Thursday, August 24, 2006

Five things to eat before you die

The Traveler's Lunchbox is compiling a brilliant list of 5 things everyone must eat in their life. It's a difficult task to narrow the choices, but here are five of my favorite things.

1. Refried beans from Las Manitas, Austin, TX.
These beans are divine, cooked and smashed as they were meant to be--in bacon grease. They go down like velvet.
2. Ninfa's green sauce, at the original Ninfa's on Navigation, Houston, TX.
Ninfa's has become a huge chain, but the original restaurant still feels cozy and well, original. Her green sauce is spectacular--it's not very hot, but it's a superb blend of tomatillos, cilantro, jalapenos and sour cream. Goes great with her homemade flour tortillas or freshly fried crisp tortilla chips. I could eat gallons of this stuff.
3. Tapas at Cal Pep, Barcelona
I love all Spanish tapas, and have never had a bad plate. When I lived in Granada 16 years ago, tapas came free with your drink, but now the custom is you pay separately for each small dish. But no matter, it's a small price to pay for some amazing food. One place that stands out in my memory is Cal Pep in Barcelona. Less bar and more diner, you sit at the counter and Pep doles out a splendid array of Spanish tapas, everything from smoked meat to fried fish. There's no menu--he decides what you eat, which is part of the fun. And it's all very fresh and tasty.
4. Fresh oysters in October, Le Baron Rouge, Paris
On Sundays, an oyster farmer from Normandy sets up a table outside of wine bar Le Baron Rouge, and locals stand around drinking chilled Muscadet and eating fresh oysters. It's heavenly.
5. My grandma's chocolate pie, McKinney, TX
All of my grandma's pies are terrific, but her chocolate pie is la piece de resistance. A dark-chocolate custard sits on a flaky, slightly salty crust, all topped with peaks of airy merignue. I dream about this pie, and I only wish I lived closer so I could indulge more often.

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Nicole said...

Your grandma's pie sounds really tasty!

Homesick Texan said...

It is--I need to get the recipe, not that I can recreate her pie.

melssa mcgee said...

wow - i just found your fabulous blog via matt's blog, matt bites. first, let me say that texas welcomes you back home anytime you can get here :) and secondly - and most pressing (to me, anyway, right now) is that your number 5 comment "my grandma's chocolate pie, McKinney, Tx" is IDENTICAL to what MY number 5 was going to be - i swear it on all that is good and true, i had my number 5 as "My meemaw's chocolate pie". She's in irving, texas. FREAKY. but most importantly, it's good to meet another texan with a grandmother with a penchant for good food, specifically chocolate pie.

Homesick Texan said...

Wow! Very cool, Melissa! I reckon this type of chocolate pie is a North Texas delicacy. Sure, I've seen chocolate ice box pie all over the place, but nothing like my grandma (and apparently yours, too) makes.

matt said...

Oh my goodness, you..... Oh my.

Las Manitas. NINFA'S! Cal Pep. You just single-handedly made me drool on my keyboard. Growing up in Galveston it was always a treat to head to Ninfa's (before it got huge) and Las Manitas on Congress, well, my heart be still. Cal Pep? Hell yes.

All I need to do is snag an invite to your grandma's house for some pie on my way from Paris :)

Homesick Texan said...

Matt, I'm sure my grandma would be pleased to have you over for some pie.

Since I'm a Houstonian, when I was a kid, the treat for me after a day of dodging jelly fish was a supreme seafood dinner at Gaido's.

monica said...

Anyone homesick for Las Manitas better get some refried beans or veggie chorizo soon - they've lost their lease and will soon be the site of a new boutique hotel.

sam said...

your entire list eludes me.

Homesick Texan said...

I hear there's going to be a new Las Manitas. When and where?

Anonymous said...

Next time your in Houston, try Los Cucos up on the Northwest side of town off of 249 (Tomball). They have a great green sauce as does Pappasitos now. You can find the recipe pretty easily on-line for Mama Ninfa's original green sauce.

Homesick Texan said...

Anonymous--I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Los Cucos! It's by my mom's house and that's always the first place I go when I get off the plane.

I didn't know Pappasitos had a green sauce--I've never been a big fan because they didn't have green sauce or refried beans, but I'll have to try them next time I'm there.

mark in toronto said...

Hi, homesick Texan. I am an avid baker and pie maker, in particular, so I am totally intrigued by your grandmother's chocolate pie. Do you have the recipe and if so, could you please post it? Cheers, Mark in Toronto

Homesick Texan said...

Mark--I don't have the recipe, but as soon as I get it I'll do a post.

Paula said...

There are several Los Cucos locations in the Houston area on Clay Rd. near Hwy 6, one on Westheimer near Chimney Rock and one at Katy Mills Center in Katy. This is superb Tex-Mex served in heaping portions, perfectly seasoned, beautifully plated and presented by hospitable servers. Oh, the seafood enchiladas, the fried, stuffed avocados and the wonderful fajitas! They actually heat their salsas, both red and green. Sometimes I mix them on the plate before dipping the tortilla! Much better than Ninfa's and easier to get to also (the original Ninfa's is not in the best part of town). Next time you're "home", Lisa and all you other homesick Texans, it's a must visit.

Number 6 on your list should be Felix's chile con queso. It's so thick, it should be spread on the crisp, flat tortilla with a trowel. I'd make it my last meal if I knew when that would be!

Paula M said...

I found Felix's Chile con Queso recipe in the Houston Chronicle archives. This is heaven on a tortilla. Fans have been coming to Felix's for over 50 years for this treat.

1/2 cup vegetable oil (see note)
1 onion, chopped
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 and 1/2 tsp. sugar
2-3 tbls. paprika as preferred
garlic powder to taste
1/4 cup each flour and cold water
1/2 lb. American cheese, grated (2 cups)
ready made hard tortilla shells, corn tortillas or tortilla chips for dipping

Combine oil, onion,salt,pepper, tomatoes,cayenne, sugar, paprika and garlic powder in large, heavy pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook for 25-30 minutes over medium heat. Mix flour and water in a small bowl and add to onion mixture gradually, stirring until smooth and thick. Add shredded cheese, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Cook until well -blended and smooth. Preheat broiler. If using ready made hard tortilla shells, spread mixture thickly on each shell and run under broiler until bubbly, watching carefully so they don't burn. If using corn tortillas, heat 2 tbs. oil in a non-stick skillet until very hot. Add one tortilla at a time, frying on each side for 30 seconds until crisp. Drain on paper towels and proceed as above. You can use tortilla chips for dipping into hot mixture if you prefer. Refrigerate unused mixture, covered up to 3 days.
Note: Some readers omit the oil because they think the chees has enough fat. If so, saute the onion in 2 tbs. hot oil to soften before proceeding with recipe.

Christi said...

Made your grandma's chocolate pie today. Your grandma is one super lady. It was AMAZING. Like fudge on a plate. My daughter and I had a dessert for a year (1 dessert every month) fundraiser to help pay for a dear, dear friends funeral expenses. The guy who won wanted chocolate pie. Well, I am a awesome pie maker, but never chocolate. So shucks, my husband was my guinea pig. Thank God, because it was GREAT! Thanks for sharing Grandma's Love.

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