Sunday, August 31, 2008

Who Needs the State Fair? Chapter 3 - The Eats

Food is one of the highlights of Trade Days, turkey legs, chili, stuffed potatoes, freshly (as in while you watch) roasted peanuts. My personal favorite, and apparently many others is Ida Mae's, which is the only place that sells fried green tomatoes. On busier weekends I've witnessed a line 20 people long waiting to purchase one of their house specialties.

There is no Ida Mae at Ida Mae's, or to be exact Ida Mae is a dog, the pet of owner Claudia. When it came to naming the business 2 1/2 years ago, everyone thought Ida Mae would be a good name, fitting of the venue - and it is. It's a family business, two of Claudia's five grown sons (who live in the Dallas area) help her, a necessity because Claudia lives in Iowa. In her early 60's, she works full-time in a cereal factory, and part-time as a tax preparer, patching together vacation and sick days to fly down once a month. Her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer 12 years ago, and while she could make a living just working Trade Days, she can't give up her health insurance.

This was one of the few times I could have tried their fried pickles, the heat of the day would have flushed the sodium right out my pores. Ida Mae's is located at the intersection of lanes 52 & 95 - there's no lane markers, so you'll have to ask around.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Walking and Talking, Chapter 2 - The Journey

Slight shoulder shrugs to Pussycat Dolls, humming to Jason Mraz, pulsing to Estelle & Kanye, a 1 1/2 hour drive went by like that (fingers snap). "Lick that lollipop, woo-o-o-o-wo". The drive to Canton, by my estimation is beautiful every month except August - but I was busy taking notes for a post. Some enjoy Canton because they're people watchers, I'm (to my children's chagrin) more of a people talker.

I parked on the "country side" where it's a flea market, a mix of old and new, versus "the sheds", multiple miles of imported decorative housewares (great shopping pre-holidays). My Lebowski '08 t-shirt was politically neutral, hopefully easing vendor fears that I might be an undercover sales tax agent. So walking up to the west gate with camera and notepad, I felt confident that I would find something to post about. It didn't take long.

Just to the right of the entrance, once you pass the motorized scooter stall (hey lady - that's my toe you parked on!) I met David Watson, owner of Western Star. A craftsman and merchant of custom western star signs, his stall was impressive and included a large selection of vintage boots in excellent condition. He also gave me directions to an "Amish" lady who makes homemade brooms (turned out she takes summers off), and to one of my favorites, the Book Bus.

An elderly couple (in their 80's) run the Book Bus, unfortunately their supply of cook books was very low. But I did buy a book published in 1900 titled "The Complete Story, Galveston Horror" for $10. Like many who are merchants here, they were a little hesitant to give their names so I didn't press, but they let me take a picture of the bus.

I went to see Juanita in the Antiques shed that is an architectural anomoly. It's positioned on the side of a hill, so the slope inside is steep enough your basket could begin rolling if left unattended. When I first met Juanita, she was battling breast cancer and going through chemo, as part of her therapy she paints in her spare time, and I've been able to snag three of her paintings over the years.

Trade Days is more than a shopping experience, it's real America - real Texas, and I encourage any transplants who, like me, has made North Texas their home to make the trip. However, if I was the Mayor of Trade Days I would require everyone who rents a motorized cart to memorize the rules of the road AND obtain liability insurance. And I would license fewer of them, only for those who truly need them.

I'm still thinking I should have purchased the $20 stuffed boar head, it would have made a great towel hook over my garage sink.

Coming To Preston/Forest - Redux

A whisper at the hair salon today, CVS will be moving over to the old Whole Foods location, allowing the new Whole Foods to expand!

Costco In Plano, Why Not In North Dallas?

I mean it's not like we don't have the space. Had to pick up a pair of specs today (Saturday), and you might say the store was "printing money". Lines at the gas pumps 5 cars deep, people waiting for available shopping carts, and overflowing carts on the way out. Luckily I had paid earlier, the lines to check out were probably horrendous. But Costco won't go where they can't sell beer and wine.

North (and most of East) Dallas' residents hopes have been dashed due to a ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that a petition to hold an alcohol election was invalid. Shrinking are my hopes of a "mom and pop" wine bistro in the former gun shop on the corner. North Dallas is left to make it's purchases in Plano and Addison, which is a closer option for most than the wet areas in the city limits. And until the City Councilmembers see this as a priority issue and apply pressure on the County Commissioners to facilitate this change, we can just let that sales tax revenue keep going to our suburban neighbors.

Dr. Webb
, your legacy lives on.

AIWF Dinner Benefitting the Jim "Sevy" Severson Scholarship Fund - And It's At Sevy's Grill

Dallas has one of the best chapters of the American Institute of Wine and Food in the US. And I'm not just saying that because they honored hubby with a culinary scholarship in his name. Carrying out fun and vibrant food programs that everyone in Dallas can enjoy (the Farmer's Market Cooking Series, Days of Taste, and the Annual Caesar Salad Competition) they enhance the culinary quality of Dallas.

But who is "they"? Why it could be you, all you need to do is begin participating, and a good place to start is the five course dinner we will be hosting on Monday, September 8th at 6:00 p.m.. Tickets for this event are only sold through the AIWF chapter, $55.00 per person and proceeds go towards helping students achieve their educational goals.

Click on the link, here, to see the complete menu and sign up for tickets, today!

How To Cook An Eagle

About 7 or 8 years ago, I was one of four 4th grade moms at Kramer Elementary who decided to form a Cub Scout troop. Admittedly, we were not very good, but after three years and 17 boys (spanning three different grades) we handed them up to a real troop leader to continue Boy Scouts, if they so decided. None of the mothers sons completed more than one more year of scouting, it just wasn't their thing - and to be quite honest, it wasn't mine, either.

But now I've learned that one of our boys, I'll call him Mijo, has just earned his Eagle status, and I couldn't be more pleased. Mijo, along with his younger brother and sister is being raised by his grandmother, who works as a housekeeper for a wealthy Dallas family. When we went on our (very few) camping trips, his grandmother would bring the little ones, all sleeping in a tent - she came, other parents didn't. Mijo is in a program to help him get into the best universities, and between his grades and athletics, that should be possible.

This is the kind of success that happens every day in DISD schools, the stories that the Dallas Morning News can't cover until they have a parent (and a real writer, please) who knows and sees the non-administrative side of the equation. Not to say that I'm not pleased about uncovering that whole credit card scandal, in the game of accounting they hit a home run on that front.

This year I'm spending my time at Conrad High School helping start a Culinary Club, in conjunction with the Restaurant Management magnet. It will help kids who've made a commitment to the restaurant industry see more, learn more about food and the food industry. Maybe it can help some stay in high school, maybe it can help some continue at a college level culinary school.

Because you see, I've learned that just maybe I can cook pretty good after all.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Warning: Cancer May Cause Blogging

If you had asked me, just over a year ago, what a blogger was I would have responded that it sounded like something that requires a decongestant. Then my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and for a period of time each test came back with very bad news. The internet became more than an email and shopping venue, we relied on it to locate the latest research about Jim's illness. The outpouring from our community was enormous, mainly because of a friend-who-happens-to-be-a-food-editor, Nancy Nichols, who shared our information on the SideDish weblog. I actually started to read the articles on SideDish, and it's sister blog, FrontBurner, and the internet became yet another source - my sense of humor.

So, a year later I'm posting on my own site and SideDish (once a week), and oh yeah sometimes I post comments on the DMN Education blog, but that's like swimming upstream - our kids go to DISD. What got into me? My only previous experience with this was starting a company newsletter - in 1984 - it lasted for 2 editions! I read Elizabeth Edward's autobiography, Saving Graces, and she relied on the internet for information and solace when her oldest son died, and later when she was diagnosed with breast cancer (these days she probably posting about some other unhappy events). While most people choose to post anonymously, there is an element of familiarity amongst people who regularly comment.

Not sure what I want back from this, maybe to be asked to judge the fried food entries for the state fair? Going for a DBest? Not likely. It's not about making money, but if it did, I'd spend it to hire Bethany to edit me. It's a fun, creative, stimulating outlet, and the ideas just keep coming. I know I'm not a "real" writer, but at least I produce. Comments can be tough, but shoot I'm the oldest of three girls, my nose has been bloodied before (thanks Missy). So I think I'll continue to find the time for it, right between taking care of accounts payable and payroll.

And the cancer? Well we take it each test at a time, as do thousands of others around us. Right now, it's really not worth blogging about.

Meet the Cocker, Chapter 1 - The Loot

Gaylord Cocker, formerly of Canton, now greeting guests at my front door.

Left Dallas this morning wearing my Lebowski '08 t-shirt, equipped with camera and cash. Arriving in Canton around 11:30, the temperature read 92 degrees. Best parking is at the west gate, exit 526, which feeds into the outdoor lots that house more flea market type treasures.

At first I thought this was the wrong weekend (it's happened before) there were hardly any cars in the lot, but sure 'nough there was someone there to take my $4 for parking. It was just a light day, the heat and the holiday meant bargains galore - every vendor was willing to compromise on prices. A couple of paintings, a glass mosaic table, an apron, a box to hold crochet hooks in - oh and books.

New additions to The Collection include:
* Cooking in Zambia, 1968, The Mothers Union, Church of the
Holy Nativity, Ndola
* Touring Girls Cook Book, 1971, Texas Girl's Choir
* His & Hers Beer Cook Book, 1970ish?

Non-cooking books I couldn't resist:

* The Complete Story, Galveston Horror, 1900, written by the Survivors
* The Infamous Dude Dictionary, 1934, Harriet Peters, Dave Stirling & Dick Rome
* Mapsco - Dallas, 1959

And hey, Senor Velasquez, I found your "leetle cabra".

I walked and talked my way across the entire range of booths, and headed back to my car after consuming eight drinks, the temperature was 99 degrees and "the Dude" smelled bad. Turning on the air conditioning, I looked at the clock and realized it was only 1:30, but I was done, the heat won, besides it looked like rain over Dallas.

Pre-Holiday Friday, Is Anyone Working?

Yay, Eating Out night tonight. Leaves more time for shopping and blogging. I could go visit hubby at the restaurant and let him do the cooking, or do the usual Friday night circuit:

Drop group of teenage girls at NorthPark for movie, drive to Houston's and enjoy favorite dip and salad at the bar, finish in time to pick up teenage girls at NorthPark.

Not a complete non-work weekend, but it can wait until tomorrow.

Sunblock - check, hat - check, comfly flip flops - check, money -check, Canton here I come!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cook Book Shopping This Weekend

I was just checking the calendar, entering my back-to-school sign up commitments for working concessions, selling raffle tickets, etc., when I noticed that this weekend is First Monday Trade Days in Canton While not a "big" used book source, I've found a few treasures there, as well as numerous vintage kitchen items (like a replica of my grandma's lemonade pitcher, pictured). While called First Monday, the sales actually begin on Thursday and end on Sunday.

It's about a 1 1/2 hour drive east on Highway 80, and if you've got kids in school you can drop off, make the drive, shop for about 4 hours and make it back by 3:00. I recommend the stuffed baked potato concessions stand and the fried green tomatoes (located at a trailer somewhere outside of the sheds). Of course it will be hot, but that means the crowds will be smaller and the deals better. Take a cart or big bag, and wear comfy shoes. I think this year I'll take my camera, and notes.

If you don't find what you're looking for in Canton, on the way back to Dallas there's a great little antique store at the East Fork Road exit (north side).

Not in the mood for the heat and drive? Stay in town and head over to Half Price Books where everything will be off 20% August 29th - September 1. I'm going to try to find time for both places this holiday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Needed - Parade Marshal, Applications Now Being Taken

I have 2 kids at Hillcrest (DISD), and as a change from my usual trend of treasurer/fund raising/membership PTSA jobs, this year I signed up to co-chair the Hillcrest High School Homecoming Parade with another mom, Jeannie Atwell. The permits have been filed, we've got a strong committee, and the theme this year is "A Red Carpet Affair", very Hollywoodish. The elementary schools that feed into Hillcrest (Kramer, Pershing, Preston Hollow, Williams, Polk) will all be invited to compete to win the Best Elementary School Float award.

But 'lo, we need a Grand Marshal for our parade, so we're looking for someone who is an alumni, who is well known to the community, and who has 2 hours to spare on Friday, October 17th. Any one of those three requirements just might land you the gig. Job perks include a cool reception room with homemade goodies, and the adoration of the parents of the PTSA (at least for that one day). Runners up will be offered a chance to judge the student-made (well, at least the high school ones are) floats.

Several council members are graduates, I know Linda Koop was parade marshall a couple of years ago. The stories vary on exactly who else - Natinsky? Rasansky? Haven't heard of any Dallas County politico's. Anyone up for re-election soon?

Some might suggest Dr. Mike "Coach" Hinojosa, but he was last years (and a graduate of Sunset). Former city councilwoman and Bush counsel Harriet Miers is a graduate, maybe she could find the time. Hey, George and Laura were Preston Hollow parents, maybe their schedule has an opening after all things have to be slowing down - but then we'd have to deal with the secret service, been there, done that.

Try to think outside of the box! I confess that I'm not familiar with many alumni. I've given some thought about who might be right, Brendan Higgins is a graduate, could he be enticed north of Northwest Highway? We could have another writer - previously we've graced Skip Hollandsworth with the honor. Wick, if you're not available can we have Eric Celeste? Or maybe we should go with Hillcrest Dad and Dallas Morning News sports columnist Kevin Sherrington.

On the local food front Mark Maguire, owner of Maguire's is a graduate, as is Michael "Buzzy" Zeve, chef/partner at Sevy's Grill, but we'd have to work on getting him to smile a little more.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Dinner Fit For Barons, A Stowaway's View, Chapter 2

I wish I'd known I was going to blog on this back then, I would have had less wine and more notes. The chefs who were so generous with their time were: Kevin Garvin, VP of Food and Beverage, Neiman Marcus; Kent Rathbun, owner, Abacus and Jasper's Restaurants; Richard Chamberlain, owner, Chamberlain's Prime Chop House/ Chamberlain's Seafood Market; David Holben, Executive Corporate Chef, Del Frisco's; and Jim "Sevy" Severson, y'know who. Unfortunately I can't remember who made what, but all the plates came back to the kitchen clean.

The Cattle Baron's Ball and Auction holds the record for being the American Cancer Society's larges fund raiser in the nation. This years event will be held October 3rd again at SouthFork Ranch in Parker.

The rest of our trip was fun as well, as the snow started to melt, Sevy and I headed south to Sante Fe, where we dined at 8 different restaurants in one day. I'll tell you that story later.

A Dinner Fit For Barons, A Stowaway's View, Chapter 1

Sometimes helping raise money can be lots of fun, especially when it's 98 degrees, and you have a hot grill going, your hands cramped from squirting hundreds of plates with sauce as you smile and thank donors for helping make an event a success.

Sometimes helping raise money can be lots of fun, especially when your spouse says, "Hey, I have to do a Cattle Baron's dinner in Aspen in May, want to take a drive?". Sure we could have flown with the other 4 chefs that were auctioned off for the American Cancer Society, except for the small plane-small-airport-mountain turbulence thing. May can be tricky in Colorado, you can see what the weather turned to on our travels, and it made my husband very glad we decided to drive.

So me, the non-cook, got to tag along to watch the preparation of a 5 course meal by 5 of Dallas' top chefs, in a 25,000 square foot, $100M home on Aspen Mountain, wow. I don't want to intrude on the privacy of the guests, since they paid a significant sum to enjoy this weekend (and help fund the cure for cancer!), but I did have some food shots that I can share. And a non-food shot, of drawer handles, huge ones at that. All John Hardy, baby, it was an unbelievable house.

On the Road - NashVegas, Tennessee

Nashville's a great city, Jim picked up the name NashVegas when he was helping open a restaurant in the late 1980's - The Merchant's, located near the original Grand Ol' Opera. I've forgotten much about that time, except for the part where a major portion of our honeymoon was spent problem-solving cross country, oh and the part where he said he'd never do a 3-story restaurant in a 100 year old building again. A few years ago we stopped in for lunch with the kids, the menu still had 5 Pepper Chicken, and it was exciting to see Dad's picture on the wall (even if it was on the way to the bathroom). If you've never been to Nashville, it's a city with deep southern roots, music everywhere and a little laissez les bons temps rouler added in.

This year we pulled in late, grateful to see that the Holiday Inn had a lounge and live music, like a semi-pro mike-night for those looking for their big break. But before Daddy and I could settle down with a glass of wine, we needed to feed the teenagers. Inquiring at the desk, they sent us to a pizza place across from Vanderbilt University, the Mellow Mushroom. Oh. My. God. I love cheese on my pizza, but this could have choked a horse. Their salads were huge, the hummus was some of the best I've ever had. With full tummies we stayed in the room, watching Night 2 of the Olympics.

The next morning, we were up and ready for the final leg to Dallas. But we came to Nashville for the purpose of checking out Vanderbilt U for the (too) soon to be graduate. We drove around for an hour and He Loved It Most of all schools on his list. Sister thought the Parthenon replica was kind of cool.

Monday, August 25, 2008

On The Road - The Best Cottage Cheese

Available only in Michigan and a few states that adjoin, Michigan (Brand) Cottage Cheese is the best I've ever tasted. A solid mass of milk curds, none of the soupy, milky filler. This is a wonderful alternative to ricotta for cooking, and makes a great lasagne.

As a non-milk drinker, I am a cottage cheese purist and have unsuccessfully spent the last 23 years in Texas trying to find a quality cottage cheese. Sure if forced, I'll eat the watery version, but I would rather find a quality product.

So shout out if you know of any cottage cheese makers here in Dallas (or Texas) that could satisfy this former Michigan gal. Maybe I should talk to friend Paula about satisfying this craving.

Home Kitchen - Penzey's Spices and Simplified Succotash

OK, OK, I know this is not a cooking blog. But when I make something from a post-vacation pantry that takes less than 30 minutes, is healthy, and my family LIKES it, I feel duty bound to share it. Let me say right up front that my cooking in no way competes with my husband's, it's more busy-working-blogging-mom friendly. Feeds a family of 4 for under $8.00. And of course, freshly cooked chicken breast can be substituted, it just takes more time. Also our family has been trying to keep to smaller portions of meat, more legumes, grains and vegetables.

1 can (12.5 oz) Swanson White Premium Chunk Chicken Breast
1 can canneloni beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
2 cans (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 tsp. Penzey's Italian Herb Mix
Salt to taste

Pour all of the above into a sauce pot, breaking up the chicken into smaller pieces. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes. This is excellent over a wild rice mix, adds a nutty crunch to the dish.

Not familiar with Penzey's Spices? They've had a mail order catalogue for years, but they also have a store located in North Dallas - right around the corner from our dry cleaners. Trouble! Keep this in mind for some great holiday gifts.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dallas History, Dry America (1931, Cokesbury Press)

Cruising around Half Price Books last week, I found this 147 page paperback by Dr. Atticus Webb, former Superintendent, Texas Anti-Saloon League. This organization was formed in 1907, headquartered in Dallas and their goals were to fight for laws prohibiting the making or drinking alcohol. Other groups also fought for the same goals (they were all called "Drys"), though none as obsessively as the Anti-Saloon League. Mr. Webb became Superintendent in 1918, which also saw the advance of the prohibition movement from the rural areas to the urban, in 1919 Texas voters approved a state alcohol prohibition amendment.

Other prominent Dallas politicians who were Anti-Saloon League members included George Sargeant (Mayor of Dallas, 1935-37) and Sterling P. Strong (Lt. Governor 1930, US House of Representatives 1933-35). Luckily the the "anti-Drys" made up the majority of government, and refused to enforce the new laws (politics haven't changed much). Basically, by the beginning of the Depression (1933), the movement lost support, everyone needed a strong drink.

Reading this book makes me, well, want a drink. It's old style bullypulpit writing, with much passion, and chapter names include "Wet Leaders Public Enemies", and "The Church to the Battle". To quote Senator Morris Sheppard who authored the introduction, "Dr. Webb knows no fear. shirks no task, omits no essential fact in presenting his case for humanity".

Coming Soon to Preston-Forest?

Scotty P's Hamburgers, southwest corner between Sonny B's and Mi Cocina.

Chocolate Angel Too, Cafe and Bakery, northwest corner by Chic by Barcelona and The Mercury

???? Dunno, northeast corner next to Colonial Bank, in front of Tom Thumb. Would make a lovely wine bar, please (lots of parking).

Chef Sevy Severson to Premier New Product Line at Austin HEB Store

Kicking off a line of new sauces produced by Canyon Specialty Foods (Dallas) which are exclusive to Texas HEB stores, Chef Jim "Sevy" Severson will be hosting a cooking demo in Austin on Saturday/Sunday, September 6th/7th. The store will be celebrating a re-grand opening that weekend, featuring a new Cooking Connection area.

If you happen to be dropping off a student at UT, or just passing through, come by and say "Hi" from 11am-1pm (Saturday and Sunday) or 3pm - 5pm (Saturday).

Dallas Zoo Fundraiser - Online Auction Ends Tonight

The Dallas Zoological Society's annual fund raiser Hullabaloo Zoo-To-Do has already started! The on-line silent auction closes at 10:00 pm. tonight - I checked out the restaurant section and there were still many certificates below full value. Shhh, don't tell hubby I bid on a few things for myself.

Here's the list of restaurants/chefs who are participating in the party and live auction on Saturday, September 13th, held at the zoo. This event is a highlight for our family as well as many other Dallas chefs, you'll see several apprentices helping at the booths. Buy tickets for your family and spend a fun evening at the zoo tasting food from 24 of Dallas' premier restaurants. It's guaranteed to be one of the funnest evenings you'll have together, and you'll help build a better zoo.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

On the Road - Detroit, Where the Weak Are Killed and Eaten

Lions, and Tigers, and slums, oh my! The title above used to be on a T-shirt, and after visiting the in-laws in the 'burbs I realized how bad things are in the Motor City. Driving through about 10 miles of inner city decay (and how about all those orange buildings) makes coming back to clean, neat, (hot) Dallas wonderful. But it wouldn't have been a family adventure without catching a Tiger's game.

What you don't see in the pictures are the buildings surrounding the stadium, row after row of graffiti covered, broken windows, boarded up office towers. And the Detroit Free Press makes the Dallas Morning News look like the New York Times, all the current news revolved around the mayor's quick trip to jail (left the country while on bail), new felony charges (shoved an officer of the court) and his pending trial.

However, the hamburgers and bratwurst they served at the stadium grill were delicious, the beer on tap was ice cold, the evening was a cool 68 degrees. Unfortunately Oakland beat the Tigers, fortunately the team store had some lovely ladies apparel.
It's been a while since I've been to anything other than a high school baseball game, is the itty-bitty cotton candy packet they sold a trend or do some stadiums still sell the old fashioned ball of spun sugar on a cone?

Friday, August 22, 2008

The UnPaula Breakfast Sandwich

I saw this "deadly" breakfast sandwich posted on SideDish while on vacation, as a matter of fact it was while I was enjoying a fresh "Michigan Blueberries" breakfast sandwich (pictured left). It's just an Einstein Cinnamon Sugar bagel, 2 tablespoons (honestly) of reduced-fat cream cheese and lots of fresh blueberries - a half will fill anyone. Calorie count for a half sandwich is 206, and you get some of your fresh fruit and dairy requirements. If you're missing the sweetness of the glazed donuts, I've included a garnish of the herb Stevia, a zero calorie sweetener.

Wondering as I enjoyed this creation, was why it is so difficult to get Michigan produce here (blueberries, black cherries, apples, corn-on-the-cob) in Dallas? Shopping locally revealed berries from Washington state and British Columbia, they had to travel much further and over mountain ranges to get here. I called friend Carl (Hey Baby!) LaBarba of American FoodService, supplier of many upscale restaurants and grocers in the area. Per Carl, "Early summer, we have the Texas blueberries in, and we try to keep it on a local level for freshness. The northeast market consumes much of the upper midwest supply, saving on their cost of freight which adds cost to the product."

Carl also mentioned that food safety has become a huge concern, it could drive some local producers out of business since distributors are beginning to require liability insurance coverage. This is a cost that many small farmers cannot bear and many distributors are unwilling to forego given the recent food contamination cases.

On the Road - Columbia, Missouri

So on our way north to Michigan, we swung through the Ozarks to check out a university located there. We enjoyed dinner at The Old Heidelberg Restaurant, a 40 year-old college town restaurant/bar. Because their "Happy Hour" begins at 11 pm, it was rocking with townies and students alike. I had the best, best, best ever French Dip, and a beer. Maybe it was the 10 hours in the car with the family, but few things have ever tasted as good.

And the university? The Boy gave it a thumbs up, the drive was beautiful, and we really want to visit him here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

PTA Mom Questioned About Smoking Herbs

Ha, ha and good one to Nancy Nichols at DMagazine. After spending two days, 10 hours each day in the car, with my husband, and two teenagers, a little therapy is justified. So I went to one of my favorite zen places in Dallas, North Haven Gardens. After all, my Neil Sperry calendar says it's time to plant for the fall season: tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, arugula, brussels sprouts. Unfortunately I was about 2 weeks too early for the crops, but that's OK 'cause now I have an excuse to go back.

Well, the expert-gardener-disguised-as-a-sales-assistant pointed out an herb I'd never heard of before, Stevia. I tasted a small portion of a leaf and thought I'd eaten a teaspoonful of sugar, it was so-o-o sweet. Then, when I was doing research on my favorite soft drink, Vernor's I found that it had been used for over 100 years as the sweetener in that drink. While no toxicity or illness has been linked to this herb (in fact there has been some evidence of being helpful in diabetic diets), the sweetener industry has fought hard to keep it out of the food chain, and so is labeled as a supplement.

Oh, and I have not heard of Stevia being a smokeable herb, but I did notice that NHG's supply of salvia divinorum was sold out.

Conrad Book Drive - Checking In

A HUGE thank you to the person, or persons, who (anonymously)dropped off this stack of books at the restaurant. Our count total is at 28 books so far, and the Restaurant Management magnet teacher is going to be so excited.

There is no such thing as a bad cookbook when it comes to learning about food. Some of my most treasured dishes, like French Blueberry Pie comes from little spiral bound books produced locally as fund raisers.

The cookbook drive will continue through September, feel free to drop off any unused, unloved cookbooks at Sevy's Grill and I'll gladly deliver them.

On the Road - Back to Michigan

Both my husband and I are from mid-Michigan, our moms live one exit apart on the highway in small towns. And I always know we are close to home when I can buy Diet Vernor's at a gas stop. Long a family staple, it is not just a soda (or pop in Midwest-speak), but a cure for any stomach ache you might have. Burns so good. Just beware - those bubbles can really tickle the nose. We made our annual 2 week pilgrimage, by car, with 2 teenagers, and while it's not France, or Italy, or an obviously exotic locale, we always enjoy the fresh produce and cooler temperatures. I'll be sharing a few of our adventures over the next week.