Saturday, January 19, 2019

Cupcakes coming up roses

   
  Rosemary and other blooms topped Chic Chef Carly Andrews' cupcakes at The Port Arthur International Seafarers' Center cocktail party. Bruce Branick and Judge Jeff Branick invited supporters to the center this past Thursday for music and mingling all in support of the good works this group offers. Grace Liu Anderson provided violin music while guests caught up on seafarer news and Chef Carly Andrews Oubre's spead included a purple hit: spicy glazed chicken meatballs with crispy red cabbage. Quite a presentation. Warm Bloody Mary gazpacho in a cup topped with a fried oyster was also a conversation starter. For information on seafarer projects, contact aosusa@sbcglobal.net


                  Dine out
                             Rodair Roadhouse, Reel Cajun and Neches River Wheelhouse were, I’m guessing, among top spots Mid-County residents took their holiday visitors for our area’s flavor. I’m guessing Tia Juanita’s will be another favorite. I’ve had an eye on their construction.
                             Other spots I’ve had a taste of recently include Koi Japanese Sushi Bar & Lounge with friendly service, bold flavor and matcha ice cream; Bruno’s Italian Kitchen with an upscale atmosphere; Amacate Tortilla Bar for an affordable Sunday brunch in a festive atmosphere; and Crown Pizza, your only cozy-in-a boxcar offering in the area. These are down the road in Beaumont. Got to say, all of Southeast Texas is known for creative dining.


                              Coffee Connection
                                If holiday travel puts you in Texas City, look for Coffee Connection, with the tagline “Touching Lives One Cup at a Time.”  I stopped in ever-so-briefly and enjoyed a welcome from patrons and servers who were a mix of genres and ages all chatting together. Christian projects and discussion were part of the atmosphere along with a heavenly aroma from Geva Premium Coffee, roasted in Houston. If their tagline doesn’t move you, try a message from their web site: Coffee: Because you can’t win friends with salad.

                             Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie ready for Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas, which will hit Port Arthur Feb. 28-March 3. Contact her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, January 13, 2019

January is soup (or gumbo?) month


                            
What could be more satisfying than a hot bowl of soup on a cold January evening?
                             I actually have an answer to that: gumbo. Of course in some regions where gumbo comes out of a can, those two phrases may be akin. Around here we call soup a hot meal and gumbo a festive occasion. It’s hardly ever a one-person affair.
                             I can also go on about chili. It’s another great meal-in-a-bowl option.
                             January is deemed soup month and for some folk that means a can of chicken noodle. For others its about beef stock, bone broth, boiling down carcasses and combining leftovers from the fridge. While I still consider “soup” to be a more plain option than my gumbo and chili affairs, I sure do appreciate that soup made one day is often still there the next, and usually better, as the flavors steep. It’s the cooking day that keeps on giving.
                             Since the calendar always “reminds” me that it’s soup month, I foraged in my pantry to move potential soup ingredients to the forefront, and I’ve put a can of fish powder, bullion cubes and dried mushroom strips to the forefront. Looks like we’re going Asian. Egg drop maybe?
                             May I suggest some other options that will warm you up and give you more space in the pantry?
                             * Lentels – If you have some colorful yellow, green and tan lentils displayed in a glass jar so that it looks like you cook that way a lot, go ahead and cook like that this week.
                             * Cans of corn and/or beans – They’re there for “emergencies.” A quick soup can be one. If using canned beans, try mashing up some along the inside rim of your cooking pot with the back of your spoon to make a creamy texture.
                             * If you’ve ever used a can of tomato sauce as a soup base, it’s not a stretch to try using up a bunch of collected ketchup packets instead.
                             * Stuff you didn’t like much to begin with. Did you ever whip up, say, a vegetable side dish, not enjoy it and yet freeze the rest of  it? Try it again in the soup. Run it through the blender first if you have to. The other ingredients should overwhelm what you didn’t care for.
                             * Like pho at your favorite Vietnamese restaurant? Port Arthur markets sell the seasoning in blocks, so you can recreate this at home.
                             * Menudo:  When I was younger I wouldn’t touch the stuff. I’ve had some great homemade stuff with my husband’s family and I’ve enjoyed it in from a can. It’s also considered a hangover remedy. Ironically, his people in the Valley may liken canned menudo to my dismay over canned gumbo.
                             Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who is ready to have a bowl of any variety of gumbo in any calendar month. Talk soup to nuts with her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Golden seasoning fizzles (and suds)

 
The T
                             The golden seasoning   I'd already made seasonal labels and gift bags for Bacon Chipotle pretzels and toasted them with olive oil. A little more olive oil is always good, so I added more golden liquid from a little dish I’d set out. After they cooled, I decided to taste them. That’s something I rarely do because I could end up eating it all. Well, that pretzel was not good at all. Tasted like soap. The second one was still not good. Worse. I deduced that the golden liquid was lemon dish soap I’d set out. The olive oil was still in the bottle.
                             The silver lining here is that when I start concentrating on dietary resolutions, I can just imagine that dish soap taste and steer clear of the snacks.


            Watermelon Radish: At a December birthday party, my friend served a dish of watermelon radish. Ever heard of that? No one had. We all loved the bright pink center with green edges and the crisp, earthy taste. What crunch, and healthy, too. That's until I started spreading baked brie on every bite. These radishes are the size of billiard balls.



                                                                                                                                        
                  Another season(ing)
                             Here’s  how the golden seasoning incident happened. *See above.
                             A recent Free Friday Download from Kroger connected me to a bottle of McCormick Grill Mates in Bacon Chipotle flavor. So now I’m set for a sea salt-based blend of smoky-sweet to spice up baked sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and eggs. A baked butternut squash was the first item to receive the treatment. It became the main part of the meal accompanied by baked jalapeno and onion with the same sprinkle. It was so good I ate more than I should have.
                             Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who is sometimes a little too adventurous in the kitchen. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com  



Saturday, December 29, 2018

Jam with Janis in Port Arthur


            To “Jam with Janis” is No. 61 in E.R. Bills’ new book, “100 Things to do in Texas Before You Die.” Oh, and there’s an image of a bucket on the cover. The listing encourages people to visit Museum of the Gulf Coast and see the Joplin collection in her hometown. Bills notes the following on the legendary singer: “A misfit in her hometown and the subject no small amount of scorn and ridicule at the University of Texas, Joplin moved to California and became a superstar in the music world, belting out psychedelic blues and gut-wrenching soul as powerfully as few artists before or since have even attempted, much less achieved.”
            Some other local mentions:
• Eat at the Old Orange Café, with down-home service and Cajun-smothered catfish.
• Bring beef jerky to the Big Thicket National Preserve just in case you see Bigfoot.
            I’ve enjoyed some of the big ticket stops, such as the Big Bend and Johnson Space Center. I’d love to travel with Bills and explore some of the smaller stops for adventure and dinner as the Intrepid Texan.

           


            Cowboy art and chili recipe
            Cowboy life Joe De Yong was the only protégé of famed cowboy artist Charles M. Russell. You’ll read that tidbit a lot in the new Alamar Media release “Joe De Yong: A Life in the West” by William Reynolds. Get ready for a beautiful book featuring art, history, photos of letters and a peek at the life of costume design, scenic sketch art and historical advice in the wild west movie world that created classic pictures such as “The Plainsman” 1937; “Union Pacific” 1939; “Buffalo Bill” 1944; “Red River” 1948; and “Shane” 1953.
            Readers even get glimpses of working with Cecil B. DeMille. Come along on a ride with DeYong and learn a little about a lot. Culinary Thrill Seekers, here’s a recipe, sort of, for chili, he wrote in a letter to “Mackey,” his friend Maxine. “Get Gebharts Canned (chili with beans) and add 1/3 chicken gumbo soup. It cuts the edge peculiar to canned stuff and adds fine mild flavor.” The hand-written recipe is followed by a typed note which is a joke about two drunks staggering along a railroad track. One says it’s the longest stairway he’s ever tried to climb. The other says it ain’t the number of steps that bothers him, but he never saw such long banisters in all his life.
            Darragh Doiron is a January birthday girl, just like Janis Joplin. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Monday, December 24, 2018

Texas holiday spirit


                             Road trips are great things because you can have an adventure visiting family or perhaps hop in your car and drive a stretch for a break from the family.
                             The Courthouse Whistlestop Café in Livingston was my lunch break on an excursion to East Texas. I shared a burger with my husband, as we were on our way to another party. The onion rings were presented on a bed of lettuce. Fancy. Then Delores came in for a hug. She hugged my husband and then me and wished us the most heartfelt happy holiday. I thought that perhaps this friendly woman, who appeared to be a server from another table, had mistaken us for someone else. She then announced that the hugging is just what she does. Now that’s got to make you smile.
                             A sunny corner table offered a great view of the courthouse.

                             A symphony of good spirits in PA
                             Jeff Newman of Motiva was guest conductor and Dr. Mark Porterie was guest sleigh bell percussionist at The Sounds of Christmas concert that Symphony of Southeast Texas performed in Port Arthur. Motiva and the school district presented this event, featuring the Memorial High School Choir. This free event brought guests in a festive mood to the Woodrow Wilson Early College High School. As long as I've appreciated the city's history, I was among several who remarked it was their first time to enter the building, which has been beautifully restored. There's a story that Janis Joplin would cut class and hang out in the cupola, where her initials are supposedly marked. I didn't get that far in my explorations, but I did find a pre-reception featuring Moncla's white chocolate bread pudding, which was another hot topic of the evening.

                             Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Drunken onions in Groves

 



            The Collection
            I know I'm not the only one who finds a sample of spiced cider greatly enhances the luxury of holiday shopping. The Collection in Groves offered sweet and savory bites during my recent excursion and another shopper directed me to the hallway for a bite of "Drunken Onion" dip. Not only is the title a fun conversation starter, the product is full-on delish. You can buy the seasoning package and whip up your own at home. Across Lincoln Avenue, The Courtyard Café featured a display of Mexican Vanilla. I was just at a party where a baker brought out her stash and let guests sniff the alluring aroma from her stash of bottles. One guest was not aware that Mexican vanilla is a "thing" and the baker let her know that this Groves stop has some.

                             Press Club
                            A chocolate-merlot sauce topped my “Angel San Juan Food Cake” at the Press Club of Southeast Texas holiday party. This cake didn’t take the cake, as in a gift card to Bruno’s, but my mom’s bread pudding with bourbon sauce did. My husband asked her to make it for his entry and the general populace voted it as their favorite. Another winner, I got the leftovers. What little there was…

            Spot flowers on foodie road trips
            Ever been searching for jackass-clover or spectacle fruit? Keep an eye out for devil’s tongue or walking stick? Scrambled eggs? The Chisos Mountain Hedgehog is a cactus. “Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide” is a book as thick as the state is big that will guide you right to them. Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller must have had a blast compiling this new edition from Texas Natural History Guides. Here’s the thing. Maybe you didn’t know you love wildflowers until someone gives you a book like this. It’s surely an opportunity to flip through beautiful photos and learn some natural tidbits. Now, if you’re willing to brave the sun and cold and ants, etc. you can hunt for these beauties yourself. And that’s why a Culinary Thrill Seeker would be totally into this book. You can also hunt for Texas barbecue, tacos and pecan pies all along your journey.
 Darragh Castillo is a Port Arthur area foodie wishing readers the best of holidays. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com,

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Craft beers, prosecco spark gatherings


                             My Mom was in traveling party of the month club back in the day and she said this group of theatre and book lovers considered themselves connoisseurs of beer. This was the ‘60s an ‘70s where readily available options included your national labels and some seasonals.
                             When we invited her over to sample a six-pack of Texas craft beers I’d won in a door prize, she scooted on over and we tried blends with funny names, hearty flavors and unique blends. Banana and candy? I like the darker ones and my husband prefers lighter, and the fun part was finding out that you may not prefer the one you thought you’d like best and vice versa.
                             It was a fun night that also included rounds of duck on crackers, pretzels, pumpkin-spiced nuts and a Field Roast vegan loaf.  It was a “different” sort of gathering to have small bites spaced out over the evening and every new thing sparked another turn in the conversations.
                             Here’s what was in the pack:
                  Ale Mary, El Hefe Weizen from No Label Brewing of Katy
                  Legal Holiday is a Winter Warmer style beer brewed by Legal Draft Beer Company in Arlington,
                  Ale Mary is a Belgian Pale Ale style beer brewed by New Republic Brewing Company in College Station, TX
                  Crush City IPA is a American IPA style beer brewed by Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co in Houston, TX.

                  Mionetto holiday
                            Mionetto Prosecco is promising “luxury wines at various price points” to “sip away” while interacting with fruitcakes, as in the literal hard-as-rock ones and the various personalities in families.

I used to wonder why people raved about Champaign for the holidays, but now that I’ve discovered the sparkling joy that is prosecco, I’m board. Look for distinctive Mionetto bottles for your own enjoyment or as valued hostess gifts. I tried the classic Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut with a suggested retail price of $14. This is what you get: “Aromatic notes of honey, black licorice, and acacia blossom appealingly mark the palate of this cuvée. This wine can be served chilled on its own or used to create your own holiday cocktails.” Try Mionetto’s Chin Up cocktail, from master mixologist Justin Noel. It’s a combo of scotch, honey and apple juice.
Mionetto Rosé Extra Dry goes for about the same price as does DOC Organic Extra Dry Prosecco . The latter merges delicate fragrances of acacia blossoms and strong tastes of golden apple, pineapple and orange. Can you believe all that can go on in a glass?
 Now the Mionetto’s Cartizze DOCG Dry (SRP $35) has a ribbon embedded into the bottle, so no wrapping needed. This is the stuff to enjoy when you can truly concentrate on all the bubbles and flavors. Please, use your best glass for this one and enjoy with cake. Expect this: “A multi-faceted bouquet releases seductive impressions of apple and pear, alongside notes of citrus and glazed almond. On the palate it is crisp, well balanced, and elegant.” Can you stand it? Get shopping.
Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who is taking extra walks to keep up with holiday feasts. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com