Monday, January 19, 2015

The pepper sandwich and flavor trends

I was at the famous Whataburger on the Bay in Corpus Chrisi, home of the franchaise. It was a busy morning with bus loads of kids, and I was enjoying a  jalapeno biscuit and the view. A distinguished senior man in a pressed western shirt and bolo tie took his seat and the staff was making over this obvious regular.
He had a foam container at his booth, even before his order came up. When his sandwich arrived he discarded the top bun, cut up the remaining layers into precise squares and opened the lid of his container. He began spreading on a thick white substance like he was icing a cake. I had to step in.
I’d already pledged to wish this gentleman an good day as I left, but I had to ask, what was he spreading? It was mayonnaise, he said. A super thick layer.
Mr. Jim Webb
said he owned Crawdaddy’s restaurant in downtown Corpus, which started a conversation on good Cajun food. But, as we spoke, his breakfast ritual got more interesting. He had opened I don’t know how many tiny paper pepper packages and covered the layer of mayo with black pepper dots. It was a pepper sandwich for sure. I wondered if he was saving calories by not eating the top bun so he could compensate for all they mayo.
I could not eat at Crawdaddy’s on that trip, but I’d love to head back that way. When I mentioned Port Arthur, he said he’d put his gumbo up against any gumbo from Beaumont, Port Arthur, “and even Orange.”

Flavor trends of 2015
McCormick’s Flavor Forecast saus we’re headed for a “liquid revolution” of fresh purees and juices to blend with bold spices and herbs to intensify sauces, pasta, dressings and more; shawarma spice blends of cumin and cinnamon will be a favorite and a sour and salt will highlight pickled ginger and sour cherry. Look for smoked spices as well.
Heard of umami? It’s the “fifth taste” we will see in mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and nori.

Gumbo query
I confess, or boast, that I have a jar of roux base in my pantry. I know, my grandma made it from scratch, but this stuff is good when you need a Cajun fix. Here’s my question to readers: How do you use this roux in ways other than mixing up a gumbo? Do you ever and a few tablespoons to other bases for a gravy or something? There’s got to be more ways of getting that gumbo flavor going for dinner. If you’re willing to share your ideas, please contact me at address below. Also, let me know if you are willing to share your ideas with readers.

Darragh Doiron is out there trying new things for you Culinary Thrill Seekers. Reach her at Published in Port Arthur News

Monday, January 12, 2015

Onions, quail eggs and Italian bliss

Tiny egg salad
The quail eggs I got for a New Year’s Eve spread did not go over well. I purchased the can at an Asian store. It contained tiny eggs, packed in water. By the time I thought about it, I was so uninspired I did not set them out in 2014, but tried to get excited again at a friend’s early January birthday. The bowl remained at the same level, though some said they tried one. Just one. I tried one, then just one more.
It wasn’t until I got back to my post-holiday healthy-eating mode did I appreciate the eggs. Even so, I mushed them up with a fork and added mustard powder and black and red pepper, for a kind of tiny egg salad. Served with carrot sticks and white cheddar, the rest of those wee eggs got me through the day. So now I’ve tried quail eggs. Next?

How much onion can you take?
My friend shares purple onions with me and I could eat them raw, daily. Sometimes there are more onions than I know what to do with, so I try new things. I sliced some very thin and fried them into a nest. From there you can melt in cheese, top with an egg or go just about anywhere.
I just tried it with marinara sauce and those tasty, sweet onions became a kind of base for pepperoni and melted cheese. I topped it with fresh sage, oregano and fennel from the garden. Yes.

Fried calamari? Check. Flatbread with herbs and oil for dipping? Check. Ciro’s, 9755 Katy Freeway in Houston followed through as an Italian Restaurant with atmosphere from murals, regulars getting warm greetings from the staff and vine-covered outdoor dining to, perhaps most importantly, amazing food.  I usually don’t order dessert, but was instructed to save room. I shared a “Mama ‘C’ with other chocolate lovers. Love it.
Darragh Castillo enjoys the latest flavors and sharing them with Port Arthur News readers.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Neches River Wheelhouse offers views, seafood

Neches River Wheelhouse offers seafood and views
Just about everybody in Southeast Texas has tried out Neches River Wheelhouse in Port Neches and I finally got to enjoy a lunch there. I’d already enjoyed some catered food from the Wheelhouse. Now I can tell others they ought to venture out the our newest seafood-with-a-view venue by Port Neches Park. Don’t wait until RiverFest. Go now. Even on a gray winter day there are great views of the river traffic. It’s set up for hanging out with friends. Fire pits and fried seafood just goes together.

Angel food
I don’t even know how the angel food cake mix showed up in my pantry. But someone gave me the lemon pudding mix. So I combined the two to make a birthday treat for a friend. I didn’t care for angel food cake as a child, going instead for something more rich. Now I appreciate the subtlety of the sweetness, but it’s easy to kid yourself that it is more healthy and you can have an extra piece or two. So I topped it with the lemon pudding/pie filling I cooked up and enhanced with vanilla and whiskey.
It went well, but here’s another observation. At our ages, I tend to top birthday cakes with one symbolic candle. It’s kind of difficult to decide where to put one candle in a bundt cake. There’s no middle.
Oh well, it worked. There were no leftovers.

Do you blame the sulfites?
I certainly have. Used as antimicrobial and preservatives for bottling and storing wine, sulfites cause a sensitivity in some people. I think I’m one of them. Jean Ishihara used to feel very sick after wine and came up with a Just the Wine, which comes in eye-drop sized bottles so you can squirt a few drops into your glass or bottle. That’s all there is to it, but the story is interesting. Go to for the background. I tried it over the holidays and offer a good report.
Darragh Doiron loves to dine and cook and write for Port Arthur News readers.