There’s really nothing quite like a trip out of town to make you appreciate the things you’ve got back at home. This was perhaps no truer than my trip to Houston two weeks ago. I traveled to hot and humid Houston for work, and have been singing the praises of the Monterey Peninsula ever since my plane touched back down here in California. After spending a week in 90+ degree weather, boiling in high humidity, I was never so happy to see the fog!
But Houston had its moments—namely, a trip to Beaver’s Ice House for good old-fashioned barbeque. Now I’m not generally a fan of barbeque. All that meat—and specifically all those different combinations of beef—is a bit of a turnoff for me. But a dear friend of mine insisted if I ate at one place in all of Texas, it should be Beaver’s. So I took a leap of faith and went balls out—literally, as we’ll see—with the eclectic southern fare at Beaver’s. Maybe my week in the heat and humidity wore down my inhibitions or maybe my internal compass recognized my presence in the South and raised my tolerance for barbeque accordingly, but Beaver’s was actually—gasp—quite good.
A group of us went our last night in Houston and had a veritable feast of fried food at Beaver’s. We started with a number of appetizers, including queso fundido, mac and cheese, fried pickles, fried green tomatoes and fried beaver balls. (See, I told you we were going balls out!) The mac and cheese is apparently a signature item at Beaver’s. I liked the corkscrew pasta, but honestly, the cheese sauce was a little bland. Sure, it was rich and creamy, but it just didn’t have much oomph to it. I guess I’m spoiled with fancy mac and cheeses back here at home with truffle oil, bacon and other gourmet ingredients, so my palate is numb to the classic mac and cheese now.
But forget the mac and cheese—you’re probably still wondering “what the hell are beaver balls?!?!” Well, the beaver balls aren’t quite what you think. Don’t let their name fool you—no beavers were harmed while making beaver balls. Instead, it’s just a clever name given to a Southern staple: boudin balls. I’d never had blood sausage in ball form, but figured when in Rome . . . These fried balls of meat were a little dry, but they were actually pretty tasty.
For the main course, I ordered a Po’ Boy. I know, I know—I ate a sandwich for dinner?!?! Shame! Shame! Shame! Yes, you just felt hell freezing over and yes, those are pigs flying in the air—I ate a sandwich for dinner. What is this world coming to? Again, I figured why not throw all caution to the wind, so yes, I ordered a sandwich for dinner. I mean I’d apparently already survived The Rapture a couple days earlier, what was the worst that could happen? (And Beaver’s apparently is well known for their Po’ Boy sandwich, with fried fish (amberjack, tonight) and Gulf shrimp.) The sandwich was pretty good—nice fresh fish, juicy shrimp and delicious fried onion pieces. And let’s not forget the accompanying potato chips—those were mighty tasty too!
As stuffed as I was from nibbling on appetizers and downing a Po’ Boy, I couldn’t pass up desserts—especially considering my friend vowed to disown me if I didn’t order the dessert beaver balls. We ordered three desserts for the table—the beaver balls (of course), a strawberry rhubarb crumble and a cornbread tres leches cake. The crumble was pretty good, but not really much different than any other strawberry rhubarb pie/tart/galette/crumble. The tres leches cake was a little weird—it had an interesting mix of savory spices, which paired nicely with the accompanying spiced pears, but it was a little dry.
But again, you’re probably most interested in the beaver balls. This time, the sweet, dessert beaver balls were basically brownie balls . . . stuffed with peanut butter . . . and deep-fried. Oh yes. You read that right—brownies stuffed with peanut butter and deep-fried! A recipe for a heart attack, no doubt, but quite delicious. In fact, I’m shocked I haven’t encountered such an epic dessert sooner! Yes, I could easily have gone through an order of these all on my own—and then promptly checked into the hospital for an angioplasty. The brownies were so moist, with rich peanut butter inside and a crispy breading outside. Yum-o!
Looking back on it, Houston was an experience. I’m certainly glad to be home, where the weather’s cooler and the food is decidedly less fried. But I do kind of miss those sweet beaver balls.