Sunday, December 27, 2015

Get in gear for 2016


Get in gear for 2016
Look at the date! Timing shows a cusp of topic: Plan ahead for a healthy new year/indulge in festivities.
I say both. I love the extra rich flavors of the season from buttery seafood sauces to chocolates and fried bites of heaven. And I also love the way it feels to eat real foods from the earth that aren’t over-processed into a box on the market shelf.
My plan is to indulge and merge right into the healthy stuff. With you guys . . . next week.
The good news is, there’s always another celebration around the corner. Christmas and New Year’s pave the way for Mardi Gras, which will be celebrated Feb. 4-7 in downtown Port Arthur. Get ready for the Sweet Soiree theme.

New Year’s Eve
The fresh, salty brine of an oyster says New Year’s Eve to me and I’m again sharing a super-easy recipe that’s just right for festivities.
Oyster Spread: Mash up the contents of a can of smoked oysters and mix it  in to cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese. Form into a ball or block and spread on crackers.
You’re done.

Now for something healthy:
As I write this in advance I’m anticipating some good

sales on cabbage, because we southerners have to have our cabbage on New Year’s Day.
Stock up and shred it into all manner of salads, use it in fish tacos and sauté it as a side dish.

Cause for celebration:
“Celebrate: Food, Family, Shabbos” - What didn't I learn from this book?
Elizabeth Kurtz shares Jewish culture in the pages of this beautiful cookbook that is heavy with ideas, good stock paper, and beautiful photographs.
Can you imagine horseradish meringue-topped salmon? It's a real thing and it looks delicious.
My takeaways from this book:
* Something thank you, expensive, or which looks elegant when served in a stand glance. Example from the book: Skewered Gefilte Fish with Zesty a Ratatouille.
* Liver can work with cherries.
* Gingersnap cookies can go into a sauce for sweet and sour cabbage.
Great opening paragraphs come with recipes. I want to be at this author’s table.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gumbo for Christmas Eve


Thank goodness my mother agreed to make gumbo for Christmas eve. It’s a tradition that I have treasured for as much as my life as I can remember.
A few years ago she did not make the gumbo. We all reminded her that that year did not go as well as it could.
She promptly agreed to get a pot going this time around.
Thanks, Mom.
Hope everyone in the Port Arthur area gets their holiday gumbo. If for some reason I can’t imagine, your family has another favorite, I hope y’all get that.

Pecans are a treat/health food
This week pecans are showing up  all sugared and buttered and baked into pies. We love it.
In a short while I’ll be back on salads and pecans and other nuts will be my health food, topping salads to add crunch, protein and flavor.
I’ve purchased nuts from sales to benefit three worthy causes this season and I’m planning to enjoy them, a controlled portion at a time.
It’s dangerous to get too nuts over nuts.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Pralines, beans and corn fill holiday tables



You’ve got to be confident about what you’re bringing to the table when you carry little strips of paper with the recipe, because you know people will want it.
Martha Troxell spied me going back to sample her Presto Pralines at a holiday table. The crispy, pecan brown candy was baked into graham crackers. So good. So portable. Guess I wasn’t sneaky enough.
She and her husband, Bob, shared the story of how their daughter, Donna Oberle, was just a young little thing when this recipe won her an air conditioner in the Port Arthur News Cooking contest.
The family has been making it ever since, and they said I could share it with readers. When you see the Troxells, thank them.

Presto Pralines
20 to 24 graham crackers
1 cup (two sticks) butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup pecan pieces
Line a 15 by 10 inch by 1 inch jelly roll pan with whole graham crackers. Bring the butter and sugar to a rolling boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; when bubbling has stopped, add the chopped pecans. Spoon evenly over the graham crackers. Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into squares.



Solid salads
I’m grateful I work beside a health nut. Bonus: Callie Summerlin is as into trying new, international flavors as she is eating clean and healthy on a regular basis.
We were both invited to a covered dish and I put down that I was making a garbanzo bean salad.
She said she’d bring a quinoa salad.
Neither of us mentioned that corn, black beans and lime dressing would be featured players in both our creations.
So both salads looked pretty much alike next to each other on the table. It was like we each showed up wearing the same dress. I think I know who would win in a “who wore it best” vote between us.
But other guests seemed genuinely interested in both our salads. Hers was resplendent in quinoa, the South American super grain that, we pronounce KEEN wa, and cilantro.
Mine also featured cranberries, feta cheese and black olives.
I don’t know if she had an original recipe, but mine kept evolving because I wanted to carry it in my clear glass bowl with a cover. When everything I had imagined was in the bowl, it still looked a bit empty, so I kept adding more.
Don’t you love a good potluck party?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Affairs and ghost pepper


Think you could be a hero by adding bacon to your oatmeal raisin cookies? I do. But who thinks of these things?
Affairs to Remember catered the grand opening of Saks Fifth Avenue at the Gardens Mall and other spectaculars over 18 years. Chef Sandy Axelrod, her husband, Steve and their son, Brian have lived in Florida more than 30 years and have been making it flavorful and beautiful.
The anecdotes in this book can inspire you to cater your own affairs and have lots more of them.
This book has both ideas and recipes and beautiful photos to guide readers along.

Fig seems like it’s destined to be the next big think since pumpkin everything. Ever considered cooking shrimp with fig jam and preserved lemon?

Gingered carrots, cinnamon nut coffee cake, veal with mushroom sauce and Drunken Orange Pork Salad with Sauteed Mushrooms are other ideas in these pages.
Every good affair has appetizers, and here’s one so easy it doesn’t even need cooking. Try all these “Affairs” this holiday.

Genoa and Provolone Cornets with Hot Pickled Okra
Makes 36
Author’s note: This can hardly be called a recipe. No cooking involved.
36 thin slices Genoa salami
36 thin slices sharp provolone cheese
36 hot pickled okra from a jar, drained
Top each slice of Genoa salami with a slice of provolone cheese and place an okra in the center of each. Roll into a horn shape. Place seam side down on serving platter, cover and chill until ready to serve.

Ghoste Peppers in the house
My friend is a great cook, great gardener and great hostess. I went to a party and left with a box of pecans to shell, her fig preserves, banana peppers and oranges from the yard and salsa made from ghost peppers she grew.
I haven’t had a lot of experience with ghost pepper, but I love heat. Peppers are a routine part of my day, from breakfast to dessert.
She pulled some salsa out of the refrigerator that she said had been made a while ago. It smelled hot and very fresh, because the ghost peppers were acting as their own preservative.
I started with just less than a tablespoon on a Frito. I respected the ghost pepper.
It wasn’t like I was eating just a bite of pepper. There was other stuff in the salsa. It wasn’t soooo hot. I could take it.
I sat there, and let the experience soak in. Literally. The heat sneaked in and warmed me all around. I was ready for it. I let it in. I didn’t cough or gasp or tear up.
I enjoyed it. But, I also didn’t need a second sample. The one satisfied.
Thankfully, she let me leave with a jar full, so I can enjoy the rest over time.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

The right fork at the right moment


“Which Fork Do I Use?” is like a “formal” spiral on thick paper that is your pictorial guidebook to throwing fabulous parties.
Of course you know the fork goes on the left of the table setting, unless it’s a cocktail or dessert fork. Then there are other rules. But isn’t it worth it to enjoy your cocktail and dessert?
Setting a proper table is not the same thing as setting a formal table. You can still follow etiquette at an informal little fondue gathering, or a ‘70s party to which guests are given their own catchphrase upon arrival (groovy, far out, you’re the Man!).
Rosemarie Burns and Linda Reed make learning all this fun, not a cause for stress. A hostess is all about making her guests feel welcome. And as a guest, don’t you love all that attention?
Other tips from the book:
Don’t be that guest who gets toasted and takes the first sip. It’s like applauding one self.
If the hostess says don’t bring anything, don’t. She should be enjoying guests, not rushing around for extra dishes and vases.
Have a backup plan. Sometimes the dog makes off with the meat course.



Coconuts!
Coconut products are trending and Coco Joy makes it easy to get in on it. First, just drink it.
A chilled can pure coconut water is a flavorful replenishing treat that can motivate you through a workout. A jar of beautiful, creamy cold-pressed virgin coconut oil made my over-easy egg taste so good. While you’ve got the jar open, go ahead and rub a little oil on your skin. It’s like taking a spa vacation.
Now, here’s my hard sell. There are bottles of Coco Joy drinks that are pure coconut milk flavored like coffee, chocolate and banana.
My mom and I loved the coffee, especially and I think the banana tasted like a candy of my youth.
What makes this a possible hard sell is preconceived notions. I offered some for my aunt to try and she says she has a thing about anything called milk. Even if it did not come from an animal. She would not try it. Drinking something like this should put one in the mind of a peaceful tropic view, and not promote the bickering my husband and I engaged in whilst I tried to convince him that coconut water and milk are different things. The water comes from young green coconuts. I had to use the internet to convince him.
But there’s another level of consumers are know all about this coconut thing. There are health benefits that go beyond the great flavor. Coco Joy will tell you all about it.


Tia Juanita’s
So you don’t get to wear your beautiful winter coat very often in Southeast Texas. Look what you do get. My day-after –turkey treat was getting treated to lunch at Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp in Beaumont, and sitting on the patio in shorts. My party of four had fish and shrimp tacos and talked all afternoon while a gentle breeze wafted through the screens.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Shop the flavors of Rice Village


My husband dropped me off in Houston's Rice Village so he could meet a friend for lunch. So I had to enjoy a Miss Saigon meal of caramelized lemongrass shrimp all by myself. Delicious "me" time.

Then I got to stroll around shops tempting with everything from coral beads to Tibetan singing bowls. Here’s a taste of what I hit:

Savory Spice
Aroma hits you when you open the door. I wanted to dash all the way in to the back wall and explore my to checkout, but I was distracted by a sample station for
fruity hot sauces. Another stand of peppercorns featured long pepper, which must be grated.
The sales woman told me to look for jars marked with red stickers. From those I was welcome to shake spices into my palm to lick. If I had shaken too much, I would be allowed to simply shake off the excess onto the floor. That concept seemed a bit whacky to me, but of course I had to try some Vietnamese and curry blends. I walked out with a simple cayenne and a can of peppers in adobo sauce.
What I'd like to have tried was reaper and ghost pepper concoctions. The reaper was $21 for a little bitty bottle. No tasting sticker on that one.

British Isles
Visit this shop of God Save the Queen tea sets, jams and lotions for just a few minutes and you’ll feel like you’re in the crew to a travel show. Silent observers can hear shoppers tell the managrs about living in or visiting England as they browse the wares and sample fudge.
My favorite is the tea aisle, featuring serious teas and others packaged more whimsically. There’s a tin of “Afternoon Tea” that looks like a double-decker bus.

Rice Village always features an experience no matter where you get dropped off. You could spend an  hour there without leaving the big Half Price Books store.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Feeling like a crab? Or a Pumpkin?

 
Sartin’s tip
The barbecued crabs at Sartin’s in Nederland are legendary, and it’s a bucket-list item for out-of-towners you are wanting to impress.
Did you know you can get just one of those guys for a couple of bucks? The timid tasters can get a little sample and try it out, just to say they did. Then, if they consider it too much “work” to get a lot of food out of these crunchy, seasoned tidbits, then they can go ahead and proceed to more filling fare, from onion rings and fried fish to shrimp and oysters.
Doing the Dew
The pot on the stove at the party had cabbage, sausage and potatoes. The cook said the recipe came into his life along with his new CanCooker pot. The secret ingredient, he revealed, was a can of Mountain Dew.
Guess what it tasted like? Exactly like cabbage, sausage and potatoes cooked in Mountain Dew. Delivered as promised.
Pumpkin update
Triscuit has a limited edition flavor of cranberry and sage. I tried it dry, and would love to try it with a shmear cream cheese and a cranberry on top. Or maybe a candied jalapeno. Now, here it comes: a pumpkin dip.
I also tried a sample of a friend’s pumpkin nut butter. Not tired of this flavor yet.
Let me know the weirdest thing you have seen in pumpkin this year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Castillos roll in New Orleans

 
When my daughter heard my husband and I were spending our 26th wedding anniversary in New Orleans, she asked to come along.  
We actually loved the plan. We had been when she was a little bitty thing. Now she is an adult. That's a different NOLA experience. 
 My parents went to New Orleans on their honeymoon, and my daughter spent a night there on hers. This city is in our blood.
She acted like her first mission was to make sure we got to Deanie's in the French quarter. It was one of her honeymoon stops. I have always missed this one on Iberville. 
I got barbecue shrimp because she said it was so good one of her friends had asked her to take some home on ice for him. A skillet full of hot, huge shrimp with their feelers still attached came to my table. The sauce was buttery, dark, filled with spices and wonderful. It came with crusty French bread.
Every time I picked up a shrimp I could feel the weight of it. The server said I should take the shrimp out of the skillet so they would not continue to cook in the hot sauce. Weeks later, that meal is still in my mind.
Remember that tiny cocktail fork I wrote about after purchasing it at a 
Young Life estate sale? I took it to New Orleans, and used it at every meal I could. I always made a point of pointing this out to the server, so it wouldn't look like I was stealing their utensils. The funny thing is the servers had all already noticed. That meant that they could tell I was into food, and that seemed to make them want to offer more tastes and experiences. That tiny fork was a promotion tool. And to think I brought it to remind me to slow down and take delicate bites.
I love that New Orleans is a city that loves food food.
If you post on Facebook that you are in New Orleans, people will tell you to eat at Café Du Monde. As if I would skip that. I got to sit inside, perhaps for my first time. It was a new experience to watch the staff stand in line to pick up orders.  A hipster guy with a super long dark beard enjoyed his powdered beignet without getting white sugar all over him. I can't say the same for myself.
In the book, "The House on First Street," I read that families used to have favorites of either Acme oysters, or Felix's. I don't want to have to pick a favorite. This time I tried charbroiled oysters at Felix's and chose well. I even slightly burned the corners of my mouth from the hot shells. Should have been using that tiny fork. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A touch of India in Frisco




         This dosa is too big for its tray. But tastes of all these condiments fit on it. Photo by Darragh Doiron

 My sister has been talking about Frisco for years, because of her husband’s ties to the development, construction and opening of a temple there.
         I made it to Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple and got a quick tour. After shelving my shoes in the outer room we padded over carpet to the end with several areas with ornate carvings, oil lamps, flowers and colors. We left with bananas and a flower.
         Of course I was craving Indian food after that. My sister suggested Taj, a grocery store with a restaurant, in nearby Plano. It was a big, clean market with exotic vegetables, fragrant spices and an array of steel containers for food storage. I got two round ones for packing lunch.
         The restaurant featured dosas, those big flat pancakes that spill over the sides of the plate. Once I guaranteed that one could help oneself to the condiment bar, I was in. Now, to choose which dosa.
         I wanted to know if there was  goat or chicken, but did not want to ask. The menu boards spanned the wall. So as to appear more continental, I asked if this was a vegetarian restaurant. I understood the man to say “meat is over there” and he gestured with his hand. 
         I thought that meant on the far side of the menu, so I backed up, moved over and continued to read. There were onion and paneer concoctions, but I didn’t see any meat options and I went back to the man and told him so.
         “This is a vegetarian restaurant,” he said.
         I thought that was what I had been asking. Later my sister and I surmised together that he could have been gesturing toward the rest of the market. Taj online offers mixes for dishes such as chicken chettinad and butter chicken.
         So my dosa arrived crunchy and ready to dip into pickled lime, peanut chutney and paneer. It was just what I wanted.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Delicious mix ups


A particular friend loves a gourmet butter so much she gets bulk shipments to her home. You open that fridge and those blocks of butter look like gold at Fort Knox. Butter bricks blocked the light in there.
Once just before the holidays, a huge box arrived and instead of perishable butter, it contained dozens of packages of dark chocolate almonds. When my friend contacted the company, they told her it would be too complicated/expensive or whatever to take it back, so keep the chocolates, and butter is on the way. The chocolates were amazing, and she was making it rain like confetti with the almond handouts. I was glad to be on that list.
But I’ve always wondered if a customer somewhere ripped open a shipment to start crunching endless almonds and found enough butter to carve an Elvis sculpture at the Iowa State Fair.

More pizza?
       My mom and I were sharing a pizza at a new-to-me place. It arrived and did not seem as meat-saturated as the menu would imply. My first bite was okay. I enjoyed the sauce, but the crust was underwhelming.
       There were not the usual “yummy sounds” we make as we dine. A few bites later my mother said she thought the marinara was good. A few more bites later she said she was not impressed by the crust.
       Then the waiter came up to us with a box of pizza. He said he was sorry, he had served us a different one than we had ordered. Something about the crust being different. So we were about to take up a whole extra pizza that would be essentially the same as the one we were currently enduring.
       Guess what. Once we had a free pizza in our sight, the first one seemed to improve greatly. Our dinner out improved, just like that.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pumpkin, flamingos still trending


       Every year we share some pumpkin spice love in Culinary Thrill Seeking. It’s still trending and my first taste of the season was from pumpkin muffins from my friend Jennie in Ohio.
       Jennie is the real story here. I met this amazing woman while working at the Beaumont Bennigan’s in the ‘80s. She brought a fresh out-of-state vibe, bright pink lipstick and a lot of fun to evening shifts.
        I can’t recall if my love of flamingos began with her, but I think of her just about every time I see a pink plastic pair of birds in a funky setting.
       Through the miracle of Facebook, she heard I’d be traveling near her and she came down to get me. There was pizza and catching up and it seems they played ‘80s music everywhere we stopped.
       Guess what gift she’d picked up for me, even before she knew she would soon run into me? A jeweled flamingo brooch.
       It seems Jennie is still the coolest thing ever, and hosts theme parties. One of her hits: Takeout and Champagne. Guests show up at her door with their favorite takeout and a little story about their dish. 
       Thanks for more memories, Jennie. And the pumpkin muffins.

Nuts:
       I thought I was getting pumpkin spiced nuts to share with a group, but when I opened the bag from Emerald, I realized they the glazed pecans were labeled “Pecan Pie.”
       Still addictive, the group agreed. I tried to prove to myself that there had been a bag marked “pumpkin,” but I can’t find it. No worries. I’ve enjoyed anything Emerald line does have to crunch.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Amelia Farm & Market a tasty, mini road trip


       I chose Figgy Piggy my first time, but a NutPig anything could get  me to back. My mom treated me to Amelia Farm &  Market, which boasts a farm setting at Dishman Road and North Major Drive in Beaumont.
       The pigs eat pecans that grow around the area, so there’s that flavor going on. Then there’s the outdoor setting and trees and potted herbs and the company. I spotted a very prominent Rotarian from Port Arthur among the ladies who lunch.
       The sandwiches are in the $13 range and they are whopping good. Mine had red wattle pork, homemade fig preserve, horseradish cream and baby Swiss on fresh-baked sourdough. My mom got pork on pimento cheese.
       I’ll finally mention this place is basically a food truck parked in a tree-shaded lot, and with a covered space for outdoor dining. A restaurant is being built up around it. My mother has been several times and enjoyed herself.
       There’s something about the hospitality and the “goodness” of the experience that makes you want to get to know the people cooking and serving for you. There was hammering and sawdust and a  tractor chugging around. That was all mixed in with the experience of fresh flowers, leaves rustling and flavors that made me close my eyes to concentrate on they joy of them.


Coffee grounds to the rescue
       I don’t want to go into a lot of detail, but I spent some time in an space that was not “fresh” by any means.
       I had no access to my favorite remedy, essential oils. I saw an over-the-counter air freshener, in pumpkin spice, no less. But they smell artificial to me and can sometimes give me a headache. Then I thought about coffee grounds
       I purchased a package and poured some into a container and the area became fragrant. Then later, I got to enjoy brewing the rest of the coffee to drink.

The corn/ maque choux update

 

In fall I loved the aroma of Indian corn pudding at Luby’s and ears roasting in pits. From cobs at picnics and paprika-dusted corn right out of the can to candy corn, I love it.
Charlene Fortenberry of Port Neches asked if maque choux has a creamy texture and I recall that as my memory. I began an informal poll and several Southeast Texans are saying cream, though my mom pointed out the bowls of my memories are based on the creamed corn that my grandfather grew up with, but more spiced, thanks to my Breaux Bridge-born grandmother.
Foretenberry’s maque choux memories are of no cream, though she says cream makes so many things better.
Donna Roberts read the column and ventured into other corn scenarios. She says in her family, a few corn silk strands went into the pot for flavor.
She also introduced me to Carroll Duhon of Port Acres, who is growing his own popcorn. I left with little bags full of  yellow and caramel varieties and they came out of my air popper amazingly crisp and flavorful. The caramel variety was smallare and harder. I can’t say I detected a caramel flavor, but the corn notes were all there.
My tip: Dress your popcorn in olive oil and red or black pepper for a switch from butter and salt.
Now about the maque choux research… Maybe we should all go to New Orleans and taste what we find there.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What's your story on maque choux? And two get Amuny's


Amuny’s bounty and shedding light on Maque Choux

I went to a meeting where there was going to be Amuny’s sandiwiches, one of my favorite things about Port Arthur. I knew they would be there because I was bringing them to the meeting.
My husband could not attend because he was going to a program elsewhere and had voiced regret he would not be eating those sandwiches.
As I sat down to my plate at my event, he sent me a text, reading “Guess what I’m eating?”
He then sent a photo of a big platter of Amuny’s sandwiches that he was enjoying across town.



Maque choux query for readers
I was concentrating on just-right pistolettes at The Neches River Wheelhouse when Charlene Fortenberry introduced herself and we started talking about maque choux.
I ‘m a big fan of this corn blend and I don’t know why it’s not a part of my life much more often. Fortenberry, who has ties to the old Farm Royale restaurant, suggested I put this topic out to readers as a “curiosity that some of your Cajun-bred readers may be able to shed light on.”
Heres’ what she says: “I grew up eating my mom's maque choux, as I'm sure you did, too. I saw it on the Wheelhouse menu; first time I had ever seen it at a restaurant around here. My two friends had never heard of it (they're not French, bless their hearts, haha) but one of them ordered it and so did I. It was delicious of course, but it had cream in it. Well cream makes everything better, but I had never had it like that before. After discussing it with family and friends, the consensus was that no one else had tasted it like that. So, is that a regional thing or was the chef being creative? This isn't an earth shattering topic, but maybe you can make it into something interesting. Still loving your column, Charlene.  

I’m already interested. So here’s my story. When I went to ask my mom about my beloved creamy corn dish, she said she recalled maque choux in Louisiana as being not creamy, but what I was eating was creamed corn in the “northern” style of my grandfather. Somewhere along the way I was eating what Louisiana relatives combined: creamy corn, seasoning, onions and peppers. I love it, whatever it is called.
Now, readers, please let Ms. Fortenberry and I know your experiences with maque choux, by writing darraghcastillo@icloud.com.
We’ll be waiting to hear from you!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Playing with peanuts and kosher holidays


Someone celebrated a birthday at Logan’s Road House in Beaumont and we left with some in-shell peanuts. I chose to make them the protein in an Asian meal I made up.
I don’t know what to call it, but coconut milk, cucumbers, purple onions and garlic chives ended up over Jasmine rice, and the peanuts went on top. It was filling and light at the same time. It’s always good to play with your food.

The Kosher Baker
The only time Paula Shoyer uses store-bought challah is to make bread pudding, because her family won’t give up a homemade challah without a fight. 
She shares a Mocha and Whiskey Chocolate Bread Pudding, made from this bread, that puts one in the mind bread pudding much closer to New Orleans and meant to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Shoyer teaches French and Jewish baking in the Washington, DC area and offers some amazing recipes and background in her book “The Holiday Kosher Baker.”
This is a more serious book for those who know their way around flours and macarons. Finished results are beautiful and, I assume, tasty. I’d like to book a flight to DC to sample some class projects.
Here’s a taste of what’s in the book:

Babka Bites, Honey Cake Biscotti, Whole Grain Carrot Cake, and Fruit Cobbler with Chickpea, Pecan and Cardamom Topping. As says the subtitle, these are traditional and contemporary offerings.
darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Long beans and chocolate toast

 
Eat Fresh!
Last Saturday morning I heard two women discussing the Beaumont Farmers’ Market. Why, I hadn’t been since last season. I sure am glad they reminded me. I headed right over to the municipal complex on College Street and snapped up a bag of huge figs and a $2 bunch of  long beans. They’re more than a foot long. What fun.
I also got all camera crazy with cartons of beautiful blue-tinted eggs from Dan the Chicken Man. The market will continue through December, I’m told, but won’t go on Sept. 26 because of a tennis tournament.


Leftover chocolate?
Sometimes there is. I always like to keep a few morsels of dark chocolate around (or semi-hidden) the house. So there’s sometimes a heart-shaped chunk wrapped in pink foil or a festive egg under some more suited to a Halloween look. Still good, I’m sure, but we go to the “eye candy” of a seasonal look.
Unwrap those little guys and melt them on to buttery, crispy toast. They’ll melt into a sweet mass so delicious your mouth won’t mind it was wearing last season’s dress just moments ago.

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?