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A Food Lover’s Guide to Food Lover’s Guides

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While we were working on the Food Lover’s Guide to Houston at Houstonia Magazine, I fondly recalled my first purchases of Patricia Wells’ Food Lover’s Guide to Paris (1984), and Food Lover’s Guide to France (1987). Those two wildly successful guidebooks created a genre that inspired dozens of “Food Lover’s Guides” to various places [...]

Hot Sauce Cookbook Signing

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Sneak Preview: Houston on Burger Land TV

A sneak preview of the Houston Burger Land episode that will air Monday, May 6 at 8 p.m on the Travel Channel.

Dining with Dad: The Pass, Taste-By-Taste

By guest blogger Katie Walsh

I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.

A few weeks ago, I was oblivious to the French-style “tasting menu” trend sweeping the restaurant scene. Riding around Houston with Dad, he broke it down for me (as he does in this month’s Houstonia review of his birthday dinner at Tony’s); its degustation origins, its surge in popularity, its delights, and the outcries it’s inspired. On this night, he’d made reservations for just the two of us at the tasting menu half of Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan’s The Pass & Provisions.

 

As we walked through Provisions to get to The Pass, I couldn’t help noticing that the former seemed like the place to be. Big groups, lots of laughter, colorful outfits and characters. The hostess pushed all of her weight into the far wall as we followed and it gave, an entire solid section sliding back like a hidden passageway, revealing the entrance to the quieter, dimmer, intimate dining room of The Pass.

The first morsel to hit our table was an off-menu amuse-bouche, a wildly shaped dehydrated shrimp chip served in a rough stone pedestal, like an artwork. Translucent and flecked with bits of Japanese shichimi togarashi spice and black sesame seed, it burst with flavor and then almost melted in the mouth.

Then the tasting officially began. We each went with the full eight-course menu.

1. “Snacks”

Oyster on the half shell, simple and clean with a vibrant mignonette and small sprig of fennel; Old Fashioned cocktail “foie gras” (“It’s like a jello shot!” said Dad) and a Pocky stick coated in white chocolate and dehydrated black olive, which worked way better than I expected, sweet and salty and crunchy.

The standout of this course was a warm, pureed shot of green soup topped with a hearty dose of orange foam, made from nasturtium—all the way from its green leaves to its orange flowers. Herbal, floral, beautifully spiced and a lovely taste of comfort next to all the snacks. I took baby sips of mine, savoring every bit.

read more Dining with Dad: The Pass, Taste-By-Taste »

Mutt City: Hot Breads and Himalaya Sweets

Anglo-Indian chicken tikka in French pastry. Welcome to Houston.

By guest blogger Katie Walsh

I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.

Taking a break from the kitchen and riding along with Dad on various stops around town, I gasped at a familiar sight as we made our way down Hillcroft.

“HOT BREADS!” I said, wiggling my eyebrows up and down at him. He obliged, pulling into the parking lot as I eagerly unbuckled my seatbelt.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly ten years since my sister Julia and I sampled the Euro-Indian fusion fare of this spicy bakery for a story Dad was working on. The “goat doughnuts,” as we’d affectionately dubbed their curry goat croissants, looked just as tasty as ever.

Hot Breads is so dang cool because of the story it tells about fusion food and blending cultures. An Indian marketing professor returned to Madras after living abroad to open this European-style cafe and bakery, but instead of putting pepperoni on the pizza and ham in the croissants, he went with the popular ingredients of Southern India, creating a cross-cuisine hit. Hot Breads franchises became hugely popular on the subcontinent. Then in a baffling turnabout, franchisees took the concept to the NRI (non-resident Indian) community and all over the world. The huge Indian populations in Houston and New Jersey were easy targets.

Which is how we ended up with a Indian-owned, European-inspired bakery in Houston serving Indo-Chinese “chilli chicken puffs.” No wonder John T. Edge labeled Houston “Mutt City.”

Aside from the savory stuff, Hot Breads sells a ton of great cakes and cookies too, including egg-free stuff for the Jain crowd (and the vegans!). My all-time, hands-down, indisputable favorite is the mango gâteau (about halfway down the row in the picture).

Dreamily light and airy, its layers of lady finger and fluffy mousse burst with sweet, tangy fresh mango flavor. All those years ago, it was love at first bite.

“You’re gonna have to share,” Dad warns me as I watch the woman box it up. These days, the baby sibs are just as fond of Hot Breads mango cake.

read more Mutt City: Hot Breads and Himalaya Sweets »

Katie’s Meat Series: Wild Duck Gumbo

 

By guest blogger Katie Walsh

I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.

With a fridge full of fresh daikon pickles, the next lesson on Dad’s list was wild duck. And what better to do with wild duck than make a big pot of gumbo?

We opened Texas Eats to Chapter 5: The Cajun Invasion and read through a recipe from Jim Gossen. It called for 6 wild ducks—the exact number we had on hand.

As they defrosted, I asked my dad whether they were hard to clean—ours seemed ready to go except for one feathery wing still attached. He explained that usually, a kid at the hunting site charged a couple bucks each to clean them for you, stripping them down to the breast (where most of the meat is) and throwing the rest aside.

One wing had to remain in tact so that the game warden could identify the breed. So the first step was to chop it off.

Lots of teeny feathers had plastered themselves to the clean meat, so after that I carefully plucked them clean, rinsing each bird under water to make sure they were fuzz free. We seasoned the duck breasts inside and out with Cajun seasoning. Then, we covered them with water in a big pot to get the stock started.

Cooking wild duck takes forever. It’s very lean, and very tough, so in order to get it nice and tender you really have to be patient. It would usually take 3-4 hours, but lucky for us we had a pressure cooker, which took it down to a quick 30 minutes.

We lifted them out, replaced them with a whole chicken, and topped off the pot with water. The chicken would continue to flavor the stock and also tone down the strong gamey flavor of all that duck.

Once they were cool enough to handle, I broke the duck breasts away from the bone and pulled the meat apart.

We did the same with the chicken. Meanwhile, we made a copper penny-colored roux and cooled it down with the holy trinity (onions, green pepper and celery) and a couple of minced garlic cloves. We seasoned the roux with white pepper, red pepper, dried thyme, and a little more Cajun seasoning. Then we added the roux a little at a time to our stock to thicken it. Finally, we added all that chopped pulled poultry meat.

To serve it, we would mound rice in the middle of a soup bowl, slide a couple of raw, shucked oysters and then ladle in some hot gumbo. But duck gumbo is one of those dishes that tastes better after a few days in the fridge. So we stowed it away in anticipation of the big party we’d started to plan for the coming weekend.

It was time for a little lunch, anyway.

 

read more Katie’s Meat Series: Wild Duck Gumbo »

Pickled Daikon: Meat’s Perfect Pal

We got them radishes all day, son!

By guest blogger Katie Walsh

I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.

Strangely enough, the first step on our meat program was pickling daikon. Dad has a small, raised-bed organic garden in back of the house that was overflowing with daikon radishes. (Thanks to gardening guru Jim Sherman for suggesting that we plant daikon this year!)

Inspired by the julienned pickled daikon served on Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches, Dad had experimented with several recipes. The most successful were radishes cut into thin coins. He said he asked Kelly (my step-mom) to taste them and she proceeded to kill a whole jar in one sitting. They rock.

We’d planned on making a venison pâté, and thought that daikon pickles would taste great with it. Plus those babies were just dying to be harvested. First ya pull ‘em out. Grab down by the base, near the ground.

Now that's a dirty daikon.

Then ya wash ‘em off. We had a big bowl of water we dunked them into. Cut the tops off, give ‘em one more rinse and throw them in a clean bowl.

Now it’s time to put ‘em up.

read more Pickled Daikon: Meat’s Perfect Pal »

On a Meat Mission

By guest blogger Katie Walsh

A few weeks ago, my departing editor at WhiskedFoodie.com gave me some last words of advice: “You’ve been neglecting meat! Don’t forget to include some good meaty dishes in your recipe repertoire.”

“Dang, she’s right,” I thought. I used to make a conscious effort to develop meat recipes, which I myself don’t eat much of, but in recent months I’d fallen off. In fact I couldn’t think of the last meat recipe I’d done.

During our family road trip, I replaced the salami and mortadella on my Central Grocery muffuletta with hard-boiled egg. “That’s a damn shame,” one friend said.

So I started thinking a lot about meat. Why had I been avoiding it? My own eating preferences aside, a bit of introspection revealed I was actually kind of scared of cooking meat. So many different cuts and grades, dry heat and moist heat and internal temperatures…I was intimidated. As I thought back on my cooking experience, I realized I’d always shyed away from meat, delegating it to the men in my life or sticking to “safe” stuff like ground turkey and boneless skinless chicken breasts.

...and nothing like this.

It was time to light up the grill and change all that. And who better to guide me down the meaty path than the Texas BBQ and Tex-Mex king, my very own pops? He was delightedly surprised to hear about my newfound interest in carne and gladly agreed to be my meat mentor. And so began a very protein-rich week of learning, tasting, and bonding over bones, burgers, and more.
read more On a Meat Mission »

The Walsh Family Road Trip Tradition

Guest Blogger Katie Walsh

While I have always advised my brilliant and talented daughter, Katie Walsh, to find something better to do, I have been secretly delighted at her progress as a food writer. Amazingly, she has lately put together enough freelance work to make a living at it. After watching her diligently photograph nearly everything we ate on a recent road trip for her blog on the Whisked Foodie website, I asked her to do a guest blog about the trip here.

Katie, and her sister Julia Walsh are in their early twenties. I was so broke during my early years as a freelance food writer that when Katie and Julia were young, our family vacations were mostly car trips to visit relatives. The kids were greatly amused when I would sometimes do a cooking lesson for my relatives’ friends and neighbors and autograph cookbooks I brought along. They thought I was a celebrity; I did it for the gas money. And while we skimped on hotels, a Walsh family road trip always involved lots of good eating.

The children of my second marriage, Ava and Joe Walsh are being indoctrinated into the road eating routine by their older sisters. Here’s Katie’s story:

Road Trip!

by Katie Walsh

The Walshes recently returned from a road trip to Tyrone, Georgia for a family wedding, which was of course rife with good times and good eats. My sister Julia and I have been road tripping with Dad since we were tots, so this time was especially cool, being able to welcome our siblings Ava (6) and Joey (4) into the tradition.

We took I-10 from Houston to Mobile before turning north toward Atlanta. The Gulf coast portion of this route is one that Julia and I hold near and dear, after having done it countless times to go see our Nana in Florida. But it was new to the wee ones, which made it really fun and exciting to share.

Our first stop was in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, for boudin at the legendary meat market Poche’s. Here’s Julia teaching Ava and Joey how to squeeze the filling from a hot crawfish link.

Poche’s holds a special place in my heart. I ate my first taste of boudin on their little covered porch, and now there we were again, at the same picnic bench, while Ava and Joe got their first taste. They took it very seriously.

read more The Walsh Family Road Trip Tradition »

Gustavo Arellano: “Tex-Mex is Dying”

Gustavo Arellano’s oft-stated opinion that “Tex-Mex is dying,” has been forwarded to me repeatedly by Tex-Mex enthusiasts. They think I should challenge him to a debate–or a duel. Few people seem to realize that Gustavo and I are friends and allies.

Gustavo will be in Houston on Thursday. He will launch the The [...]