Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gourmet to grits

I thought my phone was taking me to Hubble & Hudson in The Woodlands, but I ended up at Hubble & Hudson Kitchen. It turned out to be a fine place to be. I went through the line for a spicy lamb burger and sweet potato fries in a mini fry basket. You can chose from dozens of wines and they’ll uncork it for you. Take your meal to a dimly-lighted dining area and you’re in business.

I was pleased to locate the Hubble & Hudson grocery store a short drive away, so then it was time for dessert. I chose a salty caramel ice cream sandwich on macaroons with smoked almonds that blew me away. It was nearly done when I noted on the box it came from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams from Columbus, Ohio. Not only have I enjoyed her flavors, I have heard her speak. That ice cream sandwich spoke to me.

Grits hit of opening

Some guests were already enjoying an elaborate “cocktail” before knowing what it was. Christus Chemotherapy and Infusion Center at Christus St. Mary Hospital had a Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting featuring an artful display of samplings by hospital staff. Tiny clear, square cups showed off a big shrimp on top of, what exactly? It was the famous southern blend of shrimp and grits that our Carolina cousins love so much.

Red Party Cup

You can take it anywhere, but you’d better hang onto it. Those red, plastic party cups that go together like chips and dips have a new twist, thanks to Trudeau, who made a sturdy, recyclable replica they like to call, Red Party Cup. I love it. Eco-friendly, BPA-free and good-feeling in your hand, it’s part-approved. Use it around the house so every day will feel like a gathering. It’s as cool as it is clever.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cutting the mustard, red wine popcorn, bourbon chili

Grey Poupon Mustard launched a Facebook campaign that’s the talk of the internet. You must be screened to get in the Society of Good Taste. I made it with an 85 percentile ranking. My mom, a gourmet and gourmand who has a personal letter from Julia Child, did not “cut the mustard.” I know why. She’s new to Facebook and doesn’t have as many links that the program screened. She is invited to try again soon. This is a fun gimmick that shows a vintage crowd at the cinema as tidbits from your Facebook timeline flash up. The audience makes comments on your friends, their grammar and perhaps the foods you mention in your posts. Then you get your answer on if you can join in. You may not like your answer, but thousands upon thousands are asking the question. It’s fun. Look them up and apply for "Society of Good Taste."

Red Wine Popcorn

Pop Family, a new shop offering crazy flavors of sweet and savory popcorn, furnished some red wine popcorn for the September reception at Texas Artists Museum. I sat between Bill Windle and Gardner Clark and we talked about art. . . and this red wine popcorn. The word “addictive” kept coming up about these sweet gems of reddish-purple.

Maker’s Mark Chili

Feeling the fall in Southeast Texas could mean Frito Pie. If you want to get fancy with the chili this year, check out what Forth Worth chef Tim Love serves up at Lonesome Dove Western:

Bourbon Chili

Serves 4-6

2 pieces dried Ancho chilies

1 piece dried Pasilla chile

2 pieces dried Guajillo chilies

2 pieces dried Chipotle chilies

1 cup Maker’s Mark® Bourbon

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 pound. boneless beef short ribs

3 cups onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

½ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup masa harina, if desired

Salt and black pepper

Additional Maker’s Mark® Bourbon, if desired

1. Toast the chilies in a large, dry skillet over medium-low heat until lightly charred

and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and pour over the chilies. Weight the chilies down

in the water and submerge with a paper towel. Allow the chilies to soften for

about 20 minutes in the hot water. Drain the chilies once they are soft, reserving

the soaking liquid. If you prefer your chili to be spicy, remove only the stem of

the chilies, leaving the seeds intact. If you prefer a milder chili, take the time to

open up the softened chili peppers and remove the seeds before adding the

peppers to the blender.

3. Add the softened chili peppers to the blender with 1 cup of Maker’s Mark®

Bourbon. Puree until smooth.

4. Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over high heat. Pat the short ribs dry with a

paper towel and season them generously with salt and black pepper. Add the

tablespoon of oil to the hot pan. Reduce the heat to medium high. Sear the short

ribs on all sides until well browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the short

ribs to a plate and pour off the browning liquid and fat into a small bowl. Return

the pan to the heat.

5. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the skillet and cook until softened,

about 10 minutes, stirring often.

6. Add the cumin, oregano, thyme, brown sugar, vinegar, browning liquid, chili

water, and chili puree to the pot. Season with a heavy pinch of salt. Cover with a

tight fitting lid and simmer over low heat until the meat is very tender, about 3

hours, turning the ribs every 30 minutes and adding water as necessary if the

braise becomes too dry.

7. Once the short ribs can break apart with a spoon, remove the ribs from the stew

and break the short ribs apart into small chunks using two spoons or forks.

8. The chili braise in the pot should be the consistency of a thick soup, reduce over

low heat if necessary, or add more water to reach desired consistency. Skim any

excess fat and oil from the surface of the chili and discard. Stir the pieces of short

rib back into the chili braise. Add an extra splash of Maker’s Mark® Bourbon if

you want.

9. Thicken the stew with masa harina (fine cornmeal makes a great substitute) if you

desire: Ladle 2 cups of chili into a bowl and stir in the masa harina. Return the

mixture to the pot and stir in with the rest of the chili. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve the chili hot garnished with chopped scallions, cilantro, and/or sour cream.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sabine Pass poor boy hits the spot

I brought a loaf of bread to Sea Rim State Park to feed the seagulls, then I craved my own lunch. Lighthouse Deli & Market in Sabine Pass drew me in and I immediately noted the oyster poor boy on the menu. Just-fried oysters and a good sauce made me glad to know one of my favorite meals near a sandy shore was within reach for my next visit that way.

This eatery is on piers and as I approached, I saw fellow with quite the bushy beard. As he sipped a giant soda, the rest of his costuming came into view and I determined he was part of the Dick Dowling Day reenactment team. Another man’s attire inside couldn’t be ignored. Instead of a shirt and safety vest, this worker had an all-in-one bright yellow T-shirt with glowing patches and the message “I’ve got your back. Do you have mine?”

Men at anther table also had unmistakable gear. Their camouflaged selves seemed ready for a day of sport. All these other men were indulging in Lighthouse hamburgers, so I’ll have to give that a try, too.

Did you feel that cool air?

It could be approaching oatmeal time, so get your add-ins ready:

Apples, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice or canned pumpkin, cocoa powder, banana. . .

Readers, tell us your favorites.

Joy Tonic

Years ago I told readers about a pocket mister filled with a little something called Urban Moonshine organic bitters and tonics. Every once in a while I’d pull one from my desk and Mary Meaux and I would get a spritz to lift our spirits. Joy Tonic is a new release Jovial King says calms the mind and uplifts the spirit naturally. Who wouldn’t want a little bit of that while facing a pile of paperwork?

Just reading up on how our ancestors used plants to heal, motivate and even mix cocktails relaxed me. King, who blends these herbs in Vermont, says our bodies crave bitters and over the years our taste for processed food has edged them out of our lives. This is the case, even though coffee, dark chocolate and greens are considered part of the bitters family. Joy Tonic has an old-school taste that quickly becomes more palatable with each spray and with each nugget of copy in the press material. You feel more nourished after reading up on it.

Joy Tonic’s motherwort, organic grape alcohol, rose, linden and lemongrass are designed to ease tension and calm stress and help adjust the level of tension in the nervous system, internal organs and blood vessels. Makers say its volatile components can reawaken people when they feel sad, uninspired or withdrawn and relax them when they feel stressed, anxious, frazzled, and overwhelmed.

“We know stress is inevitable, and rather than trying to stimulate our way through it, or sedate our way out of it, we do best when we relax, focus, and engage the stressor,” Guido Mase, head herbalist at Urban Moonshine, says in press info. They want you to try it as support “during the darker days of winter when people are dealing with the lack of light and craziness of the holidays.” They suggest it for restful sleep, dream recall and for help in “bringing emotional balance to woman suffering from PMS.”

King has a blog about herbs.

Monday, September 3, 2012

How do you like your eggs?

Cuban or Southwest? I just wrote about new stuff from McCormick and they already have already blessed me with more samples of new gourmet blends. Black-lidded jars of Cuban Seasoning with oregano, garlic and lemon and Southwest Seasoning with chipotle and other flavors are going in rice dishes as soon as possible. I’ve already spent a week playing with each region’s flavors on egg breakfasts. Look for packets of dried herbs for Bourbon Spiced Pork, to be cooked with your meat and brown sugar, orange juice, sweet potatoes and apples. Directions are easy to follow and the label includes more ideas. Another new packet is for a dish they’re calling Herbes de Provence Roasted Chicken and Potatoes. That’s what I’m playing with. I’ll be looking for other $1.99 packets in stores: Creamy Parmesan & Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Penne; Sweet Basil & Oregano Bruschetta Chicken; Garlic & White Wine Chicken Scaloppine; and Smoked Sausage & Pepper Creole Jambalaya.

Just add vodka

Remember Fizzies? My mom used to pack those tablets to flavor water in her purse and dole one out to me at Luby’s. Drop one in and my it fizzed into a glass of root beer. Good times. Enter Go Cocktails! , a grown-up version that can turn any day in to cocktail hour with the girls. Make no mistake, drawings of stylish women in their look-at-me modes enjoying Cosmo, Lemon Drop, Appeltini, etc. Little packets of sugar-free cocktail mixes slip into your purse. Most carry the “Just add to water and vodka” label, except for Margarita, where you go with tequila, instead. So far I’ve tried these with diet Sprite and am already impressed. I’m working my way up to join the lovely lady on the Margarita package. I love the packaging and concept for what makers call a “waistline-friendly libation.” for recipe ideas.

Red Moscato

Moscato is a “thing” now. I hear it’s been making it into popular music. Refresh from Turning Leaf, wants to make it onto your picnic table. It’s new, it’s fizzy and light and makers say it complements rich barbecue and picnic fare. This blend of Muscat grapes the very stuff my husband is always looking for. He’s been known to fizz up his wine with diet Sprite. But he wasn’t around when I tried some. Oh well, I’ll fill him and readers in at the same time. Red Moscato is a by-the-pool refresher in my opinion. I’d like it with white cheese and fruit. Turning Leaf suggests it for burgers, ribs and other grilled meats. They’re also have straight up Moscato for spicy or creamy foods or desserts and Crisp White for fried or roasted chicken, salads and savory foods. It’s $8 and available everywhere.