Houston's Best Flaming Dishes and Drinks (in Honor of Pride Week)

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Photo courtesy Oceanaire
Have your dinner (or dessert) with some flair.
Everybody loves a good show at dinner, and in honor of Pride Week here in Houston, we're looking at some of the most flamboyant flammable dishes in town.

To flambé a dish is to do more than merely set food in a pan on fire. In order for something to be flambéed, sauce containing alcohol must be lit on fire, either with a match or lighter or by tilting the edge of the alcohol-filled pan toward the burner until the heat ignites the liquid.

The surface of burning alcohol reaches temperatures greater than 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which causes chemical reactions to take place in the food/sauce that's been ignited. The technique is frequently used in the preparation of desserts, because heating the sugar to such temperatures causes it to caramelize.

Whether it's a dessert, a main dish or a drink, though, a little fire sure makes things more exciting.

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Read This and Drink: Imbibe!

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Usually when we write about books on the blog, they're cookbooks. This book is a little different.

Part recipe book, part cocktail history and all rollicking ride through the stories that shaped the modern cocktail bar, David Wondrich's tome--whose complete title is Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar--is a must-read for anyone interested in cocktails or drinking history. In fact, the book, which was published in 2007, is such a wealth of knowledge that it's required reading for Anvil bartenders. Alba Huerta, who is about to open Southern cocktail bar Julep, said she often referenced Imbibe! while researching for the new concept.

The idea is to know not just how to make a drink, but why drinks are made the way they are. Imbibe! is probably the best guide out there to the whys and hows of making classic American cocktails.

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Summer Food Book Reading List: Read About Food & Eat It, Too

Categories: Get Lit

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Photo by LWYang
Relax on the beach with one of these five food books this summer.
Summer is almost here, and what goes hand-in-hand with a lazy day at the pool or the beach? Why an excellent book, of course!

Rather than getting strangely addicted to whatever sensational novel is released (I'm talking about you, 50 Shades of Grey), kick back and relax on the beach or at the pool with one of these five food memoirs in which food and life are intertwined creating excellent stories you won't be able to put down.

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Science Author Mary Roach Brings Digestion Humor to Houston on Gulp Book Tour

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Dive on in.
On April 29, hilarious (yet very informative) science writer Mary Roach will be at Brazos Bookstore to conduct a reading and answer questions about her latest taboo subject: the alimentary canal.

Roach has previously gained praise from the science community and the literary community alike for her books Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife; Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex; and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. She's become known for tackling subjects no one really wants to talk about, and her latest book is no exception.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal is gross, icky, bizarre, at times nausea-inducing and totally hysterical in both a genuine and an uncomfortable laughter sort-of-way. It gives readers insight into what happens to delicious dishes once they leave the fork and enter the mouth. If you've ever wondered what the nose has to do with taste, why your stomach doesn't digest itself or how many things can be stuffed up a rectum, this book is for you.

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The History of Backstreet Cafe as Told Through Seasonal Recipes

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
The Backstreet Cafe cookbook deserves a place on your shelf.
"Thirty years ago, I took one huge leap of faith that completely changed the course of my life forever, and with it the course of many other lives. Thirty years ago, I opened Backstreet Cafe."

Thus begins restaurateur Tracy Vaught's introduction to Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Cafe, the Backstreet Cafe cookbook. The book was published in 2013, so Backstreet Cafe is now in its 31st year, but the recipes included in the cookbook are timeless.

Together with Hugo Ortega, then a dishwasher who later became her husband and a James Beard Award-nominated chef, Vaught has created a Houston restaurant mini-empire that now includes Hugo's and Caracol, as well as a share in Prego. The Backstreet Cafe cookbook reflects the unique history of their journey together and the journeys of the various employees of Backstreet Cafe, some of whom have been there since the beginning.

Part cookbook, part history book, part coffee table book, this volume represents all that Backstreet Cafe was and is, with beautiful photographs, classic seasonal recipes and a whole lot of background information to make readers feel like they, too, are part of the Backstreet family.

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Paula Deen's Son Is Coming to Houston, and He Wants You to Buy His New Book

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Bobby Deen will be signing copies of his new book on February 12 at Brazos Bookstore.
Bobby Deen is coming to Houston, and he's excited about it.

"I love Houston!" he enthused over the telephone. "I have friends in Houston and I love it -- I love Texas! I was just in Houston a few months ago, in fact, and had a lot of fun."

Tickets are on sale now for Deen's February 12 appearance at Brazos Bookstore to promote his new cookbook, Bobby Deen's Everyday Eats. The Food Network host and author (and son of Paula Deen) is eager to share his new work with the fans who made his first cookbook so successful.

"Taking these traditional Southern recipes and lightening them up is a concept that really resonated with people," he said. "Not only did it work in book form; it works in television form. My television show is really based on these very same principles, and it's really well-received."

The latest Deen offering presents 120 brand-new, health-conscious, easy-to-prepare recipes that he promises can all be ready in 30 minutes or less.

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Book Review: Giada de Laurentiis Shares Her Secrets for Healthy Eating

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Screenshot from Giada's Feel Good Food via Kindle; photography by Amy Neunsinger
This cookbook is filled with light and healthy recipes.
Giada de Laurentiis released her newest cookbook, Giada's Feel Good Food, in November 2013, and it doesn't focus on Italian food. You've probably wondered, how does someone who makes heavy pasta dishes and adores chocolate look like she does. I've often wondered this same exact thing. De Laurentiis reveals in her newest cookbook how she does it. Her most important philosophy on eating is, "eat a little of everything, but not a lot of anything."

The recipes included in this cookbook are ones that she eats on a daily basis, and many fit the dietary guidelines of most readers.

"You'll find nondairy milks in my fridge at home -- from almond to coconut -- to replace some of the regular dairy," she writes. "In writing down many of my favorite dishes for this book, I realized that many are gluten-free, vegetarian and even vegan (entirely free of animal products), and I thought, this born-and-bred Italian has come a long way! But it's great, because this way I can still eat a bit of everything -- and enjoy it all!"


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Cordúa Family's Food and History Come to Life on the Pages

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
The Cordúa cookbook includes recipes for old favorites and new creations alike.
The Cordúa family recently released their first cookbook after more than 25 years in the Houston restaurant industry. It's the product of years of recipe development melding the food of Nicaragua with the melting pot of Houston cultures.

The Cordúa patriarch, Michael Cordúa, is credited with bringing Latin American cuisine to Houston and introducing American to the concept of the churrascaria. A quarter of a century later, Houstonians have embraced the Latin (but not Tex-Mex!) food of the Cordúas and the family's multiple restaurants, including four Churrascos locations, two Américas, Amazon Grill, Artista and Cordúa catering.

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Eating Our Words Presents: Holiday Family Gathering BINGO!

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Film still from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
If your family meals are anything like this, you're going to need our drinking BINGO game.
Mom and Dad have arrived, the Christmas tree is gaudy as ever, and the dog is wearing antlers and a festive sweater. You're gonna need some booze to make it through the next week.

But don't just sit around and drink. Drink with a purpose, my friend! To help you out, we've turned your many reasons for imbibing into a fun holiday game.

Behold, Holiday Family Gathering BINGO.


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Celebrate the 80th Anniversary of Prohibition's Repeal With These Prohibition-Era Cocktails

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Photo courtesy Distilled Spirits Council of the United States
It may have taken the rest of the country until December to repeal Prohibition, but here in Texas we did it on November 24.
November 24, 1933, was a really good day.

After 13 years of being unable to sell, produce, import or transport alcohol, thanks to the Anti-Saloon League and the passage of the 18th Amendment, Texas approved ratification of the 21st Amendment, ending Prohibition. Even though few drinkers had ceased to imbibe as a result of Prohibition, its repeal spawned wild, raging parties in the streets and helped revitalize the defunct liquor, wine and beer companies that had once thrived in the U.S.

If you liked a good, stiff, legal drink at the end of a long day, November 24 might as well have been the Fourth of July.

Eighty years later, the notion of drinking being outlawed is foreign to most of us, but the effects of Prohibition are still enjoyed every day. And by that, I mean the awesome cocktails invented by law-flouting party animals while the 18th Amendment was still going strong. Many of today's favorite cocktails were created by sneaky drinkers hoping to mask the taste of bathtub gin or really bring out the flavors in unlawfully imported whiskey.

This Sunday, the 24th, salute these brave innovators by re-creating some of their beloved recipes and rejoice in the fact that drinking is no longer outlawed. Unless you do it out in the street. That's still illegal.

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