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Food for Thought

Second that emotion: How Little Debbie Nutty Bars and the patio at Canopy trigger memories that last

News_NEW HEAD SHOT_Marene Gustin
News_Little Debbie Nutty Bars
Something about summer makes me reach for a Little Debbie Nutty Bar
News_Canopy_patio
I tried to figure out what the emotional connection was to Canopy’s new patio. Photo by Everett Taasevigen
News_Summer Drinks_Canopy_Orangeade
Oh, my, all the drinks are refreshing. Photo by Marcy de Luna

I’m an emotional eater. There, I said it.

No, not in that sense. I mean that food brings out emotions in me.

Case in point: Regular readers know I’m not a sweet person. Don’t buy ‘em, don’t eat ‘em, don’t even put sugar in my iced tea. Yet, just the other day I was at a grocery store and picked up a box of Little Debbie Nutty Bars.

You know what I’m talking about, those packaged, processed chocolate covered peanut butter wafers promoted by that cute little red headed tyke Debbie. Yes, I actually bought them and I ate one. And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. That is until I drove by a neighborhood church the other day and noticed, once again, the VBS sign out front that I’d seen for the past week.

Apparently my subconscious brain had seen the sign and recalled that summer in Arkansas when Grandma Sutton enrolled my sister and me in Vacation Bible School and sent us off to color Bible story coloring books and sing Kumbaya with Little Debbie snack cakes packed in brown paper bags. If I recollect correctly, the Baptist church supplied the sugary Kool-Aid. (Insert your own Jim Jones cult reference here.)

OK. So with that little food impulse purchase mystery solved, I tried to figure out what the emotional connection was to Canopy’s new patio.

In the effort at full disclosure, I must say I do have an emotional connection to Canopy because of the video wall’s current exhibit of Harwood Taylor’s Fido Journalism, a photographic display of dog parks. Yes, that adorable little Chihuahua puppy is my own Fernando. But I don’t dine inside to stare at his photo; I head out to the patio.

Chef/owner Claire Smith has created the most charming little outdoor Museum District spot for sipping, noshing and people watching. The 800-square-foot patio now has its own white washed canopy with lazy ceiling fans turning overhead, making it cool even on hot summer days. Well, maybe not the 100-degree days, but most days anyway. And there are potted herb gardens adding to the ambience. All in all it makes you feel like sipping a mint julep and gently fanning yourself with the menu while declaring how dahrlin’ your companion’s dress is.

Or something like that. Seriously, I’ve racked my memory and can’t recall why I feel so at home here. Canopy’s patio doesn’t remind me of any place I’ve been, not in this life anyway. Maybe it was that little café we lunched at before seeing the premiere of Gone With the Wind when I was a Southern belle in the '30s. But wait, I digress.

Anyway, if you visit Canopy, do dine on the new patio. Forego the afore mentioned mint julep and try the new Texas Devil cocktail. Made with silver tequila, crème de cassis, lime juice, ginger beer and just a hint of gin. Oh, my, it is refreshing.

Then you’ll want to nibble on the ciabatta bruschetta — master baker Chad Fry is famous for his artisanal breads and pastries — with roasted garlic white bean puree, sundried tomato pesto, feta cheese and arugula. But don’t eat too much. If it’s Thursday you might want to go with the popular coq au vin, but you should also try some of the new dishes chef du cuisine Liz Brooks, a little dynamo in the kitchen, has created. Like the red snapper beignets, which are simply divine. As are the duck confit enchiladas with mole and Monterrey jack cheese. I do love me some mole and it pairs great with the strong taste of the duck.

Brooks also has created a buckwheat noodle dish for vegans laced with baby bok choy, mushrooms, snow peas, red peppers, carrots and a kick-it-up spicy Thai red curry sauce.

Really, there’s so much to choose from on the menu here that it’s hard to decide what to eat, making multiple visits a must. Smith and her kitchen team have created a wonderful menu of American classics and fusion foods relying on a supply of local produce including fresh greens, Gulf Coast seafood, St. Arnold’s beer and Houston Dairymaids’ cheeses.

Oh, and if you do have a sweet tooth, I recommend the little lemon meringue pies topped with a mixed fresh berry compote. Not too sweet, but just a touch of Southern comfort.

And if you wanna stop by my place afterwards, there’s an almost full box of Little Debbie’s in the fridge. I’m over my VBS emotional eating binge.

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