Tag Archives: Southeast Texas

Chef Tai Lee’s New Cookbook Fires Up Texas Kitchens

The Veritas CookbookWe’ve been graciously asked to review Chef Tai Lee’s new cookbook, “The Veritas Cookbook: Cooking with Chef Tai (Savory Books).” It’s definitely our pleasure to review any book, as everyone at Big Grey Horse Media is an avid reader. Ask us to review a cookbook from a well-known Texas chef? Icing on the cake, baby.

Haley Campbell, marketing manager at Savory Books, reached out to me earlier this month. “The Veritas Cookbook: Cooking with Chef Tai” is one of the publishing house’s newest titles. Savory focuses exclusively on cookbooks featuring top chefs and restaurant owners from around the country. Lucky for Texans, Chef Tai happens to be one of those amazing chefs and he’s conveniently located in College Station.

Since Haley contacted me, the new cookbook’s arrived and is being devoured. It’s a beautiful book – there’s not doubt that Chef Tai put tons of work into his recipes. The photos are drool-worthy, too. Perfectly plated foods that scream: EAT ME NOW!

A little background on Chef Tai is necessary at this point. It’s always interesting to know where your favorite chef came from and how he became famous. I am particularly interested in how folks end up in Texas, especially when they aren’t located in one of the big cities. While I don’t have all the answers yet, we do plan on making a trip to interview Chef Tai. We’re very excited to meet him and see his restaurant.

Veritas Wine Bar and Bistro, located in College Station, Texas, opened in 2007. The restaurant’s won numerous awards including the Reader’s Choice Award 2013, Open Table Dinner’s Choice Award 2009-2013, Best of Brazos Award 2008-2013, and the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence 2007-2010. I think these awards speak to Chef Tai’s love of cooking and how much he cares about the experience Veritas’ patrons will have.

The Veritas Cookbook: Cooking with Chef Tai (Savory Books)” blends Asian, French and American foods (can you say tasty?). I’m not spilling the beans…yet…but this cookbook is packed with recipes you’ll enjoy making in the privacy of your kitchen. While it’s a treat to eat out and have Chef Tai prepare these foods for you, there’s nothing like recreating a dish just like a famous chef.

So are you ready for foodie fun?

We will publish our book review this coming week. Hang tight and see you then!

COCOAMODA Chocolate Review

COCOAMODA Truffles Assortment BoxedCocoamoda on Urbanspoon

It is a pleasure to share our COCOAMODA chocolate review with you. Afriel chose COCOAMODA after carefully considering all of the chocolatiers in Texas. We expected a tasty experience, but did not anticipate being sent over the moon, beyond Jupiter, and far into the Milky Way.

Two words: COCOAMODA ROCKS! Thanks, Chef Wilkinson!

A little bit about this Texas-based company: COCOAMODA offers gourmet chocolates through their storefront in Calvert. Besides being a chocolatier, COCOAMODA is open on Fridays for five-course dinners and Saturdays for seven-course dinners. Each week a different menu is presented by Chef Ken Wilkinson.

I love chocolate. I’m not a chocaholic like Afriel, but I do crave a nice, dark chocolate several times throughout the year. And when those cravings hit, I’m all for the good stuff. Unlike everyone else, I was the girl, way back in the 1960s, who dug dark chocolate. That was me, an oddity and a bit of a misfit, for loving my dark chocolate.

Every Christmas, my mom would buy a few bags of the Hershey’s assortment of little chocolate bars. The bags would be unloaded into a candy dish and put out for our Christmas guests.

I would carefully sort through the candy dish, digging out the dark chocolate bars. No one wanted them, so my mother gave me liberty to pick out the dark chocolates. Everyone turned their noses up at the slightly bitter taste.

All the better for me, because I didn’t have to share!

My point being that so very long ago, I was shouting dark chocolate’s praises. I stood up for the bitter, smoky taste. I defended dark chocolate as being far superior to milk chocolate. And I greedily hoarded any dark chocolate pieces I could get my little hands on.

Afriel got a taste of fine chocolate as a little girl, too. She is a true chocaholic, however. That girl can eat chocolate just about anytime, anywhere. While she appreciates the fine chocolates, she won’t turn a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup down – ever. She acquired a taste for Belgian chocolate when she visited her dad while he was stationed in Belgium. She’d bring a few chocolates home to share. She still loves those little shells.

After Afriel chose COCOAMODA for this review, I emailed the company to let them know we were going to place the order within 24 hours. I alerted them that we were Texas foodie bloggers and that I hoped to hear from them and get a few questions answered. Just like my responses (or should I say non-responses?) from Texas Pepper Jelly and Collin Street Bakery, I heard nothing from COCOAMODA.

What’s a blogger to do when three companies in a row don’t answer one phone call and two emails? Write the truth and say that I hope each company does better, in the future, nurturing their customer base.

COCOAMODA Package WrappedAfriel and I reviewed the COCOAMODA truffles over a period of several days. There’s absolutely no way I could eat all those truffles in one sitting. I don’t think fine chocolate should be consumed in a frenzied fashion. When you’re indulging in a rich food, you definitely should savor the moment. That moment should always be special and exclusive.

The truffles were not specifically identified. We had to sort through the box and use the sheet that came with the truffles in order to determine which ones were which. Some of the truffles were easy to spot; others are still a mystery (we’ve put a ? by the truffles we couldn’t identify).

Espresso

Afriel: Dark chocolate outer with creamy inside. Rich cocoa scent. Deep and slightly bitter espresso flavor inside that lingers afterwards. Ground peppercorns on the outside deliver a slight, warming heat but are still kid-friendly.

Laura: Dark chocolate outer shell that’s brittle. Inside is soft and creamy but not runny. Smells super cocoa-y. The inside is like velvet and tastes like espresso. Outer shell is very bitter but good. The finish is extremely smooth with distinct pepper taste that lingers. Outer shell has ground peppercorns.

COCOAMODA Plated Truffles

Milk and Honey

Afriel: Milk chocolate outer shell with gooey inside. Crushed wafer thins in the chocolate shell. Creamy, milky, honey taste. The honey isn’t overwhelming.

Laura: Light brown outer shell with creamy chocolate inside that’s runny. Smells like milk chocolate. Outer shell is smooth and milky. Inside has distinct honey flavor. Chocolate shell has a crunch – almost like wafers are mixed with it and the chocolate is airy. This chocolate is absolutely divine in taste. The finish is smooth.

Key Lime

Afriel: White chocolate outside. Extremely gooey filling with lime zest. A good lime smell. Outer shell rolled in sugar with lime juice brushed on. Tastes exactly like a good, tart key lime pie.

Laura: Funny looking little chocolate. It’s been rolled in something; has a bumpy shell. Filling is gooey with lime zest. Distinct lime smell. Taste of inside is very lime-y. Just like a good key lime pie: so tart! White chocolate is smooth. Hidden in the layers of dominant lime and tart there is a lingering sour flavor, but it’s not unpleasant. This is one of the most unusual chocolates I’ve ever eaten.

COCOAMODA Truffles Close Up

Milk Chocolate ?

Afriel: Milk chocolate outer shell. Gooey inside. A good, chocolate-y smell with a slight caramel taste.

Laura: This chocolate looks like the Milk and Honey. Creamy milk chocolate inside. Smells like a regular chocolate bar. Inside tastes a bit like caramel. Shell is a smooth milk chocolate. The taste is like a really high-end, milk chocolate bar.

COCOAMODA Plated Truffles2

Marrons Glaces

Afriel: Sweet, dark chocolate outer shell. A yellow nougat-like filling. Filling smells like almond extract. The texture of the filling is grainy and almost gelatinous. The taste is a bit smokey.

Laura: Dark chocolate shell. Yellow nougat filling that smells fruity and sort of like almond; it’s nutty. The filling is an interesting texture; it’s almost gelatinous. This dark chocolate is sweet; it’s not as bitter as the Espresso. It’s a different candy. The tastes of the chocolate and the filling and the texture are highly unusual. Finish is nutty and smokey.

Coconut

Afriel: White chocolate shell rolled in toasted, shredded coconut that has not been sweetened. Gooey inside with just a hint of sweetness. Good coconut flavor. I really enjoyed this truffle in spite of not being a big fan of coconut.

Laura: White chocolate shell rolled in toasted coconut flakes. Filling is runny and slightly sweet. This truffle has to be eaten in one big bite to be appreciated. Crunchy texture that’s not overly sweet. The truffle didn’t smell like coconut which surprised me.

Passion Fruit ?

Afriel: A white chocolate shell rolled in fine sugar with a lemon-y, tropical type filling.

Laura: White chocolate shell. Filling is yellow and creamy. Taste is distinct but I can’t place it. Filling is almost lemon-tasting. Shell didn’t have much taste.

COCOAMODA Truffles Close Up3

Lavender

Afriel: Milk chocolate outer shell rolled in fine sugar. Creamy filling of smokey, herb-y lavender that tastes just like walking through an herb garden.

Laura: Milk chocolate shell that’s been rolled in sugar. Milk chocolate filling is creamy. Has a very sweet smell. Filling is herbal tasting. Shell is air-filled and crunchy. This is an extremely interesting candy. It reminded me of sage.

Hazelnut

Afriel: Milk chocolate shell rolled in crushed, toasted nuts. A rich, hazelnut filling that’s not overly sweet with a nice, nutty aftertaste.

Laura: Semi-dark chocolate shell that looks like it’s been rolled in nuts. Semi-dark chocolate filling is creamy. Not much of a smell to this one. Filling is hazelnut and very rich, delicious. Shell is thin and bends when you bite. Very interesting texture. Deep flavor. Not a very sweet chocolate, but not bitter. Nutty flavors dominate.

COCOAMODA Truffles Close Up2

??

Afriel: Deep, slightly bitter espresso flavor with a creamy filling.

Laura: Dark chocolate shell with a dark chocolate filling that’s creamy. Deep, earthly smell. Very bitter but in a good way. Distinct aftertaste.

Eggnog ? Cornish Ice Cream ?

Afriel: White chocolate shell. Creamy white filling with a lightly sweet taste.

Laura: White chocolate shell. White cream filling. Smells like white chocolate. Filling has a vanilla taste that’s very smooth. The shell is definitely a smooth, traditional white chocolate taste. Filling has something else in the taste, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Raspberry

Afriel: A very strong, deep, dark chocolate scent with a dark chocolate shell. A very light, raspberry flavoring in the filling.

Laura: Dark chocolate shell. Dark chocolate, creamy filling. Smells like dark chocolate. Dark chocolate shell tastes bitter. Cream filling is deep but has a hint of a sweet finish.

COCOAMODA Box of Truffles

Takeaway

COCOAMODA is at 518 S. Main Street in Calvert, Texas 77837. The phone number is 979-364-2190. The hours of operation are Wednesday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Dinner reservations begin at 7:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. COCOAMODA is also open on Sunday 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

Texas Pepper Jelly Foodie Review

Texas Pepper Jelly Star Sampler Pack
Texas Pepper Jelly Star Sampler Pack

Texas Pepper Jelly’s been close to my heart for a long time. Somewhere along the way, I sampled some of Craig Sherry’s hotter that hot jelly and fell in love. I’ve watched the Texas Pepper Jelly site and read the blog. I even subscribed to the newsletter for a few years.

This month, I decided it was time to give Texas Pepper Jelly a proper review. The disappointing part of this review was how non-responsive the company was regarding my review and order. I emailed Texas Pepper Jelly, introducing myself and Big Grey Horse Media. I explained my objectives and that I would appreciate any additional company information, press kit, etc. that could be included with my order since this was a review.

I never heard back. Not a peep.

After placing my order online, it was a bit strange that I never received a confirmation email. I say this because every other company I do business with either sends a confirmation email or sends me to a confirmation page at the end of the transaction. I was a bit nervous and wondered if the order went through. What assuaged my concerns was seeing that the payment had been processed for my credit card.

Now to the good stuff. I ordered the Star Sampler Pack. It showed up via Federal Express within a few days of placing my order.

Cranberry Habanero Texas Pepper Jelly
Cranberry Habanero Texas Pepper Jelly

The promptness of the delivery was great! I often wait over a week for items because I rarely pay for expedited shipping.

The jelly was packed well. The wooden star that the sample jelly jars were packed in was attractive. For this order, you pick six jelly flavors to fill the sampler. I chose strawberry, cranberry, apple, apricot, pineapple, and raspberry. When the order arrived, a handwritten note inside explained that the cranberry habanero jelly only comes in a 5 oz. jar, so Texas passion habanero was substituted in its place. I also received the cranberry habanero jelly, gratis, in its 5 oz jar. Now that’s good customer service!

I am the first to admit that I dig spicy. I’m a chili head from way back. I’ve sampled Texas Pepper Jelly in the past and really liked it. Hold onto your hats, however, because the jellies that showed up were s-p-i-c-y. All of them are habanero based, so I expected a punch and a kick. But I’m here to tell you, these jellies are fierce!

I sampled each, over a period of a few days, first by dipping a spoon into the jelly and trying it straight. The berry jellies are definitely the most authentic in flavor. While each of the jellies I tried were good, the pineapple probably loses my vote as least flavorful. I didn’t find anything pineapple about the taste; it’s just a sweet jelly with lots of spice.

Sampling Texas Pepper Jelly
Sampling Texas Pepper Jelly on crackers with cream cheese.

The Texas passion habanero jelly was interesting, because it’s a mix of fruits laden with habanero. I honestly couldn’t pick out any of the fruits listed, but overall, the jelly has a sweet, pleasant taste. I guess I was looking for a distinct fruit taste, and I couldn’t find it, which was a bit of a let-down.

The cranberry was okay, as were the apple and apricot. These are flavors you can recognize. The true winners, in my book, were the strawberry and raspberry jellies. I distinctly found the berry flavors and there was nothing artificial about the taste.

I ended up doing the rest of my sampling with HEB water crackers, a thin layer of cream cheese, and Texas Pepper Jelly on top. This is the ideal way to eat these jellies. While the jellies remained overly spicy (too much pepper blasting out the good fruit), the combination of the bland cracker crunch and smooth cheese made eating the jellies a fun treat.

If you don’t like spicy foods, leave Texas Pepper Jelly to the folks who do. You won’t like these – they are strong! In some ways, a bit too strong for me. When the fruit taste came through, as in the strawberry and raspberry jellies, the strong pepper vibe made sense. It didn’t make as much sense with the jellies where the taste was little more than sugar with peppers thrown in.

In spite of my disappointment, I want to say that I love what Craig’s done with his company. And those who love habanero peppers mixed with jelly should dig what Texas Pepper Jelly has to offer. I am game to try more products and give the company a fair shake. I will say that what I sampled in the past was spicy, but I seem to recall the fruit flavors being clearer. I’d also like to incorporate the jellies into recipes.

While Texas Pepper Jelly’s online ordering may be a bit strange to me (no email confirmation or confirmation page), this order arrived quickly, was attractively packaged, and contained a nice note, an additional sample, and swag (a Texas Pepper Jelly refrigerator magnet that’s a 2014 calendar and a blue, rubber Texas Pepper Jelly coaster). Everything was a very nice touch and it helped to make up for my confusion about the order.

This story will continue. Thanks, Craig!

 

Takeaway

Texas Pepper Jelly is an online store. The phone number is 713-702-3489. You can also email sales@texaspepperjelly.com.

 

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Pin Oak Charity Horse Show 2013 in Katy, Texas

k Charity Horse Show 2013
Newspaper Taxi and me taking a stroll. Dig the coffee and my handsome horse!

In March 2013, a lifelong dream was realized. I was an exhibitor at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in Katy, Texas. I’ve been to many to Pin Oak shows as a youngster, but always as a spectator. You’d probably be surprised that my last Pin Oak show was in the 1970s, held at the original Pin Oak Stable. So visiting the Great Southwest Equestrian Center and being part of the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show was a total kick!

 

 

 

The morning of the first day of the show, following our trainer, Paige Erwin, to the Great Southwest Equestrian Center.

At the show barn.

This video is of Newspaper Taxi with Paige Erwin in the first round of the Pre-Green 3′ Hunters on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

Newspaper Taxi and Paige Erwin showing in their second round of the Pre-Green 3′ Hunters, Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

One of my Modified Adult Hunter rounds with Newspaper Taxi on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

One of my rounds with Newspaper Taxi showing in the Modified Adult Hunters on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

History of the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show

The original Pin Oak Stables, owned by Jim S. Abercrombie, had only one goal in mind: to help children. This began in 1945. Three years later, Pin Oak gave funding to develop the Texas Children’s Hospital, and later on, to Houston’s Ronald McDonald House and the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance. Since then, the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show has created art projects for patients at the Texas Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House. This art contributes to the horse show by making equine-themed images that are used for promotions and as souvenirs. Pin Oak is currently contributing to the construction of a new hospital located off Interstate 10.

Pin Oak Charity Horse Show 2013
Walking back to the show barn stabling area.

Pin Oak Charity Horse Show is one of a handful of horse shows that includes American Saddlebreds, Andalusians, roadsters, and Welsh ponies along with the hunter/jumper divisions. This type of show is a dying breed, unfortunately.

The original stable was destroyed in 2002 to build Pin Oak Middle School. The horse show facilities were relocated to the Great Southwest Equestrian Center. However, the Pin Oak tradition rides strong as tens of thousands of people travel from around the world, every year, to attend and exhibit at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show.