Ordering Truffles Out of Season

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Photo by Wazouille
The black truffle, when ripe, should have signature white veins running throughout.
"Don't order anything with truffles," my friend said during a recent dinner at an upscale restaurant in town. "It's not truffle season any more. It won't be worth it."

I had, of course, heard the phrase "truffle season" before, particularly in reference to the expensive Alba white truffles, which achieve peak ripeness in October and November and are rarely served outside of those months. But when ordering truffles at a fancy restaurant, I rarely think about them in the same way that I might asparagus or green beans or berries. Truffles look like rocks and smell like an alluring mixture of mushrooms and earth. They're a fungus. How can they not be in season?

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Going Healthy at Snap Kitchen

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Photo by Mai Pham
Malaysian curry was like a curried version of ratatouille -- and it's not only tasty, but healthy.

True story: A girlfriend of mine lost 12 pounds doing the Snap Kitchen 21-day challenge. Now, I want to lose 12 pounds, too, but I have to be honest when I say that the thought of eating healthy, pre-packaged foods for any length of time does not appeal.

"I eat with my eyes first," I told concept executive chef Matthew Reinhart and nutritionist Andrea Hinsdale of Snap Kitchen during a recent tasting event held to unveil items from their new spring menu. Our tasting started with snack items, such as house-made smoked salmon served on paleo, gluten-free crackers and something called "devily eggs."

A riff on traditional deviled eggs, the yolks had been substituted with hummus, upping the nutritional factor and reducing the calorie count to just 100 per four halves. I knew that they had done something different to the eggs, but it wasn't until someone told me that it was hummus did I put two and two together. The "devily eggs" were exactly the kind of thing I would eat if I were to embark on a 21-day challenge, and it was a promising start.


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First Look at Dish Society: Casual Farm-to-Table Dining

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Photos by Molly Dunn
Every meal served at Dish Society features ingredients from local producers.
Texas (especially the Houston region) is blessed with a multitude of produce farms, breweries, meat producers and dairy farms. While it is common for Houston restaurants to showcase a few local producers' products in menu items, there aren't many restaurants that are solely farm-to-table. And that's why restaurateur Aaron Lyons decided to create Dish Society.

Dish Society was a concept Lyons developed while attending graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. He originally planned to open Dish Society in Austin, but decided to bring his concept to Houston after finding "greater demand and opportunity" here for his farm-to-table restaurant, according to Dish Society's website.

Each item on the menu features ingredients sourced from local producers throughout the state, including Atkinson Farms in Spring, Houston Dairymaids, Slow Dough Bread Co., and Texas Hill Country Olive Company in Dripping Springs. Most of the menu items list the source of the ingredients in the dish's description, and at the bottom of each menu you will find a complete list of sources.

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City Hall Farmers' Market Returns on Wednesday With Celebrity Cooking Demonstration

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Get some lunch at the City Hall Farmers' Market on Wednesday beginning at 11 a.m.
The spring farmers' market season is here. On Wednesday, February 19, Urban Harvest's City Hall Farmers' Market returns, kicking off at 11 a.m. The market will include most of the vendors from the previous season, including Angela's Oven, Blackbird Foods, Melange Creperie and Sinfull Bakery, to name just a few.

Tyler Horne, market manager for the Saturday Eastside Street and Wednesday City Hall farmers' markets, says Simply Delicious will also return this season.

"They are one of our popular vendors," he says. "She does sort of like an inspired take on the traditional banh mi sandwich. Her name is Dawn Burrell. She is cool."

Horne is also excited to announce the return of a fan-favorite vendor, the Eatsie Boys, as well as an exciting demonstration with Underbelly's Chris Shepherd and Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing.

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Get 'Em in Peak Season: 5 Standout Brussels Sprout Dishes to Try in Houston

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Photo by Troy Fields
You can count on chef Monica Pope for a taste of the best fresh, local ingredients.
It seems that Brussels sprouts have had a comeback as of late. And rightfully so. Not only are the leafy, miniature cabbage-like greens delicious steamed, roasted, fried, or raw; they also have fantastic health benefits -- including both cholesterol-lowering and cancer-preventing agents. Thankfully, plenty of Houston restaurants have taken to showcasing the heart-friendly cruciferous veggies on their menus.

While Brussels sprouts are cultivated around the year, their peak season is during colder months, meaning it is almost at its end. So what are you waiting for? Hurry up and get 'em while they're cold!

Here are five standout brussels sprouts dishes that we recommend trying:

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Juice: It's What's for Dinner, But Is It as Good as an Actual Meal?

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Photo by the dabblist
Chewing is sooooo last year.
As usual, some people think Houston is a little behind the times.

Juice bars -- as in restaurants/cafes/bars that serve only fresh squeezed juice -- have been a mainstay of New York and Los Angeles dining culture for years now. With the recent opening of several new juice bars in Houston, it seems the Bayou City is finally hip to the trend.

"I moved down here from the East Coast, and I feel like everywhere but Houston there are juice bars on every corner," says Becki O'Brien, the owner of Houston's newest juice purveyor, Big & Juicy Juice Bar, located inside Big Yoga Houston. "You go to New York, and there's a juice bar everywhere you go. I moved to Houston, and I was so shocked. Even most of the places we do have aren't organic. It's a huge trend in other cities, and Houston is finally catching on."

Still, one has to wonder if juice is simply a trend or if it really is a healthy meal alternative. What's the benefit of drinking juice over, say, eating a salad or munching on an apple? Is one cup of juice really worth what most juice bars charge? Can you drink juice instead of eating a meal and call it dinner?

We chatted with both juice purveyors and nutritionists to find out the real deal behind the juicing up of Houston.


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2013 Houston Fall Produce Guide: What To Buy & When To Buy It

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Graphic by Monica Fuentes
Check out our fall produce guide to see which fruits and vegetables will be available in the coming months.
Say goodbye to summer squash, watermelon, tomatoes and cucumbers, and say hello to pumpkins, winter squash, citrus and dark leafy greens.

Fall is here, and that means it's time to begin using season-appropriate fruits and vegetables. As Houstonians we are fortunate, because there's a lot of great produce being grown on Texas farms. And now is the time to buy the bounty: sweet potatoes for your casserole, pears for your tart, and much more. With assistance from Urban Harvest Market managers Tyler Horne and Libby Kennedy and the Kirby Whole Foods Market's Andrew DeYoung and Charles Perez, we have created a guide to show you which produce will be in season this fall and when you can expect to buy it.

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What's Cooking This Week? Breakfast for Dinner & More

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Photo by jeffreyw
I love cooking for my fiancé and myself, but most of the time, cooking for two proves to be difficult. If I don't make a plan, I end up running around in circles at the grocery store and wasting half the ingredient's I've bought (and I hate wasting food). Enter What's Cooking This Week - my weekly meal plan and grocery guide. This way, I can make the most of my ingredients and my leftovers.

Last week, a Texans Game Day Wing Bar made leftover marinade for Broiled Salmon and leftover ranch dressing for a Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad. This week, Pork Chops are served with homemade applesauce and re-used for Italian Cutlet Sandwiches.

Here's the rest of the plan:

  • Spinach Salad w/ Seared Scallops, Apples, & Cranberries
  • Pork Chops w/ Apple Sauce & Sweet Potatoes
  • Orecchiette w/ Chicken Sausage, Spinach, & Roasted Red Peppers
  • Pork Cutlet Sandwiches w/ Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
  • Breakfast Plate w/ Chicken Sausage & Grilled Tomatoes

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    Room to Grow at Urban Harvest Eastside Sunday Market

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    Photos by Christina Uticone
    A rainy Sunday morning, but we hardly noticed while we shopped, tasted and chatted our way through the market.
    When Urban Harvest announced that they were expanding their Eastside market to include Sundays, I was ecstatic. An early morning Saturday run to the Eastside market is a staple in our weekend routine, but it's always nice to have options, and the location is perfect for us to combine with book shopping, breakfast eating, recycling returning and other errand-running-type chores.

    It's been about a month since Urban Harvest threw open its, um, parking lot to Sunday morning shoppers and while it's quieter than its Saturday counterpart, there is much to enjoy.


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    Sustainable Harvesters Brings Aquaponics to the Table

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    Photo courtesy of Sustainable Harvesters
    While at first glance, it looks like a raised garden, it's actually an aquaponic system, which raises produce and fish in a sustainable, closed-loop, re-circulating system.

    Increasingly, Houstonians -- from individuals to restaurateurs to activist groups -- are contributing their grain of salt toward the fight against unsustainable agricultural practices. But locals Andrew Alvis and Matthew Braud are tackling this same endeavor in a unique way. The pair created Sustainable Harvesters, a company that uses aquaponics to cultivate organic produce and fish in the "most advanced, safest, and environmentally sustainable way possible."

    While the term "aquaponics" sounds like the name of a glittery '80s dance-pop band, it's actually a simple, yet advanced, food production system that marries the practices of raising aquatic animals and growing plants in water. In the integrated system, which doesn't use any soil, water from a fish tank is drained into a gravel bed, where fish waste is filtered and broken down into substances that promote plant growth. This water is then pumped into fruit or vegetable growing beds.

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    Render courtesy of Sustainable Harvesters
    This render illustrates Sustainable Harvesters' aquaponic system, located in Hockley, Texas.
    In Sustainable Harvester's case, fish, along with tomatoes, cucumber, herbs, baby arugula and kale mixtures, corn, and squash are produced on their farm in Hockley, Texas: Coastal Range Aquaponics.


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