By Brooke Viggiano
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Mai Pham
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Minh T Truong
By Molly Dunn
By Brooke Viggiano
GROCERY GUIDEHave you ever been really excited to get a sweet deal on a clamshell of raspberries, only to find that they're all but covered in mold three days later? We know; those things get ruined faster than a prom dress at a kegger. That's why you have to keep an eye on them; they're only good for two days at most.
And did you know that most fruits emit ethylene gas, which speeds the ripening process of any other fruits around them? That's why it's best to keep them separated, and that's why sticking things like bananas into paper bags will make them ripen faster: Less exposure to oxygen and more exposure to the constantly recirculating gases will turn a banana black in no time.
Here's our handy guide to storing fruits and remembering how long you have before that bushels of peaches you bought on sale will last. Cut it out and stick it on your fridge before you ruin another box of berries. And this is only the first in a five-part series; head to Eating...Our Words to check out our other helpful guides to vegetables, meats, dairy and dry goods.
All Is Not Lost
5 Twinkie alternatives in case the worst comes to pass.
By John Gray
We've all heard about it by now: Hostess Brands company is shutting its doors, thanks to mismanagement, skyrocketing debt, poor restructuring, union difficulties...and yogurt.
Hostess's beloved treats, little slices of Americana which have been hawked by Spider-Man and used as a teaching tool by prominent parapsychologists, will soon be gone forever, it seems.
Twinkie hoarders and Twinkie scalpers have risen to prominence in the past few days as America loses its collective shit at the thought of the snack cakes disappearing forever, taking with them a piece of its childhood which can never be regained.
But there is still hope: Hostess management has entered into mediation with its more prominent unions, and total company liquidation has been put on hold for now. Even if the company does liquidate, the snack cakes are still profitable enough to be snatched up and reissued by another company — Mexico's Bimbo being the number one contender in many unconfirmed rumors.
But even if the worst happens and Hostess and its products disappear forever, you still won't need to blow your kids' college fund on black market goods. We've rounded up some perfectly acceptable Twinkie alternatives that aren't going anywhere any time soon.
5. Tastykake Krimpets
Formerly a treat only available in and around Philadelphia, Tastykakes have become available all over the country, including Houston — mostly in Fiestas and Walmarts. Just about every snack cake company has a Twinkie analog, but Tastykake spins theirs a bit differently; their Krimpets ape the original creme-filled sponge cake, yes, but they also offer variations in flavors unseen outside the company. Varieties include butterscotch, spice cake, and — our personal favorite — pancake-flavored Krimpets. You can order them online, too, just in case your dorm is running short on junk food for the upcoming X-Box party.
Marinela, a dessert-themed subsidiary of the famous hilariously-named Mexican company Bimbo, offers their Twinkie analog with strawberry-flavored creme instead of the traditional American vanilla. We're not sure why, but they're still pretty good. Fun fact: the sponge cakes are yellow, which technically makes them Submarinos Amarillos, en que, por supuesto, todos vivimos.
3. Zebra Cakes
These are basically iced Twinkies. They're pretty fantastic, and thanks to the time of year, they're now available in Christmas tree shapes, which are less confusing. You could spend all day deciding which of the standard hexagonal variety's corners to bite into first, but with the tree-shaped ones, you just start at the top and work your way down. It's the only time of year they're OCD-friendly.
2. Cloud Cakes
And if that's not your thing, you can always go for the other Little Debbie option on this list: the Cloud Cake. See, the Twinkie panic, aside from being ridiculous just for what it reveals about America's shameful food culture, was doubly unnecessary because Cloud Cakes are EXACTLY THE SAME. Oh hell, that did it. You're now going to see snack cake experts in the comments section who have never cooked a home-made meal in their lives claiming to have palates sophisticated enough to tell the difference between Twinkies and Cloud Cakes. Do not provoke these polyunsaturated connoisseurs. Pity them.
1. Red Velvet Bingles
These are just like Twinkies, but instead of sponge cake, they're made out of red velvet. That means they win. They win at everything.
The 10 best restaurants in Memorial.
The last time we rounded up the ten best places to eat in Memorial was in 2009. CityCentre was still under construction and Memorial City Mall had just emerged from years of redevelopment to rival The Galleria as the city's best shopping center. The Memorial you see today is not the Memorial that I grew up in — a sleepy suburb where most of the restaurants were mom-and-pop places and where the neighborhood's best bar was owned by my high school English teacher.
But I'm not one to shun this new, vibrant Memorial either; the resurgence (or continued growth, depending upon your perspective) is something that many once-glorious Houston suburbs never get to experience. Look upon Sharpstown or Gulfgate or Alief, ye mighty, and despair. For all the moaning about the "Decepticon"-esque medical tower at Gessner and I-10 or the closure of Town & Country Mall, the restyled Memorial has been a boon to property values in the area and has brought a bevy of interesting dining options that didn't exist this far west even ten years ago.
Disclaimer: For the purposes of this article, Memorial is defined as north of Buffalo Bayou, west of Loop 610, east of Highway 6, and north of Katy Freeway to Westview. This area includes Spring Valley Village, Piney Point Village, Bunker Hill Village, Hedwig Village, Hilshire Village and Hunters Creek Village.
Honorable Mention: Georgia's Farm to Market, A Moveable Feast and Leibman's Wine & Fine Foods
The reason I list these three places together and haven't given them individual spots on the list is because they're all grocery stores/specialty markets first and foremost. That said, these three spots are three of my go-to favorites for a quick, simple and [occasionally] healthy lunch. If you love deli-style sandwiches, you'll love these three places.
10. The Union Kitchen
The second location of Bellaire-based Union Kitchen is warm and inviting, with a full bar to one side and a tiered dining room to the other. You almost wouldn't recognize the revamped dining room as the former location of Chinese haunt Hunan Emperor. Union Kitchen's bar makes some excellent Bloody Marys during Sunday brunch, which are the perfect companion to a seven-layer stack of its buttery pancakes. Lunch and dinner are more scattered affairs, but the burgers — especially the signature onion ring-topped Angus burger — are reliably good.
9. Brenner's Steak House
German immigrant Lorene Brenner and her husband, Herman, opened the first Brenner's Cafe in 1936. When their original eatery was bulldozed to make way for the Katy Freeway, the Brenners relocated to a little house with a big garden and changed the format. Brenner's Steakhouse has always served USDA Prime beef and accepts no substitutes. The 14-table main dining room is softly illuminated by antique light fixtures and the woodwork features the kind of craftsmanship not often seen anymore. A fireplace dominates one wall, and the opposite one is a floor-to-ceiling window looking out over the enormous garden. Herman Brenner died in 1976, and Lorene Brenner operated the restaurant alone for many years. When she retired, Tilman Fertitta's bought the place and spent more than $1 million to restore Brenner's to its original state. He even brought Lorene Brenner back as a consultant. In a city that routinely razes its landmarks, Brenner's revitalization is nothing short of amazing — and it still offers the same top-quality steaks and service that made it a neighborhood favorite so many years ago.
8. Cafe Rita
This Armenian/Lebanese restaurant is a small, one-of-a-kind place run by an elderly Armenian couple, George and Rita Sarikhanian. Eating here makes you feel like you're a guest in their home — everything is homemade and served with pride — and there are even pictures of grandchildren stuck all over the sides of the deli case, which is stuffed to overflowing with goodies. Rita prepares traditional breakfast foul — the ancient fava bean soup — with lots of lemon and garlic. George and Rita always have something cooking that's not on the menu. "Taste this, we don't make it all the time, you better get some while you can," George will say, stuffing your mouth with something wonderful as you stand in line. How can you say no? Their hummus, mouhammara (red pepper spread) and falafel are excellent, and all of their kabobs — lamb, chicken, kefta — served hot off the grill, are scrumptious. Expect a wait at lunch.
Although it'd be easy to flesh out this entire list with CityCentre restaurants, I kept it to only the two that inspire me the most. The first, Straits, serves modern Singaporean cuisine with Thai and Vietnamese influences in the type of lounge-like atmosphere that was missing in old Memorial. Hip decor, a large outdoor dining area and swift, friendly servers make it an upscale hangout by night and a relaxing lunch spot by day. The San Francisco-based restaurant has adapted well to Houston thanks to chef John Sikhattana, who runs a tight ship and keeps the food hot, fresh and spicy — just as Singaporean dishes should be. Standouts include the whole fried striped bass, a creamy-sour laksa noodle soup, fragrant Hainan chicken and the flaky, addictive roti prata.
6. Bistro Provence
One of Houston's oldest and most authentic French restaurants is owned by French husband-and-wife team Jean-Philippe and Genevieve Guy, both of whom are as inviting as the cozy restaurant itself. As the name would indicate, Bistro Provence serves Provençal cuisine such as wood-oven pizzas, lamb shank Provençale and seafood specialties made by chef Jeremy Griffin as well as French classics like escargot, rillettes, duck liver and an outstanding poussin rôti cooked in that same wood-fired oven. The wine list is all French, as you would expect, and both lunch and dinner always require a wait — come early or late if you don't want to stand around, salivating over the other diners' meals.
5. Empire Turkish Grill
Partially hidden behind a dry cleaner, this Mediterranean restaurant in a primarily residential area of Memorial doesn't get the credit it deserves. We've never had a meal here that was less than perfect. The authentically Turkish menu ranges from luscious appetizers like the nutty ezme (you'll never go back to baba ghanoush) and the stuffed eggplant dish imam bayld to savory yogurtlu sis with lamb and more than a dozen mixed grills to choose from. Even better, if you're enjoying a glass of wine at the neighboring Vine Room wine bar, Empire will deliver its delicious food to you free of charge.
4. Sushi Jin
When it first opened, Sushi Jin helped raise the bar for Houston's raw fish lovers. Years later, it's still one of the best sushi restaurants in town. Flown in straight from Japan, the mouthwatering pieces of salmon, tuna and yellow tail are sure to impress even the snobbiest connoisseurs. Wanna walk on the wild side? Jellyfish, sea cucumber and other exotics are hidden away in a secret stash — all you have to do is ask and prove you're no novice. Private karaoke rooms allow diners to sing and dance, or you can just relax in one of the booths and enjoy the restaurant's simple, elegant decor.
3. Jonathan's the Rub
Jonathan Levine is a down-to-earth guy, a good cook and a gregarious host. He buys the very best seafood and high-quality beef and cooks it simply. His prices aren't cheap, but the tiny restaurant is always packed — and with the recent addition of a sweet little patio, there's even more room for diners to enjoy Jonathan's beautiful steaks and stellar bowls of shrimp and grits. And while the food is great, it's the show that people come for: There just aren't many restaurant owners sweating on the line while cracking wise with the patrons anymore.
2. Bistro Alex
If you don't want to make the drive to Midtown, Alex Brennan-Martin's famed Texas Creole cuisine can be had on the west side of town at CityCentre (making it the second CityCentre restaurant on the list, although spots such as Flora & Muse and Eddie V's were also strong contenders for the top 10). Antique mesquite wood planks line the walls and ceilings of Bistro Alex, and there's an open kitchen where an in-house charcuterie program is churning out such classics as terrine de foie gras, Spanish chorizo and Italian sopressata. The famed Brennan's turtle soup is also on the menu here, as are other fabulous dishes like shrimp andouillete, mussels and some unbelievable flat breads (try the duck and gala apple version). Whatever you do, leave room for the white chocolate bread pudding, the café au lait cheesecake, or both.
The only restaurant in Houston to truly master the Napoletano-style pizza, Pizaro's is all the more wonderful for its unassuming location in a 1960s-era strip mall between a Los Tios and a nail salon. There's nothing fancy about the bare-bones dining room — especially the disposable plates and utensils — save the enormous, glowing pizza oven that takes up nearly one whole wall. The pizzas here are cooked at 900 degrees in 90 seconds, using house-made mozzarella and imported San Marzano tomatoes, resulting in a pizza nearly as good as you'd get in Naples itself. As an added bonus, Pizaro's lets you BYOB for the ultimate affordable-yet-extravagantly-delicious night out.
In Defense of American Craft Beer Producers
An open letter to The Wall Street Journal.
Dear Mr. Queenan,
I read your recent article in the Wall Street Journal outlining your personal distaste and seeming confusion regarding the proliferation in popularity of American craft beer and found large portions of your piece troubling. As a whole, it left me at a loss as to what your actual point might be. While I would normally hash my quibbles out with you over beers, your stance as a teetotaler doesn't allow, so please find my response below.
Your attempt at painting craft beer as elitist and overly intellectual (namely the parts where you seemingly tossed out the fanciest-sounding beers you found when Googling "craft beer") was so transparent that — while supremely insulting — I hardly feel it's worth addressing.
Instead, what I will address is this: Your implication that the American craft beer industry is a fad, some passing fancy of snobs and hipsters set on trampling your lawn like so many young ruffians is incredibly naive. The statement that our heroes, the veterans and patriots of America, certainly drink only simple macro lagers owned by foreign interests, is vastly irresponsible.
The American craft beer industry is at the culmination of a long and difficult resurrection after being nearly destroyed by one of the greatest mistakes in our country's history: Prohibition.
With over 2,000 breweries and brewpubs nationwide, American-brewed beer is at its largest point since the 19th century. The amount of American breweries is finally back to the kind of numbers last seen in 1887. The road this industry has traveled is long and arduous, stretching back some 300 years to our nation's earliest foundations and beyond. Its sudden appearance on your narrow, dimly lit radar belies its true age and rightful place in our history.
For you to casually dismiss the 100,000 men and women employed directly by the craft beer industry as bandwagoneers is an insult to one of America's last true homegrown industries. At a time when it seems that anyone can be outsourced, craft beer provides this country and the entire world with a product and a vision that is supremely and uniquely American.
Somehow I doubt you'd be so quick to dismiss the American automotive industry with such fervor, shunning the resurgence of Ford for your heroes who drive foreign-owned vehicles.
And let's be clear, much like our auto industry, this is a resurgent and growing industry. In the midst of over a half a decade of economic downturn, craft beer has continued to grow year over year. In fact, even as overall beer sales in the U.S. decline, craft beer continues to post growth in both volume and sales dollars. And we're even exporting our growth: In 2011, the volume of American craft beer exported to international markets rose significantly for the 9th consecutive year.
While we as a country look to re-imagine and redefine how we will grow and flourish in the future, the brewers, employees and even the patrons of these small businesses across our country are ahead of the curve. Their foresight, their determination and their sweat equity has built — over the course of the past 30-plus years — a solid economic platform that injects much-needed jobs and sorely-needed stimulus into communities throughout America.
So while your hero may be sitting somewhere ordering Bud Light, my heroes work at places like Real Ale Brewing in Blanco, Texas, Sierra Nevada in Chico, California, and at hundreds of other American breweries and brewpubs across our country. They deserve every bit of your respect and admiration — not the implication that any of them are "conniving executives," and certainly not your unwarranted, misplaced scorn.
American Craft Beer Drinker
Openings & Closings
Restaurants within restaurants and second locations abound.
By Katharine Shilcutt
Two anticipated restaurant openings are headed our way — and the two spots couldn't be more different from one another.
First up is U.S. Smith's BBQ, Beer and Garden from chef Christopher Williams of Lucille's, which opens on Thursday, November 29. Although Williams just opened his Southern-goes-mod Museum District restaurant a few months ago, he's ready to expand Lucille's repertoire with the addition of this second restaurant-within-a-restaurant out back.
Behind the old cottage that houses Lucille's, Williams has added a barbecue pit that is large enough to smoke a whole pig, a bar and picnic-style tables with built-in ice troughs. Surrounding the patio area is a backyard garden where Williams currently grows herbs and vegetables in raised beds for the restaurant. The name U.S. Smith — like Lucille's — comes from Williams' own heritage.
"U.S. Smith was my great-grandfather," Williams says. "He owned a butcher shop, barbecue restaurant and a country store in Fort Worth, Texas." Williams claims that "from 1935 through 1955, he was also the reigning barbecue artisan of his day." U.S. Smith's BBQ, Beer and Garden will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On every other Sunday, Williams will host a neighborhood cookout.
The second opening is yet another restaurant-within-a-restaurant: The Pass — you know, the other part of The Pass & Provisions, the Montrose restaurant owned and run by Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan — is opening on Tuesday, November 27.
The Pass is envisioned as being similar to a chef's table in an upscale restaurant, where Siegel-Gardner and Gallivan promise to create "an authentic experience for each customer while placing emphasis on the process behind transitioning food to plate." The food at The Pass will be quite separate from that at the more casual Provisions — so don't expect pizzas and sandwiches — and will have only one seating per night, so that diners get the full experience of what a press release is calling "the local and global inspiration and experience of each chef and behind every dish."
The vacated space that once held Vida Sexy Tex-Mex will now become a second outpost of popular Heights seafood restaurant Liberty Kitchen. The new location will be called Liberty Kitchen Bar & Oysterette and expects to open this coming spring.
In other new locations news, a second Jimmy Changas has opened up in League City. If the crowds at the first Jimmy Changas in Pearland are any indication, prepare for this Tex-Mex chain from the owners of Gringos and Bullritos to take over the world someday — or at least Texas.
Korean favorite Seoul House Restaurant has closed, according to B4-U-Eat. The Korean restaurant was somewhat out of place in Vietnamese-and-Chinese dominated Chinatown but always seemed to do well nevertheless. We'll miss the bulgogi and galbi at the little spot we named Best Korean Restaurant back in 2007, but Koreatown over in Spring Branch has no shortage of Korean barbecue to ease the pain.
Finally, in chef shuffles, Eater Houston reports that two chefs have parted ways with their big-name restaurants: Kevin Bryant, the executive chef at The Capitol at St. Germain, has left to take up the chef de cuisine reins at L'Olivier. And chef de cuisine Jose Hernandez has left Triniti; in his place, Greg Lowry has been promoted to executive chef Ryan Hildebrand's righthand man.