I admire Lisa Garza of the Next Food Network Star

I just don’t understand the firestorm around Lisa Garza and the fact that Gasp! she likes to dress well, look professional and act like a manager. Seeing and watching her has made me rethink my image – are “casual days” really such a good thing?

Food Network loves to show the voluptuous Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade Cooking by Sandra Lee in costumes (I just can’t bring myself to call them just clothes) that have included flowing sleeves dragging in food and long hair swinging freely over the food she’s preparing. There are a few “stars” that could probably use a stylist or new stylist. Sandra Lee got an Emmy nomination for hairstyling? On a food show? I would be so proud.

The one thing that they really didn’t go after Lisa Garza for was her skills and her food. It was the first challenge and she wasn’t eloquent about her “platform” but I’m thinking that will be something that will come.

If you want the truth about Lisa, read what Nancy Nichols at DMagazine has to say. I know and respect Nancy, and trust me she won’t write it if it ain’t so. Nancy is a food critic and has known Lisa for awhile.

No matter what happens in reality land, Dallas knows the real Lisa and will stand behind her. Great food, great style, period. What else do you need?


Who knew that the foodie capital of the universe would be Rochester, NY? Wegmans has always been a great destination when I visit Western New York, but after visiting their Pittsford flagship store today, I’m having trouble imaging a life without being able to graze through all of their offerings. I’ve lived in NYC, Dallas, and other areas that are considered the places to be for people who worship food, but I have never experienced anything like Wegmans offers, and at great prices as well. The part I love is that what they offer is fresh, can be organic, and instead of going the Semi-Homemade direction with food that is filled with additives and calories, and costs more! I will be purchasing three meals a day there while I am here because there were so many incredible choices I didn’t know were to start.

If you don’t even want to get out of your car you can call ahead and have everything from Raw Shucked oysters at $1.99 each to family combos that can include pizzas, wings, and pop delivered curbside. Offerings include a lamb lollipop, perfect portion cheese burger and a Corn Beef on Rye that will probably be in my future tomorrow because I am a corn beef snob and I’m anxious to put them to the test.

Hospitality at Hatties

The best thing about living in a neighborhood like Oak Cliff, Texas is that it truly is a neighborhood. We have our own bakeries,meat markets,artists,and best of all we have restaurants that serve everything from thick juicy burgers (Hunkys) to vegetarian (Spiral Diner).

I feel very fortunate to be able to drive less than a mile and be able to experience food and dining that I think is some of the best in the US. As a foodie I’ve had some remarkable meals but when I want to “come home” I go to Hattie’s. Imagine an experience where you can feast with your eyes as well as your palette. Hattie’s is an anchor of the Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff and is a destination not to be missed. The restaurant is very Southern – from it’s hospitality to it’s menu but with a contemporary twist. The owner is usually there to welcome you, we have fallen in love with Sam who fixes us the best drinks in town (and remembers us the next time we visit and what we love to drink!)and the wait staff has always been very knowledgeable about the menu and generous with their recommendations.

The menu? Heaven on a plate. If you have never sampled Fried Green Tomatoes, this is the place to experience them. I’ve ordered them more times than I care to admit and they have been perfection every time. Even something as simple as the house salad is something to fall in love with, and I have.

Don’t overlook the specials, because they are typically designed around the freshest ingredients available. I went in last week planning on ordering the prerequisite fried green tomatoes and a salad, but after hearing about the Porterhouse steak and bean medley I had to try it. And I wasn’t disappointed -the portions were large enough that I had some to throw some on the grill and enjoy the next day.Call me crazy, but I have decided my personal diet plan is if I am going to put it in my mouth it is going to be something I enjoy and the freshest, best, most favorable item that I can find. Hattie’s makes it easy, and that is one of the reasons I go back as often as possible.

If you aren’t as fortunate as I am to live in the neighborhood you should at least check out their website. The photography is spectacular and it will give you a great excuse to come and visit.

Next Food Network Superstar Lisa Garza

I am so excited that Dallas Superstar Lisa Garza has made it to the finals of The Next Food Network Star!

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet her and experience her food, and she not only deserves to be on the show she deserves to win.

The first time that I noticed Lisa it was at a Savor Dallas event that her restaurant was participating in. She has such great style – every time that I’ve seen her it has been with her wearing one of her signature aprons that I love. She just has such a great presence, and seems to understand what it takes to be a public presence. I can’t wait to see the show and see how she does!

Street Vendors

One of the bonuses of living in an ethnic-diverse neighborhood is getting to experience other people’s cultures. My Hispanic neighbors know how to entertain, and I think that some of their grilling skills could put The Food Network’s Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee to shame. Oh wait – my grand-daughter’s cooking skills are better than hers so probably bad comparison.

When it gets hot around here we start having these street vendors come around that have bicycles with a cooler on the front. They sell various Hispanic goodies, but my favorites are the ice pops that are made locally with great gourmet flavors. Pineapple, vanilla with raisins, and my favorite – mango with chilies. They typically cost $1.00 and are filled with fresh fruits and juices, little or no added sugars and are around 100 calories each. You just can’t beat them. I just got back from walking the dogs and passed a vendor so now I’m treating myself with a mango chile. Fortunately I like hot, spicy foods because these really pack a punch!

A Real Chef Speaks Out

There’s nothing like a professional stirring up a pot of controversy, and a recent Blog posting by Anthony Bourdain about “talent” at the Food Network has done just that. His witty and insightful comments about the dumbing down of the Food Network have been showing up on Blogs coast to coast so he obviously was expressing an opinion that many share.

His comments about never-a-lifestylist Sandra Lee:
“SANDRA LEE: Pure evil. This frightening Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker seems on a mission to kill her fans, one meal at a time. She Must Be Stopped. Her death-dealing can-opening ways will cut a swath of destruction through the world if not contained. I would likely be arrested if I suggested on television that any children watching should promptly go to a wooded area with a gun and harm themselves. What’s the difference between that and Sandra suggesting we fill our mouths with Ritz Crackers, jam a can of Cheez Wiz in after and press hard? None that I can see. This is simply irresponsible programming. Its only possible use might be as a psychological warfare strategy against the resurgent Taliban–or dangerous insurgent groups. A large-racked blonde repeatedly urging Afghans and angry Iraqis to stuff themselves with fatty, processed American foods might be just the weapon we need to win the war on terror.”

And about one of the nicest (and smartest) guys on television today:
“ALTON BROWN: How did Alton slip inside the wire–and stay there all these years? He must have something on them. He’s smart. You actually learn something from his commentary. And I’ll admit it: I watch and enjoy Iron Chef America-in all its cheesy glory. Absolutely SHOCKED and thrilled when guys like Homaru Cantu show up as contestants–and delighted when Mario wins–again and again, forestalling his secretly long-planned execution. His commentary is mostly good. And that collar-bone snapping fall off the motorcycle on Feasting On Asphalt? Good television!”

Bourdain also had great commentary on one of my favorite new shows: Ace of Cakes: “That said, it’s the only “kicky, new, cutting edge, in-your-face” hopeful they’ve managed to trot out of any quality in memory. Hope it lasts. Wait till they try and put the poor bastard on a pony–or do a “Tailgate Special” with the usual suspects. Or a “Thanksgiving Special” where he has to sit down with the bobbleheads and pretend to like it. On balance, it’s still probably the best new project they’ve come up with in a long, long time.”

Trust me, the entire article is a must read for anyone that’s concerned about the culinary crisis in America, or is just in the mood for some great snarking. Great job, Chef Bourdain!

Tasting a healthy lifestyle

When I speak to my favorite client in Rochester, NY and we are talking about potential homes to work on he knows that my favorite time to be in Western New York is corn season. If you haven’t visited this region during the growing seasons you are definitely missing out.

Typically I have always gone out to visit the farmers to get the best of what the region has to offer, but fortunately for me on one of my previous visits I discovered Wegmans. Wegmans is a Rochester based food provider that is doing the rest of us a huge favor by taking a concept that has worked so well in Rochester and offering it to a few other fortunate areas. If you haven’t visited a Wegmans and love food as much as I do, get on a plane and find out what you have been missing. Forget Semi-homemade, Wegmans shows you how to take fresh ingredients and either make great meals yourself or the stores will cook up the finest of ingredients so you can take home a healthy, locally grown meal that you can share with your family and be proud.

Semi-Homemade is a great concept with a bad execution. Food can taste great, be simple to prepare and not be expensive.

Home is the Most Important Place in the World

I am crazy about IKEA’s new ad campaign – Home is the Most Important Place in the World, especially since it is exactly what I believe, build my life and my business around. The photography of the campaign as always is spectacular, and love that some of the images are of “trailers”.

So besides the possibility of it being someone’s most important place in the world, what is a trailer? My definition is that it’s probably one of the most misused terms in regards to housing, and technically describes a recreational vehicle more than a manufactured home. Todays manufactured housing is not made to be moved once it is in place, and should be set on a permanent foundation.

Trailer parks and house trailers became popular in the 1950’s when people who’s lifestyles were more mobile were looking for a way to take their homes with them. A hybrid of a travel trailer, these original units were inexpensive and in 1956 technology made it possible to build a 10ft wide unit offering the homeowner more space, and making the unit more spacious for spending longer periods of time in. A “trailer” was typically a home that could be pulled buy a car or truck, but the mobile homes that became popular in the 60’s had to be pulled by a professional truck company.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The winds of Katrina brought a new version of the trailer into our lives – the FEMA trailer. They were everywhere in the news, and it was our government’s answer on how to house the people who had lost their homes. The manufactured housing and recreational vehicle companies stepped up and did everything possible to provide the homes – it was a time in my life I’ll never forget. I worked with Patriot Homes to furnish 2,500 homes, and I only hope that whoever received them is enjoying them.

Now two years later there is a lot of discussion about Formaldehyde in the FEMA trailers, but the homes that they are discussing aren’t to my knowledge the manufactured homes, but the recreational vehicles. Just another example of how much difference a name can make.

I love trailers – that’s why I’m the Trailer Diva. But my idea of the ultimate trailer is an Aluminum bullet from the 60’s that I have lovingly restored, not a manufactured home. My dream manufactured home will be the one that is on some land in Arizona – stay tuned!

Fair Food

I can’t believe that it’s almost time for the State Fair of Texas! There is nothing I love more than the excitement of the Midway, and the “friendly” competitions that I have with my friends as we compete for ribbons in the food and craft categories. Last year I had no luck in the food contests, but I learned a lot and I’m ready to enter more categories this year. I’ve been busy trying out the recipes that I want to enter, and everyone (including Wes my wonderful UPS driver) has been busy sampling and giving me great feedback.

Stay tuned with photos and tales of my journey to the winners table (hopefully) at the State Fair.