Ever Wanted to Go Vegetarian? Now's the Time as Beef, Pork Prices Soar

Photo by Cgoodwin
Santa Gertrudis beef cows graze on King Ranch in Texas
Thanks to a drought across much of the major cattle-ranching states and a deadly pig virus, we may soon be doing what those pesky Chick-fil-A cows are always encouraging on the billboards: "Eat mor chikin." Or veggies. Or tofu.

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that beef prices are the highest they've been since 1987, and pork prices are up 13 percent from last year, just in time for the start of grilling season nationwide.

David Anderson, a professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University, tells NPR that the reason behind higher-than-average increases in beef costs is in large part drought, particularly in Texas, the nation's largest producer of beef cattle. Drought leads to fewer feed crops, which leads to fewer cows. Coupled with an increase in demand for American beef in China, we're looking at a small supply and big prices.

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Hunt-Your-Own-Dinner Restaurant Coming to Houston

Photo by Willoughby Wallace Hooper
This is actually the photo included in the press release.
The big news of the day comes from Hunter-Gatherer, a new restaurant imported directly from restaurateur Nigel Mycroft and his partner, Samuel Mburu, of Kenya. The duo have been running a restaurant called, simply, Safari just outside of Nairobi since 2008, and they've recently decided to expand to the United States, with their first international outpost slated to open here in Houston in early 2015.

As the name implies, it's a hyper-local joint seeking to raise awareness of where food comes from; it will feature a massive backyard garden from which customers can harvest their own fruits and vegetables to be used in their meals. Oh yeah, and you can hunt your own dinner, too.

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Dish of the Week: The Cuban Sandwich

Photo by Tammy Gordon
The Cuban sandwich is typically pressed on a plancha or a flat grill top, making each side buttery crisp.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

When it come to classic sandwiches, the pressed Cuban sandwich is easily one of the best. Made with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on crusty Cuban bread, the sandwich is a staple in Southern Florida.

That's because (according to some), though the sandwich may have been born in Cuba, it was raised in the States. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Cubans frequently traveled back and forth between their country and neighboring South Florida. The primitive form of the sandwich is said to have been developed as a lunch for cigar factory workers in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and later, Key West in the 1860s. In the 1880s, the cigar industry shifted to Ybor City, a culturally diverse neighborhood of Tampa. There, the Cuban, Spanish and Italian influences of the neighborhood morphed the lunch staple into the Cuban sandwich as we know it today. In Tampa, you may even find Genoa salami layered in.

The sandwich is assembled on lightly buttered Cuban bread, then toasted in a sandwich press called a plancha (similar to a panini press but without the ridges). In its best form, it's layered with mojo-marinated roast pork and good-quality ham.

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Soter Winery and Akaushi: A Tasty Pairing

Photo by Mai Pham
Got beef? Pepper-crusted akaushi ribeye steak is melt-in-your mouth tender at 60 Degrees Mastercrafted

Eclipsed by the street construction taking place on the stretch of Westheimer Road directly in front of it, 60 Degrees Mastercrafted, the restaurant by master chef Fritz Gitschner, opened this past November to little fanfare. Since then, however, the roads have cleared, and a new patio has been finished just in time to usher in the lovely spring weather. Suddenly, like the parting of clouds to let the sunshine through, it's as if the spotlight has finally been turned onto this River Oaks restaurant.

Certainly, that's the feeling I got when I arrived to a full house recently for an inaugural wine dinner featuring Soter Vineyards. Organized by Vanessa Treviño-Boyd, the beverage director at the restaurant, the evening promised to be filled with Pinot Noir and Gitscher's brand of "ranch-to-table" dining featuring steaks made of heart-healthy akaushi beef.

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Bloody Good: Where to Partake of Palatable Plasma

Photo by Emmanuel Boutet
Boudin noir before being cooked.
When I order steak at restaurants, I tend to make tired jokes about how rare I like it.

"I want my meat black and blue," I'll say. "Bring it to me still bleeding."

Though I don't literally want my steak bleeding onto my plate, there are some instances where a little blood in my meal makes it all the better. No, I'm not referring to when chefs season a dish inadvertently (see our October piece on horrific kitchen injuries). I'm talking about blood soup, blood sausage and any other dish that benefits from a little bit of the sanguine sauce.

In Houston, there are a number of restaurants at which you can get your fix. Just, maybe, don't bring your squeamish friends along. Cubed blood is not for the faint of heart. Or stomach.

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Plucky Eating: Buffalo Wing Bar at Kroger

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Kroger's Buffalo Wing Bar

I'm a latecomer to the world of buffalo wings. I didn't grow up eating them (in fact, there was a definite period in my youth during which I thought some sort of winged buffalo creature actually existed), and my initial wing experiences in early adulthood were unfortunately at lackluster chain restaurants.

My appreciation for buffalo wings has grown considerably in the last few years, thanks largely to my husband, whose love of wings and intrepid cooking skills have led to the creation of some delicious inventively sauced and spiced wings.

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Put Your Bib On for the Second Annual Houston Barbecue Festival

Categories: Meat!

Photo courtesy Houston Barbecue Festival
Can you handle all the meat?
In 2013, 1,300 people came out in the chilly windy weather to stuff themselves silly with brisket, sausage, turkey and more at the inaugural Houston Barbecue Festival. And this year, we're doing it all over again.

The Second Annual Houston Barbecue Festival is back at Reliant Center on Sunday, April 6, from 1 to 5 p.m., and it's even bigger and better than before.

"This year, my partner, Michael Fulmer, and I are expanding the definition of Houston BBQ," explains co-founder J.C. Reid. "Last year every place was a brick-and-mortar, mom-and-pop shop. This year there are a few bbq trailers, and on the other end of the spectrum, we have one large chain, Spring Creek Barbecue."

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Dish of the Week: Beef Stroganoff

Photo by Kim Mc.
The dish is often served over wide egg noodles, but any variety of pasta or rice will do.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

As we bid the Sochi Olympics a hearty "do svidaniya" just yesterday, we're sharing one final memento from our time in Mother Russia. This week's recipe is the classic dish Beef Stroganoff.

Its name likely derived from the highly successful Stroganov family, the dish has its origins in mid-19th-century Russia. The first known written recipe -- for Govjadina po-strogonovski, s gorchitseju (Beef à la Stroganov, with mustard) -- was printed in the classic Russian cookbook A Gift to Young Housewives in 1861.

Made with sautéed beef and a smetana (sour cream) sauce, the original recipe used beef cubes as opposed to beef strips and was prepared without mushrooms and onions, all of which are common in beef stroganoff today.

The dish's popularity extends all over the world, from Sweden's korv-stroganoff (sausage stroganoff) to Brazil's version, often made using strips of chicken, tomatoes and heavy cream. Commonly served over rice or egg noodles, the dish became popular in the United States after it was brought over by Russian and Chinese immigrants, as well as American servicemen stationed in pre-Communist China, before the start of World War II.

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Finally! Killen's Barbecue to Open Tomorrow

Photo by Mai Pham
This is "moist" brisket at Killen's Barbecue.

It was a beautiful thing to watch: Ronnie Killen, unwrapping a huge slab of hot-from-the-oven brisket, then lightly shaking it to gauge the consistency of the meat. Moist heat curled upwards as the wrapper was peeled back, and the black-crusted meat jiggled as if it were a big block of Jell-O.

I knew even before he cut into it that it would be exceedingly moist and tender -- it was the jiggle that gave it away. And sure enough, each slice of brisket revealed itself to be oozing with juiciness. In fact, the sight had me in near-convulsions of food ecstasy. If there was ever a definition for "food porn," the food at Killen's Barbecue is it.

And good news for those of you who have never had the pleasure of putting some of that meat in your mouth: Killen's Barbecue is opening in Pearland tomorrow, Saturday, February 22! The build-out is complete. The chairs and the tables have arrived and are in place.

I can tell you without hesitation that it's worth the drive. Killen's is craft barbecue at its absolute best (I say this with utter conviction) -- and it's going to put Pearland -- and with it, Houston -- on the map as one of the nation's top barbecue destinations.

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Where's the Beef? California Company Recalls Nearly 9 Million Pounds of Meat

Photo courtesy USDA
Maybe switch to pork for a little while...
Rancho Feeding Corporation of Petaluma, California, was forced to recall 8.7 million pounds of beef this past weekend due to improper inspection. And of course, some of the meat in the recall made its way to Texas, because it's not like we have a gazillion of our own cows here or anything.

The United States Department of Agriculture issued a press release on February 8 that listed the health risk as "high," but it took a few days for details about where the recalled meat had been shipped to surface. According to the press release, Rancho Feeding Corporation "processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection."


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