Namecheap.com
Tastes like chicken

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Sorry I haven’t written in a while; it’s been busy. Lots to tell, so let’s get started!

Ok, foodies, I have big news—Hostess Twinkies return next week! Along with Hostess Cupcakes (upgraded with dark chocolate) as well as a few other of your favorite Hostess goodies. The new Hostess, LLC, is rolling them out as we speak, and they are due to be in stores on Monday the 15th. Can you believe it?

You didn’t buy a bunch of them on eBay, did you? Well, soon you’ll be able to replace them with fresh ones.

Remember the joke about how Twinkies had a shelf life of “forever?” They really didn’t, but the new Hostess company is working on extending the freshness period. Originally, Twinkies had a shelf life of about 30 days. Are you ready for this? They’re going to deliver some of them frozen, so that stores can stamp their own freshness date on them, and extend the freshness date to 45 days, or longer.

Oh, YEAH!!! Just take some into your fallout shelter, and you can stay there a lot longer.

The new company is also going to start investigating different ways to make a Twinkie, including whole wheat , low-calorie, and yes. . .gluten free. That’s what it says in today’s Wall Street Journal. Woo hoo!

Friend of this blog MK says, “so now when the zombie apocalypse comes, you can be gluten free.” What a guy. The new versions of Twinkies may be available as early as later in the year.

Rest assured I’ll be on the case and report back to you on this important development.

In other news, I discovered a new taste to love. Cold-smoked salmon.

Sunday I did some shopping while in town, and I didn’t plan on getting hungry. Oh, well, I did. While in the area of a number of my favorite eateries (and the location of many more), I ended up having lunch at. . .IKEA. Yes, that Swedish bastion of the flat-pack and Allen wrenches, derided by many (and even parodied in season 10 of British comedy show Red Dwarf, an episode called Lemons.) I needed a couple of things and decided to have lunch while I was there in the café on the second floor. It’s simple Swedish (and some American) food, for the most part, and no, I didn’t have the meatballs. (That was only an issue in Europe, anyway.) Normally, I would have the open-faced shrimp sandwich on multi-grain bread. Topped with a hard-boiled egg, a mayo dressing and a sprig of dill, it’s one of my occasional indulgences that I have in IKEA, and occasionally, one of their interesting chocolate desserts.

Until now. Now I’m gluten-free. No bread. No cake. Now what?

I could get that sandwich and eat just the top of it. But, eat the filling without the bread? Well, that’s half the enjoyment of the sandwich. No, I would have to find another thing to eat, maybe the chicken salad. I didn’t make it that far. The gentleman in front of me went smoked salmon and dill dressing, and I decided to be brave and try something new. I got the one next to it, smoked salmon with a pile of lime-marinated tiny-diced veggies, sitting right next to what he picked up. Called Najad Salmon, this is how it was served:

IMG_2062

If you’re not familiar with this kind of thing, it’s a preserved salmon using salt and herbs that’s very thinly sliced crosswise with a flexible thin blade. Honest, I’ve seen Martha Stewart make this kind of thing on one of her early shows, but I’ve never had it before. Just not something that’s part of traditional New Orleans cuisine, you understand. So, I decided to be brave and try something new.

Salmon preserved in this manner is softer than you may be used to. Between the herbs and the salt, it softens the flesh and infuses lots of flavor into it, taking out the “fishy” taste that salmon has when cooked, in the same manner that ceviche does to shrimp. Being from New Orleans, I would have never known what this was without seeing Martha Stewart making it on her show and adding it to one of her many cookbooks. Still, being more familiar with baked/poached/fried salmon and the stuff in a can, this kind of thing just isn’t something that would normally cross my path were it not for Houston being such a diverse and international city. With an IKEA cafe’ right in the middle.

So, you likely have at least once in your life asked someone, what does (whatever they were eating) taste like? You may have heard the old yarn, “Tastes just like chicken.” (In some cases, the individual may have a sarcastic streak.) Well, this cold-smoked doesn’t taste like chicken. . .but it does taste like thinly sliced deli ham. No kidding, that’s what it tasted like to me. Ham, sliced. Go figure. It was salty, a bit sticky and quite delicious.

Guess what? It’s my new gluten free favorite at IKEA! (I hope.)

I did try to roll up the salmon, burrito-style, around the tiny diced veggies and eat it that way. Nothin’ doin’, the salmon was too soft. Ended up being like scrambled eggs at that point, but it was very tasty. Of course, if I had a tortilla, it might have worked, but it wouldn’t have been gluten-free, either.

According to the nutrition information on IKEA’s website, it has less than 300 calories. Not bad!

I added a side salad from the salad bar, which consists of iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, croutons and sliced black olives. Added a bit of olive oil and what looked like balsamic vinegar and I was in business. Skipped dessert this time, and went on with my afternoon.

After I’d paid for the other things I went in for, I headed over to Trader Joe’s, where I proceeded to have another DUH moment while looking for almond flour. It’s considerably less expensive there, so I bought extra. I went to where I thought I picked it up last time, where all the bagged nuts are, and just could not find it. Looked around where I was standing, too—nothing. So I asked someone. . .and it was right where I was standing earlier, at knee level on me.

DUH!

Maybe I should have stayed home. Well, at least I have more almond flour to make some delicious Wheat Belly Biscuits with. Sometime.

Now and again, it’s good to take a chance and find something new. You might even find a new favorite.

Don’t forget:

THE TWINKIES ARE COMING!! THE TWINKIES ARE COMING!!! GET READY!!!

Happy Dining!

Meeting an old friend again

Hello, Dear Readers:

Well, it’s the holiday season and, honestly, I haven’t had much foodie adventure since The Tuscan Turkey got turned into soup a few weeks ago. But it’s OK, everyone loved it, and I just have some cut up Tuscan turkey meat left in the freezer. Well, OK, enough to keep me happy for a while, and make The Soup of Enlightenment if I really want to, but I don’t, since I had it at Thanksgiving, skipping over the big meal to that part.

I will tell you that I was just in Cost Plus World Market, using a $10 coupon to get stocked up on the fantastic Typhoo Decaf Tea from the UK and got me some microwavable steamed puddings–the real British stuff, produced in New Zealand. Really. I guess the Brits like it, but I never asked–but I’m having steamed pudding for Christmas!! (I’ll let you know.) Convenient, and just a little bit, enough to try it once. If I wanted to, I could use Nigella Lawson’s recipes out of her Christmas book, but really, I’m giving myself the gift of peace and quiet this year, and lots of sewing. Not to mention the Doctor Who Christmas Special on Tuesday thanks to a very nice neighbor who is out of town. I did offer to do a carpet cleaning for her while she was out, but she declined. Maybe I’ll just clean her windows before she gets home.

BTW, if you join their World Market Explorer program, you get those $10 off $30 purchase coupons regularly, including one for your birthday.

Oh, and while I was there, nibbling on the sample cookies, I talked to a lady who was going to get ingredients for a cranberry sauce. One of Paula Deen’s recipes from FoodNetwork.com. I love you, Paula, but fifteen ingredients, including Grand Marnier! I was shocked when I read that. She didn’t know what Grand Marnier was, either. I told her that she would have to get it at a liquor store, which are closed on Sunday in Texas, and that it would probably run $35 or $40 a bottle. She had no idea. . .so I told her to forget this one and go look up the recipe for my favorite Cranberry Ginger Relish and make that. Four ingredients, fifteen minutes, and make it three days in advance. Easy, and it’s sweet and warm at the same time.  “Can I get all the ingredients at Kroger?” she asked. Absolutely, including sherry vinegar. It sidles up to you all nice and sweet, then POW! Hits you right in the kisser. Everybody loves it, including me, and I always get requests for the recipe when I make it.

Now I want some, too.

Rest assured that some kind of diet will commence after January 1, and I will ease my way into it over the next week. Might go to a potluck next Saturday, we’ll see, and I’ll bring something good, if I go. Exercise too, Pilates is my preference, with some yoga thrown in for good measure, since walking will be impossible soon. More on that later.

So anyway. . . .

Last week I had my third interview in a different department at a major medical center here in Houston. I’m not going to say which one, but it’s big, well known, and they have great benefits. The interview started about 3:20 pm, and I left the facility at 5:30 pm, escorted by a Texas Medical Center (TMC) police officer. (I rode in the FRONT seat, OK?)  I was lost, and he offered. . .hey, I can trust a guy with a pistol on his hip!  Especially since I had on my suit and a crisp white collared shirt, not to mention sky-high heels. No t-shirt and jeans on this day–I needed to look sharp, and I did.

I believe I will be hired on soon, which means bus rides and walking around a lot. No way I’m driving to work every day.

My TMC copper got me back to the building where my vehicle was, and I checked out–at nearly 6:00 pm! I was very HUNGRY at this point, and decided to get a bite in town since it was high traffic and driving home was a bit of a nightmare. It was also the Friday before Christmas, and everyone is not only getting off work but heading to shop. (Bay Area Boulevard was a parking lot at 1:30 pm.)

As I drove up Holcombe towards Buffalo Speedway, I was trying to remember where I could find a good dinner around there. Hmmm. . .Burger King. No. Some kind of wing shop–no. Taco Bell (which required a left U-turn in heavy traffic)–bookmark for later. Spec’s Liquor Warehouse–no. Some little sushi place–absolutely not. I knew I could get to Rice Village if I turned right on Kirby, but having been there a week before and had much trouble parking, I kept driving.

Then I remembered a little place that used to be there when I worked for Baylor all those years ago. Would it still be there? I started thinking. . .it was by a grocery store, but which one? I knew it was on the left. . .I saw Rice Epicurean Market, but no little place. I kept going, and saw the Randall’s Flagship about a mile or so up the road, along with a Barnes & Noble in the same strip mall. Then my eyes saw what I was seeking–their name on the marquee. It was still there, after all these years, in a city where permanence is fleeting. It was a sight for sore eyes that day.

Prayers get answered one at a time. Gifts do not always come in a box wrapped in paper and ribbon. Trust me on that.

This little place is called Yapa Kitchen-Fresh Take Away. When I worked at Baylor, we used Yapa’s catering for our activities, and everyone loved the sandwiches and lunch boxes they brought us. There was one occasion that for some reason, we had to use a different catering company. (I think someone higher up told us to.) We were very disappointed and made sure we called Yapa after that.

Once in a while I’d go get a sandwich over there if I was driving around or running office errands. Their sandwiches were delicious, unbelievable cookies, and great chef-prepared food in the case. The store is actually quite small, and hasn’t changed since the last time I was there–maybe 2001?  I held the wheel tightly and kept thinking about what I could vagely remember from my days working in the VA Hospital (as a Baylor employee.)

It came flooding back when I walked in the front door. It was pretty much the same as I remember it. Some of the cookbooks look old now.

I gazed in the case and saw all kinds of delicious things. I was thinking about a crab cake, since it wasn’t too expensive (not ready for $25 a pound pepper crusted tenderloin yet, but will celebrate when I get my new job.) I asked if there was anything else to look at. “Well,” the young bloke said, “we have a few sandwiches over here.”  There were four. I saw two chicken salad sandwiches, one turkey with cranberry, and a roast beef.

THAT’S WHAT I WANT.

I grabbed the last roast beef, and asked about dessert. They still had that little case on the side, and I remembered having their delicious creme brulee once. But their cookies were in big jars on the counter, and I got a chocolate chip and a white chocolate/macadamia nut cookie. He asked me if I’d like some horseradish sauce; I declined. There was some already on the sandwich, and it was just enough and just perfect.

That, dear readers, is what hit the spot and scratched the itch on Friday, December 21st at about 6:15 in the evening.

The sandwich, on a really great whole-grain bread, was just as good as I remembered it. Ditto the cookies. Next time I get two of those slightly soft and chunky white chocolate/macadamia nut cookies. Both were good, but I liked that one better.

To the observer (or the guys working the counter that night), it was just a sandwich and cookies to have while I sat at a table and flipped through my magazine. To me, it was like finding an old friend again. No, I didn’t go in all the time when I was there, just once in a while, and it was a nice little refuge, even though they were quite busy during the day. The food was good, the people were nice, and it was just up the street. You can get a delicious lunch or dinner to eat in or take home with you.  I once bought three of their cookies and brought them to someone in the hospital, because I knew they were the best to be had that day, plus they were on the way to the hospital.

And it’s still like that. For this, I was, and am, very grateful.

Yapa is quite a distance for me to go now, since I’ve been in the suburbs since 2002, I’m in town about once or twice a month, and to be honest, I don’t go into TMC unless I have to, as I have for the past 3 Fridays. Should I find myself working back at TMC, I might have the opportunity to visit more often; we’ll see.

If you’re in Houston and find yourself in the Medical Center area for whatever reason, consider having lunch at Yapa; their menus are online, so see what they have and find what you like before you get there. They are located at the corner of Holcombe and Buffalo Speedway in the little building close to the corner. The address is 3173 W Holcombe Boulevard (77025) and you can call them at 713-664-9272.

Warning: While Yapa is a little place worth visiting, it’s not in the big building with Randall’s. Yapa is in the small one-off building in the parking lot. You know the type of building I mean, an auxiliary building. You can see it here–Yapa is in that building on the right, close to the big building.

Thanks for still being there, and feeding this hungry feline when she really needed it.

Happy dining!

Sweet Tomatoes (restaurant review)

Well, now that we’re over the turkey/stuffing/cranberry coma of last week, time to get ready for the next big eating holiday–Christmas. I’m going to try to steer clear of as much of the bad stuff as I can, but have a little bit and enjoy some, too.

Those of you who know me in person know that while I can appreciate fine, upscale dining, it’s not something we do every day. But when I do eat out, I want to eat something good, no matter where it is. Plus, I absolutely LOVE salad.

Not *all* restaurant reviews have to be high-dollar, pinky-in-the-air establishments, now do they?

Yesterday I headed to my doctor in The Woodlands, TX, a 50-mile drive from my front door. Long story as to why I see a doctor up there, but rest assured the drive and the expense are totally worth it. As I frequently do when I head to The Woodlands, whether to see the good doctor or to a concert at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion, I make it a point to try and have a meal at Sweet Tomatoes, which is in the Woodlands Mall parking lot.

If there’s a Sweet Tomatoes nearby, and you’ve never been in it, you don’t know what you’re missing. Of course, you should really *like* salad if you go there. Not that they don’t have cooked food, because they do, but. . .it’s a wonderful salad assortment.

There are four locations in the Houston area, none of which are near me. With my luck, one will appear the minute I move to The Woodlands and they’ll close The Woodlands’ location in order to open up one in my current ‘hood. But no danger of me moving anytime soon.

So what’s the big deal about a soup & salad place?

It’s not like a plain old salad bar–in addition to freshly cut vegetables, beans, cooked pastas, chopped eggs, shredded cheese, different accoutrements and variant salad dressings, they also have seven different freshly made soups daily, baked things like focaccia, pizza, cornbread and biscuits, and a few nice baked desserts. There was also some sugar-free chocolate mousse, which I passed on, as I’ll explain in a minute.

Warning: the brownies and muffins are SQUARE. I dunno why, they just use a square muffin pan. I don’t ask why. Don’t be alarmed. If this concerns you, there is soft-serve yogurt in vanilla and chocolate, cone optional.

Just because I could, and there were some cracker-sized pieces, I had a couple of pieces of the focaccia and one little piece of the pizza. DELISH, especially when I dipped the focaccia in the Italian Minestrone Soup. I only had a little of that, too.

Something odd I just noticed on the online menu: their delicious chili is “Not in Texas.” Wondered why they didn’t have any yesterday. That’s interesting–they usually have some incarnation of either beef or turkey chili when I go, but I guess because nobody bought it or folks complained about the beans. I agree–no beans belong in a true chili. But it’s good, or it was the last time I had it.

They have some featured tossed salads every month, and yesterday it was a tasty apple and walnut concoction with dried cranberries. A regular favorite is Joan’s Broccoli Madness, which is cooked broccoli with some delicious dressing, raisins, dried cranberries and a little garlic. FABULOUS, and I make sure I have some every time I go.

And that’s why I passed on dessert yesterday. Who needs chocolate and/or cranberry muffins when there are apples and walnuts and raisins and dried cranberries in your salad?

A couple of years ago I went to see Chicago at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion, and stopped in for some food before the concert at that same place. It was June, when Chicago seems to make it to Houston. It was the most incredible salad ever. I even called my brother to tell him about it. Why?

They put CHERRIES in my salad. YEAH!

The “salad du jour”, the month’s feature salad, much like the apple-walnut-cranberry number they had yesterday, had CHERRIES mixed in with the spinach and lettuce. I think there were walnuts or almonds involved, too.

I love cherries. It was SOOO GOOD. You don’t expect to bite into fresh cherries while eating salad, but it’s great when you do. I hope they bring it back in the summer so I can have it again. If I go up to The Woodlands. Or one of the other locations.

They always have something called “Wonton Chicken Salad,” which I don’t mess with because of the fried wontons; don’t know what’s in those. But on the online menu, it says, “Vegetarian in Tucson, AZ.”

Huh?

Someone explain to me how a chicken salad can be made vegetarian. I didn’t ask while I was there, I was too busy with the roasted garlic dressing and the sunflower seeds sprinkled over the top of the dressing. (That’s fantastic, BTW.)

The design of the Sweet Tomatoes restaurant is clean, with subtle colors, and a carpet patterned with. . .tomatoes. No kidding. I didn’t think to take pictures, but their carpet has a tomato print. Well, what do you expect, plain Berber?

The dining area is simple, with tables and booths and open areas where the food is. (The Woodlands’ location seems to have lots of employees buzzing  around and picking up used dishes when you’re not looking. Then again, it wasn’t crowded when I went, either.)  Clean dishes and utensils are stacked everywhere, so you never have to go looking for them. In addition to soft drinks (and my favorite–water) they also have coffee. I’ve never gotten around to actually having their coffee because I’m too interested in the salad bar, or a bit from the bakery.

Really, if you have one nearby, and enjoy the soup and salad thing, go have some. It’s fresh, it’s tasty, and all those veggies are good for you, you know. Eat what you know, and maybe try something new on a small plate. At Sweet Tomatoes, it’s all good (at least, every time I’ve ever been there.)

Happy Dining!

Boheme Bistro, Delray Beach, FL

Last week I was in Delray Beach, Florida, where I’ve been twice before for the annual Copywriters Bootcamp sponsored by American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI) While the food is always wonderful, there was one occasion where I left to find some.

You see, it was my birthday, and after one of the presentations, everyone scattered. I decided I would have a great lunch and some great dessert. (Boy, did I.)  I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning. . . .

On prior trips out of the conference, I walked past Boheme Bistro a few times, but kept going because I thought it might be too expensive. During the first two trips, I was on a company expense account. Anything unusual could be considered fraudulent, or at least raise an eyebrow. Since my manager was so nice to send me, I made absolutely certain that there was nothing unusual about my credit card receipts.

The conference started at 1:00 pm Wednesday with a luncheon, so that morning, I decided I’d do my souvenir shopping. (You just can’t go wrong with a) coffee cups, b) T-shirts, and c) fridge magnets. I love them all.) Great little walk up and down Atlantic Avenue, but about 11:00 am, I started getting hungry. REALLY hungry. I went into a hotel about six blocks from the beach and was curtly told by someone at 11:10 am in the snack bar that breakfast was over promptly at 11:00 am. I said, just as curtly, “Thank you” and walked out.

I went past the Boheme, thinking they would tell me the same thing, but turned around when I saw a bakery sign. I asked the lady about breakfast, and she invited me in. (It was now about 11:15.) I didn’t want to look at a menu, take a table, I really just wanted some food. (At this point, I almost didn’t care what it cost, since it was my own credit card being used.)  She suggested what they call “Grandmother’s Style Eggs.” I said, “OK.” I had a seat at the bar and they brought me a glass of water.  I waited patiently. A little longer than fast food, but not very long. You can’t rush these things.

What they brought was the kind of picture-perfect dish you see in magazines–which I forgot to take a picture of, because I was THAT hungry.  In addition to three scrambled eggs with chopped tomatoes and onions, there were what they call “home potatoes.” I normally don’t eat potatoes, (high in starch) but I couldn’t resist these. I would ignore chocolate for these potatoes. Red (aka “new”) potatoes, perfectly cut into a very large dice, and fried up with the crispiest outsides ever. They offered me ketchup, but I declined. It would have ruined these potatoes. All they needed was salt.

Trust me when I tell you I was the happiest cat in the kingdom at this point. I finished off this delicious creation and paid my tab. I wanted to go back to the Boheme before I left Delray Beach, and on Friday, I got my chance.

Friday, October 26th. My birthday. Everyone sort of scattered after the session I was in ended, so I went off on my own to the Boheme. Why? Partly because I knew they wouldn’t do that embarrassing birthday thing they do in chain restaurants. I hate that.

Like a lot of people, I enjoy Italian food, but I don’t eat much in the way of pasta. I used to. But now I save it for special occasions, like dinner at someone’s house, or. . .my birthday. I love tortellini, and prefer to have it on my birthday. Most restaurants have ravioli, but no tortellini, so that’s what I had at Boheme. It was, of course, delicious. Take a look:

Oh so good. . .

Happy Birthday. . .to me!!

I know I shouldn’t have–I really shouldn’t have–but I asked about dessert. Since it was so early in the day, all the desserts were in a small fridge case in the back. So I looked at all of them (from a distance) and decided to have that chocolate mousse-y thing. The nice waitress had to take the plastic off the sides.

But for my birthday, in a wonderful place to be, I thought it was appropriate:

When you can't have a regular birthday cake, this fits the bill perfectly.

Yes, it was delicious. No, I did not share. Yes, I ate the whole thing. No, I did not lick the plate (but was greatly tempted.) Yes, it was worth the calories. The little whipped cream stars were a nice touch.

The place is a comfortable, rustic building, with indoor and outdoor seating, and a nice big bar, complete with a huge selection of wines and liquors. (No, not at 11:30 am.) It’s comfortable, with a friendly staff who will tell you anything you want to know. The kind of place you wander into like I did for a bite to eat and maybe a drink.

Highly recommended, and I can’t wait to go back. Thanks!!!

You can find more about Boheme Bistro at their website, http://bohemebistro.com/

Skip to toolbar