Category Archives: The Food Experiment

Biggest Day of the Year!

Where has the year gone? Summer, warm sunsets, and margaritas drifted away before I knew it. In September, we celebrated a dear friend’s nuptials in Chicago and celebrated the Magician’s thirty-first birthday. Last month, marked my first anniversary living in Houston as an adult. Last week marked my third anniversary with the Magician. But the most exciting, biggest day of the entire year falls next month. No, not Christmas, not NYE. The Food Experiment National Championship is finally here!!!!!!!!! I swear my March victory was yesterday. Seriously, where the hell did the time go?

Less than one month people! 25 DAYS!!! Panic and nerves are setting in, along with the realization that I have to cook the best bite of my life for 300 people in an unfamiliar city that celebrates some of the best food ANYWHERE. Period. This is big. Really big. A defining moment on my road to culinary domination. Time for lists…to-dos, packing materials, time lines, recipes. Ready go.

We decided on the bite after much experimentation, multiple tastings, and focus groups. Is it the best? I sure as hell hope so. Creative…definitely. I don’t think it’s been done before, and my endless Google searches seem to support that.   Delicious…it involves homemade sausage, panko, cheese. How could that be bad? Other than that, you won’t get many other details. I think the element of surprise will work in our favor. BUT KNOW THIS…THE MAGIC HOPS ARE BRINGING IT!

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The New Challenge…for now

To my disappointment, I had to abandon my year-long Farmhouse Delivery challenge when I left Austin. No one could recommend a similar all-local delivery service here. (On the upside, I think I missed the bulk of beet season!) Luckily for me, Farmhouse recently announced they were setting up shop in H-town. So when I ditch the suburbs for a hip, inner-loop locale, I’ll re-join and pick up where I left off with my challenge.

My first box!

In the meantime, you’ll have to follow me on the long road to the The Food Experiment National Championship. There is no theme for this final showdown. The only rule is to cook “The Perfect Bite.” And, oh the choices…and the intimidation! The only thing I know is that I want to create Texas flavors with local, seasonal New York ingredients. Something warm, something hearty, something delicious. That really narrows it down, right?

For a little Texas inspirado, I bought Robb Walsh’s new book over the weekend, Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook. It’s my new kitchen bible. He masterfully crafts together his rough history of Lone Star cuisine through stories of Texas legends and beautiful recipes.

I look forward to reading it cover to cover. And hopefully, Mr. Walsh will spark my experimentation imagination.

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Big Exciting News

Time to come out of my winter hibernation, and finally share where the hell I’ve been the past few months. Plus, I have BIG exciting news to announce! First and foremost, I moved to Houston five months ago for a new job. It was a sudden, unexpected transition accompanied by some jumps for joy and lots of tears, but the job was too good to pass up. The magician still lives in Austin, but he’s moving here this summer! YAY!

And now the BIG exciting news…with a little back story first. Last year, the magician and I competed in the first ever Austin Pork Experiment hosted by The Food Experiments, America’s most exciting amateur cook-off series. We won third place in the audience round with The Oinker, a.k.a. a delicious pork meat-cake topped with sweet potato mashers and chives.

The Oinker

So when Theo of the Food Experiments announced that the Houston Beer Experiment was the first stop on the bigger, better 2012 National tour, the magician and I rushed to enter as “The Magic Hops” for another chance at culinary glory. For the entire month of February, I cooked (and drank) lots of local, craft beer to perfect our dish, Pork and Grits Under the Influence. This year we were not taking any pilsners.

Our final bite for last weekend’s cook-off was a smokey pulled pork served over Bombshell Blonde infused grits garnished with a homemade bread & butter jalapeño, bacon, and scallions. The dish came together exactly as I’d hopped…I mean hoped. I smoked the pork over Lonestar-soaked applewood for 6 hours, and then continued to braise it in Southern Star Bombshell Blonde for another 5 hours until it was fork tender. The grits cooked in Bombshell Blonde along with a few other confidential ingredients. And, the jalapenos, my secret weapons, had brined for a week and were the perfect sweet, spicy kick to top off my Southern classic.


Photo courtesy of the Houston Press.

My competition was intense! My fellow amateur chefs brought it, and we went up against sixteen incredible dishes. (Fried Pork Belly, Guava Wheat Lamb Stew, and Barely Buzzed Beer Cheese Soup just to name a few.) After the judging ended and 250 samples were passed out to the huge crowd, the team captains gathered on stage awaiting the results.

I was nervous and giddy as Theo announced the awards. He finally came to the Grand Prize, and our team hadn’t been called. One more spot left. I fidgeted with anticipation. Then he shouted “The Magic Hops!” The rest is a blur. I freaked out. Someone told me, I literally hopped to the mic like a bunny. I was wearing bunny ears, but the hopping was a pure coincidence.

Our prizes included: sweet cookware from Le Creuset & Analon, a Wusthof knife, a kick-ass t-shirt, Chameleon Cold Brew, and most importantly a trip to Brooklyn sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery to compete in the National Championship against all the tour winners. I am so honored that so many in the crowd loved my food and so proud to represent Houston, my hometown. Thank you to everyone who supported us, The Food Experiments, and Brooklyn Brewery for an amazing day. I look forward to experimenting to create the perfect bite for the final showdown in Brooklyn on December 16th. It’s only 283 282 days away. But who’s counting.

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March 8, 2012 · 7:05 pm