Saturday, February 28, 2009

Houston Farmers Market 2.24.09

Baby goats were big attraction at this week's Houston FM.
But I have to confess that is not the real purpose of this post.
Rather, I am testing the live blogging functionality of my iPhone.
So here goes. My first blog post ever sent directly from my iPhone.

NB: iPhone blogging works like a charm. Expect more in the future.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Best Food Writing: February 2009


Is Food the New Sex?
Mary Eberstadt — Policy Review
God I wish I had written this article. Anyone who even casually writes about food should aspire to this level of incisiveness. Even that august sage George F. Will was impressed. A must read.

Is Foie Gras Torture?
Sarah DiGregorio — The Village Voice
A reasonable and measured investigation of the production of foie gras. In the case it is certainly no worse, and possibly better, than most industrial meat and poultry production.

Rock Star, Meet Teetotaler
Sacha Z. Scoblic — The New York Times
Amazing the amount of high-quality "food" writing that comes out of The New York Times' Proof blog about alcohol and American life.

Houston Local

Depart From Me! I Never Knew You, Eaters of Bacon
Katharine Shilcutt — Eating...Our Words blog at
Why did Joel Osteen choose to preach about food? No, it's not about the Bible. Just read Is Food the New Sex? article above.

The Iceman Cometh and Eateth Hamburgers and Proclaimeth
Epicurus — Food In Houston blog
Nice post here about a food blogger getting back into the swing of things, including a multi-paragraph rant about portobello 'shrooms at a burger joint. Or were those creminis?

Sticking it to the French
Misha — tasty bits blog
Our friend Misha debunks the claim that French food is "all that" by proclaiming that the food at a humble Houston taco truck trumps the cuisine of a hauty French brasserie.

If you know of any sources of great food writing, post a comment and let me know. It can be national, international, or local. I'd really like to find individualistic food blogs that reflect the personality and experiences of the blog writer.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Link Feast: 2.20.09

The slow death of Slow Food UK - I've always found the Slow Food movement to be a bit eccentric — not elitist mind you, just quirky and disorganized. I much prefer the term "local food" which is too often associated with Slow Food, to its detriment in my opinion.

Cooking Without Shopping - I've always suspected that the typical American household is over-provisioned foodwise. This project will take what you have in your fridge/pantry right now and cook that over the next week without restocking.

Burger Bound, From Corner to Shack - Houston food critics' obsession with burgers has been well noted. Now it seems like the siren song of the great American dish has arrived in New York City — Frank Bruni gives his take on 2 of NYC's most revered burger joints. Stunningly, Mr. Bruni allows that this was his first visit to Corner Bistro.

Obama Sushi - Is there no end to all things Obama and food? You must admit that this sushi creation is remarkable.

Is Foie Gras Torture? - Once you get past the PETA propaganda and actually do some investigation, you may find that the production of foie gras is not all that bad.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos at Burt's Meat Market

In recognition of Robb Walsh's review of Houston's 5th Ward meat markets, here's a pic I took of one of my favorite dishes of the visit — bacon wrapped jalapeno peppers from Burt's Meat Market.

Both Burt's Meat Market and Davis Meat Market are Houston institutions. They're literally on the "other side of the tracks" so alot of Houston foodies don't make the trek slightly east of downtown. Those who do are well rewarded.

Burt's pan sausage, which Robb justifiably raves about, is spiced and seasoned to the point where if you have it for breakfast you can still taste it the rest of the day. And I'll have to say that the aroma that is infused into your house after cooking is better than after you cook bacon. Yeah, it's all that.

The 5th Ward is one of the few areas around downtown Houston that has not been touched by gentrification. Neither Burt's nor Davis have dining rooms, so make sure you're prepared to get it to go.

More pics from the 5th ward meat markets.

Davis Meat Market
2204 Lockwood

Burt's Meat Market
5910 Lyons Ave.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Spring Menu Tasting at Max's Wine Dive

Max's Wine Dive recently sponsored a tasting of their upcoming spring menu for Houston foodies, food bloggers and assorted culinary hangers-on.

Max's Wine Dive

The tasting, including food and wine, was provided free of charge. These are my impressions and suggestions based on my experience.

This was my first visit to Max's Wine Dive. I was familiar with The Tasting Room wine bars that dot the upscale Houston landscape and was aware that the same company owned Max's. Max's prides itself on a fusion of upscale wine chic with a dive bar vibe. The concept works well as evidenced by the packed bar and tables on a Wednesday night.


First things first. When I'm not scribbling away about food, I run my own (unrelated-to-food) business. To me it's obvious that the company that owns Max's (and The Tasting Room locations) is a very well run business. The staff is well-trained and attentive. An attention to detail is evident, as exemplified in an ambitious menu that includes a listing of each dish followed a comprehensive itemization of ingredients (the alligator dish includes alligator meat from Janik Alligator Company of El Campo Texas). The bar space itself, tall and long with a bar running the full-length, hits the right notes for an "upscale dive bar."

So far so good. On to the food.

The menu items presented by Chef Michael Dei Maggi were clearly meant to showcase the seasonal flavors and "weight" (light, refreshing) of the dishes. Chef Michael came out guns blazing with a classic spring/summer dish — a chilled gazpacho soup. This "Gulf-Spacho" was a traditional gazpacho with chunks of seafood mixed in.


The liquid was superbly seasoned and spiced, just the right texture, with the cucumber and tomato making a refreshing and cool base for the zing of the multi-colored peppers. The seafood added an extra dimension of texture if not of flavor — only the oysters could match up flavorwise with the sharp gazpacho while the fish and shrimp chunks were filling but overwhelmed by the liquid.


I'm really enjoying the two and three-way dish trend. In this appetizer, the "Salmon Twice" was a carpaccio of salmon and then a nicely creative rillette of salmon. A rillette is basically a meat or fish that is seasoned/cured and then blended in fat until tender and creamy, chilled, and then used a spread or pâté on toast or chips. This rillette had a cap of what appeared to be clarified butter, which you had to break through and dig down to get to the salmon. A bit fussy for my taste but I liked the creativity. The salmon carpaccio was supremely fresh (it had to be, there's no masking bad raw fish) with a light/sweet vinaigrette.

Cheese Course

This was the Cheese Course appetizer. Honestly, by this time the crowd at the dining table had reached a point of rapacious frenzy so I did not get a good taste of this dish (silly foodies! what can you do?). There were several different cheeses — sharp, creamy, mild, etc. — with proschiutto and other garnishes. Intriguingly, I kept hearing whispers about the espresso/lavender rubbed cheese. I just sipped my wine, scribbled a few notes and waited for the next course.


The last appetizer was the "Whistle Stop Special," made up of New England diver scallops perched on top of fried green tomato discs and garnished with red grapefruit and lemon butter. For me this may be the perfect summer dish. I always equate spring/summer with seafood — crawfish boils, climbing out on a jetty with a bucket of chicken necks to fish for crabs, standing waist deep in the Gulf surf and casting out for flounder. These scallops were nicely seared and seasoned, tender and juicy. The lemon butter, fried tomatoes and grapefruit offered a great sweet/tart accompaniment.

Striped Bass

After some reflection, and at the insistence of one of my dining companions, I've concluded that the "Brown Bag Bass" was the best dish of the night (especially in the context of a spring/seasonal menu). First off, cooking/steaming fish in a pouch or bag is a superior cooking method. Then when you throw in some veggies and aromatics, the fish gets a complex infusion of flavor. Great presentation too if you crack open the pouch at the table. The whole thing just becomes one big pile of flavorful, subtle, and seasonal goodness. Such was the case here. Additional depth of flavor was introduced by a luxurious garnish of herbe pistou (basically a rich pesto without the pine nuts) with crostini and olive oil. The herbe pistou was so good it almost distracted from the subtlety of the fish!

Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is a crowd-pleaser year-round. And we all expect a big portion of mashed potatoes to come with it, but in this case the accompaniment was exquisitely seasonal — artichoke, spring bean and sweet corn succotash. The chicken skin was crispy and crunchy on the outside, the meat inside tender and juicy. Again, there is clearly a focus on quality ingredients — I really hope this quality is made available at all times and to all customers and not just for this tasting.

Steak Frites

It's hard to make steak frites seasonal. But it doesn't need to be. People like me who crave steak frites don't give a flip if it's hot or cold outside. We just want our goddamn steak frites. So by nature this was the least seasonal dish of the bunch. The steak I sampled was cooked black-and-blue — crusty/salty black sear on the outside, as close to raw as you can get on the inside. I don't usually eat my steak this way, but I greatly appreciate Chef Michael cooking it this way because he is basically staking (ha!) his reputation on the quality of the meat. You can't cook steak this way with crap beef. The plank fries could have used a bit more crisp but were certainly enjoyable (memo to Houston chefs: there's no such thing as too crisp fries). A side salad offered some leafy green relief. The roasted marrow bone was a nice touch.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

The only thing I can say about the red velvet cupcakes is that whoever sent these out of the kitchen really wanted us to taste the icing. And the icing was indeed spectacularly rich, buttery and creamy. But the red velvet cake wildly missed the mark with a dense and dusty texture and plonky flavor. Hey I'm not too proud to occasionally lick the icing off a cupcake and toss the rest, which is exactly what I did here.

Final thoughts? Chef Michael is obviously a creative, skilled, and passionate chef. You could tell that it really mattered to him that he and his staff put on a good tasting. That's appreciated by a foodie like me. In general, I thought the dishes — especially the gazpacho, scallops, and bass — hit exactly the right notes for being flavorful and filling but also refreshing, seasonal, and (relatively) light for the impending Houston summer.

Link Feast: 2.13.09

The Maggots in Your Mushrooms - Food safety isn't perfect. Occasionally you're going to have a little extra protein in that salad in the form of a critter. The amazing thing is the FDA has an elaborate specification for how much critter protein is acceptable. The FDA decided!

Put Effin' Swearing Back In - Gordo's potty mouth gets bleeped in the US, but when the show gets aired in the UK, they put the bad words back in! Ah cultures. Page 3 girls, what page 3 girls?

Please, no love on the menu - The obligatory Valentine's Day link, on a subject that has gotten quite a bit of attention lately — restaurant marriage proposals.

Nutty for Nutella: spreadable joy - Nutella slathered on a freshly baked croissant with a double espresso on the side — daddy likey.

If I Made a Commercial for Trader Joe's - When will H-town get a Trader Joe's?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pollo Asado estilo Monterrey

This is the Pollo Asado specialty at the El Norteño Taco Truck (a bus really) in front of the New Flea Market on Long Point. Aside from the wonderful aroma and hazmat orange color, the chicken was quite dry and stringy. I've been assured that it can be much better. A return visit has been scheduled.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Link Feast: 2.6.09

Getting the City to Eat More Vegetables - NYC considering tax and zoning incentives for farmers markets and community gardens, restrictions for fast food restaurants.

Bush War on Roquefort Raises a Stink in France - Why does George Bush want to prevent me from eating Roquefort cheese? Good God man!

Fine-dining establishments put the recession on their menus - There's good news and bad news for foodies: the good news is some of the best restaurants are offering incredible discounts. The bad news is some of them may not be open much longer. More here.

Running on empty: the pros and cons of fasting - For an overfed and overweight foodie this is the nuclear option. Admit it — you've thought about it, right?

Schnitzel off the menu as Germans are told to cut down on eating meat - Something tells me this "strong advisory" isnt going to work. At least they can say they tried.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Life of Food Bloggers

The Life of Food Bloggers, originally uploaded by houstonfoodie.

At Outriggers Seafood and Oyster Bar in Seabrook Texas, Monday afternoon, 2 February 2009.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Just Bacon

Just Bacon, originally uploaded by houstonfoodie.