Noun 1. gastronome - a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink)bon vivant, epicure, epicurean, foodie, gourmetsensualist - a person who enjoys sensuality. Follow me on Twitter: @Aghastronome

Friday, December 17, 2010

Home Cookin': Robb Walsh's Chorizo Recipe

There are certain inalienable truths in life, like, a chorizo and egg taco that has your arm running with orange grease after the first bite, will cure pretty much anything (well, okay a hangover).  Other facts you need to know, to muddle through are as follows:  You don't tug on Superman's cape.  You don't spit into the wind (well, not more than once).  You don't pull the mask off the Ole Lone Ranger.  AND, you don't mess around with Robb. 

Well, unless you're me, sorta.  Now, by mess around with, I am referring to food and recipes for making food.  Robb Walsh knows his groceries.  Unlike other food critics, he's rarely led me astray.  I freely admit, food and liking it, is a deeply personal thing - like religion, or politics, yet, much more freely discussed and debated.  For example, I hate those little gherkin sweet pickles and everything they stand for.  Hate.  Will not put into cake hole!  If you like them, you may have mine, they're wasted on me.  Back to messing with Robb.  I tried his chorizo recipe recently.  It's leaner than store-bought and delicious, but, I had to monkey with his business and add some heat.  I like it hot, and, as much as I love greasy goodness, this stuff made me feel good about my breakfast.

Revival Red Chile Chorizo  - Courtesy of The Master of Tex-Mex, Robb Walsh and tinkered with by herself, the Aghast One - all tinkering bits are in the italics.

Makes 2 1/2 cups

1 pound Revival ground pork
2 teaspoons red chile powder
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground chili piquin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To cook chorizo, heat about a tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add some chorizo and chopped onion. Fry for five minutes or to desired doneness, then use in your favorite recipe.

Things of note:  First, sounds too salty, but it is definitely not.  Second, the vinegar may sound "not right", it's absolutely necessary.  Third, use his original recipe, you will love it, promise *crossing heart*.  Add the heat you want, I, myself, personally - tend to go batsh*t crazy with hot, on occasion.

I can not WAIT for El Real to open.  Hurry, hurry!  Surely, it will be cheese/grease/browngravied jalapeno magic, with a cup of queso.

Note:  I have a "thing" for putting "e's" where they don't belong. Spellcheck is truly overrated.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Terribly Tasty Tacos: Taco Cabana Street Taco Scoop

I have a punch list of reviews, recipes and other ilk to write about.  Ho, Ho, Ho, where does the time go?  Oh, to the workplace and the house holiday fracas I have going on.  Today, I'm bringing you, finally, the promised review of Taco Cabana's "Street Tacos", or tacos that are real, old school tacos and not their Tex-Mex cousin-in-law, twice removed.  Don't get me wrong, I love Tex-Mex and the brown gravy in which it stands.  Okay, I love cheese, grease, every meat known south of the border (my kingdom for "good" cabrito) and tortillas and all of their accoutrements, in any fashion.  There, I'm shameless, as if you didn't know.  Todays scoop is brought to you courtesy of my dear friend Katie.  She had them first and sent me the following, I went later in the week, and I endorse this review.  I, however, found the portions a bit small for the money, myself.  I'd do it again, though.  Size ain't everything, you know - it's all about portion control, sometimes.

Katie said "Chuy's" and I said "Working through lunch, ugh".  And here she goes: 

As you know, Mexican food was on my mind for lunch today, but the thought of drinking down that yummy creamy jalepeno sauce made me feel guilty. So I decided to give Taco Cabana's street tacos a try. They have three options - 3, 6, or the family pack of 12. I went for the 3-pack for $3.99.

Each taco is wrapped in small corn tortillas (2 per taco). Inside is marinated steak, a bit of cilantro, and a lime wedge for spritzing a bit more flavor. I thought it was more to juice up the corn tortilla since I find those to be a bit dry. I went without a spritz for taco #1. I was surprised that it was actually quite good, especially since there isn't much to it. The corn tortilla was not dry and nothing dripped off the steak. What I mean by this is that it did not taste (or drip) like a cheap piece of fatty meat. I decided that tacos 2 and 3 should have a bit of lime - to see if there was a difference. And yes, there is a difference. The lime brought out the flavor of the cilantro and gave it a nice refreshing "tang". And honestly, after I finished them I wish I had not cheated myself out of the lime on taco 1.

I hope they keep these around for awhile because I will be ordering them again.

Holiday Giving: Gifts That Give All Year

One thing I failed to mention with regard to giving, that allows you to forego the lovely traffic, gifts that keep on giving.  Memberships and subscriptions!  Houston is home to some fantastic museums, for one.  There's the Houston Musuem of Natural Science, Individual Memberships are available for $45.  The Musuem of Fine Arts, Houston, memberships available starting at $50, if you are a member already, you get a $10 discount on gift memberships.   The Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, memberships starting at $75.  The Menil Collection, memberships start at $100.  The Children's Museum of Houston, family memberships start at $75 (gets three peeps in).  The Health Museum, individual membership +1 available for $45.  Holocaust Museum Houston, friend memberships for $50.  For a complete list of museums in H-Town and the surrounding area, please click here.

Who doesn't like talking dirty to the animals?  Houston is home to a fantastic zoo!  Fun for you, fun for me and fun for the little crumb grabbers!  Individual memberships + 1 start at $55.  The zoo has a lovely new exhibit, some wee elephants, and every year there is some sort of new baby animal to peep at.  Walking the grounds is great exercise too!

Local magazines help you stay in touch with, well local happenings and whatnot (duh).  Subscriptions are very affordable, too.  One of our favorites (which we need to re-up) is My Table, Houston's Official Dining Magazine.  From soup to nuts, they cover current trends, openings, closings and other fabulous and interesting food bites.  Act now, buy banging this here link and if you buy one subscription at the low, low regular price of $24, you can buy NINE more for $12 each.  Now that is a bargain, just don't tell your dear food and wine aficionado buddies you got their present "on sale".  For a comprehensive-ish list of Houston magazines, please click here.  There's more to our magazine scene than food, but, um, hey food is where it's at.  (Yup, commited a sin, ended a sentence with a preposition, on porpoise).

You have any more grand ideas for online gifts that keep giving?  Hit me with an e-mail or leave me a comment.  Please, no jelly-of-the-month club, that shat could get you kidnapped out of your snuggly warm house and dragged off to the recipient of said fruit-based preserve club for proper punishment.  And, nothing that is Fragile in nature...just saying.  As for me and my family, we'll be watching our favorite Christmas Eve movie of all time, Pulp Fiction (no lie people, no lie).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Giving: Responsible, Frugal or Feel Good?

Something about the Holiday Season in Houston just does not sit well with me, at all.  Why am I just not "feeling it" this year?  Oh yeah, because traveling around this great city, and I mean great - I love this sprawled out concrete jungle, sucks arse from Thanksgiving through New Years Day.  Unless you have a burning, wild and uncontrolled desire to buy all of your Christmas presents at The Galleria, avoid the 610 Loop between, say, I-10 and 59.  Trust me.  If you live near anything bearing some semblance to an area conducive to spending money on crap, I mean, items your loved ones probably cannot live without, traffic will be bad.  Not only are there a lot of drivers out on the road, clamoring for parking spaces and gridlocking intersections; I am pretty sure most of them do not drive at all during the rest of the year, or are unlicensed.  Just saying.  People, drive nice (those fender-mounted rocket launchers I want are still illegal, I think).  Seriously, traffic flows better when you follow the rules.

Once I get past my traffic mad, I have to start thinking about what I am giving and to whom.  The children in my family always get something, games, toys, crafts.  The adults, not so much.  I got to thinking about what to give and still be responsible, somewhat frugal and feel good about my now-spent monies.  Local charities.  You heard me, local charities. 

Baby, it's cold outside, time to clear out your closets and donate excess blankets, coats, sweaters, shoes and sleeping bags to Houston's homeless population.  That's a gift you give yourself, cleaner closet and a warmer heart.  Reward yourself with some nice hot chocolate. 

In lieu of a dust collecting item that someone may regift, give to those in need.  Give your friends and families cards with the following inscription inside:  "In lieu of a physical gift, I have chosen to make a generous cash donation to Noah's Kitchen/Star of Hope/Houston SPCA/Houston Food Bank/local charity of your choosing." Reward yourself with some nice hot chocolate.

Bake some yummies for your friends.  Cookies, breads, mini-cakes or brownies - hell, give them some meat cupcakes.  For one, it says "I think enough of you, that I chose not to peruse the "wheel of gift cards" at the grocery store, while I purchased stuff to bake for people I give a crap about".  For two, it's much less expensive than, say, a Limoges box or crystal mouse.  Once all the cute baked goods holiday bags are filled and closed up, reward yourself with some nice hot chocolate.

It's not about keeping up with those blasted Jones people next door, after all.  If giving a cash/check donation makes you feel rinkydink and like you should give "real gifts", many local charities also have a "gift shop" on their website, get everyone a cookbook from there or something.  You are still supporting efforts in your own backyard.

Please don't think I am blissfully unaware of the hunger, homelessness, needy around the globe.  I am.  Very. Aware.  However, charity begins at home and your own friends and family might need a gentle reminder that we have our own population right here in need of food, money to pay utilities, warm clothes or a shelter to sleep in.  This includes animals, please don't forget the animals - they trust us to care for them and keep them safe from harm.  Here's a link to the Better Business Bureau, so that you can check out local charities, first.

Ramble over.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pear and Cranberry Cake

Well, today I woke up with a little energy, which is rather not usual for me.  Normally, I braille my way to the coffee pot and take awhile to get motivated.  I decided, among other things (laundry and some home repair/remodel fritzing around), to bake this cake.  I have made this with apples, but, I find myself with an abundance of Kiefer Pears from my little brothers tree, so pear it is.  This cake is really a bit more of a breakfast bread, however, if one were to drizzle a cream cheese icing on it, well, that wouldn't suck.  I know, everything is better with cream cheese, unless it's chicken-fried.  Then again, don't put trying that past me.  This is excruciatingly simple with a little pre-prep and a stand mixer (KitchenAid - I lurve it).

Pear and Cranberry Cake

3 cups flour (regular, not cake or self-rising - you can use unbleached and wheat might actually work, I haven't tried that yet)
1 1/2 vegetable oil (or, 1 cup apple sauce 1/2 cup veg oil)
1 3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla (plus I added a wee splash of almond extract on account of I have it)
3 cups pears, peeled, cored, quartered and then sliced 1/4 inch thick-ish
3/4 cup chopped pecans (I use "cookie pieces")
1 cup fresh cranberries (I buy a monster bag at Sam's and vacuum pack by the cup, you can use 1/2 cup of dried cranberries)
butter and flour for greasing, or just use that miracle stuff Baker's Joy

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour, or spray down with BJ, a 9" tube pan.  Measure and or prepare pears, oil, sugar, pecans and cranberries.  Combine oil and sugar in your mixer bowl, with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed for five minutes.  Sift flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder together, during your five minute break in activity.  Add eggs (break into a separate bowl first, no shells - ew) and beat until creamy.  Add flour to the batter mixture and stir on low speed until fully incorporated.  Remove paddle and bowl from mixer.  Add pears, cranberries, vanilla (almond if you got it) and pecans and stir with a stiff spatula until combined.  Pour evenly into the prepared tube pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a wooden skewer (toothpicks are too dang short) inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool in the pan before turning out onto a cooling rack to finish. 

You can make mini loaves, the baking time is approximately the same.  Well, it was the last time I did it, made mini loaves of this, that is.  The mini's would make excellent Christmas gifts, er, Holiday Handouts to those you like somewhat.  I am contemplating using 1 cup white sugar and 3/4 cup dark brown next time (making another one tomorrow) to see if it adds a toffee note to the cake.  I'll let you know if there's a "texture impact" that is "not good".  This recipe was adapted from "Teddie's Apple Cake", courtesy of The Wednesday Chef.

Houstonians, don't forget, tonight is Lights in the Heights!  Come out, after I've arrived and found a parking spot, okay, and wander the streets.  Children are encouraged!  Don't forget your hot chocolate (and the peppermint schnapps).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What's Up Tonight?: Blaggards and Half-Price Burgers @ Brian O'Neill's

Giddyup!  Blaggard's take the stage at Brian O'Neill's tonight at 9:30 p.m.  Plus, you can avail yourself of the half-price burgers and Big-Arse beers.  Purchase yourself a 23 oz commemorative glass, rinse, fill, repeat.  The burgers are Angus Beef, half pound and wholly delicious. The music is stout, like Guinness.  If you have not seen Blaggard's, you must.  This is great fun, the food and drink prices are very special and the atmosphere is standard pub, warm and inviting. 

Brian O'Neill's
5555Morningside Drive
You may pay to park, but admission is FREE.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lusty Italian: LaGriglia = EPIC FAIL!

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine announced to me, "I have a Landry's Gift Card for $100, and I think I've had it for some time.  We need to use it, and soon."  We?  I get a freebish meal?  Why, of course "we" do!  Further discussions ensued and all we nailed down was "This Friday we will go have dinner!".  Negotiations continued into where is Happy Hour?  What Fertitta-based eatery is near?  Cadillac Bar was mentioned, a lot.  Finally, I (in my infinite wisdom) said, "Let's have dinner at LaGriglia on West Gray.  Italian sounds really good today."  You see, my brain was focused on the pre-buy-out LaGriglia, which was always a winner.  My bad.

We went for our hour of happy and hit LaGriglia around 7:00 p.m., the dinner crowd was modest, and we were seated far, far away from the seensters.  Apparently, I bear no resemblance to any of our reknowned society writers, nor do I look like a denizen of River Oaks, just guessing.  We ordered a decent bottle of red and chatted about potential menu selections.  The wine service was just fine, no complaints.  Once we ordered, a cloud of leprosy apparently enveloped us.  I had the Linguine Pescatore, for $20.95 and my friend had  the Open Flame Rotisserie Maple Leaf Farms Duck (say that three times real fast) for $19.95. Less than 5 minutes later, plates were unceremoniously plopped in front of us, with a "Need anything else?" and a glimpse of vapor trail, as the waiter scuttled away.  Well, I have a pasta dish, creamy pasta, oops a "Vibrant Bianco Sauce" with shrimp, crab, calamari, clams and mussels.  Unfortunately, LaGriglia, an Italian-themed eatery, was apparently completely and utterly devoid of fresh or pre-grated parmesan.  Totally. Out. The parmesan container was empty, the wheel reduced to a dried out rind.  That, or the waiter just knew it wasn't allowed on my "diet".  Leave my chubby out of this, I eat what I want.  I always want cheese, it's one of my favorite food groups.  The sauce (Vibrant?  Bianco?) was somewhat watery and bland, in my opinion.  The shrimp were mushy and small-ish and I would guess definitely pre-frozen (read, somewhat mealy in nature).  The clams and mussels were almost, but, not quite, as fresh as a farmhand at dusk, during a SouthEast Texas, high-humidity, August.  It was not "fresh" and we live on the "Gulf of Mexico", if you're picking up what I'm putting down.

And then there was the "duck", which I had a bite of, just to be sure.  This link, right HERE speaks volumes.  Fully cooked, just mash a couple buttons on the ole microblaster and "viola" a gourmet meal.  That was duck?  While not complely offensive, and fairly palatable (I did eat all of my nastified frozen lobster ravioli)- it did not taste like duck, it tasted like (yeah, chicken) roasted cornish game hen.  The wild rice on the side, delicious, toothsome, nutty and I would definitely want that, again.  The raspberry sauce, other end of the taste spectrum.  Syrupy and overtly sweet for something as delicate as duck.  Fruit with duck, yes, pancake syrup?  Hell. No.

The Landry's Empire has seemed to follow a very successful business plan, especially if you have something monetary to gain.  Reducing costs while leaving prices static is a proven means of generating profits.  I would surmise that old school residents of River Oaks and some preppy seensters keep the lights on at LaGriglia.  I don't believe I'll be returning, ever.  Again, for the monies spent, a better meal could be had at a smaller and less chain-like establishment.  Now, to caveat my bitter disappointment - I will say to anyone who listens, Pesce and Vic & Anthony's are two standouts in the Landry's Empire. They should be tried, all I have heard (because I am a Ferti-phobe) is that Pesce is over-the-top wonderful.  I hear lauds for the V & A crabcakes, burgers...well, okay, anything they serve.  My sister swears the best crabcake in town is at Brenner's on the Bayou (poor Sis, she knows bupkis, Haven is "where it's at"..Hello?).  I resolve to try each establishment in the nex quarter, afterall, us poorfolk may need a new, stylish outfit (yo, Omar, warm up the Singer) and to save some folding money, first.

Recap:  Not all of these locally-based, Landry's chain of restaurants are "bad", some are allegedly quite amazing.  This one, is not amazing.  This one is on my "blacklist".  Poor service, poor quality food and a general and off-putting snubbishness combined to create a perfect storm of "hell no, I won't go".  Well, the wine we selected was tasty....oh, right, hard to louse that up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tonight and the Near Future: Synopsis of Stuff

There's a lot going on, and I have been hugely remiss in writing up events, arts and music. So, here goes - I hope to do this regularly, sorta like bowling and belly dancing, scheduled.  So, here goes.  You want more or other content, leave me a comment.  I know, asking for comments is like opening Pandora's box, and burning the lid, but, hey, you people are silent.  "Comments at 15 paces" people.


Rainbow Lodge is hosting their Monthly Wine Event "Tastes From Germany", which even includes *gasp* a beer!  Here's the menu:

"Bohnen, Birnen und Speck"

Green Beans, Pears and Bacon
Darting, Durkheimer Michelsberg, Riesling Kabinett, Pflaz, 2008

Cured and Smoked Pork Loin over German Potato Salad
Paulaner, Salvator (Double Bock)

Marinated Braised Beef with Spatzle
Joseph Drathen, Dornfelder, Trocken, 2008

Apple Strudel with Farm Egg Sabayon
Kruger-Rumpf, Scheurebe, Kabinett, 2008

$29/per person, call to save your spot:  713.861.8666
Rainbow Lodge
2011 Ella Boulevard @ TC Jester

Tomorrow, November 11th - Veteran's Day

All Veteran's and Military Personnel receive a free Express Car Wash at Mister Carwash.

Cheap Eats in Houston compiled this list of food freebies and deals for Veteran's on Veteran's Day. 

Steel Panther plays the House of Blues, $15 for gen ad ($17 day of show)/$20 for balcony.  As an aside, "someone" told me that I "had" to go, and they were taking a whole group.  "Someone" has pants on fire...fibber!  If you have the slightest ability to make this show, please, for the Love of Metal and Hair Bands and all things terribly funny - GO!  Tell me about it.  If I cannot go, I'll experience it by proxy.  They crank it to...Eleven.

Blaggard's bring Stout Irish Rock to O'Bannon's in College Station, 10:00 p.m. - LAST show at that location for 2010, miss 'em tonight, you gotta catch 'em next year.

Friday, November 12th
Dash Rip Rock is in the Bronze Peacock at the House of Blues, located at 1204 Caroline (in case you have not graced them with your presence).  Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 Day of the event, or check online!  All tickets for this show are general "flesh pressing" admission. 

Bob Schneider plays the House of Blues, same place, just not the Bronze Peacock.  Doors at 8:00 p.m., Bob's on at 9:00 p.m..  He kicks arse live, in my humble opinion.  Tickets are $25/gen ad; $35/balcony and $50/VIP.

What's For Lunch? Feast!

A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of lunching at Feast, again.  I've been several times over the summer and feel compelled to toss in my few cents.  I've read in various places of the foodie variety, that the prices are high and all you have to choose from are bits of offal.  This is an eggregious error, to say the very least.  On my last visit, I ordered salad and chicken pie with a suet crust from the lunch menu.  I only order a two item meal, as my dining companion is rather smitten with their various liver and heart-based appetizers and I get to have some of that also (bonus for me, as I am enamored of their offal-ness).  His lunch was tomato soup and beef tongue with vegetables and mashed potatoes, it always arrives with lovely crisp bacon on top.  If my chicken pie had not been as outstanding as it was, I may have had buyer's remorse.

Now that the weather has cooled, it's time for my next trip to Feast.  I read all about their cassoulet, courtesy of Robb Walsh's 100 Favorite Houston Dishes.  It looks outstanding.  Honestly, as well as they do everything, and I've tried a good smattering of their Spring and Summer offerings, Fall should bring greatness.  I love cozy stews, soups and hearty fall casseroles.  As Feast only prepares local, non-processed meals, diners are guaranteed fresh, peak of the season fare.  The waste not-want not approach to using pretty much all of the animal is also appealing to me.  The menu consists of "Feast Favorites", which are always available and daily items, which they describe as more seasonal or adventurous.  While many entrees range from $20 - $25, as compared with other restaurants $15 - $20 range, typically - I would gladly pay slightly more for vastly better.  Their lunch menu is the best deal in town, two items are $13.95 and three items are $17.95.  When asked if I had any questions, I did, "Can I have two appetizers and one entree as my three?" That really was a Feast, however, as noted above, I find that two items is typically sufficient.  They do use biodegradeable "doggie boxes", which is another gold star on their toothpaste chart, so don't be afraid to take it home for later.

New at Feast, a Tasting Menu is offered at night from Sunday through Thursday.  The cost is $52.95 per person and offers a large variety of Feast Favorites and specialties.  In addition, they are hosting a Happy Hour (and a half) with half price wine, beer or cocktails and a selection of $4 appetizers.  Happy Hour specials are available from 5:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m.

Finally, a toast, to Feast New Orleans for making The Eater New Orleans Heat Map:  Where to Eat Right Now . I have already made a date, with myself, to have lunch there in the near future.  I'm giddy with excitement.

219 Westheimer Rd.

Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Sunday: 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Closed Tuesdays

Please note:  If you heard a rumor that all they serve is offal, rumors are just wrong.  They serve a wide variety of meats and vegetables, and they make the most incredible soups I have ever had.  Heaven would be spending time in the kitchen with them, as they work.  I am certain magic is involved, somehow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Save the Date! Antique Warehaus Benefit

Antique Warehaus, in business on lower Westheimer since 1947, owned and operated by Gordon and Tara Greenleaf since 1990 was destroyed by fire on October 31st.  The Greenleaf's had worked to turn an antiques-only store into a "trash and treasure" effort, selling yard art pieces, Tara's art works, local honey, antiques and a line of new, more modern furniture.  Throughout 2010, GOrdon GREENleaf morphed his business into an eco-effort, after all "Reduce, ReUse and Recycle" is what it's all about (well, if you ask me).  Now working to re-establish themselves without insurance monies, with an inventory that went up in smoke along with the shop they rented, we're giving them an assist.  As we are facing the impending holiday season, members of the community are organizing efforts to give back to them, hoping to keep them on their feet, while they regroup.

"Strength" by Tara Jordan-Greenleaf
As I have muddled through life, I have found that there are four-types of people (well, excepting the ones that fall into the instant heebies, run like hell category)  from the "Heavy Starch Dress Shirt" types, that you need a soft undershirt to buffer you from, to the "Butter Soft T-Shirt" types that you just instantly feel at ease around.  People you tend to seek out and strive to be near, or in the presence of because they are like soft, well worn cotton against your skin.  Gordon and Tara are "those" people - two butter soft t-shirts - honest, hard-working and salt of the earth.  They give to their community selflessly (including donating time, monies and fund-raising items for the MBGC Cook-Off). The night of the fire, they were working a community center Halloween Party in their neighborhood.  They volunteer to make a difference to people who wish things were better, so, we're helping them...because they wish things were better.  There are also "Medium/Light Starch Shirts" and "Dryer Wrinkled Shirt" types.  I will say right here, my peeps are straight outta the dryer, or butter soft...I don't typically hang with the starchier mother scratchers.

Lone Star Beer is helping sponsor a benefit at PJ's Sports Bar, located on W. Gray at Stanford on November 20th, beginning at 8:00 p.m.  The Leo Trio has generously offered to entertain guests (and they are fabulous, I might add) and there will be barbecue and sides (unless that plan changes), a silent auction and a raffle.  Not to mention cold Lone Star - who can resist The National Beer of Texas?  Not I.  So, mark your calendar now for November 20th, it's a Saturday and everyone knows Friday is "date night" - so, no flimsyarsed excuses, m'kay?  For a small admission fee, you will be fed, watered and entertained.  You will have the joy of knowing that you've helped a wonderful couple in need.  You will reap endless benefits from the good karma you are building in giving back to those who give selflessly.  You will get to see me (um, that might be more bust than boon, just saying).  I am making SexyRexy's Fabulous Jalapeno Potato Salad (way better than seeing me, promise) and TenderPalate's Blandier Potato Salad.  Plus, I'm putting some kickass stuff in the auction, maybe even a recipe or cookbook-type thing, or food-related doohicky.  You'll just have to see for your ownself - be there.  Oh, and bring something nice or groovy for the silent auction, think of all of the children who's lives were made better through their efforts, just saying.

If you are truly unable to attend and wish to contribute, a benefit fund has been established.  Please mail checks payable to Antique Warehaus or Gordon Greenleaf to: 

Greenleaf Donations
c/o Antique Warehaus
P.O. Box 22654
Houston, TX 77227

P.S.  Get your carcass over to kaxm Gallery to see their art work, there are still works available for sale.  While you are at it, donate art supplies for ArtBridge.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Home Cookin': Irish Stew, My Way

The weather is now cooperating with fall food.  For the past week or so, I have been craving chili, soup or stew.  A bowl full of homey warmth, crusty bread and a spoon.  Toss in a Guinness and I'm in heaven.  I made a batch of chili to take for Sunday football at my favorite little sports bar.  It was pretty good, I went a little crazy with the tomato paste, though.  Combined with some fritos, grated cheddar, chopped onion and a nice dollop of sour cream, I can't really complain.  I can share the recipe later, if anyone requires a recipe for Texas Red, but, today I'm all about the lamb.  Irish Stew, my latest hankering to slake at my own hand.  Monday, I pulled some lamb arm chops out of the freezer and did a "quick thaw" in some cool water.  I trimmed the fat and gristle and removed as much of the meat from the bones as possible.  Used the scraps to make a broth and the outcome was delicious!  As much as I am longing for the first batch of vegetables from the garden in spring, in August or so, when it's a balmy 100 degrees and stupid humid, my thoughts turn to hearty winter fare.  This isn't a difficult one pot wonder to pull off, so don't be afraid to try it.

Irish Stew

1 1/2 lb lamb, cut into cubes
1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, scraped or peeled and diced
2 or 3 medium potatoes, cleaned and diced (skins are your call, I'm a skin girl)
3 cloves garlic, peeled, mashed and rough chopped
3-4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour, more if needed for dusting
salt and pepper
4 cups of lamb stock or beef broth

If using a bone-in cut of lamb, trim fat, debone and cut into cubes (I normally aim for 1/2 inch).  To make lamb stock, put all bones, fat and other trimmings (gristled bits) into a 2 or 3 quart pan over medium-high heat.  If you don't have very much fat, add about 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil to prevent the lamb from sticking.  Stir and turn the pieces every few minutes until all of the bones are browned and the fat is rendered and crisp.  Cover with 4-5 cups of water and cook, stirring occasionally, at a low boil.

While the stock is cooking away, prepare all vegetables.  Add flour to a plastic zip top bag, or baking pan and season well with salt and pepper.  Dredge lamb cubes until completely dusted with flour.  In a dutch oven, heat up 2 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Brown lamb on all sides in batches, try not to overcrowd.  Once all lamb has been browned and drained on papertowels, check the level of oil in the dutch oven.  Saute onion and garlic in leftover oil. Using about two tablespoons of oil, add 2 tablespoons of your dusting flour and stir until browned and well incorporated.  Pour in broth or stock and deglaze the pan.  Add the browned lamb, carrots and potatoes and simmer for 45 minutes, or until meat is tender and vegetables are done.  Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  The broth should be slightly thickened from the roux, but, not the consistency of gravy.  If it's too thin, stir 4 Tbsp of flour into 1/2 cup of water, until there are no lumps and stir into the stew.  If too thick, add stock or water to thin.

Options:  I "pantry/fridge" cook, so, if there are a few ribs of celery hanging out in the crisper, or an errant bell pepper, I chop them and add with the onion and garlic.  When I have frozen green peas (and I almost always do), I add them at the end.  Freshly minced rosemary or thyme would add nice depth, I just overlooked darting out to the herb garden for them.  Cayenne, it's all-purpose and goes with everything in my house, add it, heat 'er up.  Don't be afraid to experiment a little, stews are very forgiving, unless you turn them into the Dead Sea, can't help ya there.  You don't possess a little lamb?  Use beef or pork, and don't feel compelled to pay over $2.50/lb for "stew meat", get a roast cut on sale and dice the mother up.  Seasoning. My general rule of thumb, if it smells right, it's gonna taste right.  Taste it anyway, and don't double dip if you have company, just saying.

P.S. Think your stew recipe is all that and a sleeve of saltines?  Leave it in the comments.  Go for it.  I'll cook it, so long as sardines and sauerkraut are not involved.  Unless, it's this.

P.P.S.  It's November 4th, you got your McRib on, yet?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Art Opening: Visual Spectrum at KAXM Gallery

This Friday, November 5th a group of artists and jewelry crafters will host the opening of their one of a kind works as a part of "Visual Spectrum" the latest exhibit at kaxm Gallery.  The opening reception lasts from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. giving you a first look at some incredible works, as well as live music from Lucky Trujillo.  The exhibit will remain open until November 30th, in case you happen to miss the opening (but, you really should attend - it's the best chance you have to add to your art/jewelry collection).  In conjunction with this exhibit, kaxm Gallery will be accepting donations of art supplies for ArtBridge Houston, a non-profit that provides art programs for our city's homeless children.  Actually, we should "go for broke" with the art supply donations on Friday night.  If you don't know what to buy - because you just ate the paste during art class as a child, TexasArt might have some gift cards for sale you could donate instead.  Just saying.  Ya'll be generous now, you hear - don't bring a set of watercolors from the store where things sell for a dollar.

kaxm Gallery
1135 E. 11th Street
Tara Jordan-Greenleaf - "Strength"
(near the corner of 11th and Studewood)
Friday, November 5th
6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Exhibiting Artists:

Tara Jordan-Greenleaf
Lynn Chatman
Gordon Greenleaf
Doria Goldman

Jewelry crafted by:

Lee Billings
Amanda Howe
Monique Weston
Sarah Whatley

And don't forget the music.....from Lucky Trujillo. 

Bring some art supplies or one of those cards I mentioned earlier.  Bring a sack of cash to buy art, too.  One should never pass up a perfectly good opportunity to purchase any reasonably priced work of art, especially if you're supporting a local artist. You never know, could be the next Warhol?  Picasso?  Monet? 

I can personally say, I have some of Gordon Greenleaf's photography and my wish list includes a work from Tara.  Christmas is coming, so, if you all pooled your money and purchased one of her works for me, that would be just great, okay?  Thanks in advance for the gift, dear friends.  Just saying.  Plus, you might have overlooked my birthday, and I am keeping a list of "those" people, too.  Again, just thought I might mention that.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Montrose Beer and Gun Club 10th Annual Cook-off and Music Extravaganza

Last Saturday, I had the most fun you can have with your clothes on - and I was working.    If you weren't in attendance, you missed out on some excellent food, a silent auction full of great stuff, belly dancing, fabulous live music and the awesome t-shirts, koozies and "2nd Coarse, The Texas Food Chain Massacre Second Edition" that were available for sale. The new cookbook contains some revered recipes from the original (like Jalapeno Margaritas from Houston Roller Derby) and also new things from MBGC members, friends and, of course, the cook teams.  There are recipes from soup to nuts, everything from Cold Beer to It's No Joke (which is a potato chip, coke and ice cream concoction).  I have about 4 or 6 recipes in there too, like Chicken & Dumplin's from my Granny Jo, and modified by me.  I'm not "taunting" you with the cookbook.  I understand that a very limited supply of cookbooks "might" still be available for sale, along with koozies at the Antique Warehaus, which is conveniently located at 1714 Westheimer St. @ Park.  The weather is turning spectacular here, so swing by and peruse the store, get a cookbook and maybe something more while you're there.  If they're out of the cookbook, peruse the store anyway - it's cool.

I was fortunate enough to judge some of the categories, specifically chicken, pork and wild game.  I was on the final table, and I have to tell you - it was all good, even the walrus.  Those who placed in the top 5 in their category got the coolest trophy I have ever seen.  I'm rounding up some photos for you of how they were created, and what they looked like.  I will state here that I would have loved to have hauled my weaponry along and participated.  The real deal for me, given that I'm an eater of food that writes about it, is the food.  I love working cook-offs, they're the perfect venue for me - raising monies for charity, eating, drinking and socializing in a relaxed atmosphere with people of all varieties.  Plus, Tejas Barbacoa, the team my friend Christy is on, won three trophys!  Third Place Chicken, Second Place Chili and Second Place Pork - awesome for their first time to compete here!

One of the team captains shared a college paper of his daughters with us this morning.  How food is the key ingredient in bringing people together, specifically to raise money for kids who wish things were better.  Here's a taste of it:

"Every year, the MB&GC uses food to bring people together by hosting a cook-off for kids who wish things were better, benefiting the make a wish foundation. My family are “active” members of the Montrose Beer and Gun Club. My Dad, Uncles and Cousins - we all are card carrying members and are very proud of our status.

October 23 will be the 10th year that this club of misfits, professionals, artists, college kids and everyone else come together around their ice chests and barbecue pits to share their food for a greater cause.

The annual cook-off was created by the founding members of the MB&GC. They decided to host a benefit for its members to raise money for those who are less fortunate.

They organized a cook-off and invited the clubs members to create their individual teams and compete with their recipes in hopes of drawing in a large crowd who would be eager to eat the food and open their wallets.

The first year of the cook-off, the money was donated to the local women’s shelter. They then decided to help children with cancer and the second year the money was donated to MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Center.

The members then realized that in no way would they be able to raise enough money to cure anyone so it was decided to raise money for Make-A-Wish so they could provide a small measure of happiness for children and their families who don’t have much to be happy about.

My dad has a cook-off team that consists of him, my mom and my Uncle Danny."
"The real beauty of the event is the people. There are people from all walks of life at the cook-off. I can tell you all kinds of stories about the biker guys who come with their scraggly beards and rebellious attitudes who are ultimately really nice, and entertaining, guys.

I can tell you about the young families who bring their kids to check out the good food. There is always the roller derby team - who are a little scary. There is a team of women that comes every year from Corpus Christi and they set their tent next to ours and always flirt with my dad while my mom laughs, rolls her eyes and offers him to the highest bidder.

There is the Scottish team who wear their kilts every year and then there is the team of business men who can never quite understand casual dress in their loafers and button up shirts.

The beauty of the cook-off is that all these people are brought together with their shared love of great food and their desire to support the kids.

I know I don’t just have the one story about food. The thing is all the little stories and experiences make up the great story that is the MB&GC Annual Cook-off. It’s an experience I can’t describe in 5 minutes.

It’s an event for everyone who wants to support a cause and doesn’t feel like wearing tuxedos and fancy dresses. All these people who didn’t know each other last year or even yesterday come together and share stories of life over a meal; even if that meal is served in thousands of plastic cups."

It was six days ago, and I am already looking forward to next year. I did have a jalapeno margarita last saturday, it was delightful - slighly sweet, tart, hot and iced.  Perfection with a touch of burn.  Good thing I have both of the cookbooks, I can make some of my own!  Since I have yet to provide anyone with a single recipe, here's one from the cookbook for you:

Chicken & Dumplin's (Thanks, Granny)

1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or a pkg of mixed pieces or 4-6 bone-in, skin-on breasts
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2-3 carrots, scraped and cut into 1" pieces
2-3 ribs of celery, cut into 1" pieces
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic (or 2-3 cloves - to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (or 1 teaspoon each, minced fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano - if you have fresh tarragon, it's a nice addition)
1 bag frozen green peas (optional)
3-4 quarts water
salt/pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven, bring all ingredients to a boil. Lower to a gentle boil and skim the surface until the water no longer "foams". Continue to simmer until the chicken is tender - remove, cool and de-bone meat, cutting into bite-sized pieces. If desired, you can strain the broth to remove the cooked vegetables, we like to leave them in. Return stock to a slow boil, keep an eye on it. While the chicken is cooling, make the dumplings, as follows:

2 cups flour (do not use self-rising)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons shortening
2/3 cup milk

Combine flour, salt and shortening, cutting the shortening in so that the mixture looks like it has small peas in it. Add milk, mixing with a fork or spoon, until you have a stiff dough, that is not sticky (you'll need to get your hands in it at the end - add a little flour if needed).  If the dough is too thick, add a splash of milk.  Try not to overwork the dough, you'll have tough dumplings. 

Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is a quarter-inch thick. Flour the top and rolling pin, it helps. Cut dough in to half-inch squares (we put the squares back in the dough bowl, for convenience).

Bring broth to a rolling boil and drop the dumplings in a few at a time. Reduce to a simmer and add chicken. At this point, you have options! 1). Dig in. 2). Add green peas if you like them and want more veggies in the mix. We recommend, 3). Add a cup of water you have whisked almost a half cup of flour into, until smooth. Then stir gently, but kinda like crazy, to incorporate the flour/water, and simmer until thickened - this will make the final outcome creamier and less like chicken soup. Re-tests for seasonings.

If you choose to use boneless/skinless chicken, add two tablespoons of Knorr's Caldo de Pollo to increase the flavor of your broth. There is some scuttlebutt that you can just use cut flour tortillas - don't subscribe to that theory, or the one about cutting up whomp biscuits (the kind where all you do is whomp the can open and cook). Love the heat? Add a minced habanero or other hot pepper.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Montrose Beer & Gun Club 10th Annual Cook-off and Music Extravaganza

Well kids, it's time for the 10th Annual MBGC Cook-Off and Music Extravaganza! This is a wonderful event that raises monies for "Kids Who Wish Things Were Better", or the Make-A-Wish Foundation.   The event is held at the West Alabama Ice House and kicks off tomorrow, promptly at high noon, with belly dancing and a slew of smoking pits, as the teams continue cooking for the public and the contest.  Admission is a ridiculously low $5, or however much you would like to donate (don't be shy, feel free to give more) and there will be awesome t-shirts (mens and womens cut), a brand-new cookbook and koozies to keep your beer cold for sale in our merchandise area.  As if that weren't enough, there will be a silent auction with some sweet items for you to bid on.  You may purchase the beverage of your choice from the ice house, as you wander the scores of cooks and enjoy an afternoon of live music, beginning at 1:00 p.m. - after a fine belly dancing display, performed by Tribal Lillies.  Here's where I make a wee confession, I have been taking lessons in belly dancing.  I won't be performing, so your retinas are safe this time.  At the present, my efforts resemble wounded waterfowl, an epileptic egret, a herky heron - you get my point, it's kinda uncoordinated looking, to say the least.  I'm no quitter, I hope to master this belly thing.  I shall instead be working the event, as a volunteer.

Teams will be competing for trophies (the best we've ever had, guns were really involved) in the categories of:  Beans, Chicken, Chili, Pork and Wild Game.  No Road Kill Allowed.  Donations to the silent auction will be accepted on the day of the event.  So, if Aunt Ethel gave you a nice wine set and you're an avowed non-wine drinker, or some other gift you shan't use is lying about - bring it on to raise more money for the kids!  Your musical entertainment will be provided by Bob Chadwick Jazz Ensemble, Third Ear Caravan, The Leo Trio and Richard Cagle and the VooDoo Choir.  This is a lot of entertainment *bang*, plus there's all the free people watching and such.  Please bring cash, your checkbook or credit card (note, Antiques Warhaus generously donates credit card processing and that will be the name appearing on your bill).  Lastly, parking is somewhat limited throughout the surrounding neighborhood, so, you and all of your friends that will fit into your car safely, should contemplate car pooling.  Taking a taxi is another fairly good idea, provided you don't live in the hinter lands.

Montrose Beer and Gun Club
10th Annual Cook-off and Music Extravaganza
West Alabama Ice House
1919 W Alabama St
Noon - 7:00 p.m. - $5 Admission

Rare photo of the original members of the Montrose Beer and Gun Club courtesy of MBGC.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Laned and Out Done by Caroline (Not a Surprise, Really)

All last week I toyed with the idea of posting about the ridiculousness that is "sexting".  Especially since Brett Favre, who has temporarily retired from professional football more times some bands have gone on "farewell tours", did "it".  Allegedly, that is.  He has been accused of taking a photograph of his groceries and sending said pixels to a female sports reporter he had his eye on.  At least use the "good" camera.  Another demerit for a quarterback.  The quarterback is supposed to be the wholesome guy.  He doesn't get popped for juicing, never gets caught with illegal substances, refuses to fight dogs, wouldn't think of beating on his lovely bride, and never does the "hokey pokey" in public.  These things just... don't..., um, so yeah, nevermind. This is not basketball, kids.  At any rate, I was going to write up what I hoped to be an inciteful, witty-like ramble as to how women are not nearly as impressed by your dangling participle as you would like for them to be.  How you may not get the intended outcome from your action.  Caroline beat me to it, and in good fashion.  She out-funnies me regularly, and you should read her business, regularly.  I nearly spit coffee on my monitor and keyboard this morning.  It's funny as all get out, and it's true boys, it's really true.  Read it and take note, and quit that business.  Seriously.  It's awful, not amorous or amusing - and if someone sends their sympathies back, just remember, you started it.  So, don't getcha feelings all hurt.

Caroline attended the Texans game with us yesterday, five girls - one great football game.  Sparsely populated parking lot, same gripe about tailgating and paying for passes for friends, on top of parking and paying for the season tickets.  We won't discuss the $7.50 beer, oops.  I am playing my own version of "Where's Waldo?", where is Texan Elvis?  He's been absent the past two games.

The boudin we grill at our tailgate is from D.J.'s Boudain over in Beaumont.  It's fantastic stuff, buy yourself some and ask your grocer why he's not carrying it, unless he is.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This Weekend: Festa Italiana, A Grand Opening & Tailgating

Festa Italiana, which is presented by The Italian Cultural & Community Center begins today and runs through Sunday at 6:00 p.m. on campus at the University of St. Thomas (why did they NOT do this when I was there?).  This year makes 32 years of fun and festivities!  If you sneak out early, admission is FREE until four pm today, the rest of the time you pay $6 for adults and kids under 12 are FREE.  Entertainment includes a grape stomp, a pasta eating contest (I was so hoping it would be meatballs, instead.  Antacids, don't leave home without them), an Italian-American Idol contest (Mambo Italiano), chalk art and bunches of activities for children.  Check out their website here.

Festa Italiana
University of St. Thomas
Corner of W. Alabama & Montrose
Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Parking is available in the Moran Center Parking Garage for $2 per day.  Directions to UST.

The Great Gulf Dinner, presented by Eating Our Words, the Houston Press food blog is tomorrow, from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.  If you have not purchased your ticket at this time, please click here to see do they still gots 'em available.

Great Gulf Dinner
The Usual 5519 Allen (near TC Jester)
2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.
$15 per plate, Gaido's is cooking (it'll be deliciousness) includes one drink ticket and Paige Lewis will be performing!  This sounds like a deal, to me.

The coolest city block in the entire 600 square miles that is Houston, Texas has a new neighbor which should prove to be equally as cool.  The block opens, grandly this Saturday at 6:00 p.m.  Yes, Houston's beloved and most fabulous Continental Club, Tacos A Go-Go and T'afia (stellar peach cobbler), the Breakfast Klub, and more, or "3700 Main" as I call it has a "sister block" of food and coolness, 3622 Main Street.  Why what ever is located there?  Sig's Lagoon, home of cool music and interesting items has moved over there, My Flaming Heart (eclectic collection of handmade and estate clothing, jewelry and accessories), Shop-o-Rama (the name seriously says it all, it says "come see what I got", it's a coolass re-sale coop, people) and Natachee's Supper and Punch (brand new restaurant that I hear has a delectable peach cobbler, too).  The shops are open all day, but the celebration commences at 6:00 p.m. and include various snacks, beverages and music by DJ Psychedelic Sex Panther (how can you miss this?  YOU CAN'T, unless, well, you're not cool.)

Tailgating.  I was at the ill-fated Giants game last Sunday.  I have held a PSL/Tickets since forever, I was one of the first fifteen hundred football lunatics on board the "Train of Pain".  I do not like the new "policy" regarding tailgating and I think that changing horses midstream is retarded.  I was not aware that there were people who were not invited guests of legit tailgates just showing up with a rolling cooler of beer to hang out.  That's a bag of crap.  I think that free guest passes, limit four per season ticket holder is a good idea.  You shouldn't be on the grounds causing a damn ruckus, otherwise.  I think all parking passes should be SCANNED and not just taken with a half-hearted "thanks and enjoy the game".  I believe pretty firmly that the parking people need to "event park" the cars and not just wave you in.  How many parking passes?  Three?  You, open, open.....Next vehicle, rightcheer.  There are still "missing teeth" parking spaces all over the place.  I'll be out there Sunday, we've got a boudin supplier that makes the best I have ever had.  I'm going to find out the name of the small, family-owned company and share.  You need some, I just know it and I'm going to provide you the scoop.  Lastly, I hope Texan Elvis shows up this week.  He has had the seats behind me since the second season and he's a hoot. (I'll add his photo later, my iPhone is misbehaving right now).

The McRib - Live and Nationwide in November

A couple days ago, an article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye.  The McRib and what people will do to get one.  Like, drive 10 hours across state lines with a cooler?  Seriously?  Personally, myself, I don't care for the McRib.  In fact, it's a cold day in hell before I stop at McDonald's period.  Unless I'm on a long road trip and then I just avail myself of their tidy facilities.  Once they took the lard out of the french fryer...I was McDone.  I'll just take a side trip here - McDonald's sued for not serving vegetarian french fries?  That defies my sense of logic and reason.  It's as crassly ridiculous to hit a fast food burger joint that doesn't serve veggie burgers and expect a vegetarian meal, in my book, as wanting vegan Tex-Mex?  What is that?  Chayote and chile powder in a gluten-free tortilla with soy cheese?  Sorry.....I love veggies and persons who only eat what grows from the dirt - but, let's be a touch on the rational side.  If it was just a french fry snack for ya, don't get all mad at me.  Opinions, I have them. Okay, back to the real subject:  The McRib and it's devoted legion of followers (groupies). 

The McRib, introduced in 1981, is a sandwich on an oblong bun constructed of a boneless rib-shaped patty, pickles, onions and barbecue sauce.  My issues are: the meat is processed seven ways to Sunday and molded into an unnatural shape; and I despise all bottled barbecue sauce, for the most part.  I grew up with Daddy making barbecue all the time, and his own sauce.  I am a true barbecue snob and wholly obnoxious as to what and whose barbecue I will actually eat (caveat this statement with, if I am living off my own body fat, I will eat pretty much anything that won't bite me first).  There are over 300 groups on "The Social Network", that are dedicated to the McRib and there's even a McRib Locator.  The McRib, there's an app for that.  McCrazytalk.

At any rate, those of you who worship the McRib and will do anything to get one (legal or not) are going to be in hog heaven soon.  On November 2nd, the damn sandwich goes live and nationwide for the first time in 16 years.  Yup, you should be able to hit any franchise and get yourself one for six whole weeks!  All persons suffering in silent agony of unrequited McRib love, you will be sated, even if only briefly.  Buy a bunch and freeze them for later?  I won't be purchasing any, so there's more for the true fans.

Pork clarification:  I love pork and everything it stands for.  I positively adore "pig chips",  I will eat vienna sausages on occassion, consume hot dogs with gusto (I was gonna say relish, but, I can't bring myself to) but something about the McRib just McCreeps me out.  I know, it's irrational.  It just is what it is, man.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's Going On in H-Town?

First and foremost, I must mention the passing of a Houston radio icon, Mark Stevens of Stevens & Pruett.  He passed yesterday of Alzheimer's-related complications.  I best remember him as the voice of Uncle Waldo.  Pause for a second today in remembrance of a local radio legend, please.

Next up, Spanish Village.  This joint is old, kitchy and has been family operated and serving up some rockin' Tex-Mex food since the 1940's,  Last night, I tried the Special Enchiladas-a-la-Taylor for the first time, as did Meg.  Wow, an enchilada smothered in a special spicy sauce (plus Chile Con Carne) and then, blanketed in oozy melted American cheese.  Refried beans, rice and the "starter" guacamole salad and it's all yours for $11.50 (now) plus tax and grat. I've had the fried spring chicken about, well, most times I've been there.  The Sun Belt dinner is a great smattering of T-M (that's Tex-Mex) faves, the Chile Rellenos are the best in town and I'm resolved to now eat my way around their entire menu.  Everything on the menu is reasonably priced for what you get and I've never had a "bad" meal.  Truth be told, I kinda crave the place.  I met a couple of friends for dinner (the illustrious Christy and Meg) and had a wonderful dinner, ate entirely too much and had a couple of their frozen margaritas.  I surrendered to the plate with most of the beans and rice left, and my spidey senses alerted me to an upcoming food coma.  Our experience started with a small queso, with a dish of jalapenos on the side and chips.  I like this presentation, as everyone can control the heat to their taste.  On the next trip, I know that two of us are going to share the chicken and the enchiladas.  The margaritas look expensive at a glance, but, a $6.50 frozen that is made with lime juice and liquor and none of that "sweet and sour" junk is well worth the money!  If you have not had a meal here, you need to.  Yeah, it's not in a "trendy" part of town, and the ambiance is not "sleek and modern", it's Polariod and Christmas lights.  PLUS, there are no Ed Hardy-wearing seensters to contend with, either.  Plus, the food is spot on, trust me.  Be advised, you must order an entree to consume the booze, period, end of paragraph.  They are not open on Sunday or Monday, por favor, see hours below.

Spanish Village
4720 Almeda

Hours:  Tues - Thurs 11:00 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
            Fri - Sat        11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.

Menu Here

Upcoming Music and General FUN tomorrow!  The final FREE Discovery Green Concert in the Fall Entertainment Series will bring Two Tons of Steel to the stage, and the normal St. Arnold beverages (double recycle points for six-pack containers!!).  Here's a link to the location and general visitation information.

Best quote this week (ish, I'm pulling it out of my grey matter):  "Tom Brady insulting Randy Moss hair is like Creed calling Nickelback lame".   Brady has insisted that the follicular fracas is faux.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Trending: Tacos That Are Made Properly? What is a "Street Taco, Alex?"

I have long believed that heading out for "really fast" tacos, like from Taco Bell ® should only occur if one is either terribly desperate and far, far away from anything else (like Jack in the Box and their 2 for $0.99 tacos) and/or in some state of intoxication.  Otherwise, gastronomic "jeopardy", or total aghastness, and some rank burpage, perhaps.  Neither of these is a "real" taco in my book, I just find one more palatable than the other.  Real tacos are not made with boxed crispy shells, or yellow cheese - this is a bastardized American concoction.  Should I find some cheddar or american cheese on my order of tacos, I will not turn my nose up at it.  Cheese remains one of my favorite food groups, after all. 

I have a soft spot for Taco Cabana, and I have their soft chicken tacos at least bi-weekly because I can't help myself.  I only have my car washed at the place by my house that has a taqueria on premise (this is sheer genius).  I found a couple of groceries and "meaterias" that have in-house food counters that serve some mean al pastor tacos that I now make groceries at.  Apparently, there's a trend toward authentic tacos in the fast food world.  Taco Cabana has introduced the "Street Taco" for a limited time, it's comprised of two corn tortillas, grilled marinated steak, chopped onion and cilantro.   I will have to try one and report back, perhaps a "Taco Smackdown" is in order.  The hangup I have is the name "Street Taco" which just sounds, wrong.

Houstonians seeking some authentic and delicious tacos should patronize just about any taco truck parked and cooking (don't be scared, if it sucks, it's not going to be a high dollar screw-up).  To find out where the best taco trucks are, bow to the "men" - Guns & Tacos and Robb Walsh.  In Southwest Houston, hit up El Rancherito on Chetwood (behind Holy Ghost Catholic Church), the El Ahorro, Bellaire Car Wash and Auto Salon, on Bellaire Blvd, or the La Michoacana @ Bissonnet and Bonhome (7501 Bissonnet).  On a side note, if you venture to La Michoacana,  duck across Bonhome to Caribbean Cuisine and get some meat patties to go.

Me?  I'ma hit Spanish Village and try to order something other than the fried chicken (which is fab) or the chile rellenos......maybe some of the Special Enchiladas-a-la-Taylor.

If you do hit the El Ahorro, the red carts are for "in the store, only" and the ricketyass rusted ones, you may use to haul your groceries to the car.  After you squeeze the damn cart through the pylons.  This explains why I saw a bunch of people with those tiny hand baskets and very few carts, or buggies.  Bonus, nobody hollered "Gringa on Aisle Four"!  I like that place for tacos and staple groceries, a lot.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What's Up Tonight?: Blaggards and Half-Price Burgers @ Brian O'Neill's

Houston's only Stout Irish Rock Band, Blaggards plays a free show tonight at Brian O'Neill's in the Rice Village.  It's Big Arse Beer Night and burgers are half-price (to soak up some of that big beer, right?).  The music starts at 9:30 p.m., so you can go early to make sure you're properly fed and watered before the dancing starts!  Burgers are 1/2 pounders, normally $8.95 and include either chips, a cup of soup or coleslaw, that's a big bunch of delicious burger for $4.475, plus tax and grat (black and bleu with bacon, just saying).  Here's a link to their menu, the better to make you hungry with.

Brian O'Neill's
5555 Morningside Dr.

Antiques 101 History Camp at Bayou Bend: Adult Evening Seminars, presented by Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens and MFAH the series begins tonight and occurs every Wednesday evening through October 27th.  This first series covers Paint, guest speaker Patrick Palmer of the Glassell School of Art will lead a tour of Bayou Bend that is focused on the portraits and paintings in the collection.  Tickets to the entire series are $175 per person ($150 for MFAH members), individual sessions are $60 per person ($50 for MFAH members).  Reservations are required, please contact Lavinia Ignat, Visitor Services Manager at 713.639.7758.  Sessions begin at 6:00 p.m. and last until 9:00 p.m., please arrive early to check-in.

Antiques 101
Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center (for check-in)
6003 Memorial Drive

If you have not had the opportunity to introduce the whole family to Blaggards music (ie. you haven't attended the Irish Stew Cook-Off, or other charitable venue they've played) you have a grand opportunity to do so, this weekend.  Blaggards Free All Ages Show at Cactus Music and Record Ranch, begins at 3:00 p.m. and will feature spectacular beverages from St. Arnold Brewing (they make a mean root beer for the under 21 crowd).  They will be selling CD's for $9.99 at the venue, get yours now!  Both of them, "Standards" and "Live in Texas". 

Cactus Music & Record Ranch
2111 Portsmouth

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Weirdness: Pumpkin Fire at Whole Foods Kirby

A fire broke out, the pumpkins at Whole Foods Kirby went up in flames.  I find this odd, I had no idea that they would burn, unless all dried out and stuff.  You know, the Halloween one that you spray-painted gold and used as a Christmas decoration.....that bad boy may be flammable.  I hope there's no gourd-hating arsonist roaming the streets.

Need a pumpkin?  Rumor has it they are buy one-get one at the Houston Garden Center.  Don't quote me on that, though.

Ramble On: Miscellaneous Stuff for the Week

First, I went out for lunch today (I needed some home improvement supplies) and there was a Popeye's nearby.  Tuesdays, you can get a leg and thigh (mild or spicy - is there really a valid question here? Spicy, hello) for $0.99, or for $3.47 you get the chicken with a side and biscuit.  I'm on a very strict diet, so I had one straight chicken order and one "combo" with red beans and rice.  A girl's gotta keep her energy up, and all.  This special runs all day, so, ya still have time to take advantage of it, provided there's a Popeye's near you (if not, I'd move, just saying).  Anyone got a purple pill or some antacids I can borrow?

Next, The Houston Zoo has a brand new resident!  Tupelo the asian elephant, weighing 273 lbs was born on Sunday.  She'll (oops, girl elephant - my bad, thanks for the quick correction "Anon") be closely monitored and the elephant barn will be "shut" for awhile, but, this is wonderful news.  She is joining her 5 month old half-brother Baylor, we'll see how the siblings get along!

For those of you who participated in Houston Restaurant Month Week, to you (and myself) I say "Holy Crap, Batman!!", a huge accomplishment people.  Together with participating restaurants, the collective "we" raised a total of $585,000 for the Houston Food Bank.  Dude, that's a ton of food for those in need.  Pat your own self on the back!  Perhaps next year we can raise the proverbial bar and hit the million dollar mark.  We are the fourth largest city and all, it can happen!

Upcoming Events: 

  • St. Arnold Ale Dinner at Canopy:  Tuesday, October 12th; 7:00 p.m.; $65 per person PLUS tax and gratuity.  Seating is LIMITED to 32 people, buy now, hurry.  Canopy is located at 3939 Montrose Blvd.  Call or email to reserve:  713.528.6848, or
  • Discovery Green's final outdoor concert - Thursday 10/14.  Come on out and see Two Tons of Steel
  • "The Great Gulf Dinner" at The Usual, presented by Houston Press, courtesy of Gaido's in Galveston (who fed the Hurricane Ike volunteers):  October 16th; 2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.; $15 per plate (boiled shrimp and fried fish, from the Gulf).  The Usual is located at 5519 Allen.  Bonus, you get a drink ticket with the purchase of a plate and, and Paige Lewis will be performing throughout the afternoon.  A raffle will also be held, all proceeds benefit Boat People SOS, which aids Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American fisherpersons.  Clicky for ticky!  This thang's gonna sell out, so buy yours now, y'hear!
Okay, that's all for now folks, more later - I swear.  I am trying to fit writing time in with working time and home destruction and general ridding of stuff.  I've been watching those reality hoarding shows and they make me have nervous tics every time I venture out to the garage for an implement of destruction, er, hand or power tool.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ramble On: Reliant Punishes Tailgating Fans for Shoddy Parkmanship

I read the news today. Oh. Boy.  Last night while I was stinking it up at Palace Lanes (no, I have not been on some bean binge, I just cannot seem to bowl well, at all), I received an e-mail from KatieBelle.  No wonder I couldn't bowl for crap, I was highly disgruntled.  The Texans announced an immediate change to their tailgating policy on account of the Cowboys game was crowded and parking was scarce. I find this change to be completely ridiculous, my comments will follow.   Here is the change:

New Policy: The Houston Texans announced a new revision to their gameday ticket policy. Effective immediately the Houston Texans will require all fans who wish to enter Reliant Stadium or its parking lots to possess a gameday ticket. (Note to Reliant and the Houston Texans: You have not been checking tailgaters for adequate parking passes since 2002.  Perhaps you should be enforcing your own damn rules.  Maybe then, the issue would not be so great.  After all, you don't over sell parking passes? Right?).
Who’s affected: Non-ticketed guests, season ticket holders that bring guests to tailgate, season ticket holders that sell or give away their tickets and still plan to come to the game to tailgate.  (Note: if you have someone stoking the pit and cooking up some fresh boudin and chicken wings for after the game, that's kinda all over with)

Why the New Policy: Our tailgating environment is intended for the enjoyment of our game attendees and we invest significant time, money and other resources to make this experience exceptional. Non-ticketed visitors that tailgate on the Reliant Park campus put a significant strain on facility resources intended for use by game attendees, create increased traffic congestion for game attendees, setup tailgates in parking spaces without parking passes thereby displacing game attendees with valid parking passes and require the services of EMT, Police, and Parking Staff that should be focused on serving our game attendees.  (Note: The new policy is really going into effect because - and I've been a PSL holder since they were "NFL 2002" and had no name - the parking lot has not been properly "parked" in several years.  Why just this preseason Cowboys game, the attendants were not effeciently parking cars.  No one ensures that all spaces are filled and many were totally empty in the Orange Lot for the Cowboys game 09/26 when I arrived at 10:00 a.m.  No vehicle, no tailgate, no lawn chair - just wide open spaces.  While the parking attendants half-heartedly wave orange flags and play "kick the dirt")

When it’s effective: The new policy is effective immediately and will begin to be enforced starting with the October 10th Home game against the New York Giants.  (Hey, again, thank you for killing tailgating!!!  You took my joy.   I want it back.)

Where it is effective: All of Reliant Park property, including but not limited to all parking lots and the stadium.

What will happen to non-ticket fans: Any fan that does not have a gameday ticket will not be permitted to enter Reliant Park Property.  (Because they are selling limited edition guest passes, like we don't pay enough money, like the tickets for disappointing, winless seasons are not punishment enough. Note by "winless" I mean no wildcard, no remote shot at playoffs.)

How will we enforce this policy: Fans who try to enter Reliant Park grounds on Houston Texans gamedays will be required to present a ticket upon request. (So, the traffic that is usually backed up and snarled will be less like the 610 Loop at Westheimer around 5pm and more like an L.A. freeway at rush hour - hope nobody's car overheats and dies in the process)

To Summarize, you must have either a game ticket or a tailgate guest ticket to enter and remain on Reliant Park grounds on gamedays.

What if a Season Ticket Holder would like to bring a guest to tailgate for a game? We will make available a tailgate guest ticket to season ticket holders for $10 per ticket per game, via their online season ticket account manager. There will be up to 2000 of these passes available for each game. Each season ticket holder will only be able to acquire up to 4 for any given game until the limit is reached.  (Again, sucking even more money out of the fans who support the team? Seriously folks, that is not even one guest pass per season ticket holder? Really?  Nice reward for the proverbial best fans in the NFL.  Thanks.  'Preciatcha)

Can a tailgate guest ticket be forwarded or reprinted? No. These tailgate guest tickets cannot be forwarded or reprinted. They must be treated like cash and will not be replaced for any reason.  (Hell, these things must be "Golden Tickets", doopity do. Do you have another oompah for me too?)

Will the Season Ticket Holder be responsible for the actions of their tailgate guest ticket holder? Yes. The Season Ticket Holder who purchased the tailgate guest ticket will be held responsible for the actions of their guest. If a disturbance occurs the Season Ticket Holder will be subject to removal from the property, revocation of their season ticket and/or parking pass.  (Are we not all adults here?  In my world we are each responsible for our own actions and their consequences.)

Does this tailgate guest ticket entitle me to setup a tailgate in a parking space? No. The tailgate guest ticket only allows you to remain on property without an accompanying game ticket. You will not be allowed to setup any materials or equipment in a parking space unless you have a parking pass.  (This is not "new" it is a policy that has not been enforced or checked, even randomly, since the first year.)

What Reliant and the Houston Texans are telling fans, in summary and my opinion:

 "Thank you for supporting us.  We regret to inform you that we do not have parking staff that have actually been guiding vehicles with proper parking passes into the spaces in order to ensure that all of our paying customers have a place to park.  We had no idea that some fans buy parking passes in order to tailgate, though they don't hold season tickets.  To these fans we say, buy a ticket loser...this is not "your" gameday experience.  We have reacted in knee jerk fashion to the one busiest game day of the 2010 football season.  Although we knew fake tickets were even being sold to the game, we did not adequately prepare for the sheer fervor and popularity of this once every couple years event.  We were not staffed to handle a Texas Superbowl.  We had no idea there were so damn many people in Houston who were either Cowboy or Texan fans.  And we made no effort to park all of these fans properly. In the spirit of making more money off of our fans, who would rather tailgate and have affordable food and drink, we are supplementing our concession losses with guest pass gains.  Thank you for your support, we look forward to dotting your financial eye on October 10th."

Ask yourself this question people.  If there were no parking spaces available for people with valid parking passes, who screwed that pooch?  Just curious.

Now, as highly disgruntled as I am, I will continue to buy the dang tickets and the dratted parking pass.  But, you be forewarned.  That Tailgater of the Year contest is gonna consist of a bunch of table hibachis and hot dogs.

Ed. Note:  I have read a bunch of comments on the Houston Chronicle website.  Many address, drunken and disorderly.  Now, rather than sell guest passes and punishing those of us who just wanna have fun (yeah, I am a girl, btw), how about parking one of those HPD Paddy Wagons at the 'Dome and generating some county monies off these derelicts, instead?  It's like hearing people are gathering to protest, the likes of which are rather law-breaking, and not being there to haul them all to the clink.  Or, is that just too easy?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Terribly Tasty Tacos: Free Taco on National Taco Day

National Taco Day?  Apparently, it is October 4th, which is this coming Monday. I don't like Mondays, typically.  However, to celebrate this occasion, Taco Cabana is offering up another free taco deal.  Go by any location between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. and get one free kiolbassa (somehow I think their marketing group needs a visit from the spelling fairy?) and egg breakfast taco per person.  I know, I told you about these when they first came out - and I mentioned my skepticism.  I am a barbacoa or al pastor kind of girl.  I do have a penchant for the huevos con tocino at my local taqueria, they come with refried beans and lovely chunks of potato and your choice of tortilla.  I am a corn tortilla girl, unless fajitas are involved.

If you are somewhat skeptical of putting polish sausage in a taco, at least you can try one for free.  I plan to celebrate National Taco Day by hitting the little taqueria.  Not because I'm adverse to free breakfast by any means, really on account of I am sitting at my desk, at work, at 7:00 a.m..  Somehow, I doubt that my boss would like, "Sorry I'm late, but, it is National Taco Day and I had to score a free breakfast" as an excuse.

Friday, September 17, 2010

AbsinthArt: Art Show and Charity Drive

Nine local artists will be exhibiting works in oil, acrylic, photography and sculpture beginning at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow night through 6:00 p.m. Sunday, the 19th.  All of the artists works on display are, of course, available for sale.  There will also be a charity drive benefitting the National Wildlife Refuge and specifically the Gulf Coast area.

Location:  PJ's Sports Bar (Upstairs)
                514 W. Gray @ Stanford

Begins:     Saturday, September 18th 8:00 p.m.

Closes:     Sunday, September 19th 6:00 p.m.

I'll be there - this should be extremely cool!

Help! BARC Is Completely Full - Pets Must Find Homes!

Houston's city animal shelter, the BARC shelter located at 3200 Carr Street, is completely and totally full.  If you have been thinking about adding a pet to your life, now would be a great time to do so.  This weekend, adoptions, which are normally $55 and includes the cost of sterilization and shots, are half price ($27.50, so you don't have to bust out your abacus) .  If you don't want to permanently adopt, but can foster a pet in your home until it finds a happy forever home, that would be super, too.

Photos of available animals can be found HERE.  Adoption hours are 12:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.  Normal business hours for adoption during the week are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 12:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. and Thursday from 12:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.  Just like the beauty shop, BARC is closed on Mondays.

So, don't forget to donate some pet food to aniMeals on Wheels today.  Then, tomorrow, after breakfast (which, I hope, involves some frijoles refritos y barbacoa), head over to BARC and pick out the newest member of your family.

Chinese Buffet - Or, How I Play Gastronomic Russian Roulette

Last night, after bowling badly and having a few cold beers (I was hoping they would improve my game, and they did) I decided that I just had to go to the Silver Palace Chinese Buffet on Holcomb.  My sister and her boyfriend were going as well - bonus!  I had great company over dinner.  When it comes to buffets, I tend to eat things some people might shy from, especially in a buffett setting.  I really have to quit that.  Mussels?  Clams in Black Bean Sauce?  It is just before closing time, so, apparently - I asked for this.  My sister informs me that she's just fine today.  I am not.  She had cold boiled shrimp, I had the aforementioned mollusks, and a bunch of fried stuff (I can't help it - if it's fried I'm on it like a duck on a june bug).

Word to the wise (or wiser than myself) avoid items on a buffet which might have a propensity to go south.  Like shellfish.  Unless you are prepping for a colonoscopy, or trying to lose five pounds, the hard way.  Maybe now that cute little black dress will fit?  There's a silver lining in this cloud of burpy nauseousness. 

Actually, I know that Palace Lanes makes one hell of a burger.  It's the old school, griddled thin patty and they make better tots than Sonic.  As I sit here, greener than Kermit - I'm sticking to that burger option.  Silver Palace, nevermore.