Monthly Archives: July 2014

Cupcakes for Breakfast. Is That So Wrong?

(Update: Unfortunately, this bakery is permanently closed.)

It’s mid-morning, and I’m on my way back from dropping my daughter at day camp. On one side of the road, cows graze in an open field, on the other a large banner ruffles in the breeze. Its bold red lettering has been working on me each day, all summer long, planting a suggestion in my mind: How about a cupcake this morning?

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Today I am giving in. My son’s birthday is coming up, so “taste testing” is the perfect excuse to stop by. I ease into a parking spot right up front. The Cupcake Cowgirls is located in a small strip center and office park that sits on a less developed stretch of Kuykendahl Road, a little rural oasis between Spring and The Woodlands, Texas.

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Farewell to Strack Farms: Restaurant was Klein, TX Landmark


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Strack Farms Restaurant passed into memory last month, a Klein, Texas cafe and barbecue joint which came into being three generations ago when the family began selling barbecue sandwiches out of its country store adjacent to the Strack vegetable farm.

The restaurant served for many years as one of the dwindling connections to the history of the Klein community. It was a popular eating spot for longtime residents, local firefighters, sheriff’s officers, civic clubs and school groups. It was a venue for many anniversaries, wedding showers and reunions. The Houston Chronicle reported that in its last days, the place was packed with loyal patrons as news of the impending closure spread–like family gathering around an old grandfather for one last goodbye.

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Summer Salads, Creole Style, Courtesy of Chef Johnny Schulze

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The summer doldrums of late July have hit–I can’t stand the heat, and I want to get out of the kitchen! You would think with the extra hours of daylight in the evenings, I would be inspired to dive into some of those really involved recipes that are waiting for me in my recipe file. (No, I still have not switched over to the “cloud.”) Maybe it’s because the kids don’t have a set schedule, or maybe it’s just the heat and humidity working on me. But like a lot of people, I turn to lighter, faster, simpler fare–grilled meats, grilled fish and fun, creative salads.

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Allo, Sunshine!

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11:15 a.m. on a bright summer Tuesday morning. The Texas heat was already claiming victory as my friend and I slipped inside the doorway of Allo French Rotisserie, a new bistro in the Vintage Park shopping center, Louetta Road at Highway 249, just northwest of Houston.

Vintage Park is an interesting phenomenon, one of those large, rambling shopping centers that is meant to resemble a Tuscan village. It’s part of a whopping 630-acre tract of land purchased from Hewlett-Packard in 2004/2005 and transformed into an upscale residential and mixed-use retail development known as The Vintage. The shopping center was completed in 2007, just in time to receive a punch in the stomach from the Great Recession. With only a fraction of its total square footage leased, the center limped along for a few years without significant growth. Whispers of a Nordstrom’s and other “star” anchor tenants came and went. But gradually, like the temperature on a Houston summer day, things at Vintage Park have heated up. Instead of big name tenants carrying the load, the center is now filled with local and Texas-owned shops and restaurants that are making their own buzz.

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The Zydeco Chef Dines at Houston’s Peli Peli

So where do you take a chef for dinner? Ohio chef Johnny Schulze of gourmet food truck Zydeco Bistro made his way to Texas with his family last week for a little R&R and to get a taste of Houston’s booming restaurant scene. (Note:  Johnny is married to my sister.)

Chef Johnny grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and did his culinary training in New Orleans, where he also worked under Andrea Apuzzo, whose Metairie restaurant, Andrea’s, is an institution in the greater New Orleans area.  Johnny’s latest project is The Bourbon Street Barrel Room, a gastropub in Cleveland’s historic and hip Tremont neighborhood.

Since Chef Johnny’s expertise is Cajun/Creole and Italian cooking, he would rather dine outside of his professional milieu–the more unusual the better. After several brainstorming sessions, we hit upon something that Johnny had never tried–South African cuisine!! So on a rainy Thursday evening we headed out for our reservation at Peli Peli.

Peli Peli may be the only South African restaurant in Texas, and it is one of only a handful in the whole United States. Executive chef and co-owner Paul Friedman characterizes his menu as South African fusion, reflecting the contributions of the country’s diverse mix of people and cultures, from indigenous tribes to Portuguese, Dutch, Indo-Asian, British, French, Italian and Greek influences.

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A Texas Smokehouse Fourth of July

The north shore of Lake Travis, not far from Austin, Texas, is a great place to spend a summer holiday. And getting there from Houston is half the fun. The trip along Highway 290 West takes you through the ruggedly scenic, rural hill country of central Texas. Best of all, this part of the state is legendary for its smoked meats and sausage.

Starting in the mid 1800s, Germans and Czechs made their way to Texas, bringing with them their traditions for sausage-making and smoking meats. With no refrigeration to preserve fresh meats, general stores and meat markets smoked their leftovers or made them into sausage to sell to customers. Farm and ranch hands would buy sundry items along with their lunch, which was served on butcher paper–no sauce, no utensils. You might need to use your pocket knife to cut your meat and sausage into smaller portions. You might eat it on a piece of sliced bread or with a few crackers that accompanied your purchase.

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Our group made a Fourth of July lunch stop in Elgin, the official sausage capital of Texas, where we ate at Meyer’s. Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse is the offspring of Meyer’s Sausage Company, whose inception dates back to the 1930’s when Rudolph Meyer began selling homemade sausage out of his grocery store in Elgin.

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