Chef Chat, Part 1: Erin Smith of Main Kitchen at JW Marriott

Categories: Chef Chat

Photo by Phaedra Cook
Chef Erin Smith of Main Kitchen at the brand-new JW Marriott hotel in downtown Houston

Erin Smith is one of only a handful of female executive chefs in Houston. She first caught attention for the menu that was tailored for the extensive wine focus at Plonk! Bistro. She made headlines when she joined Clumsy Butcher group to conceptualize the initial menu for the newly opened Blacksmith coffee shop, then went on to revamp the menus at Anvil and The Hay Merchant.

Now she's in charge of a much bigger beast: the kitchen operations for the new and sophisticated JW Marriott hotel that just opened downtown. This includes the restaurant Main Kitchen, room service, banquets and the numerous other special events and meetings that happen every day in a luxury hotel.

In Part 1 of our interview, Smith discusses her surprising initial focus during college and why she instead turned to cooking. You'll also learn about how native Houstonian Smith earned her stripes at some of New York's top restaurants before returning home to head up Plonk! Bistro.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 where Smith discusses her food focus at Main Kitchen, as well as how she manages to pull off running a large hotel food operation.

EOW: Are you from Houston?

ES: I am from Houston. I grew up here, moved away for college, was gone for 10 years and came back in 2010.

EOW: Where did you go to college?

ES: Texas Tech. Get your guns up! (makes finger guns) I love doing that because we've got a lot of Longhorns here so there's this fierce rivalry thing happening.

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This Week in Food Blogs: Autumn Delights for Dining Out and at Home

Categories: Leftovers

Photo by Brooke Viggiano
Has the world gone too far with the pumpkin spice craze? Yeah, probably--not that anyone's stopping anytime soon.

Culturemap Houston: Marlene Gustin says that the whole fall pumpkin craze has gotten out of hand, but this issue is more about pumpkin spice-flavored treats with nary a hint of actual pumpkin. There's also a great roundup of ideas on how to get your pumpkin fix, whether it be toasted pumpkin seeds tossed with melted butter and salt (yum), Saint Arnold's Imperial Pumpkin Stout or desserts at Killen's Steakhouse, Dessert Gallery and Ooh La La. Gustin also links to a handy recipe for a do-it-yourself pumpkin spice mix.

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Review: The Honeymoon Will Get You Up in the Morning and Carry You Home Late at Night

Categories: Cafe Reviews

Photos by Troy Fields
The fried chicken livers po-boy doesn't miss any steps.
In the wake of neighboring Goro & Gun's transition from a restaurant with a killer bar into the more streamlined bar-only concept Moving Sidewalk, it may seem odd that The Honeymoon Café & Bar is positioning itself as a sort of one-stop shop for downtown residents and visitors. Goro's split personality proved confusing to would-be patrons hopping the block in search of bars, who took it for just a restaurant and kept on moving. What's to keep The Honeymoon from suffering the same fate?

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Reserve 101 Gets the First Bottle of Glenmorangie Pride 1978 in America, and for $750 a Shot, It's Yours

Categories: Bar Beat, Booze

Photo by Chuck Cook
The Glenmorangie Pride 1978 in its specially designed packaging and crystal bottle (and next to it, a bottle of Glenmorangie 25).

You may remember back in February that I wrote about Reserve 101's acquisition of a bottle of Glenmorangie 1963, a 25-year whiskey forgotten in the corner of a warehouse for many years until it was discovered and bottled. That bottle, though it retailed for $550 a shot, sold out in 66 days, inspiring Reserve 101 owners Mike Raymond and Steve Long to seek out another rare bottle from Glenmorangie's collection.

On Monday, it arrived: The Pride 1978 is Glenmorangie's oldest current expression, aged for 34 years. Reserve 101's acquisition is the first bottle of Pride 1978 to make it to America. First aged for 19 years in used bourbon casks made from American white oak, the single malt is then transferred to Bordeaux Classe' Grand Cru casks for 15 more years of aging (which also marks the longest "extra maturation" period of any Glenmorangie spirit). Raymond and Glenmorangie Global Master Brand Ambassador David Blackmore were generous enough to let us sample both the Pride 1978 and, for basis of comparison, the Glenmorangie 25.

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True or False? 6 Common Food Questions Answered

Photo by Matt MacGillivray
Lots of mysteries lurking at the average grocery store

There are a lot of misconceptions and myths floating around in our world today about the things we like to eat and drink. I hear a lot of strange "rules" at the grocery store where I work, and of course from people I know outside of my job. Here are a few that I think are pretty interesting.

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Recipe: Semi-Homemade Restaurant-Style Curry Fries

Categories: Recipes

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
All this can be yours
A handful of Houston restaurants, including Lowbrow and Ambrosia, offer some type of curry fries (or wedges or chips) on their menu. To save a few dollars and the inevitably embarrassment you'll feel after dripping masala on your shirt ("Why, why, did I wear white?"), make your own version at home customized to your preferences. And then eat them as sloppily as you like without shame.

First, procure your potato wedges, as thick or as thin as you like. Those who are not paranoid about third-degree burns and have large quantities of spuds and oil on hand should consider making their own. For the rest of us, Sandra Lee included, that means selecting one of the many more-than-respectable supermarket varieties.

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The Last Bite: Rebecca Masson Is Throwing Her Final Sweet & Savory Fundraiser Dinner for Lucky Dog Rescue

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Photo by Mai Pham
From the Spring 2012 All-Star Sweet & Savory: Chefs Jason Gould, Rebecca Masson, Katzie Guy-Hamilton, Amanda Rockman, and Megan Ketover

What started out as a fun fundraising event for the Lucky Dog Rescue charity has taken on a life of its own. Pastry Chef Rebecca Masson's Sweet & Savory charity dinners have become legendary. And this Sunday, she will hold her last one, which promises to be grand in every way.

"So basically, when we started this, my goal was to do 10 dinners and this is the tenth," says Masson. "We have had some amazingly awesome chefs, pastry chefs, bartenders, wine folks & beer masters participate in the dinners. Each dinner keeps getting better and better. This one will be one for the record books for sure. I never thought that this would become such an awesome event. I was just happy after each one that it was successful and folks enjoyed themselves while raising money for a cause that is near and dear to my heart. I owe many thanks to all the folks that have participated... I have some pretty amazing friends."

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It's Wingtoberfest Time Once Again, Time to Vote for Your Favorite Chicken Wing

It's time to once again line up to be among the first 200 people who'll get to taste and rate the wings from six Houston restaurants in this year's Houston Press Wingtoberfest -- for free.

On Wednesday, October 22, the following restaurants will battle for the honor of being named this year's Octoberfest winner: Dosi, Bonfire Wings, Sticky's Chicken, H-Town StrEATs, Dry Creek Cafe and Little Bitty Burger Barn.

And just to make things even nicer, we've gone ahead and paired the wings with a specific Saint Arnold beer.

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Mala by Morning: Blacksmith and Mala Sichuan's Chinese Breakfast and Doughnut Pop-up

Categories: Edible Events

Photo by Mai Pham
On the table: We asked them to bring out everything at once. This was about half the order.

"I'll have the treasure chest cereal, the empress ribs, the golden coin omelet, the pork hock with bok choy, and the point and kill mouthwatering chicken." This was our initial order, which was quickly followed by "Just add the congee to that. Oh, and the calamondin cake donut and the sichuan peppercorn dark chocolate donut."

It was Sunday morning at approximately 11 a.m. at Mala Sichuan Bistro. David Buehrer of Blacksmith Coffee and his partner in the as-yet unnamed upcoming donut shop, Carlos Ballon, had organized a pop-up Chinese breakfast and donut brunch with Mala's Cory Xiong. Dubbed "Mala By Morning," Buehrer said he'd been wanting to do something with Mala since they'd participated in the an evening pop-up event at Blacksmith last summer.

The menu consisted of 10 dishes that were mostly by Mala, donuts by Buehrer and Ballon, and drinks (coffee and tea) by Blacksmith. "I had to convince them to do it," Buehrer says of the menu, which consisted primarily of simple items that would make up a Chinese breakfast at home that one wouldn't find on a restaurant menu. He said that Xiong and her husband resisted the idea of doing it because the food is what they consider typical breakfast food, nothing fancy.

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Dish of the Week: Manhattan Clam Chowder

Categories: How To, Recipes

Photo by Mr.TinDC
Tomatoes make this Manhattan-style version a bit different from its cousins to the north.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're diving into Manhattan Clam Chowder.

Not to be confused with New England or Boston clam chowder, the Manhattan take on the traditional clam soup is made is (gasp) tomatoes -- a big no-no to its neighbors in the North. Maine event went so far as to introduce a bill making it illegal to add tomatoes to pots of clam chowder in 1939, according to The New York Times piece "Fare of the Country; New England Clams: A Fruitful Harvest."

Thankfully, not everyone subscribes to that train of thought. Tomato-based chowders were born from Portuguese fishing communities in Rhode Island in the mid-1800s, as tomato-based stews were already popular in their native cuisine. According to Alton Brown's "Good Eats", the story goes that New Englanders dubbed this tomato version of their beloved chowder "Manhattan-style" because calling someone a New Yorker was considered an insult.

Insult or not, tomatoes bring a slight tartness and a bit of sweetness to the rich, briny stew.

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