Morning at the Midtown Farmers Market

Overcast day at the Midtown Farmers Market

Let’s get the unpleasantness straight out of the way, so that we can concentrate on all of the wonderful things that were at the Midtown Farmers Market this weekend.

They are now charging you to park.

Listen, farmers market folks.  I know that parking is at a premium in Midtown.  I know that you’re competing with the thronging horde lined up outside the breakfast klub and people hungry for eggs and chorizo from Tacos-A-Go-Go.  Hell, you’re even competing with your own restaurant, t’afia.  But charging people $3.00 to park in a muddy pit a whopping ten feet away from the market itself is utterly pretentious and directly contrary to the entire down-to-earth, communal spirit of a farmers market in the first place.  Ya feel me?  It really sucks.  It sucks more than places like Dolce Vita and Molina’s all-but-forcing you to valet your car.  Stop it.

UPDATE:  According to Andrea from t’afia (please read Andrea’s comment below; very interesting stuff), it’s the Continental Club who owns — and is charging for — the parking lot, despite t’afia‘s attempts to contribute their own money towards the cost so that their customers won’t have to pay the fee.  Boo, Continental Club.  I thought you were a lot cooler than that.  How very disappointing.

Okay, onto the good stuff.

For Sale

We bought some greens and carrots (seen below), which were all very reasonably priced as you can see from the quaint pricing list above. 

Deformed Carrots

I was totally in love with these oddly-shaped little carrots.  They reminded me of one of my favorite books as a kid.  Trust me on this one.

Houston Dairymaids

The Houston Dairymaids were there as usual, plying their delicious, creamy wares.  They had other treats besides cheese this time, though.

Hey Honey

Honey!  It’s Native Nectar, which is guajillo honey made in South Texas.  Flowery and light; good stuff.

Keeping Cool

I wanted to abscond with every basket of fresh greens I ran across.  I could have been quite the little felon that day.

Sharpened

This delightful man sharpens and fixes dull or broken knives.  He sharpened eight of my mother’s knives for only $41.00, after which they were sharp enough to split a hair.  Seriously impressive, not to mention a hoot to talk to.  He’s also got a glut of knives for sale out of his van (what?) if you’re in the market.

Other vendors included a new group of utterly charming kids in highly-creased Wranglers with enormous, shiny belt buckles selling fresh pullet eggs and — next week — fresh beef.  The grass-fed cows will be slaughtered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then brought to the market on Saturday mornings.  They take orders in advance and their price list was on par with what you’d pay at your local grocery store or butcher.  I’m eagerly awaiting next Saturday morning so that I can get some oxtails and a porterhouse.

We also grabbed some lettuce from the folks at Last Organic Outpost and some ready-to-eat dishes (chickpeas with olives and parmesan…NOM) from inside t’afia before picking up my mother’s knives and heading out into the day.  Next time, we’re definitely getting there early to sign up for Monica Pope’s new Green Plum Cooking School.  Maybe we’ll see you there…

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Lights

What does it say about me that this is my favorite picture from Thanksgiving?

Oven

So deliciously retro.

While we’re on the topic, what ever happened to double wall ovens?  Best appliance in the world, and you hardly ever see them in kitchens anymore.  I’d much rather have a wall oven than a stove, which necessitates bending over and hefting stuff up and down.  And I’d obviously rather have two ovens than just one.

Someone?  Anyone?

Them’s Fightin’ Words

From the crazy, mixed-up files of…Macy’s and Consumerist:

Macy’s Confiscates Your Item Because Another Customer Wants It

Reader Dyan isn’t sure if she’s right on this one and wants to know if we think Macy’s owes her an apology. She was shopping at Macy’s last Saturday when she noticed a cast-iron pot on sale for $19.99. The display item was the last one in stock, so she asked if she could have it. An employee said she could, but before she could pay for the item the store’s manager stopped her and took the pot away because “another customer want[ed] it.”

Read on at the link above.

All I know (and all my poor friends and husband know, from witnessing my antics in stores and other public places) is that there is no way in hell that manager would’ve gotten away with that pot without a chunk of his ass missing from where I chewed it off.

I’ve been working since I was sixteen years old.  I’ve worked in the retail industry.  I’ve worked in the restaurant industry.  I’ve worked in call centers and I’ve worked in cafes.  My Day Job is in human resources.  And if there’s one thing that all these years of working have instilled in me, it’s this: there is no excuse for poor customer service.

Laziness is not an excuse.  A bad mood is not an excuse.  Being socially malformed is not an excuse.  Your customer is paying your wage, so whether you like it or not, you treat them like a fellow human being.  That’s all I’m saying.

Although it might be embarrassing to others around me, I don’t let people off easy when they’re rude to either me or my shopping/dining companions.  But I do realize that I’m definitely fighting an uphill battle: crappy customer service is winning, and we’re almost encouraging it.

What do you think?  Are Dyan and I making a big deal out of nothing?  Or are standards slipping?

Of course, there’s always the suggestion of one of the Consumerist’s readers: Lick the pot, thereby marking it as yours and putting the ball in the manager’s court.

Kitchen Remodel On A Strict Budget: It Can Be Done!

When Richard and I moved into our townhome last May, we knew that the first job to be tackled would have to be the kitchen.  I can live with a dingy, outdated master bath or overgrown patio for a while.  But I cannot live without a fully-functioning kitchen.

The townhome itself was built in 1968, a year during a time period that my mother fondly refers to as “the era that taste forgot.”  Despite that, the townhome is very solidly-constructed and has good flow.  But it also had all the original appliances, cabinets, flooring, paint — you name it, it was original to the house.  And it was awful.

We knew this going in, which is part of the reason we bought the townhome in the first place.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the home, structurally-speaking.  But prospective buyers were simply unable to get past all of the cosmetic flaws and grime, which had added up to a very low asking price for the area.  Being handy and being totally able to see past the broken cabinets and stained carpets (for example, the previous owner had chewed tobacco and didn’t use a spitter; translation: he spat his tobacco juice DIRECTLY ONTO the carpet, which stained both the carpet and the carpet pad and is probably the nastiest thing I’ve ever encountered), we jumped on it.

Because we were so eager to get started on the kitchen remodel, we completely forgot to take pictures of it in its “before” state.  However, thanks to the magic of HAR.com‘s photo galleries, I was able to dig up some pictures of a similar kitchen in a townhome down the street from us.  Take a gander:

kitchenbefore1.jpg

Note the linoleum. Our was a greenish color, and when we started peeling it back to remove it, we actually found another layer of flowery linoleum beneath. I guess not everything was original.

Also note the cabinets. While this kitchen’s cabinets appear to be in decent condition, ours were hanging limply from their hinges and were broken and busted in places.

Lastly, please note the countertops. Again, these are in much better condition than ours. The genius who owned our house before had painted over the laminate countertops with some kind of textured paint. Textured. Paint. It was stained and scratched and gummy and impossible to clean and altogether totally disgusting.

Our appliances were also original, except for the refrigerator. The stove/oven no longer worked at all, nor did the dishwasher. The fridge was only a year old, but was coated inside and out with some kind of mysterious, viscous tar-like substance.  And the owner elected to take his ancient washer and dryer with him, thank God.

kitchenbefore2.jpg

This is the breakfast area off the kitchen. Note the lovely color on the walls. Our kitchen was white; no color whatsoever. But the white walls had been stained yellow by years of cooking and grime and God only knows what else.

There was also no light fixture in the breakfast area.  There was a ceiling fan.  I mean, I know that Texans love their ceiling fans, but in a kitchen?  What the hell?

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention the colonies of roaches that began emerging from the cabinets and nether regions of the appliances once we started the demo work.  Boric acid mixed with cornmeal is your best friend in situations like this.

Pictures of the new kitchen and a short description of the entire process after the jump. Continue reading Kitchen Remodel On A Strict Budget: It Can Be Done!

A Link A Day

I usually refrain from just madly linking to other sites en masse, but there were a few links that have come up in the past few days that are too good not to share.  Enjoy!

  • AIEEEEE!!!  Through January 31st, Amazon is having a ginormous sale on Le Creuset right now!  And if you buy at least $159 worth of merchandise, they’ll throw in this handy spatula set in its own, adorable Le Creuset utensil crock — for free!  It’s normally $69, but for you?  Free!  Cute, thrifty and useful: three of my favorite words.  Le Creuset makes some of the best cookware in the world, so if you’ve been saving your pennies and waiting for a good time to buy, that time is now.

    21ygzf6fhwl__aa180_.jpg

    This darling, nearly-seven quart French oven is marked down from $295 to $219.  And it comes in a range of other colors.  Madness!

  • The Onion‘s A.V. Club has a new interview with everyone’s favorite bad-boy chef: Anthony Bourdain.  It’s long and winding and terrific fun to read.  Some nuggets of wisdom:

    Anything that improves people’s expectations of a meal is good for the world. Anything that weans even one kid or one adult away from Chili’s or T.G.I. Friday’s is definitely a win for the good guys.

    Thanks to Alison Cook for the original link on her blog.

  • An article on The Dogs of Pohnpei, in which a volunteer English teacher on a tiny, Pacific island is offered a true delicacy by one of his students: roast dog.  Does he accept this offering and eat the dog meat?  Read the fascinating article to find out.
  • And, finally, a hilarious recounting of one man’s mission to visit and drink a beverage from all 171 Starbucks stores in Manhattan in one 24 hour period.  Did he succeed?  More importantly, should a brave soul attempt this feat in Houston?  According to Starbucks’ website, there are at least 170 stores with a Houston address.  This doesn’t, however, include stores in Sugar Land, Missouri City, Kingwood, Cypress, Katy, Clear Lake, Pearland, Pasadena, etc.  And, frankly, 170 still seems like a pretty low number considering that the shopping center across the street from our neighborhood has three separate Starbucks in it…

Both of the last two links were provided by commenter Callie, but were tucked away in the comments sections of two different blog entries.  So here they are, reunited and available for all to enjoy!