HALLOWEEN DEVILED EGGS — MERRY TO MACABRE

Who says deviled eggs are just for Easter?  They’re also fun to dress up for Halloween — cute or creepy, your pick!  I am constantly surprised by the creative ideas for these time-honored favorites.  Get inspired by this updated annual roundup of Halloween deviled eggs, from the merry to the macabre.

Nothing scary about these adorable candy corn deviled eggs from Edible Crafts (new for 2017):

 

Guests will go batty for these batty deviled eggs from Tastefully Simple (new for 2017):

Wonder who the brain was behind these creepy deviled eggs from Brit & Co. (new for 2017):

Who could resist a cute little pumpkin deviled egg, like these from Tadka Pasta?

 

Too generic?  How about a grinning Jack O’ Lantern, like these from Ochikeron’s You Tube channel:

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Or these from Happier Than A Pig In Mud:

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Who wouldn’t get a kick out of these owl deviled eggs from Maker, Baker, Glitter Shaker?  Hoo?  Hoo?

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Spider deviled eggs are cute without being too creepy, like these black olive ones from The World According To Eggface:

halloween1And these green olive ones from Momtastic:

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Of course, you CAN make them creepy, like this albino black widow spider deviled egg found on Hairpin:

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If you’re going to have spiders, you might as well have spider webs, like these from health-actually.com:halloween7

Food Planet kicks spider web eggs up a notch with a bright green filling;

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Devil horns are an easy way to dress up deviled eggs for Halloween, like these from Cookin’ Canuck:

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You can have lots of fun coming up with devilish little faces on your deviled eggs, like these from So Lovely Sweet Tables:

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Or these amusing little devils from Kraft:

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Skeleton deviled eggs from Thrifty Fun are a scream:

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It wouldn’t be Halloween without some eyeballs, like these from Kath’s Kitchen Sync:

halloween4  Or these zombie eyeballs from Happier Than A Pig In Mud:

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Or next level creepy with piped on capillaries from Mom Foodie:

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Or even these dragon (or cat) eyeballs from Chow Bella Paleo (new for 2017):

These black and orange eggs from aol.com/food might be too scary for some people:

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These red ones found on Homemade Recipes puts the devil in deviled eggs:

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Deviled eggs make cute ghosts in a graveyard, from Chef Morgan:

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These green goblin eggs from Betty Crocker are pretty scary:

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But nothing could possibly be creepier (or less likely to be eaten) than these Satan’s Spawn deviled eggs from Kravings.blog.  Nothing.  Ever.

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Happy Halloween!

P.S.  Do you know why ghosts don’t like it to rain on Halloween?  It dampens their spirits!

RETRO DINING: SHANGHAI RIVER

Shanghai River, located at 2407 Westheimer, has been serving Szechuan and Hunan cuisine since 1970.

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Located in a strip shopping center, the unassuming building doesn’t hint at the retro glamour inside.

The restaurant’s cool, dark dining room, with its glossy redwood finishes, lacquered artwork,  buddhas, and giant foo dogs brings back childhood memories of many meals at Chinese restaurants n New York.  There’s a hint of mystery in the air.  My son and I visited Shanghai River on a whim, and have been back many times since.  The recipes are what I think of as old school American Chinese food–tamed to suit what are perceived to be American tastes.

We first tried Shanghai River for lunch.  With 40 choices on the special luncheon menu, we had no trouble finding dishes we liked.  Each luncheon special comes with soup (hot and sour or egg drop corn) and choice of appetizer (spring roll, crab puff, or egg foo young).  We chose the hot and sour soup, which was thick and suitably hot and sour, and came with fried wonton crisps and mustard and duck sauce for dipping:

Among the lunch specials we enjoyed were Shrimp in Hot Garlic Sauce, with a generous number of plump shrimp (although I would not call this dish spicy by any stretch of the imagination):

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Chicken with Peanuts (made with all white meat on request):

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Hunan Shrimp:

Shredded Pork in Hot Garlic Sauce (again, not spicy):

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And Chicken with Cashew Nut:

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You’ll notice that the unifying characteristic of all of these specials is that they are varying shades of brown.  It would be nice to throw in a veggie or two just to break up the monotony of the plate, but the lack of color didn’t distract from our enjoyment of the food.

There are many more choices on the expansive dinner menu.  Just for fun, on one occasion I ordered the Pu Pu Platter with my son, which I hadn’t had, or even seen on a menu, since I was a kid.  The Pu Pu Platter came with spring roll, bar-b-q rib, shrimp toast, crab puff, skewer beef, and tempura shrimp, one of each for each person.  With its blue flame from the mini hibachi grill and giggle-inducing name (according to Wikipedia, the name has its origins in the Hawaiian language, where pū-pū signifies an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre), the Pu Pu Platter was a fun trip down memory lane.

At dinner, a complimentary dish of pickled vegetables is offered:

Dinner is served family style, accompanied by rice.  Some of the dishes we liked were Chicken with Cashew Nuts (the veggie flower garnish was a nice touch):

Beef with Snow Peas:

And Mu Shu Pork

Neither the dining room nor the bar were ever crowded on any of the occasions we visited, although there was almost always something going on in the private room.  If you’re looking for a quiet place to enjoy a meal, Shanghai River fits the bill.  I believe its longevity is likely attributable to its reasonably-priced menus, generous portions, satisfying–if not exciting–food, and brisk service.

 

 

 

 

 

SUN DRIED TOMATO PESTO

I bought these nesting bowls on ebay.

They were made in France by Vallauris, probably in the 1950s.

Several years ago I found a Vallauris dish at an estate sale, and have been buying pieces wherever I can find them.  I love the rustic, aged look of the pottery.

You’ll notice that these nesting dishes are empty.  Like my nest.  Last week we took my son — my youngest child, my backup kid — to college.  I’d been dreading the thought of being an empty-nester for the better part of the last year, and as the day arrived, I realized it wasn’t so much like ripping off a band-aid, but more like ripping out staples after open-heart surgery.  With a screwdriver.

Jasper had a hard time saying good-bye too:

My son’s dorm set-up is something I could only have dreamed about when I was in college.  He shares an on-campus apartment with a roommate.  They each have their own bedroom, and share a living room, bathroom, and kitchenette.  I had a teeny tiny room that I shared with a roommate (our beds were about 6 feet apart), and a community bathroom down the hall, where I would lug my bucket o’ toiletries and hope there was an empty shower stall.  He’s got a full-size refrigerator — not like the crappy little dorm fridges we rented that didn’t hold much more than a six-pack and some leftover pizza.  There’s free washers and dryers, a dining hall that’s open until 10:00 p.m. daily, free soda refills for eternity with purchase of a keeper cup, and free cable.

My son is blessed to have a wonderful roommate, a really nice kid that he went to high school with.  Unlike my first roommate.  I’ll call her Robyn (because that was her name).  Upon arrival, she announced that she had a “heavy-duty boyfriend,” — you know, like aluminum foil — and proceeded to place a half dozen or so framed photos of her and her heavy-duty boyfriend on her desk.  A few nights later I woke up to some unusual noises, which turned out to be Robyn having sex with someone who was not her heavy-duty boyfriend.  It turned out Robyn was a heavy-duty pig.  After this happened a second time in as many days, I asked her to please let me know when she was planning to have sex in the room and I would leave, which she did.  We quit speaking, and she eventually moved out.  At least that’s one thing my son won’t have to deal with.

Inspired by the empty nesting dishes and my own empty nest, I made something to fill one of the dishes.  Sun dried tomato pesto is an old favorite — my son calls it “deliciousness.”  We love it spread on crostini or crackers as an appetizer, but it’s also good spread over cream cheese, or stirred into pasta.  It’s definitely on the list of things to make when the kids come to visit, which I hope is sooner rather than later.

SUN DRIED TOMATO PESTO
Print
Recipe type: Appetizer
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8-ounce jar oil-packed sun dried tomatoes
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Drain tomatoes, reserving oil. Place tomatoes, cheese, basil, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor. Add enough olive oil to reserved sun dried tomato oil to make ½ cup. With the food processor running, slowly add the oil and process until a smooth paste forms. Transfer to serving container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with crackers or crostini.

This jar from Costco is enough to make two double batches — great for entertaining

It only takes a few minutes to make in the food processor

Deliciousness to fill my empty nest

SUMMER VACATION IN OREGON PART 2 — THE OREGON COAST

After spending the first few days of our vacation in Portland, we headed for the Oregon Coast.  Our route took us through the Willamette Valley, home to more than 500 wineries, and renowned as a premier pinot noir producing area.

We stopped for tastings at three very different wineries.  The first stop was at Evening Land’s tasting room, a modest, but very nice room in a commercial building:

Based on a recommendation from Kelly, our likeable tasting guide at Evening Land, our next stop was for a private tasting at small producer Ayoub Wines, in the home of Mo Ayoub.  I think this is what the term “garage wine” refers to.  Mo’s home is in the Dundee HIlls, and the view from his back porch was spectacular.  I definitely had a bad case of yard envy.

Our last tasting was a private tasting at Soter Vineyard’s Mineral Springs Ranch, “a 240-acre savanna-like oak woodland and grazing land.”  The biodiverse property provides natural predators and healthy microorganisms, allowing the production team to focus on sustainable farming.  The property is dry-farmed, no insecticides or herbicides are used, and sheep and goats help with mowing and weed control.  When the vineyard had a problem with birds eating the grapes, they enlisted a falconer to help with the problem.  Get the picture?  There is a biodynamic farm on the property, and a huge open kitchen where chefs prepare dishes for special “provisions tastings” using meats and produce from the farm.  I was enamored with the garden, kitchen, views, tasting room — pretty much everything.

Before leaving the valley we stopped at Red Hills Market in Dundee to pick up some provisions, and sat for a spell in these chairs made from pinot noir barrels:

We eventually made it to the little town of Yachats on the coast, where we spent the next 4 nights.  After the 100-degree weather in Portland, we appreciated the MUCH cooler weather (highs around 60, lows around 50).

We rented a cozy cottage with a view of the ocean at Overleaf Village (Overleaf Lodge, which manages the rental cottages, is next door, and also has comfortable rooms with ocean views).

Oh, how we loved this cottage and its proximity to the ocean.  We marveled at the tides, the fog, the sunsets, and the sounds and smells of the ocean.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport was fun for everyone.

We saw lots of interesting fish:

 

See if you can spot the fish and crab hiding in this picture

Touched a few tidepool inhabitants:

And learned about pelicans:

But our favorite attraction was the comical sea otters — we could have spent hours watching them:

After the aquarium, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Newport and the surrounding Yaquina Bay area.

One of the things that really intrigued us was watching teeny bay shrimp being processed at Pacific Seafood (haven’t you always wondered how they did it?):

We got up early one morning and went in search of tidepools during low tide.  We didn’t find any tidepools at Devil’s Churn, but still enjoyed the views:

We did, however, strike tidepool paydirt at Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint (actually, my husband found the tidepools, because there was no way I was going climbing on those rocks):

It was an incredible feeling being the first people to step on the pristine sand that morning:

Here’s something we’d never seen before — cool patterns created by different colored sands running off of the rocks, like sand art:

The Sea Lion Caves in Florence were a lot more fun than we expected (we thought it would be kind of hokey).

The Sea Lion Caves, America’s largest sea cave, is a privately-owned wildlife preserve, and home to the Steller sea lion.  The sea lions are free to move in and out as they please, and this time of year they mostly move out of the cave and onto the rock ledges in front of the cave, known as the rookery.  The cave, discovered in 1880, is roughly 12-stories tall, and access is via elevator.  On this day, there were about 100 sea lions on the rookery, and about a dozen in the cave.

Another surprise attraction in Florence was Darlingtonia State Natural Site, dedicated to the protection of Darlingtonia californica, commonly known as the cobra lily, a member of the carnivorous pitcher plant family (Sarraceniaceae).

A boardwalk trail leads to a marshy area where the plants flourish.  The cobra lily has yellowish-green hooded leaves that form erect, 10 to 20-inch-high hollow tubes.  On top, the leaves are mottled a purplish color with transparent areas.  “A hidden opening into the stalk is bordered by a large, green, mustache-shaped appendage beneath the curved hood of the leaf.  Nectar inside the plant’s hidden opening attracts the insects. Once inside, an insect becomes confused by the transparent areas that appear like exits.   The insect eventually drops into the lower part of the tube, where it’s trapped by downward-pointed hairs, and falls into a pool of water at the bottom of the stalk. Bacteria in the water decompose it into nitrogen, which is then absorbed by the plant.” We saw a few remaining flowers of the plant, which blooms in the spring.  This was quite a sight, and we stood there in stunned silence — I’ve never seen anything remotely similar, and it was simply fascinating.

 

We had a bit of excitement one day when my husband, an avid cyclist, rented a bike and took off for a ride in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area.

We didn’t hear from him for a while because he was in and out of cellular range.  Unfortunately, he got two flats, only one of which he was able to repair.  Fortunately he had service briefly — long enough to let us know we needed to come pick him up and send us his location (this is a great feature on the iPhone — see instructions below for how to send your location).  Unfortunately, the single lane gravel road was a little too treacherous for my son and I in our rented SUV.  Fortunately, we found the camp managers — a couple named Tom and Cindy — and Tom agreed to drive me up the mountain to find my husband (I offered a “reward”).  Tom turned out to be a really interesting fellow — a retired Texas A&M oceanography professor, and a great storyteller.  We were all very relieved to find my husband and bring him and his bike back down the mountain.

 

He’s up there somewhere

Thank goodness for Tom and Cindy

Great iPhone feature — we never would have found him without it

We weren’t expecting much in the way of dining, but we had some really enjoyable meals along the coast.  Clearwater, an attractive waterfront restaurant in Newport, had wonderful views and great food, including clam chowder, crispy maple salmon salad, blackened bay shrimp tacos, and grilled ham and cheese on 3-cheese sourdough bread (so good!) with truffle garlic fries:

Homegrown Public House in Florence is a quirky little place that serves tasty pub food made from locally-produced organic ingredients, including clam chowder, Cajun fried oysters, and a cheeseburger with garlic parmesan fries (we really liked those long parmesan shavings on the fries):

At Ona, in Yachats, which offers an upscale menu, we enjoyed an Oregon Dungeness crab cake with caper remoulade, grilled Yaquina Bay oysters, clam chowder, housemade yakisoba with miso black cod, and strawberry pineapple cobbler with ginger ice cream (note that the restaurant states that it closes at 8:45-ish, which translates loosely to “whenever we feel like it”):

Our favorite restaurant, hands down, was Drift Inn Café in Yachats.  We ended up there after being turned away the first time we tried to eat at Ona (don’t say I didn’t warn you), and wound up eating three meals there.  The décor is a little unusual, with a curious mural that greets you, and umbrellas hanging from the ceiling:

The restaurant has a pretty extensive menu, and we enjoyed quite a few dishes, including clam chowder (yeah, we ate a lot of clam chowder on the coast), cheeseburger and fries, and a salad my husband loved called Rubbery Shrubbery with chicken and a housemade cranberry vinaigrette:

But the restaurant really excels at pizza.  This pizza, with olive oil, garlic, paper thin slices of Yukon gold potatoes, slivered onion, manchego cheese, and prosciutto, was a thing of beauty (so good that we had it twice), baked in an outdoor wood-fired oven:

We enjoyed our time on the Oregon coast, and would have loved to have been able to stay on longer.  I’m certain we’ll be back — there’s lots more to do and see.  (I’m a little envious of the 100,000 or so people expected to be there August 21 when it will fall under the path of the Great American Total Solar Eclipse.)

SUMMER VACATION IN OREGON PART 1 — PORTLAND

We just returned from the dreaded eagerly-anticipated family vacation.  This year our daughter has an internship that sadly prevented her from joining us (I don’t really think she was too broken up about  it).  Each summer we look to vacation somewhere that has significantly cooler temps than Houston, and this year we headed to Oregon, spending a few days in Portland before heading to the coast.  Unfortunately, Portland was in the grips of a heat wave with record-breaking highs, so that kind of sucked.

vacation fail

But this was vacation, and we weren’t going to let a little hot weather ruin our fun.  We stayed at the Hotel Vintage, where we enjoyed our reasonably-priced spacious suite, nightly wine tastings, and convenient downtown location (also Ryan, the concierge, was very friendly and helpful):

Our first stop was the Portland Japanese Garden, “a haven of serenity and tranquility” for more than 50 years.  It’s considered the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan.  It was beautiful:

I was especially enamored with these tiny-leaved maples, which looked like stars against the sky:

We spent quite a bit of time just looking at the Sand and Stone Garden, referred to as a karesansui garden, which translates to “dry landscape.”  The aesthetic principle underlying these dry landscapes is known as yohaku-no-bi, meaning “the beauty of blank space” (a principle I’d like to see some of my more wordy opposing counsel adopt).  This style of garden is intended for contemplation, not meditation, and so we sat and contemplated.  (My son informed us that every principal’s office he’s ever been in has one of these gardens on the desk, complete with itty bitty rake.)

Our favorite part of the garden was the Strolling Pond Garden.  The huge Japanese Iris were unlike any iris I’d ever seen before, and of course, now I must have some for my garden:

Directly across the street is the International Rose Test Garden.  The garden has been there for about a century, and features more than 10,000 roses (Portland’s nickname is the City of Roses).  The garden is stunning, with the biggest, most perfect, gorgeous roses I’ve ever seen, and although we were wilting in the heat, the roses were not.

We spent the better part of the next day at the Portland Saturday Market, an arts and crafts open-air marketplace started in 1973, which is held every Saturday and Sunday from March through Christmas Eve.  All of the items sold at the market are made in and around Portland, and are sold by the people who make them.  We found so many interesting and unusual items there, including jewelry, purses, apparel, woodcrafts, paintings, and handpainted scarves:

Gotta have tie-dye!

Purses made from coffee bean sacks and vintage fabrics

Carnivorous plants

Beautiful soaps — eucalyptus mint was our favorite

Star Wars art

The next day we headed to Mt. Hood, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Portland.  First, a quick stop at Vista House at the Crown Point State Scenic Corridor, to take in the scenic (and very windy) views from 733 feet above the Columbia River.

Continuing on, we stopped to see several waterfalls.  First was the 249-foot Latourell Falls:

Next we stopped to see the 242-foot tiered Wahkeena Falls:

From the Wahkeena Falls we followed the short (unpaved and rocky) trail to hike to the Multnomah Falls, which took about 15 minutes (but seemed like an hour).  The Multnomah Falls are split into an upper falls of 542 feet and a lower falls of 69 feet.  There is a short but steep paved trail up to Benson Bridge, which spans the upper and lower falls.

In addition to being the tallest waterfall in Oregon, Multnomah Falls is also the “most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest with more than 2 million stopping by each year to take in the views.”  Now, I’m not saying it was crowded . . .

Snow-capped Mt. Hood was a welcome sight on this hot day:

We threw a few obligatory snowballs at each other, and then went to poke around the historic Timberline Lodge, a Works Progress Administration project built in the late 1930s.  “The lodge’s design mirrors the lines of the mountain, and was constructed out of stone and wood from the surrounding forest.”

The lodge is filled with art and crafts, including wrought iron features:

Wood carvings:

And oil paintings and mosaics:

We enjoyed lunch at the lodge’s Ram’s Head Bar, centered around a huge stone column with giant beams, and which had a great view of Mt. Hood.

Highlights of our lunch were a grilled cheese sandwich made with fromage blanc, Tillamook cheddar, and Swiss cheese on sourdough with a cup of cream of smoked tomato soup, and cheese-stuffed kasekrainer sausage on a pretzel bun with beet sauerkraut, pickled mustard seeds, and potato salad:

The next day we left Portland and headed to the coast, which you can read about in Part 2.  But before leaving Portland, I have to say that we were excited to discover that Portland is a foodie town.  We had great meals in Portland, highlights of which were lunch at Grassa that included radiatore with beef and pork Bolognese, pancetta, and pecorino; and chicken cacciatore with rosemary pappardelle, pancetta, tomato, and nduja ricotta (seriously delicious):

Dinner at Nostrana that included antipasti di mare (ahi tuna crudo lettuce cups with avocado crema & crispy spring onions; pink shrimp fritters with green goddess mayo; and grilled octopus and potato salad with capers,  oregano and mama lil’s peppers); grilled copper river sockeye salmon with aioli, spring onion and green garlic risotto cake, sautéed spinach, fava greens, and morel mushrooms); and tagliata flat iron steak with arugula and garlic-rosemary oil:

Great Thai lunch at E-San Thai Cuisine (recommended by one of our Lyft drivers) — we had som tum (papaya salad); gaeng kiew wan (green curry with beef); and Mao special (rice noodles with red curry):

Dinner at Higgins, where we swooned over a beautifully composed salad of summer greens, toasted hazelnuts, and herb vinaigrette; charcuterie board; halibut over quinoa with lemon vinaigrette; summer vegetable fisherman’s stew with sauce vert; and cherry pie:

And an inventive and outstanding dinner at Irving St. Kitchen of meatballs over mashed yukon potatoes with green peppercorn sauce; black garlic butter steamed clams with chicken liver mousse toast; chicken fried oysters; pan-roasted porcini with ricotta blinis, zucchini, shaved porcini, and peas; carrot butter poached halibut with green garlic puree and pickled ramps; buttermilk fried chicken with collard greens, smashed potatoes, and tasso bacon gravy; and dessert of cherry sorbet gel,, almonde tarte, meringue, salted honey chiboust, and red wine syrup:

Before we left Portland, my husband went and stood in line for about an hour at the much-hyped Voodoo Doughnuts:

Although they were fun to try, I think we all agreed that they were too sweet for our tastes, as in make-your-teeth-hurt too sweet.  Reeling from our sugar high, we departed Portland, having thoroughly enjoyed the city and looking forward to returning again one day.

THE IMPOSSIBLE BURGER AT UNDERBELLY AND HAY MERCHANT

A burger that “looks, handles, smells, cooks and tastes” like ground beef, but is 100% plant-based?

Not unpossible — impossible.  Impossible Burger to be specific.

Last week I was invited to a media event debuting the Impossible Burger, available exclusively in Texas at Underbelly (lunch only) and Hay Merchant — nationwide it’s currently only offered at 13 other restaurants in a handful of cities.   The Impossible Burger was developed by Impossible Foods, a Silicon Valley start up whose stated mission is to “transform the global system to support 9 billion humans by 2050.”  Patrick O. Brown, Impossible Foods’ founder and CEO, is a Professor Emeritus at Stanford University’s Biochemistry Department.  During an 18-month sabbatical in 2009, he set out to learn what makes beef “smell, sizzle, bleed, and taste gloriously meaty,” and discovered it’s a single molecule called heme — “a basic building block of life on Earth, including plants, but it’s uniquely abundant in meat.”  Heme is what makes blood red, carries oxygen, and gives meat its bloody taste.  Brown and his team discovered how to take heme from plants and produce it through a fermentation process.

According to Impossible Foods, the ability to produce meat and dairy products from plants results in a significantly decreased environmental footprint.  Because the Impossible Burger is made entirely from plants, it uses less water and less land than that used to produce a beef burger, and emits fewer greenhouse gases.  As Chef Chris Shepherd describes it, “it’s an answer for the future.”

  Shepherd and the Impossible Burger

Although the Impossible Burger is a vegetarian and vegan (sans cheese) burger, it is intentionally not marketed as such.  Its target consumer is not vegetarians, but meat-eaters looking for a satisfying alternative.  In fact, company reps report that some vegetarians don’t like the Impossible Burger because it tastes too much like the meat they avoid.

So what’s in an Impossible Burger?  Here’s the ingredient list:  Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Coconut Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Leghemoglobin (soy), Yeast Extract, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Konjac Gum, Xanthan Gum, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.

And here’s the nutritional information for a 3-ounce patty:

I was surprised to learn that a 6-ounce Impossible Burger, which replicates 80% lean ground beef, is roughly 450 calories, and contains 26g of fat, 22g of which are saturated fat, and 760g of sodium.  In comparison, an 80% lean beef patty of the same size is roughly 425 calories, and contains 34g of fat, 13g of which are saturated fat, and 113g of sodium.  BUT — and this is a big but — the Impossible Burger contains zero cholesterol, compared to 119g of cholesterol in a comparable beef burger.  Additionally, the Impossible Burger is hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and contains no artificial ingredients.  As Shepherd explained,, “if I’m going to eat 2 burgers a week, one of them is going to be an Impossible Burger, because at some point my doctor is going to tell me to chill.”

The Impossible Burger, currently manufactured in New Jersey, arrives at Shepherd’s restaurants in 5-pound blocks, and looks like raw ground beef:

Shepherd is currently serving it in the style of his Cease and Desist Burger — two patties, double cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickles, accompanied by fries.  The price is $18, but as production capabilities increase, Impossible Foods anticipates that prices will come down.

Photo courtesy Impossible Foods

And here’s the Impossible Burger I actually sampled:

Naturally, I’ve received a lot of questions about what I thought of the Impossible Burger.  I liked it, and I would order it.  The flavor and aroma was, as represented, remarkably like that of a beef burger.  The burgers were served medium rare, which is the doneness at which they most resemble beef, and were well-seasoned with a nice sear.  The texture was softer than a beef patty, which kind of blew its cover, but it was not unpleasant (the company is continuing to work on making the texture like that of a beef burger).  I would have preferred a single patty (same for beef burgers too — I would never order a double patty), and I think the difference in texture would perhaps be less noticeable with a single patty.  (Update:  I saw on Hay Merchant’s Facebook page that they have already determined that a single patty works better.)  I asked Shepherd if he has any other plans for the Impossible Burger (Brown said his wife has served it tartare and it was “delicious”), and he said he’s going to play with it.  I would love to see it served as a dinner option in the style of a Salisbury steak smothered with mushroom gravy — I think it would lend itself nicely to that.

It was exciting to be invited to this media event, and I want to thank Impossible Foods for extending the invitation to me.  If you try the Impossible Burger, leave me a comment and let me know what you think of it!

PDQ

PDQ — which stands for “People Dedicated to Quality,” is a fast casual chain of chicken restaurants, with locations in 12 states, including 4 Houston-area locations.  Today I visited the location at 9440 Katy Freeway to learn more about the restaurant’s new menu items.

Recently my husband and I were at a champagne-tasting event, and someone brought a few platters of PDQ chicken tenders (you know fried chicken goes with champagne, right?).  This was the first time we had ever tasted PDQ chicken, and my husband would not stop talking about how much he liked it.  So when PDQ invited me to sample its new dishes, I readily accepted.

The restaurant’s interior is spacious, clean, and bright.  There’s an open kitchen, where you can see everything being made fresh to order.  They encourage you to “wave hi” to the kitchen staff, and promise “they’ll wave back.”  Try it — I dare you.  😉

PDQ was founded in 2009 by Bob Basham and Nick Reader.  According to information on the company’s website, they found a down-home neighborhood joint in North Carolina called Tenders, that had the “tastiest, freshest, made-from-scratch chicken tenders.”  They struck a deal on the spot with the owners, and in 2011 opened the first PDQ in Florida.

And here they are — the star of the menu, the glorious hand-breaded chicken tenders.  Crispy and juicy, with your choice of 8 homemade sauces (ranch, buffalo bleu, creamy garlic, honey bbq, sweet sriracha, chipotle bbq, honey mustard, and bleu cheese):

But PDQ is more than just fried chicken and French fries.  Operating Director Frank Wallace excitedly guided us through the new menu items, which debuted 2 weeks ago.

Among the new items are several salads, including Kale Caesar Salad with grilled chicken, shredded kale, and shaved Brussels sprouts, and this pretty Fruit Harvest Salad (for those desiring lighter fare) with grilled chicken, mixed greens, Granny Smith apples, tomatoes, edamame, candied almonds, and craisins with a blueberry-ginger vinaigrette:

They’ve also introduced three bowls:

 Thai Peanut Bowl (honey marinated nuggets, roasted garlic broccoli, mango salsa, peanuts, and toasted coconut over basmati rice, with Thai peanut sauce)

Smokehouse BBQ (crispy tenders dipped in honey BBQ sauce, bacon, fried pickles, smoked Gouda, succotash, roasted sweet potatoes, and scallions over basmati rice with BBQ ranch sauce)

Southern Buffalo (crispy tenders dipped in Buffalo bleu sauce, succotash, broccoli, bleu cheese, and scallions over basmati rice with Buffalo sauce)

I chose the Southern Buffalo to try, and I really liked all the textures the vegetables added.  The chicken was tangy and just spicy enough.  It was a generous bowl, very filling.

PDQ also introduced 3 new side dishes, all of which are a nice change of pace from French fries.  I especially liked the roasted garlic broccoli, but the beans and rice (edamame, black-eyed peas, corn, and rice), and the roasted sweet potatoes (with marshmallow fluff and pecans) were very good too.

Last but not least, PDQ added three new sandwiches to its lineup, for those with hearty appetites:

Southern Pimento Crunch (crispy chicken, homemade pimento cheese, lettuce, potato chips, and bacon) — stretchy pants mandatory

BBQ Bacon Ranch (crispy chicken dipped in BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, bacon, and ranch slaw)

 

Grilled Hawaiian Chicken (teriyaki glazed grilled chicken, pepper jack cheese, bacon, grilled pineapple, and sweet sriracha slaw)

Everything I sampled was fresh and attractively presented.  I was impressed with all the choices PDQ offers, and look forward to taking my family there soon.  I noticed on the website that on Father’s Day, dads receive a free combo meal with the purchase of any meal — lucky dad!  And through July 7, it’s BOGO Tender and Nugget Platters, which is a great deal.  Next time you’re looking for a quick, tasty, budget-friendly meal, think of PDQ.