Things I Like, July 2013

I'm going to report on my recent travels to Massachusetts, New York, and Hill Country, TX, but in the meantime here is a small compendium of important things that I like right now.


It being sultry, sultry summertime here in Houston frozen treats factor largely in our routine. Paletas, Mexican popsicles, are my new favorite and Alex surprised me by delivering us to the best place in town. Upon arrival I bolted inside, figured out the paleteria layout and got serious. After some deliberation on a) how many can we eat at once? and b) which flavors have the fewest and best ingredients, I decided on one chile cucumber, for dinner, and one rice pudding, for dessert. But then I noticed some other irresistibles in an upright case: mangonadas and a similar production with sandia (watermelon). These delights consisted of: either frozen mango or watermelon with a liquid mixture of chile and cayenne pepper swirled through. I think you're supposed to take the entire thing out of the cup and eat it on its stick, but it's big and drips all over. I used the stick as a utensil and everything in the world improved.

Our collection at El Pibe Paleteria

All frozen things were consumed on the spot as other paleta fans looked at us strangely, but knowingly. 


Chamoy has a pickled fruit base to which you add salt, sugar, lime, and chile pepper spices. It can range in consistency, from a liquid to a powder. In powder form (chile en polvo) we've had it sprinkled on fruits and vegetables and in mixed drinks, especially those containing mezcal. We've had it on mangoes in San Antonio, where they take an entire beautifully ripe mango, impale it with a sturdy wooden pole, slice petals into the fruit, and douse it with liquid and powder chamoy. It is now a part of our culinary lexicon and I'm excited to experiment with the sweet, salty, sour, and spicy recipe. 

Homemade chamoy and Mezcal brought back from DF (Mexico City).


Cajeta is a Latin American dulce (sweet) that I first discovered in Philadelphia actually, in the Italian Market. Back then it was made with goat's milk, sugar, and wine. It's no longer made with wine, sadly, but I still love the buttery caramel spread. You can find this dulce in all kinds of Mexican candies, especially at the Fiesta market. You can find it at here in Montrose at Blackhole Cafe in a cajeta latte or offered as a topping on a snoball (shaved ice) or piped inside churros.

For my first visit to Texas I traveled by train, from NYC, and the state seemed very exotic to me. We took a day trip to romantic San Antonio where my senses were inspired by many things. Hidden in the back corner of a bookstore there, feeling pretty excited, I secretly copied a recipe out of a cookbook. How could I resist the title: San Antonio Chocolate-Cajeta Flan Cake (from The Tex-Mex Cookbook by renowned food historian Robb Walsh). This was ten years ago and I have been making the cake ever since in various Northeast cities.

Fine. This is a fancy styled photo and not my own. But this is how my cake looks!

The flan sinks to the bottom of the bundt pan and the chocolate cake rises to the top (when you flip it out of the pan the flan is then on the top). Once the cake has been set free, get generous with MORE cajeta. It's a beautiful cake and I love making it. I recently made it for a friend's birthday here in Houston, to go with our Mexican themed dinner (con mezcal margaritas).

My mother in law gave me her copy of The Tex-Mex Cookbook since I had lost my little recipe card/scrap from 2002 and as I was reading through it I learned how Tex-Mex was introduced to France. It was after the film Betty Blue (32'7 le matin), 1986, came out in Paris. Apparently, everyone in France watched it and since there are several mentions of Tex-Mex style food (chili con carne, tequila, etc.), the French demanded this exotic cuisine. Soon Tex-Mex was making its way through Europe. Crazy!

I recommend this film. It's spectacularly romantic and sad. Pair it with all of the above food and drinks for a memorable evening.

One last thing I've been dreamy over: BBQ smokers. I have never seen these anywhere in the north, but they come out in full force around here, especially during summer. While I probably won't sample from these ubiquitous smokers in the near future, I can drown happily in the scent that pretty much permeates the entire city right now. It makes for a heavenly, uniquely Texan atmosphere.

1 comment:

  1. That picture of the cajeta cake is incredible- is that actually the picture you took? That is a major league internet food picture.

    This is a beautiful post. I know it's not always easy in Houston and it warms my heart to know that you're finding things to love here.