10 Best Food Emojis We Desperately Need

Categories: Off the Wall

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
I really don't think we need all those sushi iterations.
While working on the article about searching Yelp using emojis this week, I realized that the emoji canon has some rather glaring omissions. Sure, I could search for a burger place or Italian food or sushi, but what if I want a sandwich? A cupcake? Some charcuterie?

Emojis were first invented in Japan in 1998, and they've certainly evolved since then (hell, there's a floppy disk and a crystal ball, should you ever find yourself chatting about obsolete '90s technology or fortune tellers), but there are still many things missing.

I polled a few local chefs, restaurateurs and food personalities to see what they thought might be a useful addition to the oeuvre of emojis, and then I made a list of my own, featuring images I constantly find myself wishing I could text into the stratosphere.

What would you add to the already vast (and bizarre) lineup?


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You Can Now Search Yelp with Emojis (For the Spelling-Challenged)

Categories: News, Off the Wall

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In case words are too difficult for you to manage or you're a 13-year-old girl with an iPhone (you know, when I was your age...), Yelp has just made things a little easier on you.

Now, instead of actually typing words like "pizza" or "hamburger" in the search box when you want to find a restaurant, all you have to do is type an emoji. You know, those little pictographs invented in Japan and now available on just about any smart phone.

The system seems to work pretty well for pizzerias, hamburger joints and ice cream parlors, but avid emoji users will immediately recognize possible shortcomings of the system. How, for instance, is one to find a Mexican restaurant when there's no taco or burrito emoji available? What good is that damn flan emoji? And what happens if you search for something random like, oh, I don't know, that eminently useful Easter Island head?

We did the research so you don't have to.

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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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