPR on the way home last night, when this dreck came on:

Tell us how the recession is affecting the way you live.

But like a train wreck, I couldn’t change the station.  I listened as whiny hipsters called in bemoaning the fact that they have to “buy day-old bread” and that they’re considering “taking up fishing” to supplement the fact that they can “no longer afford fresh fish.”  The distaste in their voices for both of these activities was truly stunning.

It went further downhill when another caller spoke plaintively of the fact that she can no longer afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, and is instead living solely off frozen dinners.  Give me a MF’ing break.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a MILLION times: fresh produce — especially at local farmers markets — is always cheaper (and better for you!) than anything frozen, boxed or processed.  Clearly, frozen-foods caller never actually purchased fresh produce to begin with or she would know better.

And then the segment reached its nadir: A caller on the verge of tears explained that for her 21st birthday, she wanted to go somewhere nice for her birthday, but instead her family took her to Applebee’s.  Her voice cracked as she spoke of this humbling and sorrowful experience.

…what?  Excuse me?  My friend, did you ever stop to consider that your family took you to Applebee’s for dinner because you’re a whiny, spoiled bitch and they hate you?  I mean, you have the nerve to come on national radio and COMPLAIN that your family took you out to dinner for your birthday?  And because it didn’t live up to your exacting expectations, you’re going to ball them out in a public forum and act like fucking Scarlett O’Hara having to make dresses out of Tara’s ruined curtains?

Dude, I don’t like Applebee’s either.  But you’ve got a lot of nerve to bitch about being taken out to eat — especially during this terrible “recession” that everyone is buying into — when there are people literally starving to death throughout the world, people living with war and famine and unimaginable poverty, people living on the fringes of societies who have NOTHING, while you eat your Three Course Classic and the waitstaff brings you a free piece of cake.

You know what?  Shut the hell up.  All of you whiny people, just shut the hell up.

Damn.

Thursday Answers, Part Deuxsie

Answers to Tuesday Trivia, Part Deuxsie are here!

Well, well, well.  Someone swooped in late this time and got Every.  Single.  Answer.  Correct.  Who, you ask?  The answer, after the answers:

  1. The egg came first, of course!  The egg as a form of sexual reproduction is at least one billion years old, much older than the first birds, which arrived on the scene about 100 million years ago (the chicken as we know it, for example, has only been around for four to five thousand years).  Reptiles, on the other hand, have been laying eggs for over 250 million years.  Ridiculous, age-old question solved!
  2. Champagne was invented by a Benedictine monk named Dom Pierre Pérignon.  Because champagne doesn’t sound all that fancy when you simply call it “Pierre” (let’s open a bottle of Pierre to celebrate!), the famous champagne-maker Moët et Chandon adopted the monk’s title and last name when they began selling this brand as Dom Pérignon in 1936.
  3. They traditionally belong to the lily family, Liliaceae.  A bone of contention over the years in scientific circls, most botanists have now moved the onion and the leek into the Alliaceae family, while moving the asparagus into the Asparagaceae family.  However you slice them, though, they’re all still in the Liliopsida (lily) class and still one big, happy, delicious family.
  4. Castor beans don’t belong in that equation.  While useful for a good number of other things, they are not a legume, as were the others.
  5. The sauces are hollandaise, béarnaise and mayonnaise.  The complex science behind emulsified sauces makes it hard to imagine that anyone ever managed to make a hollandaise in the first place, and involves such Scrabulous words as “flocculation” and “colloidal system.”  It will certainly make you appreciate Hellman’s in a whole new light.
  6. BONUS:  Speaking of Hellman’s, mayonnaise is the only emulsified sauce that must be made at room temperature.  Hollandaise and béarnaise must be cooked, since they are both made with butter (which is, of course, solid at room temp.  Mayonnaise, on the other hand, is made with oil and egg yolks.

Deciding the winner this time was extremely difficult, and let’s discuss why.

The Grumpy Chef came in fast and strong, beating everyone else to the punch with his answers.  However, his answers to numbers 5 and 6 used “aioli” in place of “mayonnaise.”  Now, knowing that The Grumpy Chef is European (although he, like my husband, would probably argue that he is “English” and not “European”), I understand his tendency to use “aioli” instead of “mayonnaise.”  It’s very common across the pond to use those two words interchangably.

However…  Aioli and mayonnaise aren’t quite the same thing.  Traditional aioli is made without egg yolks, and uses garlic as the emulsifying agent instead.  I know, I know — I’m nitpicking, especially for a contest where the prize is NOTHING.

That said, I have awarded the prize for this week’s contest to Pooh! and her late, but correct, answers.  And a very honorable mention goes to my adored Grumpy Chef (seriously, if chefs could have groupies, I’d be one of his).

Pooh! runs a blog with all manner of humorous observations about life, Houston and life in Houston.  Go pay her a visit!

The Grumpy Chef runs a blog called “Who Dares Cook” about being a chef in the UK.  It’s a great behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in the kitchen and what the chef really thinks of you:  “I am a Chef. A good Chef living on the edge of insanity within an Industry full of morons and aristocrats! Everyday, customers rain down on my establishment to cause chaos, mayhem and anarchy with their ill-conceived ideals of what is right in an environment like mine. Believe me, the customer ain’t always right. I also have blue eyes and a temper Satan would be proud of.”  He does not mince words.  And he is hilarious.  Go pay him a visit!

Stay tuned for the next round of Tuesday Trivia next week.  Til then, happy eating!

Southern Fry-Up

A few weeks ago, I shared my incredibly complicated recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes with y’all (slice, dunk, fry), but I didn’t have any pictures of this highly-technical procedure to share, thanks to a broken camera.

Well, I decided to bust out said broken camera and see if it would take pictures even if it doesn’t act like it’s taking pictures or display said pictures on its little LCD screen.  And…it works!  I mean, the focus is out of whack and I have no idea what the pictures will look like until I upload them to my laptop, but…it works!

So without further ado, I present: Fried green tomatoes for breakfast. Try to ignore the poor quality of the photos themselves and focus on the TOMATOES!

Assembly Line
The assembly line, ready for tomatoes.

Dredging
Putting the tomatoes through the paces. And that is not my stomach, thank you very much, that is my boob. Also, that long, bedraggled hair no longer exists, as I cut off 10 inches of hair on Saturday for Locks of Love.

Tomatoes in Skillet
Going to town in the skillet. Look at ’em sizzle!

Tomatoes and Toast
Finished product. Richard prefers his fried eggs on toast; it’s an English thing.

Ready to Eat
And my delicious-looking plate, ready for devouring.

Hope you enjoyed this afternoon’s serving of fried green tomatoes. The summer’s not over yet, so go and grab some for yourself from your local farmers market while you still can!

Miracle Berries: More Fun Than Licking Toads

Not that I’d know.

Have you heard of miracle fruit?  I hadn’t until Jenny at I’m Never Full introduced the rest of the Houston Chowhounds to this arcane bit of nature.  She wrote an entry on the mysterious fruit, describing them as “trippy berries” that will “change your tastebuds for 30 mins to an hour and cause sour and bitter foods to taste sweet.”  Foodies everywhere have begun hosting events called — appropriately enough — “flavor tripping parties” to explore the tongue-altering properties of this tiny berry.  Think of it as legal shrooming…for your mouth.

The miracle fruit was first discovered by Europeans in West Africa in the 18th century, where it was noted that the local tribes picked and ate the berry — which is in the same family of tropical flowering plants that produces shea butter and star apples — before their meals.  Considering the fact that West African tribal diets consisted mainly of yams, seeds, chili paste, millet, and sorghum, I imagine that the flavor-altering properties of the miracle fruit were quite welcome for an occasional change of pace.

The miracle fruit works its magic by releasing a glycoprotein molecule (similar to a monosaccharide) called miraculin when eaten.  Those molecules bind to your tongue and alter the way that your tastebuds’ receptors react to acidic or sour foods.  As a result, sour and/or acidic foods taste sweet.  This effect lasts for up to an hour after consuming miracle fruit.

Miracle fruit isn’t a sweet in and of itself — that is, it doesn’t taste sweet — but researchers have been trying for decades to establish it as a sweetener or flavor additive in foods.  Think about it: people would no longer be dependent upon such unhealthy sweeteners as white sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.  Rates of obesity and diabetes could sharply decline as we cut those things out of our diets.  You could make lemonade or limeade with no sugar at all; eat a tart grapefruit without dousing it in honey first; or enjoy a rhubarb pie without a side of strawberry ice cream to cut the sourness of the rhubarb (well, actually, I’d still do that…I will never give up my rhubarb pie with ice cream).  All you would have to do is eat one miracle berry first.

So what’s the holdup?  Temperatures over 100° F unfortunately destroy the miraculin compound, so it can’t be used in baking or canning or any other activity involving the application of heat.  Fresh berries can be frozen or refrigerated for a few days, but don’t keep for very long.  The best method for preserving the miraculin so far has been through a powdered concentrate of the berries, but the FDA denied its approval as a food additive in the 1970s.  It’s not that the powder was unsafe, mind you; powerful corn and sugar lobbies simply prevented it from being approved as it threatened their very existence (as you can well imagine).

Until developers come up with a means of production available to the masses (and until lobbyists stop controlling our government, which should be right around the same time you can buy popsicles in hell), you only have a few options for trying this fascinating fruit.  You can purchase a plant and harvest its berries yourself, as Jenny did.  You can order a shipment of berries from a supplier for about $2 per berry.  Or you can attend one of the “flavor tripping” parties that have become so popular.

Houston Chowhounds will be hosting such an event in the coming months.  For more information (and to become a member of a great foodie community!), check out the group at our website:  Houston Chowhounds.  While a place and time haven’t yet been established, our order of miracle berries is on its way to our trusty head Hound.

You know you want to try them…

A Little Fecal Bacteria With Your Tomatoes, Sir?

As if you needed yet another reason to patronize your local, organic market:

Houston grocers pull tomatoes over salmonella alert

You know where they are folks, now start shopping local!  It’s better for you, the environment AND your pocketbook.  Or better yet: start a victory garden!