Summer Dining in Texas

Summer is my favorite season, but Texan summer is my most beloved event of the year, as I like to call it, because there’s nothing like summer in Texas. Yeah, it’s hot and the sun is sweltering, but I can’t imagine anything more charming than looking across the fields at sunset, smelling the air, or having some Blue Bell in the city, or sipping on an iced coffee in the opal morning light.

Summers here are enjoyed to the fullest by everyone, but we also try to survive the heat. I usually get up very early in the morning before the temperature rises and do my errands, then come noon, I prepare some lunch and I have a little siesta. After that is my favorite part of the day – preparing dinner and maybe some dessert, then sitting on the porch with a drink.

Not every day is exactly like this, but this is mostly my routine. I love making dinner for my family and friends, and I always try to make different things. Everyone’s favorite is the fried chicken, and sometimes I think I bought my deep fryer just to make that, but I also make other things. There are so many dishes in our cuisine, sometimes the choice is pretty tough. But, what is pleasure if not enjoying good Southern food to the fullest?

I usually like to make more than enough, if I have enough time. And I most often do, I’ve gotten used to cooking versatile meals, so I always know what I need and how long something is gonna take me. Plus, if I’m gonna have a dinner party, I have to plan ahead.

I like making some traditional desserts as well, like banana pudding and a classic chess pie. Though I do like to put a twist on the latter and replace the vinegar with lemon juice and some (a lot of) zest, and you got the perfect summer dessert! All my friends and family have a soft spot for the Mississippi mud cake. This one is a real winner every time.

Sometimes we make some barbecue, because summer without a barbecue is a summer wasted, and I’m serious when I say this. In August my favorite thing to make is creamed corn, it’s hands down an irreplaceable dish. The cheesy, milky, peppery texture is comforting in any hour of the day or night, and prepares you for the coming autumn perfectly.

Atypical Southern Dining

This is not another typical Southern dining post as it is not a post about Texas, but I guess Southern California is also to be considered a southern cuisine area. I come back to you with yet another fine dining story. As a huge food lover, I want to taste and experience different cuisines and I decided to go on a trip to Santa Monica in Southern California.

I was quite curious about what the pier had to offer, so I decided to engage in an exploring adventure. Ahead of me lay a 22-hour long drive, and I specifically decided to go by car, since I wanted this to be an old-school road trip. My large cooler stocked up on food essentials was my best friend for the two-day road trip to Santa Monica. Some Bob Seger all-time favorite songs kept me company while I was driving. The day was long and I had to stop for the night so I searched the area for nearby hostels. The room I finally got was small, but it met my only need – I really needed to shower. Thankfully they had a gas water heater like the ones at and I was able to relax and enjoy a long, hot water shower after a whole day spent driving.

The next day I hit the road and finally arrived in Santa Monica. My intuition was telling me to follow the mixed smell of ocean breeze and sand and it got me right where I wanted to be – the Santa Monica Pier. While I was walking down the pier, a particular seafood restaurant really caught my eye, and since it was lunchtime, I decided to taste some local specialties. I got a table overlooking the beach and I could feel the ocean breeze on my face. It was the perfect lunch after a long day in the sun.

The choice was obviously going to be fresh and local seafood – but what exactly? After consideration, I decided to go for a lobster. A classic, can’t miss. It was served faster than I expected actually – before you know it I had this huge crustacean on a plate in front of me, perfectly cooked all over and covered in the sweet taste of olive oil and herbs. It came with a side of drawn butter and sauteed Swiss chard, which gave it some light earthy flavor to counter the lobster’s sweetness. By the time I was done, I was licking my fingers. It was a dish I will surely remember!

Weekend in Corpus Christi

Not another food lover’s blog. Oh, no, but this one is different. It is from a southerner, rooted in Texas, who knows how good the local cuisine can be, casual or upscale. It is not going to be about the ubiquitous barbecue, although there is certainly a place for it when talking about food in the south. Instead, I am devoted to the finest fare we can offer at the highest levels of society. The world is full of diehard foodies and I want to give them some fodder to contemplate. When I travel and tell people what I love, I get smiles of approval. People from all backgrounds can appreciate the amazing flavor, delightful texture and elegance with which southern style dishes can be presented for fine dining. It is my goal to present the finest in southern cooking for your consideration.

What will make this blog unique is that I will talk about cooking and eating in different contexts. Today it is about time at the beach in Corpus Christi. I had a weekend free to travel with friends and enjoy the lovely scenery. While we planned to savor the best of local eateries, I wanted to be sure to have plenty of sunshine on the sand under my favorite umbrella. It has been sitting in the closet way too long and needed some airing, just like me!

Now as an avid food lover, and giving you what I promised, I have to describe what I took with us for our midday meal. It had to be room temperature although I toted my large cooler. I wanted something suitable for hot weather that included protein. I decided on a fried chicken salad. I hope this is new to you. Sure, we could munch on drumsticks accompanied by Cole slaw; but I opted for a special southern version that is gourmet to a tee. The chicken is made with a well-seasoned batter with two coats of flour for extra crispiness. The trick is to fry smaller pieces and coat them in honey before placing them atop selected greens.

Bibb lettuce is the bed for this fine creation which could be on the menu of any Texas restaurant. In the midst of the cupped shapes lie slivers of fennel, a sprinkling of cooked fresh corn and a good dash of homemade dressing. It should be a savory blend of vegetable oil and red wine vinegar, with no sugar to compete with the honey nuggets dancing on top. Along with the hearty salad, I served light biscuits with orange marmalade jam. It is all about taste and appearance, and I gave my friends both.

Eating outside under a beach umbrella makes everything taste better, although the ingredients would certainly stand on their own. It was casual yet refined and perfect for the laid back day. Food looks good on colorful paper plates so don’t forget to pack the best brand. Matching napkins never hurts. A good meal has all the accoutrements. It is a very important point!

Wildflowers in Bloom

Spring time is early this year in Texas. You can tell by all the dainty yellow wildflowers that are lining the roadsides like a moving ribbon of color as you drive by. I love them so much that I find an excuse to drive to an unknown made-up destination. They make for great photographs as they tell their own seasonal story. It is nature resplendent and I wait for it patiently every year. To see more of them, I am going on an adventure on my road bike. My friend, a photographer, wants to come along. It will be a feast for the camera’s eye. We are headed to an area where there are fields of the newly blooming flowers. We want to get some distant shots with the mountains in the background. After we get a full complement of pix, we can go up to some local bike trails for some late afternoon fun. There are usually other bikers jamming the trails in the morning, so we set our time for a later hour.

The bikes don’t roar like big Harleys but they spin their wheels and take us for a joy ride. Road and mountain bikes are for recreation apart from weekend transportation. I don’t take mine to work but I do ride at night to visit friends and family. It is great when you don’t want to fuss about finding parking in a crowded neighborhood. But I love the trails best and if I can throw in some scenery at the same time, I am in heaven. I love to go with a friend as we stop for a late lunch when the sun is not directly overhead. A sunny day makes for the best photos, but a cloudy day makes for some drama. We go on a ride in wildflower country for three days in a row.

The pictures were extraordinary and went immediately to Instagram for others to enjoy. I expect to see people post the wild flowers in their area for comparison. They are known to grown countrywide, but they are more resplendent in some states like Texas than others. You never tire of the annual ritual of watching them populate the fields and adorn the side of the road. If you are lucky, you can find them sneaking up in your own backyard. Some people seed their yards in the winter and wait for spring. You can a lovely view out of your kitchen or family room window. They remind you of renewal and new life.

Each season has its special offerings although summer can be a bit bare. Fall means a visit to the pumpkin patch and coming home with gourds. Winter means snow-covered mountains in the distance beckoning you to ski. Then spring again with its delightful yellow crop. It is great to have a road bike to get out and relish the seasons. My friend and I can be found on the windy trails.

Quality Cuts Make the Difference

With any type of cuisine, the cut of the meat makes the difference in the outcome of the dishes that are being prepared. While some recipes may call for lean cuts, others are best with a thick layer of fat left on the cut. Here are examples of how the cuts make all of the difference in southern food preparation.

Soul Food and Undesirable Cuts

Soul food is a type of Southern cuisine that has its origins among poor populations during the time of American slavery in the Southern states. Many of the traditional dishes that are now popular were created out of necessity because of the scarcity of food and the poor cuts of meat that were all that were available at the time. This amounted to the need to prepare meals with scrap meat that consisted mainly of a few sparse chunks of meat attached to a bone. Ham hocks are one of the more common meats found in soul food and are used to flavor bean and pea dishes. Although considered a discard meat in former times they are now held in high regard as a superior source for flavoring certain dishes.

Southern Ham Dinner

Thick sliced ham portions that cover an entire plate are typical examples of southern home-style cooking. Large cuts are what make the slow roasted ham steaks so appealing. People from all walks of life can appreciate the taste and texture of a dinner featuring a ham that has been brined, smoked and baked to perfection.

Beef Tips with Gravy

This dish features slices of beef cooked in a gravy sauce and simmered until tender and juicy. It practically melts in your mouth. Generally, tougher cuts of beef are used in this dish and cooked until they practically fall apart.

Pay attention to the instructions for preparing cuts of meat

When following vintage southern cooking recipes, you’ll notice that many of them will give fairly detailed instructions about how the meat should be cut and prepared. There may not be any indication of how much you should use, but you’ll know if you should use a full cutlet, if it should be pounded or if it should be cut into bite-sized pieces. This is a common thread in older recipes. Some of them get fairly detailed about ingredient measurements while others call for a pinch of this or a handful of that. It’s absolutely wonderful.

Modern Southern Cooking

Some of the more modern versions of Southern dishes call for gourmet cuts of meat. While these are a departure from many of the old time recipes, they are hitting the mark in upscale markets. It helps to show the evolution that this cooking style has undergone in the past several decades. One thing is for certain. Southern cooking has made its mark in America and in whatever form it may become, it is here to stay.

Strategies for Cooking a Pain-Free Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving southern style is a real treat. There is always the turkey at the center of the table and if you are a true Texan, it will be fried in the back yard. Otherwise it is rubbed down with seasonings and placed in the oven to develop its flavor. You want it moist inside, both dark and white meat. Most people make an ordinary turkey, but I believe in going all out. The side dishes make the meal and the more the better. When the big day comes, I try to do as much as I can in advance. Prepping—chopping and slicing—means you are standing on your feet for hours on end. Pretty soon they get sore, your calves ache, and you are ready to rest. I hope you set aside enough time to finish the job and whip up the final touches such as home-baked rolls and a thick and savory gravy.

There is an art to doing Thanksgiving right and if you are going to take the southern route, you have many options. Yams can be baked with bits of pineapple and the marshmallow topping known nationwide is optional. Brown sugar creates a sweet surprise. It can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator along with any vegetables. The turkey must be made fresh in the morning of the big day. It can sit on your counter allowing the juices to mingle while you go about setting the table and making a centerpiece.

Potatoes are a staple of Thanksgiving and southerners always add cream and butter before whipping. Some people like to leave some of the skin on for a little coarser version. Add a little grated cheese and you have a winner. Then the vegetable of choice is washed and roasted. A medley of root vegetables is very “fall.” Turnips and parsnips go well with carrots and celery with a touch of lemon peel for zip. Simple tastes like green beans and almond slivers or fresh corn with chunks of red roasted peppers.

At this point, the feet are crying out. If you didn’t wear comfortable shoes, it may be too late. If you think in advance, you might have slipped on your nurses’ compression socks in the morning. You know that medical professionals such as doctors, orderlies, and nurses can work long shifts if they wear them regularly. They don’t go home and have to soak in a hot tub.

This means a better social life at night instead of dropping dead in bed. If your feet are properly attired, you are ready to continue on. It is time to baste the turkey every half hour to spread the juices. Meanwhile, pumpkin pie is afoot. There are many recipes but I like the traditional using the seasonal stuff in a can. The crust must be homemade and made with shortening and a little butter. This gives the right flakiness and texture. By now your feet may be up as you contemplate the seating arrangements. It is almost time to serve.

Good Friends and Good Food

I love southern cooking and I look forward to sharing my passion with others. I hope you have the opportunity to try it out in a restaurant in your area. If you travel to Texas, you are in luck. Even if you go to Louisiana or Alabama, you won’t be disappointed. I will prepare my favorite dishes anytime for family and friends. There is no end to what the state of Texas has to offer in the way of fabulous restaurants, but my home kitchen is also a source of great meals and beverages. Recently, I invited some good friends over for a fancy wine pairing dinner. I had some new dishes for them to try. I have turned them into food lovers and have educated them on the amazing flavor and delightful texture of the southern style. It is a cuisine that is unlike any other with different spices, ingredients and methods of preparation. While I enjoy casual entertaining, it is fun to go more formal now and then. I can get out the china and stemware and go all out. A tablecloth or placemats are not out of the question. When you come to my house, you get the whole shebang.

I have a three-course meal planned that features seasonal locally-grown vegetables and fresh tenderized meat, and I will concoct my own fruit soufflé dessert. Southern cuisine is hearty, like most comfort food. It doesn’t shy away from cream and butter. You won’t lose weight at my table. And who wants to. There is a time to savor food as is without guilt. Most people eat French or Italian food that is laden with calories. Raw vegetables are no fun, nor is chicken or fish with no sauce. In the south, it is all about taste and no effort is spared to make it right. It is certainly an art and I am working on developing my skills all the time. I collect recipes and watch Food TV. They have some excellent chefs who make their recipes available.

The wine pairings for this dinner will be important and I don’t always do this when I feed friends or family. I have acquired some delicious vintages and want to try them out. They are sitting in the wine refrigerator getting to be the perfect temperature. I love that the cooler has adjustable settings. In fact, you can have red wine in one area and white in another and not have to keep them at the same degree of coldness. It is a state-of-the-art wine refrigerator that I rely on for entertaining.

It holds two cases of wine since I like to keep some inventory. I love going to wine tastings at local vineyards and when I travel, and I don’t leave without taking something with me. I used to have a smaller size and I outgrew it quite fast. This model suits my needs perfectly as I have expanded my cooking horizon.

Thanks a Lot, Whoever You Are!

I used to have trust in humanity, but not anymore. I am always surprised by acts of vandalism and violence. I watch too much local news. I wait for the segment on “hero of the week” because it restores my faith in people. The rest of the time it is all bad stuff. Why do people lash out at the world? Is life that terrible? Of course not. Life is a blessing and I enjoy every second. When I am concocting my favorite southern dishes, I feel that I am alive and well. That’s what you have to do to keep yourself going. You relish the good moments every day. I live to cook in the evening and often invite guests to share the fare. Entertaining makes up for those times when you feel like a victim of circumstances. It happened recently when my car was subjected to a hit-and-run in a parking lot at night. There is plenty of illumination in the lot so there is no reason for someone to miss my car. Furthermore, no note was left to account for the damage. Someone could have been drinking as this sort of mishap is not common in my area.

I was out doing errands and parked near a department store where I had to buy some items for the kitchen. It is open until nine o’clock in the evening and is very convenient. This tells you that I was not parked near a bar. Who on earth perpetuated the damage that was so visible? Thanks a lot, whoever you are. I am pissed to the bone. My car needs a paint job to restore the back fender. If I wanted professional work, I would need to report the “accident” (which was not my fault) to my insurance company. There goes my favorable rate. I am not going that route. I took a long, hard look and saw that the damage was fairly localized. I could use a paint spray gun for car paint loaded with the car’s exact color and cover it pretty well. You can buy pre-mixed paint at any car dealer for all of their colors and this makes for a better job overall. I made tracks to the dealer and got what I needed.

If the nozzle is clean on your paint spray gun, you will get an even finish. When I was done, it looked almost as good as the shop, maybe not perfect but quite remarkable. I skirted the problem of insurance rates and solved my problem. I got the gun some time ago and used to use it to freshen up the exterior of the house. You can use it to play paint ball, for arts and crafts (to make giant posters), and a lot more. It gets significant usage all year long. It really saved the day for my fender and no one can tell. I did have a couple of dents, but a friend knew how to hammer them out. Now all is well.

Wine Pairings

Southern cuisine is well known for characteristic comfort aesthetics. Traditional meals include pan-fried chicken, mashed potatoes and rich creamy gravies, black-eyed peas, cornbread and a variety of heavy desserts. Barbecue and grilled foods along with seafood are also popular along with super hot chili infusions. The new southern cuisine has expanded to include more upscale versions of the traditional dishes with a new age twist. I decided that it was important to include some of the more popular wine pairings that work well with southern cuisine

Smoky Shrimp and Grits

Traditional southern cooks include copious amounts of cheddar and butter with their grits. Recent amendments to the old style include decreases in butter and cheddar and the addition of spinach for a lighter meal offering and alteration in presentation. This dish is best when paired with a Chardonnay.

Chicken-and-Andouille Étouffée

White chicken breast is coated with whole-wheat flour and the addition of andouille sausage. This reduces the heavy texture of this traditional southern dish and allows for a more modern presentation of an old favorite. The French term Etouffee means to braise, stew or smother, as in southern gravy. It is best when paired with a Pinot Noir wine selection.

Fried Green Tomato BLTs

The traditional bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich is graced with southern style cornmeal fried green tomatoes. Not much could be done to alter this southern classic because it needs no changes to be exquisite. It is best when paired with a Sauvignon Blanc wine selection.

Ham Steak with Redeye Gravy

The redeye gravy gets its unique flavor from the infusion of coffee. The addition of jalapenos and sweet pickled peppers gives it a traditional southern kick for those who like it on the spicy side. This food is best when paired with a Syrah wine selection.

Southern cuisine has undergone a series of changes with the intervention of modern chefs who have a strong connection with the foods but also have a strong desire to incorporate their personal preferences for integration of aspects of the upscale gourmet trends observed in other cultures and global cuisines. The result has been a magnificent melding and transformation of southern staples into a new age. While there is no real substitute for down home southern cooking, there is a place for the modern forms that are making their appearance in more upscale fine dining venues. The results have been positive and we’re looking forward to more.

Perfect Date Night

I have a dilemma. I need to plan a meal for my date at my house. I will cook as usual, but frankly I have done it before and he might be tired of the same old thing. I prepare my favorite dishes, of course, but repeating them is my practice. Why? Because they are good and people say they like what I offer. I don’t think I should change a good thing. So many decisions. I have to decide what I will wear as well and what we should do for amusement after dessert. I want it to be a perfect evening and there is no reason why it should fail.

I am going to wear something casual but appealing, which is my style. My date always looks nice and well attired. Since I can cook earlier in the day, I can get dressed right before he comes. I will lay out my swimsuit because I have a super idea. After a meal of southern dishes, we can have some nice wine in the hot tub. What a nice way to end our get-together. It will be a beautiful night to be outdoors at night. The hot tub is warm and relaxing and something unique to do on a date. We usually go out to eat or see the latest movies. I want to stay home, listen to some music, and jump into the swirling water. That is the point of having your own hot tub at home. You can use it whenever it is convenient, and I try to make it often.

I struck a home run with my dinner, which consisted of some new recipes. Not that my date would utter a word, but I wanted a surprise meal of southern favorites. We had chicken soup with homemade noodles and fresh vegetables from my neighbor’s garden. What he grows always inspires me. I add hot sauce to the broth which makes the soup course really different. I love a touch of heat. It means that I borrowed something from the Tex Mex tradition and have adapted it to my southern style. Then there is a hearty entrée of Swiss steak smothered in onions. Southerners like comfort food. When you pair it with buttery mashed potatoes, you have something divine. With vegetables in the sauce, it is a complete meal. Desert is banana pudding, a delicious Southern treat. Thank you New Orleans for Bananas Foster, another dish I make. It carries over into the pudding, which everyone likes. This is the first time my date will try it. I hope he likes this fruit topped with brown sugar and whipped cream.

I know that he will like retiring to the hot tub for wine. He has commented before. The memory of his positive response prompted me to plan a post-dinner dip accompanied by our favorite vintage. We both like white wine. It is light and fruity and not too heavy to sip in the hot tub. No one got drunk in spite of two full glasses each.

Because I Know Myself

I pride myself on my knowledge of food and wine. I am a self-made gourmet, specializing in southern cooking. Is there anything else? In Texas, there is so much in the way of local cuisine and many people think of barbecue. I have been known to whip up a pretty good sauce, but I have other skills. I can make a feast for family and friends in no time at all. I have all my favorite recipes in my head—and also a book just in case. I collect them and have acquired a real stash over the years. To get invited to my house is always a treat.

To stay ahead of the game, I try out new wines that hear about or taste in fine restaurants. Then I know what to serve. I have my old chardonnay standby, but a different wine now and then is something special. We talk about it at dinner and compare notes. People love to make recommendations so I listen up. Time being at a premium, one night I had my glass of wine when I was eating leftovers in bed. I wanted to watch a favorite TV show and thought I could kill a couple of birds with one stone. Unfortunately, I spilled the wine all over the place. The moisture got down to the mattress protector. I am glad that I had the foresight to buy one. Now all I had to do was toss it in the machine. It air dries laid out on the kitchen table. These handy mattress protectors are waterproof as one might expect so you can launder them yourself and not have to go shopping for a new one. Plus, it spares the actual mattress itself. You are only supposed to have to buy a new one every eight years. I wonder if that is true or is an old wives’ tale.

You can also spot clean your mattress if the protector fails. There are numerous cleaning products out there, mostly spot removers. The problem, however, is sleeping in a wet bed. My sheets were affected and also had to be washed. It was a bit late to be doing so many loads of laundry. I got to sleep late that night and woke up grumpy. I did like the wine I was drinking and vowed to soon try another glass. I want to be sure it will be a good focal point of my next dinner. I try to imagine what guests like and after all this time, I think I know my friends. I do like to challenge the palate when it comes to new dishes and wines. It is my role as hostess to open up the taste buds with tantalizing dishes and drink.

Entertaining is an art and everything you serve or offer as a beverage has to be great. It takes some research and personal testing. Given what happened to me in bed, in spite of the mattress protector, I suggest you experiment in the kitchen.

Traditional Southern Desserts

It is always a treat to return to the vintage recipes that are used to perpetuate the traditional southern desserts that have been passed down from mother to daughters and fathers to sons throughout the years. They are reminiscent of time spent at Grandmother’s kitchen, waiting in anticipation of the post supper treat. Here are a few of the most popular and beloved traditional southern desserts.

Hummingbird Cake

This southern traditional dessert is a decadent and tall cake that features moist golden layers with creamy filling of bananas, cream cheese, whipped topping, maraschino cherries and pineapple sandwiched in between. It’s a bit on the heavy side, but it’s one of the more cherished southern desserts.

Four-Layer Pecan Pie

Southern women have a knack for producing the finest pecan pies on the face of this earth. This sickeningly sweet dessert is so amazing that it’s hard to avoid going back for seconds. Drinking a cup of strong coffee to counter the heaviness of his rich pie often allays the sweetness.

Sweet Potato Pie

If you’ve never had Sweet Potato Pie, the best way that I can describe it is that it is close to a pumpkin pie, but has a lighter taste. This is one of the most famous desserts in Southern cuisine. The aroma of a Sweet potato pie cooking fills the house with a warm and welcoming aroma that makes you feel like you’re safe at home. The filling is creamy and sweet, yet a bit on the understated side that makes it less rich than traditional pumpkin pies.

Lemon Meringue Pie

This is an old southern favorite. It is generally packed with egg yolks that give the light lemony filling an exaggerated richness that is amazing beyond belief. Intense with citrus flavor and just the right amount of sweetness. This lovely confection is evenly balanced with mounds and peaks of lightly sweetened meringue that is delicately browned at the tips.

Buttermilk Pie

This classic southern dessert is as simple as it gets but melts in your mouth. Who would have thought that buttermilk could produce such an amazing confection? The ingredients include buttermilk, butter, sugar, eggs, flour, a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla. It features a creamy center that is smooth on the tongue and a lightly browned top that gives it a slightly chewy texture for a perfect melding of the two contrasting textures. If you haven’t tried buttermilk pie, I strongly recommend it.

Chocolate Chess Pie

Chess pies have long been a Southern favorite and are well known for their richness and power of addiction. This version adds the infusion of chocolate that gives it the consistency of an undercooked brownie and a similar taste, except it’s fully cooked. This amazing southern treat is hard to resist and its richness makes a little go a long way because a thin slice usually satisfies your craving for sweet richness.

Creamy Fruit Ambrosia

This is perhaps one of the lightest desserts found in traditional southern cuisine. It features fresh fruits and a light and creamy base with the addition of coconut for added texture and a delightful Caribbean influence.

If you’re not familiar with the traditional desserts of the South, you’re missing out on a treasure trove. There are quite a few new and modern versions, and although many are truly amazing, there is no replacement for the old standard recipes. Many of them are available online if you take the time to look for them. Southern cooks are proud to share their prize-winning recipes for the enjoyment of everyone.

A Meal for 20 Coming Right Up!

Do you want to know how to throw a great pool party? It is all about the food. Just ask me to cater it and you will see. I can cook for an outdoor feast for ten to twenty and money is no object. I am known for tasty southern cuisine and it is not expensive. The preparation is easy and I don’t need much help, which cuts down on costs. I can promise you a good time. I have a testimonial from a friend as proof.

Recently, I took care of the food for a lavish pool party in my friend’s backyard. There was a huge above ground pool but lots of room for tables and chairs. He has a covered patio that made the set up easy. He can easily accommodate a crowd. I was assigned to make something unique and special for twenty and to lay it out as a tantalizing buffet. This was a no brainer. I can cook in my sleep and I love to entertain. I thus pass on my skills to others.

We selected a date and I prearranged some rentals. People like to sit when they eat and most do not go near the pool. Only kids will snack while swimming but they often drop morsels into the water. I am going to avoid this problem. We will have cocktails by the pool and since people are coming appropriately attired, some may want to swim. My friend’s pool has three-foot sides unlike in-ground pools and you can buy trays to attach to the top edge. Drinks can be placed on these little tables so the adults can play around and cool off in the water. After drinks comes the food neatly ensconced in hot tureens. Paper plates start the food line and plastic utensils wrapped in napkins. After you grab your plate, it is your turn to explore. I usually offer two entrees, a starter dish or salad, and a simple desert like southern banana pudding and cookies. An urn of hot water stands next to hot coffee so people can decide if they want something other than an alcoholic beverage. Sodas are nearby in an ice chest.

I love to get rave revues of my food. Sure, my friend was ecstatic as he had tried my southern fare before. It is always nice to hear it also from guests. I had pan fried chicken with potatoes and gravy. It is a crowd pleaser all the time. I have catered a lot and know the ropes. As an alternative to the chicken I had braised short ribs in barbecue sauce. One eater said it was “heavenly.” Thank you very much. The salad had a homemade creamy ranch dressing, a staple of the southern style. As for banana pudding, you can’t make enough. People kept coming back for more. It is rich and creamy and so satisfying to the palate. I often include it on the menu as a result.

Great New Restaurant

Mongers Market and Kitchen is one of the up and coming new sensations in the Austin Texas restaurant lineup. It offers a nautical cottage theme located on East Caesar Chavez with a combination kitchen and market that provides fresh and high-quality seafood. The incorporation of the two makes it a great place to eat in or to purchase the evening’s dinner for home preparation.

Featured Cuisine

Everything is fresh and you have your choice of clam chowder, fish, and grits or crab cakes sammy. They also offer creamy aged cheddar grits with seared fish and collards with a tomato vinaigrette.


If you truly enjoy a nautical theme, and most people do, this restaurant will fit the bill. It has a pleasant atmosphere and very tasty food offerings. What gives it the tremendous appeal that it has with guests is the versatility that it offers. It’s a little offbeat which gives it a refreshing uniqueness. The atmosphere is laid back but it also offers more upscale dining opportunities. In addition to all of this, the service is great.

Special Dining Events

Mongers features special dining events such as the Prisoner Wine Dinner. This is an example of the type of upscale cuisine that you can expect. The Prisoner dinner is an event that features entertainment with the inventive cuisine of Chef Shane Stark. Local products along with market fresh ingredients that are also available in the market and an impressive wine list are featured in this presentation. It is an evening of entertainment and fine dining with a cost of $100 per seat. Reservations are required as seating is limited so it’s a good idea to make reservations well in advance of the scheduled event.

  • Course One

The first course features steamed red snapper with gai-lan, fennel orange, and chili manzana.

  • Course Two

The second course features Pan-roasted scallops with short rib ravioli, celeriac, red pear and hazelnut brown butter.

  • Course Three

For the third course, guests are served Grilled Opah belly with smoked matsutake mushrooms, sweet onion puree, and thorn syrup.

  • Course Four

44 Farms strip loin is featured with pommes Aligot and bordelaise

  • Course Five

The final course features a goat cheese tart with saldo honey poached figs and dark chocolate.

This special presentation dinner highlights the class and elegance of this new and impressive dining venue. It could easily become the top restaurant in the Austin, TX area.

Mongers Market and Kitchen is a new restaurant to keep your eye on. They take a unique approach to modern southern cuisine with a touch of the whimsical. While they offer a variety of seafood and other southern foods, you will also have your choice of more exotic cuisine in addition. Their wine list is also impressive which works to tie all of the unique aspects of this restaurant together for a fine dining experience. I recommend that you make plans to visit this up and coming new establishment when in the Austin area because from all indications, it has the potential to rise to the top of the favorites list in a variety of categories.

More Than Just Fried Chicken

Southern style cooking is so much more than just fried chicken. In spite of the stereotypes, some of the most amazing and desirable meals have their origins in southern cuisine. Among the most popular are Gumbos, seafood delicacies and specialty dishes that people are willing to travel to find. In addition to this, who says that fried chicken can’t be served in an upscale restaurant? It may be labeled or presented a bit differently, but the basics of bird preparation are still there.

Americas River Oaks -Houston Texas

This award-winning restaurant is one of Houston’s most upscale dining venues and it features the finest offerings of South American foods but it offers a hint of Southern cuisine in grand style. Owner/chef Michael Cordua offers what they call “New World Cuisine.” Cooking styles are incorporated from South, Central and North America and the upscale offerings cannot escape inclusion of the Southern influence of the great state of Texas. Grilled market vegetables with chargrilled corn and crispy mushroom appetizers, fried fingerling potatoes and plantain and sweet corn and habanero are southern style inspiration. Jalapeno, red bell peppers, and onions flambéed tableside are another upscale version of popular southern cooking.

Brennan’s of Houston

Registered as a Houston landmark, this upscale restaurant features a Texas Creole menu complete with Turtle Soup, Bourbon Molasses Lacquered Bobwhite Quail, Blue Crab Stuffed Texas Flounder and Bananas Foster.

This prestigious restaurant has won the food Arts Silver Spoon Award in 2014; the #1 in Service and Decor in Zagat in 2012; the Nation’s Restaurant News fine Dining Hall of Fame in 2011 and Exxon Mobil four-star rating from 2000 through 2014. This restaurant embodies the convergence of Southern cuisine with fine dining.

Danton’s Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen – Houston, TX

Locate in the museum district of Houston; this restaurant was listed in 2008 on the “Places We’re Talking About” list on Gourmet magazine. It features Gulf coast cuisine created by Danton Nix. The venue has a seating capacity of 200 with a dining room and separate oyster bar with professional oyster shucking exhibitions. The bar has a seating capacity for 60.

Ibiza Food and Wine Bar -Houston, TX

This fine dining establishment made it to the Travel + Leisure’s list of the Best New American Restaurants in 2004. It offers upscale offerings and includes southern cuisine including grilled shrimp with crabmeat cornbread and tasso fricassee; fried oysters with spinach, bacon and leek fondue with spicy aioli and piquillo peppers stuffed with pulled pork finished with Alabama white sauce.

Southern cuisine may have been given a bum deal, but true food connoisseurs understand its value and are daring enough to present southern style dishes among their offerings in a variety of fine dining establishments. It is true that Southern cuisine in more than just fried chicken, but then again, what’s wrong with fried chicken, to begin with?