Thursday, January 29, 2009

Student seeks Brisket Room memories
Stephen Roberts has a culinary request for his senior project at Art Institute of Houston’s culinary program.
“Part of the degree is completion of a Capstone, which in essence is a business plan of a restaurant designed from the ground up. The idea for my restaurant is one in Port Arthur that went out of business years ago. My Capstone would be to “resurrect” that restaurant in the Houston area,” he writes. “I have many fond memories of the Brisket Room which was located at the corner of Lewis and Jefferson Drive.”
He hopes readers can furnish him with menus, articles, photos, etc. The 1994 Thomas Jefferson graduate can be reached at: 4818 Mountain Timber Drive, Friendswood, Texas, 77546

Cricchio’s world a spicy one
I had the honor to interview photographer Frank Cricchio about his Saturday workshop at Texas Artists Museum. He’s famous, skilled and friendly, and let me snip a bit from his rosemary bush to root.
He said cooking is his hobby and he loves his grandmother’s old Italian recipes for stuffed artichoke, meatballs and breaded Italian green beans.
Cricchio said he designed the garage apartment he calls home when he was a teen and can’t bear to leave the homestead. I love that his studio is his living room, with his mother’s Louis XIV furniture. His love of preparing food spills over in there, because the bookshelf is filled with cookwear in addition to photography books.
The Texas Artists Museum Masters Workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the museum, 3501 Cultural Center Drive. The class is $125. For more information, call 983-4881 or visit

Larry’s to host Hall of Fame warm-up show
Promoter Don Ball says swamp pop and Janis Joplin fans can get two nights of music. He said Larry’s French Market will host many of the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame Show performers a night early.
“The show Friday night at Larry’s will be a mini concert and a taste of what to expect Saturday night at the civic center,” Ball said.
The Beat Daddys, Amby Martin and Eazy with Dave Shaw will warm up from, 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6 at Larry’s, 3701 FM 366 in Groves.
Jerry LaCroix and The Fabulous Boogie Kings will be part of the Saturday, Feb. 7, show at the Port Arthur Civic Center. Tickets are $25 in advance from A&S Music Mid-County, Swicegood Music, Penny Record, Civic Center box office. Tickets will be $30 at the door. Children 12 and younger may get in for free.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Soak instead of cook? Author says less cooking equals more healthy

When Yuri Elkaim serves noodles, it is actually zucchini, cucumber or sweet potato stripped into noodle shapes. He soaks, rather than cooks brown rice and advocates raw foods in “Eating for Energy: Transforming Your Life Through Living Plant-Based Whole Foods. The author advocates beginning each day with gratitude and breathing exercises. There are recipes and methods and, I also learned that avocado means “testicle tree” in ancient Aztec dialect. I won’t soon get that out of my head. Here’s a quick recipe that your family may not realize is very healthy:

Sunset pudding
Serves 2 to 3
2 bananas
1 mango, skinned and stoned
10 strawberries
1 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 dates, pitted and chopped (optional, because this is a very sweet pudding)
Put everything in a food processor and blend until it looks like a pudding.

What’s up, doc?
Carrot cake was my birthday pick for several years. The tradition netted the story about the year my sister forgot to put eggs in there and I got a hard, carrot Frisbee. My January birthday season was filled with the new Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Decadent Carrot Cake. Somehow I ended up with three in my pantry, including one from my mother’s house. She said if my daughter made it, we could keep half. Yesssss!
There’s a pouch of real carrots and raisins that you plump up with water. This really makes a delicious difference. It was spicy and moist and attractive. The can of cream cheese frosting was literally, the icing on the cake.

It’s not candy
Makers of KickBrix Energy Chews sent a sample and asked me to stress this stuff is not candy. It’s a chew with less caffeine than a small Starbucks coffee, but apparently just the ticket for the energy you need on a long drive or while studying for a big test. To me, the vitamin B-12, ginseng, and taurine, with zero sugar and 25 calories, reminds me of the good kind of cough syrup. They come in Citrus Blast and Berry Blast with a “menthol boost.” This energy is designed to appear in 5 minutes, not 30 minutes, like after an energy drink, makers say.
I give them a thumbs-up. I hate those drinks, but a chew made our weekly staff meeting quite tolerable. I managed to get one other staffer to try KickBrix and he also gave it thumbs up, especially for the menthol.

Green cat’s eyes watch from the Lucid Absinthe Superieure bottle. Makers promoted this historically accurate concoction of grande wormwood, anise and sweet fennel from France for Halloween. It has a spooky history that is just as fitting for our Mardi Gras season. I’d be happy to have a glass in old New Orleans. I tried it at home, dissolving a sugar cube through my grandmother’s silver pie server, and watched Johnny Depp try absinthe old-school style in the movie “From Hell.” I’d always been fascinated by this mysterious concoction. It’ll tell you now, it’s like a strong glass of glowing, green licorice. It certainly is a conversation starter.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Talk dirty to me: Estate Lady beats clutter
Julie Hall, known as The Estate Lady, knows how to tackle those big, sentimental, potentially libelous messes parents leave behind when they die or downsize. Her book, “The Boomer Burden: Dealing with Your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff” offers tips on weeding the money-making antiques from the Cool Whip containers.
Parents, children and siblings should all read this book. She’s got crazy anecdotes of mean relatives, those who didn’t know what they had and loved ones who get taken advantage of in horrible ways. Here’s just a quick list of where those parents, who may not have trusted banks, may have stashed valuables:
Places to find hidden treasures
• Clothing and shoes — Check under insoles, in pockets, wrapped in undies and in bra cups.
• Drapery hems — A favorite for jewelry and coins.
• Canister sets — Under the flour and sugar.
• Books — Paper money between the pages.
• Toilet tank — Another place for jewelry.
• Duct tape — Money or jewelry wrapped in a tight ball.
• Picture frames — Behind the mat.
• Attic rafters — Look for coins, jewelry, etc.

Earbud Yo-Yo
Rarely has a little piece of plastic brought me so much joy. A woman going by the title Julie Barkley the Inventress has introduced Yo-Yo, stylish squares for you to wind up you iPod cord and keep it detangled. Through Houston-based Covington Creations, she says she’s bringing sanity and fashion to music lovers. I’ve got a green one with purple swirls and dots and it really, really works. Her son’s toy box inspired her. You go, Inventress girl.

Water works
I saw a “CSI” where, basically, the water was the culprit because there was so much pharmaceutical compound in the tap water. PUR’s Water Filtration System allows families to filter more than 99 percent of that from American tap water, makers say. An electronic filter change light and slim oval pitcher make it easy to have a cold drink of water at the ready. Sorry to say, I had a honking-big pitcher years ago but I decided I needed the space more than the benefits. Just read the box of this product and you may actually be grossed into buying it. Makers claim it is the only pitcher to remove 99.9 percent microbial cysts. The water tastes great and we could all drink more water every day.
Coconut shell is in a patented micro-filtration system that seems a mini miracle in my water bottle. Wellness also puts bakuhan, the only stone certified by the Japanese Ministry of Health for its natural medicinal qualities, in there to help accelerate healing of damaged skin and reduce inflammation. Think you’re done? There’s taicho stone, resistant to bacterial and fungal growth and believed to have stopped a bacterial outbreak in water cisterns in 850 AD. Wait for it: a ceramic layer generates reduced ions and adds an antioxidant effect. Magnetite and magnets drop surface tension and improve hydration.
It’s good stuff and good for you. I do have to say it all makes the refillable bottle a little heavy, so that’s why there’s a nifty holder and strap for your walk.
Visit to learn how to take one of these to show and tell.

For Mardi Gras
You may have heard me sample Three Olives Espresso. I’m sure the “yummy” noise I made echoed to other neighborhoods. I was happy to share news of Three Olives vodka’s root beer flavor. Triple Shot Espresso has a boost of caffeine and amazing flavor. I considered it an odd combo, then I remember hearing my later mother-in-law hosted kahlua-making parties, and you make that with vodka and coffee. This English Three Olives company’s product rivaled kahlua I bought on the streets of Mexico. They offer recipes, such as a martini with coconut rum and amaretto. It’s one of those things you can try if you have any left over from trying it over ice or ice cream. Here’s another recipe:

White Mochatini
1 ounce Three Olives Triple Espresso
1 ounce premium white chocolate liquor
1 ounce half and half
Shake with ice and strain into martini glass; garnish with three espresso beans.

Tequila trick
I may have to quit teasing my husband for mixing high-quality alcohol with diet drinks. If he sees this notice in my column, I’ll make good on it.
Imagine my surprise when reading up on Don Julia Reposado, distilled since 1942 with agave cooked in masonry ovens, I caught a recipe that used ginger ale. Well. I’ll consider that. I made up something almost as easy: Don Julio with frozen fruit. Thank’s Don, for the memories. Love the square bottle, too.

Morning Breeze
1 part of Tequila Don Julio Reposado
Ginger ale to preferred taste.
Pour into chilled high ball glass filled with ice cubes. Stir and garnish with a lime piece.

The Two-Point Conversion
1 1/2 ounces Tequila Don Julio Blanco
2 ounces tonic water
1 lime wedge
Pour Don Julio Blanco over ice in a highball glass.Top off with tonic water. Garnish with lime wedge.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Amby Martin gives Joplin report
The blonde from Nederland High will become the rock legend from Port Arthur when Amby Martin makes an encore performance as Janis Joplin at the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame.
“I’ve been working my chops in New York City,” the actress/singer said in a voice mail at my machine.
The show is set for Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Port Arthur Civic Center.
Promoter Don Ball says people call him asking about the Janis Joplin Birthday Bash, but after years under that name, the show has become the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame Show.

‘Gems to Enjoy’
Area and celebrity cooks have contributed recipes to “Gems to Enjoy,” an Alter’s Gem Jewelry cookbook to benefit the American Red Cross.
Contributors include Jimmy Carter, Barbara Bush, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Mario Batali, Kate Bosworth, Jeff Foxworthy, Rob Reiner and Sybil and David Yurman. More than 20 U.S. governors have already contributed recipes for the second edition, according to Devon Alter.

Book buys
Carol Boettcher, publicity chair for the Friends of the Port Arthur Library Book Sale, has been helping sort books for the upcoming sale set for Feb. 5-7. She said she has unearthed a variety of treasures. Besides the usual fare of books this sale will include lots of children’s videos and CDs.
This sale includes no library discards, so all books are gently used patron donations.
“Best of all, the donations keep coming,” she said.
Call her at 984-6453.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Coworker is “tamale fiend”
I was back on salads for lunch when reporter David Ball came up and said he’d heard good things about the Tamale King in Nederland and he had to go there for lunch. He said he’d bring me one back for me, and even asked to make sure if I’d eat it. I delayed my after-dinner mint when I saw him arrive.
I found him in the break room by a pile of empty corn husks. They really were good, he said, and I asked for mine. He said he couldn’t control himself and would have to “owe me one.”
I hadn’t even wanted one until he started talking about it.
Then David comes up and asked if he made my column for the week. I told him I ought to write up how he promised a food lover some food and didn’t deliver.
I wasn’t really going to, until writer Sherry Koonce heard the story and proclaimed that David wasn’t the Tamale King. He was the “Tamale Fiend.”
This is all the more ironic because he came to my house for new year’s, and I served him a prized bean tamale homemade by my cousin’s inlaws for Christmas and hauled all the way from Houston. He took a bite and left the rest on the plate. Turns out picky David doesn’t eat beans. Good thing I served him the biggest one.

Do some Dove
New Dove Desserts Bananas Foster comes in a yellow-gold wrapper that puts me in the mind of Mardi Gras. New Orleans, after all, is the home of Bananas Foster.
Dove offers a lot of gourmet chocolate quality for the money. I’m satisfied with one small dark chocolate candy after lunch. I hope my office mates don’t realize I have a stash. Santa left three new Dove bars in our stockings and I can’t decide which is my favorite. Cranberry almond mixes crunchy and tart with dark chocolate; roasted hazelnut is rich and blueberry almond is adventurous.
Look for smooth milk chocolate hearts with almonds for Valentine’s Day and … you can personalize Dove chocolates with your own message.

Flat Belly for real
A bright yellow book from editors of Prevention Magazine is called “Flat Belly Diet” and seems to make the sort of outrageous claims diet scammers seek, such as “lose up to 15 pounds in 32 days.” The difference is that Prevention is a well-respected publication and authors Liz Vaccariello and Cynthia Sass just want you to eat right.
You really should get fit eating basic balsamic flank steak and steamed salmon with snow peas. This book is about common sense good eating, spacing meals, including healthy oils and getting exercise. Personal profiles with amazing before and after pics, recipes and fitness plans put it all together in an easy-to-read format.
Bake up “guilt-free fries with russets sprinkled with chili powder and jazz up that oatmeal with chocolate chips, vanilla extract or berries.

Don’t loose your broom
Fiber acts like a broom, sweeping away toxins. Don’t loose your broom; use it daily, Kathleen Beisel writes in “Eat Your Way to Natural Good Health.” Comfort foods high in fats aren’t comforting at all when you add up the health problems they cause. Also, do not make friends with stress. Watch it at a distance, she writes. Beisel includes a list of foods to avoid or seek to protect from myriad conditions.

Sorry, you have to move it
A couple of medical professionals have written a graphic-crazy book promoting the “simple truth” of achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. I daresay, you already know it: consume fewer calories than you expend to lose weight. It’s that easy, and that hard.
“Move It. Lose It. Live Healthy” is full of tips like these for alternative snacks:
• Save 122 calories by switching your snack from four chocolate chip cookies to four graham cracker squares.
• Trim 96 calories by enjoying a cup of fat-free frozen yogurt over the same amount of ice cream.
• Eating two fresh apples over one slice of apple pie gives you 134 calories back.
• Pick a medium blueberry bagel over 3 glazed doughnuts to save 462 calories.
When ordering out, avoid fried items and look for the terms broiled, simmered, grilled, poached and flame-cooked, but still, ask if extra oil is added.
Avoid terms crispy, béchamel, batter-dipped, au gratin and creamy.

Baking buys
I made a couple of substitutions that made new Betty Crocker Cookie Brownie Bars Supreme Dessert Bar Mix (phew, do you work off calories saying that long title?) a little gooey and runny, but no one at work had any complaints when I brought them up here on election night. Make them right and they have a top layer that looks like a chocolate chip cookie, because the mix is “enhanced with semi-sweet chips” from Hershey’s.
Try Chicken’n Bacon Ranch pizza with new Pillsbury thin crust pizza crust. I tried the crust old-school style and would gladly consider keeping a roll of on hand. The company has an idea for topping it with Italian-style chicken breast strips, bacon and ranch dressing. Sounds like a fantasy football snack.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New year brings new Tom Henderson
Port Arthur City Councilman Tom Henderson called The News to brag on his new great grandson, and namesake, Tom Henderson. He was a New Year’s Baby at St. Elizabeth Hospital and will live in Nederland.
“He is the fourth living Thomas Henderson. I’m the oldest, of course,” the councilman said.
Thomas Masen Henderson is the son of Thomas Jason and Kristin Henderson. That Thomas is son of Thomas Glen and Peggy.

Helping out in Sabine Pass
Pam Trosclair of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce says a group of students from University of Idaho are working to restore Sabine Pass from Hurricane Ike destruction.

Cajuns doing good
Thank a local Cajun for generosity.
Vivian Thibodeaux reports the Golden Triangle Cajun Association has made its annual donations to The Fetter’s Activity Center, Hospice of Southeast Texas and Family Services of Southeast Texas.
“The group has worked through the years to be able to make donations to such centers,” Thibodeaux, of Groves, said.

Port Arthur Native sets his sights on the big screen
Former local Marcus Parker has produced a documentary on his hip-hop album, “The Antidote.”
“I think everyone, especially youth, will enjoy the documentary and I hope that it will motivate them to look past their hardships and follow their dreams,” Parker said.
Parker produced a 30-minute DVD documentary of his performances and interviews which he mailed to movie producers in Hollywood and New York as a demo for a full-length box office film. View it at
Parker is author of the 2004 autobiography “The Product,” which he says became a popular symbol of hope and inspiration to many readers across the country. Parker said he faced a plethora of personal issues and challenges recently, including the deaths of his biological father and his stepfather.

Book it to Beaumont
Better get a big book case. More than 2,000 books will be on sale in Beaumont on Saturday, Jan. 10. The Beaumont Public Library System is sponsoring a used book sale from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Beaumont Civic Center meeting rooms on Main Street in downtown Beaumont.
Prices range from 10 cents to $1. Prints and sculptures will also be available.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

FrankenFood, TMI among 2009 food trends
As much as I love to read and write about food, people are surprised that I don’t watch The Food Channel. That may be because I don’t have the cable to get it. But I sure like hearing what they have to say.
The Food Channel has released its Top Ten Food Trends for 2009, based on research conducted with the World Thought Bank and the International Food Futurists. Here’s what they predict:
1. Home on the Range — Downsized economy breeds new generation of home chefs, more food-savvy than their predecessors
2. Foodie 2.0 — Growth of virtual and non-virtual food communities
3. Going, Going Green — Kitchens go eco-conscious
4. Living La Vida Locavore — Eating locally and seasonally, both at home and in restaurants
5. TMI? — Is seeing the calorie count on the menu Too Much Information (TMI), or will it lead to healthier choices?
6. FrankenFood — The rise of bioengineering and genetically modified food; the next evolution of last year’s Functional Food trend
7. Food Philanthropy — Individuals and companies address world hunger
8. Food Insecurity — The call for tighter food controls, after the tomato and jalapeño scares of 2008
9. Brewing Business — Striking a balance when cost is an issue; the divide widens between the exotic and day-to-day food needs
10. Where in the World … is the next flavor trend coming from? It’s all about globalization and variety

We’re on a break
As we come down from holiday indulgence highs, I’ll give y’all a little break from the super-healthy talk, but I’ll let you know what’s coming. Be prepared for the Flat Belly Diet, which is simply a guide to healthy eating. I’m loving the oatmeal with chocolate and raspberry.

At table with the Darwins
While her husband was studying science, Mrs. Charles Darwin was keeping tabs on the house. We can barely imagine a world managing servants to stock and prepare supplies for a large estate.
Emma and Charles Darwin raised a large home at Down House, 16 miles from London, a journey that took two hours.
Buttered eggs, Scotch woodcock, fish overlay and a French ragout of mutton with turnips make up the Darwins’ fare. Veal cake is a strange-to-us meatloaf of mixed raw meat and liver.
I’d be most likely to enjoy broiled mushrooms stuffed with breadcrumbs and parsley and stewed spinach, made with cream and nutmeg.
Darwin loved sweet things, the book reports. I imagine I’d enjoy the burnt cream and burnt rice that Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeaway feature in this book of interesting history and fetching photographs.