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MasterChef Season 3 Winner Christine Ha

Wows crowd at Brazos Bookstore.

Place each donut on a paper towel to drain the oil and cool for five minutes. While the donuts cool, scoop a cup of prepared vanilla pudding into a plastic bag or piping bag, and prepare the powdered sugar-milk glaze to go on top of each pastry.

Once the donuts have cooled, slice them in half, pipe a good amount of pudding onto one side of each and seal them shut. Drizzle caramel syrup on top, sprinkle with kosher salt and finish with the glaze. These cronut copycats are truly delicious and don't take that much effort. You'll definitely love the crunchiness — in fact, they taste like they have layers, like a croissant — and the sweet-salty combination of caramel, sea salt and vanilla pudding.

This is a great base recipe for creating other flavors of copycat cronuts. Fill each donut with chocolate pudding, banana pudding or lemon pudding, and top with coconut or miniature chocolate chips, or cover completely with a sugar glaze. If these taste great, I can't even imagine how wonderful a real cronut tastes.
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MC3 winner Christine Ha.
Photo by Christina Uticone
MC3 winner Christine Ha.
A packed house at Brazos Bookstore.
Photo by Christina Uticone
A packed house at Brazos Bookstore.

Sweets

PIE MILKSHAKES
When the standard side-by-side pie and ice cream just isn't enough.

Joanna O'Leary

A slice of pie is best accompanied by a scoop of ice cream or, as some argue, a slice of cheese. And apparently, a milkshake is best accompanied by a slice of pie.

Given that we live in a country in which we deep-fry Oreos and manufacture two-pound Snickers bars, I am not terribly shocked that someone somewhere has tried putting some deep-dish apple goodness into a blender with ice cream and milk. I mean, there really are no limits to drunken creations/cravings.

But the fact that this is not the passing fancy of a few lone adventurous potheads and seems to be a trend with some staying power online and in restaurants does amaze me, if only because there are easier and less expensive ways to make milkshakes that taste like pies. Having never done a side-by-side comparison of a "blueberry pie" milkshake and a blueberry pie-milkshake, I can't speak of their respective merits and failings.

I could do some research via at-home experimentation, though I'd much prefer to take a road trip to San Francisco's Chile Pies (& Ice Cream), where one of my dessert options is a slice of green chile apple pie with cheddar cheese crust blended with vanilla ice cream into a sweet-savory shake. From SF I would then head to Long Beach for a chocolate "banberry" pie milkshake (banana cream pie topped with strawberries) at Polly's Pies.

Options also abound on the other side of the Mississippi. Next time I visit my home state of Pennyslvania, I will stop in Philly en route to Harrisburg because this summer, chef Holly Ricciardi is jumping on the bandwagon and offering pie-milkshakes at her beloved dessert boutique Magpie. As long as I'm on the East Coast, maybe I should swing by Hill Country Chicken for its pie shake. Because there's nothing like going all the way to New York for a taste of Texas.

Here in Houston, Katz's has long afforded me the opportunity to have a piece of cheesecake thrown in my milkshake. The thought, however, of that much dairy passing through my system at once gives me shivers.

Any other H-town establishments mixing pie, milk and ice cream into a beverage? Notice I'm resisting the urge to make up some bad portmanteau.
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Restaurant News

OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS
Sad Farewells & Exciting Expansions.

Molly Dunn

Let's just get to the sad news first. Feast closed last Friday. The wonderful and beloved restaurant, however, had a yard sale to get rid of, well, everything — including the pig signs — on Saturday.

The Chick-fil-A on Webster also closed last Friday. Swamplot reports that franchise operator Charles Gibson left a note on the restaurant's window stating that "TxDOT has purchased the property with plans to expand I-45."

In other closings news, Roots Bistro has shut its doors. According to CultureMap, a "source hints that a 'disengaged investor' pulled the rug out from under the enterprise...and has plans to go a different direction." Eater Houston Editor Eric Sandler notes that Roots is the "fourth high-profile" restaurant to close on Westheimer over the past few months.

On the plus side, Houston Business Journal lets us know that Happy's Pizza, based in Michigan, opened in north Houston on June 12, and another location is set to open in southwest Houston in about seven weeks. Johnny's Pizza House also has opened in Atascocita, as noted by the B4-U-Eat newsletter. You can't complain about getting another pizza place or two.

Smashburger is opening June 26 off the Katy Freeway in Katy, and there are plans for two more locations, one opening this fall and the other in 2014. LongHorn Steakhouse, another franchise, was set to open in Humble June 17, according to a press release.

When you head down to Galveston this summer, be sure to check out Galvez Bar & Grill inside the Wyndham Grand Hotel on Seawall Boulevard, which just opened last week. The new restaurant and bar features seafood items freshly caught from the Gulf, along with bar bites for you to munch on while sipping Prohibition era-inspired cocktails like the Ghost Bride Martini or Seawall Sidecar.

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