Casey’s Seafood Cafe – Galveston

I imagine this is the sort of place Rachael Ray would visit because it’s easy on the wallet.  She would probably eat a bite of something and annoyingly close her eyes and say “mmmm” and then I would vow to never go there because I would be covered in my own vomit by the end of the show.  Fortunately for my family and me this is a hypothetical situation and we did in fact eat there Monday for lunch.

After working up an appetite playing on the beach I realized that I needed fish tacos immediately.  Mexican seafood is not something I generally crave so I was surprised by my belly’s inner dialogue.  We drove up and down Seawall Blvd. in search of my request.  Finally I saw the word fish tacos painted on a building and we parked.  When we walked in I was sure we’d made a mistake.  It looked like the kind of place that appeals to the gray-haired set.  Sort of Luby’s-esque.

Our server (which is more PC, server or waitress?) was fabulous!  She was above and beyond.  I didn’t even see her put the bread on the table but when I looked up to give her my drink order it was there.  The butter was just melted enough to spread easily.  I knew the ultimate test would come when I would order the $7.95 fish tacos since it was one of the cheapest things on the menu.  Dan ordered fried mahi-mahi fingers (daddy version of fish sticks) and his came with a bottomless salad.  He was upfront and announced he wouldn’t eat it and would just pass it off to me.  She then asked me what dressing I wanted while I squirmed in my seat sure we’d breached restaurant etiquette.

She recommended the house honey pecan dressing and for a good reason.  It was freakin’ delicious.  Even after I ordered off of the cheap side of the menu she offered us more bread.  Camilla and I were fighting over pieces at one point.  I tried to make the small piece appealing to her by calling it “baby bread”.  Daniel chose a better entree than I did, but I happily ate almost all of mine.  At one point the server asked me if I wanted more of the salad I shouldn’t have been eating.   She offered to bring Camilla’s food out first and always appeared at the perfect time to refill a drink or take a plate.  She even urged me to pack up Camilla’s leftovers for the car ride home.

You should definitely go to Casey’s because it rocks!  Maybe you’ll get lucky enough to sit in Donna’s section.  The only downside of our lunch experience was in the parking lot afterward.  Camilla demanded that we only keep her sandwich and not the chips.  I decided this was a battle definitely not worth fighting so I opened up the container and tossed the chips onto the pavement.  4000 seagulls instantly appeared from nowhere and crapped all over our car.  It was very Alfred Hitchcock.

seagull.jpg 3828 Seawall Blvd, Galveston, TX, 409.762.9625

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I’ve been in a fight with Kinky Friedman

For a little over 2 years I’ve been in a fight with Kinky Friedman. So today when I saw him at Cisco’s eating breakfast with a pouty, young filly I was ready to square off. I didn’t realize it was him when we first sat down, but after a game of non-musical chairs directed by the 3 year old, I was facing him. We made eye contact and I gave him a little snarl and looked away. After filling my belly with some breakfast tacos I was in a better mood but still not smiling in his direction.

Honestly I think he was intrigued by my lack of excitement since he’s a bit of a local/statewide celebrity. OK maybe not, but what he did was WRONG. It all happened one morning in May of 2005. I woke up early and got Camilla (then 18 months old) dressed in a patriotic yet Japanese style dress. She and I drove to BookPeople with 4 vouchers for Bill Clinton’s “My Life”. Clinton was there to sign copies of the book.

The line was incredible. After kinky.jpg2 hours of waiting we were a little over half way through. Do you know what it is like to stand practically still for hours with a toddler in tow? Not recommended. A woman in front of me didn’t even have a voucher but she was hoping someone would get tired and sell theirs. It was hot and tiring but exciting to see the secret service walking around everywhere. Another hour passed and we were almost to the front door of the store when Kinky Friedman shows up with his campaign staff and friends. 30 people were ushered in in front of us. I wasn’t angry at this point because I almost was inside. That’s when the employee comes out and says they were cutting the line off. 8 people were in front of me. I was 8 people away from Bill Clinton. My daughter’s fair cheeks were red from the heat and I just hung my head. We were offered refunds but I managed to get 2 books that he had previously signed. That’s when I announced to the people around me (presumably all Democrats) that I would vote for Rick Perry before I vote for Kinky Friedman for governor.

I was going to tell Bill that I had been grounded for putting a Clinton/Gore bumper sticker on my mother’s car back in 1996. I was 17 and couldn’t vote at the time. He was going to laugh “ah ha ha” and tell me what a beautiful child I have. But oh no, that cigar-chewing, ugly vest wearing, fake cowboy had to wreck it for me by cutting in line.

So today I bit my lip and let him enjoy his breakfast in peace. When a woman approached him to ask if he’d pose with her family in a photo, he obliged. Then more people came for photos. I had my digital camera and for a second I was tempted. Both daughters of mine were in smiley moods. But I remembered the injury he caused and ignored the opportunity.

Camilla and I headed for the bathroom and he was gone when we came back to the table. Daniel told me that when he got up to leave, he came over to Violet, wagged his cigar at her and gurgled some sweet nothings. Oh no! He’s offering an olive branch. I accept Mr. Friedman. I guess now you could say I’m Kinky neutral. That’s what happens when a person crushes one of your dreams but then talks sweetly to the newest love of your life.

Tienda’s Tortilla Factory – Levelland, TX

Daniel (breeding partner and spouse) and I traveled Northwest this weekend for my high school reunion. James McMurtry has a song about our town, but you probably have heard of it because the Loboette (girl wolves in Spanish) basketball team won the state championship like a million times. No? You don’t care about 4A school sports? Yeah me either, my letter jacket says journalism on it. But say you die and you were a horrible person and God or Buddha or Shiva or Allah decides that you must experience hell, you could end up there. What would you do for food?

I recommend Tienda’s Tortilla Factory over on Houston Street across from the First Baptist Church (FBC) where I used to spend many hours thinking impure thoughts. Tienda’s, as you can imagine, is a family owned joint that has lots of rumors of selling joints along with their food. You’re supposed to go to the drive thru and order a jalapeno burger and a diet coke, or so they say. But the breakfast burritos (not tacos, burritos) are pretty much the best in the world. They’re big and full of real eggs, bacon, chorizo, papas (potatoes) and/or cheese. The tortillas are made on site of course. They serve menudo to the loyal locals in the morning, but have lunch and dinner entrees scrawled on a dry erase board as well. AVOID the queso. Camilla, when she was age 2 exclaimed “that’s not queso” when it was put before her. I was beaming with pride when I looked down and saw a glop of cheez whiz in a little bowl. However, the chips and salsa are something to experience. The salsa isn’t spicy but has a distinct flavor. When I taste it I am flooded with memories of skipping class or hiding from church choir practice. The chips are seasoned with lots of salt and chili powder but there’s something else mixed in. I think it might be celery salt but whatever it is, it’s powerful—powerful like the mighty lobo on a hunt for a neighboring Frenship Tiger.

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Tienda’s has highchairs, is nursing friendly, and the person manning the register might smile at your kid. It’s cheap and good. But when it comes time to pay they only accept cash or checks. I really think cash is the way to go especially if you aren’t sure how much is in your checking account. Our friend, treker meker, while in college got a call from the sheriff one evening and was told to report to the police station. He spent a good 4 hours in jail before he was told that months before he’d written a bad check at Tienda’s. He was never notified of the hot check and the tortilla factory owners just turned it over to the police. After pawning a television to clear his name he still went back there from time to time to eat, it’s that good.

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If you’re bringing kids with you then you may want to pack a ziploc bag full of quarters. A sign in front reads “No quarters for the machine or carwash”. The carwash was obvious because it’s across the street next to the FBC, but we finally realized that in the other room there is a junk machine full of disney princess figurines that cost $1 in quarters. Ironically they also sell hemp bracelets.

I think they’ll be around for years to come. They’ve added on a room to the restaurant since my days at LHS even though the town’s population has decreased by a tenth.

Formerly Annapurna (New York City)

This review is about a past and future experience. As I don’t have the resources (time, money, energy) to pack up my darlings and fly to New York for dinner tonight, I’ll have to rely on memory. Annapurna was my absolute favorite Indian restaurant. Even after a 2 hour jaunt to Queens to experience an almost exclusively Indian neighborhood, it turns out I felt most satisfied with Little India (more like teeny tiny India) in Manhattan. dosahut.jpg

Annapurna, as I learned this weekend, means literally “big matter” or “fullness” but most commonly, “full of food”. I opened up my mailbox on Saturday to find a magazine offer with my name on it. It’s a consumer reports of the food industry. I opened it and read with horror that a certain brand of ice-cream contains more saturated fat than is recommended per day in just one single serving. My frustration was not with Haagen-Dazs but with the fact that there are people in the world that need a magazine to tell them that ice-cream isn’t the healthiest food choice. As a child of the 80s I know all too well what the “snackwell” industry has done to America. It’s made us fat! Why? Because we aren’t satisfied. We aren’t full of food, good tasting food.

When I enrolled in cooking school I was fed cheese, cream, all sorts of oils, steak etc. And within 3 months I had lost 17 of my 20 post September 11th pounds. For the first time I was satisfied. So on Saturday I threw the abomination in the garbage and picked up my current read, “Zen and the Art of Anything”. I opened it up to the section on eating and drinking. For the record, I deplore eating rules. “Good foods/Bad foods” are for people without taste buds.

Food so much is about memory and that’s where the pressure of parenting comes in. Do I want my girls to remember the taste of slow churn ice-cream made in the backyard or the low-fat kind from the green container? Really, which is healthier? Memory and experience are what bring me back to that beloved unassuming eatery in NYC. Makhani Chicken was my favorite dish there. It’s so buttery and creamy with a balance of acid from the tomatoes and lemon juice. I would scoop it up with steaming Naan and top it with grilled onions to make a sort of fajita, (I’m from Texas y’all). I cheated and read a little review on citysearch that said it’s kid friendly. I don’t remember whether they have highchairs or not since kids weren’t anywhere on the radar back then. It was a really big place and there wasn’t a wait (although it could get pretty crowded around 8pm). Order a lassi and the kiddos will be in heaven, I remember them being delicious. The staff I don’t think was particularly nice, but it’s NY…who is? Unfortunately I read that Annapurna has a different name now but I would still risk it and take the kids there.

If you are going to NYC stop by what used to be Annapurna and fill your belly. Then walk across the street to the famous Kalustyan’s (Indian and Middle Eastern Grocery store) and buy a tin of saffron. It’s only $30 instead of $60 elsewhere and it’ll last 10 years. Do the math, $3 a year for beautifully colored and seasoned rice. Your children will love you for it. I would give this place 4 1/2 golden sippy cups full of mango lassi.

What used to be Annapurna 108 Lexington Ave. NYC (212) 679-1284

Dandelion Cafe (Austin, TX my hometown)

Yeah, yeah I know. My little blog already has cobwebs from neglect. But I did venture out, a little. 3 week old baby and I met a friend at Dandelion Cafe over on E. 11th Street today. So it’s not the glamorous beginning I planned but hey this lactating mama managed to snag a little goat cheese during the noon hour.

Actually what makes this dining experience even more exciting is that it wasn’t planned. I had $7 and some change in my wallet and my intentions were just to have a spot of tea. Here’s the official critique:

English muffin with egg, fresh spinach, tomato and herbed goat cheese. The english muffin was nicely toasted (not hard to do) and the fresh spinach was…fresh. Egg was cooked to my liking but the goat cheese is where it’s at. Maybe because it’s been 10 months since I’ve had soft cheese, or maybe because it was actually good, whatever the case it tasted like heaven. The two teensy orange slices looked a little puny on the plate but it’s not really worth mentioning when you consider the damage was only $3.50. Look out Rachael Ray. This mama can out eat you for less than $40 a day and I don’t have an annoying cackle or say “YUMMMM.”

Toddler Tolerance: yes*

Breastfeeding Tolerance: yes**

Highchair: yes (from ikea how hip is that?)

Friendly Waitstaff: yes (she served me with a smile and a major hairy armpit)

Super Kid Friendly-there’s a little corner with toys to play with so mamas can gossip in peace.

*dear friend Elliot (16 months) was our official toddler tester. he toddled all over the place and even tried to pull a woman’s laptop plug from the outlet. there was no scolding, just Mama Becka saying “danger”. thanks Elliot, you’re hired!

**very breastfeeding friendly. it must be commonplace because no one told me i was spraying milk all over my baby’s face while sipping my tea. i didn’t realize she had unlatched. so much for my being discreet.

Overall this little cafe gets 4 golden sippy cups from me.

Dandelion Cafe 1115 E. 11th Street (512) 542-9542 Hours: M-F 7am-6pm; Sat & Sun 8am-4pm

Let’s do Launch

Today my second child is 8 days old, and we’re both absolutely ravenous. What better time to launch this little idea I’ve been dreaming up? Here’s the foggy/sleep deprived vision:

As a breastfeeding mama and culinary school grad, I want to ensure that I can go to any restaurant anywhere and the two of us can eat simultaneously. What if we were so lucky to live in a time that embraced childhood “gastro-education” (yeah, I coined that)? We teach our kids how to read and write but not how to eat. Sure we say “eat your veggies” or “that’s too much candy,” but we don’t really value exploration. I am positively obsessed with my children’s palates. When my 3 year old was a wee babe, I occasionally supplemented with, gasp, formula. BUT, not until I had done a blind tasting of about 5 different brands. Organic is definitely the way to go, the other stuff tastes like a metallic milkshake. I vowed that she’d have access to all different kinds of food. She had been exposed to sushi, curries, and calamari all before her first birthday and even though she loves her mac & cheese, I’m able to coax her to try just about anything still.

So, why not expose my children to gourmet food? Well, there’s the possibility that the valet dude might scoff at my ’88 volvo wagon with dual carseats, there won’t be a changing table, breastfeeding might offend the upper class (peasant food), my 3 year-old might talk too loudly, or I just might be ignored because of the stereotypes of parents being bad tippers.

But what if I’m wrong? Here’s the experiment. I will take my children to nice places to eat. No Chili’s, no chains unless they are local, no fast foods. These restaurants will be rated on toddler tolerance (she will be required to behave), breastfeeding tolerance ( I’ll do my best to be discreet), highchair/changing table accessibility, and the ability of the waitstaff to serve a tired mother just as they would anyone else.restaurant_cal.gif

Please mamas and daddies, join me in this experiment. Go out to eat! And eat well. Leave comments about your experiences and remember… Breeders are Eaters too, chicken nuggets just won’t do!