Highlights from Eating...Our Words
Wait, no, it's not an ice cream burger. It's a Brrrger. BRRRger. Jesus Christ.
Carl's Jr. is testing this confection in a few California locations and, yes, it looks ridiculous, but I also think I'm...jealous. I'd like to try it. I mean, I like a good ice cream sandwich just as much as anyone. (With just the right amount of ice cream: not too much so it squishes out everywhere, and not too cakey, you know...where you have to scrape the roof of your mouth afterward.) And, oh, how it's evolved.
The Brrrger is an ice cream sammy with sugar cookies as the bun, chocolate ice cream as the patty and ribbons of stoplight-colored icing as, I guess, lettuce (maybe pickle?), mustard and ketchup.
Food disguised as other food just tickles me. I myself am guilty of misrepresenting cupcakes as sliders. But Carl's' experiment got me wondering what other kinds of ice cream treats with savory facades are out there? In no particular order...
5. Ice Cream Corn
This Korean treat has a cake-cone-type exterior shaped like an ear of corn, and inside, corn/vanilla ice cream with a chocolate shell. Oh, and to drive the point home, there are corn kernels mixed in the ice cream. One brave taster who provided his thoughts online said it "sort of tastes like a popcorn jellybean," and another said it tasted like "soggy popcorn that fell on a pile of yellow snow."
4. Choco Taco
Klondike's Choco Taco might be the most familiar and the closest to the hearts of kids of the '80s. I had my first Choco Taco in high school at, of course, a Taco Bell. Consisting of a taco shell-shaped waffle cone and filled with vanilla ice cream, fudge and peanuts with a chocolate coating, this may have been my first exposure to food-that-looks-like-other-food, and responsible for my subsequent fascination.
3. Ice Cream Pizza
As far as toppings go, this is just like actual pizza — anything goes. M&Ms, Gummi worms, nuts, sprinkles of every shape, size and color, chocolate and/or peanut butter chips, whatever. Whatever your little heart desires. I came across a few recipes: one for pumpkin ice cream pizza, and, of course, in good artery-cloggin' fashion, Paula has a recipe for banana split brownie pizza (dear Lord). Pizza? Good. Ice cream? Good. This is the sweet (possibly sickeningly so) union of the two.
2. Ice Cream Baked Potato
My first question was "why?" But I suppose that could be the case for all of these things. Here we have a pint of vanilla ice cream heavily dusted with cocoa powder, topped with Cool Whip, a little yellow icing as the butter and crumbled pistachios for chives. It kinda looks like fun, but I could see this turning out very badly for me. I'd be as good at "molding ice cream into a potato shape" as I would be telling my cat to sit. Hate to say it, but I do love Cool Whip. Can I just have the Cool Whip?
1. Ice Cream Spaghetti
It looks like fun, and it's really big in Germany. Spaghettieis is a German ice cream specialty that looks like a plate o' pasta, developed in the '60s. Ice cream is pushed through a Spätzle press, placed on a little heap of whipped cream and topped with strawberry sauce that resembles tomato or marinara. Sometimes coconut flakes, grated almonds or white chocolate shavings are sprinkled on to mimic cheese. If you're like, "Holy crap, I need one now and I have $70 burning a hole in my pocket," you can get one online.
Poor, sad, regular old ice cream cone. It seems as though you're just not doing it for us anymore.
OIMBY Returns After a Two-Year Break
By Katharine Shilcutt
Outstanding in the Field dinners — meals which feature a tour of a local farm and food prepared by a master chef on the farm itself — are famously fabulous, but also notoriously expensive. And two years ago, a few Houston food lovers decided to do something about it: start their own.
Outstanding in My Backyard was born of the idea that you can have all of the benefits of an Outstanding in the Field dinner — local products prepared by talented cooks in a bucolic setting — without shelling out hundreds of dollars.
Soon, OIMBY had attracted a guest list of 100 people for its first dinner, which saw dishes prepared by Houston chefs such as Jonathan Jones, Justin Basye, Michael O'Connor, Hugo Ortega and the now Austin-based Plinio Sandalio.
The meal was only $40, with most of the food donated by places like Utility Research Garden and Revival Market — meaning that most of the ticket price went to charity.
Now, after a two-year hiatus, the backyard feast is being revived by one of Houston's local food pioneers: Monica Pope of t'afia.
Along with the help of the original two Houston foodies behind the project — David Leftwich and Tara Kelly, who donated their own backyard for the first dinner — Pope will be hosting the revived OIMBY nearly every Sunday at 5 p.m. in June and July. And this time, it'll be in Pope's own backyard.
Pope promises special guest appearances at each meal, which will still cost only $40 each. Both food and beverages will be provided; guests are only asked to bring their own plate to the feast. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 713-524-6922.
Red, White and Orange: More and More Orange Wines in Houston
By Jeremy Parzen
I hate to say it, but it's the best descriptor to use to describe the color of many of the "orange" wines that are finding their way to our market these days.
As you can see from the color of the wine in the glass below, orange wines aren't really orange: They tend to have a deep golden color, like the 2005 Vitovska by Vodopivec (Carso, Friuli) that we paired with porterhouse pork chops and braised fennel the other night. (I picked it up at the Houston Wine Merchant for about $60, a "special occasion wine" at our house.)
Orange or "skin contact" wines (as they are more properly called) are made by macerating the skins of white grapes with their juice during vinification.
When it comes to white grapes and wines, the conventions of contemporary winemaking generally call for the skins and juice to be separated after pressing. And as consumers, we are accustomed to bright, translucent white wines.
But in the 1990s, a number of small wineries began to experiment with skin-contact whites. Inspired in part by winemaking treatises scribed before the modern era of winemaking (which began around the mid-19th century), a number of producers in Friuli (northeastern Italy) and the Loire Valley (France) started working with skin contact.
Beyond the color, the skins also impart tannin to the wine (for both red and white grapes) and the winemakers found that they could make structured, powerful wines from white grapes, with remarkable nuance and aging potential. And along the way, they discovered new "applications" for grapes like Vitovska and Ribolla, Friulian varieties that had been used previously to make only light white quaffing wines.
More and more of these wines are making their way to our market, and while they are not cheap, they can reward the curious wine lover with their often intense aromas and flavors.
Look for orange wines from Bea (Umbria), including Giampiero Bea's Coenobium; a new wine from Trinchero (Piedmont) that just landed in Houston; and Vodopivec and Gravner from Friuli. I've even seen an orange wine from California: Scholium Project (look for it at Richard's).
Top Five Pet Foods I'm Tempted to Eat Myself
By Joanna O'Leary
When I was six years old, I asked my parents about every ten minutes for a German shepherd. Instead, I received another sister. Strangely, part of my motivation for owning a canine stemmed from a desire to eat dog biscuits, which to me looked crunchy and delicious. Today, I still harbor a hankering for certain pet foods; here are five you wouldn't have to pay me to try.
5. Friskies Crispies. Looking over the ingredients, I'm finding it difficult to tell the difference between these snacks and your run-of-the-mill crackers or chips. I would take these over Goldfish or Ritz, if only because Friskies offers a salmon variety, which, if it's anything like shrimp chips, is guaranteed to be amazing.
4. Cesar Original Pâté Entrées. Beverly Cleary fans: Do you remember when Henry Huggins ate a can of dog food? Okay, so as I recall, the experience wasn't completely pleasurable, but I bet Henry would have felt differently had he sampled any of the pâtés proffered by Cesar. I'm especially drawn to the lamb and porterhouse flavors, which I'd pair with a robust Pinotage and some cornichons.
3. Frosty Paws. My knowledge of canine eating habits could fit in a dollhouse thimble; however, given the alacrity with which my neighbor's dalmatian devoured my ice cream cone after I dropped it on the sidewalk, I know ice cream must be quite a treat. Just like for us! So, why confine yourself to human brands? Available in flavors "original" (vanilla?) and peanut butter (yum), these fun frozen cups have the additional virtue of containing no added sugar, artificial flavors or colors.
2. VeggieBlend Premium Daily Bird Food. Every nutrition column I read these days seems to advocate eating more seeds and nuts, so why not look to bird cuisine for inspiration? I imagine the VeggieBlend tasting like a wonderful cross between veggie chips and trail mix, perfect for crunching at the ballpark or at a picnic.
1. Fancy Feast Elegant Medleys. I am not the biggest fan of cats, in part because several longhaired varieties make me break out in hives and wheeze like a miner. I might suffer through these allergies just for the excuse to buy the "restaurant-inspired" Fancy Feast Medleys, specifically the white meat chicken and cheddar cheese soufflé. Looks better than most casseroles I've made.
Openings & Closings: Making the Most of Main Street
By Katharine Shilcutt
Last week was full of news items, both big and small, starting with the big news that Ronnie Killen of Killen's Steakhouse in Pearland has leased the old Stella Sola space in the Heights. He plans to open a second location of his steakhouse in the spot after it's remodeled, after which he'll serve a more "inventive" menu than is currently found at his popular steakhouse to the south.
A new but familiar face is coming to downtown, says CultureMap: Bibas Brooklyn Express will be replacing the recently shuttered El Rey at 233 Main. The Bibas name will be familiar to fans of the old Bibas Diner on West Gray and Bibas One's-A-Meal, both of which were run by Haritos Bibas. Not content to enjoy his retirement, the 78-year-old Bibas plans to keep Bibas Brooklyn Express open 24 hours a day and "make it look like Times Square" downtown.
Bibas might have a rough go of it downtown, though, as he himself admitted that downtown is "dead" these days. Little Napoli, in fact, just moved off Main Street (where it occupied the corner of Texas Avenue) and will be relocating to the old Mingalone space in Bayou Place.
Last but not least, longtime brunch favorite Dharma Cafe has closed, announced B4-U-Eat last week. "John Gurney and Susan Ralph have sold it and the new owners will change the name and menu," read the update in B4-U-Eat's weekly e-mail newsletter. "More to come."
Houston's Top Five Bloody Marys
By Katharine Shilcutt
Well, good morning, sunshine. You look like you could use a little hair of the dog. And a Bloody Mary is just the trick.
Unfortunately, it's often hard to find a suitable Bloody Mary in Houston. Too many restaurants skimp on the ingredients, subbing in watery tomato juice or flaccid celery sticks. Just as many skimp on the spice. And an increasing number of restaurants keep trying to jazz up what should be a straightforward, hearty cocktail meant for rejuvenation. I understand; the Bloody Mary has been called the world's most complex cocktail for a reason, and that reason is the fact that there are so many possible permutations of the beverage.
I don't want a sake-based Bloody Mary. I don't want a Bloody Mary filled with bacon. I just want a regular damn tomato-and-vodka cocktail with some salty, crunchy garnishes to take my mind off the gnawing pain in my head and a healthy kick to wake me up.
5. Shiloh Club
Like the No. 3 entry on the list, this neighborhood-y dive bar makes its own terrific in-house Bloody Mary mix. In addition, the Shiloh Club also makes its own pickled green beans with habanero peppers as a garnish. The combination of garnish and mix and a glug of well vodka makes for a wholly delicious yet unpretentious drink that kicks like a mule and doesn't hit you where it hurts — in the wallet.
4. Cadillac Bar
1802 Shepherd Dr.
It's hard to beat the Bloody Marys at the Cadillac Bar on Shepherd — because you make them yourself as part of the Cadillac's elaborate Sunday brunch buffet. The bartender pours some vodka over the rocks and hands you the glass. Then comes the most ornate do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar you've ever seen: several varieties of tomato juice cocktail, celery stalks, pickled okra, baby corn, olives, cocktail onions, pickled peppers, fresh peppers, bottled pepper sauces, Worcestershire, celery salt, lemon and limes, too. In fact, the only important ingredient missing from the lineup is horseradish. Horseradish isn't Tex-Mex, the bartender says. If you think horseradish is critical to a perfect Bloody Mary, you better bring your own.
Mugsy's serves its Bloody Mary as a perfect blend of spicy and hot. The homemade mix doesn't go overboard on the tomato juice, and the hint of Worcester sauce gives it a meaty taste that many mixes regretfully forgo.
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This super-spicy cocktail is made from the restaurant's gumbo, strained and mixed with vodka in a glass rimmed with a spicy salt mixture and crowned the Bloody Danton. If that doesn't sound amazing to you, good. More for me. I need a little kick and a little cheekiness in my morning cocktails, and there's nothing kickier than peppery gumbo and vodka.
1. Flora & Muse
12860 Queensbury Ln. Ste. 143
The stately Bloody Mary at Flora & Muse isn't necessarily the kind of heavily garnished, Clamato-based cocktail that you gulp down as a hangover cure. This charming European-style bistro in Memorial's CityCentre development offers an elegant twist on the standard cocktail. Served in a long-stemmed glass chalice — the same curving sides to it as a Stella Artois glass, sans the gold rim — this Bloody Mary is subtly spiced and wholly invigorating on a Saturday morning, whether you're hungover or not.