State Rep. Jason Villalba Pleads Once Again for Sriracha to Bring Operations to Texas

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Photos from Wikipedia
Rep. Jason Villalba is once again trying to bring the troubled Sriracha plant to Texas.
In January, we told you about Texas state representative Jason Villalba and his quest to convince Huy Fong Foods, Inc. to move to our fair state. At that time, complaints from the city of Irwindale, California, where the plant that makes Sriracha is located, threatened to force the company to halt production of the addictive red hot sauce because of the fumes that were purportedly affecting citizens in the community.

Villalba got wind (so to speak) of the issue, and sent a letter to David Tran, chief executive officer of Huy Fong Foods, Inc., inviting him to move the plant to Texas: "As a public official and a corporate attorney for small businesses, I am extremely troubled by excessive government interference in the operations of private, job-creating businesses like Huy Fong Foods. You have worked too hard and have helped too many people to let government bureaucrats shut down your thriving business."

Huy Fong, Sriracha and Villalba are back in the news this week, as the Irwindale City Council passed a resolution deeming Huy Fong Foods "a public nuisance."

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Hunt-Your-Own-Dinner Restaurant Coming to Houston

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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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Who Will Be the First Houston Bakery to Copy the New Cronut?

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Photo courtesy Dominique Ansel Instagram
Are milk and cookie shots too much of a good thing?
Clearly it's not actually a cronut, but Dominique Ansel, New York pastry chef and inventor of the croissant/doughnut hybrid that took the country by storm last summer, is at it again, and this time he's debuted his creation at SXSW.

The treats, which are not yet named, appear to be chocolate chip cookies fashioned into shot glasses and filled with milk. How big are they? How does the cookie hold the milk in without leaking? What's so special about milk and cookies?

We're not really sure, and that's why we want someone here in Houston to tackle this cookie conundrum. It didn't take long for cronuts to catch on across the country, and if these are as good (initial reports from diners at SXSW are not available), it shouldn't be too long before we're all downing cookie shots on Saturday nights and finding ourselves hungover on milk come Sunday morning.

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Kool-Aid as Lipstick and Other Alternative Uses for Food

Categories: Off the Wall

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Photo courtesy Kool-Aid
So much more than a sugary kids' drink.
"Life hacks" is the term most often used by websites like Buzzfeed and Pinterest to refer to something that makes life easier. Use a soda tab to hang paintings! Separate egg yolks with a plastic bottle! Store cleaning supplies in a hanging shoe rack!

While these are all perfectly fine ideas, we're less interested in "hacks" and much more interested in creative ways to use items you probably already have, particularly food. Did you know that rubbing walnuts on wood can help camouflage scratches? Or that you can pick up broken glass with bread? How 'bout that Coke can clean your toilet?

Granted, most of the time I see food, I want to just eat it, but if you've got some extras and are looking for fun and easy ways to put your food to work, check out these tips and tricks.

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Toby Keith Brings His Bar & Grill to Houston

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Photo courtesy Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, Houston
Shut up, beer in mason jars?! I'm THERE.
Full disclosure: I had to Google "Toby Keith" in order to write this article.

Yes, I knew he's a country singer. And I knew he was the guy in that "Red Solo Cup" song. But that was about the extent of my knowledge. I don't really listen to country music (if that makes me a bad Texan, so be it), so my understanding of the genre and its players is lacking.

I went first to Wikipedia, and here is what I learned: Keith is from Oklahoma. He's feuded with the Dixie Chicks over their dislike of former president George W. Bush. He does a lot of philanthropic work. He's one of the wealthiest celebrities in the United States. He's very patriotic. He does not appear to have any culinary background, but he recently opened his 20th Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill (after his song "I Love This Bar"), here at the West Oaks Mall in Houston.

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Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette Responds to Review With Interesting Gift

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?!?
When I first opened the box, I was intrigued. Then I saw the card with the monogram "Lee Ellis" at the top, and I became concerned.

It's no secret that, though I thought there were a few outstanding dishes at the new Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette, the upscale restaurant owned by Ellis and Lance Fegen, my overall impression of the place was not as great as I'd hoped it would be. I'd been wowed by a dinner at the original Liberty Kitchen, and I'm such a regular at Petite Sweets that I can probably attribute at least two pounds of weight gain to that perfect custard. I didn't hate Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette at all. I'd just hoped for better from a talented group of people.

It's also no secret that many of you, dear readers, were displeased with my assessment. You called me whiny, passive-aggressive and "whack" and were upset that I compared the dining area to the home goods section of Anthropologie because of all the owls. And because it's beautiful. I happen to love Anthropologie.

At any rate, I was worried, when I saw Ellis's stationery, that he might have mailed me rotten vegetables, dog poo or gas station taquitos.

What I got was much more terrifying ...

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The Truth About Aphrodisiac Foods, or, Do Oysters Really Make You Horny?

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Painting by Sandro Botticelli
Aphrodite, from whom the word "aphrodisiac" originates, is pictured on a suggestive shell.
It is said that Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, the notorious 18th-century lover, ate 50 oysters each morning for breakfast to increase his sexual stamina. Earlier, herbalist Nicholas Culpepper wrote that asparagus "stirs up lust in man and woman." And back before we even had a word for aphrodisiac, the Aztecs named avocados ahuacuatl, or "testicle tree." The belief in foods as sexual stimulants is not a modern myth.

It's not entirely based upon science either, though. Though some foods possess chemical properties that could increase testosterone or estrogen levels, thereby increasing sex drive, others are considered sexy purely because of their appearance. The Food and Drug Administration maintains that aphrodisiacs are myths with no basis in science.

Still, some people swear by them. So, in honor of Valentine's Day, we bring you some of the foods commonly believed to have aphrodisiac powers, and a bit of research to determine whether or not you're wasting your time by stuffing yourself silly with walnuts.

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Avoid These 10 Foods If You Want to Get Lucky on Valentine's Day

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Castle Rock Entertainment/Columbia Pictures
Order what she's having, but not any of this other stuff.
I've never been one to shy away from any meal when I am on a date, regardless of how unattractive the consumption may make me appear. I've slurped soup and spaghetti, virtually unhinged my jaw to chomp down on a burger, inhaled more garlic than a vampire hunter and cracked shellfish like a caveman without ever worrying what the fella across the table would think as he watched me eat.

I've always believed that truly reveling in a good meal is pretty sexy.

That said, I'm one of the few who feel this way. I know girls who won't eat salad on dates for fear they'll get lettuce stuck in their teeth and guys who won't chew on ribs because it might make them look uncivilized. I say, "Who cares?" But I guess I can see where they're coming from.

So, in the spirit of the upcoming holiday (you know, that one that celebrates the lives of martyred saints love), here are some foods that are sloppy, smelly, unwieldy and, um, digestively challenged. Eat them at your own risk.

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Foodie Words That Must Be Banished Now (Let's Start With 'Foodie')

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Illustration by Kaitlin Steinberg
Calling yourself a foodie does not mean you actually know anything about food.
Just as various foods come in and out of style, so, too, do the words that describe them. In 2011, the word "taquito" was added to the Oxford English dictionary and "chimichurri" was added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online. In 2012, the online dictionary added "frankenfish," "locavore" and "food desert," while 2013 saw "cake pops," "street food" and "flexitarian."

As I'm typing these words, little red lines are appearing beneath them. Apparently my computer hasn't yet caught on.

Some words, such as the specific names for ethnic foods (bánh mì was recently added) should definitely be a recognized part of the English language. Other words, like "locavore," make my skin crawl.

Here is some more food-related jargon that needs to go the way of pamphagous, krioboly, lardlet and bromography.

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Hungry? Check Out One of Houston's Many Eating Contests, Sure to Fill You Up

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Photo courtesy Kenny & Ziggy's
Can you conquer the Zellagabetsky?
They say everything's bigger in Texas, including our burgers, pizzas and bowls of pho. OK, so the pho thing might be unique to Houston, and that's just one of the reasons that Houston eating competitions are the best: They're incredibly diverse. From Bellaire to Baytown, Sugar Land to the Woodlands, Galveston, Downtown and everywhere in between, restaurants have created challenges to test the stamina of local eaters and tourists alike.

Just the other day, I received an email from a new restaurant called Fat Boy's Bar and Grill (opening in February), which claims to have the biggest burger in Houston and quite possibly the biggest burger in the state. Weighing in at 15 pounds, the burger will be the headliner in Fat Boy's eating competition: If you can eat the behemoth in less than three hours, you'll win your photo on the Wall of Fame, a Fat Boy's T-shirt and a free meal. Unfortunately, you'll lose your dignity.

But eating contests aren't about dignity. They're about eating the biggest, the spiciest, the most calorically outrageous items bored restaurateurs can dream up, often under a time limit and with the stipulation that you can't, you know, let the food come back up when it's all over.

Here in Houston we have more than a dozen contests. These are some of the most popular.

Happy eating, friends. And remember, no vomiting.

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