Foodie Field Trips: Treebeard’s (Houston)


Back in the late ’90s/early ’00s, I worked as the Music, Arts, and Movies editor for Houston Citysearch. In many ways, it was the perfect job for me, back before the site was a Yelp-like, user-curated city guide. I got to create all sorts of content, previewing and reviewing movies, records and concerts, and exhibits at places like the MFAH. My work days were filled not only with writing these pieces, but also planning an editorial calendar, attending movie previews and private gallery tours complete with catered lunches. My nights were spent in various clubs and music venues, or at the theatre or the opera. Yes, I was working 50-60 hours a week and only making $27,000/year, and it was super corporate, but dang, it was fun. Our office was on Main Street in downtown (not too far from Minute Maid Park; I could have walked to Astros games after work. In fact, I’m not sure why I didn’t.), very close to lots of cool restaurants. (I was a big fan of Mission Burrito, which had a location about a block away from the office.)

One of my most favorite places to go for lunch was Treebeard’s, which was just around the corner at Market Square (and two doors down from Warren’s, one of my all-time favorite bars). Now then, given that I wasn’t making more than $500/week and had student loans, credit cards, and a car payment, Treebeard’s was a total splurge, as the daily lunch plus cornbread and a drink was about $12. I hadn’t really had much exposure to Creole food before living in Houston (at least that I can recall), and I remember being completely blown away by the red beans and rice (my absolute favorite dish there; it’s their signature dish for a reason). It’s a cafeteria-style setup, with a rotating menu of three mains (stuffed pork chops, chicken fried chicken, pot roast, blackened catfish, and the like) and assorted sides (black eyed peas, grits, mac and cheese, etc.).

Baked catfish on dirty rice, topped with étouffée.

Baked catfish on dirty rice, topped with étouffée.

Work-related travel found me in Houston last week and as I was considering my lunch options — there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in Houston, culinary-wise — I seized on Treebeard’s and didn’t look back. I left Citysearch and moved away from Houston in August 2000, so a good decade-plus had passed since I’d last eaten there. I was so pleased to walk in and see that nothing had changed. I grabbed my tray, my glass for iced tea, a fruit cup, and went full-bore with my order of baked catfish atop dirty rice, with a side of jalapeño cornbread. The picture here doesn’t do it justice — this was an enormous portion (I must have stretched my expensive lunches into two servings back in the day), and I couldn’t finish it despite my best efforts. Everything tasted just as I remembered it, flooded as it was with memories of a very different time in my life.

In all honesty, my return to Treebeard’s  — among other things — has made me somewhat circumspect. Dang, I loved all the writing I got to do then, and all those perks sure were nice. And I left Citysearch to go to graduate school, ostensibly so that I could become a better writer (also, working at Citysearch could sometimes be … a bit of a you-know-what-show, especially once Ticketmaster bought the company, or Barry Diller bought Ticketmaster or whatever). I don’t think a job like that will ever come up again, but when I boil that experience down to its essence — writing about things I was (and am) passionate about, I get a little thrill. Who knows what else is out there? Who knows what’s possible these days? All I know is that I want to get back to that m.o. of Always Be Writing, even when it’s hard.

Oh, another thing about Treebeard’s: they have a pretty sinful assortment of desserts, and I was eyeballing the saran-wrapped squares of butter cake for the drive home. But since I’ve been making some progress on the Weight Watchers front, I opted to stick with my fruit. Of course, later, my Houston-based friend recommended that I get some butter cake to take home, d’oh! So on Friday, I made this. It were tasty.

butter cake

 

Do you have any restaurants that define a certain time in your life? If so, are you still able to visit them?

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Meal Plan: Week of 4/6/14 – 4/12/14


veggies

This past Friday, we received our first delivery from Farmhouse Delivery. After my experience at Foodways Texas, I’ve been looking for ways we can both reduce our carbon footprint and support local producers from within the kitchen. I signed us up for East Side Compost Pedallers and did some shopping around for CSAs, ultimately deciding on Farmhouse because I liked the ability to add on things like milk and cheese curds from Mill King, bread from Easy Tiger, and eggs from Pelham Lane Farms. I was hoping to get some Rockstar Bagels in our first drop off, but every time I added them to my cart, some weird $14 “cardamom bars of joy” showed up in my shopping cart instead. THAT’S FINE I DIDN’T WANT ANY BAGELS ANYWAY.

Anyhoo, I opted for the large weekly bushel and on Friday, I opened the box to find rainbow chard, spinach, strawberries, a small bunch of rainbow carrots, a huge bunch of parsley, a couple of sweet potatoes, a couple of artichokes, a gorgeous head of red leaf lettuce, and a big bunch of scallions. So, I’m faced with planning our meals around these veggies, many of which I rarely use. The chard, in particular, made my knees quake a little.

You see, when I was expecting the Little Kid, I had some, uh, food aversion issues. Meaning that I would eat food and then my body would decide it was averse to it. One day in particular, I made Eggs in a Nest for my lunch. I wanted to like it, really. But my body did not get the memo and I’ve avoided chard like the plague ever since. But now she’s five and I reckon it’s time to get over myself.

The farm box didn’t contain enough to keep me from having to go to the grocery store, but it has ensured that I’m incorporating veggies into every single meal. Plus, this gives me the opportunity to try some things I’ve not tried before, like branching out into sauces and whatnot. I already used the lettuce for dinner on Friday night (we’re not paleo, but I’ve found some really yummy recipes out there in that world, and I’m very glad there was enough of this taco salad left over for me to take some for lunch later this week).

Sunday: I ran the Cap 10K this morning and am celebrating with friends and margaritas at Maudie’s

Monday: Beef empanadas with chimichurri sauce. I might also use the sweet potatoes from the farm box to make these, but we’ll see.

Tuesday: Rainbow frittata muffins (recipe below), roasted artichokes

Wednesday: Chicken tikka masala, rice, naan

Thursday: Steak and brussels sprouts

Friday: Baked chicken wings, carrot and celery sticks, salad

Saturday: TBD. We usually dine out on Saturdays, so we’ll probably do pizza or tacos or something.

rainbowfrittatas

 

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a recipe here, so I thought I’d do so today. Here’s a ridiculously nutritious vegetarian main that’s super easy for a weeknight. Serve with crusty bread (and a salad if you want to be super wholesome; add a chunk of cheese if you’re feeling like indulging).

Rainbow Frittata Muffins
makes 12 mini frittatas
adapted slightly from Veggiestaples.com

12 eggs
1 cup chopped rainbow chard
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray cups of muffin tin with cooking spray.
Crack eggs into mixing bowl and whisk together.
Add in vegetables and cheese, add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the mixture into the muffin tins.
Bake for 20 minutes.