“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things”

Having missed last week, Food Poetry Wednesday is back in full form today with a special treat.  Today’s poem is easily one of the most beloved food poems ever written, although most people don’t think of it as a food poem, per se.  But that’s what made Lewis Carroll such a talented writer and poet: his ability to write for the whimsical imaginations of children while still appealing to adults with his witty and evocative imagery.

Today’s poem is a perfect example of that, as his descriptions of the oysters both in their appearance and in their consumption by the Walrus and the Carpenter are incredibly well-written and could hold their own against any food writer’s prose then or now.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
from Through the Looking Glass

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

Continue reading “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things”

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Been Gone Too Long

I haven’t had time to update she eats. as often as I’d like lately, owing to work (curses!!!) and actual paid writing (although if any of you want to start paying me to blog here, I’m cool with that, too). So just to briefly round things up, this is what I’ve been up to:

Writing articles for the Houston Press, such as “Praise the Lord and Pass the Mimosas” — an account of the inaugural Gospel Brunch at the new House of Blues here in Houston — and “The Grocery Store Corridor” — which is exactly what it sounds like. And although I haven’t quite figured out the settings on my new camera well enough yet to shoot moving things in the dark (i.e., concerts), here are some of the shots I was able to salvage from Gospel Brunch itself:

Concert Hall
The concert hall stage.

Umbrellas
Bringing diners/patrons up at the end of the show.

Testify
Sylvia St. James, emcee .

Bronze Peacock Room
The Bronze Peacock Room in the members-only Foundation Room, marking my second time to weasel my way up there and get free booze.

Buffet

The only picture I could get of the buffet; hungry socialites are like stampeding, enraged water buffalo, I tell ya.

I went to Gospel Brunch with my friend Eric Wilson, the music editor at Houstonist, which I’ve also been writing for as time allows. That said, none of my pieces are pertinent to food in the least (midget wrestling, anyone?). For one that is, check out this article by Jason Bargas on the closing of none other than that bastion of shitty service, The Daily Grind. As I’m sure you can guess, I was heart-broken.

I’ve also been eating this week. A lot. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I finally made it over to Cafe Pita + (read Jenny’s great review with pictures here). It was every bit as wonderful as I’d hoped. On Tuesday, I ate with Jenny, Katie, Hala, and nearly all of the Schipul girls (and poor Lance, who was the only guy at the table). Despite the high concentration of giggliness and silliness at the table, the waitstaff were very patient with us. And the food was amazing. I had the plejskavice, which is a lamb and beef patty stuffed with melted cheese and mushrooms, all on top of this beautiful, fluffy bread with pureed red pepper sauce. I was in heaven. The next day, I dragged Jeff out there and had the cevap, the sausage link version of the plejskavice (sans cheese) and had a fried cheese appetizer in its place. Jeff had the burek, which is essentially spanakopita on steroids and is about as large as a clown shoe.

On Friday, I grabbed lunch at my favorite pho place, Pho Huy, with some coworkers and found out that I should really stop speaking Vietnamese in restaurants when all I really know is “restaurant Vietnamese.” Or, as a friend suggested, at least learn how to say, “I’m going to order in Vietnamese for everyone, but that’s really all I know how to say.” In Vietnamese. I think it would solve a lot of problems. Friday night found me at Goode Co. Seafood with Groovehouse, as we sat at the bar and devoured the best campechana in Houston (seriously. I don’t say this lightly.). We watched enraptured for hours as a little old man behind the counter shucked oyster after oyster, placing them temptingly on platters of crushed ice and lemons. Next time…

There’s been more eating, of course. And even more pictures. And news, news, news. But for tonight, I’ve got to finish writing articles and paying invoices (two entirely separate work functions, mind you). So I’ll leave you with this photo from the market where I picked up some excellent, cheap produce this morning:

Favor de no mayugarlos
Produce stands behind Canino’s on Airline.

Good night, all!

The Days of Mediocre Food and Roses…

sans roses.  Which makes the days even less enjoyable.  Meh.

The week has been filled so far with ample opportunities for good food, and yet everything has fallen short so far.  I hate weeks like that.

Monday afternoon was the perfect day for a lunch outside, luminous blue skies and cool weather glittering brilliantly across the city.  Except that I spent my lunch hour on a dingy couch in a shady inspection sticker place off Long Point, sitting in uncomfortable proximity to a man in a “U.S. Army Artillery Unit” gimme cap with dirty socks pulled up to his knees, who muttered incessantly to himself in between short bursts of yelling, “Hey, boss!  Heya, boss!  Heya!”  I don’t even know that he had a car there to be inspected.  And I ended up failing my inspection after all that.

Monday evening was spent in a private room upstairs at Del Frisco’s Steakhouse.  On hand was plenty of free wine and hors d’oeuvres.  Wine?  Good.  Hors d’oeuvres?  Should have been good, but were frustratingly mediocre: overcooked lobster, well-done steak, fried asparagus with sickeningly sweet sauce.  Then again, what kind of complete jerk complains about free food?  Well…me, I guess.  I ended up eating a stray granola bar at home later on.  You willingly eat a grotty old granola bar, but complain about free lobster?  you may ask me.  Yes.  The difference?  I expect the granola bar to be mediocre.

Tuesday’s lunch was…oh, wait.  I didn’t get a lunch break on Tuesday.  I spent the morning at that squat, hideous, unapologetic trash-magnet, the Harris County Courthouse on Chimney Rock, and had to work through lunch to halfway catch up on the piles of crap littering my desk.

Tuesday evening was slightly better.  We (myself and some fellow Houstonist writers) started out with drinks at Gingerman.  All things are made better by Gingerman.  I had a crisp, refreshing pint of Saint Arnold’s Elissa IPA (oh-so-hoppy and delicious) and enjoyed the gorgeous weather with my gorgeous Houstonist friends.  We ordered the spinach-artichoke dip, but ended up getting a bowl that looked as if it had been grabbed off another table, half-eaten and then nuked.  It was disgusting.  We ate it anyway.

Feeling that we should attempt to procure some better food, we headed directly across the street to that quaint little Italian market/restaurant D’Amico’s.  I hadn’t eaten at D’Amico’s in years, but had some very fond memories of a smashing walnut and wild mushroom risotto that I’d ordered several times with exceptional results each time.  Scanning the menu, I was sad to see that they seemed to have taken it off and replaced it with a walnut and wild mushroom tortellini instead.

I ordered the tortellini, looking to get that elusive walnut/wild mushroom fix any way I could.  We sat under the darkening sky outside, laughing, bitching, telling stories and generally being far too philosophical for a Tuesday night.  The company, at least, was fantastic.  The food, not so much.  We all happened to order various tortellini dishes.  And we all agreed that the tortellini was far too doughy, the fillings too dense, the sauces too watery, doing nothing to hold the dishes together.  Once again, frustratingly disappointing.  I think it’s too soon to claim that D’Amico’s has jumped the shark, but I’m only giving them one more shot after that.

Today’s lunch was a last-minute bite at Berryhill’s.  I used to be a huge fan of theirs, especially their happy hours and their tamales, but my feelings for them have become extremely lukewarm in recent years.  Today’s lunch just reaffirmed my waning affections.  The fish tacos had almost no cilantro in them (you will not deny me cilantro!), very little red cabbage and disgustingly over-fried, eeeeenormous portions of fish.  Let me elaborate briefly on the “over-fried” part, if you will: there was more liquid in the tacos from the grease dripping off the fish than from the almost non-existent remoulade sauce.  Horrid.  At least the hot pickled carrots were reliably good (although one never truly knows how long those have been hanging around…).

Tonight’s dinner will most likely be whatever I scavenge out of the cupboard when I finally make it home.  I swear to God, this week better shape itself up food-wise unless it wants me to give up food blogging for a while.  But there is hope yet: the weekend is still to come!

Let Them Eat Sushi

My mother and I have often discussed, with stupid girly enthusiasm, how we’d like to do my wedding all over again.  Not because the original wedding was bad, mind you.  Quite the opposite.  We had such a good time (and I think everyone at the wedding did, too) that we want to make it, like, a yearly “thing.”  What hasn’t yet been decided is whether I keep remarrying Richard year after year, or if I just collect a little harem of husbands.

Either way, I think this wedding cake might push us over the edge:

Continue reading Let Them Eat Sushi

tenacity, Part Two

First things first: let me apologize for not getting this out sooner.  My little camera has officially given up the ghost, so I was only able to shoot the first half of the meal.  And even then, I had to struggle to get the pictures out of the damned thing.  Pictures from the second half of the meal are courtesy of Ronny, Randy’s brother cum sous chef cum photographer.  Anyone who wants to buy me a new camera (yes, please!), form an orderly line at the door…  Heh.

Anyway, without any further ado, let me present tenacity, Part Two.

Pigs Feet

We were a bit late arriving, and were shocked to find a house fit to bursting with people.  I kept telling Randy that I had a feeling there would be a great turnout, but was stunned to see just how great that turnout was.  On the table were the appetizers/amuse bouche for the evening: chicken feet.

Foot

What’s that? You’ve never had chicken feet? That’s okay; neither had I before last week. I was a bit reluctant, only because of the visual issues associated with eating something that still has toenails intact, but anonymous eater cheered me on as I tentatively bit into a foot (and, after all, I had to make up for the fact that I couldn’t stomach the pigs’ ears from the dumpling crawl the week before). I am so glad that I did. I can’t say that all chicken feet are going to taste this good, since Randy braised his in Indonesian sweet soy sauce. But these were damn fine feet. They were like the sweetest, most tender barbeque I’ve ever had. You just have to mind the toenails, is all.

Chef at Work

Randy was hard at work as the rest of us chatted and passed around random bottles of wine, including the aforementioned anonymous eater, Tasty Bits, I’ve Got The Munchies, the head of the Personal Chefs Network and the mastermind behind B4-U-Eat. We Houston food bloggers are an incestuous bunch.

Fordhook Zucchini

I browsed through Randy’s garden as everyone else mingled. As other bloggers have pointed out, the garden is integral to these dinners. Randy will dart in and out of the house at different points during the evening, snipping off a piece of lettuce here or a handful of herbs there. The freshness and the simple idea that so many ingredients are homegrown and lovingly tended transforms your entire experience while eating, especially when you walk into a garden that you know will soon be feeding you for the evening. Above you can see the beginnings of some lovely Fordhook zucchini.

Lined Up

On to the first course… Barely-cooked Gulf shrimp tartare with sprouting radish, kyuri and baby lemongrass. This luscious spoonful of still grey-blue shrimp, soft with the salty taste of the sea, along with the slight crisp of cucumber and the grainy, tangy texture of the lemongrass was the perfect introduction to a meal redolent with fresh seafood.

First Course

It was so good in fact, we scored seconds.

Second Course

The first part of the second course was this glass of leche de tigre. Similar to our Bloody Marys, leche de tigre is a Peruvian cocktail/hangover cure that’s made with all of the leftover juices from a large serving of ceviche. As a cocktail, it contains pisco. Ours simply had the heavenly, salty milk that tasted sharply and strongly of the ocean, with just small bits of ceviche lingering in the bottom of the glass. I can see how this would be a rather effective hangover cure.

Second Course II

The second part of the second course was this delicate little piece of amberjack, a trash fish not to be confused with the Japanese amberjack, or hamachi. Randy had purchased the amberjack in Galveston earlier that day, where he was besotted with its wet eyes and overall freshness. It paid off, as the fish was perhaps the best I’ve tasted — I still can’t believe it’s considered a trash fish. On top of the amberjack is preserved rhubarb, for bite, gelled tomato and red-veined sorrel. The gelled tomato in particular was amazing. Randy marinated the tomatoes and then hung them in cheesecloth, allowing only the juices to escape; it had only the slightest sweet hint of tomato with no astringency and added a rich layer of flavor to the entire dish.

Action Shot

The third course was my second-favorite dish of the night: chilled Third Coast shellfish nage (from the French, to swim), octopus, neri uni, crunchy pig ear and celery pesto. Pig ear with shellfish? Octopus with celery? Things that would never occur to me, which is why I’m not a chef. The contrasting textures (especially the crispy pig ear) and flavors were mesmerizing. I could have eaten this dish all night. And I particularly love the action shot above, where you can see Randy pouring the nage, which was made from a reduction of blue crab and shrimp heads, into the bowl to rendezvous with the other ingredients.

Another note about this course, which I loved: so as not to be wasteful with precious seafood, the shrimp from the first course had their heads end up in the nage here. I love the idea of using every part of an animal or plant possible, especially in today’s world where it’s more important than ever that we not be excessively wasteful. I’d love to see more chefs and restaurants taking this approach. Not only would it cut costs, it would lend itself splendidly to inspiring more creativity in the kitchen.

From here on out, the pictures are courtesy of Ronny. Want to see more? Click here!

Fourth Course

Our fourth course, and my favorite of the evening: “best parts of the pig” with shimeji mushrooms, courgette, marigold and foamed hollandaise. The “best parts of the pig” were, among other things, the headcheese, the hog’s ears, cheeks, shanks and eyes. These different parts had been compressed slightly and seared on one side, for a different texture depending upon which side you ate first. I was in heaven. While one would assume that all these parts would be heavy, fatty or greasy (or just plain unappetizing), they managed to be incredibly light and summery. The shaved courgette, which is just a summer squash, added to this feeling with its softly crisp texture and fresh, delicate flavor. To quote from my tasting notes: “mushrooms ex. dark & earthy; squash light & ethereal; pig surprisingly spring-like.” It was, once again, an incredible pairing of flavors and textures.

Fifth Course

The fifth course seemed to be everyone else’s favorite (I have different tastes in all things, it seems): cobia smoked with apple-wood and broiled, red malabar spinach and cream brown butter. The cobia, a sport fish, had — like the chicken feet from earlier — been braised in the same Indonesian sweet soy sauce that imbued it with an almost caramel-like flavor. I overheard some other diners claim that it verged on tasting almost like butterscotch. The fish was firm with a surprisingly delicate flakiness. I think that many diners might have found a new favorite fish that night.

Sixth Course

Our sixth course was the first of our two desserts: a frothy guava smoothie with coconut shreds. The smoothie was so perfectly summery and fun, with its unabashedly pink hue, cotton candy-like tangles of coconut on top and a tiny bendy straw to drink it all down with. The coconut was fresh and sticky sweet on top of the ice cold smoothie, a tongue-in-cheek and utterly laid back beginning of the end to our meal.

Seventh Course

The seventh and final course: corn pudding with whipped agave nectar, papaya and caramelized dairy with poppyseeds. The corn pudding was actually corn juice cooked over high heat with an emulsifying agent stirred in towards the end. It was surprisingly sweet while retaining that vegetal bite. The whipped agave (the white puffs above) tasted almost like divinity, while the sweet and savory papaya played a nice balance between the earthiness of the corn and the sweetness of the agave and caramelized dairy. An upbeat, fruity, tropical way to end a summery meal.

Randy’s next dinner is tonight, and I hear he still has a spot or two available if anyone is interested. Until next time, campers!

Crawfish: The Food of the Gods

 

That’s right, mudbuggers!  It’s time for the best crawfish boil this side of New Iberia.

Houstonist (my other home) will be hosting a $5.00 All-You-Can-Eat crawfish boil, complete with corn, potatoes and elusive Houstonist staffers, this Saturday evening beginning at 5:00 p.m.  We’ll be boiling 500 pounds of crawfish (500 pounds! ye gods!) at Under the Volcano in Rice VIllage.  Our boilmaster, a Louisiana native, is quick to point out that we will be boiling the crawsfish the “correct” way, which is to add the super-spicy seasonings directly into the water.

Speaking of super-spicy, The Volcano serves some of the best cocktails and frozen concoctions in town to help put out that fire after you’ve put a pound or two of crawdads away.  Plus, there wil be lots of friendly people and cool Houstonist schwag to make the evening well worth your while — especially for only $5.00!

For more information, head on over to Houstonist’s website and RSVP if you plan on coming.  Hope to see you there!