January 1, 2020

2nd Hand Stores - My Favorite 2nd Hand Stores in Houston

The Google Map (Click on any of these in the sidebar to get full address)

Favorite 2nd Hand Stores in Houston

Screenshot of the map:

Moroccan - Zoa Moroccan Kitchen - Moroccan "Street" Food in Houston

"Street Food" is how the chef/owner describes the offerings at Zoa Moroccan Kitchen, just off of Washington Avenue. You see, when you're in Morocco, you'll see your regular sit down restaurants but you'll also have your quick pick up and go food stands for the working man's quick lunch. Had I just had my memories of Morocco from my time there in 1971, and my personal cooking from books by Paula Wolfert and Kitty Morse, I might have had different expectations, expecting a so-called haute cuisine that is the kind that shows up in fancy cookbooks, and not the everyday cuisine as it is made and sold in Morocco. Here are some photos from Morocco.

Don't laugh but, this may have been my favorite meal of the Morocco trip. Of course, being a food geek, I sampled everything everywhere. And I was able to taste, first hand, dishes that I had only made based on a cookbook recipe previously.

We were on our way south and decided to pick up food for a picnic. There was a guy on the second level of this restaurant with a big pile of meat and spices that he was running through a meat grinder. He would then shape softball sized meatballs and hurl them across the room to a guy on the outside manning the charcoal grills, who would catch them in a plastic bucket, form them for kebabs and grill them. It was amazing. The meatballs at Zoa are highly recommended and for me, they brought back that nice memory.

So what I am saying is that Zoa is awesome. It's based on the assembly line, build your own food bowl, model of Subway, the various pizza places like Mod Pizza or our local Lebanese restaurants such as Fadi's or Dimassi's.

You pass through a line, ordering either one of the already crafted bowl dishes, or, you make your own, choosing from couscous, white beans or other options for your base and then topping with your kefta meatballs, lamb, beef, shrimp...all spiced per classic Moroccan spicing, and then your toppings. For less than $10 not including tax. And the pastries are fantastic. Walnut date bars, coconut citrus cookies, baked pears in a puff pastry. I would come back just for dessert here.

I love this place and hope you will get to try it soon. I recommend choosing either couscous or white beans for your base.

Wrap & Roll - Fusion Asian Food in Pearland

Wrap & Roll

(Way outside the loop lol)

A few months back I chanced upon a place in Pearland that I've come to fall in love with. Big portions. Fair prices. And something I hadn’t seen elsewhere. A spreggroll. A combination cha gio and spring roll. This is the Symphony Box. $15 with tax and tip. Check out the menu below.

Market - Azteca Market at I-10 and Wayside

The Azteca Market. 

A smaller version of the Airline market currently under reconstruction. I got a bunch of beets, 2 big onions, 2 garlic, 2 big cucumbers for only $10. The format is the same as Airline in that you have multiple vendors of fresh produce, a couple of places that sell dry goods, toys, piñatas, and some eateries. And there is currently plenty of parking which makes this an ideal shopping option going east on I-10.

Kinokuniya Japanese Bookstore

The coolest bookstore in Houston. Full of great Japanese items you can't find elsewhere: notebooks and paper goods, Japanese toys, and extensive coobook section. One of my favorite places to just hang out in Houston. And while you're out there, you can pop into the beautiful Katy H-Mart Food Court for some excellent fried dumplings at Chef Han. Or, enjoy one of the other food court venues for lunch. Pictures follow:

Chef Han in the H-Mart Food Court (Katy Location):

Weight Loss and Diet - Keeping the Pounds Off

As many of you know, I had some medical issues in 2016 that resulted in a significant weight loss. After fighting my weight gain for decades, I lost 45 pounds. In so doing I learned some interesting things about weight loss, using my own body as a guinea pig. I have concluded that, in addition to the benefits of exercise and body building, it really is about "calories in, calories out". If you consume less calories than you can burn, you are going to be able to maintain or reduce your weight. Goal: 2,250 calories per day.

To that end, I wanted to find a low calorie breakfast substitute / meal replacement that would work for me. I wanted to find something with about 300 calories that would keep me going until lunchtime.

Now, my absolute favorite meal replacement is the MET Rx Extreme Chocolate Shake. It is thick and very much like a chocolate shake. A terrific product, and one that I have been using it as a breakfast drink for many years. And when I get a craving for a cookie, cake, or chocolate at night, I will sip one of these. I recommend it (best pricing is on Amazon).

But the mad scientist in me wanted badly to create his own protein shake. And so, I set about to build one from ingredients, focused on a 40 gram protein formula. Doing the research of the various protein powders (whey, casein, plant protein) I determined that the price per serving of 40 g is all over the place, depending upon which brand you choose. Marketing. Thus, my gut feeling is, just go with what is most economical for a 40 g per serving product (may be one scoop, may be two). For example, you will see in the above photo that I found a brand in close-out for half price ($35).  Organic Greens can be found at Walmart. The Optifiber comes from Costco. The guar gum ( a superior thickener to xanthan gum which I had been using) is from Bob's Red Mill and I found it in closeout at H-E-B. Be sure to pick up some Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa to make the drink a little more palatable.

The formula (using the scoops provided where applicable):
2 scoops Optifiber
1 or 2 scoops of chocolate flavor protein powder (to build an equivalent of 35-40 grams of protein) your choice of brands
1 tbs Special Dark cocoa powder
1/2 tsp guar gum
1 scoop Organic Greens chocolate flavor
20 ounces of ice cold water, or add some ice cubes

All ingredients in a blender, blended until nice and thick. Note: add more guar gum if the thickness is not to your liking.

Here follows the TM/DR ("too much information, didn't read")  portion of this riff:

I was able to use myself as a guinea pig last year when I was on a feeding tube for several months. The liquid nutrient/meal replacement solution that I poured through the tube three times a day was crap. It was whey for protein, canola oil for fat, and high fructose corn syrup for carbohydrates. It was tailored to a daily caloric intake of 2,250 calories. And I did just fine on it. I had lifted weights prior to treatment to bulk up as much as possible, knowing that there would come a time when I couldn't swallow and that all food would taste bad. The rule of thumb is that when you drop your body weight by 10%, it's time to go to a feed tube. So, the first thing that my body turned to for energy were my muscles. As they started to disappear, my body started pulling from my fat storages and weight loss occurred because, at 2,250 calories, I was burning more in a day than the meal replacements were delivering. And the light bulb went off that, at the chemical/molecular level in the stomach and digestive system, the body really doesn't care if you are ingesting canola oil and whey protein, or paté and burgers. So once I had this baseline where I knew that I could sustain myself with "crap", it was just one step forward to realizing that if I maintained a nominal calorie intake, eating in moderation, that I would continue to keep the weight off. In the best of all worlds, that calorie intake should come from, say, a quality protein , some starch such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and pretty much all the vegetable on could tolerate.

Coffee - Navajo Coffee - A Thickened Coffee Experiment

My buddy, Paul Galvani, sent me a video link on YouTube for "Navajo Coffee".

Navajo Coffee Video - Screenshots Follow Below

Navajo history: when they were moved away from their traditional homelands to reservations by the U.S. government and given rations by the government ( The Long Walk - 1800's). Wheat flour played an important part in their diet. Flour was rationed. Coffee was rationed. The Navajo people were dependent upon the US government for certain dry goods.

In order to stretch the coffee ration, they roasted flour and added it to the coffee beverage, thickening it in the process. Browned flour added to coffee. Now, if you toast flour too much, it loses its thickening ability and just becomes a flavor component (re: Cajun gumbo for example...as it gets darker and darker during the roux phase, the thickening ability diminishes). The science behind this is how heat affects the ability of the two proteins, gliaden and glutenein to form gluten. The videos that I have viewed indicate a light browning of the flour in order to preserve some of its thickening qualities.

So, I followed the instructions in the video that Paul sent me and made Navajo coffee. 

Thickened beverages. In Mexico, nixtamalized corn ground fine or as masa harina is added to beverages to thicken them (champurrado and atole, for example). And then there are the thickened hot chocolates in Spain and Portugal.

It wasn't totally unpleasant. It needed sugar. I would never waste artisanal coffee on Navajo style coffee. But a better quality grocery store coffee such as Community Coffee would be fine to use. 

But it was interesting to try something new.

Would I make it again? Probably not. But I'm glad that I got to test it out today.

More information? Here is the original recipe video by Sierra Johnson.

Sierra Johnson Video

Ethnic Markets and Grocery Stores - Houston

Ethnic Markets Tour – Houston
A Self Guided Tour of the Interesting Markets in Houston
Created by Jay Francis  (contact me at houstonfoodexplorer@yahoo.com for any assistance or information on my home town, Houston)

1.     Canino’s Market and El Bolillo Bakery – Airline Location
2.     Dairymaids Cheeses – Airline Location
3.     Dulces Mexicanas – Airline Location
4.     Flores Spices – Airline Location
5.     Asia Market Thai and Lao Grocers – Cavalcade Location
6.     Penzey’s Spices – 19th Street Location
7.     Nundini’s Italian – Shepherd Location
8.     Fiesta Grocery Store – Wayside Location
9.     Phoenicia – Downtown Location
10.  Spec’s Liquors – Smith Street Location
11.  British Market – Rice Village Location
12.  Gusto Gourmet – Venezuelan – S. Shepherd Location
13.  Russian General Store – Hillcroft Location
14.  Belden’s Grocery – Braeswood Location in Meyerland/Bellaire
15.  Golden Grain – Russian – Birdwood Road Location
16.  Droubi’s – Hillcroft Location
17.  Maru Ethiopian Grocery Store – Bissonet Location
18.  Golden Grain – Russian – Birdwood Location
19.  Caribbean Cuisine – Jamaican patties and some Caribbean products
20.  Istanbul Market (Now Closed)
21.  Savoy Food Market – Wilcrest Location
22.  Acacia Food Mart – Turkish – Wilcrest Location
23.  Subhlaxmi Indo-Pak Grocers – Hillcroft at 59
24.  Chandrika Masala – Hillcroft at 59
25.  Super Vanak – Iranian - Hillcroft Location
26.  Patel Brothers – Hillcroft Location
27.  Parivar – Harwin Location
28.  Paayal for Indian stainless steel cookware – Savoy off of Harwin
29.  Viet Hoa – Beechnut Location
30.  Sun’s Club – Beechnut Location
31.  Acacia – Turkish – Wilcrest Location
32.  Jusgo Grocers – Bellaire Blvd. Location
33.  H-Mart – Bellaire Blvd. Location
34.  Ten Ren Tea Shop – Bellaire Location
35.  San San Tofu – Bellaire Location
36.  Hong Kong City Mall – Bellaire Blvd. Location
37.  Pita Plus – Eastern European Market – Westheimer Location
38.  Phoenicia – Westheimer Location
39.  Nippon Daido – Japanese – Westheimer Location
40.  Polonia – Blalock Location
41.  H-Mart – Blalock Location
42.  Ranch 99 – Blalock Location
43.  Fiesta Grocery Store – Wirt Road Location

Airline Drive Flea Market Complex
Guild Shop – Dunlavy Location
Path of Tea – West Alabama Location
Kuhl-Linscomb – West Alabama Location
Eastside Farmer’s Market – Saturday Morning – Richmond Avenue Location
That Indo-Pak International Grocery on Highway 6
Mi Tienda – Highway 59 Location and Spencer Highway – Pasadena Location
D&Q – Belgian Beers
Central Market – Westheimer Location
Gusto Gourmet – Venezuelan Market

African Grocery Stores and Markets (Not Visited)
Wazobia Market
Trinity African Food Store
G&J African Market
Kings and Queens African Store
African Grocers

Hebert’s (Two Locations – Dairy Ashford and Richmond)
Burt’s Meat Market – Lyons Avenue

Vom Fass – Rice Village
Savory Spices – Rice Village

Flores Spices – Airline Location

Grocery Stores - The Coolest Grocery Stores in Houston

I'll be the first to admit that this list is not exhaustive. 


Here are some of the places that I love to go to for shopping and just all around walking around. 

All are amazing. I especially love the Turkish grocery, Acacia and the Indian grocery, Subralaxhmi Grocers. 

For everything Mexican, I go to one of the new El Rancho Markets (they're all over town) or to the Mi Tienda (H.E.B.) or to Airline Drive to the places around Canino's Market including Granel Spice Market and El Bolillo Bakery.

And, don't forget the food sections at the most excellent Spec's downtown on Smith Street.

Mexican Sweets
 British Foods and Knick-Knacks
 West Indies
 Chinese / Vietnamese