Savory Spice Shop in Rice Village: An Easy Way to Test Out New Smells and Tastes

Categories: Grocery Guide

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
I respect any establishment with an entire wall devoted to curry.

It's not every day a store clerk encourages you to drop your sample on the floor once you've finished testing it.

It makes sense, though, at Rice Village's Savory Spice Shop where 99 percent of the wares are in powdered form. The store has been open since August, but had its grand opening this past weekend.

And "grand" is certainly a fitting descriptor for anything having to do with the shop, whose voluminous spices, oils, marinades, seasonings, etc. are meticulously ordered and artfully arranged in a space reminiscent of a French Victorian apothecary.

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Testing Williams-Sonoma's Make-Your-Own-Butter Kit

Categories: Grocery Guide

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Just add cream.
Eager to tap into the metro yeoman hipster market, Williams-Sonoma now offers a line of "DIY" kits for smoking salmon, making your own nut milk, fermenting your own mead, etc., etc. These kits are, unsurprisingly, fairly expensive and the end-product, of course, highly subject to user error. You're better off going to the grocery store or just researching methods and equipment online if time and money are a priority.

However, when a kit is on sale and there's an extra 20 percent off clearance plus shipping, purchasing one becomes almost conscionable. Almost.

In the spirit of "butter makes everything butter," I bought the butter-making kit, which included:

  • a BPA-free plastic shaker container

  • 2 porcelain butter crocks

  • 2 hand-carved teak butter paddles.

  • .75 oz of Herbes de Provences (.75 oz).

  • 1 oz of French sea salt (1 oz.).

  • 1 muslin bags for storing herbs and spices

Alas, no cream, the most crucial ingredient. For that, you have to go to the store, or, if the case may be, the dairy cow resting inside the barn in your backyard.

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Instacart Launches in Houston Providing a Quick Grocery Delivery Service

Categories: Grocery Guide

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Make an account with Instacart to have groceries delivered to your door from H-E-B and Whole Foods in Houston.
Need to go grocery shopping but just don't have the time? Are you stuck at work and won't have enough time to purchase groceries on your way home? Is going to the grocery store difficult for you, and would you prefer to have your groceries delivered?

No matter what your situation is, a quick on-demand grocery service has arrived in Houston. Instacart launched today, August 2627, in the downtown and Inner Loop areas of the city, giving customers options to order food from H-E-B and Whole Foods. In coming weeks, Instacart will add more grocery stores for shoppers. Online shoppers will then have the chance to place items from multiple stores in their virtual shopping carts.

"At any given time, we have a group of personal shoppers on shift in Houston who are kind of waiting for customers to place their orders," Instacart Houston City Launcher Matt O'Connor says. "When the customer places their order, it goes to the personal shopper's smart phone, they go through the store and pick the items based on that shopping list, check out and take it to the customer's door."

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H-E-B on Bunker Hill and I-10: One Grocery Store to Rule Them All

Categories: Grocery Guide

I have lived in Houston a long time and it a lot of different neighborhoods around town. As a result, I have shopped at more than my fair share of grocery stores. From the Randall's that used to exist on the North Freeway as a kid to the Kroger where I worked all through high school to a Food Town on 11th that is now a bank (or Ghetto Kroger on Shepherd) where I went with my grandmother every Tuesday in the summer followed immediately by a trip to the farmer's market at Canino's on Airline. From the Fiesta on Main Street with its slow jams over the loud speakers to the one on Patton rocking the Tejano. From every Whole Foods inside the loop when I decided to go vegetarian and healthy for a few years to the Central Market on Weslayan where I used to buy pre-marinated salmon filets and fresh produce.

Food City, H-E-B, Randall's, Kroger, Food Town, Joe V's Smart Shop, Whole Foods, Central Market, Canino's and Trader Joe's...from the Galleria to downtown to the Heights to Spring to the Third Ward, I've tried everything in my immediate radius, and when a usually polite checker asks if I found everything I was looking for today, I always respond politely with, "Yes," even though that was quite often not the case.

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Spice Up Labor Day with Bravado Spice Hot Sauces

Photo by Molly Dunn
Bravado Spice has three hot sauces perfect for your Labor Day recipes.
Cruising the hot sauce aisle at Whole Foods Market, I stumbled upon the three Bravado Spice sauces: Jalapeno & Green Apple, Pineapple & Habanero, and Ghost Pepper & Blueberry, increasing in heat. With varying levels of heat and sweetness, all three hot sauces are great accompaniments to chips and grilled proteins for Labor Day.

If you have to try one of the Bravado Spice products, then take the opportunity to do so this upcoming holiday. Of course, you don't have to wait until September 1.

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5 Weirdest Supermarket Salad Dressings

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Ranch, Thousand Island, Italian, Blue Cheese--the regular gang is all here at your neighborhood supermarket. Sometimes, however, a few weirdos sneak onto the shelves that we're not sure we're comfortable with dressing our salads. Here are five spotted recently:

5. "Mango Style" (3 Zeros)" Just "mango" sounds okay though maybe a bit too sweet. "Mango Style" sounds like a euphemism for something I don't want near my food.

4. "Chinese Chicken Salad" (Girard's). So much latent strangeness. First, the inclusion of "salad" in the title seems redundant ("Chicken Salad-flavored dressing?). Second, Girard's is proud of the fact that they've been creating salad dressings since 1939 though I'm assuming this particular flavor didn't originate that year given Americans weren't exactly sinophiles, having excluded Chinese immigrants for the past five decades.

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Rum at H-E-B -- Who Knew?

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
"Rum" at HEB.
Houston does not adhere to the same liquor laws as New Orleans, where even pet stores are allowed to sell hard alcohol. Nor does Houston adhere to the same liquor laws Philadelphia, where no booze at all is vended in grocery stores and beer is sold in establishments separate from state-run wine and liquor stores.

With beer and wine available for sale at most grocery stores and harder stuff on offer at Spec's, we are smack dab in the middle.

Well, actually, maybe a little more to the liberal NOLA side now that H-E-B is carrying Rhumbero, a "premium blend" rum.

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5 Best Chocolate Ice Cream Flavor Variations to Try

It's yours for the taking at the grocery store
What's better than chocolate ice cream? [For the love of god, don't say "vanilla ice cream."] Chocolate ice cream mixed with other goodies! If you're looking for a little crunchy, chewy, salty, or sweet variation in your cocoa creams, check out these five flavors:

5. Double Fudge Brownie (Dreyer's).

Craving a brownie sundae but don't have the energy to go through that labor-intensive process of constructing one yourself? Pick up a half-gallon of Dreyer's chocolate ice cream studded with soft chunks of brownie and fudge swirls.

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UPDATED: $10 (or so) Well Spent at Rice University Farmers' Market

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Not bad for farm-fresh eggs.

Update: True Blue Friends has closed its doors and no longer participates in the Rice University Farmers' Market.

I spent five years studying at Rice University and only once did I go to its farmers' market that assembles every Tuesday afternoon from 3:30pm to 6:30pm. That's pathetic. I remember my excuses being something like I didn't have time (lame) or that I didn't have cash on me (more reasonable but many vendors take credit cards).

365 days after I finished, I finally visited the market, which has grown considerably and now boasts more than 18 vendors. I was happy to find more than just produce (a girl can only eat so many vegetables) and fairly reasonable prices on most items.

For a few bucks, you can get monstrous bunches of kale, bright orange bundles of carrots, and, various species of robust squash. More exotic botanical goods are also on offer at the Lavande. Their lavender soaps, oils, and (my favorite) teas ($10-12) permeate the surroundings with a sweet summertime scent I would love to replicate in my home.

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Beyond Cocoa Puffs: Top Other 5 Chocolate Cereals to Try

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
I'm so glad these worlds joined forces.

You know, in theory, morning is probably the best time (metabolically speaking) to eat chocolate since your body will have the rest of the day to burn off the calories. So, there's your justification for eating a Hershey bar for breakfast. Or, if you want to disguise (sort of) your indulgence as a traditional matutinal meal, try one of these five chocolate cereals:

5. Chocolate Cheerios. A good choice for those who usually find chocolate cereals simplistic and cloyingly sweet, chocolate cheerios boasts strong notes of cocoa with the unmistakable oat bran flavor characteristic of original cheerios. I suggest using very cold two percent milk to maximize taste and textural crunch.

4. Special K Chocolatey Strawberry. The chocolate almond variety of Special K is decent, but I prefer chocolate strawberry for the way in which the chocolate chunks and sweet berry slices enliven the rice flakes. Don't know, though, if eating entire boxes in one sitting is part of Kellogg's official weight-loss plan.

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