Sunday, March 29, 2015

Reminder! Restaurant: Impossible at Cocoamoda Airs on April 1!

This isn't really a post. It's a reminder.

Watch Cocoamoda on Restaurant: Impossible on April 1, 2015. Check your local listings for Food Network channel and time.  I won't live blog it because I'm terrible at live blogging.   

A beautiful variety of decadent chocolates at Cocoamoda.

What I do know, is that regardless of how the TV folks edit and portray the folks at Cocoamoda, they (Ken, Jackie, and Julie) are all awesome people who pour their hearts and souls into running the business and producing a quality product.  We should all make the trip to Calvert to congratulate them on a job well done and to purchase their wonderful chocolates. For an extra treat, follow them on facebook to find out about their weekend fine dining. The menu changes weekly.

Delicious, rich sipping chocolate.  Only available at Cocoamoda.
Follow Cocoamoda on facebook and twitter. If you're not able to make the trip to Calvert, order their awesome chocolates on their webpage and have them delivered to your door.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Recipe: Smoky Chipotle Hummus

Most years I don't bother with a New Year's resolution.  This year, however, I resolved to eat more fruit and veggies.  Not exactly an earth-shattering resolution, but it's one that I figured would help me and would be reasonable to stick to.

One of the easier ways to accomplish this has been to keep homemade hummus in the house for snacking.  Why homemade?  Store-bought is fine, but I have to keep garlic and onions to a minimum, so I make my own.  It's easy and surprisingly inexpensive. The addition of chipotles in adobo makes this recipe irresistible and it pairs beautifully with carrots, sliced peppers, and as a schmear on bread or toast.


This recipe is also adaptable and works well with a number of veggies that might just be taking up room in your fridge.  I've added cherry tomatoes, kale, and spinach before and they have all worked well.  Make sure to adjust salt, pepper, chipotles, and water levels to taste to accommodate the addition(s).

Smoky Chipotle Hummus

Ingredients:

2 cans         chickpeas (15.5 oz cans, may also be called garbanzo beans)
1/2 cup       peanut butter* (I use the kind you have to mix the oil with the ground nuts)
1/4 cup       lemon juice
1/4 cup       olive oil
1 teaspoon  salt
1/2 teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
2-5              chipotle peppers packed in adobo** (more or less depending on your heat tolerance***)
1/2 cup       water

Instructions:

1. Empty the chickpeas into a colander and rinse them under cold water until they no longer foam.

2. Place the chickpeas and all of the above ingredients into a food processor or blender.  Pulse to start, then blend until smooth.  If the mixture is still lumpy, add an additional few teaspoons of olive oil and a quarter cup of water and blend until smooth.

3. Decant the mixture into a sealable container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1-2 weeks.


Footnotes:

* Peanut butter sounds odd, I know.  Tahini is traditionally used but is difficult to find, inconsistently stocked, and quite expensive here.  Peanut butter has a similar flavor profile to tahini.  If you are allergic to peanut butter, substitute any nut butter or tahini, if it's available where you are.

** Chipotle peppers in adobo can only be found in the international section of the grocery stores here. If you are not using the entire can (this recipe would be firey hot if you did), reseal the can with aluminum foil and store it in your refrigerator.  The peppers will keep for a few months.  I typically make 3 separate batches with one small (7 oz) can of the peppers.

*** If you over-do it with the heat, you can "rescue" yourself by drinking full-fat milk, half and half, or cream.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Eatcetera in Galveston

Eatcetera is a lovely bistro we found quite by accident in Galveston.  Located within walking distance to The Strand, it's a nice alternative to Strand food and crowds during the various festivals.




The menu features a number of different sandwiches, soups, and salads, all freshly prepared. They also have a delicious prickly pear iced tea.



African peanut soup. Absolutely delicious.

Indonesian peanut soup served with toast points as croutons.

Bread and pimento spread served before meals.

The Cuban panino served with kettle chips. A nicely made sandwich.

A salmon sandwich with caper mayo, served with a house salad.
Make sure to save room for their awesome desserts. 

An upside down pinapple cake. Moist and delicious and served with rich vanilla ice cream.

Flourless chocolate torte served with a raspberry gelee.  Absolutely divine.

We will absolutely be back to Eatcetera the next time we are in Galveston. Great location, wonderful food, and reasonable prices.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sherwood Forest Fair

Renaissance Festivals seem to be becoming nearly a year-round thing in Texas. Texas Ren Fest runs from September or October through November and Scarborough Faire runs from April through May.  Now, and for the last few years, Sherwood Forest Fair runs from February through much of March of each year and has regular meet-ups throughout the year.


This fair has wifi.
Sherwood Forest is located between College Station and Austin along highway 290 close to the intersection with highway 21.  The closest town is McDade.

On a cold day a coffee shop is exactly what I wanted.

I got the spicy ginger chai and it was exactly what I wanted. Delicious. Spicy. Gingery.  Awesome.  And warm.

Lovely seating for those wishing to relax with their drinks or hookahs.

I don't smoke anything of any sort but hookahs are very pretty.

There's a stage next to the coffee shop. It's a great place to relax in and take in the sites.

Of the 3 festivals mentioned here, Sherwood is the newest and currently the smallest.  The day we went this year it was also the coldest and rainiest.  This year's Spring has been cold, wet and rainy. And very, very muddy.

Interesting chainmaille lamp.

Archery

This shop has good Mediterranean food...for when it's not quite so cold out.

Juggling fire!

Salads and healthier fare are available.

A blacksmith shows some of their lovely works.
There are a number of food and drink options at the festival, as well as entertainment (shows), and shopping.

The Washerwomen are always fun.

Watch out for audience participation.

There's a daily parade.

Flaming acrobatics.

Grilled things.  On a stick!

Fried things. Including the very interesting fried olives. A nice combination of briny and fried.


You can get a carriage ride around the festival.
Really cool birdhouses.

All kinds of shopping.
Italian food. I particularly like the arancini, because I like risotto and deep fried makes everything better.

And, of course, jousting.
The festival runs now through March 22, 2015 and will be open on Friday, March 20.  Parking is free.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fried Sriracha and Bacon Wrapped Pork Belly at the Houston Rodeo 2015

Visiting the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has become an annual tradition for The Lovely Spouse and I. I've previously blogged on it as well. Therefore for this year I'll write on new things we found and a few things I didn't blog in previous years.

While waiting in line we could look in and see this goat watching the crowd.  She was part of a pretty cool educational exhibit teaching kids (and their parents) how food goes from farms to grocery stores. 
This year we found a much, much larger crowd there than usual.  Probably because this Spring has been very miserable and rainy and yesterday was the first nice day.  The wait to get in took at least an hour because the ticket system kept going down.  We only planned to get general admission instead of seeing the evening concert. General admission is $10, the concert tickets (which include general admission) start at $16 and go up from there.  Well, we saw the crowd outside and tried to get tickets on our phones, but the website wouldn't allow a secure connection on mobile, then it crashed altogether. So we tried calling and the company's computers crashed.  Thankfully some Rodeo volunteers came around with some cash-only tickets so that we could get in.  By this time I was dehydrated and had the beginnings of a nasty sunburn.  But we did get in.  [My sunburn turned out to be much worse than my initial assessment.]

Next to the Borden Milk area is the animal birthing area where we got to see the young 'uns born at the Rodeo,  Who can resist such cute critters?
Once inside we headed indoors to cool off and get rehydrated. I made a bee-line for the Borden area to grab a milk. $2 for an icy cold milk, available flavored or unflavored.

Bovine competitors resting backstage. 

Competitors with the heifer show. Participants learn animal husbandry and compete for scholarships.

Wandering the building we also got to see the heifer show and check out the eats and drinks.

A much larger crowd than previous years and also lots of food and drink options available indoors.
Once we cooled off it was time to head outside to the carnival area, where the most interesting eats were to be found.

Somehow we found gluten free items.  Typically fries don't have gluten in them, but now you can be absolutely sure.

In case you're prefer your curly fries in a cone, instead of a loaf.

Large volumes of food on very large grills everywhere.

We also found bacon wrapped turkey legs.  

Rotisserie chicken on a specialized grill.

What's this?  Bacon wrapped pork belly?  Yes please!

The bacon wrapped pork belly was available at Big Bubba's Bad BBQ.  

They also had grills upon grills full of turkey and chicken.

The bacon wrapped pork belly. Actually, exceptionally delicious.  Available for around $15 each.

Sausages, grilled jalapenos, etc. 
Other vendors had many other fried things, including red velvet cake.  I didn't find the fried Nutella this year.
Deep Fried Kettle Corn. Didn't try it, but it looked interesting.

I posted on the pickle place last year, but tried the fried zucchini from them this year.  I did not even think about trying the chocolate covered pickle. That just sounds nasty.

For $8 at the Rodeo, the order of deep fried zucchini is actually rather large. The breading was the perfect blend of crunchy and not too heavy.  And the zucchini were well prepped and cooked.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I didn't touch the dressing that came with it. I suggest sharing. The oil is the same that's used for frying the pickles so there's a bit of pickle brininess.  That's a good thing.

The Belgian waffle place is new for this year. I was intrigued by the deep fried biscuits and gravy. 


Sadly they did not bring the fried beer to this show.  As you can see, they've been regulars to the Texas State Fair, although this is their first year at the Houston Rodeo.

I had a difficult time deciding what to get but ultimately decided on the deep fried Sriracha.  It was, after all, the most unusual item on the menu.
 
They were actually quite delicious. A good blend of spicy (but not too spicy) and savory.  I'm not entire sure this was a vegetarian dish, as it appeared there was chicken in the mix. There was also corn and herbs. A bit pricey, but I would order these again.
For dinner I went back to Big Bubba's and got the pulled pork. This was the only disappointment as far as food is concerned for my day at the Rodeo. It was overly sweet. Really, all I could taste was overwhelming SUGAR. The Lovely Spouse had a second bacon wrapped pork belly for dinner.

We also headed to the horse arena to see what was new there. A mule pull was in progress. Growing up we went to the annual mule pull in our small town. It was a chance to show off the strength of the animals.  Also, there's not a lot to do for entertainment in small, rural towns.

A mule pull is a team event. These are very strong animals that you have to line up in an alley (marked with tape on the ground) and get them to pull the sled together as a team. It's hard work.

When they work together it's a thing of beauty. If the team fails to pull the weight, they get a 5 minute rest to try again. 
Other sites from the Rodeo, include camel rides and, of course, shopping. So much shopping.

Camels taking a break in front of the Ford truck area.

An unusual find in the shopping area. 
The Rodeo runs every day through March 20, 2015.  If you go, here area a few insider tips:

1. Get your tickets online and print them out before you go. Tickets are available here and it will be so much easier to get them from a desktop or laptop computer than from a mobile device.

2. If you can, go early and eat breakfast at the Rodeo. There are lots of options, including breakfast tacos, kolaches, and the Belgian waffles mentioned above. If it's a nice day and a weekend it will get crowded fast.

3. If you need to sit and rest for awhile, check out the various ag competitions. They're indoors and air conditioned.

4. If you find the lines for the restrooms in the main exhibit hall to be very long, you have 2 options.  You can either walk through the animal holding areas and use the restrooms on the opposite side of the exhibit hall OR you can go upstairs and use those restrooms.

5. The light rail will be very, very busy.  If you are claustrophobic or have social anxiety, park at the Rodeo.

6. There are a number of different ATMs at the rodeo.  User fees range from around $3-6.  If you don't want to pay this fee, bring cash.  Many of the vendors accept credit and debit cards, but not all of them do.

7. If you wish to drink beer or wine, bring ID.  They card everyone. Some craft beers are available at beer vendors throughout the Rodeo. We found Goliad Dark Hefeweizen and Live Oak Pilsner while we were there. $10.25 for craft beer. I think it was $10 for beers like Bud, Bud Lite, Blue Moon, and Miller.

8. Be nice to the Rodeo staff.  The vast majority of them are volunteers. They're the ones who make sure everything runs smoothly and that the animals don't get out and harm you.