Sunday, February 21, 2016

Grapevine has old-town charm, great food

A Fireside Pies creation in a Grapevine. Photo by Darragh Castillo

So it's Friday night in on Main Street in Grapevine, Texas. I hear a big commotion across the street. Darned rowdy 20-somethings i'm thinking. Turns out it was four women my age and older, installed on a bench waiving around full wine glasses and wishing every passerby a happy Friday. They really were enjoying life, and set the tone for my whole trip.
Got to love historic Grapevine. I saw a directional sign for wineries and arrows pointed in every direction. 
Due to circumstances beyond my control, a friend treated me to Pappadeaux Seafood for several nights straight with meals including lobster, cod, octopus, salmon and soft-shell crabs that were the best thing I have so far dined upon in 2016. The bacon-wrapped shrimp was aces, too. I did all the driving and was "paid" with festive dinners. Nice work if you can get it.
There was also a place called Fireside Pies with super thin artisan pizzas. Mine came with the salad on top.  Let me explain. Peta Pie featured balsamic mustard portobellos, goat cheese, red peppers, piƱon nuts and a delicate assemblage of fresh arugula at the center. It was a wonderful experience. 
I accompanied a friend who had dealings in the area so my free time included shopping at Central Market, Trader Joe's and Market Street. This is one of my favorite way to spend time, sampling cheeses, looking for new tea flavors and playing with scented oils. 
Back on Main Street, we ran into Dr. Sue's Chocolate which featured samples of just about everything they make. So you know you are leaving with something good in your bag.
I have plenty more fun tales of Grapevine, Texas. You'll have to wait for the Sunday a Sounds Good column to read more.

A fat burning maching and Red Bull goes Orange


Become a Fat-Burning Machine

Mike Berland used to be like a lot of us. Lax on the exercise and diet. Now he’s all about eating right, moving and burning the fat. He makes it sound not too hard with an inspirational how-to book featuring recipes such as zucchini pasta with roasted tomatoes and chimichurri.
Can you do that? I could. There are menu plans and exercise moves and plans to take you where you want to go.
Where are you going to learn all this? In his book, “Become a Fat-Burning Machine.”
Here’s some very easy and flavorful advice from the pages:
Fat burning snacks
* Half cup guacamole, with cut veggies
* Cold asparagus spears
* Celery sticks with 2 tablespoons peanut or almond butter
* Endive filled with cream cheese, tuna or egg salad
* Half an avocado, filled with cream cheese
* Grilled peach or pear with cinnamon sprinkle
* 1 hard-boiled egg

Red Bull goes orange
I just had a sneak peek, or taste, of the newest Red Bull flavor, the Orange Edition.
It’s light and refreshing and not like your grandmother’s or grandkid’s Red Bull. I have never, ever enjoyed a Red Bull so much. In fact, mixologists are going to town with it, whipping up drinks like Orange Cosmopoitan Fizz, with cranberry juice. Here’s another one that is a “peeling” because it features basil. The orange is a tangerine twist.
Orange Basil Smash
By New York City Mixologist Sarah Boisjoli
8 ounces Red Bull Orange Edition
one half ounce fresh lime juice
one fourth ounce Agave Nectar
3 to 4 fresh peeled mandarin
Orange segments
3 to 4 large fresh basil leaves
Muddle mandarin orange segments and basil lightly in a cocktail shaker.
Add fresh lime juice and ice and shake well
Pour into a rocks glass over Red Bull Orange Edition with ice
Garnish with fresh basil sprig

Big Boi's has the crawfish spice/ Meet me at the CoffeeBar

BigBoi's has this shrimp salad in addition to spicy-as-you-want crawfish. Photo by Darragh Doiron
BigBoi’s has the spice
I’ve met Brandon Marks at Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce events when he’s getting people excited about visiting his Big Boi’s Crawfish Hole.
Someone’s birthday finally made me go to his spot where Jason’s Deli used to be at Central Mall, at the Casa Ole entrance.
Open the door and the aroma greets you. You’re at a crawfish boil. While people peeled and ate all around me, I chose a shrimp salad with Italian dressing and was very pleased. Other folks tried some big old fried shrimp and pork chop.
Everybody else seemed pretty pleased, too.
Here’s what someone said about one of the sides:
“This is the best cabbage I’ve ever eaten out,” is a direct quote from one of my dinner companions.
She said it three different times, so I believe her.
Marks came out of the kitchen and visited our table. He said the crawfish comes in different levels of heat.
“I can make it spicy if you want,” he said.

Meet me at the coffee bar?
Ever feel like eating your coffee?
Two Northeastern University undergrads thought it would be a kick to have coffee and breakfast at once.

New Grounds Food and its product, CoffeeBar, just launched two new flavors, Caramel Macchiato and Coconut Mocha, that I tried and enjoyed. It’s a chewy, fulfilling thing that’s an all-natural, coffee-infused energy bar. Those familiar with energy bars can imagine the texture. This one has an extra kick with the coffee flavor. It is organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and vegan.  It is available to ship worldwide via

Monday, February 1, 2016

Good eats, good cause at Port Arthur Seafarer's Center

Supporters and volunteers of the Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center are doing good works and eating well in the process.
Tom Broussard and Capt. and Mrs. Wesley and Stephanie Moore presented a gathering for special supporters that included a jazz ensemble and nibbles.
Chef Carly Andrews of Chic Chef Catering laid out a spread with chicken and goat cheese stuffed dates with crispy hot mustard chicken skin garnish as just one offering. My favorite thing on the tower of goodies was creamy crawfish dip with pistolette bread crostinis.
But the complex at the end of Procter Street features a meeting room, pool table and more where ship crew members get company and support. There’s good food getting served there all the time.
Lorraine Blanchard does some cooking for the frequent lunch benefits that Janet Vestel says are offer bang for the buck.
“I try very hard to put out a decent meal on the table,” Blanchard said. “And I’m kind of famous for my bread pudding.”
Vestel supports the claim.
“You need to come. You’d freak out over her bread pudding,” Vestel said.
Tammy Domingue works at the center and says anyone interested in volunteering could find themselves driving a sailor to anything from a church service to the shopping center.
For more information on how to volunteer, or buy a lunch to support the center, call Domingue at 409-982-4504.