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 Café 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. Www.sfsalt.com 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.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

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.
darraghcastilloicloud.com 

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 soufflé.

          darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Firehouse Subs brings the heat

Firehouse Heat
Business partners don’t know everything about each other, even if they are married. I asked James Gillard, co-owner of the new Firehouse Subs in Port Arthur what was his best seller. A smokehouse beef and cheddar, he said. Then I asked him his favorite. He chose meatballs.
“We have some really good meatballs. I’m kind of picky about my meatballs,” Gillard said.
The shop, near Hobby Lobby, has a fresh feel and of course, a firehouse vibe with décor from the Port Arthur Fire Department. They have a mad variety of hot sauces to offer. Get it? Firehouse, heat…
When I asked his wife, Keeya, if she knew her husband’s favorite, and she quickly came up with the best seller answer, as it was her fave. It was a “Newlywed Game” moment, because she didn’t realize he craved the meatballs as his No. 1 pick. I have to go back and try them out. 

                             Old Fashioned 4th of July Celebration –  Calling apple pie bakers: you could win the Fourth of July contest. Our friends at Lamar State-College are shaking up the Fourth this year. There’s a new format that includes a contest honoring the all-American pie. Gather the family for fun at Gates memorial Library, 3137 Stilwell Blvd., sponsored by Lamar State College-Port Arthur. Outdoor games, sack races, darts, volleyball, auto show, music, face painting and more will be part of the fun, beginning at 5 p.m. Now, here’s my favorite: You can get your photo taken with Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty. There will be a bike/wagon contest and patriotic parade for youths 12 and younger. Decorate bikes and wagons for the contest.  A fireworks show will begin at 9 p.m.  For information, call 409.984.6101

              Southwest breakfast taco
              Inspired by a squash blossom bite I enjoyed, I went to sleep thinking of thinly-sliced zucchini grilled in oil (or bacon fat) and then wrapped in a tortilla. Why not add an egg and cheese? I sprinkled on some cayenne and drizzled honey. I haven’t been to America’s southwest, but I think they’d enjoy my breakfast taco.

              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Monday, May 30, 2016

Let us gormandize on cupcakes and candy corn


I found this word, "gormandize," and it fits most of my closest friends and family and readers of this column:
Gormandize:
verb
1. to eat greedily or ravenously.

noun
1. unrestrained enjoyment of fine foods, wines, and the like

Hey, cupcake.
I was technically minding my own business in Rice Village when I passed Celebrity Cupcakes on University Boulevard and walked right up to an Italian Cream and headed to the outdoor tables. Pink flowers made a sweet setting for a sugary break.


Crazy for corn
Loose corn was a regular on my Lu Ann Platter when my family dined at Luby’s almost weekly.
When I began paying for my own meals, I rarely ordered corn because I figured a can of corn was so cheap I could have plenty at home.

I love corn, but so much so that I tend to go overboard, so now I don’t keep it at home.
I just went to a big city restaurant with my family that offered a few half ears of grilled corn for $14, so again, I skipped the corn.
But I’ve been thinking about it.
Fortunately, someone just offered me some candy corn. I didn’t even know you could get that this time of year.
Unfortunately, this kind of corn is also addictive for me.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sam's serves big and coffee flour


                     Sam’s Southern Eatery is serving up “generous” portions of fried seafood and at 2401 Memorial             Boulevard and I’m ready for my second batch of oysters.
                        Abraham Khalil, manager, is constantly explaining the “very generous” portions. Some customers             double check to make sure all that food is for them.
            “   We want them to leave with a to-go box, Khalil said with a big smile.
                        The No. 28 order of three fish and three shrimp is  popular, and Khalil said the stuffed shrimp in             such demand it has been selling out.
                        “Get there early,” he advises for now, and added that he’s working on make sure there’s plenty to             satisfy his customers.
                        A turquoise seaside theme sets the restaurant’s tone for hamburgers and more at the  “home of the             jumbo shrimp.”  Big family orders are available for seafood lovers.
                     What’s Khalil’s pick? The No. 31.
                  What's that? You’ll have to go visit him and see for yourself.
                  Coffee flour pairs with chocolate
                      Been to a Sprouts Farmers Market? I hit them whenever I’m in the Houston area. They’ve launched an exclusive partnership with CoffeeFlour for a line of pastries, and the two companies share a “commitment to advancing the sustainability movement in food.”
                      I shared some bits of Everything Blondie Cheesecake Bar, Everything Cookie, Chocolate Chunk Cookie and Black-Bottom Muffin with friends and they noticed the hint of coffee flavor. Here’s how makers say it works:
                      “Every year billions of pounds of coffee fruit, a by­product of coffee production, are discarded or, to a lesser degree, composted into fertilizer. Rather than leaving these cherries to rot in heaps or be dumped into rivers, CoffeeFlour converts them into flour for baking, cooking, crafting chocolate and making beverages. The result is an incredibly nutritious and distinctly flavorful cooking ingredient that is gluten-free, high in fiber, a good source of potassium, and depending on the serving size can also boost a product’s iron, protein, and antioxidant count.”
                      Dan Belliveau, former director of Technical Services at Starbucks, is now CEO of CoffeeFlour, which means to offset billions of tons of waste produced by the coffee industry.
              These pastries tasted good even before I heard their full story. I’m loving to ease this waste with delicious desserts.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Kosher travels inspire meals




                      Lentils are the “poor man’s meat,” I just read in a cookbook. I plan to say that, at least to myself, every single time I eat them from now on. I already say or think that avocado is the “poor man’s butter” every time I enjoy one.
                      This lentil news came from Susie Fishbein’s book “Kosher by Design Brings it Home: Picture Perfect Food Inspired by my Travels.” Even the raw food on the cover looks tempting, featuring measuring decorative measuring spoons full of spices with herbs, fruits and grains at the ready. The book was 15 years in the making, and I’m paused on the carrot salad recipe. A visit to France yields readers a recipe for strawberry mascarpone bread pudding the lentil and tuna salad, we are told, is a Tuscan picnic treat. Here’s how she handles the carrots:
                      Spicy Pickled Carrots
              4 carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal into one-fourth inch slices
              1 cup apple cier vinegar
              two thirds cup of water
              one fourth cup plus two teaspoons of sugar
              two and one half tablespoons mustard seeds
              1 tablespoon dill seeds
              two dried bay leaves
              5 springs fresh dill
              1 clove garlic, sliced
                      Place the carrots into a one-quart container orjar. Heat the vinegar, water, sugar, mustard seeds, dill seeds and bay leaves in a small pot, stirring to dissolve the sugar; do not allow to boil. Remove from heat; cool.
                      Pour the vinegar mixture over the carrots. Add the dill and garlic. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator at least overnight. The carrots will keep in this container for up to three weeks.


              Sounds Good Books:
                      * Gelato in Italy and caviar in Russia? I’d share with my Plamobil friends. Richard Unglik compiled “Journey Around the World,” a child’s picture book with plenty of grown-up references. It’s a postcard/journal style batch of fun with 30 stops, based on those round-faced plastic figures that are probably somewhere in your home. Was my favorite the figurines in the style of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road? Yes, Paul was sans shoes. Or was it the Pope? What a fun way to learn about Van Gogh, Pre-Columbian civilization and bonsai.

                      * Customers first, product second. Sales reps should stick around after the ink dries on the contract. Once the pressure is off the salesperson and the sale is made, the pressure is on for the buyer for that product to deliver. Make your pitch and delivery better with 12 proven strategies for a customer-driven world, outlined in “Beyond the Sales Process” by Steve Andersen and Dave Stein.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com