We Have Found the Strangest, Most Magical Chinese Buffet in Houston

Categories: Off the Wall

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
The weirdest (and most badass?) Chinese buffet in Houston.
When I crave Chinese food, I go to Chinatown.

When I crave Americanized Chinese food served out of a chafing dish, I talk to Joshua Martinez of The Modular food truck. He shares an affinity for what he calls "dirty Chinese" with the owner of the Rice Box food truck, John Peterson. They share tips and new discoveries with each other, eager to try out the greasiest of the greasy spoon Chinese buffets in town. Recently, Martinez let me in on one of his new finds.

It started with a photo he sent me of intricately painted china sitting in a buffet under heat lamps. On top of the plates, there was...

"What is that?" was the only logical response to that photo. "Is that...are those..."

His reply was swift.

"Yes, those are Hot Cheetos."

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Five Things the Houston Bar/Restaurant Scene Is Missing

Categories: Off the Wall

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Photo by Diana Schumate
Where are all our great delis?!
Let's get one thing straight: Houston has a pretty rockin' restaurant scene.

This is largely thanks to the sheer number of restaurants we have in town (by some estimates, one of the highest numbers per capita in the country) and the huge variety of ethnic food available.

Still, there are some areas for improvement. We asked the Twitterverse what they think the Houston bar and restaurant scene is lacking, and responses poured in. Pizza and authentic Thai food were two popular suggestions, along with nose-to-tail restaurants (RIP, Feast), Eastern European fare and anything worthy of two-to-three Michelin stars.

Based on your suggestions and our own unsatisfied cravings, we've compiled a list of what this great city is still missing, restaurant-wise. We're fairly certain that if we could just master this few areas...we'd be pretty darn near perfect.

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Using Google Trend Reports to Predict Future Food Trends

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Photo by Pamela
Will anything trump cupcakes?
We recently came across an article on the Huffington Post food section (you know, an ideal source for incredibly accurate news), and found an article entitled "According To Google, Nothing Is Ever Going To Trump The Cupcake."

That can't be right, we thought, weary of the cupcake. It's been a very trendy food item for years now, and while most food writers and chefs admit to being so over the cupcake, the Huffington Post claims that Google Trends shows the cupcake's popularity isn't in decline. Unfortunately.

The image above shows the comparisons the HuffPo author made to prove that the cupcake is still going strong.

Disheartened, we made our own chart showing the rise of the cupcake and other similar baked goods.

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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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The Worst Restaurant Names in Houston

Categories: Off the Wall

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Photo courtesy Crapitto's
Aw, we still love (and miss) you, Crapitto's!
With Pho King, Pho Kim and Crapitto's closed, what restaurants are there left in Houston to ridicule?

Plenty, it turns out.

The conversation at a recent media dinner turned to bad restaurant names when we started discussing the current contender for worst moniker: TABLE. Only a few of us had been and reported the food to be pretty good, but...that name. We pictured the chefs, owners and marketing team sitting in the restaurant hurriedly trying to come up with a designation to replace Philippe now that Philippe Schmidt was no longer a part of the restaurant.

Then, we imagine, one of them looked down at the platform around which they were seated.

"Knife? No, that sounds violent. Napkin? No, too close to the Britishism for diaper. I've got it! TABLE. But in all caps. It looks fancier that way. It tells diners nothing about the food or concept, but it lets them know that this is definitely a restaurant. Or a furniture store. Whatever, let's just call the damn thing TABLE."

OK, so there was probably a little more thought in it than that. And just to be clear, the fact that we think the name is, well, dumb, does not reflect in any way our opinions of the food or the restaurant itself. That's true of all the restaurants on this list. They try hard and are quality establishments.

But damn, some of these names are bad.

This story continues on the next page.


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Dear Artisan Toast Craze: Please Don't Come to Houston

Categories: Off the Wall

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Photo from thinkstock.com
Toast is the new black.
Houston tends to be a little late to the game, food-trend-wise.

The whole food truck-trend didn't really take off here until 2011, long after the gourmet meal on wheels had become popular in places like Los Angeles and New York. We're still going gaga over cupcakes, a trend that felt played out even in St. Louis when I moved away from there last year. Gourmet doughnuts, which have been filling bakery cases in Seattle, Portland, New York and San Francisco for some time now, are finally beginning to pop up here in H-Town.

And that's okay. We know that trends will eventually make it to our muggy little corner of the world, and we're great at building up excitement in anticipation (remember the whole cronut thing?).

But I have a request for the latest and weirdest in food trends, expensive artisan toast. Please, for the love of all that is good and hearty, do not come to Houston.

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The Ultimate Hot Sauce Taste Test

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
Behold, all the glorious sauces from aisle 13 at H-E-B.
There's evidence that people in the Amazon basin were eating chili peppers as much as 6,100 years ago. Shortly thereafter, from what we can tell, native South Americans began domesticating the plant with the fiery hot fruit. They weren't content to simply forage for it. They needed it at all times.

Many thousands of years later, we can still relate. The first thing we do upon getting a bowl of gumbo, a basket of wings or a plate of tacos is reach for the hot sauce. We've come to expect--and crave--both the heat and the acidity in each bottle of vinegar-soaked pepper purée.

But as anyone who's ever been to a Bloody Mary bar can attest, there are a lot of sauces out there on the market. Tabasco is the oldest recognizable one, tracing its roots back to 1868. In areas of the country not so saturated with hot sauce, Tabasco and hot sauce are synonymous.

Here, though, where Mexican and Cajun food abound, we have much more than just Tabasco to choose from at most grocery stores and even most restaurants. How is one to decide which is the best?

Armed with crackers and a pint of milk, I set out to determine that for you.

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Ten Best Signs You're a Houston Foodie

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Photo by Robb Walsh
Quick! Name those fajitas!
Sure, you live in Houston. Maybe you even grew up in Houston. But are you a true Houston foodie?

Do you plan your days off around which type of ethnic food you most want to eat, and stick to a single neighborhood for hours so as to properly indulge and explore?

Do you make a sport of going to Revival Market for doughnuts and Shipleys on North Main for boudin kolaches on the same day in an attempt to actually acquire both before they sell out?

Do the folks behind the counter at Burt's Meat Market greet you by name?

Do you know the significance of the red cup at Ruchi's?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you might be a Houston foodie. Here are some other criteria.

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10 Best Kitchen Tools We Need to Invent Right Now

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Photo courtesy Kickstarter
I cannot believe I've made it this long in life without an egg-scrambler.
In news of the dumb, a Chicago inventor recently achieved Kickstarter success and Internet fame with a device that he purports will scramble an egg without breaking or penetrating the shell. It's called the Golden Goose--you know, because the result is a golden egg--and in just a few days, the unusual instrument has raised $109,001 on Kickstarter, nearly $75,000 more than its initial goal. The device works by using centrifugal force to mix the white and the yolk without introducing any outside air. The egg can then be hard or soft boiled and enjoyed.

Which leads us to...why? Is it too hard to just scramble an egg? Do "Golden Eggs" somehow taste better than regular ol' eggs? Does rotating an egg really fast in a plastic contraption make you look cool? Hell if I know.

But this got us thinking. There are definitely some voids in our kitchen tool collection--voids that exist not because we haven't purchased certain items, but because these items for which we pine do not yet exist. If there are any intrepid inventors out there, please, start the design and development process now.

And when you become the next big as-seen-on-TV sensation, we want a cut.

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3-D Printed Food Is a Thing...But Do You Want to Eat It?

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Photo courtesy Natural Machines
Hey, Foodini! Make me a sandwich! (Note: It doesn't work like that)
It's called Foodini. Rhymes with Houdini. As if it might, at some point, perform some feat of escape artistry.

It's just a box, though, sort of like a microwave with a computer screen on the front. Capsules containing blended food are loaded into the machine, and it's programmed to squirt out the food mush into geometric shapes and patterns. If the food then needs to be cooked, you cook it.

But the point of Foodini is to cut out the prep time. You don't have sprinkle flour all over a surface to roll out pizza dough. You don't have to shape cookies. You don't have to cut and fill ravioli. Foodini does that for you.

If it sounds a little like something out of The Jetsons, that's not such a stretch.


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