Fluff Bake Bar's Rebecca Masson Secures a Space for Her Brick & Mortar Bakery

Photo courtesy Fluff Bake Bar
Rebecca Masson sometimes goes by the moniker "sugar hooker," because she brings sweets to the masses. And she's sassy.
Back in December, the "sugar hooker" Rebecca Masson launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to help build out her dream bakery. Hundreds of Houstonians donated more than $53,000 to the cause, but then Masson got back to work, and we didn't hear much more about the upcoming bakery. Until now.

Today, Masson announced that she's secured a space at 304 Gray in Midtown, the former location of Sweet Lola Yogurt Bar, for her bakery Fluff Bake Bar. She anticipates spending the next three to four months turning the space into the ideal dessert bar and opening late this fall.

"Every person who graduates from culinary school says 'I'm going to open a restaurant or bakery,' and out of 5,000 people, maybe five of them do," Masson says. "So I've been saying this since I graduated culinary school. It's time to pull on my big girl panties and do it!"

When it opens, the bakery will be the first of its kind in Houston, thanks in large part to Masson's experience in professional pastry kitchens across the country and her notion that everything tastes a little sweeter with some bubbly (and beer) to go with it.

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Rockstar Winemaker Pax Mahle Takes Houston by Storm

Categories: Wine Time

Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Samantha Porter, left, who recently quit her position as wine director at Osteria Mazzantini, tasted with rockstar winemaker Pax Mahle yesterday at Caracol.
A Houston wine writer considered himself fortunate to get an audience with rockstar winemaker Pax Mahle yesterday while the charismatic sommelier cum winery owner was in town to show his wine to buyers and speak at a sold-out wine dinner at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse.

That's not to say that Mahle is pretentious or stuck up by any means.

But his two handlers -- like rock band tour managers -- were quick to whisk the "talent" to his next gig after a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am pre-dinner tasting with said writer and a handful of top Houston wine professionals.

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Where Are Houston's Female Sommeliers?

Categories: Wine Time

Photo courtesy Adele Corrigan
Vanessa Trevino-Boyd, left, and Adele Corrigan, two of Houston's handful of female sommeliers.
Quick, name all of the female sommeliers in Houston.

OK, if you can't name all of them, name at least ten.

Trick question. Here in Houston, we have only a handful: Vanessa Trevino-Boyd (60 Degrees Mastercrafted), Samantha Porter (freelancing), Annette Amaya (Cru Wine Bar), Angie Chang (Sonoma Wine Bar) and Cathy Nguyen (Mark's). There's also Adele Corrigan of 13 Celsius, who many people consider a sommelier, but who hasn't actually taken the test because, as she says, "I just don't need it right now."

"I feel like the word "somm" now days is to describe the position you have, not necessarily your certification," Corrigan explains. "There are so many different schools now that sommelier has become a generalized term. You can call me whatever you want: Sommelier, beverage director, wine lady."

Whatever you choose to call her and her fellow "wine ladies," it's a fact that there are far fewer women in the industry than men. This is true nationwide, but the numbers are particularly startling here in Houston.

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Proposed Go Texan Wine Labeling Changes Don't Go Far Enough

Categories: Wine Time

Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Lewis Dickson, owner of the Cruz de Comal winery in the Texas Hill Country, is one of the handful of Texas winemakers who bottle Texas-grown grapes exclusively.
On Thursday of last week, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) released the text of a proposed amendment to its Go Texan licensing rules for Texas wines.

Go Texan is a TDA marking program that helps to promote awareness of Texan agricultural products (including wine). It allows approved growers and producers of Texan foods and wines to add the Go Texan logo to their labeling.

Currently, the TDA allows Texan wine producers to use the logo as long as the wine is "produced" or "processed" in the state of Texas. In other words, even if none of the grapes are grown in Texas, a winemaker can still label it using the Go Texan logo.

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Chilean Winemaker Delivers Surprising, Refreshing Food-Friendliness

Categories: Wine Time

Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Leading Houston wine blogger Amy Gross (left) was one of the guests at an intimate tasting hosted by Chilean winemaker Felipe Tosso (right) last night at Churrascos on Westheimer.
"When I was younger," said Chilean winemaker Felipe Tosso last night at an intimate tasting of his wines at Churrascos, "I made big and bold, intense, tannic wines. But now that I'm older [in his early 40s] and now that I'm a father and more mellow, I make more food-friendly wines. I want to have fun drinking my wines."

I rarely accept invitations to tastings like the one held by Tosso last night. But at the urging of a wine colleague from New York, I was inspired to attend.

"You might find that they surprise you," she told me.

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Bobby Stuckey, a Master Sommelier Not Afraid to Get His Hands Dirty

Categories: Wine Time

Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey doesn't just lecture about wine when he pours at a wine dinner. He jumps right in with the waitstaff and "works the floor" with them.
The A-list always comes out when Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey and his business partner, celebrity chef Lachlan Patterson, come to town to cook and taste wine.

Last night found the two of them at Reef, where Patterson prepared a meal inspired by the cuisine of Friuli (northeastern Italy) and Stuckey poured current releases from their line of Italian wines.

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A Fantastic Rosé for Houston to Call Its Own

Categories: Wine Time

Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
This superb rosé from France is imported by Houston wine maven Doug Skopp, owner of Dionysus Imports.
Americans have a truly unique relationship with rosé.

During the 1970s and 1980s, when middle-class Americans were becoming wine-aware for the first time in our nation's history, the wine industry aggressively marketed cheaply made "blush" wines to the masses. Lancers Rosé, Mateus Rosé, and "White Zinfandel" by Sutter Home were just a few of the many wine products that became commercial icons of "big wine" during that era.

I call them "wine products" because many of those bottlings were actually "wine coolers," highly manipulated wine to which flavorings and sweeteners were commonly added.

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Wine & Food Week in The Woodlands Celebrates 10 Years

Photo courtesy of Wine & Food Week
For the past ten years, Food & Vine Time Productions has hosted Wine & Food Week in The Woodlands featuring a multitude of wine dinners, seminars, food competitions and tasting events. Last year nearly 11,000 people attended events during the week, and this year, co-founders Clifton and Constance McDerby expect more than 12,000 participants.

Wine & Food Week kicks off on Monday, June 2, and lasts until Sunday, June 8, celebrating "The Magic of 10 Years."

"The theme this year is 'The Magic of 10 Years,' so we are really wrapping a lot of the interactions and activities around magical experiences," Constance says. "We will have magicians; we'll have things that kind of trick the eyes -- jugglers, unicyclists, and some of the types of things you would see if you are going to a Vegas-style magical performance. That will be woven into the large, as well as the small, events."

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What's an Urban Winery? Not Sure, But Now We Have One in Houston

Categories: Wine Time

Photos courtesy Solaro Estates and Alex
This isn't quite what it looks like...
There are many things that make Houston a hip, cosmopolitan city. We have an incredible array of ethnic restaurants. We have a lesbian mayor. We have Johnson Space Center, the Texas Medical Center and plenty of universities.

And now we have one more thing to solidify our coolness: An urban winery.

Once we heard about this seeming contradiction in terms, we did some research and discovered that urban wineries have been around for a long time--in fact, they were more popular than rural wineries in the United States before Prohibition. Eater wrote about the resurgence of wine produced in cities back in 2011, stating that wine-makers have been moving back into cities to contend with the rising costs of land and due to the hipster trend of "urbanizing the pastoral."

But what is an urban winery, you ask? Well, it's pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

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10 Best Wine Bars for Drinking AND Eating in Houston

Photo from VoicePlaces
The Italian hoagie at Camerata is far more filling than artisan cheese and just as delicious.
I'm what one might call a wine bar aficionado. I hit up spots for vino around town a lot. I usually go out around dinner time, though, and I find myself in an unfortunate predicament. I'm buzzed and starving, and the only food on the menu is a dainty $25 artisan meat and cheese platter.

I get that certain meats and cheeses pair well with wine. I get that many people eat before they go out and might just want a snack later in the evening. I understand all this. But sometimes I just want a damn pizza or burger with my glass of Tempranillo.

Fortunately, there are a number of wine bars in town that emphasize not only good grapes but also good, hearty food, for those of us who realize halfway through the evening that all we really want is some freaking pasta.

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