Food Fight: Gỏi vịt (Duck Salad)

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Minh T Truong
Thien An's version of Goi Vit
If you're looking for the perfect summer meal, something light, cool and flavorful, gỏi vịt, or duck salad, is the way to go. This Vietnamese dish embodies summer and is exactly what you'd want to eat on a hot day.

Shredded cabbage and red onions are the traditional base for the salad with tender duck meat topping it off. The dressing for the salad is a tangy concoction of nuoc mam, or fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Along with the base ingredients, additional fixings such as carrots, bean sprouts and cucumber can be tossed in according to taste to make different variations of the salad.

For this food fight we take a look at the two different versions offered at Thien An and Huynh. Both distinctly their own and both very good.

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Preview of Delights at Kata Robata's July 29 Eel Extravaganza

Categories: On the Menu

Photo by Wyatt Dowling
Fresh water (left) and salt water (right) eels.
As reported on Friday on EOW, Kata Robata is set to celebrate Doyo-no-ushinohi, Tuesday, July 29, with a one day-only special menu of delicacies featuring freshwater eel. The holiday marks the first day of the period of the Ox and tradition dictates consuming foods whose names begin with a "u," i.e. unagi (freshwater eel).

Acclaimed Chef Horiuchi gave the Houston Press a preview of some of the dishes set to be available as well as a brief tutorial on the difference between fresh-water and saltwater eels and a demonstration of fileting techniques.

First came a palate-opener in the form of a smoky, citrus soup whose broth included succulent pieces of freshwater eel liver. Its warm ocean flavors prepared our mouths for a second course of grilled unagi accompanied by razor-thin slices of Japanese cucumber and seaweed tossed in an aromatic vinaigrette.

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Grilled unagi

The buttery fish flesh laced with just a hint of charcoal spice left a most pleasant carbon footprint that only intensified a craving for more eel.

This story continues on the next page.

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Dish of the Week: Homemade Pierogi

Categories: How To, Recipes

Photo by Rebecca Siegel
Pierogi can come in all shapes and sizes, but most popular is the half-moon shape.
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 covering the famed Polish pierogi.

Pierogi are a type of dumpling popularized in Eastern Europe. While the origin of the dish is undocumented and many ethnic groups lay claim to its creation, pierogi are widely recognized as being Polish. Similar to jiaozi (the Chinese pot sticker), some say the dumplings were imported to Poland from the Far East as far back as the 13th century.

Made with unleavened dough that gets stuffed with both sweet and savory fillings, the crescent-shaped dumplings are first boiled before being baked or fried, usually in butter. Though a mixture of potatoes and cheese is probably the most popular filling (commonly known as the Polish or ruskie pierogi), ground meat, sauerkraut, cheese, and a variety of fruits and vegetables can be found stuffed inside pierogi as well. Savory versions are often fried with butter and onions and served with sour cream, while sweet versions are often sprinkled with sugar.

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Is "the New Cupcake" the Cupcake?

Categories: News, Sweets

Photo by Nate Steiner via Flickr
Why are cupcakes still popular?
Macarons are the "new cupcake." Or is it pie? Or how about cake balls? No, it's going to be doughnuts. But, what about popsicles?

This has been the non-stop conversation over the cupcake trend since the personal-sized treats topped with a swirl of frosting became popular in the early 2000s. Despite several "new cupcakes" making their appearance in the baked goods market, the cupcake remains the favorite.

A recent Slate article tracked every single food that has ever been labeled as the cupcake's replacement over the past eight years and found that 57 foods were called "the new cupcake" in news articles. In March and April 2010, nine different publications said macarons were the new "it" dessert -- we even supported that claim this past year.

But, if all of these sweets and treats (some were savory, like burgers and hot dogs) were supposed to knock cupcakes off the totem pole, then why haven't bakeries stopped selling them? And why haven't all the cupcakeries gone out of business? We spoke with several bakery owners who all sell cupcakes, whether it's alongside other products or their only product, to share their thoughts on the trend, and if they think the cupcake is on its way out the door.

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Not Jus' Donuts Featured on TLC's Buddy's Bakery Rescue

Photo by Molly Dunn
Not Jus' Donuts is owned and operated by (left to right) Andrea Jackson, Myrtle Jackson and Rosharon Cotton.
Not Jus' Donuts will be the next Houston bakery featured on Buddy's Bakery Rescue (formerly titled Bakery Boss). The episode premieres Tuesday, July 28, at 9 p.m. on TLC.

We caught up with the owner Myrtle Jackson and her two daughters, Andrea Jackson and Rosharon Cotton, to talk about their experience filming the episode, what they learned from Buddy Valastro, aka "Cake Boss" and how their business has changed.

Myrtle established Not Jus' Donuts, located in the Third Ward at 2020 Dowling Street, in 2000. Since then, the family-owned and operated business has been creating custom cakes using skills and techniques passed down from Myrtle's aunt and grandmother, along with breads, pastries, cookies and pies - no doughnuts. But, nobody from the bakery applied to be on Buddy's Bakery Rescue. In fact, they still don't know who submitted their application.

"One Saturday, it was at our lowest moment; we wanted to shut down," Andrea says. "We were talking about just closing up and we received an email from Discovery Channel and they were scouting for new bakeries to be a part of the Buddy's Bakery Rescue show. It had a questionnaire and essay, so I took it home, finished the essay, emailed it probably that Monday and a few days later heard back from them."

After several interviews in person and over Skype, Myrtle and her two daughters began to suspect they were being chosen for the show.

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Reasons We Should Eliminate Tipping at Restaurants

Photo by Torbakhopper
That's great advice sidewalk sign.

I'm always a little shocked and disgusted when I discover that someone I'm friends with is a lousy tipper, or expects some ridiculous level of service in order to extract a meager dollar bill from their miserly pocketbook. It's not usually a case of that person simply being an insensitive or cheap individual, although there probably are lots of diners that fit that description out there.

I've never been a waiter or depended on tips to make money, but lots of people in my life have been in that position, and I feel like the time has come to do away with tipping at restaurants. I have several reasons for feeling this way, so bear with me, before the cries of "That's crazy talk! Kill him!"

In Texas, it's legal to pay waitstaff as little as $2.13 an hour, with the rationale that they will make up the difference in tips. Yes, there are people that make great money relying on this system of tipping, but there are also many more that get shafted at the end of their shift.

Interestingly, while the idea of tipping food workers is a very American concept today, it was originally a custom brought over from Europe when wealthy Americans visiting there decided it was a cool way to show off their elevated social status when they returned to the States. In the early 20th century there was actually an anti-tipping movement in America, because many people thought that the entire idea ran against the ideals that this country was founded on. They felt that it imposed a system of inequality that was Un-American by its very nature. Sadly, that movement didn't catch on, and the haven't been major drives to abolish the system of tipping in this country since.

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Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel Hosts Eid-al-Fitr Feast

Categories: Edible Events

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Photo by Paula Murphy
Chef Hassan Obaye will prepare the Eid al-Fitr feast at the Four Seasons this year.
For the second year in a row, Quattro, the restaurant inside the Four Seasons Hotel, will serve an Eid-al-Fitr buffet dinner to celebrate the end of Ramadan. This year's feast will again be prepared by sous chef Hassan Obaye, who was born and raised in southern Morocco and learned much of his culinary skills cooking with his mom at home.

In an interview with the Houston Press last year
, Obaye says, "My mom deserves much of the credit for my career." Obaye received formal culinary training in southwestern regions of France and Germany at several Michelin-starred restaurants.

On Monday, July 28, at 6 p.m. the Four Seasons Hotel will celebrate the end of Ramadan with a buffet-spread feast. The entire meal costs $95 per person and reservations must be made 48 hours in do it now.

And don't be ashamed to fill up your plates because Eid-al-Fitr is a feasting celebration, and Obaye has prepared a menu complete with delightful dishes.

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Consumer Reports Names the Best and Worst Fast-Food Restaurants in America, and the Results are Surprising

Is this the best fast food burger in the country? Voters seem to think so...
Last week we published an article about good, old-fashioned, roadside-style Texas burgers, and in this story, we might have insinuated that there are a lot of crappy fast-food burgers out there. One commenter called us out on it, writing: "I would also argue that McDonald's does not serve a poor excuse for a cheap burger. They serve the gold standard for cheap burgers. The McDouble is a good burger, especially for $1.19."

Well, friend, I'm sorry, but the latest study by Consumer Reports begs to differ.

The online shopping resource conducted a study in which they asked readers to rank fast food meals on a scale of one to ten (ten being the best thing they've ever eaten). According to the report, readers ate "53,745 burger chains' burgers, chicken chains' fried or roasted chicken, Mexican chains' burritos, and sandwich chains' sub -- or heroes, hoagies, grinders, or wedges, depending on where you call home."

In the burger category, McDonalds came in dead last, and not by a narrow margin.

More surprising, though, is the burger category's winner...

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The Houston Press Is Expanding Its Food Coverage, Has Opening for a Freelance Restaurant Reviewer

Categories: Our Staff

The Houston food scene is gloriously rich, wild and big. And getting bigger.

As a result, we at the Houston Press have decided to split up some of the responsibilities of our food coverage. Restaurant critic Kaitlin Steinberg will remain fulltime but move to a new role with additional daily online food writing and planning duties.

And, we are searching for a freelance restaurant critic who will be responsible for writing one longer restaurant review a week to appear in print and online for us.

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The 5 Best Things to Eat or Drink This Weekend: Christmas in July at Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.

Categories: Edible Events

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Summer's Wit will be served at the Christmas in July party at Buffalo Bayou Brewery.
Christmas in July @ Buffalo Bayou Brewery
Friday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
5301 Nolda

Christmas is five months away, y'all. Get excited. Or just go drink some beer at Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company this evening during Christmas in July. The fun starts at 6 p.m., and for $25, each guest will receive admission into the brewery (must be 21 years or older), one beer glass and as many samples of beers they can handle. Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company will offer more than 20 different brews, including Christmas favorites like 2013 Gingerbread Stout and the 2014 Gingerbread Stout, plus Wit Da Eff, More Cowbell, Summer's Wit, and test batches of Blood Orange Wit, Lemon Ginger Wit, Blueberry Lemon Wit and Orange Imperial Cream Ale. And it wouldn't be a Christmas party without tacky sweaters. Whoever wears the tackiest one will win Gingerbread Stout goodies. All tickets must be purchased in advance; no tickets will be sold at the door.

Alaskan Brewery Dinner @ Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse
Friday, 7 p.m.
1510 Texas

Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse will host a dinner featuring beers from Alaskan Brewing Co. tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets to the dinner cost $75 and include six courses paired with beer, beginning with an amuse of smoked sockeye salmon tartare paired with White, Wheat Ale. Next, guests will snack on crudo of Gulf swordfish served with grapefruit, pickled shallots and a chile puree, paired with Freeride, American Pale Ale. The next course includes quail stuffed with cornbread and served with mushrooms, duck egg yolk, and a slaw of pickled watermelon and radish; this course is paired with Hop Thermia, Double IPA and 2013 Jalapeno, Imperial IPA. Munch on a pretzel served with Madrange ham and rhubarb mostarda while sipping on Alaskan Summer, Kolsch-Style Ale, followed by bison brisket with hot German potato salad, lardons, cucumber salad and smoked tomato BBQ sauce paired with 2013 Smoked Porter. Dessert features roasted apricots with whipped ricotta, a slice of angel food cake and cocoa nibs paired with 2013 Barleywine.

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