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

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?

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

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

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

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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Dinner at the Sex Shop: Edible Items for Fun Times in Bed

Photo by Monica Fuentes
Are you hungry yet?
I just want to start by saying edible underwear isn't always as cool as you think it will be.

That's not a metaphor for life. It's a legit piece of advice.

A couple of weeks ago we ranked condom flavors 'cause we thought it would be fun and it's minimally related to food. This week, we went back to the sex shop and bought things that are actually intended to be consumed.

It wasn't pretty.

Because there's such a wide variety of edible items (lube, underwear, lollipops, oral pleasure gel, etc.) and because each item generally comes in a number of different flavors, there was just too much product for us to taste and rank them all. Instead, we're giving you an overview of some of the more interesting products that come in unique flavors.

Please note I did not say "good flavors." Unique.

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Attack of the Frankenfish!

Photo from AquaBounty Technologies
An AquAdvantage salmon in the background and a non-GE salmon in the foreground.
It's not available yet, but once the FDA finalizes its assessment of AquAdvantage salmon, the genetically engineered fish may find its way to your grocery store fish counter. And you may have no idea that the fish you're eating has been modified with growth hormone regulating genes.

These genes allow salmon to grow all year, instead of their normal spring and summer growing season. The idea is to make the salmon grow faster, but not bigger, so normal-sized salmon would be available to harvest sooner, meaning more salmon on your dinner plate for less money.

The FDA's review of genetically engineered salmon is ongoing, but if it passes inspection, the AquAdvantage salmon would be the first genetically modified animal in the U.S. food supply. So what's the big deal with the so-called "frankenfish?"

It depends on who you talk to.

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This Salad Tastes Like Chicken!?! Questioning "Beyond Meat"

Photo from beyondmeat
Some gussied-up Beyond Meat strips at WholeFoods
For a brief period in high school, I embraced vegetarianism. Well, pescatarianism, actually, because I allowed myself tuna melts (my mom made really good ones). I was clearly not cut out for this lifestyle, however, given that I ended up simply replacing the animal flesh foods I once enjoyed (chicken nuggets, hamburgers) with highly processed versions made with meat replacements. Those substitutions certainly weren't much healthier or more environmentally friendly.

After a few months, I gave up my pescatarian diet (I think this might have happened exactly the day before Thanksgiving), but in the years following, I've occasionally tried eating vegetarian or even vegan for a few days or weeks. Placing limitations on my diet forces me to evaluate my (sometimes bad) eating habits and prompts me to fall in love with new dishes. Case in point, "beetloaf".

Recently, I have been considering going vegan again for a short period of time. Not because I feel bad about eating foie gras. Not because I want to eat more vegetables. Because, rather, I have become absolutely fascinated with Beyond Meat.

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How to Build a Mentos-Diet Coke Volcano

Looking for a way to add some pizzazz to your next cookout or entertain the kids during summer vacation? I strongly suggest building a Mentos-Diet Coke Volcano, a concept I have recently learned is exploding all over the Internet.

Photo from wikipedia commons
The Mentos-Diet Coke Volcano

This volcano is not, I promise, some cheap frat-house trick, but a highly educational and potentially sophisticated demonstration of the physics of carbonation and the chemistry of artificial sweeteners. See, you can learn while making a mess! Amazing.

I am not a scientist nor do I play one on this blog, so I suggest you look to the pros, specifically Dr. Tanya Coffey, to understand the nuances of why diet soda in particular reacts so gloriously with Mentos.

I am here to offer some tips for setting up your volcano so as to maximize entertainment and minimize liability:

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