it's okay to play with your food

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Central Market Finds

Central Market is a Texas grocery chain, specializing in high quality products, diverse selection and awesome customer service. It's a bit like Whole Foods (another Texas native), but I actually prefer Central Market. Maybe it's the bulk spice bar, perfect for a nomadic chef such as myself. Or maybe it's the homemade tortillas, still warm in their bags... or the gelato bar... or the dip bar (with the ever present and delicious CM Love Dip)... or the awesome homemade beef jerky...

Prices are on the higher end as compared to other local supermarkets, but you can find some great deals. Last year I picked up a jar of excellent mixed berry jam for $2. And they do carry some products from the HEB supermarket chain, so you don't have to pay $6 for a jar of spaghetti sauce. They also have "Foodie Finds," specialized food products on sale, which is how I've gotten exposed to some great stuff...

Pixie Tangerines: sweet, seedless, so tasty. They have a wrinkled skin, so they aren't the prettiest pixies around, but they are delicious.

Sweet Limes: It looks like a Meyer lemon, but it's a lime and a sweet one at that. I haven't sliced into it yet, but I'm wondering if this could be a subtle variation in a meringue pie.

Astica Torrontes: It's one of the most flavorful white wines I've ever had, made from Torrontes, a grape grown in Argentina. And it's been on sale at CM for the past couple weeks, going for $7.

Mandarin Orange and 5 Spice Beef Jerky: I love love love good beef jerky. It isn't the sexiest food to eat, but I don't let that stop me from diving in. (I just tend to do so in private.) So when I saw the selection of bulk beef jerky this week, I had to try some. They had pork and beef jerky, in a few different flavors. I opted for the Mandarin Orange and 5 Spice beef variety and it was worth every unsexy moment.

I could actually keep listing the awesome features of Central Market. Instead I'll just wait to see what things I find on my next visit.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Texas Musings

Life is starting to get busy busy down here in Texas. Rehearsals for La Cenerentola with Fort Worth Opera have been going well and Dead Man Walking rehearsals start on Friday, meaning this little ol' assistant director will soon be pulling double duty. That said, I still have some lofty eating goals.

Texas Monthly is a treasure trove of good food information. I learned of the publication when its journalists were nominated last month for a James Beard Award for its thorough research on the best barbecue in Texas.

The number one spot for BBQ in Texas? Snow's BBQ in Lexington. It's one of those places that's only open one day a week, Saturday, and is only open till the meat runs out, typically around 12:30. These are some of my favorite places to eat, where the point of cooking isn't about turning around a fast dollar; it's about the food. And Snow's is a two 1/2 hour drive from Ft. Worth, just past Waco.

Roadtrip, anyone?

More locally, Texas Monthly also pointed me in the direction of some good eats in Fort Worth, specific dishes that are delicious and under $10. It's a good representation of the diversity of food you'll find around here:
  • Thai Tina's Chicken in Peanut Sauce
  • Esperanza's Cafe's Caldo de Pollo
  • The Fried Pork Chop Plate at Drew's Place
Since arriving last week, I've done a bit of good eating: beef brisket enchiladas with a side of queso at La Playa Maya, a delicious Italian meal at La Piazza during a FWO donor dinner and multiple margaritas at Blue Mesa.

Now when most people think of hard liquor in Texas, the first thought is typically tequila. But apparently this state has a lot of good vodka flowing. I am more of a gin drinker, but the 20+ times that Dripping Springs distills its vodka intrigues me. Apparently, the distillery (outside of Austin) burned down recently, meaning its been even harder to find in liquor stores than usual. I'll see what I can make happen...

The other big name in Texas vodka is Tito's Handmade Vodka, also from Austin. It's distilled six times and comes in big plastic jugs for next to nothing.

Texas just might make a vodka tonic woman out of me.