Torchy's Tacos' Suit Against Texas Taco Co. Alleges Theft of Food-Prep Bible

Photos from Torchy's Facebook and Texas Taco Co. Facebook
Taco wars, not brought to you by the Food Network.
Back in August, we reported on the anticipated opening of a new taco joint in Houston called Texas Taco Co. The Friendswood location was the third store set to open in Texas -- the other two are in Baytown and Magnolia -- and though it sounded like a delicious addition to the Houston-area restaurant scene, we and Eater noticed a striking similarity between the menu at Texas Taco Co. and the menu of another much-lauded Texas taco spot: Torchy's Tacos.

Apparently we weren't the only ones.

As soon as the first Texas Taco Co. opened, in Baytown, diners started sending messages to Torchy's asking, essentially, what's up with your new restaurant? People assumed, because of similarities between the two menus, that Texas Taco Co. was somehow affiliated with Torchy's.

For example, the Torchy's menu offers a breakfast taco called the "Monk Special," which is described as "'Hold the potatoes.' Eggs, bacon, green chilies & cheese. Served on your choice of tortilla."

Texas Taco Co. offers an "Alamo Special," described as "'Hold the potatoes.' Eggs, bacon, green chilies & cheese. Served on your choice of tortilla."

You see the issue?

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Local Chef Arrested; Suspected of Attempted Sexual Assault

Photo from the Original Napoli Restaurant's Facebook page
According to a probable cause report filed by the Houston Police Department on Wednesday, September 4, Zackery Ray Alolabi may have some trouble keeping his hands to himself.

The owner of the Original Napoli Italian Restaurant Chain, affectionately known as "Papa Zack," was accused of attempted sexual assault on July 19 by a female employee. The police report states that the woman, who had been working for Alolabi for the past two years, claimed the chef had been trying to kiss her and had been making "unwanted advances" all day. She stated in the report that he was highly intoxicated and eventually approached her, "placing his exposed penis in her face," before attempting to lie on top of her.

He then positioned himself to perform oral sex on the employee and attempted to remove her shorts, even though she told him to stop several times, she told police. The employee says she was able to overcome Alolabi by wrapping her thighs around his head and placing him in a head lock.

Alolabi was not aware that his employee's ex-husband was listening to the entire event through a live cell phone on the employee's desk from a previous call, according to the police report.

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Top 8 Culinary Scandals of the Past Decade

Oh, Paula Deen. Just stop talking and eat some butter.
It seems every day someone new is coming out of the woodwork to claim he or she was wronged by Paula Deen. The once-beloved host of Paula's Home Cooking on the Food Network has been accused of racial and sexual discrimination by a number of former employees and was quoted using the "N-word" and saying she wanted to have a "true Southern plantation-style theme" for her brother's wedding, complete with black male servers. The fat, white, Southern belle of cooking is racist. Shocking.

This all came after a previous scandal in which Deen revealed she has diabetes and knew about her diabetes even while continuing to push overly sweet and fatty foods on her TV show. Then she went on to become a paid spokesperson for the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, which exports insulin. Deen's longtime rival Anthony Bourdain joked that he was going to start breaking legs to sell crutches, since that's essentially what Deen is doing. Oh, the hypocrisy!

Because we're actually kind of tired of hearing about Deen, we've compiled a list featuring the best of the rest of the past decade's culinary scandals. Also, someone needs to take the heat off of Deen. Poor old lady can't handle it!

You're welcome, Paula.

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Carbonation & Candy at Rocket Fizz

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Some of the more intriguing offerings at Rocket Fizz.
It's no secret I'm passionate about potables, especially the adults-only kind. But love of liquids also extends to soda, especially during the summer when I tend to crave the unique sweet burn of a carbonated beverage.

So I when first walked into Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop in Rice Village, my head sort of exploded. Hundreds of bottles of specialty colas, elixirs, root beers, lemonades, punches filled the shelves; it was a virtual museum of soda where everything was for sale (by singles and six-packs!). Brands and flavors ranged from the hard-to-find but recognizable (Cheerwine) to the to the foreign and fanciful (Muscat Ramune) to the downright bizarre (Lester's Fixins' Buffalo Wing Soda).

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Broke Meals, Ramen Hacks and Food Snobbery

Ramen Eggs Mise en Place.jpg
Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
Not very haute; all kinds of happy.
Last week at work, I ate shitty mall food court Chinese food for lunch. I relished every bite of it. As I walked in the room with that Styrofoam container, several of my coworkers looked on incredulously. They were surprised that I would deign to eat from such a place. I was surprised at their surprise. They called me a food snob. They were being good-natured about it, and I suppose I can see where they were coming from, but it rankled a bit.

It rankled because my attitudes about food have always been about happiness, pleasure, excitement and sharing. It rankled because I've spent a lot of time talking about food with my coworkers, sharing restaurant recommendations and recipes, running the gamut from authentic Japanese Omakase in Ohio, to how to replicate Chik-fil-A sauce. I've cooked for them out of The French Laundry and Alinea Cookbooks, but I've also made them many of the simple, staple meals of my youth, like sausage and sauerkraut. It rankled because I don't think of myself as a snob.

The comment did get me thinking about my history with food, and about how my attitudes have changed over time, shaped by my upbringing and my adult life in equal measure. Through a childhood with three brothers and not a lot of money, to my first few years as a married adult and not a lot of money, thrift has always informed my cooking and eating habits. The ways in which that manifests itself have shifted over time and with changing means, but I'm still the guy who takes every scrap of leftovers (even from fancy restaurants) and who uses every scrap of everything in some way. Don't throw out that 1/4 cup of leftover rice, I'll use that in something!

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This Week in Deliciousness

Categories: Shameless Chef

Ceviche is always best when served on a salt puck.
Welcome back to the weekly roundup here at Eating Our Words, where there can never be enough varieties of the Newton. We're working on a Boston Cream Pie Newton that should be ready before the end of the year, assuming we can get our taste testers to stop coughing up blood.

Fish envelopes! We chose to start out the week with them. Next week: fish stamps. We're trying to make things as nightmarish for the post office as possible.

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The Shameless Chef: Make Your Own Damn Salsa

Categories: Shameless Chef

What the holy hell, is that a fresh vegetable? Who am I and what have I done with the Shameless Chef?
I gotta be honest with you, the column almost didn't happen today. I think I came down with something, because I slept about 20 hours yesterday. No lie, I passed out around 5:30 p.m., woke up about a half hour past midnight, then passed out again around 4:30 a.m. and woke up again not long after 10 this morning. My energy is at an all-time low and I'm constantly drowsy. I've tried to talk to some doctors, but whenever the subject of my dietary habits comes up they just start sobbing uncontrollably and won't quit until I hang up. I mean, I assume they quit when I hang up. Huh. Jeez, for all I know, the town's still full of bitterly weeping health professionals.

Anyway, I was lounging around listlessly trying to conserve those vital calories, watching horrible, moronic television shows that are basically junk-food for my brain, when I finally got hungry. I hadn't eaten anything since lunchtime yesterday, so I started raiding my cupboards. Shit was pitifully bare, folks. All I really had were some miscellaneous cans and some chips. For the first time in almost two days, however, I was able to string a couple of thoughts together and remember I had most, if not all, of the ingredients for my Aunt Cathy's do-it-yourself salsa. I dug out the recipe and sleepily got to work.

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The Shameless Chef: Cookies In a Skillet

Categories: Shameless Chef

Can you tell I had my camera on the wrong setting? Hahahahahaha, professionalism.
While hunting through some old family recipes looking for inspiration, I came across a yellowed, stained note card with the recipe for something called "Baptist Cookies," and I was intrigued. Obvious jokes aside ("Do they contain real Baptists?"), I wondered what the hell a Baptist cookie was, never having heard of such a thing. Upon reading the recipe, I discovered that they are simply cookies you can make in a skillet. Cookies. In a skillet. Hell to the yes, people.

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The Shameless Chef: A Fistful of Breakfast

Categories: Shameless Chef

I love pre-diced ham. I'm a busy guy, I can't be using and then washing off knives all day.
You can't mention the concept of breakfast without someone near you piping up that it's the most important meal of the day. Well if it's so damn important, how come I sleep straight through it 95% of the time, Mr. Smarty Pants? And I happen to be in perfect health, if you don't count the bad knees, iffy ankles, respiratory problems after more than two flights of stairs, bouts of blurry kaleidoscopic vision, and occasional numbness on the entire left side of my body.

Still, every now and then, for one reason or another, I am forced to leave my soft, comfy bed before noon, and when that happens, I like a nice, hearty meal to give me the energy I need to make it through the hour and a half before I take an early lunch. I also like a meal that's simple, cooks up quickly, and is customizable to suit my mood. And starches. I do like me some starches.

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The Shameless Chef: A Raviolier Ravioli

Categories: Shameless Chef

Have you ever slouched out of bed around 1:30 in the afternoon, grunting and snorting, and staggered to the kitchen, opened up a can of ravioli for breakfast, and tossed it in the microwave for a couple of minutes, only to realize "Damn. This ravioli just isn't ravioli-y enough"? No? Liar.

Yes, I'm a big fan of canned ravioli, especially on those days when my body craves an absolutely unbelievable amount of sodium, but sometimes it feels like something's missing. Sometimes it feels like the ravioli itself is just a good start towards something better, something grander, something... that could fit in a casserole dish. If you're surprised, you either just started reading this column or are what Jethro Tull and I like to call "Thick as a Brick."

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