This weekend, I encourage you to eat locally (#HoustonStrong) but drink globally by attending the Whiskies of the World Festival this coming Saturday, September 30th. This event, rescheduled due to Harvey, will feature approximately purveyors from locales in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. An added bonus is that 50% of ticket sales go to Harvey Relief.
Click here to buy tickets; $40 will be credited at checkout. Woo hoo!
Participants can also purchase additional tickets for master classes led by experts who can enhance your quaffing with some quality facts about the background of a particular spirit.
Bridey plans to attend and if you see her, please do say, 'hello.' But not in the Adele way.
When I was invited to try some dishes at a poke place within walking distance of my house, I was already sun-weary but still hot to trot. Seaside Poke had received generally very positive reviews and I was eager to see not only if it lived up to the hype, but also if it had the potential to distinguish itself from the plethora of other poke places in town.
The first good sign was that even though Seaside Poke, located in EADO a few blocks down from the soccer stadium, provided ample parking that I was able to access easily despite large crowds for a Dynamo and an Astros game. Yes, I have wonderful timing.
I found more things inside to like, such as the vibrant wall collage of fish shields featuring local persons of note and institutions, as well as tidy jars of accoutrements for garnishing your bowl.
And what I ate was even more exciting: an invigorating salmon ponzu roll, sweet and piquant from the inclusion of orange slices and toasted garlic to dress the tender chunks of salmon. I also enjoyed its heavier, richer counterpart, the tuna aioli, laced with rich pepper mayonnaise, thai chilis, shallots, and some cucumbers to cut the heat, all abed a fluffy mound of white rice.
But it's eclectic bowls like the truffle yellowtail whose disparate but yet harmonious flavors and textures from the shoyu, truffle, crackly puffed rice, airy cilantro, and searing threads of ito togarashi that will enable, IMHO, Seaside Poke to endure.
That and the ube rice krispie treats. Wish I had those at my elementary school bake sales.
If you're 1) colorblind 2) live in a dark cave 3) both, you may not have noticed Houston is awash with rainbows this week for Pride Week (June 18-25) as well as Pride Month. As an ardent ally of the LGBT community, I am proud to live in a city that not only recognizes (most of the time, we're getting better) the rights of its diverse residents but also proudly celebrates its different communities. Kudos to 3 Brothers Bakery for joining in on the fun this year by offering rainbow petit fours, cake balls, and the pièce de résistance, a massive cake in which a thick layer of vanilla buttercream frosting encloses seven strata in colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and lavender.
The pride treats are available throughout the month of June and the cake is available whole and by the slice ($9.95). “Our rainbow cake is a bright, fun way for Houstonians to show their LGBT pride,” said Bobby Jucker, bakery co-owner and fifth generation baker. “This is the first year the bakery is featuring rainbow goods and products during the month of June. It’s a tradition we’re excited and proud to start." Hear, hear, Bobby!
In the name of research, I had to sample the pride cake, for unfortunately it has been my experience that food once perceived as innocuously colorful in the eye of the beholder turns garish when the taste fails to match up to the visual expectations. Not so at all with this cake, whose layers retained a lovely mild vanilla flavor despite the use of kosher vegetable dye. Furthermore, the buttery icing was judiciously distributed as to create the perfect proportional contrast of smooth sugary cream and moist cake. Such balance would easily facilitate consuming the whole wedge in one sitting. Not that I would know, of course.
Remember all those sad excuses for bake sales you were forced to patronize or participate in during elementary school?
This Saturday's pop-up bake sale co-hosted by Fluff Bake Bar and Southerleigh will be nothing like it.
And, I promise, that's not fake news, 'cause here's the menu:
Fried Chicken and Praline Crepes, SoCo steeped Pecan, Crystal Hot Butter Sweet and Sour Gooseberry Southern Style Hand Pie
Fredericksburg Peach and Crystal Cookie, Smoked Gouda Shortbread
Handheld Pineapple and Cornbread Pudding
Puro SA Pan Dulce Breakfast Sandwich, Sausage and Egg, Jalapeño Pimento Beer Cheese
When: 10am-(sell out), Saturday, June 17, 2017
*Arriving early is encouraged as quantities will be limited
Fluff Bake Bar
314 Gray St.
Houston, TX 77002
In fewer than three months, I plan to head to the idyllic forests of the San Moreno Valley in northern New Mexico for the food & wine festival at the Angel Fire Resort.
(Well, honestly, I get giddy whenever I am invited to any "VIP" food event. Yes, it is that easy to flatter me.)
If the prospect of eating my way through the burger entries wasn't sufficiently enticing, I recently confirmed that milkshakes garnished with multiple baked goods will be on hand.
Talk about farm to table. Talented Chef Antoine Ware of Harold's in the Heights will be hosting a five-course agrarian feast in collaboration with The Barry Farm at 5:30pm on Sunday, October 23rd, 2016.
Check out the menu:
Chicken liver mousse on crostini with pickled vegetable
Steorra Brut Sparkling, Russian River Valley
Crispy pork rillette with apple butter & jalapeno, apple salad
Pratsch Gruner Veltliner, Austria
Tasso ravioli and shrimp raviolis filled ricotta, spinach, mushrooms, tossed with lemon
Elouan Pinot Noir, Oregon
Peri peri chicken with roasted Atkinson farms vegetables
Beran Zinfandel, California
Whole roasted lamb, smashed sweet potatoes and garlic rosemary sauce
Campo Viejo Rioja Rererva, Spain
Chocolate molten cake
Taylor Fladgate 10 year Twany Port, Portugal
Tickets ($100), which include food, wine, tax, and gratuity, are going fast. Get yours online at Harold's reservation page or by calling the restaurant (713-360-6204).
If you, like me, are continually seeking solace in the form of booze and/or baked goods during the trainwreck that is the 2016 Presidential Campaign, go to 3 Brothers Bakery. In addition to offering their regular menu comprising standouts such as the buttery hamantaschen, creative cupcakes (burger??), and lovely challah, the Bakery is once again offering an election special: sugar cookies adorned with the images of the Democratic and Republican candidates as well as "Gingy", 3 Brothers' write-in selection.
Lest you prematurely conclude that since, as in the case of this reporter (and anyone who doesn't think the leader of the free world should be a misogynist xenophobe), I'm With Her and therefore will certainly not be consuming a Trump cookie, consider the wisdom of the Addams Family credo:
Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc.*
(We gladly feast on those that would subdue us.)
I suggest picking up a dozen for your debate-viewing party.
*Yes, I know the Latin isn't perfect but neither are you so get over it.
Here are the details:
LuAnn’s Kitchen Contest officially launches today, offering junior chefs ages 10 to 15 the opportunity to win a $1,000 grand prize and have their dishes featured and credited on the Luby’s line throughout the Houston area, while collaborating with and supporting similarly aged homeless and at-risk children involved in Homemade Hope. A portion of sales from the showcased dishes will benefit Homemade Hope, helping to fund the initiative that brings a taste of home to kids residing in the city's shelters and transitional living centers through culinary arts programming designed to foster creativity, develop life skills and feed every child's belief that life has hope.
In the preliminary round of the two-phase contest, entrants are asked to submit – either online or via mail – original and typed side, entrée or dessert recipes crafted from a list of ingredients found on the contest page. Due by midnight onSeptember 30, 2016, all entries must consist be accompanied by a title of up to 45 characters, a short description of how the recipe came about or family/friend taste taster feedback (up to 1,000 characters), an ingredient list (up to 1,000 characters using common U.S. household measures), the resulting number of portions, step-by-step preparation instructions including cooking times (up to 2,000 characters) and a photograph or drawing of the completed dish (digital files must be no larger than 6 mb).
Submissions will be reviewed by a panel of corporate chefs from Luby’s, who will select up to ten finalists based on perceived taste, presentation depicted in the photo or drawing, creativity/originality and written description. Finalists will be invited to the Luby’s Uptown Houston flagship at a soon to be determined date in October for a cook-off challenge. Each junior chef will be paired with a junior sous chef from Homemade Hope plus a Luby’s manager, and the team will be tasked to replicate the recipe in the kitchen for final judging by a group of VIPs, including Houston area media, personalities and chefs.
For more information about the LuAnn’s Kitchen Contest, log onto www.lubysluannskitchencontest.com. Recipe submissions can be uploaded at that page or mailed to: LuAnn’s Kitchen Contest c/o Luby’s Fuddruckers Restaurants, LLC 13111 Northwest Freeway, Suite 600 Houston, TX 77040.
Last Thursday I was the guest of Ciao Bello for a dinner as part of their Regional Italian Cuisine Series hosted by the legendary Tony Vallone.
In the case of this dinner, the pictures are not only worth 1000 words, but also conjure roughly as many pleasant memories. We feasted on olives stuffed with ground beef, braised octopus, lamb shank, and one of the most tender, rich white sauce spinach lasagnas I have ever eaten in my life.
Complementing these well-curated culinary treasures was fantastic conversation and truly generous pairings of Garofoli varietals.
If you missed this dinner, stop your your regretful sobbing. Another dinner is scheduled for October 5th and tickets will be available soon.
Oh, who doesn't love a good food holiday? Not this girl.
This coming Friday, July 29th is National Lasagna Day and I can think of no better way of celebrating the end of the long work week and kicking off the start of the weekend by enjoying a large delicious piece of homemade lasagna.
Scratch that--yes, I can: if said lasagna was made in someone else's home and I can focus my efforts on curating the perfect Sopranos episodes to pair with my dinner.
Grazie a dio, Damian's, one of my favorite Italian restaurants, is offering their lasagna bolognese (made using Mama Mandola's recipe) as a special to-go item. A half-pan ($75) serves 8-19 and a full pan ($150) serves 16-20.*
*Humans. Not Garfield who eats double.
Hungry yet? Call 713-522-0439 to place an order.
This past week Three Brothers Bakery invited me to try their new line of create-your-own coffee drinks, which they encourage patrons to pair with a complementary baked good.
Now, lord knows I never need an excuse to eat cake or cookies, especially those produced by Three Brothers Bakery. Coffee, however, is tricky for Bridey, who only drank tea during all-nighters in college (what she drank while not studying, ahem, is a different story) and didn't have her first cup of coffee until she was 30 years old.
Not only am I still fairly sensitive to caffeine, but I also find the typical bitter flavor of run-of-the-mill coffee not very palatable. However, two important factors enabled me to highly enjoy the various iterations of hot and cold coffee at Three Brothers.
First, the Bakery employs the equivalent of a coffee sommelier, Jack, a most impressive java autodidact who oversees the roasting process as well as carefully evaluates the sourcing of the beans. Thus, this ain't your office's lame-ass brew that you and your coworkers' refer to fondly as "Satan's bathwater."
Second, the addition of syrups. Never underestimate how much some liquid flavored sugar can enhance a caffeinated beverage and an accompanying baked treat.
See, for example, the infusion of caramel in a hot cup of joe, which provides a sweet balance to the savory top notes of a buttery hamantaschen. Or, pair an iced coffee inflected with vanilla syrup to even out the pungent spice of one of Three Brothers' gingerbread men.
I also recommend matching the intense the marzipan flavor of a crunchy, chocolate-drizzled almond stick with a soothing cafe au lait laced with hazelnut for a most pleasant legume battle.
But don't rely on my creations. Invent your own and sample all those terrific items proffered by Three Brothers that I didn't mention...until now. #cinnamonrolls #icedcookies #poppyseedloaf #somuchmore
My next international trip may very well be to San Salvador.
After sampling some of the Salvadoran specials created by Cesar Alvarez of The Rollin' Kitchen, I realized that for the past 34 years I have be idiotically ignorant of the brilliant culinary offerings of an entire nation. For shame, Bridey.
Not that I was unaware of the potential of The Rollin' Kitchen, the food truck started by GR8 Plate Hospitality, to vend solid fare. Their transition from Cajun to Salvadoran food, however, is most welcome as the former represents an embarrassing lacunae in our local culinary landscape.
Although all the items on Alvarez's menu are appetizing, the absolute must-order dish is his take on the cemita, a type of Central American sandwich or torta that traditionally combines different meats with avocado, cheese, and salsas. The Rollin' Kitchen's cemita, stuffed with an over-sized piece of fried chicken seasoned with jalapeno and oregano, avocado slices, slabs of Oaxaca cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, and black beans, is a terrific confluence of crisp, juicy protein, botanical notes (both creamy and tangy), and dairy richness. This bastion of diverse flavors combined with its girth makes other tortas seem woefully pathetic.
And, listen up, Chamillionaire. The next time you be ridin' dirty through the streets of H-town, take along a most appropriate snack: Rollin' Kitchen's "dirty fries." A monstrous basket filled with fries and hot links smothered in chipotle mayo, cheese, and dusted with a generous amount of fresh cilantro, the "dirty fries" are as Alice Levitt most accurately put it, "real food truck food." Watch out if you get pulled over as the authorities might confiscate it as "contraband."
I'm eager to try Chef Alvarez's brisket and grits during my next visit, but I also would love to see his Salvadoran spin on tamales and quesadillas. Fall menu, perhaps? :-)
For those of you who didn't get the memo, one of our own kicked ass recently on Chopped!
Now, he's involved in another national competition sponsored by the James Beard Foundation. In the spirit of sustainable cooking and farming, the Foundation is running The Blended Burger Project in which chefs across the country are invited to submit their creative burger that uses a combination of ground meat and mushrooms. Since there is no paucity of culinary talent in Houston, Tune is one of many local chefs competing; go here to vote for your favorite.
I caught up with Tune recently to learn a little bit about his background. Here are my seven favorite facts about the Chopped! winner:
7. He Played Hard to Get With Chopped Producers. Five years in a row Tune was emailed and asked to audition for the show. He ignored the offers until a friend urged him to give it a go.
6. Kids' Cereal Is Not Off Limits. Tune's favorite variety? It's a toss-up between Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs.
5. ..And, For That Matter, Neither Is Ketchup On Hot Dogs. Bridey agrees but recognizes such a belief would get her booted out of Chicago. (Well, whatever, that town doesn't love me back anyway because one of my ancestors tried to burn it down.) Tune does reasonably note that he prefers his customers take a bite his burgers first before drowning them in ketchup, as he pays very special attention to adding other condiments that might be masked by the deluge of Heinz.
4. Fashion Is Other Passion. Apparently his creativity extends to cloth as well as cuisine because he's starting a line of chef jackets.
3. An Admirable International Education. Some serious wanderlust has led Tune to travel to India, Thailand, and Malaysia among other destinations and his all-time favorite meal abroad was in a hut in Negril, Jamaica.
2. Mentors Not Idols. Tune doesn't "idolize" chefs with whom he has never worked, but rather pays homage to those who have mentored him along the way, specifically, Jason Weaver. Wise outlook, my friend.
1. At Two Years Old He Was A Sous-Chef. Tune's mom vividly recalls walking into the kitchen one day to see that Tune (then a toddler) was in the process of pulling out all the ingredients to make chocolate cake in the order in which he had previously observed his mom use them. I CANNOT STAND THE CUTENESS.
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Grand Tasting at the Sugarland Food & Wine Affair.
Although I cannot tell you with any certainty the difference between a food & wine 'affair' and a food & wine 'festival', I can tell you my favorite sips and bites. Here they are; order not reflective of Bridey preference.
First, the "moist unusual" piquant cucumber-infused cocktails courtesy of Hendrick's Gin.
Second, the earthy rabbit rillets prepared with Spanish brandy atop a crispy herbal 'po-boy' crostini from The Durham House.
Third, the lighter-than-air yet delightfully rich in botanical flavor caramelized cheese soufflee from La Table.
Fourth, the perfectly cooked scallop atop earthy fennel and leek risotto from Frank's American Revival.
Fifth, the most impressive chocolate cake stuffed with a whole pecan pie from Mystic Dessert Bar.
Still stuffed and can't wait for next year.
FYI, you've got plans now for Tuesday, April 26th. Why? Because that is when Harold’s Restaurant, Bar & Terrace will be hosting a wine dinner featuring Flanagan Wines. As many of you may know, Harold's is home to one of my all-time favorite dishes: crispy duck parts. After perusing the menu for this six-course dinner, I predict Chef Antoine Ware's glazed pork belly with root beer may also be joining that list.
This special wine dinner costs $125 per person plus tax and gratuity. Reservations can be made online or by calling the restaurant at 713-360-6204.
Mark your calendars, folks! Harold's in the Heights will be hosting a wine dinner featuring selections from Duchman Family Winery on Wednesday, March 2nd at 6:30pm.
Based in Driftwood, Texas, Duchman Family Winery has received numerous accolades for their wine and this dinner presents a terrific opportunity to sample a spectrum of their varietals.
Also, there will be pork ribs. And chocolate cake. And, I hope, then even more pork ribs.
This past weekend I went to Genesis Steakhouse & Wine Bar for Russian Night, a theme culinary event they hold on a semi-regular (but not often enough IMHO) basis. Well-crafted vodka cocktails are on offer; however, if you really want to keep the spirits flowing and your own spirits up, opt for bottle service ($100).
A special menu or classic Russian dishes was served including such highlights as salmon roe on toast with red onion, egg, and sour cream and pelmeni, sickle-shaped beef dumplings resting in a meat broth and dressed with dill.
The aforementioned represent only a fraction of the decadent dishes on hand, so I highly recommend going in a large group to sample everything. Also, who wants to do shots of Stoli alone? :-)
They had me at caviar.
Russophiles rejoice! This Saturday, February 20th is Russian Night at Genesis Steakhouse and Wine Bar. To say the menu is drool-worthy is perhaps the understatement of the year:
Salmon Roe, Toast, Egg, Red Onion & Sour Cream
Beef Shish Kebabs
Chopped Potato, Carrots, Pickles, Onions & Salami
Roasted Eggplant Salad
Roasted Eggplant, Walnuts, Raisins, Parsley & Olives
Chopped Beef Rib, Eggs, Caramelized Onions wrapped in Crêpe
Cabbage stu ed with Ground Beef & Veggies
Half Cornish Hen Split & Seasoned with Black Pepper, Salt & Garlic
Lemon, Red Onion, Parsley, Dill & Bread
Ground Beef, Broth, Sour Cream, Vinegar & Chopped Dill, Parsley & Garlic
Tabouli, Matbucha, Babganoush, Hummus Platter
Homemade Pita Bread
Assorted Pickled Vegetables
Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Pickles & Beets