Taming Sugar Cravings and Balancing Blood Sugar: What I Learned at Monica Pope's New Food-as-Medicine Dinner

Photo by Mai Pham
A salad of steamed rainbow chard and pickled red cabbage is beautiful, nutrient rich, and won't cause your blood sugar to spike.

"If there's one thing you remember from tonight, remember 15 grams," said Ali Miller, a registered dietitian who practices functional medicine. It was the inaugural dinner for the new Food-as-medicine dinner series she'd designed with chef Monica Pope at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, and we were about half-way through her lecture on how to tame sugar cravings and balance blood sugar.

My ears perked as I committed her message to memory: "I want you to think of 15 grams of carbs as a virtual slice of bread. So if you look at the label on that yogurt you're planning to buy, and it says 45 grams, it means you're eating three slices of bread; and if you have a milkshake that contains 90 grams of carbs, it's like eating seven slices of bread."

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Eating Through the Eastern Bloc in Houston

Photo by Catherine Gillespie
Polonia's Veal Schnitzel

When people think about food from the former Soviet Union, the first two ingredients that come to mind are dill and sour cream. But there is much more to the diverse cuisines of the USSR and former Soviet Satellites and Houston has the Russian, Polish, Czech and Bosnian eateries to prove it.

Let's start with the big one: Russia. Though there aren't any great Russian tea rooms in Houston to try, there are a couple of groceries. Golden Grain, the less sad of the two, offers a selection of handmade pelmeni (meat dumplings) and Ukrainian vareniki stuffed with creamy potato or savory cabbage fillings. The dumplings come in Ziploc bags, which is how you know they are going to be excellent. There are also in-house baked goods including Russian pies with sweet and savory fillings that are worth a try.

The store also offers Russian mayonnaise made with sunflower seed oil -- a delicacy worth trying -- and even frozen oblipikha (sea buckthorn) berries that are used in a long list of Russian remedies for everything from colds to itchy skin. One of the few things you can't find in either store is Crimean wine, but Golden Grain does stock the sweet Russian champagne Sovetskoye.

This story continues on the next page.

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That Armadillo Has a Long and Strange Tale to Tell

Photo via Voice Places
The armadillo was a happy accident, and there's more to it than meets the eye.
This week's feature story takes an in-depth look at the Houston families who developed our diverse food scene into what it is today. We spent hours researching and interviewing family members to compile their stories, but not everything could make it into print. In celebration of these fascinating family histories, we'll be posting on Eating ... Our Words interesting anecdotes and extended quotes that didn't make it into the print edition. We hope you find these folks as fascinating as we did.

The giant armadillo outside of Goode Co.'s Armadillo Palace on Kirby is an arresting sight. The first time I saw it, I slowed down and marveled at its mosaic armor and glowing red eyes. When I moved to Houston and rented an apartment north of there off of Kirby, I used it as a landmark, telling people I lived near the giant armadillo. I assumed everyone was as enamored by it as I was.

Levi Goode and his father, Jim, certainly were the first time they laid eyes on it, in Cody, Wyoming. They were preparing to open the space that's now Armadillo Palace, but they had no name for it, just the concept.

"We decided we wanted to do something that showcased Texas music and was kind of a beer joint/honky tonk place," Levi Goode says. "So we ended up taking all the stuff out of here that we had left, and putting a bar in the center and icing down the beer."

The armadillo came later.

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