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.

       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.