Saturday, August 29, 2015

Vietnamese sandwich heaven


Banh Mon heaven
While I consider Amuny’s Liquor and Deli to have the best sandwiches in Port Arthur, I think I may have had the best sandwich in Beaumont.
For years I’ve been hearing about Chef Monica Cobb’s Renegade street food, featuring a Vietnamese sandwich. I finally dug into one, literally dug, when the Press Club of Southeast Texas board met in the back room of the Log-On Café in Beaumont. Cobb is serving from this funky music and dining venue from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays.
The fresh loaf of bread held a creamy, slightly spicy blend of meatball and vegetables that were a colorful blend of green and orange. It was crisp, soft and other things in each bite. I had seen a customer happily struggling with his sandwich so I wasn’t overly concerned about making a mess in front of my peers. I started off with a fork, as did others, and were mercilessly teased by one of our own. He said making a mess is part of the deal. I had dreams of taking part of the sandwich home for dinner, but it was too good and too transitory to not devour the whole thing.
Here was the Cobb menu we chose from:
*Elvis-Black Strap Pork, fried plantains, Thai peanut sauce $13
*Korean BBQ beef meatballs, cucumber-kimchee-pickled ginger $13
*Indian-Spiced Fried Crispy Chicken, red curry honey glaze, mango-mint chutney, crispy black sesame crisps, rice noodles, Asian slaw, snow peas $15
*French inspired- tarragon-parmesan béchamel, sweet peas, shrimp, crab & andouille stuffed bread $15
*Sweet potato, chicken & sausage stew (cup) w/ Gandhi Salad $15

Instant Coffee
If green tea is your thing, I’ll bet you’d like the candy version. Il Morso is Italian for ‘the bite,’ reads this box of four varieties of  thin bites of candies in green tea, mocha, American and coffee and cream. They’re in the neighborhood of 20 calories a pop and very satisfying. SFCA Il Morso Coffee Bars was established in 2015, a very good year for yummies. “Just Add Mouth” the box continues.

Chester can keep his popcorn
I’m a huge fan of Cheetos, especially the “flamin’ hot” variety. I’ve rarely purchased a bag alone, but when sandwiches come with chips, it’s the kind I grab. Sometimes the bag of Cheetos makes it home to serve as salad croutons.
I just ran across Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Popcorn. Popcorn is another weakness of mine, but somehow a combo of two of my crunchy favorites did not equal pleasure. The popcorn was on the soft side and the spices not very present. Chester did not provide that Cheetos crunch I crave. He and I are not happening again.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Taste it all: With family!

A year ago my family visited Polish Food Store on Blalock Road in Houston. I still have some horseradish in the refrigerator. We’ve waited that long to try Polonia Restaurant, which has since moved from down the road to next door to the store.
We walked in early in the evening and made it clear we’d love some small samples, because we had more food to try elsewhere. Our server graciously went over the pierogi options and we ordered the meat version and a plate of fried bacon.
He said this bacon was popular at the rodeo and cautioned it is very different from the American version. Like just about any version of bacon could go wrong? Two thick slabs arrived with a side salad, crisp pickled cut into fans and mustard.
I just want to know why, if pigs are the same everywhere, we haven’t been able to popularize this amazing Polish bacon in America. Bring on the bacon.
Dishes arrived with little paper Polish flags and we also availed ourselves of bread with season butter and a pork jelly to spread on the slices. We plan to head back and eventually sample the rest of the menu.
Next we sampled a Yori Yori eel dish at 99 Ranch, the Asian market also on Blalock. Everything I’ve ever tried at this food court-style eatery has been great. Just don’t, ever, use the vessel that looks like a little soup bowl for soup, or sauce. It is strictly for water, and they are not joking about it. Learn from my ways.
My soon-to-be 25-year-old daughter then did her choosing for her annual birthday request, a gathering of unusual edibles. Lots of canned eel and noodles are going in this basket.
It’s good to get the gang together and try new things. What will you be trying before 2015 comes to a close?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Watermelon preserves like stone soup.

Last summer someone told me the best watermelons had a hollow sound with thumped. This year people stressed looking for yellow patches to show it had been on the ground a long time. I picked a great yellow-bellied, hollow one and near the end I recalled how much I loved watermelon rind preserves the two or three times I ever tried them.
I’d heard they were difficult to make, but the recipe sounded easy. I think the hard part is peeling the outer green off the rind. Here’s how I made a jar full. I think it’s like stone soup because I kept coming up with more ingredients out of nowhere:
Cut up chunks of the peeled rind and cover themw with sugar, overnight. This will form a liquid. I added a bit of water, then cooked it on slow heat until tender.
I used up several of those sugar packets that accumulate, and used honey water from the bear bottle I got from my mother’s house. She had added water to get the last bit out. While it was cooking, I figured peel from an orange I had would flavor it nicely and add color. Some recipes call for cinnamon. I’ll need to stock up this pumpkin pie season. I found some chai tea spice that I had mixed up and put into a vintage salt shake and it worked fine.
My preserves went on some French bread my friend had brought over and the rest looks lovely in a Mason jar. I served it in a small, oval Homer Laughlin plate that I’d just got for 75 cents at a Young Life estate sale. The plate matched four others I bought at an antique co-op in The Heights in Houston, because they remind me of dining at Aunt Anne’s house.
That’s my tale of how one thing lead to another to remind me of  another and resulted in coffee and breakfast on my patio as the sun came out on a Sunday morning.

Oils of note
I’ve heard that avocado was once referred to as poor man’s butter. Now it’s gourmet. There’s another time to speak of a perfect separation of the flesh from the pit and the skin for a firm, cool bite. This is about the oil.
Chosen Foods has put avocado oil into a spray can that works while you’re grilling. It’s a high-heat and non-propellant spray. Makers say they use safe air pressure technology that eliminates chemical propellants
and other harmful ingredients. Chosen Foods avocado oil spray can safely be
heated up to 500 degrees. But guess what? A spray of it tasted great on some lightly grilled French bread.

Also look into Chosen Foods’ Sesame Oil, billed as expeller pressed flavorful finishing oil. It has a 4,000-year old history and is best kept in the fridge and used within 6 months. Once you breath in the aroma you’ll be busy drizzling onto noodles, vegetables and salads. Oil up now.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Green Apple Assignment

Candy apple red carries all sorts of connotations of sweet adventure.
Next time you crave a crunch, go for a tart green apple. They look good in an arrangement, put you in the mind of summer and offer a nutritional carry-around snack.
Once you have a stash, think of all the creations you can make:
* Slice it and spread on crunch peanut butter
* Make round, green borders for a Canadian bacon sandwich
* Slice and dip into flavored Greek yogurt
* Dice and make apple “croutons” for salad crunch
If you I haven’t hit your favorite, let me know and we can share it with readers.

Beverage adventures

VOGA Italia Red Fusion can make a spiced sangria with figs. What with the fruit, I’ve always considered sangria as a lighter fare that puts you in the mind of socializing and travel.
Thinking about calories? Go even lower with amazing Sparkling Ice, bottles of drinks that are zero calorie wonders to serve over ice or mix into drinks. Pink Grapefruit, Kiwi Strawberry and Strawberry Watermelon make hot Texas summers cool. Now think about mixing in with Champaign for a brunch showcase. If you keep some Sparkling Ice in the fridge, you’ll be ready for anything, but those extra calories. Did I mention there are also vitamins and antioxidants in this product? Now that’s refreshing.

Try the Sparkling Cherry in Mason jars with a straw: Ingredients:
  • 4 ounces  Cherry Limeade SPARKLING ICE
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • one half cup Simple syrup
  • one fourth cup cherry brandy
  • one fourth cup orange liqueur
  • 10 mint leaves (plus a few more for garnish)
  • 6 cherries (stems and pits removed)
  • 2 oranges, halved and sliced
  • Ice

1.  In a large pitcher, combine Cherry Limeade, brandy, orange juice, Simple syrup, and orange liqueur. Stir in cherries and orange slices.
2. Garnish with mint leaves, cover and chill for 24 hours. Serve over ice.

Monday, August 3, 2015

What's your favorite poorboy?

       I could eat my way around New Orleans on an oyster poorboy tour.
       Shrimp poorboys, and traditional ones, are welcome to be part of the tour.
       Hey, I can get one of my favorite poorboys right here in Port Arthur at Amuny’s on Gulfway Drive.    
       But, I’d also be happy to head for New Orleans and get a little French Quarter stroll in, too.
       There’s plenty of debate on how the poorboy started, how to spell it and what to put on it. I like just about every version, and I’d be happy to share stories of  your favorites. Tell me where you had them and why you like them.
       Someone gave me some fresh shrimp and someone else gave me some French bread. I figured various combos for an entire day before I started thinking of a simple poorboy. I imagined the bread broiled in butter and dressed with a simple bit of lettuce and thin red onions. Why that? It’s what I had on hand. And that is how most meals are created at my house.
       Guess what. This sandwich was a hit, even without a jazz band parading down the street with me.
       Poorboys make me feel rich.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mom goes down by the river for birthday

Both my mother and I can be shy about attention on birthdays, but I think her coolness merits attention. She confirmed what she’d like to do just hours before we did it. We picked up Hamburger Depot burgers and onion rings in downtown Beaumont and headed down to Riverftont Park.
       The thick patties were so good and we enjoyed pleasure boats, such as the “Stewpot” going by.
A man from another bench shouted out “beef or chicken” to “Stewpot’s” captain. Beef ragout or maybe a fish stew if they were lucky, he replied.
       Mom reminded us that her mother equated a by-the-river experience to pleasant times. If she was eating something good, she’d say “that on a river bend” to imply such a location could only make it better.
       After Saturday night Mass we wanted to treat her to another day of festivities, and again, we were in the parking lot with the engine running before she revealed that a fish taco from Tia Juanita’s in Beaumont would be a fine treat. She has really taken to chatting with the owner there.
       She was right, the tacos did hit the spot. I think we hit on two winners to celebrate her birthday. Maybe that’s three, because we started Thursday night with different tacos. Read on”

Tacos La Bamba
       History and tacos can become habit. The McFaddin-Ward House offers amazing free programs, often with lovely receptions to follow. But sometimes you want a taco to follow. Tacos La Bamba is right down the street and offers little spicy bites like my onion, cilantro and spicy pork taco, with filling centered on two little corn tortillas. My mom was bragging about her recent breakfast burrito and how spicy she found the habanero sauce. I asked for some and also got another, darker red/brown sauce.
       The woman at the counter went to the back when I asked about ingredients and came out with a list that included: cascabel, de harbol, ancho, cebolla, chipotle and ajo. I learned the first pepper is called a rattler, so imagine the seeds rattling in this ball of a pepper. There’s also a snake with that name. The second ingredient is sometimes called a rat’s tail pepper. Still, it was more of a great flavor and not searing hot. I managed to take enough home in that little container to serve it over a cheesy egg for breakfast. Now that’s how to start the morning.
       An upcoming McFaddin-Ward program is “Born on the Kitchen Floor in Bois Mallet,” the story of one African-American family in a book by Lovey Marie Guillory. It will begin at 6 p.m., Aug. 6 at the home’s visitor center on Calder Avenue in Beaumont. Call 409-832-1906 for information.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Oh, fig, monkey business and summer gumbo

Oh, fig.
Should I even be discussing the fresh figs that are ripening on trees, or should I gather them all for myself?
My afternoon nourishment was juicy figs and peanut butter. Never heard of this combo before, but it sounded right and it was. That sounds a teeny bit odd to some, I suspect, so now wrap your head around this: I also had peanut butter and fresh banana peppers a friend grew and shared with me.
Go ahead. You can do it.

Monkey business
I hear monkeys get a clean peel by stripping a banana down from the tip end, while we humans tend to peel down from the stalk end. I’ve just tried it their way and they are on to something.

Gumbo update
I did ask you guys what you put in your summer gumbos, so I’d love to hear from you. I had a craving like you wouldn’t believe and concocted from what I had, including a bratwurst, leftover shrimp and a can of smoked oysters. Hit the spot.
Still want to hear if you do anything different for your Southeast Texas must-have in the summer. Share your gumbo stories at: