Foodie Words That Must Be Banished Now
Just as various foods come in and out of style, so, too, do the words that describe them. In 2011, the word "taquito" was added to the Oxford English dictionary and "chimichurri" was added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online. In 2012, the online dictionary added "frankenfish," "locavore" and "food desert," while 2013 saw "cake pops," "street food" and "flexitarian."
As I'm typing these words, little red lines are appearing beneath them. Apparently my computer hasn't yet caught on.
Some words, such as the specific names for ethnic foods (bánh mì was recently added), should definitely be a recognized part of the English language. Other words, like "locavore," make my skin crawl.
Here is some more food-related jargon that needs to go the way of pamphagous, krioboly, lardlet and bromography.
any -arian other than vegetarian
flexitarian — a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish
lacto-ovo vegetarian — a person who eats vegetables, eggs, and dairy products but who does not eat meat
pescatarian — a person who does not eat meat but does eat fish
If you refer to yourself as any of these things, you're a pretentious ass. A flexitarian is an omnivore, which is most of the population, so there's really no point in using a label. A lacto-ovo vegetarian is a vegetarian. Vegetarians, by definition, eat eggs and milk. If you don't, you're a vegan. A pescatarian is not a thing. You can eat fish but no red meat or poultry, so just explain it like that without making up a stupid word for it. Stop trying to make pescatarian happen. It's not going to happen.
artisanal — (of a product, especially food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way
This word lost all meaning when Domino's created "artisan" pizza with a box supposedly signed by the person who made it. There's even a blog devoted to items that purport to be "artisanal" but clearly aren't.
chef-driven — there is no established definition for this word
Is it really necessary to describe a restaurant as "chef-driven"? Who else is going to be driving it? The busboy?
farm-to-table/farm-to-fork — used to refer to the various processes in the food chain from agricultural production to consumption
Unless you were one of those lucky (?) people who got to taste the stem-cell burger, chances are your food all originated on a farm at some point (or in the forest, ocean, etc.). Farm-to-table and farm-to-fork are intended to mean (mostly) local and (when possible) organic, so just say that. But also make sure that when you call something organic, it actually is organic.
foodie — a person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet
"I'm a foodie," said everyone who's ever eaten food and liked it.
mouth-gasm — to experience an orgasmic-like reaction to the tasting of food
pork-gasm — to experience an orgasmic-like reaction from eating pork
chocolate-gasm — to experience an orgasmic-like reaction to chocolate
Unless you're pulling a When Harry Met Sally and going full head-back, moaning, banging on the table, I sincerely doubt it was a -gasm.
haute — fashionable, high-class
I bet you think you sound pretty cultured and, well, haute, when you use the word haute, don't you?
in-house — existing, originating, or carried on within a group or organization or its facilities
By that definition, a lot of what McDonald's makes is "in-house." Any restaurant that feels the need to say or write "in-house" should just expect that its customers and prospective customers expect it to prepare a lot of things "in-house."
locavore — a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food
"Locavore" is the pretentious (and unnecessary) word for "I like to eat local meat and produce when I can."
mixologist — a person who is skilled at mixing cocktails and other drinks
Even people who are, ostensibly, mixologists hate this word. They're bartenders. Some are just better than others.
molecular gastronomy — the application of scientific principles to the understanding and development of food preparation
Can we just say the chef uses a lot of liquid nitrogen and call it a day?
street food — prepared or cooked food sold by vendors in a street or other public location for immediate consumption
Unless you're eating it on the street, it's not street food. Most street food here in Houston is served at a table in a restaurant. Let's call it what it is.
superfood — a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being
Scientists and nutritionists are constantly going back and forth about what is and isn't a superfood. And companies have capitalized on the declaration of various things as superfood by juicing them, bottling them and adding a ton of sugar. Not so super anymore.
toothsome — of palatable flavor; temptingly tasty
This word essentially means "good." Stop pretending like it means chewy.
unctuous — fatty, oily; smooth and greasy in texture or appearance
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. 'Cause if you're using it as a synonym for "rich," you're using it incorrectly.
yummy — highly attractive or pleasing
If you're older than five and still using this word, I implore you to stop, now. Let's try its grown-up cousin, "delicious," or if you're really going for it, "ambrosial."
Note: All the definitions in this post came from Oxford Dictionaries Online, Merriam-Webster online or Urban Dictionary. But remember: Just because they're in the dictionary doesn't mean you should use them. After all, "pustule" is in the dictionary, too.
Best of Houston
Rest of the Best 2014
Houston's top 10 salads.
Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners have been announced, but in many cases, picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we're rounding up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories during the next several months. Bon appétit!
Among my friends and family, I am known as the salad queen. Almost every time I cook at home or go out to eat, I either make a salad or order one. To me, salads feature the freshest ingredients, and since I change my mind about what to eat as often as Katy Perry changes her hair color, a salad gives me a variety of foods to enjoy in one big bowl or plate.
While some see salads as merely bunches of lettuce with croutons and ranch dressing, and maybe some cheese and shredded carrots, they are mistaken; salads are so much more than that. Kale, arugula, bibb, romaine, spinach, spring mix and everything else in between make one heck of a salad base. Toss in a variety of toppings to make whichever kind you desire — Mexican, Asian, Greek — or use what's in season to make a fresh summer salad or comforting winter dish.
Just about every restaurant in Houston offers a salad, but we have scoured the city for the best ones and offer ten you shouldn't miss.
10. Parrilla Salad at El Tiempo Cantina
While the typical taco salads stuffed in a fried tortilla bowl are awesome (and so not diet-friendly if you eat the bowl), the parrilla salad at El Tiempo Cantina satisfies all your Tex-Mex cravings — no chip bowl needed. El Tiempo's ensalada comes with just one typical Tex-Mex topping, avocado, and the rest you'd expect to find on a seasonal summer salad in an American-cuisine restaurant. Tender slices of avocado are paired with smooth mango, crunchy jícama, juicy mandarins and sweet praline pecans, all of which sit atop a bed of mixed greens tossed in not only a citrus cilantro dressing, but also a mole sauce. Add grilled fajita chicken or spicy shrimp and you'll feel as though you're sitting in Mexico. Add a margarita, and your meal is complete. What makes this salad so special is the mole sauce, though; it ties everything together in structure and flavor.
9. Salad Bar at Salata
Although Salata is a chain, there's no denying that its salad bar is incredible. With four types of greens to choose from (Salata mix is the best) and what seems like an endless selection of vegetables, cheeses, fruits and proteins, you can probably make as many salads as you can make drink combinations at Sonic. Feeling Greek? Toss in feta cheese, olives, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, chicken, and a lemon or herb vinaigrette, then add a side of pita chips for the finishing touch. Or how about a fresh summery fruit salad any time of the year with strawberries, grapes, walnuts, blue cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado and mango dressing? You may screw up your salad by adding something that just doesn't go with the rest of your toppings, but a little experimentation never hurt anybody.
8. Black Pepper Shrimp Salad at Dry Creek Cafe
Out of all the Creeks, Dry Creek Cafe offers the best variety of well-crafted and executed salads. While the Asian beef salad is unique and the goat cheese salad is similar to a cheese plate with leafy greens, the black pepper shrimp salad is your best bet. It's the last one on the menu and will sway your decision the second you begin to read its ingredients: mango, avocado, feta cheese, diced red onions and tomatoes. Choose either the honey mustard dressing or the raspberry vinaigrette for the perfect amount of creamy sweetness to complement the sweet mango, tangy feta cheese and spicy black pepper shrimp. It always feels like springtime when you're sitting on the patio, people-watching and enjoying this light, refreshing salad...with a bottle of wine, of course.
7. Pork Salad at Speers Rolling Bistro
The star of this salad is the juicy and tender roasted pork. Speers Rolling Bistro roasts its pork for nearly ten hours and seasons it with garlic, mojo, and bitter orange and lime juices, giving the meat a tart-vinegary flavor. The warm pork sits atop a bed of spring mix lettuce and is topped with a generous sprinkling of creamy crumbled queso fresco and pickled red onions. The lime vinaigrette coats each piece of lettuce and pairs nicely with the lime and orange juice bursting out of the pork and the zippy pickled red onions. It's a lip-smackingly good salad that'll leave you wanting more pork after it's all gone.
6. Chicken Harvest Salad at Adair Kitchen
If you crave summer flavors in your salad, then turn to Adair Kitchen's chicken harvest salad. It's so simple yet so scrumptious. As you dig into this butter lettuce-based salad, you'll find yourself trying to grab a piece of each ingredient for the perfect bite. If you can grab a forkful of walnuts, strawberry slices, ripe avocado chunks, crisp and sharp purple onions, crumbled goat cheese, and grilled chicken, then props to you! The sweet green dressing, made with herbs and olive oil, is the bow to the wonderful salad; it simply ties everything together.
5. Petaluma Salad at Barnaby's Cafe
Barnaby's is known for two things: its friendly and welcoming staff and its giant salads. Each salad comes piled high with toppings almost too intimidating to eat. But your taste buds always defeat your hesitancy to take the first bite because you're afraid you'll knock the whole salad onto the table. Out of all the salads, though, the Petaluma is always an excellent choice. It's a Tex-Mex version with just about every ingredient found in the cuisine's traditional recipes. Barnaby's uses a mixture of iceberg lettuce, red cabbage and romaine lettuce as the base for the insane amount of toppings: black beans, corn, stoplight bell peppers, Parmesan cheese, olives, cilantro, sliced tomatoes, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole and, finally, tortilla strips. This seems like a lot, and it is, but Barnaby's doesn't overwhelm the salad with too much of one ingredient; there is a perfect balance of each. Although the guacamole and sour cream serve as excellent substitutes for the dressing, you'll want to dip each bite in the chipotle ranch dressing for an extra-spicy kick.
4. Salad Bar at Whole Foods Market on Waugh
While each Whole Foods location has a salad bar, the one on Waugh is the best. The prepared-foods section in the Montrose Whole Foods is always buzzing with people grabbing lunch or dinner to go throughout the day, and we can see why. It's easy to make a simple salad with fresh shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded cheese and croutons, but with the option to add black-bean hummus, golden raisins, cold quinoa salad, and a variety of olives and greens, you can make the most interesting salad possible. And next to the cold salad bar, you will find hot-food options to make a complete meal. The protein options vary daily, but you will often find grilled tilapia coated in a lemon or spicy tomato sauce, roasted chicken, and grilled tofu. Don't forget to top your salad with the sesame sticks; the crunchy toppers are ten times better than plain croutons.
3. Brussels Sprouts Salad at Backstreet Cafe
Even if you don't enjoy brussels sprouts, you'll fall in love with this salad. Backstreet Cafe makes sure to blanch the sprouts to soften them just enough to confuse your palate and make you think you're eating a soft, leafy green (such as bibb lettuce). The brussels sprouts are paired with arugula and endive, as well as red romaine lettuce, to create a heartier salad base. It's finished off with shaved Parmesan cheese and a light sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. Each bite is better than the one before, as the large pieces of Parmesan melt into the slightly warm brussels sprouts. We guarantee you'll be sad when it's all gone.
2. House Corned Beef Salad at The Grove
You might think this is a strange combination of flavors in a salad. But as you glance back at the menu, deciding what to choose, the house corned beef salad will keep coming back into your line of vision. The Grove takes an atypical salad protein, corned beef, and pairs it with warm roasted fingerling potatoes, crisp red onions, sharp crumbled Maytag blue cheese and a super-spicy (we're not kidding) chipotle ranch dressing. The tender and juicy corned beef sits beneath the greens along with the fingerling potatoes, allowing you to enjoy the best part with every single bite. Make a perfect combination on your fork with the corned beef, potato, blue cheese, red onions and greens coated in chipotle ranch; it's unlike any other salad you have ever had and a great change of pace from the traditional house or Cobb varieties.
1. MKT Salad at MKT Bar
Pop a squat at the bar inside Phoenicia Specialty Foods and order a glass of wine and the MKT Salad. This Mediterranean grocery store's bar offers one of the simplest salads on our list, yet each bite is so complex. Sweet halved grapes with crumbled pungent feta cheese, tiny cucumbers, mint and pistachios seem like plain ingredients on their own, but tossed together with a creamy lemon-garlic dressing similar to tzatziki sauce and crunchy toasted-pita chips, they become a refreshing salad bursting with Greek flavors. It may not look like much to the naked eye, but close your eyes with each bite and you'll be swept away to Athens.
Minimum-Wage Increase Could Mean Higher Restaurant Prices
How much is a fast-food server worth?
During President Obama's State of the Union address on January 28, fast-food workers and their fellow minimum-wage workers were an important topic.Obama called for the minimum wage for federal workers to be raised from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. He also called for an increase in the minimum wage across the country, a move that would help people in the restaurant, construction and retail industries (among others) to make a "living wage."
But while many see a pay increase as a positive step toward reducing income inequality, the restaurant industry worries that operators will have to raise food prices to respond to the higher labor costs. The National Restaurant Association reports that a higher minimum wage could lead to more expensive food, fewer employees, a drop in the quality of food that is served and fewer franchises.
The minimum wage is currently determined at the state level, and many state governments have already raised it or pledged to raise it above $7.25 an hour to adjust to a changing economy and the cost of living. Texas isn't yet one of those states.
Along with pledges to raise the minimum wage come talks of raising the tipped minimum wage as well, from $2.13 an hour to as much as $5 an hour. Because of this possibility, it's not just major fast-food-chain operators who are voicing their displeasure. It's the owners and operators of much smaller restaurants as well.
Currently, if a tipped waiter or waitress doesn't make an average of $7.25 an hour with tips and the $2.13 wage, the restaurant is required to pay the difference. With the non-tipped minimum wage likely to increase in many states, some lawmakers and restaurant-worker advocates are calling for the first increase in the tipped minimum wage since 1991.
Tom Harkin, a Democratic senator from Iowa, has proposed to raise the minimum wage nationwide to $10.10, continually adjust the minimum wage to respond to inflation and raise the minimum tipped wage to 70 percent of the minimum non-tipped wage. He pointed to concerns raised by the restaurant industry in 2007 about the minimum wage increase and noted that the previous raise didn't seem to hurt the industry at all, contrary to what the National Restaurant Association might claim.
Still, restaurateurs large and small say that any wage increases will mean they'll have to cut their labor force and raise prices, even though a recent report from Piper Jaffray restaurant analyst Nicole Regan Miller suggested that the status quo could be maintained with little change to restaurant structure or quality.
"On a broad level, we recognize additional labor costs as an added stress to restaurant operators," wrote Regan, "but ultimately believe potential impacts should be manageable through a combination of menu price and/or operational efficiencies."
Even though Texas hasn't made any headway toward changing the minimum or tipped wages, what do you think is the right way to go?
Should the minimum wage be raised? Should the tipped minimum wage be raised?
And would you be willing to pay more for your Big Mac in exchange for the peace of mind that your server is able to pay her bills?
Openings & Closings
Ranch Bakery returns, and a beloved food truck will soon be back.
It has been quite a slow week for restaurant openings and closings. In fact, there weren't any notable closings that we heard about. So let's get right to the openings.
CultureMap Houston's Eric Sandler reports that Ranch Bakery has reopened inside Cypress's The Backyard Smokehouse. The bakery reopened on February 1 serving its signature Texas kolaches filled with savory ingredients such as bacon and cheese, brisket, and andouille, as well as a variety of sweet fillings like bourbon peach, salted caramel apple and cherry compote. And don't worry; Ranch Bakery still has its famous soft pretzels stuffed with bratwurst and mustard, pepperoni and mozzarella, and so much more. Barbecue and Southern pastries, sweets, and breads make one heck of a combination.
CultureMap Houston announced that Joshua Martinez, co-owner of Goro & Gun, will bring back his food truck, The Modular, and that he already has plans to serve meals at Mangum Food Park and Liberty Station. The truck should be up and running within two weeks. Eric Sandler writes that the truck will serve a mix of menu items from Goro & Gun as well as dishes the food truck used to sell, such as the lobster risotto and roasted bone marrow. Remember when the food truck was featured on Cooking Channel's Eat St.?
The newest Hubcap Grill will be here faster than we can say, "One Greek burger with fries, please." Eater Houston reported that Ricky Craig's restaurant will open in Kemah by April. This Hubcap Grill — the third one — will be near the water, making it a relaxing place to have a craft beer and one of Craig's signature burgers. No fish or shrimp burgers at this location, however. Craig tells Eater that he will serve beef burgers, just as the downtown and Heights locations do.
Swamplot noted that the spot previously occupied by Red Lantern (917 Franklin) will become a "Creole, Cuban and Caribbean" restaurant from Arena Theatre chef Mark Latigue. One can only wonder what the menu will include at this fusion restaurant.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.