Guilty pleasures

Tookie's Bean Burger

Tookie’s bean burger

For the last four days I’ve been enjoying some downtime in Houston while I recover from putting in two solid weeks of 12-hour workdays. I’m afraid all of my family in Texas consider me something of a snob, since whenever I’m there I fuss about not having access to my usual hippie grocery co-op or a large selection of highball and old-fashioned glasses in the cabinet. Still, I have to admit that Houston has its own charms—especially now that it’s February, and I don’t have to deal with the swampy, 100-plus-degree weather of summer.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the guilty pleasures I’ve been enjoying for the last four days.

1. Football … on a 60-inch TV no less

Superbowl on the big screen TV

I grew up watching football, but I haven’t been able to follow it properly for years since we don’t own a TV. So I was more than a little excited when I discovered that I would be at my parents’ house, which is equipped with a spanking-new 60-inch high-definition TV, for the Superbowl. Of course I made cocktails for everyone who gathered at the house for the game.

2. A yard full of fresh mint … and beautiful peaches in the freezer.

Mint in the back yard

I can’t grow mint to save my life. Everyone says it grows like a weed, but I have managed to kill it in pretty much every way possible. But at my parents’ house, the yard  is always overgrown with the mint and basil, no matter the season. Add in the beautiful peaches my mom froze last summer, and I had the makings for one of my favorite cocktails, the Kentucky Colonel, which was a huge hit at the Superbowl party. More on this drink later, when peaches return to the farmer’s market in San Francisco.

Kentucky Colonel ingredients

3. Tookie’s!

I grew up going to the roadhouse Tookie’s for hamburgers, onion rings, and old-fashioned cherry Cokes. Though it closed a handful of years ago, burger aficionados—and especially my mom—were thrilled when it reopened recently

Eating lunch there made me happy that I had been subsisting on veggies dipped in homemade hummus and bowls of steel-cut oatmeal for the previous few days, because there was no way I was going to pass up  ordering my favorite burger from my teenage days, the Squealer. Putting your average bacon burger to shame, the Squealer is made from beef and bacon ground together into a decadently awesome patty.

Tookie's Squealer

My mom’s choice is always the Bean Burger (shown at the top of this post), a hefty beef burger stuffed with refried beans, salsa, cheese, and Fritos. It’s totally too much, and yet somehow just right.

4. Shooting heavy artillery at the gun range.

Mom with a Glock at the gun range

Until this week, I had shot a gun exactly  once, a relatively small .22. My parents, however, being proper Texans, have a concealed handgun license, and own a Glock 17. Being your usual San Francisco liberal, I have complicated feelings about my parents’ owning a gun, but when they suggested we go to the gun range, they didn’t have to ask twice.

The CocktailHostess at the gun range

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Bargain-basement margs

My love of fine cocktails is well documented in this blog. I adore cocktails made with fine cognac infused with fresh cherries …

Fresh cherries and cognac

Any cocktail made by Scott Beattie, like this beautifully garnished mai tai.

Mai tai at Spoonbar

Often I’m lucky enough to enjoy a glass of some truly world-class wine, like this oustanding 30-year-old Chateau Climens Sauternes, which I drank a week ago after Thanksgiving dinner.

Chateau Climens Sauternes

But this week I’m in Houston, and they do things a little differently here.

$1.25 margaritas at Don Pico's

Yep, you read that correctly: $1.25 for a margarita. Add 75 cents for “flavor.” I don’t even want to know. I was informed by my dinner companions tonight, who apparently visit this place weekly, that until a few weeks ago the drinks were only $1.00.

Were they great drinks? No, of course not. Can I make a better drink without breaking a sweat? I like to think so.

But did I drink three of them?

Why yes. Yes I did.