One of the pleasures of belonging to Village Voice Media
is that the company hosts the best roster of food critics in the
country–but you don't have to believe my boosterism? Who's the only
food critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize? Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly.
Who's going to be releasing a memoir of his food life for a
mega-publishing house? Westword's Jason Sheehan. And what paper employs
Robb Walsh, the expert on Texas food culture? The Houston Press.
I was in Houston over the weekend for a book signing and asked
Walsh–who's my Facebook friend!–if he could take me to eat at his
favorite dives. Instead, Walsh suggested I go over to his house for
dinner, where he was going to spend his Saturday trying out recipes for
a coming cookbook. In the meanwhile, Walsh was kind enough to send me a
list of places to try–I settled on Thelma's, a 'cue joint just down
the street from Minute Maid Park located in a former house and home to
bracing sauce, tender brisket, and the best pecan pie on Earth.
After my signing, I drove to Walsh's house, where he promptly greeted
me with a glass off grapefruit juice and tequila as he expounded on the
history of the margarita and its Dallas roots. Guy is funny, humble, and a walking encyclopedia. We spent the next three
hours (also accompanied by his two young kids, wonderful wife, and a
cute dog) talking, laughing, and–most importantly–eating.
The eats, without giving away too many of the ingredients (Walsh has to sell a cookbook, after all):
*Ceviche with a kumquat and pineapple salsa, topped with grilled
shrimp. The salsa sang with sweetness, a sneaky heat, and a lightness
matched by the shrimp's smokiness.
*Small tacos of pork strips, smeared with guacamole. I have previously
stated my aversion to avocados, but this guacamole didn't offend my
pocho palate. A bit too much on each taco, though, and Walsh agreed.
*A big cut of pork, rubbed with some divine powder
*A couple of bites of steak, because I devoured most of said pork–a miracle, considering I much prefer beef to pork.
Moral of the story. Whenever fate takes you away from Orange County,
email the alt-weekly food critic in whatever region you may be. They
probably won't cook for you, but if the person truly understands his
role as a food ambassador, they will give you a list of places to hit
up, and you will be the better–and fatter-for it. Now, go buy Robb's books!