A Texas New Year

Last year I made a vow to myself – never spend another New Year’s in Omaha. While I’m not among the “Omaha is the worst” crowd I just couldn’t handle it anymore. NYE is the one holiday I actually celebrate. Whether it’s the starting fresh and making improvements aspect or just the drinking, New Year’s is on the top of my Top Five.

So when a friend absent-mindedly asked if I’d like to go to Houston I said yes before even thinking about the logistics. I knew I had the whole week off from work so that was all that really mattered. After a bit of time and a few group chats the plans were finalized. We’d leave on a Tuesday night, staying in Dallas for one day then driving the few hours to Houston on New Year’s Eve. With two bags packed and flask in hand I was ready to eat all the things I’d missed the last time I was in Texas.

True to form, my hunger couldn’t be contained and Whataburger happened before I even crossed Texas state lines. I don’t care what you say – I will always be here for a honey butter chicken biscuit or spicy ketchup on fries (I hate ketchup). The only In-N-Outs we acknowledge are located in California.

 

 
I’m so dedicated I dragged everyone to an H-E-B to buy spicy ketchup and honey butter to take home.

 

Our time in Dallas was short so we ended up only having dinner and breakfast. The trip’s organizer had only one food request: that we stop at The Boiling Crab that night. So after the almost mandatory two-hour wait I sat down looking to be impressed.

The atmosphere is very casual at BC. Large tables covered in paper, no real plates or silverware and everyone gets a plastic bib for protection. They were out of blue crab by the time we were seated (shakes fists) so I went with a pound of shrimp: medium, the whole she-bang (rajun cajun, lemon pepper and garlic spread) with half a pound of sausage and cajun fries. Unless you order one of the fried meals your food comes out to you in a giant plastic bag (again no frills).

 

The shrimps were huge and whole so not for the squeamish types who don’t like the heads on things. Was a little disappointed that the seasoning wasn’t spicy – they must reserve the really good spice for their fries which were great. The meal was still really tasty and fun to eat.

 

Before heading to Houston we stopped at The Original Pancake House a much nicer version of iHop, Village Inn, etc. After a little bit of a wait we sat down and ordered, having already read through the menu in the front. I got a bacon waffle, homemade sausage patty, scrambled eggs with cheese and some of my friend’s hashbrowns.

 

The worst dish had to be the eggs which were a little rubbery. I really enjoyed the spice in the sausage and the hashbrowns were the perfect mix of crispy and soft. The bacon waffle was also a treat. The bacon pieces were good-sized and still crispy, giving the whole thing a sort of chewy texture. It came off a little salty so I would ease up on the butter. Worth a try for anyone liking new twists on old favorites.

We headed to Houston and after a night of NYE shenanigans woke up hungry. While waiting for a missing party and the car my friend and I had brunch at the hotel bar. Despite the mimosas being $12 dollars (the bartender did make the second one STRONG, probably because she knew we didn’t know how much they were) they had a pineapple juice option so I was sated. I went with the chicken and waffle sliders which were good-sized. The chicken itself was really tasty and the coleslaw that came on it had a honey dressing which helped tie the dish together. Because the waffles were slider sized they ended up being just a bit dry but not to bad when you dipped it in syrup.

 

Next we went to Boudreaux’s Cajun Kitchen and yes I ordered food within 30 minutes of eating brunch because I’m a food monster. It was happy hour so I got a Cajun Twist for $6 which is a mix of their hurricane and ragin rita’. This drink was big and strong and frozen happiness in a glass.

 

I also ordered their boudin balls which came with fries and a honey creole remoulade. I am in love with boudin so I jump on any chance I get to eat some. Again, Boudreaux’s didn’t skimp on size with this perfectly cooked appetizer. I wasn’t a huge fan of the remoulade, the honey just made it a bit too sweet for this savory item.

 

Later that night (well technically the next morning) we made a stop at Dreams so I had to get an order of wings and fries. Traditional thinking would have you believe you shouldn’t order food at a strip club. Well they are wrong. They don’t want you to get some of the best wings you’ll ever eat. Dreams wings are major 🔑🔑🔑.

 

On our last full day in Houston my friend and I met her dean for lunch. We drove to City Centre to try out Yardhouse. Their patio was heated and covered so we were seated there with little protest, despite it being a chilly, rainy mess outside. We split an order of duck fat potatoes which I was expecting to lean more towards fries. The dish was mainly chips with a few chunks of fried potato. The caramelized onion bacon dip was a good complement although the bacon was a bit sparse.

 

To drink I got a sparkling blood orange with ketel one orange vodka, monin blood orange, orange juice, orange bitters and zardetto prosecco. Basically a mimosa on steroids it surprisingly didn’t taste overwhelmingly orange-y.

 

I went big as it was my last big meal in Texas, choosing the surf & turf burger. Lobster, grilled asparagus, arugula, tomato bearnaise and a substitution of swiss for their house truffle cheese all atop a medium well burger. After a smear of garlic aioli I requested on the side this treat was ready for consumption. It felt so over the top because it was so rich – I’m sure my cholesterol is still paying for this day.

 

In theory the addition of the asparagus is a sound choice but the grilled execution just didn’t cut it. It was hard to take a bite and just get a little asparagus – the whole spear had to come along. The fries were thin and crispy, just how fries should be. Possibly the best fries I’ve ever had and the chipotle mayo I ordered on the side gave them a nice kick.

 

 

After four days it was time to head back to Nebraska, but you an’t leave anywhere that has a Waffle House and not get Waffle House. Although this location didn’t check off all of my “this will be the best WH food” boxes (really it just needs to look suspect or have cooks who look like they probably might could kill you) the food got the job done. Waffle House is simple and offers you good food for so cheap you just wonder how it works. There’s a pseudo campaign to bring one to Omaha and Dear Lawd I hope it happens so I can get grits I didn’t have to make myself and smothered & covered hashbrowns.

 

While there were a few spots on my list that I didn’t get to make (mainly Frenchy’s, Torchy’s, Velvet Taco and Shipley’s) I will definitely be back. Some of those checks will be marked later this month when I go to Dallas for more than a day, but I’m leaving the rest to add to the many reasons I will be back to Houston asap.

Hello holidays: Spicy cranberry meatballs

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Yet another work potluck, Ugly Christmas Sweater Party or shin-dig that you need to make something for. If you’re anything like me you either prepare something fancy because of proper planning or…. you forget all about the party until the day before. These meatballs are perfect for the last scenario. Only seven ingredients, all of which you could buy, and thirty minutes until you’re the owner of everyone’s favorite appetizer at the party. Read on to see how these meatballs come together.

  
To start, combine the chili sauce, brown sugar, cranberry sauce, chili powder, cumin and cayenne together in a pot. Bring to a low boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved and most of the jellied cranberry is reconstituted.

  

 
Next, and this is the most important part, add the meatballs. Let them cook and get covered with the chili cranberry sauce for about 20 minutes and YOU’RE DONE. Yes you read right, these babies are now ready to be enjoyed.

  

   
You can make these ahead of time and transfer to the party in a microwavable bowl. Just warm them up when you arrive. Or you can make the sauce then throw it in a crockpot the day of. Simmer them there until everyone’s ready to eat.

  

 
If you are just a bit more prepared than I usually am you can even make homemade jellied cranberry sauce (worth the effort, just make in a bowl instead of a mold) and/or make homemade meatballs. Combine ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, ginger, salt, garlic, onion and pepper then form little balls. Bake in a 400 degree oven then add to your sauce.


Ingredients:
14 ounces jellied cranberry sauce
12 ounces chili sauce
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Meatballs:
1 32 ounce package frozen meatballs

or

2 pounds ground beef
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup dry minced onion
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup of milk
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder

  • Step 1
    If making the meatballs from scratch. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all the meatball ingredients and roll into small balls and place on lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or cooked through. Set aside.
  • Step 2
    Combine first six ingredients in large pot and bring to a low boil. Stir occasionally until sugar is melted and cranberry sauce reconstitutes.
  • Step 3
    Place meatballs into pot and stir sparingly. Letting cook through for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Step 4
    Transfer to serving dish; if making ahead place into microwave-safe bowl or crockpot. Enjoy.