Wednesday, August 20, 2008


This Labor Day weekend broadcast of Delicious Mischief from San Francisco marks our farewell to our good friends at CNN 650. As of Sept. 6, Houston’s most respected and most fun food and wine radio show moves to NewsRadio 740 KTRH. In addition to its 50,000 watts of broadcast power, KTRH offers Houston a rich tradition of quality broadcasting going back to 1929. In fact, local icon Jesse Jones called the station KTRH to signify “Kome To Rice Hotel,” the downtown landmark he owned and operated across from the Houston Chronicle, which he also owned and operated. We will miss CNN 650 but we embrace NewsRadio 740 KTRH. Any station that carries the Astros games is a pretty good place to call home!

People are always saying that restaurant dining is theater, but at Teatro Zin Zanni on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, the idea gets mighty literal. A bit like dinner theater on acid, with a serious side order of Cirque du Soleil, Zin Zanni offers a first-class multi-course meal with a show filled with thrills, spills and plenty of laughter. We chat with the managing director of this San Francisco destination (there’s another Teatro Zin Zanni in Seattle), as well as with the executive chef who watches the night-long performance on a monitor to choreograph each course coming out of the kitchen.

Back in 1906, long before Chef Bernd Liebergesell was born in Germany, a terrible earthquake and fire brought San Francisco to its knees. In fact, one of the few places in the city capable of serving meals to hungry survivors was the then-new St. Francis Hotel, now operated as the Westin St. Francis. We sit down with Chef Bernd to talk about this amazing history spread over more than a century, as well as about the famous dignitaries from around the world he has fed within these walls. There’s even a Survivor’s Breakfast prepared here each year, for the few who were around for the Big One.

In this case, we’re not talking about young love but about young wine – unless, that is, we’re talking about old wine. First Crush combines the better parts of Houston establishments like Cova and Max’s Wine Dive, letting a creative menu take orders from an impressive, all-California wine list. The place has a cool, hip, thoroughly downtown vibe and tends to attract a younger crowd with different interests than their parents and grandparents. We interview the eatery’s manager about the wine and its executive chef about the food – as the Gershwins would put it, who could ask for anything more?

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe…

2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Romaine lettuce leaves

2 tablespoons Creole mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika
½ cup diced celery
1 cup diced green onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place the shrimp in a glass bowl with the oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt, mixing to coat thoroughly. Cover and set the bowl in the refrigerator to marinate for 3 hours. Prepare the remoulade by whisking together the mustard with the vinegar in a mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gradually add the olive oil, whisking constantly, followed by all remaining remoulade ingredients. When ready to serve, grill the shrimp over hot coals for 5-7 minutes, turning halfway through. Set shrimp on plates atop lettuce leaves and spoon remoulade over the top and sides. Serves 8.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


It hasn’t always easy being the flying Denis Brothers from Provence. But at their restaurant Le Mistral in west Houston, they’ve fought the good fight on behalf and French food and wine when at least some Americans averted their gaze. As a tribute to this food and wine – and certainly to David and Sylvain’s tireless labors – they now have a brand-new freestanding version of Le Mistral that’s knocking the socks off even Inner Loopers. And hey, you thought that was I-10 traffic to Katy all this time?

We don’t know about you, but we’ve always found Riesling one of the most fascinating grapes. After all, every other grape we can think of is expected, when it becomes a wine, to be “varietally correct.” That means cabernet should taste like cabernet, and not like merlot, syrah or zinfandel. In the case of Riesling, however, there are very sweet ones and very dry ones, plus just about everything in between. We sit down with the winemaker from the famed German riesling house St. Urbans to taste our way through today’s Grape & Grain.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but not all the coffee brewed, poured and enjoyed in Houston comes to us courtesy of Seattle. Avi Katz doesn’t yet have two stores competing with each other across the street on West Gray, but he does have a successful business that supplies great locally roasted coffee to restaurants, cafes and gourmet retailers all over town. In addition, because he can and because he wants to, Avi has been a local leader not only in the organic coffee movement but in the one demanding fair trade. And that makes what’s in the cup taste all the better better!

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe…

I really love shrimp and grits, that traditional Carolina Low Country favorite. But when my thoughts turn to Italy, where grits are called polenta, my love for shrimp and grits keeps turning right along with them.

Grilled Polenta Cakes:
1 tablespoon olive oil 1 small onion, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, minced 1 cup corn kernels
3 cups water, divided 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
Additional olive oil 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add corn; sauté until heated through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Bring 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk cornmeal and 1 cup water in medium bowl to blend. Whisk cornmeal-water mixture into boiling water; return to boil. Cook until polenta is smooth and thick, stirring often, about 30 minutes. Stir in corn mixture. Brush 11x7x2-inch dish with oil. Spread polenta in dish. Cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.) When ready to serve, brush preheated grill with oil. Cut polenta into 12 squares. Brush both sides with oil. Place on grill; cover grill. Grill until polenta is golden brown, about 3 minutes per side, sprinkling with cheese during last minute. Serve hot topped with lobster (recipe below). Serves 6, with 2 polenta cakes per person.

Lobster Topping:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 lobster tail, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 ripe tomato, chopped
3 tablespoons butter

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and stir in the onion and carrot until they begin to caramelize, then add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Do not burn the garlic. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. Pour in the wine and stir until the liquid is almost evaporated, then add the mushrooms and stir until cooked through. Add the lobster pieces and stir just until done, 2-3 minutes depending on their size. Add the chopped tomato and the butter, cooking just until butter has melted to form a sauce. Tomatoes should still be bright red. Season again with salt and pepper.


We start off this show from New Orleans with a visit to a brand-new museum that’s awfully close to our hearts: The Museum of Southern Food and Beverage. With the executive director keeping us in line (and probably telling us not to touch!), we tour this innovative space devoted to the culinary culture of New Orleans first, Louisiana second and the entire Deep South third. Never fear: there’s also a special section of the museum devoted to the great American cocktail, which was probably born within a few blocks of here.

Thanks to Capt. Jack Sparrow and a thousand pirates before him, we always associate the sugar-based spirit called rum with the Caribbean, whether we think of that Disney ride with the kids or our last visit to some hedonistic couples resort in Negril. Still, if sugar is the reason for the season, than why not make world-class small-batch rum in New Orleans – surrounded by its long tradition of sugar plantations along the fabled River Road. That’s what the folks at Old New Orleans Rum are asking, thinking and doing every day, as we taste in today’s Grape & Grain segment.

One of the neatest things that New Orleans and Houston share is ready access to the Gulf of Mexico, and especially to the glorious fish and shellfish that can be pulled out of it. Good times and bad, the Gulf is indisputably one of the world’s greatest fishing grounds. We check in with our old buddy (the first chef to ever sear scallops in our studio) Tenney Flynn to hear about the latest trends in seafood cookery he sees as chef/owner of GW Fins in the French Quarter.

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe…

2 medium eggplants
4 large cloves garlic
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch thick rings
2 red bell peppers
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to cook vegetables
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper

Preheat the broiler. Cut ends off eggplants and slice 1/2-inch thick. Do not
peel. Cut 2 cloves of the garlic into slices and stud each slice of eggplant with a few
slices of garlic. Brush 2 sheet pans with olive oil. Brush the eggplant slices with oil on both
sides and spread them out on one sheet pan. Season with salt and broil until
tender, turning once. Remove and cool.

Place the onion rings on the other sheet pan and brush generously with olive
oil. Season with salt and broil until tender and brown. Remove from the broiler
and let cool. Place the red peppers on a hot grill, under a broiler or directly over your stove
flame, until the skin chars, then place in a paper bag; close and let rest for 15
minutes, allowing the peppers to steam. Remove from the bag and peel off the
blistered skin. Cut the peppers in quarters lengthwise. Alternate the eggplant
with the roasted peppers on a large platter and top with the onions.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the mint, oregano, remaining garlic (finely
chopped), the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper
flakes, if desired. Pour this mixture over the vegetables and let marinate at least
2 but preferably 4 hours before serving. Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


No, we’re not committing Texas heresy here: we love guacamole and devour more than our share of it. But even after a visit to the guacamole orchards (that’s what their called) of Michoacan, Mexico, a couple years ago, we still kept wishing we could figure out more ways to use the luscious fruit. The stuff is good and good for you, so why not? Recently, we grabbed at the chance to let Chef Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s and Backstreet Café prepare an entire multi-course dinner using avocadoes in every dern one. Of course, we also took a chance to chat with him for this program.

David Hopkins is not your average winemaker – he’s a bit to much of a long-blond-locked surfer dude for that. But he’s also hardly your average winemaker, even for California. At a coastal (how convenient!) winery called Bridlewood, Hopkins makes wines that taste a little like they’re from another world. Our favorite part of the wine world, in fact: The Rhone Valley of France. That doesn’t mean he’s ignoring his own terroir, since that wouldn’t be French. But the Rhone-style wines of Bridlewood are exquisite.

It had to happen sooner or later. In a world in which millions of people eat insects and pretend to like it, you can only run and hide for so long. Especially if you happen to be visiting the brand-new Insectarium created by the Audubon Institute on Canal Street in New Orleans. We meant to only tour the facility but we ended up staying fo r lunch. And that is where the trouble started. Of course, we could have run when the head bug chef came smiling through the lobby with a dragonfly he’d just snagged outside. One for the pot, we should have realized.

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe

2 (2 pound) Live Maine lobsters
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small Thai chili, seeded and minced
12 large fresh Thai basil leaves, minced
2 sprigs cilantro leaves, minced
1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
1 bunch arugula, stems removed
1 small red bell pepper, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced thin

Plunge the lobsters into a large pot of boiling salted water. Cover and boil for 10 minutes. Transfer the lobsters to a bowl and let cool to the touch. Using a clean kitchen towel, tear the claws and legs away from the body. Wrap the towel around the tail and twist, separating it from the body. Place the tail on its side and crush down with the palm of your hand until the shell cracks. Separate the meat from the shell and cut it into 1/2-inch slices. Using a lobster cracker, crack the claws and knuckles of the lobster and remove the flesh with an oyster fork. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and the chili. Stir in the basil and cilantro. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, arugula, and bell pepper with 1/4 cup of the dressing. Arrange the salad on 6 Asian style rectangular plates. Top with overlapping slices of the lobster and avocado. Spoon the remaining dressing over the avocado. Serves 6.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


While the once-predictable Great American Steakhouse has both undergone and enjoyed a renaissance in recent years – after dire predictions throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s that Americans would stop eating red meat altogether – one local entry has exploded into a success story to rival the big national chains. Perry’s Steakhouse used to “stake out” the fringes of the Houston metro area, but now its latest location is going great guns in the heart of Memorial. Mark Collins and sommlier Susi Zivanovic join us to talk about the exciting road Perry’s has traveled – and the one that still lies ahead.

So Vino is a terrific place for a glass of wine – that much is certain. What comes as more of a surprise is how successful its owners and chefs have been at pairing great things from the kitchen with great things from the bottle. We’ll chat, taste and sip during out chat with co-founder Elizabeth Abraham, herself the product of a legendary Houston family business, and talk about how her vision of So Vino expanded from “New World Wines” from places like Chile and New Zealand to incorporate wonderful vintages all the way back to France.

To make sure today’s show is a three-ring circus (as most of our shows are, after all), we invited in the folks from Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey. It turns out the performers in this traveling extravaganza don’t merely perform, they eat. Several times a day, in fact. And sometimes in large portions. We were intrigued to speak with somebody involved in all this daily cooking, especially after we heard how many nationalities, dietary preferences and religious restrictions there are to cook around. Geez, sounds like dinner in today’s typical American family. Except more so.

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe…

½ cup Worcestershire sauce
½ cup Dr. Pepper
¾ cup water
2/3 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
3 slices bacon, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ tablespoon prepared mustard
Grated rind of ½ lemon
¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 chickens (about 1 ½ pounds each), cut in half
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except the chicken and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, season the chicken halves with salt and pepper and place skin-side down on a hot grill. Brown on both sides, turning occasionally for about 15 minutes. After that, baste regularly with the sauce until the chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes. Serves 8.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


In New Orleans, Tim McNally has for years hosted a weekly radio show about wine that he oh-so-creatively calls “The Wine Show.” And since Tim and his wife Brenda have been movers and shakers in The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience since the beginning, we start today’s show chatting with him at a grand tasting on the floor of the Louisiana Superdome. Well, OK, not “on the floor” in the alcoholic sense of the phrase.

We’ve traveled so far from the days that wine was just so serious! Of course, wine is still serious business, with a lot riding on each vintage, each blending, each label design and each print, broadcast or Internet marketing campaign. All those things come into play with the wines of Barefoot and their ever-perky creator Jennifer Wall. As you might expect from the name, summer is Barefoot’s busy season.

In the oldest and most famous neighborhood in New Orleans, one happily spared by Hurricane Katrina, it comes as no surprise that historic things have happened here. And since the 1960s, many of those things have happened upstairs and downstairs at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel. We chat about some of the biggies, including the creation of Jazzfest, with Rib Room executive chef Anthony Spizale and maitre d’ extraordinaire Patrick van Hoorebeek.

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe…

1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 dash hot pepper sauce
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

In a 2 quart saucepan, melt butter or margarine over medium heat. Add onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic; cook until tender. Mix in cornstarch. Stir in stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, and red pepper sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Stir in shrimp, and cook for 5 minutes. Serve over steamed white rice. Serves 4-6.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


We always love it, quite self-servingly, when a high-end steakhouse decides to make hamburgers and French fries. For one thing, the quality of the beef used to make that burger is likely to be off the charts. And that’s pretty much what we’ve heard about the brand-new summertime burger and fries being offered Sundays only by the two Houston locations of Morton’s. GM John Recio tells us how the idea came about, and how Morton’s decided to make the whole special promotion a benefit for the Make a Wish organization.

The grapes aren’t ready yet in cooler California or Oregon, and they certainly aren’t ready in the even cooler sections of France. But here in Texas, where summer’s heat makes the biological clock turn faster, it’s time to start picking and crushing. Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo of Messina Hof join us to talk about their annual harvest festival. Guests not only learn a few things about winemaking but get to taste a good bit of wine when they’re not picking grapes and crushing them in a vat with their very own feet. Yep, justa lika in da olda country!

Recently, we spent a good deal of time (with a good deal of pleasure) exploring the creative new dishes being created by the chef at Bombay Brasserie’s new location across the 610 Loop from the Galleria. At the end of the day, this experience only reminded us how much we love the traditional Indian dishes served every day at the older Bombay Brasserie in Rice Village. The restaurant’s general manager stops by the studio (bearing samples, we hope) to tell us why the classics of India’s rich and colorful cuisine will always be that way.

We enjoy getting together with each of the Houston chefs showcased in the Healthy Chef column in each month’s Health and Fitness magazine. We’ve actually picked up quite a few great tips for maximizing flavor while minimizing fat and calories. So yes, Paula Deen notwithstanding, it can be done. This month’s Healthy Chef is Michael Kramer, who came from one fat-infatuated place (Charleston, South Carolina) to another (Houston, Texas) to run the new Voice in the Hotel Icon. You’ll be amazed at how little can please you so much.


Peach Salsa:
2 cups chopped peeled peaches
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup diced red onion
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons minced green onions
1 teaspoon chopped seeded Serrano pepper
3 tablespoons muscat canelli wine
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon salt

1 pound small to medium Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped seeded serrano pepper
Salt and black pepper
8 corn or flour tortillas, warmed
2 cups shredded green cabbage
Additional minced cilantro for garnish

In a glass bowl or plastic bag, combine shrimp with lime juice, cilantro, garlic, serrano, salt and pepper. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. To prepare the peach salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Toss gently so peaches and tomatoes are not damaged. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, so flavors can combine. Preheat grill and grill shrimp 3-4 minutes, turning once or twice. Serve shrimp wrapped in warm tortillas, garnished with peach salsa, shredded cabbage and a little more cilantro. Serves 4.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


In some restaurants around town, things kinda slow down in the summertime – a statement that either “the livin’ is easy” or that it’s too hot to live. Not so at Bistro Lancaster in the downtown landmark hotel. Chef Jamie Zelko is marshalling her energies (and her hyper-fresh local ingredients) with more focus than usual, putting out some special tasting menus that just won’t quit. We drag her into the studio in hopes she’ll bring us some samples.

Since the release of its first highly praised 1987 Carneros chardonnay, MacRostie Winery and Vineyards has strived to create balanced and lush wines that reflect their cool-climate origins. This commitment has grown from an early emphasis on selecting grapes from top growers in the acclaimed Carneros region to include the development of MacRostie’s own Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, as Patrick Muleady explains.

Armando Florido could have gone through the rest of his life as a Houston cop – he certainly enjoys the work and understands its importance. But somewhere along the way, between stints on patrol and at his desk, Armando decided what he really loved was cooking. He joins us to talk about the comfortable yet classy Italian restaurant that grew out of this passion, Forno’s in northwest Houston.

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe…

3 pounds grouper fillets, or red snapper (skin on)
4 ripe mangos, peeled and cut into strips
6 ripe pears, unpeeled, cored, and cut into 1/8
3 ripe avocados, peeled cut into quarters
½ pound cleaned baby spinach
½ cup walnut oil
¼ cup Italian salad dressing
1 cup orange juice
½ cup lime juice

Caribbean seasoning:
(can be prepared in advance)

Mix well and place in a lid tight container
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 teaspoon minced garlic
6 teaspoon dried onions
3 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoon chopped chipolte
2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
3 teaspoon brown sugar
3 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 lemon zest

Prepare a wood or charcoal grill and let it burn to ember. Rub the fish fillets generously with the Caribbean seasoning on both sides, place in a dish and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Spray the fish with walnut oil and grill over low heat for about 8 minutes on one side and 6 minutes on the other side (depending on the thickness of the fish). Remove from grill and keep hot. Lightly oil the pears and mangos and grill for about 3 minutes until light brown. Place in a stainless steel bowl, and toss with the Italian dressing, orange juice and limejuice. Place the baby spinach on individual plates, garnish with the avocado, and spoon the fruit dressing over the spinach. Serves 6.