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

Thursday, April 21, 2011

News Flash: The Fertitta Empire Did Not Expand

As reported by the Houston Chronicle, McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants has rejected Tilman Fertitta's acquisition offer.  Spurned, but, nowhere close to giving up, Landry's Restaurants, the three hundred pound restaurant gorilla, is going to attempt the infamous Karate Kid "Sweep the leg, Johnny", and put up a proxy fight.  This acquistion, was an all-cash offer for 100% ownership (that a hella piggy bank you got there, mister).  The offer on the table was for $9.29 per share, or more than $137 million.  Fertitta owns slightly over 10% of McCormick & Schmick's currently.  Do the whooping crane move, fight the Fertitta.  Please.  For the love of all of us who have dined at Landry's, post-Landry family ownership, fight to the bitter end. 

Wait, you're both chains - catch ya'll at Gilhooley's, or Mardi Gras....just saying.

Easter Eats

Every holiday has a "food association", mine is Easter ham and deviled eggs.  Also, there are scads of people who head straight from Easter services to a brunch buffet.  Houston's own 29-95 has compiled a nice list of brunches and special three-course meals.  Here's the complete list for your perusal.  If you prefer to cook your own Easter Feaster, and you're rather tired of ham...there's always a lovely braised rabbit, courtesy of Eating Our Words.  Go gently into the rabbit area, as evidenced by the comments some meat is more murderous than others. "Me-OW".  I happen to like rabbit, it's yet another "white meat".

Peeps, everyone is weighing in on the candy front, and who am I not to follow them, hopping down the bunny trail, in search of the best basket stuffing sweetness?  I love black licorice jelly beans and malted milk "eggs".  The Reese's peanut butter eggs are far superior to the normal cups you can purchase year round.  Cadbury creme eggs....if I do a cartwheel without experiencing an isolated gravity storm, will you gimme one?  Sugar coated marshmallow peeps....nastified.  I bet Peep-based s'mores suck too.  I don't like them, never have.  Now, it's not a real dislike, on account of I have not wrapped my soup coolers around of of those suckers in about....25 years.  Nope, not since I was four years old.....oh, yeah, my pants are on fire, one moment, please.  I don't like peeps, unless they are "art" the pole dancing ones I've seen on the interwebs....or these.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Let's Do Lunch: Carribbean Cuisine

This is the finest and least expensive lunch, ever.  Located cattywampus from Sharpstown High School, on Bissonnet, and tucked back in the corner of a strip center, you'll find Carribbean Cuisine.   Many reviews would have you believe this is a scary, scary place.  Well, not during the day....besides, reports indicate that the sketchy apartments across the street are slated to be razed.  Hell. Yes.  I stop in for patties on the weekend, my grand idea of brunch.  Two meat patties, to go, $3.03 total drive out.  They are hot, fresh, flaky-crusted stuffed patties. Two will completely fill you up, feeling guilty?  Get one meat, one veggie. Yes, I told you Reggae Hut made some nice patties.  Don't tell them, I said - but, these are better.  Not by a couple lengths, perhaps by a nose, or three. 

Family-owned, Miss Ina has been cranking out home cooking and the price is nice.  Two people can have a pattie and share "Roun' De Yard" or a nice jerk or curry plate, and be stuffed.  Also, they have a grocery nook, if you're looking for pigeon peas, jerk seasoning, and a host of other Jamaican groceries.  The restaurant is small, seating about 24 people.  Those of us from the Southwest Side, get it to go.  Goat Curry, Jerk Whatever (Pork, Chicken, etc), vegetable and meat patties,  Coco bread.  Fish.  Shrimp.  Outstanding.  Do yourself a favor, don't be put off by the neighborhood.  I mean really, EaDo is a little are many places/neighborhoods lauded for their superb ethnic restaurants.  Besides, all the foodies know you need a CHL and a piece to try some of the best places....really.

Carribbean Cuisine
7433 Bissonnet St.

Hours:  10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
(I need to drive by and check this information.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

KPFT's 11th Annual Gumbo Cookoff: Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gumbo and music - what a fine combination!  This Saturday, KPFT 90.1 will host their long-awaited, newly revived, 11th Annual  (with a little gap between 10 and 11) Gumbo Cookoff!  Admission is only $5 for adults and children under 12 get in free.  There will be music on two stages, one outdoor and one indoor, provided by Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie, Don Fontenot and Friends of Louisiana, The Zydeco Dots, The Dallas Street Ramblers, Kevin Robinson Band, Texas After Dark Band, Country Road 101 and more!  We will start having all the fun at 10:00 a.m. and shut'er down around 7:00 p.m.  First, Second and Third Place Cash & Gift Prizes for both seafood and non-seafood categories.

KPFT's 11th Annual Gumbo Cookoff
Billy's Hall
4070 Wells Drive
Pearland, TX 77584
10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
$5/adult, $Free/Children under 12

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What's For Lunch: Reggae Hut, Mon'

I've been to Reggae Hut twice for lunch, once for brown stew chicken and once to see Jawad, while sucking on some oxtails.  Well, okay, I was polite since I was "into public" and used my knife and fork.  No gnawing on tailbones... Had I spied some marrow, things would have worked out a little differently.  Jawad, local cool guy and awesome singer/musician/poet, plays Reggae Hut on Thursdays from Noon - 2:00 p.m.  My opinion of him is very slightly biased, Jawad lived next door to me for a little while.  He's a kind and thoughtful soul, with incredible talent.  Please, please hit the link in his name and give him a listen.  I have his CD "The Collected Soul", good stuff - and conveniently available for you to purchase via that same website.

So, a perfect lunch on a gorgeous day would be unctuous oxtails with peas and rice (pigeon peas), vegetables like Mama makes and an iced tea.  Dining whilst Jawad performs, and not so loudly that you can't have a civilized conversation with your favorite dining companion.  It's a soothing background for a comforting meal. The oxtails were large and meaty, in a warm-spiced brown gravy, seared and braised to a delicate fork tender.  The problem with the oxtails at Reggae Hut, is that now that I've had them, unless I see the word "goat" on the menu board, I will fixate on the oxtails and never try anything else.  You looking for some tail(s), you need to get yourself to Reggae Hut, immediately.  If not, sooner.

Bottom Line:  Large portions of Jamaican home cooking, a nice selection of patties (pies, with a tumeric infused crust and filled with goodness, spicy goodness - just pick your protein).  The atmosphere is eclectic and relaxed.  It's a wonderful place for lunch, follow them on Twitter @ReggaeHut, or friend them on the Facebook, to find out what kind of fun they have going on any given day.  If you're there on a Thursday, give Jawad some appreciative applause, and some tip love.  Please keep him coming back!

The Reggae Hut
4814 Almeda Rd.
Houston, TX 77004
(it's right near my Tex-Mex affliction - Spanish Village)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Final Four: This Calls For Caek!

epic fail photos - Cake Spelling FAIL

Why every watch party worth attending has a cake!  Trust me....I'm just glad whoever "did" this wasn't trying to say "Go, Buttler"...just sayin'.

Burger Love: Vic & Anthony's

I met the illustrious Christy for lunch at Vic & Anthony's a week or so ago.  I typically don't spend "big money" on lunch, unless you count that "Crazy Combination" I purchased at the grocery store that netted me free chips, mayo, cheese and snack crackers with the purchase of a family package of lunch meat.  I typically eat lunch at my desk three to four times per week, leftovers or sandwiches (Out of my head, little Bad Santa kid).  I save my "eating out" lunch for something I really want or just have got to try.  In this case, I have been wanting the oft-lauded crab cake and the Burger Friday special.  I have seen the mac'n cheese burger in pixel form, and it made me drool on my keyboard.  Explains why the comma button malfunctions sometimes, I guess.  Here's the picture, so you can drool too - stupid burger porn.  I am not responsible for the state of your keyboard.

I don't normally have much nice to say about the local restaurant "magnate" that is Tilman Fertitta. Local gems have been aquired, marked up and dumbed down. Or, you don't get what you pay for anymore.   After all, my last trip to La Griglia, and I do mean last trip, ever, unless someone with a big funny bone totes my ashes along for the ride, was a disgusting adventure riddled with very poor service.  I keep hearing, V&A's is the jewel of the empire...the "Hope Diamond" in a sea of gastronomic mediocrity.   Best crab cakes ever, I hear.  The burgers on Friday are so divine, I hear.  FINE, I'm going, I'm, uh, I went.  I did it, I put revenue in T.F.'s pocket.  Here's how the adventure went down:

There are parking meters across the street, but, the valet service (not complimentary - $6) is efficient, well-run and you don't have to make the block to park "over there", when you know that if you try it, when you drive back - they'll be full and you'll be making the block, again.  The staff are all well trained, helpful and supremely professional - excellent service.  Now, let's get down to brass tacks.  The crab cake.  My "real" reason for going.  We split one cake to start our meal, that was a bit of a mistake.  The jumbo lump crab in a delicate chive beurre blanc, without any discernable breading as binder, should really not be shared.  I don't care how rich it is, it's truly delightful, and I know I can eat the whole thing. By. My. Self. That being said, sharing allowed us to have some burger action.  Well, and I'm working to cure my chubbiness.  It's not sexy.  Hell, it's not even cute. 

One Vic Burger and one Anthony burger, both ordered medium-rare.  Apparently, we hit on a Friday without a special burger.  Rats.  Both came with fries (so much for that "diet", they were delish) and we had a plate with each having our own ketchup, mustard and mayo, plus the little aioli for the fries.  We cut our burgers in half (we split, half a burger dressed with bacon and cheddar, half of a bleu cheese)  my burger was a perfect slightly warm pink inside. The exterior of the patty was nicely seared and slightly crisp, the meat stood up to the condiments and "squish" needed to wedge it in my mouth for a bite. Christy's was not perfect.  It was grey through and through and an over-cooked burger is not a juicy burger, back it went.  When the new one arrived, it was almost too rare, but, if you leave it be a few minutes, it keeps cooking.  So, it ended up being more okay, than not.  The buns are outstanding (Bernie's like, chewy - excellent) the burgers were thick, not quite as flavorful as I anticipated, but, better than your average burger.  Crisp fresh toppings and very good fries.

Bottom Line:  While somewhat expensive, well, when you add a crab cake, the overall experience was worth it.  I'll go back for the crab cake and a salad at lunch.  I'll go on Fridays, when I do, so I can stalk the Mac'n Cheese Burger like it's Justin Bieber.  The service was impeccable, including the valet service.  This was a splurge, including valet and a valet tip (SirRon, I officially declare myself a "Tip Idiot") the whole thing cost me $38 plus toll fees to get downtown and back.  Damn that crabby patty was good.  No complaints, but, my bologna will have a first name for the next week or so, just saying.

As an aside, when I go places like this I am reminded that I am Ellen Tebbits, all grown up.  Hair gone wild, food stains on my shirt that I was unaware of and just an overall, feeling of dorkiness.  Thanks for not making me feel like an outright goober, V&A's.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Eco-Mumbling: Gettin' Fruity...Fruitful...I Dug Holes in My Yard!

I have not really been all ecological or greenlike out here.  In light of recent and somewhat back-breaking events at Hell's Half Acre, I feel a strange compulsion.  First of all, I really cannot resist a good deal - you start talking about coupons and I may go all Pavlov's dog on ya.  The Houston Garden Center has been regaling me with glossy ads and, you got it, coupons.  I moved in (not really a full half acre) and the back yard was like a football field with a few trash trees and one seriously overgrown bed against the back of the house, it matched the one in the front of the house, perfectly.  I had patches of bamboo in the yard and have determined that stuff is my personal scourge.  I buy a house, there's bamboo and it's "game on" as I work to kill it off.  I have installed lots of beds and a nice garden (this is a double-edged sword, as I have an insane amount of weeding to do).  First, I planted a Thompson Navel Orange and a Sam Houston Freestone Peach.  They "fruited"....if you call 2 dozen oranges and 3 peaches a crop.  That was about 5 years ago.  My apricot promptly croaked, it went in around the time of the peach, no fruit, no leaves and no idee what I did to kill it.  Then, I got a Moro Blood Orange (12" plant off the ebay, it's still wee-ish) a half-dead clearance Satsuma and then a half-dead clearance Meyer Lemon.  They all lived and they are all still somewhat small. 

This year, I apparently went batshit crazy - or had delusions of modest wealth, or something.  I purchased and planted (by my ownself) five, count them, FIVE different fruit trees.  This last winter, YaYa told me that the pears I had received and shared from my brother's tree in Abilene was a Keifer Pear.  I love those pears with all of my crusty, half-rotten, little heart.  They are sweet, crisp and keep for yonks and evers in the ice box.  They make a fabulous pear/cranberry cake.  I got my coupons and headed for the HGC, as they had (and still have) fruit trees for our area, on sale for $19.99 a piece.  They have a nice variety and I promptly lost my last, serviceable, cracked marble.  I not only got that pear I desperately wanted, I also managed to convince myself to buy an Asian Pear, an Ein Shemer Apple, an Excelsor Plum and a Brown Turkey Fig.  Sheebus.  I had to dig five holes, 6" in diameter larger and deeper than a 5 gallon pot.  I go out in the yard every day, when I get home and while my large puppy runs and plays I carefully inspect the trees.  They are thriving, 5' -6' trees, with new leaves and other such growth, daily.  Next year, I hope to have a good mess of fruit to eat, put up and share.

My garden is about half "in" and half in need of turning.  I'll get that done this weekend.  As it stands, I have white cucumbers coming up, okra and volunteer okra from last year on the rise, three Early Girl tomatoes and two wee butternut squash.  The asparagus is harvestable and my blueberries are making this year.  The blueberries are still pretty small, I can't wait for them to be 4' -6' bushes.

I have a couple tips for you in the fruit department.  First, saving the half-dead clearance tree is a noble effort but, you will not see any fruits from your labors for some time.  If you can, you should, buy a tree that is 5 gallon, or larger.  Compost, however you do it, compost.  Weed and weed often, for the love of peat moss, do NOT compost the weeds.  Weeds begat weeds, even in death.  Just saying.  I purchased a compost tumbling unit that has a tea-catcher.  The tea is fabulous fertilizer, just dilute it in a hose-end sprayer, lest you burn up your plants.  Unless you have the space to plant two of each fruit, make sure you have self-pollenating trees.  I have not done enough research to know for sure, but, I have plenty of room for more. 

Perhaps next time, I will regale you with my herb stories.  Perhaps.  I just received new coupons....I need a nectarine, for reals.

Stupendous Deal Today! Feast

I receive LivingSocial and Groupon deals and quite honestly, it's rare that I purchase one.  Today's LivingSocial deal, found here, is irresistable!  The deal is, you get $40 of food at Feast for $20 - WHOOT!  That's a fantastic deal for one of Houston's best restaurants.  If you have been, or have not been - this is a do not miss opportunity.  For the completely unitiated, they serve more than offal, the fish pie is to die for, and the pork belly is perfection.  Hit 'em up!

Go get yours, I already got mine.  I may have to just "step up" and get the pig tattoo on my person!

219 Westheimer