Chef Chat, Part 2: How Do You Pronounce Giacomo's, Anyway?

Categories: Chef Chat

Photo by Phaedra Cook
Chef Lynette Hawkins of Giacomo's Cibo e Vino fusses over a table at lunchtime

In part 1 of our Chef Chat with Lynette Hawkins of Giacomo's, we discussed how it started out being a counter service restaurant. The customers didn't like it, though, and the restaurant is now 100% table service. Why didn't it work, though? We find out here in Part 2.

We also get three recommendations on dishes to try from chef Hawkins and talk about her best friends.

EOW: There are a couple of Italian places in town that have a counter service model (like Paulie's, for example) and it seems to work. Why didn't it work here?

LH: I think my big mistake was that I put [the names of the dishes on the menu] in Italian. Paulie's is simplified. It's in English and recognizable. Silly me, I have "orecchiette Giorgione" and no one can pronounce it much less figure out what the hell it is. I don't know what I was thinking. I was used to La Mora and forgot that "Oh, gosh. People understood the menu because the waiters were there to translate it for them." They had time to peruse the menu and weren't nervous because they were standing in line and people behind them were urging them to move on! That was a big mistake. Looking back on it, I wonder how I could have been so obtuse!

At the time it didn't even occur to me but now I know that's [the key] to successful counter service places. My menu needed to be explained. People needed to sit, relax and look at the menu at their leisure.

When I first opened, the counter service people were asking for lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza... Pasta Carrabba... (laughs)

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Cloud 10 Creamery's New Summer Flavors Are Certainly Unique

Categories: Sweets

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
I'm sorry, what? Tomato?
Ever since last September, I eagerly await the change of seasons in Houston, not because I'm waiting for that first cold front of the year (which right now feels like it may never come), but because each new season brings a new round of ice cream flavors at Cloud 10 Creamery.

The gourmet ice cream parlor in Rice Village has been churning out delectable and sometimes head-scratching flavors under the guidance of pastry chef Chris Leung. Leung is known for infusing Asian elements into his ice cream, resulting in combos like hazelnut-miso or the spring sundae, which featured red currant mascarpone ice cream and a green matcha cake.

A couple of weeks ago, Cloud 10 Creamery introduced us to the new summer flavors, and while not all were available when I swung by, those that were are pretty impressive.

Tomato ice cream, anyone?

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The 5 Best Brunch Spots in Garden Oaks/Oak Forest

Photo by John Kiely
The tortillas alone are worth the trip to our No. 5 spot.
In Houston, we're pretty serious about our brunch. Whether it be migas and breakfast tacos or chicken and waffles and loaded Bloody Marys, we have no shortage of awesome spots to get our brunch on. Keeping later hours and killer cocktails in mind, we'll be taking a look at some of our favorite spots around town. See the complete list at the end of this post.

This week, we're moving we're moving just outside the loop to the neighborhoods of Garden Oaks and Oak Forest.

Note: For purposes of this post, Garden Oaks / Oak Forest is defined as north of Loop 610, east of Highway 290, south of Tidwell and west of Yale.

Honorable Mention: Biskit Junkie, even though it hasn't opened yet, because we're just too excited about the possibilities! And Rainbow Lodge, which is just outside the borders, but worth the short ride inside the loop.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 77, Spaghetti Carbonara at Coppa Osteria

Photo by Mai Pham
Coppa's carbonara is a unique take on the classic dish.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

For a long time, I would argue with people about carbonara. I would tell anyone who would listen that there is only one way to do carbonara is with guanciale, a whole egg, Parmesan and black pepper. That's it. Only those four things, mixed together in perfect harmony with slightly al dente spaghetti.

Keep your peas, your mushrooms, your cream and your bacon out of it.

But then...well...then I had the spaghetti carbonara at Coppa Osteria and I started to change my tune.

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Glazed the Doughnut Cafe Opens in the Med Center: Hot Stuff 24-7

Categories: Restaurant News

Photo by Molly Dunn
Grab one of these doughnuts on the soft opening day, July 26.
Get ready for Glazed -- a 24-hour doughnut shop that will present a more than welcome alternative in food and drink, located right in the heart of Houston's Medical Center.

Scheduled to hold its soft opening on Saturday, July 26, at 6 a.m., Glazed will stay open around the clock, right from the start, ready to host all comers: hospital personnel, passersby, and friends and relatives of patients, who all might be looking for a setting other than the hospital cafeteria.

Back in June, owner Edose Ohen told us how he wants Glazed to be a consumer-driven.

"We are in a very awkward space, but we created strategic seating so that people can actually feel comfortable to come in there, sit down, have a kolache, or if they need to study, we have high-speed Wi-Fi, it's free for our customers, of course, and restrooms and all that good stuff so you can create an environment that is conducive to actually sit down, relax and stay there for a while."

The only other 24-hour doughnut shop in Houston is the Shipley's at 12225 Westheimer, nearly 20 miles away from the Med Center.

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Chef Chat, Part 1: Lynette Hawkins of Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

Categories: Chef Chat

Photo by Phaedra Cook
Chef Lynette Hawkins of Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

Chef Lynette Hawkins had already made a name for herself in Houston years before opening her casual Italian restaurant, Giacomo's Cibo e Vino. Hawkins' prior endeavor was La Mora Cucina Toscana. She operated it for 16 years before shutting it down for some very sensible reasons. (We'll cover those details later in this interview.)

Hawkins' Tuscan cuisine was missed, so there was much rejoicing when she opened the new place. Even so, Giacomo's was not an overnight success. Hawkins originally envisioned a counter service setup where customers would order cichetti (small plates) and other items. Customers rejected the setup.

These days, Giacomo's provides table service for both lunch and dinner. Why didn't the initial concept work? How has Giacomo's evolved into a stable, successful neighborhood restaurant after that misstep? Today, get up to speed on Hawkins' restaurant background, then come back tomorrow to learn more about Giacomo's evolution.

EOW: How did you first get into cooking?

LH: Well, I was definitely a late bloomer as far as getting into professional cooking. I had no idea I could make a living at it. I was very interested in cooking when I was a little girl but it was just a fun thing I did with Mummy.

The first time I realized I could make a living at it was when I was a manager at Driscoll Street Café [no longer open] and the chef didn't show up for work. I had to make quiche. I came up with a soup that I'd seen him make before and the customers loved it. I thought, "Well, this is really cool. Maybe I can be in the kitchen instead of just being in the front."

So, I decided that I was going to work in restaurants where I admired their management and food. I went to work for Damian's as the manager but I did a lot of training there in the kitchen to prepare for opening the Carrabba's on Woodway. I was the general manager and--again--the chef didn't show up. I worked there for two years and that gave me the confidence to open [La Mora Cucina Toscana].

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This Week In Food Blogs: Burgers, Burgers & More Burgers

Categories: Leftovers

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Pondicheri offers excellent Indian breakfast dishes like the morning thali.
New York Times: The NYT sat down with Lisa Fain, blogger of Homesick Texan, and who is originally from the great city of Houston, but currently lives in New York. Fain recently released her new cookbook, "The Homesick Texan's Family Table," and during her book tour, she made several food stops throughout Texas. She told the New York Times that she always makes a pit-stop at Molina's and Ninfa's on Navigation in Houston, and has come to love new spots like Blacksmith and Pondicheri, where she likes to eat breakfast.

The Pancake Princess: It's too hot outside to turn on the oven and warm up your kitchen. But, like a majority of sweets and treats, the oven is necessary. Or is it? Erika wanted to make a chocolate cake last week, but instead of baking it in the oven, she steamed it, like a chiffon-style Asian cake. She combined mashed banana, almond milk and vanilla extract, then stirred in oat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt to create the cake. Next, she poured half the batter into ramekins, then sprinkled chocolate chips and covered them with the remaining cake batter. After steaming the cakes for 15 to 20 minutes, the result was a gooey, comforting dessert.

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5 Weirdest Supermarket Salad Dressings

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Ranch, Thousand Island, Italian, Blue Cheese--the regular gang is all here at your neighborhood supermarket. Sometimes, however, a few weirdos sneak onto the shelves that we're not sure we're comfortable with dressing our salads. Here are five spotted recently:

5. "Mango Style" (3 Zeros)" Just "mango" sounds okay though maybe a bit too sweet. "Mango Style" sounds like a euphemism for something I don't want near my food.

4. "Chinese Chicken Salad" (Girard's). So much latent strangeness. First, the inclusion of "salad" in the title seems redundant ("Chicken Salad-flavored dressing?). Second, Girard's is proud of the fact that they've been creating salad dressings since 1939 though I'm assuming this particular flavor didn't originate that year given Americans weren't exactly sinophiles, having excluded Chinese immigrants for the past five decades.

This story continues on the next page.

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What Your Hot Dog Toppings Say About You

Photo by Steven Depolo
They say your hot dog toppings are a window into your soul.
You know what they say. You can tell a lot about someone by what they put atop their hot dog. Okay, so maybe nobody actually says that. But we swear it's true!

Here's what your hot dog toppings say about you:

Just Ketchup: You're mom still does your laundry...and you don't mind one bit. What? She folds the like a boss and she never shrinks your deep vees.

Just Mustard: Let's just say you're not exactly a risk taker, but you know what you like and you stick with it. Even if it does mean you've been stood up by the same Tinder date three nights in a row.

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Eat Local Food & Support Planted: Houston at Benefit Pop-Up Dinner

Photo courtesy of Edible Earth Resources
Head to Haven on Sunday to feast on local food and support an urban garden project, Planted: Houston.
Edible Earth Resources is a local edible landscaping firm that installs home gardens and landscapes, as well as many restaurant gardens, like the ones found at Haven and Coltivare. On Sunday, July 27, from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., Edible Earth will hold a benefit pop dinner at Haven as the kick off to the campaign funding their urban farming project, Planted: Houston.

Nick Panzarella, community liaison for Edible Earth Resources, says the firm approached the city of Houston to lease abandoned lots in order to build urban gardens as a means to redevelop those neighborhoods and combat food deserts. Instead of shipping all of the produce to restaurants outside of these communities, 10 percent of the food grown in the gardens will be sold at corner stores and convenience stores within the neighborhoods at grocery store prices, or lower if possible. Edible Earth will also have a produce share similar to a CSA box where people receive a box of produce every week; for every share sold, one will be donated. The rest of the produce will go to restaurants on contract with them.

While part of the project is being funded by chefs who are pre-purchasing produce from Edible Earth, the other half is crowd-funded. The pop-up dinner on Sunday marks the kick-off to this two-month campaign benefiting Planted: Houston.

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