Saturday, July 23, 2016

Boss Burger goes for nostalgia, Frito Pie is a Texan thing

 Who’s the boss at Boss Burger? Joe Oates and Mary Fuller are owners of the Nederland-based food truck offering burgers made from ribeye and chuck roast. Go on Facebook to find out where they’ll be. Oates said downtown Port Arthur will be getting their flavor often. I had a slider the other day with what I believe fans call bacon-infused sriracha mayo. It all smelled so enticing and I want to head back for the full-on burger.
Oates said he wants to “bring the burger back” to people. He elaborated by saying he wants his customers to be taken back to a burger the enjoyed on the porch as children. He’s after nostalgia.
“I guess I want to hear them say that,” he said.
Do you have a waffle iron?
I do not need the temptation of a waffle iron. Here’s an idea for those of you who do. I recently attended a breakfast buffet where chefs put little rounds of cinnamon rolls into irons and produced a waffle-print delicacy with optional toppings of bourbon syrup, whipped cream and candied pecans. The table was strangely devoid of conversation because diners were so focused on this meal. At one point I was using my bacon strip like a chip to scoop up the fluffy cream.
Frito Pie
Some non-Texans at an event were baffled by Frito bags already opened on a table. They picked them up and they were heavy, with meat and spices. “Tacos in a bag” is what they called them. Bless their hearts. Down here in Texas, Frito Pie is a real thing. It was a pleasure to witness their experience.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Going tangy trend and what else is new

               Go smoky, tangy
                      McCormick Flavor Forecast has announced that smoky, spicy and tangy flavors are trends of the 2016 grilling season. Are you on board?  Some new products include Smoky Montreal Steak seasoning, Hot Pepper Blackened Seasoning, Smoky Applewood Mrinade and Brazilian Steakhouse Marinade. Look for these under their Grill Mates line.
                      I oven—baked ribs doused in the single-use liquid marinade packet of Brown Sugar Bourbon to great reviews. I loved the sweet aroma if basil released with the new Herb Grinder. The little bottles contain larger herb pieces that are gently dried to protect color and essential volatile oils from a patented ergonomic. This will be my first occasion for keeping parsley on hand. Italian Blend and Oregano grinders are also available. New packets of chicken sauces include Herb Roasted Chicken, Italian Parmesan Chicken and Bourbon Chicken. Get grilling. Go to for more ideas.

              What else is new?

              * Zatarain’s now offers single-serve portions ready in just under 4 minutes. Keep flavors such as Jambalaya Rice Mix and Red Beans and Rice in your desk drawer for a quick lunch or add leftover sausage or chicken at home to extend this convenience into a more sturdy meal. Love the Zatarain’s brand.

 * Hipster coupon holder - Huzzah! Announces BroCards makers as they offer charismatic gentlemen a thin wallet with a titanium card that is all-at-once a bottle opener, hair and beard comb, milimetre ruler, thee screwdrivers and two hex wrenches with a 2-grade file on the back. This is a manly-man product that you will have to put on the tray at security if you fly to try to meet the makers in Australia. I say, women might like these minimalist wallets to hold coupons and cash when they are out being charismatic. Bonus Bro-ness is recipes at Yes, I said recipes. I like
these Bros.
* Forever Flawless Skin Care & Cosmetics uses diamond dust for anti-aging products and other skin, eye, and nail care for men and women. But I think of it as creamy diamonds. Infusions of dust go into creams, facial exfoliators, and microdermabrasion products for deep cleansing. They throw in natural goodies like avocado oil and vitamins A and E. It’s spa-quality product designed for home use. There’s a fragrance, so you can even “smell” diamonds. What a kick. Start with an infused cooling and hydrating mask, mess around with HYDRA-AM Moisture Complex in jars that look downright artistic/futuristic and then there’s purifying toner and cleansing complex for when you need to “sparkle” again. Remember what diamonds look like in the rough. It’s more of a sexy science experiment that a jaunt to the jewelry store. And it feels very, very nice as they cleanse the skin.

              * Frebreeze is one of those products that has become a verb, as in “Frebreeze it.” These fresh makers sent a sample of new Frebreeze Laundry Odor Eliminator, pitching to a food columnist that you wouldn’t want to head to brunch in smelly gym gear. We Southeast Texas get hot enough heading from our air-conditioned buildings to our cars, so my experience with this sample, which you add to your detergent, was very nice. My husband complains of the scent of some products, but this one just smelled super clean to me and went unnoticed by his “are you wearing perfume?” sort of inquisition.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

My first time: Sweet Basil and Cuban inspiration

  Everybody’s talking about Sweet Basil Vietnamese Noodle House. Even our server, when asked what’s good, referred us to Facebook comments. My mom took us out after church Saturday night to the cheery, informal restaurant, 4026 Dowlen Road in Beaumont, by Madison’s.
                      We enjoyed the food/culture-based artwork, the Vietnamese cooking program on a big screen, and everything that came to our table: soft “tacos’ full of pork belly, pho and noodle bowls. She even treated us to beignet “balls,’ which the menu said could come dusted with green tea powder in addition to powdered sugar. That’s how I had my share.
                      There are other places to get food this tasty in our area, but we give extra points to Sweet Basil for style, presentation and a lovely chat with the owner.
              Cuban inspiration
                      Just looking at this guy’s smile, and hat, make me think Chef Ronaldo is the coolest. Reading his new book, “Sabores de Cuba,” is part recipe, part cultural memory book with dishes such as Rum-Infused Yucca con Mojo, Oven-Baked Cinnamon Plantains and Anise-Poached Red Pairs. I’m extra pumped that this book is approved by the American Diabetes Association and offers “Diabetes-Friendly Traditional and Nuevo Cubano Cuisine.”
Are you ready for summer with a meal featuring coconut raisin rice and “Lady’s Sangria?” Chef shares some stories of his youth, and how he has revamped some of his abuelita’s dishes. The flavors and colors are popping from the page. Another bonus: Many of these are extremely easy. Each recipe is offered in both English and Spanish, so it’s just right for sharing across cultures and generations. I’m ready for some of these:

Avocado on the beach:
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Blending time: 1 minute, 30 seconds
Serves: 3
Serving size: 1 cup
4 ounces Hass avocado flesh
1 medium mango (about 4 ounces) peeled and cut into one half inch cubes
1 orange, peeled and seeded
            1 tablespoon lime juice
            1 and one half cups water
            1 cup ice
Add all ingredients to a blender and pulsate 5 times. Blend for 1 minute 30 seconds. Enjoy!

La Esquina Lime Mango Slices
Prep time: 5 minutes
Refrigeration time: 10 minutes
Serves: 3
Serving Size: 4 ounces
1 large (12-ounce) ripe mango, peeled and cut into 10 slices
1 lime, juiced
One fourth teaspoon kosher salt
One eighth teaspoon chili powder
Add mango slices to a bowl. To a separate bowl, add lime juice, salt and chili powder. Whisk briskly for 30 seconds to bring the “sazon” together. Add the mango slices and toss well.
You can serve this right away, but if you place it in the fridge for 10 minutes, magical things will happen to the flavors, he says.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Ever heard of dip eggs?

          E             Ever heard of dip eggs? I grew up with Sandra Drumon Cull and she mentioned her dad used to make them. Even though I'd never heard the phrase, I could imagine they featured a soft yolk suitable for toast dipping. What she
described hit the mark. So I've been asking around and researching and no
one from around here seems to have used this charming phrase. I found a
woman from Philly who called them dippy eggs.
          So just thinking about that cheerful bright yellow and crispy toast points
makes you want some, right?
          Here's how Sandra's family makes a dip egg.

          Put a small amount of oil in the skillet and heat it up. Crack the egg into
the skillet and cook on medium heat. Using the spatula splash the grease on
the top of the egg and yolk until the white of the egg is done but the yolk
is still soft. Then it is ready for you to dip your bread in the yolk and

My bad egg
          The reason the dip eggs came up is that I had a double-egg incident I was
sharing with Sandra. Another friend convinced me that Eggland's Best Eggs really
are superior, and worth the extra cost. I've been enjoying them and decided
to venture into brown eggs as well. For my lunch, I'd made two boiled brown
eggs. Or so I thought.
          I was sitting in the car when I cracked it open and yellow goo went down my
arm. I quickly moved my hand outside the door and began a parking lot
cleanup. After that tedious process, I then noticed the bulk of the yolk had
gotten all over my pant leg and on the car seat.
          I should learn from that, right? For some reason I was sure the second egg
was okay, and moved it into the side pocket of a purse I like. Guess what. I
had a second gooey mess to clean up.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ice cream that loves you back, whiskey salt and human nature

    Brio ice cream has product line upgrades and a package redesign for a brand you might not have heard of in the first place. Brio now features organic whole milk from pasture-raised cows, and probiotic cultures specifically developed for ice cream. Craving just a tad? Try Brio in 3.6 ounce single-serve packs with a built-in spoon.
                   You love ice cream. Brio loves you back, is what the little cartons say. The company sent me samples of CafĂ© Latte, Madagascar Vanilla, Very Strawberry, Dark Chocolate, Tropical Mango and Vanilla Caramel. I know, lucky me. My husband likes the mango as his favorite and I can’t pick.
            Some of these little cartons come in at 135 calories each, so there’s not a lot of guilt. Brio suggests they could serve as a mid-morning snack, nourish,a nourishing after school treat, a nutrient-rich smoothie boost, or even an electrolyte-rich post workout replenishment.
                  “Yes, we're suggesting you eat ice cream after the gym!” their press materials read.
I really like the trend of tiny individual servings. Port Arthur News has featured health columns on “mindful eating.” Appreciating each bite is what they’re talking about, and I mindfully enjoyed my Brio loving me back.

                      Who loves salt?
                      If you came into some Irish sea salt, you first instinct may not be, “Let’s whiskey smoke this stuff.” But if you’re the “purveyors of premium sea salt at San Francisco Salt Co., then that’s your business.
                      Thankfully, they’ve chosen to make it our business by releasing selections such as Sherpa Pink Himalayan, Lemon Rosemary, Fennel Saffron and Smoked Cherrywood in quantities from 5 ounces to 25-pound bags.    
                      The company invited me to try Whiskey Smoked Irish Sea Salt and I have enjoyed pinches on eggs, tomatoes and grilled sweet potatoes. explains their passion for salt. If you’ve never considered that such a basic essential could transform a dish, go beyond. Many of us are not used to the notion that salt should cost more than a few cents for a big cardboard box full. Indulge a little and become as transformed as your meals.

                      Human Nature
                      In a wine taste test, would you pick your favorite based on how expensive the bottle looked? D. Scott Trettenero notes a test where the same wine was dispensed from various vessels with different perceptions. Guess what happened. We’ve all got our own view, and we sure know the other guy has his. “Master the Mystery of Human Nature” is the book that goes into “Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values.” It’s about getting along better with spouses, children and everyone else in the greater world.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Are you ready for Unberbelly? Rabbit?

The trendy restaurant Underbelly refers to itself as “The Story of Houston Food.” A collage in the lobby has its own handout so you can trace the sourcing of the varied menu at this Westheimer Road eatery. My family’s experience began a few minutes after the doors opened on a Friday night, sans reservations. I would not recommend this method. Soon all sorts of personalities began rolling in and the place was full. I suggested to our server, who put me in the mind of Rosie the Riveter with a bandana and overalls, that my party of three would like to order some things and share. Family style is the way we do it here, she assured, and we picked something called Allen the Leg. We figured Allen was pretty skinny, because what came was a dish of finely shaved meats.
I’m into slow eating, so we savored every bite and have since been doing more of that at home. We had a pork belly and with something like fried cucumbers and my tablemates were concerned the cucumbers would be “touching” the other foods. Well, guess who wanted more of those  crunchy little temptations? I had to fight for mine. There was an Asian dish on the table as well.
This meal was so different that I’ll always remember the sensations and the adventure. But my mistake is that I didn’t save the menu, which was presented in the frame of an old schoolbook. I figured I could look it up again, online, but offerings change. We loved the warm ciabatta with a flavored butter, but was it the charred eggplant I saw online later?
My daughter spotted a glassed room with various cuts of meat hanging in the window. An old wire fan stirred the cuts like they were wind chimes. Someone had chalked the message I recall as “pig goggles,” on a steel beam. A server explained that they were like “beer goggles,” and life looks better through them.
Underbelly is not for everyone, but it sure was for us, that night. If you’re into the menu items listed below, you know if you should venture into the Underbelly:

Grilled Mexican Street Corn, Chili Mayo, $14
Vietnamese Pork Cutlet, Oyster Mushroom, Tomatillo Salad, Lemongrass, $28

Homsi’s #3
“Boudin,” cracklin,  sausage and seafood are on the sign for Homsi’s #3, which I view from Interstate 10, headed to Orange. I finally got a chance to stop. The poster for “boudin eggrolls” on the door got my attention. I didn’t realize this place is a restaurant and meat market, but I didn’t see cracklins out. I went to investigate the freezers and saw all manner of sausage and, what I call “boudain,” with that extra letter “a” in there.
I had my hand on a cold back that was dense and heavy. I turned it over to see the label: rabbit.
I dropped ice block of rabbit like it was a hot potato and walked out the door, leaving my husband teasing me all the way home.
Don’t get me wrong, if someone else cooked up a pot of rabbit, I’d taste it for sure. I just can imaging that pot being on my stove at home. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Foodie field trip to Lake Charles, La.

   My foodie field trip to Lake Charles, La. filled my senses and I can’t wait to head back for more adventure.
                      Thrive Magazine’s June issue listed restaurants that were voter picks. We’d never visited the Golden Nugget, so we made a date and headed over the border. We were having so much fun walking along the beach and planning bites of delicious food, I almost forgot to go to the casino.
                      First we hit the Charlestown Farmer’s Market downtown and gathered cucumbers, a thyme plant, sweet potatoes and a jalapeno with high ratings on the Scoville scale. A fresh carrot bread loaf fueled us for a stop at Historic City Hall where C. Delle Bates of Orange was showing his colorful art works.
                      Buffi’s Peaux Boys was my husband’s pick. We found it in a strip mall and shared a crawfish sandwich. Was that a potato I spied mixed in with crawfish in a creamy remoulade? Then my eye went to yellow kernels of corn spilling out from my sandwich. That was unusual, even for me. This time it was my husband who figured that crawfish, potatoes and corn was simply a whole crawfish boil in a sandwich. Perfectly natural in Lake Charles.
                      A museum and some lakeside views down, I remembered that the Golden Nugget was yet to be explored. I made sure went entered the main entrance for dramatic effect and I got it. I loved the entry with an array of glass balls, slightly swinging in the chilled air. We went shopping and spent all of $5 inside, then walked over to L’Auberge du Lac Casino, a convenient parking lot away from the Golden Nugget.
                      Mazen’s Mediterranian Foods got our attention for our parting meal. A garlic dip with pita came to the table and we ordered a hummus topped with meat and a fish topped with flash fried oysters and surrounded by a brown butter sauce. This was a heavenly experience and we promised our server we would return one day for their famous chocolate soufflĂ©.