Otto’s and Beaver’s (oh, my!)

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This was the scene at Otto’s this past Saturday afternoon, around 11:45 am. Not exactly as I expected, given that old friends and patrons only have a short — albeit indeterminate — amount of time left to eat there before it’s closed for good.

Strangely, when I checked back to re-read my original entry on Otto’s upcoming closing, the link to the Houston Chronicle story I’d referenced was no longer working. Even better, their “search” function comes up with absolutely no articles for Otto’s or Otto Sofka or any other combination of “Otto’s” and “barbeque” and “hamburgers” that I could come up with. I mean, I’m not surprised — the Chronicle‘s archive and search features are a bit of a laughingstock — but I was still irritated.

To that end, here are two new links concerning Otto’s that aren’t broken and which are much more informative than the original Chronicle article was in the first place: Original Otto’s barbeque up for sale and Family sale signals farewell to Otto’s.

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My father and hubby and I were in the mood for barbeque on Saturday and had originally intended on trying out the new Monica Pope joint, Beaver’s. However, after driving down to the little ice house off Washington and, in the process, getting hit by a car who was broadsided by an 18-wheeler, both of whom peeled off as fast as they could (true story…but we’re all fine and I’m glad we were in my Sherman tank of a Volvo at the time), we were heavily disappointed to find it closed for lunch.

Having done research before embarking on our Beaver’s journey — hitting up Beaver’s website, www.b4-u-eat.com, Citysearch and Alison Cook’s blog — I knew what I wanted to eat before we even set foot out the door. What I did not know, however, were the hours of operation, because they weren’t listed at all on Beaver’s website or on any other place that I checked (that said, the only place I’ve found so far with operating hours for Beaver’s is Dai Huyhn’s article, where it’s ambiguously stated that lunch service will begin in mid-January).

Was I stupid to assume that a brand-new barbeque place would be open for lunch on a Saturday? I suppose so, since we were greeted by an empty parking lot and a paper sign on the door with the business hours. To quote Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer, it was “information that could have been useful to me yesterday.

Geez, Ms. Pope. Is it too much to at least post the hours of operation on Beaver’s website? That’s all I’m saying…

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Anyway, it worked out for the best, as we all decided to visit Otto’s for one last time as a group. After we walked into the barbeque entrance, my father stood still and took a deep breath. Looking around fondly, he said, “That’s the smell of a lifetime of barbeque. Can’t beat it.”

My father and husband ordered their Bush plates and they worked their way through them as I slowly enjoyed my links covered with onions and pickles. The dining room was vacant save for an older man, who seemed to be a semi-permanent fixture. All of the women manning the barbeque counter knew him, as did all of the busboys. He sat perfectly content with his plate of ribs, his cowboy hat perched on the table next to him and his eyes staring off into space as he dined.

Was he thinking about Otto’s closing? Was he contemplating all the meals he’d had there, the accumulation of which eventually led to his camaraderie with all of the various restaurant staff? Was he trying to figure out exactly how many root beers and ribs he’d had over the course of his friendship with Otto’s?

Whether he was thinking about these things or not, I was. I watched him and wondered where he’ll go when Otto’s is gone.

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Whose mami? Umami. UPDATED

It would seem that I’m not the only one tearing into this poor Chronicle staff writer over his recent article on the “dangers” of salt.  Apparently, Mr. Ackerman borrowed heavily from other sources to write his piece, including a 1997 article from the FDA’s magazine, FDA Consumer.  And here I thought his limited knowledge of the five basic tastes was deplorable.  But there are always new depths to plumb when it comes to the Chronicle

You can read more about the developing story from my fellow Houston bloggers here:

Chron reporter borrows without attribution (blogHOUSTON)

Press catches Chron writer in plagiarism (Lone Star Times)

Salty sourcing from the Chron (HouStoned– The Houston Press)

Whose mami? Umami.

The Houston Chronicle printed an interesting article this morning on “deadly salt” (yes, the actual headline contained the ridiculously salacious phrase “deadly salt”).  The author, Todd Ackerman, provided the following insight on why giving up salt proves to be difficult for most people:

It is almost impossible to prepare a meal without salt — it preserves food by inhibiting bacterial growth, offers technical advantages in the kitchen such as raising the boiling point of water, and, as one of the four taste categories, adds flavor or heightens existing flavor.

Unforunately, Mr. Ackerman forgot that there are actually five basic tastes or tastebud receptors: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami.

Umami, which was first identified by the scientific community in 1908, describes the taste of meaty or savory foods.  Although the Western world has only embraced umami as a fifth taste since 2002, it’s still common knowledge that there are now five basic tastes.

That’s okay, though, Chronicle.  You’re only about 100 years behind the times; I’m sure there are lots of events that you need to catch up on.  For example, were you aware that in 1966 a man walked on the moon?  I know!  It’s crazy!

So while you’re off playing catch-up (and from the look of things, this could take a while) might I suggest hiring a fact-checker?