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Houston DOTM - Nominating and voting thread - July - December, 2015

about 2 hours ago
Jaymes in Houston

Houston DOTM - Nominating and voting thread - July - December, 2015

I also love tamales. I tend to start my Christmas tamal hunt sometime in November.

If we do decide to go with something else now, may I jump the gun a bit and suggest tamales for Oct or Nov?

about 14 hours ago
Jaymes in Houston

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

They're never really "pico." Honestly, I think it's because they're so popular with everybody. If you made the sauce really spicy from the getgo, you'd limit your market. And the hot sauces are always right there. Sometimes I add some of those pickled jalapenos - escabeche.

Aug 22, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

Twelve days in Ft.Stockton, Texas

I drive through there a couple of times a year and never know where to go besides on down the highway. In fact, think I'll probably be headed back that way come December. So I particularly appreciate your taking the time to post this comprehensive report.

We also get lots of requests for info about that region from other passers-through, so we can direct them to this thread.

It obviously took you some time to write this, but know it's going to get good use.

Aug 21, 2015
Jaymes in Texas

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

This looks so wonderful. I've had the shrimp cocktails there before and loved them. But this photo makes me want to hop into the car right now.

Thank you so much for posting this. August is nearing a close, and I'd kinda forgotten. But I'm going to make every effort to get in at least two more.

Aug 21, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

Pickled Cucumbers

I agree with others here. They're not usually hard to find.

In addition to being as Doobs says - "smallish and very firm and crisp, and not limp" - ideal for so many things - the color is usually not so dark green.

Because they're not waxed.

Aug 21, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

One night in Dallas

Dallas/Ft Worth has its own board & you should ask there:

http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/66

Aug 19, 2015
Jaymes in Texas

SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI - Are there any good restaurants?

It's a bland dish. And it was invented to be bland. And unthreatening. To appeal to what its creator referred to as "the Midwestern palate."

It's fried chicken nuggets in brown gravy.

I just don't get the appeal.

Aug 18, 2015
Jaymes in Great Plains

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

Doing a little bit of investigation regarding the connection between the seafood cocktail Compechana, and the Mexican state of Campeche, I found this: http://rptides.blogspot.com/2009/08/m...

"One is an authentic Shrimp Cocktail, the other a seafood cocktail called Campechana that is usually made of oysters, baby octopus, mussels, shrimp, squid and scallops. Campechana (which originated in the state of Campeche) is prepared in its broth with vegetable juice, lime juice, ketchup, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, avocado and cilantro."

When you go to the "Visit Compeche" website, you'll notice that the cover photo scrolls though many of the special delights of the state. In the final photo, there are women having a delightful lunch. Prominently on the table is a seafood cocktail. And it looks just exactly like the Mexican ones (as opposed to the 'fusion' versions in non-Mexican restaurants) to which I am so accustomed. And with which I am so enamored. They're clearly very proud of it.

http://www.visitmexico.com/en/campeche

So there you go.

Connection with Campeche established.

Aug 15, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

That looks wonderful. And I feel the need to note that, in a good coctel, the ketchup (or Heinz chili sauce, whichever you prefer) is ALWAYS a "background note." You never should be able to easily detect it. As I said, I have Diana Kennedy's recipe somewhere and you know she must have been loathe to use such a lowbrow American ingredient. I've tried recipes without it but, in my opinion anyway, a small amount (and it is small - definitely not a major component of the base - as in cocktail sauce) seems to bind and thicken the other ingredients in a way that makes the final sauce superior to recipes without it.

Aug 14, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

I first heard the word "Campechana" connected with seafood cocktails several decades back and, upon discovering that it apparently meant "a mixture of seafood," immediately thought that perhaps the name was akin to: "seafood cocktail the way that a woman from Campeche would make it because her husband is a fisherman on the Gulf of Mexico and he brings home lots of different kinds of fish so she puts them all into her seafood cocktails."

But I haven't heard anybody else mention a connection with Campache. However, I've done no research into it either. It's certainly true that the term "Campechana" means a woman from Campeche - so who knows. It would make sense.

Aug 14, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

Smallest Pappadeux Seafood place?

Ambience. I wasn't the one that asked, but I think there are definitely times when I'm not "up" for the noise, confusion, "entire student body," "happening'" scene of a large restaurant. There is absolutely much to be said for the warm, intimate, cozy, "you're someone special," atmosphere of a small dining space. Especially when it has a Mom & Pop family vibe.

As opposed to a large corporate, "you're our thousandth customer today," and often even "chain restaurant" feel.

And honestly, even though you asked, "How can a restaurant be 'too big to enjoy'?" - I'm pretty sure you get that.

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

I'll try to answer your questions as best I can, but feel the need to stress that I'm not an expert. Wasn't raised in Acapulco, not a native Spanish-speaker, haven't studied food or food history of the New World. So if somebody comes along that does seem to have expert information and contradicts me, it's just fine with me if we all (including me) decide to defer to that person's opinion. I definitely don't think that this is the be-all and end-all final word.

However, I am pretty old and have traveled a lot and eaten a lot of what we're discussing, so I'll share my thoughts and observations.

First - ceviche. Ceviche is typically made with fresh seafood. It's marinated in some sort of strong acid that "cooks" the fish. Typically, that's lime, but you can add whatever other citrus you like in order to change the flavor profile to reflect your personal preference. But it seems to me that it's got to have a base of lime because other citrus isn't strong enough to cook the fish. I have seen calamansi used, and Seville oranges, grapefruit, blood oranges, etc., but I think they have to add some lime juice, or vinegar, or something to up the acid quotient. The typical classic ceviche, as I've eaten all over Central and South America, including Peru, is a firm white fish, lime juice, and chiles. You do see assorted additions that folks add to make it "their own" - olives, onions, cilantro, maybe some mango or other fruit, little oil, whatever strikes the cook's fancy. And you do often see chopped tomatoes, but the tomatoes generally stand alone. The liquid in which the ceviche is served does not usually constitute what you'd call a "tomato base." With ceviche, the whole point is the fish. You eat it with a fork. I've even seen it served on platters, with toothpicks to spear the pieces of fish. You do see other types of seafood in ceviche - shrimp, etc., but whatever is used, traditionally the fish is not supposed to be pre-cooked - although, in the US, it often is for health department reasons. And, although I'm sure whatever food is available, regardless as to how unappetizing it seems to most of us, somebody, somewhere is eating it. So, while I can't say positively that nobody ever eats, or drinks, the liquid from ceviche, I can say that I have never seen anybody do it. It's so tart and acidic that I think most folks would find it very unpleasant on its own.

Contrast this with Cóctel de Camarón - Shrimp Cocktail. It's traditionally served in some kind of glass - a goblet, parfait glass, etc. It's in a spicy tomato-based liquid punched-up with the flavors we typically associate with Mexico. You eat it with a spoon because it's all about the combination of the seafood and the liquid. You would never serve it on a platter. Most often, the base is made with a combination of fish stock, some kind of tomato juice or puree, ketchup or Heinz Chili Sauce, lime (or other citrus) juice, chiles of course, raw crunchy onion, cilantro, etc. Fresh chopped tomatoes are often added for texture. And you'll see chopped celery, cucumber, even those spicy marinated carrots. Sometimes it's pretty sweet. It's nowhere nearly so acidic as ceviche. The shrimp is precooked - usually boiled. And, because the idea is to get some shrimp on your spoon along with the tomato base, either smallish shrimp is used or, if the shrimp are too large to fit on a spoon, sliced into bite-sized pieces. This tomato base is a liquid (I keep making the comparison to gazpacho - likening it to a Mexican shrimp gazpacho - which I think is valid), rather than the thick cocktail sauce made of ketchup/Heinz Chili sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, etc., with which we're more familiar in the US. The tomato base is often not particularly "pica" or what we'd call "hot" because everyone, including little kids, likes it, and it's always served with some bottled hot sauce alongside - Valentina, Tapatio, Cholula, Yucateco, etc. Certainly you can add chopped avocado to the broth ahead of time, but it does tend to get mushy unless you serve it right away, so I don't ever expect it to be pre-added in restaurant versions. I'd say it's far more typical that the top of the cocktail is garnished with several slices of avocado, a sprig of cilantro, and a couple of lime wedges.

Reiterating that I am not a native Spanish speaker - but I've been told that "campechano/a" means a version of "mixed" or "generous" or "hearty" or "extra." In so far as food (and especially these seafood cocktails) goes it seems to relate to ordering your meal "supersized" or "with everything." If the menu says "campechana," in my experience, it's exactly like the Mexican shrimp cocktails described above, but a combination of seafood, not just shrimp. Although my very recent experience (like in the last couple of weeks) seems to include a lot of crab added, my previous experience was that "campechana" usually meant octopus, either with other assorted types of seafood, or just octopus and shrimp. I'm not that wild about octopus, so I don't order it, and am not as familiar with exactly what's in it as are other folks that eat it all the time. I just prefer the plain shrimp, so that's what I usually get. I have seen "campechana" used to mean that avocado was added to the broth in addition to the shrimp, but that's definitely not typical use of the word.

"Vuelve a la Vida." I'll admit I've never heard that term before Tuesday, but it seems to be the typical Mexican coctel de mariscos, but containing myriad types of fish - oysters, crab, octopus, shrimp - basically anything swimming in the sea. And maybe some pineapple or other fruit to boot. A quick google brought me to this:

http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes... Vuelve a la Vida as served at Fonda restaurant in NYC.

And then this: http://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/... I vote we all meet there next week to give this a try.

One more quick google: http://www.vidamariscos.com/

Also looks fun to try, and probably less pricy than Hugo's.

Finally, it seems to me that the versions of all of these Mexican seafood cocktails as served in non-Mexican restaurants varies a great deal from those served in Mexican restaurants that claim at least some measure of authenticity.

More like some sort of Mexican coctel - US shrimp cocktail - fusion.

So - whew - I hope this dissertation was helpful.

And at least partially correct.

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

Here's a link to Deli's Café - that place in Katy I was telling you about. You might doublecheck the menu to see if they have what you're looking for. If you don't see it on the menu, you might give them a call and ask. They're really nice folks and very accommodating.

http://deliscafe.com/wordpress/

Aug 12, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

Closeby small town places where you like to eat for a mini roadie

Here's a great suggestion for a "close-by small town place for a mini-roadie": Katy!

So many fun things to do, but you definitely need to check out the "No Label Brewery." Tastings and tours. Pretty great. I know some folks that live out in Katy and they assure me that it's a great destination for a quickie road trip.

http://nolabelbrew.com/

Aug 12, 2015
Jaymes in Houston
1

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

My thoughts - this is very tasty, for sure, and I enjoyed it, and it's obvious why it's popular. It's hard to imagine anyone not liking it, unless you just don't care for seafood.

However, it is completely different, to me anyway, from the cocteles de camarón and campechanas that I've had in the past. Firstly, this one was very thick. You eat it with a fork. The ones I'm accustomed to having in Mexican restaurants are soupier, with a more tomato base. For lack of a better word, I'd say they're more "Mexican." It's seafood in a spicy "pica" base of tomatoes, chopped raw onions, chopped chiles, cilantro, etc. You eat it with a spoon. And you could never pile them this high in the glass. Imagine trying to pile up a gazpacho. Just wouldn't work.

When it comes to which is "best," because they are so different, it's kind of hard to compare, but I would have to say that I prefer the more Mexican versions although, admittedly, that could be just because that's what I've become accustomed to.

But I'm really glad that we met to try this. The afternoon was a lot of fun and I'm thrilled to have met Lambowner and Lamb. And to again see Doobs and Mater, and JC and Wifeacita, both of whom are just about as cute as they can be.

Wifeacita: here are the calamansi/calamondon trees I was talking about:

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/grow-cal...

These sour fruits are delicious squeezed on fish, or papaya, or into gin & tonics, or iced tea, or basically used in any way that you use lime. And in my experience, the trees are very easy to grow.

Aug 12, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

In case anyone checks this thread - I'm running a bit late but definitely will be there.

Aug 11, 2015
Jaymes in Houston
1

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

And I'll be in turquoise, wearing way too much makeup and looking like a floozie that has seen better days.

But refuses to talk about them.

Actually that loves to talk about them.

Aug 10, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

Me for sure. And I'm really looking forward to it.

Aug 10, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

You said the place you initially wanted to go was "just too packed."

Where was that?

Aug 09, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

Polish Festival September 18-20

Thanks for the advance notice. Going on my calendar.

Aug 09, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

JJC, I'd like to know if there are any restaurants around town that offer cocteles de camerón or campechanas that you particularly like.

Aug 09, 2015
Jaymes in Houston
1

Houston DOTM - Nominating and voting thread - July - December, 2015

Where was it that you got that sublime blue fin tuna? Did you mention it elsewhere and I just missed it?

Aug 08, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

I think the location in Katy used to be a Mexican restaurant that I tried when I first got here and didn't love too much. I've been driving by it daily, but haven't stopped there. Definitely not aware what I was missing. I'm going to get there as soon as possible. Thanks, Bruce & Lambo.

Aug 08, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

Or a remoulade. I particularly like John Besh's version.

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/ch...

Aug 07, 2015
Jaymes in Houston

Road trip from San Diego to Austin

.

Aug 07, 2015
Jaymes in Texas

DOTM August 2015: Cocktel de Camaron, Vuelve de la Vida, Campechana

That sauce looks very similar to a sauce for Shrimp Louie, or a remoulade - sorta thousand-island-ish.

And it looks really, really good. Makes me want to get there as soon as possible. Or make myself one at home.

I might have to work in two or three stops on Tuesday.

Aug 07, 2015
Jaymes in Houston
1

Road trip from San Diego to Austin

Think I'll add that, if it turns out you really liked your taste of Texas-style barbecue (as do most of us) and want to try a little more of it (as always do most of us) Lockhart, which many folks refer to as "The Barbecue Capital of Texas and Therefore the World," is only a short 15 miles up Hwy 183 from Luling. It's a straight shot on good road.

http://www.epicurious.com/archive/blo...

Aug 07, 2015
Jaymes in Texas

Best Store-Bought Salsa in Austin?

And, those little cans of assorted Herdez salsas (as I said above, the green is good, too) are perfect for storing in one's pantry, camper, boat, etc., for emergencies. And for years, I've tucked them into packages destined for Texans far away from home. Very far away from home. Like stationed overseas far away from home.

They're really handy to keep around.

Aug 07, 2015
Jaymes in Austin

Houston DOTM - Nominating and voting thread - July - December, 2015

Another thought to be mulling over for later in the year...

Fried chicken & waffles.

Aug 07, 2015
Jaymes in Houston
1