I’ll be headed to The Woodlands next weekend to help judge the final event of 10th annual Houston Wine & Food Week (June 2-8 )—the elaborate Chef’s Showcase—where dozens of chefs compete for a $5,000 cash prize, Waterford crystal, and bragging rights. Not only does this event offer participants the opportunity to learn about wine-and-food pairings and get to know some of the state’s most influential chefs, but an associated auction has funneled more than $675,00 to local charities.
On May 5 at the Koch Theater in New York City, Food Network star Ted Allen presided over a black-tie-clad crowd of chefs, bartenders, food writers, and culinary superstars to announce the winners of the 2014 James Beard Awards for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and education in the United States.
A few years ago, I had the good fortune to attend one of the inaugural “Where the Chefs Eat” culinary tours of Houston (www.houstonculinarytours.com) , which introduced participants to a bevy of eateries that aren’t on the radar of most visitors. We ate cabrito accompanied by live mariachi at El Hidalguense, an unassuming restaurant on Long Point Road; compared barbecue at three sites known for their different styles; explored the foods of Thailand and India until we thought we might burst; then wrapped up with an exploration of the vast ethnic-food aisles at 99 Ranch Market—all accompanied by such nationally regarded chefs as Monica Pope, Hugo Ortega, Randy Evans, and Chris Shepherd, who observed, “I think a lot of people are afraid to get out of their comfort zones. When they do, though, it becomes more than just going out to eat; it becomes an education into another culture.”
Looking ahead to spring, the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, which will take place April 25-27 in Austin’s Butler Park, is gearing up for a full slate of cooking demonstrations, interactive fire pits, live music, and wine-and-cocktail tastings featuring internationally known chefs, sommeliers, and culinary personalities.
The news couldn’t be any timelier. As we’re planning our April issue’s coverage of the red-hot Fredericksburg Wine Road 290, a string of 13 wineries near the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, we received word that the Texas Hill Country was named among the top 10 wine destinations for 2014 in the February issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine, which boasts a readership of more than 800,000. (That’s a lot of wine enthusiasts!) Texas is in very, very, very good company—the other destinations include Greece’s Aegean Islands; Languedoc, France; Sonoma, California; Baden, Germany; and Mendoza, Argentina. In fact, only one other U.S. destination—Walla Walla Washington—made the cut. (You can read the whole story at www.winemag.com.)
Stay tuned for our take of the Hill Country’s grape ways in the April issue. Until then, cheers!
Yes, according to the calendar, it has been â€œofficiallyâ€ fall since September 22, but it sure hasnâ€™t felt like it yet. But somehow, cooler temperatures have arrived just in time to set our clocks back this weekend, meaning thatâ€”among other advantagesâ€”thereâ€™s one extra hour of enjoy evening happy hours! Hereâ€™s a suggestion for those of you in the Bastrop area: Make tracks to the Bastrop Brewhouse, whose multi-level deck overlooks the Colorado River. (Weather reports indicate a low temperature of 52 on Saturday night; thatâ€™s a practically perfect condition for al fresco dining.)
By Lois M. Rodriguez
For the past few years, I've enjoyed the opportunity to be part of Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest's Cooking School. It's hard to explain how much I enjoy sharing a few baking tricks to let others discover their own baking skills, but I do enjoy it." It's fun to open up the inner-chef in people who think they cannot bake.
In the December 2013 issue, weâ€™re running a story on San Antonioâ€™s annual Tamales! Festival, which takes place this year on December 7 at the former Pearl Brewery complex, a 22-acre site that now boasts restaurants, shops, apartments, andâ€”soon!â€”a boutique hotel. With free admission, free parking, and more than 40 vendors offering treats ranging from tamales to kettle corn, Tamales! is a great kick-off to the December holidays. I attended the event last year in preparation for this yearâ€™s story, but firstâ€”to get an idea of the hard work involved in making tamalesâ€”I attended a tamales-making workshop at the Witte Museum hosted by longtime tamales queen Gloria Solis.
Iâ€™m not sure I understand the competition to come up with the next best fried thing, and Iâ€™m not here to judge, but every year, when the State Fair of Texas (Sept. 27â€“Oct. 20) announces its list of fried food offerings, my ears perk up. I am excited to know whatâ€™s being tossed into the vat next.
Recipes:Â Corn dogs, fried coke, funnel cakes and more. Try these fair faves at home.
I know it sounds crazy to drink hot chocolate when the temperature is still regularly above 90 degrees. But on a recent trip to Houston, I couldn't resist the chocolate confection with chocolate made in-house from cocoa beans imported from Oaxaca at Hugo's, which serves its frothy cup with fresh, hot Mexican churros. Look for our story on Hugo's and its terrific hot chocolate in the Drink section of the December issue. Until then, do you know of any other spots in Texas that serve amazing hot chocolate?
Hot Chocolate at Hugo's, with ice cream and churros; Photo by Lori Moffatt
I recently made the short drive from Austin to Elgin, a town about 25 miles east of the city via US 290. Iâ€™d heard about a new wine bar and home dÃ©cor shop on the townâ€™s historic downtown strip, and I realized: While I frequently pass through Elgin on my way to Houston, Iâ€™d never really explored the town except to stop for barbecue at Southside Market or Meyerâ€™s.
Welcome to the Fried Food Capital of Texas! aka the State Fair of Texas. (Photo/State Fair of Texas)
Youâ€™ve heard the phrase, â€œDonâ€™t try this at home.â€ Well, that warning may also apply to these recipes, but each year it's hard to not be overcome with a mix of disgust, amusement and even a curious craving at the fried offerings of the Texas State Fair. For some, it's THE reason to attend year after year.
"What will they fry next!?" Check out the September 2013 issue and also stay tuned later this month for another blog exploring the menu of this year's State Fair, slated for Sept. 27-Oct. 20.
Til then, we've trolled the sources and made some adjustments, but here are a few recipes for some of the more popular State Fair items over the years.
What's your favorite fried State Fair dish? Do you have a similar fried recipe to share? Please do! Weâ€™ll be glad to share more.
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- Â¼ tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- Â¼ tsp. sugar
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 Â¼ cup milk
- Vegetable oil for frying
- About 16 beef hot dogs (2 packs)
- 16 wooden skewers
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add milk and egg to the bowl and whisk well. Insert skewers into hot dogs, then dip into the batter to cover hot dog completely. Cook battered hot dogs in a large pot of vegetable oil until golden brown.
- 2 ounces cream cheese
- 2 sticks butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- Â 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil for frying
Using an electric mixer, cream together butter, cream cheese, salt and pepper (to taste) until smooth. Form small balls of the mixture and arrange on a parchment-paper lined pan, then freeze them. Coat the frozen balls in flour, egg, and then breadcrumbs and freeze again. Fry (oil at 350 degrees) balls for 10 to 15 seconds until just light golden.
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups cola
- Â 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- Powdered sugar
- Cola syrup
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, and then add the cola and sugar. Blend together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to cola mixture until batter is smooth. Fry (oil at 375 degrees) small dough balls for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Dust hot coke balls with powdered sugar. Drizzle with cola syrup.
- Â 1 egg
- Â 2/3 cup milk
- Â 2 tablespoons sugar
- Â 1-1/2 cups flour, sifted
- Â 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Â 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- Â Vegetable oil
- Â Confectioners' sugar
Combine beaten egg and milk. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, salt and baking powder together. Slowly add the egg/milk mixture and beat until smooth. Pour batter into a funnel, using finger to keep tip closed. Hold funnel over hot oil (375 degrees), remove finger and allow batter to drop into oil (about 1/4 cup of batter at a time). Build a circular funnel cake starting from the center moving outward. Turn once, and remove from oil when golden brown. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and serve warm. Additional topping suggestions include cinnamon, strawberries, chocolate sauce, etc.
You can also use the funnel cake batter to make Fried Snickers.
- Â Snickers candy bars
- Â Popsicle sticks
- Â Funnel cake batter (see above)
- Â Oil
Insert popsicle sticks into Snickers bar from the bottom about half way up. Freeze Snickers until frozen solid. Dip frozen Snickers in the funnel cake batter. Fry until golden brown. Top with powdered sugar or caramel sauce if desired.
Fried Twinkies The Twinkie went away in November, but a private equity firm took over the Hostess brand after Hostess filed for bankruptcy. Twinkies are back on shelves. But, just in case, Little Debbie Cloud Cakes are apparently Twinkiesâ€™ twin. I personally, donâ€™t like either.
- 6 Twinkies (frozen)
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Strawberry Sauce (recipe follows)
- 4 cups vegetable oil
- Flour for dusting
Freeze Twinkies for several hours or overnight. Combine milk, vinegar and oil. In a separate mixing bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt. Add wet ingredients into dry mixture and blend until smooth. Dust Twinkie with flour and dip into the batter. Place battered Twinkie into hot oil. Because the Twinkie will float, use a fryer-safe cooking utensil to keep it submerged and cooking evenly. Cook until it reaches a golden brown color.
Dust with powdered sugar. Optional: Strawberry topping.
- Â 1 pint of strawberries
- Â 1/3 cup sugar
Clean and cut strawberries in quarters. Combine strawberries and sugar in a saucepan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.