Saturday, December 29, 2018

Jam with Janis in Port Arthur

            To “Jam with Janis” is No. 61 in E.R. Bills’ new book, “100 Things to do in Texas Before You Die.” Oh, and there’s an image of a bucket on the cover. The listing encourages people to visit Museum of the Gulf Coast and see the Joplin collection in her hometown. Bills notes the following on the legendary singer: “A misfit in her hometown and the subject no small amount of scorn and ridicule at the University of Texas, Joplin moved to California and became a superstar in the music world, belting out psychedelic blues and gut-wrenching soul as powerfully as few artists before or since have even attempted, much less achieved.”
            Some other local mentions:
• Eat at the Old Orange Café, with down-home service and Cajun-smothered catfish.
• Bring beef jerky to the Big Thicket National Preserve just in case you see Bigfoot.
            I’ve enjoyed some of the big ticket stops, such as the Big Bend and Johnson Space Center. I’d love to travel with Bills and explore some of the smaller stops for adventure and dinner as the Intrepid Texan.


            Cowboy art and chili recipe
            Cowboy life Joe De Yong was the only protégé of famed cowboy artist Charles M. Russell. You’ll read that tidbit a lot in the new Alamar Media release “Joe De Yong: A Life in the West” by William Reynolds. Get ready for a beautiful book featuring art, history, photos of letters and a peek at the life of costume design, scenic sketch art and historical advice in the wild west movie world that created classic pictures such as “The Plainsman” 1937; “Union Pacific” 1939; “Buffalo Bill” 1944; “Red River” 1948; and “Shane” 1953.
            Readers even get glimpses of working with Cecil B. DeMille. Come along on a ride with DeYong and learn a little about a lot. Culinary Thrill Seekers, here’s a recipe, sort of, for chili, he wrote in a letter to “Mackey,” his friend Maxine. “Get Gebharts Canned (chili with beans) and add 1/3 chicken gumbo soup. It cuts the edge peculiar to canned stuff and adds fine mild flavor.” The hand-written recipe is followed by a typed note which is a joke about two drunks staggering along a railroad track. One says it’s the longest stairway he’s ever tried to climb. The other says it ain’t the number of steps that bothers him, but he never saw such long banisters in all his life.
            Darragh Doiron is a January birthday girl, just like Janis Joplin. Reach her at

Monday, December 24, 2018

Texas holiday spirit

                             Road trips are great things because you can have an adventure visiting family or perhaps hop in your car and drive a stretch for a break from the family.
                             The Courthouse Whistlestop Café in Livingston was my lunch break on an excursion to East Texas. I shared a burger with my husband, as we were on our way to another party. The onion rings were presented on a bed of lettuce. Fancy. Then Delores came in for a hug. She hugged my husband and then me and wished us the most heartfelt happy holiday. I thought that perhaps this friendly woman, who appeared to be a server from another table, had mistaken us for someone else. She then announced that the hugging is just what she does. Now that’s got to make you smile.
                             A sunny corner table offered a great view of the courthouse.

                             A symphony of good spirits in PA
                             Jeff Newman of Motiva was guest conductor and Dr. Mark Porterie was guest sleigh bell percussionist at The Sounds of Christmas concert that Symphony of Southeast Texas performed in Port Arthur. Motiva and the school district presented this event, featuring the Memorial High School Choir. This free event brought guests in a festive mood to the Woodrow Wilson Early College High School. As long as I've appreciated the city's history, I was among several who remarked it was their first time to enter the building, which has been beautifully restored. There's a story that Janis Joplin would cut class and hang out in the cupola, where her initials are supposedly marked. I didn't get that far in my explorations, but I did find a pre-reception featuring Moncla's white chocolate bread pudding, which was another hot topic of the evening.

                             Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring. Reach her at

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Drunken onions in Groves


            The Collection
            I know I'm not the only one who finds a sample of spiced cider greatly enhances the luxury of holiday shopping. The Collection in Groves offered sweet and savory bites during my recent excursion and another shopper directed me to the hallway for a bite of "Drunken Onion" dip. Not only is the title a fun conversation starter, the product is full-on delish. You can buy the seasoning package and whip up your own at home. Across Lincoln Avenue, The Courtyard Café featured a display of Mexican Vanilla. I was just at a party where a baker brought out her stash and let guests sniff the alluring aroma from her stash of bottles. One guest was not aware that Mexican vanilla is a "thing" and the baker let her know that this Groves stop has some.

                             Press Club
                            A chocolate-merlot sauce topped my “Angel San Juan Food Cake” at the Press Club of Southeast Texas holiday party. This cake didn’t take the cake, as in a gift card to Bruno’s, but my mom’s bread pudding with bourbon sauce did. My husband asked her to make it for his entry and the general populace voted it as their favorite. Another winner, I got the leftovers. What little there was…

            Spot flowers on foodie road trips
            Ever been searching for jackass-clover or spectacle fruit? Keep an eye out for devil’s tongue or walking stick? Scrambled eggs? The Chisos Mountain Hedgehog is a cactus. “Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide” is a book as thick as the state is big that will guide you right to them. Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller must have had a blast compiling this new edition from Texas Natural History Guides. Here’s the thing. Maybe you didn’t know you love wildflowers until someone gives you a book like this. It’s surely an opportunity to flip through beautiful photos and learn some natural tidbits. Now, if you’re willing to brave the sun and cold and ants, etc. you can hunt for these beauties yourself. And that’s why a Culinary Thrill Seeker would be totally into this book. You can also hunt for Texas barbecue, tacos and pecan pies all along your journey.
 Darragh Castillo is a Port Arthur area foodie wishing readers the best of holidays. Reach her at,

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Craft beers, prosecco spark gatherings

                             My Mom was in traveling party of the month club back in the day and she said this group of theatre and book lovers considered themselves connoisseurs of beer. This was the ‘60s an ‘70s where readily available options included your national labels and some seasonals.
                             When we invited her over to sample a six-pack of Texas craft beers I’d won in a door prize, she scooted on over and we tried blends with funny names, hearty flavors and unique blends. Banana and candy? I like the darker ones and my husband prefers lighter, and the fun part was finding out that you may not prefer the one you thought you’d like best and vice versa.
                             It was a fun night that also included rounds of duck on crackers, pretzels, pumpkin-spiced nuts and a Field Roast vegan loaf.  It was a “different” sort of gathering to have small bites spaced out over the evening and every new thing sparked another turn in the conversations.
                             Here’s what was in the pack:
                  Ale Mary, El Hefe Weizen from No Label Brewing of Katy
                  Legal Holiday is a Winter Warmer style beer brewed by Legal Draft Beer Company in Arlington,
                  Ale Mary is a Belgian Pale Ale style beer brewed by New Republic Brewing Company in College Station, TX
                  Crush City IPA is a American IPA style beer brewed by Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co in Houston, TX.

                  Mionetto holiday
                            Mionetto Prosecco is promising “luxury wines at various price points” to “sip away” while interacting with fruitcakes, as in the literal hard-as-rock ones and the various personalities in families.

I used to wonder why people raved about Champaign for the holidays, but now that I’ve discovered the sparkling joy that is prosecco, I’m board. Look for distinctive Mionetto bottles for your own enjoyment or as valued hostess gifts. I tried the classic Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut with a suggested retail price of $14. This is what you get: “Aromatic notes of honey, black licorice, and acacia blossom appealingly mark the palate of this cuvée. This wine can be served chilled on its own or used to create your own holiday cocktails.” Try Mionetto’s Chin Up cocktail, from master mixologist Justin Noel. It’s a combo of scotch, honey and apple juice.
Mionetto Rosé Extra Dry goes for about the same price as does DOC Organic Extra Dry Prosecco . The latter merges delicate fragrances of acacia blossoms and strong tastes of golden apple, pineapple and orange. Can you believe all that can go on in a glass?
 Now the Mionetto’s Cartizze DOCG Dry (SRP $35) has a ribbon embedded into the bottle, so no wrapping needed. This is the stuff to enjoy when you can truly concentrate on all the bubbles and flavors. Please, use your best glass for this one and enjoy with cake. Expect this: “A multi-faceted bouquet releases seductive impressions of apple and pear, alongside notes of citrus and glazed almond. On the palate it is crisp, well balanced, and elegant.” Can you stand it? Get shopping.
Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who is taking extra walks to keep up with holiday feasts. Reach her at

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Vegan party gets photogenic

   Turns out the Field Roast loaf of bread stuffing with mushroom gravy was a much-photographed aspect of a party I attended. It’s a good thing I’d pre-cut the loaf into smallish-pieces so that everyone got a taste.
                             I was invited to bring a vegan or vegetarian dish to a house potluck and this baby that looks a lot like a scored meatloaf went over well. I figured it would, so I brought the box and guests took out their phones to snap photos so they could look for it later.
                             I snapped a photo of a box of stroopwafels, which I learned were flat rounds of  soft waffles designed to be warmed up over your mug of tea and enjoyed. Don’t you love it when your food offerings are the conversation starters?

                             “The Fondue Bible: Second Edition”
                              When should a  woman kiss the man to her left? When she’s dropped her morsel into the fondue pot. It’s just a suggestion, as is dipping mango slices, ladyfingers or shortbread into your homemade rum and butter fondue.
                             Ilana Simon is still melting, stirring and dipping in “The Fondue Bible: Second Edition,” with 200 “best” recipes. I’m overwhelmed. In a good way. It’s the parings that stand out:
                             Sweet Brie with pound cake or angle food cake cubes, apple wedges or orange sections.    
  M                    Maple Beef Fondue served with zesty mayonnaise or Thai peanut sauce.
                             Cajun Pork with blue cheese dip or honey mustard.
                             Hemp seed-encrusted shrimp with salsa verde.

                             There are modern twists and classic ones, like the following, which my mom made in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
                             Cocktail franks made with an 8-ounce jar of grape or seedless black currant jelly, 1/3 cup prepared mustard and a pound of cocktail franks or hot dogs cut diagonally into bite-sized pieces.
                             There’s fun stuff to read in this book meant for entertaining hearts. Of course, your big night can have other foods besides fondue. Try something with Zesty Mayonnaise.
                             Zesty Mayonnaise
                             1 cup mayonnaise
                             1 teaspoon paprika
                             1 half teaspoon cayenne pepper
                             In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, paprika and cayenne pepper. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
                             Tamale stamps!
                             When my sister's seasonal greeting arrived, I was doubly excited by the stamp, featuring a dish of tamales. Making and enjoying them is a Christmas treat in my husband's family and his friend's mom makes amazing empanadas, which is on another in the postal tribute to Latin foods. More tempting favorites are featured on other stamps and there's one I had to look up. Don't worry, there's flan for dessert.
                        Darragh Castillo is a Port Arthur area foodie who is loving all the holiday celebrations of good cheer and good food. Reach her at