Burgers and Beer: The Only Kinda Combo Plate

The base of my food pyramid is inclusive of several things that includes, but is not limited to: french fries, Texas peaches, roasted corn, Mexican beer and a great burger. It was no surprise then that, when I was invited to CultureMap’s 1st Annual Backyard Burger Grill Off, my response was somewhere in the neighborhood of “not yes, but YES!”

The Backyard Burger Grill Off was held downtown at Discovery Green and was designed to find Houston’s best burger, something I know a thing or two about. For $40, patrons could taste all-you-could-eat sliders from some of Houston’s best restaurants with all the necessary accoutrements, and unlimited as-much-as-y0u-could-stomach beer from some of Houston’s best breweries. Discovery Green was bustling, mostly with parents trying to get their children to run like the wind so they wouldn’t be up all hours of the night, but also with a hip and hungry Houston crowd ready to decide the proprietor of our fair city’s best burger.

The first stop was the Southern Star Brewery table where we kicked things off with a big (plastic) glass of Bombshell Blonde. Not only do I love the cheery blue label complete with a blonde bombshell on it, I actually really love the beer. It’s a not-hoppy American Blonde Ale that is perfect for a hot Houston day. We paired this with the Tasting Room’s Corn Maque Choux and their slider topped with shredded pork. As much as I love The Tasting Room, I was disappointed with their slider; it was bland and, if a burger can even be this, kind of meeley. The corn maque choux was decent, but wasn’t life-changing by any means.

The next stop was the Saint Arnold Brewery table for some Santo. I am nothing if not a die-hard Saint Arnold’s fan, so when I saw they were serving Santo, I made a bee-line. You just cannot go wrong swilling anything from Saint Arnold’s and I may or may not have loitered around their table far longer than a properly lady should have.

The other burgers we had were from J. Black’s (which was great); Roots Bistro (meh); BRIO (decent); Vic & Anthony’s (really good); and The Grove (who won my “pink marble” for best slider of the night). As far as the beer was concerned, I liked the Weisse Verse from No Label and the Oktoberfest from Saint Arnold; however, I especially loved the Leprechaun Dry Cider! As adventurous an eater as I am, I have never tried a hard cider before last night and I absolutely loved it! It tasted like a cross between beer and champagne and, really, what could be better than that? As I always say, the only pain is champagne and combined with beer makes it just that much better.

As a side note, Whole Foods was serving their homemade potato chips (Vanilla Pepper! Maple Pepper! BBQ!) that I didn’t even know they made, and grilled ancho-chile pineapple. Pure deliciousness!

The winners of the best burger turned out to be a tie between J. Black and The Grove, although if I’d have known that they were going to close the voting at 7:30, I’m pretty sure I would have been the deciding voter. Silly swing voters.

The only downfall of the event was that they didn’t have any water — not even to buy. In fact, they had nothing at all to drink except beer. I get that it was a beer-sponsored thing, but it was about 100 degrees with the humidity and I would have paid $1,000 for a bottle of water. I must have looked really desperate at The Counter‘s table because they actually gave me one of their bottles from their own stash. Sweet y’all, so sweet.

All in all, the 1st Annual Backyard Burger Grill Off was a fantastic event. Being there with such great friends in a place I don’t normally go in Houston and finally being able to be outside after a brutal Summer made everything all right.

The post script of this story is that we went to The Railyard when a group of people more senior than us came in celebrating a birthday and carrying a blow up doll. That is certainly not something you see every day and, let’s just say I developed a bit of an affinity for this young, plastic man. He was handsome with big blue yes, trim, polite, and quiet, although a bit shoddily dressed. We snapped a picture and swilled a beer together, and it was actually the best date I’ve had in a long, long time.


Hot or Not?

My not-so-hot scratches, day one

I’m moving this week. Needless to say, my house and, basically, my life are in complete chaos. I am a firm believer that, in the midst of chaos, everybody needs a little time away so I spent my time away at a friend’s pool on Saturday. I am an avid fan of water, especially pools, and it was fantastic to hang out with friends, swim, do can-openers off the diving board, have breath-holding contests and drink cold beer. It was a much needed respite from shoving the contents of my entire life into 70 U-haul boxes.

I’m a dog person. I have a cat, whom I love dearly, but I am also a big fan of canines, too. And I think they must know how much I adore them because I had just done a seriously sweet can-opener and was treading water in the middle of the pool when my friend’s 150-pound Rottweiler jumped into the pool and started swimming towards me. Now, I consider myself a pretty good swimmer and am definitely not afraid of the water — I was a lifeguard and swam on swim team throughout high school, as well as taught adults to swim — and I could probably save an adult if I had to, but a 150-pound dog with

My not-so-hot scratches that turned to bruises, day two

ginormous claws turned out to be a different story. I’m pretty sure he just wanted to drown me play but, with my midget height, I wasn’t able to touch the bottom of the pool. When I realized he wasn’t going to swim past me, I tried holding him up, but his long, thick claws were scratching me as he tried holding on to me, and we both started sinking. Naturally, the people I was with were just staring at me (!) and yelling at me to go underwater (which I was trying to do as evidenced by three 8-inch scratches on my back) until, finally, one of the guys swam over and pulled the dog off of me. Good times! Also, I’m pretty confident I drank about two gallons of pool water, so I think I’m set on my chlorine intake for the next little while. Ahem.

I got all kinds of good-looking scratches on my arm and chest that have now turned into bruises from the ordeal, although they’re not really a huge deal. The scratches are just surface scratches, but it’s just a shame I don’t have a better story to tell. In fact, when people ask what happened, my story will probably go something like this — hot: the scratches on my chest and arm. Not hot: that they were from a 150-pound Rottweiler and not the hot guy I’m dating. So goes the story of my life. 😉

Weekend Shenanigans

What I did this weekend in the Cliff Notes version. You’re welcome!

1) Ate blue crabs. If you’ve ever eaten crabs, or any kind of shellfish for that matter, you know it’s a lot of work for a little bit of meat. On the off chance you were wondering, you can rest assured that blue crabs are no different. Nevertheless, we had a coupon for them at Ragin Cajun which hasn’t always been my favorite cajun food joint. I don’t hate it, but it’s always seemed like the “Joe’s Crab Shack” of Houston cajun food. I know that will annoy the entirety of the Houston food population, but before y’all fire up your Ford F-150’s and race off to the comment board, let me say that I’ve been eating there more often of late and am having a slight change of heart.

The service is great, the beer is cold, the food is growing on me, but the atmosphere gets me every time — I love their relaxed, laid-back attitude and all-around good time! But I digress.

The blue crabs were fifty thousand kinds of awesome! We had both boiled and barbecued crabs, some delicious Frenchman Street tacos (think cajun-style fish tacos) and my all-time fave dirty rice. I hadn’t cracked a crab claw since the Cretaceous period but it was the most fun I’ve had eating out in a long time. Swizzled some beers. Watched some Olympic swimming. Passed on the vegan cookies (wtf?). And had a damn good time!

Fun fact: I learned that Ragin Cajun’s new side bar, LA Bar, is actually not an abbreviation of “Louisiana”, which would be purely logical being that it’s a CAJUN restaurant and all. Instead, it’s actually a reference to Lake Arthur, Louisiana, a place I was certain did not exist. I mean, my people are from Baton Rouge and I cannot tell you how many thousands of miles I’ve traveled between Houston and Baton Rouge in my lifetime. THOUSANDS! And never once had I heard of “Lake Arthur”. I’d heard of Port Arthur and Lake Charles, but not Lake Arthur. However, after one swipe at the Google, I was proven wrong and learned that there is, in fact, a Lake Arthur, Louisiana, namesake of Ragin Cajun’s new bar. I guess I have to go now…and shouldn’t I get a free drink or something out of it?

2) Went to a first birthday party. The daughter of one of my best friends turned one last week and, as such, a party was required. My friend has amazing taste and, thankfully, she decorated in a fantastically tasteful fashion which was much appreciated, by me anyway. There were 55 adults and a slew of kids and, since it monsooned in Houston all weekend, there were 70+ people crammed into their house. Thankfully, there was alcohol which was also most appreciated by me. We ate,watched E put her hands in her little cake and wipe it all over her face, oohed and aahed, and called it a day. As first birthday parties go, it could have been a lot worse and I had a good time talking to all our friends I haven’t seen since the baby shower (i.e., in a year). I guess I’ll see y’all again next year! 😉

3) Ate at Olivette at the Houstonian to celebrate my mom’s 65th birthday. I refrained from photo taking for once, but all I can say is go. The petite filet with bacon jam was outstanding, as was the service. It might be one of my new favorite places in Houston.

4) Played Cranium and lost, but not without a fight! A bunch of my friends got together for game night and, being that the majority of them went to grad school at Rice and/or are attorneys, we ended up playing Cranium. I got there in the middle of the second game, but I can tell you with utmost certainty that it was a hard-fought night and our team did not go down without a fight, namely from my friend who’s an attorney and who I thought might file a petition with the US Supreme Court over one particular question. She was hyper-aggressive in her defense of our team and I decided then and there that, if and when I should ever need legal counsel, she is hired!

Despite our best efforts, we lost. And, as it was previously decided that the losing team would do the can-can on video, we danced. I would post the video here, but I’d be banished to eternal damnation and since I’m not a fan of the heat, I’m going to refrain. But it’s A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

We also hung out and drank beer on the best patio in Houston that is complete with a cow head with glowing red eyes. Fantastic.

5) Ate brunch. A few of my girlfriends and I have started a brunch club, mostly because the five of us love to get together for brunch and “no return” lunches, so we just said we were now an official brunch club. Members only. 🙂

Today we went to Max’s Wine Dive for the crack that is known as their Fried Egg Sandwich. I am a sucker for a good fried egg sammie and Max’s never disappoints. It’s served with truffle-oiled homemade potato chips and is pretty much the best thing I’ve had in my mouth in a long time. 😉 The best part of the day: one of my friends was carrying his work beeper and, needless to say, we razzed him mercilessly. Seriously, who still carries a pager?! “Hit me on the hip, yo!” I’m pretty sure his beeper needs its own Facebook page under the newly-created category “So 1992”.

Unlike most brunch places, Max’s features “make your own mimosas” where you buy the bottle of champagne and they give you little carafes of fresh orange and grapefruit juices. We plowed  through no fewer than six bottles and it probably goes without saying that we had a fabulous time! Fantastic food + fantastic people = the perfect end to a great weekend.