Deli Man Movie Examines an Endangered Dining Tradition

Photo by Phaedra Cook
Ziggy Gruber of Kenny & Ziggy's deli in Houston has a prominent role in the new documentary, Deli Man.

According to David Sax, author of Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, in 1930, there were more than 3,000 Jewish delicatessens in New York City in 1930. In 2009, that number had dwindled to a few dozen.

The numbers haven't just been dwindling in New York. The new movie Deli Man says that there are now only a few hundred Jewish delis nationwide.

Ziggy Gruber, chef and co-owner of Kenny & Ziggy's in Houston, is one of the few "deli men" holding the line and ensuring these repositories of food, culture and tradition survive. He has a prominent role in Deli Man and his scenes with his dad, girlfriend (now wife), and brother are emotional focal points that give the film a whole lot of heart and soul.

More » Wants to Connect Houston Food Vendors With Local Businesses

Categories: Food Nation

Photo by Alex via flickr
Houston is filled with office buildings that would book a creative catered event.
How many times have you been in an office lunch meeting or social gathering at work and the food is just sub-par? I'm guessing that's a lot, right? Usually the assortment of food is sandwiches, chips and dip, fruit trays and a selection of drinks. It would be incredible to serve some of Houston's local food during your office gatherings or meetings, but unfortunately not every mom-and-pop shop offers a catering service or knows how to establish that sort of an amenity. Fortunately, there's a start-up company,, that will connect local restaurant vendors with clients, such as businesses and companies, to cater large group events anywhere from ten people to over a thousand. started in San Francisco in 2010 and has expanded throughout the country to Washington D.C., Chicago, New York City, Boston and more recently Austin. Co-founder of Zach Yungst, heard a lot about the diverse cuisine offerings in Houston and decided our grand old city would be the company's next market expansion.

"We have had an office in Austin since the beginning of the year and we just heard a lot about Houston, did a lot of reading," Yungst says. "I'm particularly excited about it given how diverse the food community is and it sounds like a lot of interesting things going on there where people have different backgrounds [and they can] kind of explore things that may not be native to their heritage. [It's] a pretty cool opportunity for us to experience and bring some of those concepts to other markets that we work in."

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Ramen: Where to Get the Trendy Dish in Houston and What's Next

Categories: Food Nation

Photo by Mai Pham
This ramen from Soma Sushi contains sous vide pork belly, a parboiled egg and shiitake mushrooms.
For every one person in Houston who complains that the ramen fad is over, there are ten more people who get really excited about every new ramen joint opening and every bowl they have yet to try. Like the cupcake, ramen refuses to die.

Fortunately, as Houston's ramen universe continues to expand, the offerings get better and better. Soma Sushi's chef Gabe Medina has made a point of testing new ramen recipes to keep the menu evolving, while Goro & Gun recently experimented with a crawfish ramen that was somewhere between the traditional Japanese soup and gumbo. Whatever you call it, it was mighty tasty. Newcomer Ninja Ramen is already getting positive reviews, while Kata Robata continues to impress with the spicy soy ramen, which regularly sells out.

Whatever sort of ramen you find yourself craving, chances are there's a Houston restaurant that can satisfy. It might not be quite what you'd get in Japan, but as far as comfort food goes, it's hard to beat.

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Viral Craigslist Post Says Smartphones Are Ruining Dining Out...But Are They?

Categories: Food Nation

Photo by Jacob Davies
Put your phone away and eat, for God's sake!
About two weeks ago, an anonymous commenter posted a diatribe to the Craigslist "Rants and Raves" section that has actually made people pay attention (as opposed to recent Houston posts about kids at Starbucks and the stupidity of Craigslist readers).

"We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike," the post reads. "One of the most common complaints on review sites against us and many restaurants in the area is that the service was slow and or they needed to wait a bit long for a table."

In order to determine why service was slower than in the past in spite of adding more staff and training the staff better, this restaurant supposedly located some surveillance footage from 2004 and compared it with recent surveillance footage from the same day of the week approximately ten years later. The result? According to the post, diners spend an average of 50 minutes more now than they did ten years ago, and smartphones are the culprit.

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Restaurant Managers and Servers Move Toward a Friendlier, Less Formal Environment

Categories: Food Nation

Photo by Ralph Daily
Waiters are becoming less of a blur and more an actual element in the dining experience.
"Treat celebrities like locals, and locals like celebrities, because everyone loves to be made to feel special."

That's the mantra of Gabriel Stulman, owner of six restaurants in Manhattan and featured speaker at the inaugural Welcome Conference on hospitality held in New York earlier this month. He's just one person trying to revolutionize the notion of front-of-house service in upscale restaurants often more known for their stuffy waitstaff than their welcoming environment.

It's part of a trend toward drawing focus to the important work of managers, servers, bartenders and other waitstaff in addition to the food a restaurant serves. Of course, here in Texas where friendliness is a way of life, it's not so much a trend as a return to a more natural approach to customer service.

"I'm glad it's going this way," says Shawn Virene, general manager at Brasserie 19, often considered one of Houston's more upscale restaurants due to its River Oaks clientele. "It's making dining more fun. Some people just want to be served. Others want an experience."

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Using Google Trend Reports to Predict Future Food Trends

Photo by Pamela
Will anything trump cupcakes?
We recently came across an article on the Huffington Post food section (you know, an ideal source for incredibly accurate news), and found an article entitled "According To Google, Nothing Is Ever Going To Trump The Cupcake."

That can't be right, we thought, weary of the cupcake. It's been a very trendy food item for years now, and while most food writers and chefs admit to being so over the cupcake, the Huffington Post claims that Google Trends shows the cupcake's popularity isn't in decline. Unfortunately.

The image above shows the comparisons the HuffPo author made to prove that the cupcake is still going strong.

Disheartened, we made our own chart showing the rise of the cupcake and other similar baked goods.

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The United States of Desserts: New York Cheesecake

Photo by James Yu
Cheesecake from the Carnegie Deli in New York

In this series, we examine the history and origins of famous sweets, confections and desserts associated with American states.

Cheesecake, like everything else of merit in this world, was invented in America, specifically, New York City.

NOT. (I bet I had you there for a second. Relax (for now) and read on.)

Cheesecake, though not the modern form many of us have come to love, can be traced back to ancient Greece where renowned physician Aegimus wrote a book about proper cheesecake cookery. His confections made use of soft cheeses, were less sweet, and did not always contain a crust.

Later, European versions of cheesecake emerged in Italy and France, which often use ricotta and neufchâtel cheese, respectively to construct the cake's hallmark dense, soft dairy interior. A German variation, also still produced today, uses dough for a crust and quark in the filling--no, the elementary matter particle but rather the sour milk spread.

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The United States of Desserts: Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

Photo by Robyn Anderson
Sugar Cream Pie

In this series, we examine the history and origins of famous sweets, confections and desserts associated with American states.

Sugar. Cream. Pie. What's not to like about a dessert that combines all three elements?

Residents of Indiana, aka "Hoosiers," have a particular penchant for this amalgamate confection that dates back to the nineteenth century. Quakers from North Carolina who settled in the state made desserts that hearkened back to their European roots such as treacle tarts and cream pies. The sugar cream pie was in a way an American derivative of these British confections and gained popularity among settlers due to its straightforward preparation and simple ingredients. A butter crust shell is filled with a mixture of flour, cream, sugar, and vanilla, then baked until a slightly brown glaze forms on the surface.

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The United States of Desserts: Hartford Election Cake

Photo by Christina Conte
A modern version of Election Day cake.

In this series, we examine the history and origins of famous sweets, confections and desserts associated with American states.

Baking a cake is not usually what i want to do after casting my ballot, but back in 18th-century America, folks felt differently. Perhaps still giddy from their relatively recent independence from Britain, Americans (then) considered election day an extremely important holiday. In celebration, they often made circular cakes flavored with spices, fruit, molasses, and/or brandy.

Also known as "Training Day" cake, Election Cake became heavily associated with the city of Hartford, Connecticut when in 1830 every man [sorry, gals--we had many more years of disenfranchisement to come] who voted a straight party ticket was given this confection.

The first recorded mention of Election Cake appeared, however, much earlier in Amelia Simmons' American Cookery published in 1796:

Election cake - Thirty quarts of flour, 10 pound butter, 14 pound sugar, 12 pound raisins, 3 doz eggs, one pint wine, one quart brandy, 4 ounces cinnamon, 4 ounces fine colander seed, 3 ounces ground alspice; wet flour with milk to the consistence of bread over night, adding one quart yeast; the next morning work the butter and sugar together for half an hour, which will render the cake much lighter and whiter; when it has rise light work in every other ingredient except the plumbs, which work in when going into the oven.

Certainly not a recipe for those averse to butter and sugar.

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The United States of Desserts: The Black and White Cookie

Photo by Matt Lehrer
Black and White Cookie

In this series, we examine the history and origins of famous sweets, confections and desserts associated with American states.

Found at nearly every bakery, convenience store, and confectioner in the five boroughs, the black and white cookie is probably the baked good most synonymous with New York City besides the cheesecake.

Although the black and white cookie is generally associated with New York (city), its history is intertwined with another state treat, the half-moon cookie, which originated in Utica. The traditional half-moon cookie supposedly differs from the black and white cookie with regards to the former's base. But all the internet sources I found that made this claim failed to follow up with how exactly one differentiates the cookies' bases.

Oh well. Let it be understood at least the the black and white cookie can be generally defined by the following criteria:

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