The 5 Best Things to Eat or Drink This Weekend: Breakfast With Santa and a Campfire Christmas

Categories: Edible Science

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Photo by udalumni
Enjoy a festive holiday breakfast with your family...and Santa!
Campfire Christmas @ George Ranch Historical Park
Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
10215 FM 762

Take a historical journey back to Christmases past at this annual Campfire Christmas event. The evening starts with a proper Victorian holiday meal -- including Yorkshire roast beef with all the trimmings, hot tea and cider, and plum pudding, apple crumble, and peach sonker. After you've filled up, explore the park grounds and decked halls. Tickets are $50 per adult ($45 for children, seniors, or groups of 10 or more).

Breakfast with Santa @ 024 Grille
Saturday, 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
945 N. Gessner

Bring the whole family for an unforgettable Very Merry Breakfast with Santa this Saturday. Enjoy a full breakfast buffet -- featuring red velvet pancakes, biscuits and gravy, French toast, bacon, sausge, eggs, and more -- alongside arts and crafts, photos with Santa, goodie bags, and raffle drawings. The meal is $20 for adults and $12 for ages 4 to 14.

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Upcoming Events: Sign Your Team Up for The One Pot Showdown Now

Categories: Edible Science

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Photo by Marco Torres
Last year's One Pot Showdown was a blast.
The 8th Annual Saint Arnold One Pot Showdown isn't until Sunday, January 25, but the brewery is putting out a call for cooking teams. The event showcases homemade gumbos, stews, chili and anything else you can cook up in a single pot. Sign up online and be sure to do it now, as spots fill up quickly. The team fee is $100 per team, with prizes including $500 (plus all the glory in the world) for 1st place. See their One Pot Showdown page for complete details.

The Wave's last Holiday Lights Tour -- where you tour the winter wonderlands of Woodland Heights, Downtown, River Oaks Blvd. and more -- will take place on Tuesday, December 23. Meet at Market Square Park around 5:15 p.m. to warm up with food and drink specials before the ride. Tickets are $30 per person.

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5 Revelations From a Grocery Store Insider

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Photo by Orange County Archives
Working at a place can make a person privy to certain things that people on the outside probably don't know. I've had a lot of jobs like that over the years, and have learned a lot about other people and the hidden mechanisms of the businesses I've worked for. I've had quite a few gigs working at various types of grocery stores, and have learned a few things. Things like...

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Photo by Arnold Gatilao
Organic grass fed meat is expensive? Well, there's always Spam for you.

5. Complaining about things being expensive doesn't solve anything.

I hear this gripe from customers fairly often. Meat is getting so expensive. One recent customer of mine complained about the cost of our market-made, labor-intensive chicken salad because it had gone up 20 cents. She squawked about how she would no longer be able to afford it, asked for a discount and then continued to babble about a recent vacation to the Bahamas before leaving the store in her new Mercedes.

Besides the ridiculous nature of this person's argument that she was being priced out of delicious chicken salad, what do these cheapskates expect a store to do? Meat is expensive. It's not cheap to raise large animals simply so they can be killed and eaten. When you get into things like organic meat, the price goes higher and higher. Supply and demand come into play, and people like me have to make a living, too.

My point? Complaining about prices won't affect them at all. The older folks who somehow expect prices to have stayed the same since the 1960s are also hard to reason with.

4. Avoid that olive bar

I used to work in the deli of an expensive specialty grocery store in Houston. There was this huge, self-serve olive bar against a wall, which was full of expensive imported olives of all sorts. So what's wrong with that? Sounds great, huh? Yes, it would be except for the constant stream of children and even some adults who would come through running their hands through the olive trough, helping themselves to a free sample or two, or just thrusting their gross hands into the thing with abandon, for reasons I can't fathom. I used to buy olives from that bar until I witnessed that behavior. Never again. Same thing goes for any salad bar, actually.

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True or False? 5 More Common Food Questions Explained

Categories: Edible Science

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Photo by Jamie McCaffrey

Since I work around food, I occasionally encounter some strange bit of information that's new to me, or realize that there are common misconceptions about certain food related things. That being the case, I thought it might be interesting to do another round up of "True or False" ideas about food.

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True or False? 6 Common Food Questions Answered

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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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The 4th Annual Kiss My Grits Throwdown: Shrimp 'n Grits and Crafted Cocktails

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Photo by Mai Pham
Tyler Mason at the Hotel Icon had the most visually appealing dish for Kiss My Grits.

Four years ago, the first inaugural Kiss My Grits Gulf Coast Throwdown benefitting the Young Texans Against Cancer (YTAC) charity took place at Silver Street Studios. I still remember the first year vividly, because I got to see the chefs exercise an immense amount of creativity. I remember grits gnocchi, grits congee, crispy round grits cakes, and kimchi grits topped with fried dumplings (the winning entry by Kata Robata's chef de cuisine at the time, Seth Siegel-Gardner). The second year was equally memorable, with offerings like panko-crusted grits balls, Indian-inspired grits three ways, chocolate-covered grits popsicles, and lobster grits topped with corn-cognac foam by winning team Uchi.

This year, however, while the cause was still just as important, and the party was still very fun, the creativity and competitive spirit seemed lackluster. So, what happened? My theory is that there are just too many things going on at the moment. In the last month or so, we've seen a number of throwdown events take place -- Go Pig or Go Home, Sugar Land Wine and Food, Taste of the Nation, Big Taste of Houston, etcetera -- with two more events this coming Sunday (Curry Crawl is taking place this coming Sunday at Straights, and a new Fried Chicken Throwdown is taking place the same night at Haven).

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Who Will Be the First Houston Bakery to Copy the New Cronut?

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Photo courtesy Dominique Ansel Instagram
Are milk and cookie shots too much of a good thing?
Clearly it's not actually a cronut, but Dominique Ansel, New York pastry chef and inventor of the croissant/doughnut hybrid that took the country by storm last summer, is at it again, and this time he's debuted his creation at SXSW.

The treats, which are not yet named, appear to be chocolate chip cookies fashioned into shot glasses and filled with milk. How big are they? How does the cookie hold the milk in without leaking? What's so special about milk and cookies?

We're not really sure, and that's why we want someone here in Houston to tackle this cookie conundrum. It didn't take long for cronuts to catch on across the country, and if these are as good (initial reports from diners at SXSW are not available), it shouldn't be too long before we're all downing cookie shots on Saturday nights and finding ourselves hungover on milk come Sunday morning.

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It's an Egg of a Different Color! Why Shell Hues Vary

Categories: Edible Science

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Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Some colorful eggs fresh from my friend's farm

A good friend of mine raises chickens and regularly surprises me with eggs straight from the henhouse. With their oversize orange yolks and superior taste, these ova outdo a dozen from H-E-B any day of the week.

These farm-fresh eggs also outshine supermarket eggs in terms of appearance, as well as taste, for their shell colors are far more interesting than the off-whites and browns you'll find in standard cartons.

How do some eggs come to sport snazzier shells than others? A little bit of nature, a little bit of nurture.

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FDA, Calling Them Detrimental to Human Health, Moves to Ban Trans Fats in Food

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Photo courtesy the FDA
All of these foods currently contain trans fats, but if the FDA has its way, they won't for much longer.
On November 7, the Food and Drug Adminstration proposed that partially hydrogenated oils no longer be "generally recognized as safe" -- a ruling that, if made final, would effectively mean companies could no longer use anything containing trans fats in their products.

I asked Houstonians what they thought about this ruling, and it turns out many people don't know exactly what trans fats are, and many are not even aware that they were consuming them.

Because I'm not a scientist, I turned to the American Heart Association to put the definition of trans fats into layman's terms. According to the organization's Web site, "Trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Companies like using trans fats in their foods because they're easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time. Trans fats give foods a desirable taste and texture."

Basically, trans fats make food taste "better" and last longer for less money. But at what cost to our health?

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The Science of Baking Cookies: Have It Your Way On National Homemade Cookies Day

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Photo by Molly Dunn
Soft-baked snickerdoodles are perfect for those who love a tender cookie.
There really isn't anything better than a homemade cookie, and today is the perfect day to celebrate, because it is National Homemade Cookies Day. It does seem odd to have this food holiday now rather than around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you don't see us complaining.

While we could provide you with a list of homemade cookie recipes, we decided to tell you how to customize your cookies to your liking. Some of us want soft, fluffy cookies, while others love a crispy, crunchy one; with the simple addition or substitution of certain ingredients in a recipe, you can bake cookies with the exact flavor, texture and appearance you want. Baking is a science, after all.

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