Move Over, Cupcakes

Macarons have taken your place.

"They [men] don't know much about it, but once they try it, they definitely become regulars," Rajani says. "Our age demographic ranges. I mean, we have high school kids to the elderly who come in, so I think average age is probably in their 30s. We also have little kids, like right now [during the interview] we have a little two-year-old who comes in every week and asks for a cookie. So we have the toddlers, we have the elderly; it's a broad range."

Once the last piece of barbecue is served, there won't be any more until the next day.

O'Donnell and Rajani both credit the increase in the macaron's popularity over other treats (e.g., cupcakes) to consumers' lack of guilt when they eat one (or two) French cookies, compared to eating a whole cupcake.

"When you eat a cupcake, you feel guilty because they are heavy and calorically dense," Rajani says. "Macarons — our macarons, at least, because I can only tell you the nutrition of ours — are 50 calories each, plus or minus size. About seven of those would equal a cupcake, like an average cupcake. And so people don't feel as guilty. So when they come by for their couple of macarons, they are like, 'Oh, this is my little 100-calorie treat for the day.'"

With a new paint job and a menu full of hits, this restaurant on wheels is really going places.
Courtesy of The Modular Unit
With a new paint job and a menu full of hits, this restaurant on wheels is really going places.

Rajani explains that traditional macarons are made with almond meal, pistachio meal or hazelnut meal, making them excellent treats for the gluten-intolerant.

"Ours are 100 percent gluten-free, and so we do have a lot of clients who come here specifically to get their celiac friends/family gifts," she says. "And we get that question all the time, like on a daily basis — 'Are these all 100 percent gluten free?' So those who are sensitive are definitely seeking them out."

But just because macarons are lighter dessert options doesn't mean they don't taste good. That's one of the main reasons these two bakers love macarons.

"I like the flavor because you use almond meal in it. So, to me, I love the flavor combination," O'Donnell says. "Like we have a cherry one that I love. So I guess for me it would be the almond meal because of the flavor, and then it has the perfect bite; so it is crunchy on the shell and then on the inside it is chewy."

Rajani makes macarons every day, eats quite a few every day and still enjoys them.

"I just love them. I love everything about them. I love that they are — at least ours are — all made with natural ingredients — it's almond meal; it's not heavy; it's not dense; the flavors are light," she says. "I've been working here for a while and making macarons for a while, and I probably still eat like ten a day, so I'm still not sick of them, which is kind of hard to say about things you are around so much."

Keep on Truckin'

The Modular Food Truck Is Back
And it's better than ever.

Kaitlin Steinberg

Though incredibly popular and well received by critics,The Modularfood truck (actually a trailer) had a surprisingly short run. It opened in 2011, helmed by Joshua Martinez and Lyle Bento. At the time, Martinez was fresh off a stint as general manager of Kata Robata, and Bento was an up-and-coming chef who'd recently left Feast. Bento eventually moved to Underbelly, and Martinez made the slow transition from food-truck owner to restaurant owner when he openedGoro & Gunin early 2013. The move was gradual, with the truck still coming out to play at events every now and then, though Martinez was focusing most of his attention on Goro & Gun. Then one day The Modular returned to the commissary, where it remained for far longer than anyone would have liked.

Now that Goro & Gun is thriving, Martinez doesn't need to be there as frequently, so he's brought The Modular back to life, along with help from Mark Parmley and a motley crew of guest chefs. The trailer, which was previously referred to as the "Tin Can" due to some unfortunate metal siding, has been replaced with a truck that's been completely revamped and now features a bright new paint job by Houston graffiti artist Daniel Anguilu. And it's now called the "Goro & Gun Modular Unit," since it incorporates menu items from both eateries.

It's a vibrant addition to Houston roads and food parks, and the food, so enticing and unusual it was once featured on the Cooking Channel's show Eat St., is as wonderful as ever, too. A few old favorites are back (lobster risotto, anyone?), and a few new inventions are sure to keep Houstonians on the hook.

And in March the food truck will be serving more than just Houston.

Martinez has told us that The Modular has been invited to serve the South by Southwest music festival as one of the trucks curated by Austin celebrity chef Paul Qui. The Modular will be in Austin for a few weeks serving up lobster risotto, General Tso sweetbreads and Goro & Gun's famous Hustle Sprouts to crowds of hungry music fans.

The sweetbreads are unusual in that Martinez says they purposefully don't trim them completely in order to keep a little bit of that tell-tale offal chew to them — but in a good way. They're rolled in flour, fried and glazed with a General Tso's sauce that Martinez spent weeks perfecting.

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