June 14-20: Wine & Food Week

April 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

Region’s Best Food and Wine Fest:

WHAT: The 6th Annual Wine & Food Week in Houston, the largest, most comprehensive epicurean and wine adventure from Aspen to New Orleans, brings together renowned chefs to showcase their culinary expertise partnered with more than 500 wines at more than 40 sensational events. This year’s Wine Wizard is Eric Arnold, Deputy Lifestyle Editor of Forbes.

Live chef demonstrations, hands-on classes and a wine auction are but a few of the exceptional offerings.  Music, entertainment, shopping, and wine education seminars for the novice to the enthusiast top off the week of casual to fine wine and dine experiences.

The big three events include the H-E-B Wine Walk @ Market Street, a taste and stroll experience in a European-style center; Sips, Suds & Sliders, a celebration to tantalize the taste buds with specialty beers, Texas wines and a gourmet slider competition; and the grand finale Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Texas Monthly Chef Showcase, the ultimate adult evening sampling delectable cuisine and hundreds of wines as chefs representing more than 50 restaurants compete for Wine & Food Week’s Waterford Crystal Chef of Chefs Award and a $5,000+ prize package.

Event proceeds benefit the culinary arts program at Houston Community College Systems, The John Cooper School, Swing for a Cure, and The Center for the Performing Arts at The Woodlands Pavilion.

WHEN Monday through Sunday, June 14 – 20, 2010 (various times/locations around Houston)

&

WHERE: Thursday, June 17                            H-E-B Wine Walk @ Market Street

5:30-8:30 p.m.    9595 Six Pines Dr., The Woodlands, TX  77380

Friday, June 18                   Sips, Suds & Sliders

5:30-8:30 p.m.                   CITYCENTRE Life Time Athletic – Poolside

815 Town & Country Lane, Houston, TX  77024

Saturday, June 19              Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Texas Monthly Chef Showcase

7-10 p.m.                            Woodlands Waterway Marriott

1601 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands, TX 77380

TICKETS: Event prices vary from $20 to $250

MORE INFO: Email:                   info@foodandvinetime.com

Call:                       713.557.5732

Web Site:             www.wineandfoodweek.com

Facebook Page:  Wine and Food Week

Twitter:                @ TexasWineaux

Coat Hangers

April 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                    12 April 2010

THE CLOSET – It’s OK for me to come out now. Just don’t ask and don’t tell. I am speaking, of course, about coat hangers. Notice that you can’t unhook a single coat hanger, especially an empty one? They band together, get all tangled up. I went in my closet for one and came out with five. Coat hangers obviously breed and multiply during the night.

Look in the closet at your own supply. No doubt your collection varies in size color and style, but mostly the hangers are bent and bowed. This brings us to the obvious conclusion that there is not a single form of coat hanger (usually two words but not always and sometimes called clothes hangers). Here is the standard black wire version. This one is wooden, came with an expensive sports coat. (Why am I sounding like Andy Rooney?)

This one is clear plastic with notches on the top part so the straps from my ball gowns won’t slip off. (OK, just kidding about that. They do slip off.) This example has fuzzy covering on the top wires so something else won’t slide off. This hanger has clothespins on the bottom wire to hold pants. One company brags that it stocks 27 different kinds of hangers. You can buy them made of almost anything. On line, a maker advertises: “Our bamboo clothing hangers are ideal for the ecologically minded consumer.” Ecological coat hangers? Probably to hang your tiger-skin jacket.

This one is from a hotel, mine by mistake. I’d return it but have no idea from whence it came. We must assume that most motels and hotels had problems with guests deliberately or accidentally – like me – making off with coat hangers every day. For years, hotel maids probably pushed their carts down the hallways as they cleaned rooms and left new soap, toilet paper and lots of replacement coat hangers. Then some bright soul, probably a hotel maid, invented coat hangers with no hook at the top, just a little metal ball about the size of pea which slips into a claw-like device on the closet’s clothing pole. Thus no one is going to steal a coat hanger that is worthless back home – unless they live in a hotel.

There is big money in the coat hanger industry, but little sympathy for such an important part of our lifestyles. In the movie, “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” Dave Whiteman (played by Richard Dreyfuss) makes millions and lives in Beverly Hills simply by making coat hangers. Costs 3 cents apiece to make, and he sells them by the tons. Dave has an exchange with his teenage son, Max.

Dave: “Max, I think it’s time you stopped all this screwing around and started to learn the hanger business.”

Max: “I don’t like hangers.”

Dave: “You don’t like hangers? It’s hangers that clothe you, and it’s hangers that feed you!”
In the 1981 movieMommie Dearest,” Joan Crawford, played by Faye Dunaway, becomes enraged that her daughter, Christina, is using wire coat hangers instead of the expensive, padded hangers Crawford/Dunaway gave her. She swats Christina with a wire hanger again and again, while screaming, “No wire hangers ever!”

Coat hangers are ubiquitous. Before Detroit caught on, hangers could open locked cars doors or be used to hot wire a car. They can serve as a TV antenna. One guy bent a hanger so it holds up his laptop. On beaches and picnics you see people straightening out hangers to stick hotdogs or marshmallow on the end and cook them over a fire. In 1995, Professor Angus Wallace used an unfolded coat hanger, sterilized with brandy, to perform emergency surgery on the collapsed lung of Paula Dixon in an airliner at 35,000 feet.

An ancestor of the hanger is the nail or, to get really fancy, the clothes hook or even antlers. Above my head on my office wall is a set of large, heavy cow horns. My great grandfather was a Texas rancher. Each day at lunch he’d come in and toss his sweaty, dirty Stetson on the dinner table. My grandmother, then a young lady, was disgusted by the habit, so she got the ranch butcher to slaughter a cow, bull or whatever, with the largest set of horns, had the set made into a hat rack, and ate a calmer lunch.

At this point, some of the more impatient among us are asking the musical question: “Why are we even discussing such a minor matter?” Hey, are you the same person who fretted for days over the Cowboys vs. the Texans – 22 unknown mercenaries fighting over a piece of inflated leather? You’ve probably spent hours watching “Lost.” So let’s not knock this conversation.

The coat hanger has been patented over 200 times in the U.S. alone. According to my intensive research, aka, plagiarism, today’s wire coat hanger was inspired by a clothes hook patented in 1869 by O. A. North of New Britain, Conn. In 1903, Albert J. Parkhouse, an employee of Timberlake Wire and Novelty Co. in Jackson, Mich., created a coat hanger after co-workers’ complained of too few coat hooks. He bent a piece of wire into two ovals, side by side, with the ends twisted together to form a hook in the middle. Parkhouse patented his invention, but it is not known if he profited from it at all and ended up in Beverly Hills.

You really can build a better mousetrap – or coat hanger. Schuyler C. Hulett received a patent in 1932 for improving the ordinary wire hanger. He inserted cardboard tubes onto the upper and lower portions to prevent wrinkles in freshly laundered clothes. Three years later Elmer D Rogers created a hanger with a tube on just the lower bar which we still use today. But the very first person to invent a coat hanger was Thomas Jefferson. Honest. Maybe he can get into Texas school books for that.

Ashby hangs out at ashby2@comcast.net

Ridha Arem, MD

April 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Edit

H Texas magazine visits with Ridha Arem, MD of Texas Thyroid Institute. Watch the video.

Good by to Free Newspapers

All good things must come to an end, and now this includes free newspapers. The change is most welcomed because I’m tired of standing on the street corner holding up a sign, “Wil rite fur food.” As we all know, the media are (remember the word is plural) in bad financial shape. So are hotels, airlines, university endowments, auto makers and whatever you do to turn a buck. But it’s the press we love to hate, and we get pleasure out of the Fourth Estate’s dilemma. The Germans call it schadenfreude.

The press, however, has an additional problem: the Internet. Ever since the advent of Al Gore’s invention, we can go to our computer and read virtually any newspaper in the world for free. But no company can afford to give away its product, although Toyota dealers are considering the idea. Thus newspapers are dropping like Tiger Woods’ endorsements.

As a solution, some papers have tried to charge for their news stories on the Internet, but the accompanying ads and readership dropped so much that the charge plan was abandoned by most papers, excluding the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Newsday which still charge unless you’re a subscriber. The New York Times says that it plans to do the same. Now into this fracas comes the Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era in Lancaster, Penn., whose nameplate must take up most of Page 1.

The paper, which plans to implement the idea this spring, says it will start by offering news that no other paper on Earth gives its readers (pause to think): local obituaries. Brilliant! If there are enough subscribers, the paper will add local sports. That way, anyone who moves away from Lancaster – and apparently there are a lot of them – can keep up with their departed friends and the Fightin’ Fungi back home. The editors say if the plan works it may generate several hundred thousand dollars which would be enough to hire on more reporters. (The Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era Globe, Mail and Post-Chronicle must pay better than most papers.) If the plan doesn’t work, they’ll dump it and try something else.

Those developing this operation say it is enormously flexible. Some readers may want just obits, others, only sports. Long distance readers may be able to pay a flat fee or pay by the clicks. Papers can offer the headline and first few paragraphs for free and charge for the rest, along with photographs, etc. Maybe, as many of you tell me constantly, you just wish to read a certain columnist. Papers can give print subscribers free access or charge them for archives. Customers could pay with their credit cards or with gold coins, pelts or fire water. The target is to be user friendly. Customize your selections.

This new revenue source may help an industry which is hurting, but to be fair and balanced – as we like to say at Fox — much of the media’s wounds are self-inflicted. Or they were caused by non-journalists who got rich doing something else, and, like meddling pro sports teams’ owners, these amateurs think if they are smart at this then they are smart at that. They aren’t.

As we’ve discussed before, in 2007, real estate tycoon Sam Zell thought he could buy and run a newspaper. Silly man. He paid $8.2 billion for the Tribune Co., which owned the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Cubs. Zell put down – ready? — 4 percent of the total price and borrowed much of the rest. His deal went sour and on Dec. 8, 2008, the Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy. Chicago’s other daily paper, the Sun-Times, is also bankrupt, and it top executives are in prison after fleecing the paper.

I think we see a pattern here. Private-equity investors bought the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News in June, 2006, borrowing $450 million of the $562 million purchase price. The company went bankrupt, while executives received $650,000 in bonuses. Two years ago, Avista Capital Partners bought the Minneapolis Star Tribune for $530 million, which included more than $400 million in IOUs. The company has filed for Chapter 11. Knight-Ridder was torn apart and killed off by a financier who made money on the deal. And on and on.

Some people, for purely political reasons, attribute the decline and fall of the media to their slant (usually to the left). True, liberal Air America went bankrupt because it was founded and run by people who had not a clue how to operate a radio network (see “newspapers” above). A few years ago, the liberal New York Times paid $1.2 billion for the Boston Globe, borrowing heavily. Last year the Times tried to sell the Globe for a pittance if someone would only take over the debt. No buyers. The Times also owns part of the Boston Red Sox, which no one wants to buy, either.

Liberals clearly are bad business people who ….wait. The Citadel Network, which runs mostly conservative radio and TV shows, was so pro-Iraq War it wouldn’t even show a program listing the names of the fallen Americans. Citadel just went bankrupt. The conservative Wall Street Journal is worth about half the $5 billion that Rupert Murdoch paid for it two years ago. This recession is an equal opportunity downer.

Maybe the Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era Globe, Advertiser & Telegram will find the solution, because millions of readers want what newspaper journalists produce. Almost 50 million Americans buy a newspaper daily, and nearly 117 million read one. But the freeloaders read, too: An additional 66 million unique visitors read newspapers on Web sites each month. Also remember that your newspaper is the feed stock for virtually all the news you hear or see on talk radio or TV or especially the blogs. It is no wonder that more people read The New York Times today than ever before. They just don’t pay for it. Until now.

Ashby charges at ashby2@comcast.net

Texas School Books

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                5 April 2010

Dear Texas School Teacher,

You have ben waiting in great antisipation – some would say angished fear – for your new tectsbooks as approved by us here at the Texas State School Board Comitee.

Well, here they ar. Tell us if you don’t like the emprovments and end-of-chaptor questions so well know who to far. Thank, Texas State School Board Comitee.

HISTORY: Columbus landed in America to: (a) get away from the reign in Spain. (b) bring the One True Religion to the heathens by massacring all non-believers, turning the rest into slaves, stealing their gold and spreading deadly diseases throughout the New World. (c) find a new route to India, but got lost. India had no idea how lucky it was. (d) Keep from falling off the edge.

True or false: The Founding Fathers have been wrongly portrayed in paintings and movies as wearing knee pants, silk stockings and black loafers with silver buckles. Ditto for lace collars and ponytails.

Fact or rumor: Thomas Jefferson was not an Enlightenment thinker who changed the world, but he did wear all of the above.

The War of Jenkins’ Ear was not covered by health insurance because Jenkins was such a deadbeat and a drain on society that he refused to pay a 38 percent increase in his premiums.

GOVERNMENT: Which one of these is NOT a freedom guaranteed by the Constitution: Religion, press, speech, right to assemble, cable TV. (Extra credit is given for naming any freedom which should be abolished.)

Finish this sentence: The Second Amendment is the most important of all because: (Grade points reduced for mention of Starbucks.)

Barack Obama is: (a) the first line of the “Macarena.” (b) Kenyan for “show me the birth certificate.” (c) a one-term president.

True or true? Texas can secede from the Union any time it wishes.

Who said: “Give me liberty or give me a break.” “We distort, you deride.” “You lie!” “Honk if you want a theocracy.”

Gov. Rick Perry is the longest-serving governor in Texas’ history. Who was the longest-serving inmate on Death Row? Hint: Not if Gov. Perry had his way.

The State School Board is: (a) wise (b) brilliant (c) charming (d) all of the above.

MATH: If an Amtrak train leaves Dallas at noon heading for Houston on the same track that an Amtrak train leaves Houston heading for Dallas, how long would it take for everyone to realize mass transit is a commie plot?

When are 59 votes fewer than 41 votes?

Write a 500 word essay on: Taxes should only be levied to run basic governmental functions such as chain gangs, SWAT teams and death panels.

If one black helicopter costs $4 million, how many can be bought by cutting Medicaid in half?

Minimum wage – Class warfare at its worst or an impediment to the free market?

If a plaintiff’s attorney squeezes $250,000 in damages from a good, solid God-fearing company that makes diapers which occasionally burst into flame, how much will an equally veracious, greedy attorney wring from an upstanding, talented physician who mistakenly amputates the wrong leg?

GEOGRAPHY: Texas is surrounded on all sides by jealous people who want to come here. In 500 words, describe the solution. Hint: Unattributed quotes about land mines, pit bulls and F-16s are not considered plagiarism.

Which of these is NOT a national park but should be: Mt. Olympia Snowe, Forrest Gump, Tiger Woods. (This is a trick question. The correct name is Eldrick Tont Woods.)

SCIENCE: Charles Darwin should be: (a) studied with doubt. (b) not studied. (c) sentenced to eternal damnation.

Name the Biblical chapter and verse where this appears: “God created the Earth in seven days, 10,000 years ago, more or less.”

Should sex education be taught in Texas public schools or should our students continue to learn it by circumventing the Parental Control block on the Internet?

Draw a wheel (it’s sort of round, isn’t it?) List three reasons it should be outlawed.

Earth, wind and fire are: (a) a musical group. (b) underwritten by AIG. (c) still not proven.

SOCIAL STUDIES: “Fair and Balanced” is: (a) slogan of a GOP subsidiary. (b) tattooed on Sarah Palin’s ankle. (c) a law firm.

Newt Gingrich: (a) is an amphibian of the Salamandridae family. (b) stole Christmas. (c) will explain in his autobiography why he was thrown out as Speaker and fined $300,000 for misleading a committee investigating him. (d) Our next president and none too soon.

Name three myths on this list: The Easter Bunny. Global warming. The separation of church and state.

A poll by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. shows that Tea Party members are “less educated…than the average Joe and Jane Six Pack.” This proves “Quinnipiac” is Algonquian for: (a) village idiot (b) morally challenged (c) He Who Hits the Six-packs.

Well, teachers, that abot does it. We hope you like theze emprovements. Or else. Your State School Board Comitee.

Ashby changes facts at ashby2@comcast.net

Silicone Bake Ware

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Edit

EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Are there any health hazards associated with the use of the new silicone bake ware and cooking utensils?  I have found information associated with the hazards/benefits of Teflon and other cookware but nothing on the use of silicone.                               — Jean McCarthy, Sebastian, FL

With all the negative press about Teflon and about metals leaching out of pots and pans, consumers are on the lookout for cookware that’s easy-to-clean and doesn’t pose health concerns. Silicone, a synthetic rubber made of bonded silicon (a natural element abundant in sand and rock) and oxygen, is increasingly filling this niche. The flexible yet strong material, which has proven popular in muffin pans, cupcake liners, spatulas and other utensils, can go from freezer to oven (up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit), is non-stick and stain-resistant, and unlike conventional cookware, comes in a range of bright and cheery colors.

But some wonder if there is dark side to silicone cookware. Anecdotal reports of dyes or silicone oil oozing out of overheated silicone cookware pop up on Internet posts, as do reports of odors lingering after repeated washings. Also, silicone’s image may be forever tainted by problems associated with silicone gel breast implants—some women with earlier generations of these implants experienced capsular contracture, an abnormal immune system response to foreign materials. And while theories about silicone implants’ link to breast cancer have since been debunked, the damage to silicone’s reputation lives on.

It’s sad to say, but since the use of silicone in cookware is fairly new, there has not been much research into its safety for use with food. Back in 1979 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that silicon dioxides—the basic elements in silicone cookware—were generally recognized as safe to use even in food-grade contexts. But the first silicone cookware (silicone spatulas) didn’t start to show up on store shelves until a decade later, and the FDA hasn’t conducted any follow-up studies to determine whether silicone can leach out of cookware and potentially contaminate food. For its part, Canada’s health agency, Health Canada, maintains that food-grade silicone does not react with food or beverages or produce any hazardous fumes, and as such is safe to use up to recommended temperatures.

Consumer advocate Debra Lynn Dadd, who steers clear of Teflon due to health concerns, is bullish on silicone cookware after investigating potential toxicity. “I tried to find some information on the health effects of silicone rubber, but it was not listed in any of the toxic chemical databases I use,” she reports, adding that she also sampled material safety data on several silicone rubbers manufactured by Dow Corning (which makes some 700 variations). “All descriptions I read of silicone rubber describe it as chemically inert and stable, so it is unlikely to react with or leach into food, nor outgas vapors.” She adds that silicone “is not toxic to aquatic or soil organisms, it is not hazardous waste, and while it is not biodegradable, it can be recycled after a lifetime of use.”

So while most of us will probably not have a problem with silicone cookware, those with chemical sensitivities might want to stay away until more definitive research has been conducted. In the meantime, cast iron and anodized aluminum cookware remain top choices for those concerned about harmful elements leaching into their cooked foods.

CONTACTS: FDA, www.fda.gov; Health Canada, www.hc-sc.gc.ca; Debra Lynn Dadd, www.dld123.com; Dow Corning, www.dowcorning.com.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook.

Hybrid Cars

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Edit

EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Isn’t the interest in electric cars and plug-in hybrids going to spur increased reliance on coal as a power source? And is that really any better than gasoline/oil in terms of environmental impact? — Graham Rankin, via e-mail

It’s true that the advent of electric cars is not necessarily a boon for the environment if it means simply trading our reliance on one fossil fuel—oil, from which gasoline is distilled—for an even dirtier one: coal, which is burned to create electricity.

The mining of coal is an ugly and environmentally destructive process. And, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) burning the substance in power plants sends some 48 tons of mercury—a known neurotoxin—into Americans’ air and water every year (1999 figures, the latest year for which data are available). Furthermore, coal burning contributes some 40 percent of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) estimates that coal mining and burning cause a whopping $62 billion worth of environmental damage every year in the U.S. alone, not to mention its profound impact on our health.

Upwards of half of all the electricity in the U.S. is derived from coal, while the figure is estimated to be around 70 percent in China. As for Europe, the United Kingdom gets more than a third of its electricity from coal, while Italy plans to double its consumption of coal for electricity production within five years to account for some 33 percent of its own electricity needs. Several other countries in Europe, where green sentiment runs deep but economics still rule the roost, are also stockpiling coal and building more power plants to burn it in the face of an ever-increasing thirst for cheap and abundant electricity.

On top of this trend, dozens of electric and plug-in hybrid cars are in the works from the world’s carmakers. It stands to reason that, unless we start to source significant amounts of electricity from renewables (solar, wind, etc.), coal-fired plants will not only continue but may actually increase their discharges of mercury, carbon dioxide and other toxins due to greater numbers of electric cars on the road.

Some analysts expect that existing electricity capacity in the U.S. may be enough to power America’s electric cars in the near future, but don’t rule out the possibility of new coal plants (or new nuclear power plants) coming on line to fill the gap if we don’t make haste in developing alternate sources for generating electrical energy. And while proponents of energy efficiency believe we can go a long way by making our electric grids “smarter” through the use of monitoring technologies that can dole out power when it is most plentiful and cheap (usually the middle of the night), others doubt that existing capacity will be able to handle the load placed on even an intelligent “smart grid” distribution network.

Environmentalists—as well as many politicians and policymakers—maintain that the only viable, long-term solution is to spur on the development of renewable energy sources. Not long ago, the concept of an all-electric car charged up by solar power or some other form of clean renewable energy was nothing but a pipe dream. Today, though, such a scenario is within the realm of the possible, but only if everyone does their part to demand that our utilities bring more green power on line.

Rich McGervey, courtesy Flickr

CONTACTS: EPA/mercury emissions; www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/utility/hgwhitepaperfinal.pdf.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook.