BERNIE’S BURGER BUS “COOL KIDS TABLE” DINNER

Last night we went to a fun dinner at Bernie’s Burger Bus, located at 5407 Bellaire Blvd.  Bernie’s began as a popular food truck in 2010, and opened its brick-and-mortar establishment in 2014, featuring hand-ground burgers, homemade condiments, and breads baked by a local artisanal baker.

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Inside, the restaurant is schoolhouse themed, with menus that look like composition notebooks, school desks, and of course, a school bus:

But last night we weren’t there for burgers.  We were there for Bernie’s monthly After Dark “Cool Kids Table” dinner.  At the back of the restaurant, tables were set aside for 18 diners — the “cool kids.”

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This month’s theme was Mardi Gras Style, and was done in collaboration with Anthony Calleo of Pi Pizza Truck and Matt Toomey of Boomtown Coffee and The Honeymoon Café & Bar.  I liked the premise–a multi-course dinner in a casual setting, without the stuffiness that tends to accompany similar wine dinners.  Beer, wine, and soft drinks were available for purchase.

The first course, which might have been everyone’s favorite, was called “Remoulade,” and consisted of butter-poached lobster, romesco, and fractured remoulade:

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Next up was “PoBoy,” a crispy oyster panzanella with greens and warm andouille dressing.  These oysters were plump, spicy, and crunchy:

“Gumbo” was different than any gumbo I’ve ever had, and was served “Lyle” bento box style (a tongue-in-cheek reference to Underbelly sous chef Lyle Bento who is in the process of opening Southern Goods in the Heights):

The fourth course, “Quail,” was a tasty fried, lacquered quail atop duck-laced grits, with pickled greens and a creole vin:

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For dessert, we were treated to “Beignets,” which was made up of two sweet potato beignets with a really decadent creole cream cheese ice cream, accompanied by a New Orleans style café sua da, a strong rich coffee that went well with the dessert:

So did I feel cool, sitting back there at the Cool Kids Table?  Yeah, kinda.  We really enjoy these special dinners, and as a bonus, we usually meet like-minded foodie types at them, which makes them all the more interesting.  If you’re interested in dinners like these, you’re in luck, because there are scores of them going on all around the city, all the time these days.  To keep up, I follow Eater, Culture Map, Houston Press Eating Our Words, and My Table on Facebook, all of which do a great job of posting events.  Try one and see how much fun they are!

HOT JALAPEÑO CORNBREAD

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The inspiration for today’s recipe comes from this Texas magazine, a Sunday insert to the Houston Chronicle, dated September 13, 1970, which I found among a stack of cookbooks at a recent estate sale.

IMG_5767 On the cover is Ann Criswell, the Houston Chronicle’s first food editor. IMG_5766

Ann was the Chronicle’s food editor from 1966 until she retired in 2000.  I still have tons of recipes I clipped during her time as editor, mostly from the ’80s and ’90s.  The Chronicle’s food section was the first food section in Houston, and the Houston Post followed suit a week later.  The food section, which featured an average of 60 recipes per week, was largely geared towards middle income families.  One of her most significant contributions (in my opinion) was arranging the recipes so that they could be cut out of the newspaper in one piece — a practice I wish Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and other food magazines would adopt.

In an interview last fall, she reminisced about what a different world it was when she started the food section in 1966.   She said that she was constantly discovering and researching new foods that came on the market — things like arugula and starfruit.  As the recipes in the magazine reflect, there was a heavy reliance on canned soups.

In the section of the magazine on vegetables, she shares a secret:

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She goes on to advise that “[c]anned vegetables serve a purpose, of course, and can be company best . . . .  But no woman should consider herself an accomplished cook until she has mastered fresh vegetables.”  I found it kind of amusing that of the 14 vegetable recipes, half of them called for canned or frozen vegetables.

I found some of the ads interesting too, particularly this one, for the Trim Gym:

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My, how exercise has changed!  This looks like exercise that even I could do, which doesn’t look much harder than lying around on a broken ironing board, and I don’t think you need a Lululemon outfit to use it:

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Seriously — if you know where I can get one, please let me know!  (I’ve also been considering taking up bull riding, because even if you’re really, really good at it, it only takes 8 seconds, and that’s about my limit for exercise.)

I had a really hard time picking out a recipe from the magazine to make.  Although they might have been awesome in 1970, they sounded awfully unappealing today — dishes like “Tomato Wine Sauce” made with a can of condensed tomato soup, and “Swiss Shrimp Fondue” made with frozen condensed cream of shrimp soup, Swiss cheese, and small frozen shrimp.  But then this recipe for Hot Jalapeno Corn Bread called to me:

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With the exception of the addition of 1/4 cup corn oil, the recipe is pretty much the same as the one you can still find on packages of cornbread mix today.  It bakes up dense, and moist, and goes really well with barbecued anything.  My husband heated up a few slices in a skillet the next day, and it was perhaps even better, with its lightly toasted bottoms.

HOT JALAPEÑO CORNBREAD
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Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk (can use low-fat)
  • 3 cups yellow cornbread mix (I used three packages of Martha White)
  • ¼ cup corn oil
  • 1 cup canned cream-style corn (the recipe calls for a No. 303 can, but I couldn't figure out what that was)
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • l large grated onion (optional -- I omitted)
  • 1 4-ounce can jalapenos, chopped (I used jarred pickled jalapenos)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place eggs in a medium mixing bowl and beat slightly. Blend in remaining ingredients. Pour batter into a well-greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, being careful not to let it dry out. Cut into squares and serve.

Easy and delicious

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 Here’s to you Ann — thanks for the memories!