State Representative to Sriracha CEO: Relocate to Texas

Photos from Wikipedia
Rep. Jason Villalba wants to bring the troubled Sriracha plant to Texas.
By now we've all heard about the ongoing saga of the Huy Fong Sriracha plant, which was forced to temporarily shut down part of its production due to complaints from nearby residents about fumes emanating from the plant. We've moaned and groaned and wrung our hands, fearful that we might be deprived of the spicy red sauce on which we've grown so dependent. And we've whined a lot. Could California be losing a great thing?

The Texas state representative for House District 114, which encompasses part of northern Dallas, isn't content to sit back and wait for the Sriracha shortage to grip the nation. Instead, he's gotten proactive, inviting David Tran, chief executive officer of Huy Fong Foods, Inc., to move the plant to Texas.

On Tuesday, Rep. Jason Villalba sent a letter to Tran in which he wrote, "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."

Amen to that!

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Eat the Grasshoppers at Hugo's: Soft Chapulines Tacos

Photo by Molly Dunn
Who wants to eat grasshoppers at Hugo's?
I believe the last time I willingly ate bugs was when I was five and didn't know any better. So, how did I find myself in my twenties ordering grasshoppers to share as an appetizer with my fiancé while dining at Hugo's?

In certain countries, bugs and insects are delicacies, such as fried centipedes and locusts in Beijing, spiders in Cambodia and the Witchetty grub in Australia. In America, we tend to step on our bugs more often than we toss them in a frying pan to serve for dinner. However at Hugo's, grasshoppers, or chapulines, are pan-fried and served with guacamole, blue corn tortillas and a spicy chipotle tomatillo salsa.

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Happy Holidays!: What Happened When We Searched for "Sexy Christmas Food"

The task was simple: Go to a stock image website and find some holiday food photos for a "Happy Holidays from Eating Our Words" post. The problem is that searching stock image sites is so utterly boring. After a few minutes of searching in vain for an image that spoke to us, a lightbulb went off in our brains.

We typed "sexy Christmas food" and clicked enter. We're real mature, you see.

When it comes to "sexy Christmas food," the most popular item by far is the candy cane. We can't say we were too surprised by this finding. What did surprise us was just how many images of women and candy canes existed. If this journalism thing doesn't pan out, we're totally moving to the world of stock image photography; we think we could have a lot of fun with the world of [person] + [item] + [action].

Enjoy the photos, including the utterly bizarre one of the only image we could find of a guy listed under "sexy Christmas food." You're welcome.

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Eating Our Words Presents: Holiday Family Gathering BINGO!

Film still from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
If your family meals are anything like this, you're going to need our drinking BINGO game.
Mom and Dad have arrived, the Christmas tree is gaudy as ever, and the dog is wearing antlers and a festive sweater. You're gonna need some booze to make it through the next week.

But don't just sit around and drink. Drink with a purpose, my friend! To help you out, we've turned your many reasons for imbibing into a fun holiday game.

Behold, Holiday Family Gathering BINGO.

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Top Ten Houston Culinary Scandals of 2013: Lawsuits, Rude Restaurant Staff and Rats

Photo from Scandal on
Some crazy things went down in 2013...which do you think was the craziest?
As the year comes to a close, we're taking some time to look back fondly on some of our favorite memories from the past 12 months. There were wonderful meals, exciting openings and heartwarming stories from some of our best chefs.

And then there were all the scandals, the shocking revelations, the feet in mouths. Without these folks keeping things interesting, 2013 would have been all about good food and good fun. And who wants that, really? We're a culture that savors schadenfreude, wrong though it may be.

So here, to sate your appetite for awkwardness, a list of 2013's best culinary scandals in Houston, in chronological order. Sit back, relax and revel in other people's pickles.

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The Great Debate: Is the Fruitcake Worth Eating, or Is It Nothing But a Doorstop?

Photo by Matthew Bietz
It's the fruitcake time of year, like it or not.
Ah, fruitcakes. You either love them or you hate them. There are very few in-betweens when it comes to this sweet bread filled with nuts and candied fruit.

Though gifting fruitcakes around the holidays is not as popular as it used to be, the baked good has been a part of people's diets since as early as the Roman Empire. Back then, fruitcakes were made with pomegranate seeds, raisins and nuts mixed into a barley mash and formed into a ring for dessert. Because it had such a long shelf life, Roman soldiers would carry fruitcakes with them onto the battlefields for sustenance. By the Middle Ages, the recipe had evolved to contain preserved fruit, honey and spices, and it was popular among traveling crusaders.

When Europe began aggressively colonizing, in the 16th century, the sugar acquired from tropical colonies and fruits from the Middle East found their way into the mixture. More nuts were also added, and during the Victorian Era bakers started using alcohol in their fruitcakes as well.

In the early 1700s, European leaders considered fruitcake so decadent that it was outlawed for being "sinfully rich." Eventually the English brought it back into fashion as an important part of tea service. Fruitcakes remained popular in Europe and the U.S. through the first half of the 20th century, though it's unclear how they became a holiday staple.

People aren't as enamored with fruitcakes as they once were, but the polarizing holiday treat continues to spark debate this time of year. Where do you stand on the fruitcake spectrum?

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Do Not Party in This Manner: Houston Bar Does Stupid With 'Drink Like A Indian' Party

Photo from Brewskis Louetta
I'm almost as offended by the grammar as I am by the concept.
The Brewskis Pub and Patio, which is located between North Houston and Tomball, took a Thanksgiving-themed party this past weekend a little too far when they encouraged drinkers to come dressed as Native Americans and advertised the event with the slogan "Drink Like A (sic) Indian, Party Like A Pilgrim."

First of all, what does that even mean?! Last time I checked, a pilgrim party was akin to staying late at church and reading an extra book of the Bible. And "drink like a Indian"? I just can't even with that grammar. I just can't.

But in all seriousness, what was Brewskis thinking? It's just not acceptable in this day and age (or any day and age) to mock a different race for your own drunken enjoyment. But it's not just the name of the party or the really poor choice of sexy indian costumes that has people upset.

Check out the "Indian names" the staff gave themselves.

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Taco Bell Unleashes Chocolate Taco Dessert Kit on Unwitting Masses

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
Why, Taco Bell, whyyyyyyy?!
When you Google "dessert taco," all sorts of interesting and visually appealing images pop up. There are the cinnamon sugar-coated fried flour tortilla versions stuffed with fresh fruit. There are ones designed to look like savory tacos, but which are actually made of sugar cookies, shredded coconut and crushed cookies. There are the old standby Choco Tacos made by Klondike, for which, admittedly, I have a weakness. (Also, they're available in stores all over Houston. I checked.)

And then there are Taco Bell's new abominations.

Last month, Taco Bell released a few new kits, including the Cheesy Double Decker Taco Dinner Kit, the Crunchy and Soft Taco Dinner Kit, the Soft Taco Dinner Kit, and, most unsettling, the Cinnamon Nachos Dessert Kit and the Chocolate Taco Dessert Kit.

I want to talk to you about the Chocolate Taco Dessert Kit. And I want you to understand the sacrifices I make for you, dear readers, when I taste-test products such as these. This, right here, this is love.

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The Best-Tasting Throat Lozenges for Cold and Flu Season

Photo by Monica Fuentes
If you're sick enough to need throat lozenges, you'd better pick some tasty ones.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be largely inoperative because of the government shutdown and, as the Web site states, "the lapse in government funding," but here at the Houston Press, we've still got your back.

So sure, we can't with any medical authority tell you what this year's flu strains are like or what sort of vaccines are available this year, but we can help to ease your suffering should you neglect to heed all the government warnings about getting a flu shot and find yourself sick and in pain.

We've tested ten different varieties of throat lozenges and cough drops available at CVS to determine which taste the best and which are most likely to soothe your sore esophagus. Some of them are designed to alleviate minor tickles, while others are intended to suppress coughs and numb painful gullets. This ranking is based on both flavor and efficacy in mitigating our (not so sore) throats.

Also check out last year's cough syrup taste test. And please don't use cough syrup for anything other than coughs, if you catch my drift.

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Blood in the Kitchen: Houston Chefs Share Some Horrific Tales

Categories: Off the Wall

Photo by Indy Scream Park
The kitchen can be a dangerous place, friends.
"Pretty much any kitchen has superglue in it," Joshua Martinez, owner of Goro & Gun, told me recently. "If you cut part of your finger off, you just clean it and superglue it back on."

I've always known that a kitchen can be a dangerous place. My aunt is a chef, and I remember numerous dinners where she'd regale the table with the story of chopping off the tip of her thumb with a dull knife early in her career.

"Typically, what I do when I hurt myself is, I get very quiet, walk away and assess it," she would explain. "I could tell this was bad, but I worked for another three hours before the general manager said, 'Is your finger still bleeding? We're going to the hospital.' And there they had to drill a hole in my nail to loop the stitch through to get my skin to stay on."

It was at approximately that part of the anecdote where I'd lose my appetite.

(Before we proceed, an important note: All the chefs I interviewed follow stringent hygiene procedures in their kitchens, and make cleanliness a priority. There's no need to fear that there's blood in your gazpacho.)

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