Quantcast
Photo courtesy of the Butcher's Ball

Something between Cinderella and Sweeney Todd, the Fifth Annual Butcher's Ball is a must-attend weekend for meat lovers concerned with ethics and sustainability. This collaborative festival is a blow-out event featuring 50 Texas culinary talents, but despite the big names in cooking, this one is centered around farmers and ranchers no longer behind the scenes.

This will be a drive for Austinites, as the weekend takes place at Rockin’ Star Ranch in Brenham, about an hour and 45 minutes directly east of the Capital City. It’s a compromise with Houstonians, who also have to drive about an hour and 15, and who make up the majority of the lineup. Visitors from either city can enjoy a road trip out to the country venue, or relax on a $50 round-trip bus, including drinks and snacks. Eat your heart out, Greyhound.

The event kicks off on Saturday, November 12, with a hayride, a farm-to-table dinner prepared by a dozen chefs, and music by unbounded pedal steel player Will Van Horn and the metal-bluegrass Fiddle Witch. The opening bites and following five courses are prepared by pairs of Texas chefs:

  • “Fireside bites” and bread: Ara Malekian of Harlem Road Texas BBQ and Sasha Grumman of Sasha’s Focaccia
  • First course: Alex Au-Yeung of Phat Eatery and Kevin Bryant of Roma
  • Second course: Cullen Holle of Country Sunshine and PJ Edwards of Meadow
  • Third course: Jane Wild and Sarah Heard of Foreign & Domestic
  • Fourth course: Dylan McShan of Easy Wind Catering and Tony Luhrman of El Topo
  • Fifth course: Karla Espinosa of Mad and Alyssa Dole of LuLoo’s Day and Night

Sarah Heard is the only Austin chef on the Saturday lineup, while Dylan McShan travels the farthest, from Marfa. Half of the Saturday chefs are from Houston, and most of the others are from surrounding cities:

The ball itself, on Sunday, is the main event. Most of Saturday's featured chefs are competing for the "Golden Cleaver," alongside 14 other Texas chefs. Jo Chan of Chan Hospitality is visiting from Austin, along with Jack Matusek of Raw Republic Meats. The “best bite” will be determined by guest voting. There will also be non-competitive programming, like live fire cooking, butchery demonstrations, and panel discussions about sustainable sourcing.

Throughout the weekend, the ingredients are the star of the show. They’re all coming from local Texas makers, such as Marfa Meats (as famous as most ranchers get), Good Thyme Farm (just north of Austin), Whitehurst Farm (local to Brenham), and more.

All proceeds from the weekend will go to Urban Harvest to support its farmers market program, which allows more than 100 local vendors to sell in Houston year-round on Saturdays. The market has lasted 18 years so far, and grown from just 7 vendors, now sourcing goods from a maximum of 180 miles away.

There are several options to buy tickets to Butcher’s Ball Weekend events, including just the ball ($175), just the dinner ($200), and a package of both ($350). There is also a kid's cooking class on Sunday for guests 6 to 17. All tickets are available on Eventbrite.

Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Houston steps to top of list of U.S. cities with lowest carbon footprints

By the Footprint

People looking to travel to a sustainable city probably don’t have Texas spots at the top of their lists. Images of oil, cars, and blasting air conditioners spring up. The Texas power grid, no one need remind us, is barely hanging on.

But Texas blew other states away for lowest carbon footprint per capita, landing Houston at the top of the list compiled by travel blog Park Sleep Fly. Austin followed (No. 3), then San Antonio (No. 4) and Dallas (No. 9). Only Florida appeared twice in the top 10, and none matched Texas with four cities.

Among the 50 most visited in the U.S., those with the lowest carbon footprint are:

1. Houston
2. Los Angeles
3. Austin
4. San Antonio
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Salt Lake City
7. Phoenix
8. Miami
9. Dallas
10. Portland, Oregon

Houston is not exactly a green place, with less-than-ideal utilization of public transportation. It and Dallas tied for third place among least sustainable cities in the same report.

“Public transit isn’t the most popular mode of transportation in Houston, but it does exist,” an online publication called TripSavvy drably admits. The city takes credit for employing “nearly one third” of the nation’s oil and gas extraction workers.

On the renewable side, however, Houston claims more than 100 solar energy companies, and at least half of its corporate research and development centers pursue “energy technology and innovation.” And its huge population spreads the load, leaving only 14.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per resident — the same as Los Angeles. Big cities seem to have an advantage in this rating system.

Austin is just behind Houston at 15 metric tons per capita, neck-and-neck with San Antonio at 15.2. These two cities have smaller populations to distribute their total footprint, but are generally seen as eco-friendly. Austin got a big head start in 1991 with the introduction of the Austin Energy Green Building program — the first of its kind in the whole country — which created an evaluation system for individual building sustainability that’s still in use. Dallas' carbon footprint is the largest of the Texas cities in the ranking, at 16.5 metric tons per capita.

As such a multifaceted issue (especially tied up in economic concerns), sustainability is hard to pin down from city to city. The multiplicity of this list is yet another indicator that Texas as a whole is a much more nuanced place than many people think.

Sean Pavone Getty Images

Houston steps to top of list of U.S. cities with lowest carbon footprints

By the Footprint

People looking to travel to a sustainable city probably don’t have Texas spots at the top of their lists. Images of oil, cars, and blasting air conditioners spring up. The Texas power grid, no one need remind us, is barely hanging on.

But Texas blew other states away for lowest carbon footprint per capita, landing Houston at the top of the list compiled by travel blog Park Sleep Fly. Austin followed (No. 3), then San Antonio (No. 4) and Dallas (No. 9). Only Florida appeared twice in the top 10, and none matched Texas with four cities.

Among the 50 most visited in the U.S., those with the lowest carbon footprint are:

1. Houston
2. Los Angeles
3. Austin
4. San Antonio
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Salt Lake City
7. Phoenix
8. Miami
9. Dallas
10. Portland, Oregon

Houston is not exactly a green place, with less-than-ideal utilization of public transportation. It and Dallas tied for third place among least sustainable cities in the same report.

“Public transit isn’t the most popular mode of transportation in Houston, but it does exist,” an online publication called TripSavvy drably admits. The city takes credit for employing “nearly one third” of the nation’s oil and gas extraction workers.

On the renewable side, however, Houston claims more than 100 solar energy companies, and at least half of its corporate research and development centers pursue “energy technology and innovation.” And its huge population spreads the load, leaving only 14.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per resident — the same as Los Angeles. Big cities seem to have an advantage in this rating system.

Austin is just behind Houston at 15 metric tons per capita, neck-and-neck with San Antonio at 15.2. These two cities have smaller populations to distribute their total footprint, but are generally seen as eco-friendly. Austin got a big head start in 1991 with the introduction of the Austin Energy Green Building program — the first of its kind in the whole country — which created an evaluation system for individual building sustainability that’s still in use. Dallas' carbon footprint is the largest of the Texas cities in the ranking, at 16.5 metric tons per capita.

As such a multifaceted issue (especially tied up in economic concerns), sustainability is hard to pin down from city to city. The multiplicity of this list is yet another indicator that Texas as a whole is a much more nuanced place than many people think.

Photo courtesy of CDC

Houston crawls to surprising spot in ranking of buggiest U.S. cities

huh?

There’s some buzz going around Texas: Houston may not be the buggiest city.

Thumbtack, a home management app that connects owners with service providers, took note of its bug-related service requests, and ranked Austin the fourth buggiest city in the United States, followed by Houston at No. 5. In what may shock anyone who has actually visited both cities, Dallas topped Houston and made the No. 1 slot.

A quick note about methodology: While many in tropical Houston may (rightfully) feel that Bayou City should own this top spot, Dallas and Austin may be more bugged by insects than buggy overall. This data came entirely from consumers on Thumbtack, requesting “pest control, pest inspection, bed bug extermination, and outdoor pesticide application.” Those numbers were adjusted for population and ranked across an unspecified number of states.

Perhaps, Dallas and Austin have fewer bugs than Houston, and just want to get rid of them more.

Thumbtack calculated a national average of $50-200 per household on extermination services, but before spending that, residents can consider cheap, nontoxic solutions like diatomaceous earth (fossilized plankton) and neem oil. Be gentle on spiders and pollinators — which includes lots of flying insects that aren’t bees — and don’t panic when the heat sends a few more buggies into your air-conditioned home.

“Keep bugs out all summer by turning on a dehumidifier, eliminating standing water in your yard and garden and by keeping screenless windows shut,” said Thumbtack home expert David Steckel in a press release. Bug control doesn’t always mean waging war, either. “Hiring a bug control professional can help identify areas for improvement and provide you with regular maintenance to avoid problems down the line.”

The Top 10 Buggiest Cities in the U.S., according to Thumbtack, are:

1. Dallas
2. Atlanta
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Austin
5. Houston
6. Miami-Fort Lauderdale
7. West Palm Beach, Florida
8. Baltimore
9. Orlando, Florida
10. Tampa, Florida

Texas towns are slightly outnumbered by those in Florida on the list, yet Texas still fell far below Florida on a CNBC list of best places to live, where the Lone Star State ranked second-to-last.

wallpapers.com

ERCOT requests Texans conserve power to avoid rolling blackouts

the heat is on

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is asking Texas residents to conserve power in order to avert rolling blackouts.

According to a release, no outages are currently anticipated, but as extreme hot weather continues driving record power demand across Texas, the power grid operator is issuing a Conservation Appeal for Wednesday, July 13 between 2-8 pm, requesting that residents and businesses voluntarily conserve electricity during this time.

Conservation is a reliability tool ERCOT has deployed more than four dozen times since 2008 to successfully manage grid operations. This notification is issued when projected reserves may fall below 2300 MW for 30 minutes or more.

On July 11, ERCOT asked residents and businesses to cut back on energy use between 2-8 pm, when record temperatures were expected.

The dire situation is the result of two factors happening at the same time:

  • a record heat wave with high demand
  • wind power is generating less energy than usual

ERCOT is suggesting that we turn up our thermostat a degree or two, and postpone running major appliances or pool pumps.

A spokesperson said we are not yet in an emergency situation, but they're asking for voluntary energy reduction where possible.

"If rotating outages became necessary, ERCOT would direct transmission and distribution companies to shed load/reduce demand in their areas/regions," the spokesperson said. "Each area has an amount they would need to reduce demand by. It is up to them to manage the rotating outage if it were to occur. At this time, we do not anticipate this happening."

Photo by Getty Images

Houston rolls out a surprising ranking on list of bike-friendly cities in the U.S.

how we roll

Houston is a bona-fide car town, but how does it rank for biking? A new survey on bikeability gives Houston a fairly decent — and somewhat surprising — ranking for that cycling life. In a list of the top 50 cities in the U.S., Houston ranks No. 29 and boasts a bikeability score of 49.

Drilling down, that means the Bayou City has 0.3 percent of workers who commute by bicycle, a little below the average city's 0.5 percent, with 0.4 bike shops per 100,000 people and 0.3 percent bike trails per 100,000 people.

In a little good local news, the pivotal M-K-T Bridge has reopened, as CultureMap reported, meaning an open path for thousands of bikers each day. And the city has a new bike festival to celebrate all things two wheels.

The study was released by Clever, a real estate data company, and analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information, Walk Score, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Vision Zero Network, Google Trends, and Yelp.

Elsewhere in Texas
Austin made a good showing, riding in at No. 16, with a bikeability score of 54. It has 0.7 percent of workers who commute by bicycle, easily exceeding the average city's 0.5 percent, with a respectable 1.1 bike shops per 100,000 people and 1.4 percent bike trails per 100,000 people.

San Antonio was No. 30 on the list with a bikeability score of 45. It has 0.2 percent of workers who commute by bicycle compared to the average city's 0.5 percent, with 0.7 bike shops per 100,000 people and 0.8 percent bike trails per 100,000 people.

Dallas, however, scored No. 50, making it the least bike-friendly city in the U.S. Dallas' bikeability score was 49 out of a possible 100. Dallas has 80 percent fewer bike commuters than the average city, and only 0.1 percent of Dallas workers commute by bicycle compared to the average city's 0.5 percent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the West is best when it comes to bike-friendly cities — one-third of the 15 most bike-friendly cities on the list are on the West Coast. California is the best state for bicyclists, with 27 percent of the top 15 cities located in The Golden State.

Portland, Oregon is the No. 1 most bike-friendly city, despite its reputation for rain, with a bikeability score of 83 out of 100. It has the most bicycle shops per capita (3.5 per 100,000 residents) of any city on the list.

Additionally, workers in Portland are four times more likely to commute via bicycle than workers in the average city: 2 percent of workers in Portland commute to work by bicycle, compared to 0.5 percent in the average metro studied.

The top 10:

  1. Portland
  2. San Francisco
  3. San Jose
  4. Minneapolis
  5. Sacramento
  6. Denver
  7. Washington DC
  8. Boston
  9. Salt Lake City
  10. Seattle

New York just almost made the top 10, coming in at No. 11.

Cities that rank highly not only have bicycle resources such as bike share stations and bike rental shops, they also promote transit safety: Nearly every city in the top 15 has made a city-wide commitment to bicycle safety and transit safety in general.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that cities across the U.S. saw a surge in cycling traffic after the pandemic began, prompting a bicycle shortage, as many Americans found cycling to be a reprieve from at-home isolation or a socially distant solution to their commutes.

Cycling is seen as a good way to get a low-impact workout while also reducing your transportation costs, and the 15 most bike-friendly cities have also fostered interest in cycling and bike-related activities.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

New legislation would let Texas say no to puppy mill sales statewide

no more mills?

A Texas legislator has introduced a bill to help animals: On December 2, Representative Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) filed HB 870, which would help put an end to puppy mill practices by requiring that pet stores can sell only healthy animals from shelters or rescues.

Pet stores across Texas would no longer be allowed to sell puppies or kittens from unscrupulous, out-of-state puppy mills, protecting pets and consumers -- similar to laws that have already been enacted in a number of cities across Texas.

Patterson previously filed a similar bill, HB 1818, in 2021. And as he notes in a statement, the law would affect only one major retailer: Petland.

"Out-of-state puppy mills store puppies in poor conditions, take them away from their moms too soon, and truck them hundreds or thousands of miles across the country to be sold in retail pet stores,” Patterson says. “There’s a reason why only one of the top 25 retailers still sells dogs from these conditions. I’m proud to once again file HB 870 to provide the necessary restrictions to protect pets and their owners."

If passed, HB 870 would not preempt local ordinances. Instead, the law brings consistency across Texas’ largest counties – those with a population of 200,000 or more – primarily suburban and urban areas.

In 2022, Dallas, Houston, and New Braunfels all passed ordinances like HB 870, demonstrating the need and support for a statewide law, says Stacy Sutton Kerby, Director of Government Relations at Texas Humane Legislation Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for animals and has been involved in prior efforts.

“While 14 cities across Texas have passed retail pet store ordinances, millions of Texans are still vulnerable to the deceptive business practices used to sell puppies sourced from inhumane puppy mills. All Texans deserve to be protected from buying sick, defective puppies,” she says.

During the 87th legislative session in 2021, HB 1818 received huge bipartisan support but couldn’t get past the finish line before the session ended.

“There is widespread support and momentum for this policy," Kerby says. “We are excited to work with Representative Patterson again on this issue. His early filing of the bill shows his dedication to halting the puppy mill pipeline into Texas and alleviating the burden on shelters of having an overwhelming number of healthy, adoptable pets in need of loving homes."

Canada's favorite coffee and doughnut shop opens second Houston location

More Tims for H-town

Canada’s favorite coffee and doughnut shop will expand its Houston presence next week. The city’s second Tim Hortons will open December 16 in northwest Houston at 5312 W Richey Rd.

Founded in 1964 by NHL legend Tim Horton, the coffee shop is well known for its freshly brewed coffee and other beverages such as lattes, juices, and teas. Customers can pair their drinks with a range of sweet and savory bites such as breakfast sandwiches and muffins. Doughnuts come in a variety of flavors, including the signature Timbits doughnut holes.

The appealing menu and friendly service have allowed it to grow to 5,000 locations worldwide, with over 600 in the U.S. Tim Hortons made its Houston debut in late August with a location in Katy.

A grand opening celebration begins at 5 am on December 16. The first 50 customers will receive free coffee for a year. Expect prizes, food samples, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Once open, the store’s hours of operations will be 5 am to 8 pm daily. Customers may order via dine-in, drive-thru, or an app that features a rewards program for frequent diners.

Tim Hortons partnered with Houston's CSM Group, which operates Popeyes locations in Texas, Kansas, and Missouri. CSM Group CEO Ali Lakhany told the Houston Chronicle in March that his company plans to open 30 locations across the Houston area, including 10 in the first three years.

“We’ve received such a warm welcome from the Houston community since our grand opening in Katy earlier this year,” Ekrem Ozer, president of Tim Hortons, U.S., said in a statement. “We’re excited to continue to grow our presence in this community and get to know more Houstonians with the opening of our Richey Road restaurant.”

CultureMap Wine Guy Chris Shepherd reveals the ultimate holiday 'death match' party game

wine guy Wednesday

Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day. When Chris expressed interest in writing about wine-related topics for CultureMap, we said yes.

In this week's column, he shares his favorite way to win more wine. Take it away, Chris.

----

If you’re looking to throw a killer party — one that’s unforgettable — I have an idea for you. It doesn’t have to happen during the holidays, but it will make your holiday party more fun. Let me introduce you to Wine Club Death Match.

My friend Ellen Hur, whose classmates at graduate school first started this game, introduced Wine Club Death Match to us here in Houston a few years back. It’s a game that combines things that I love — tasting wine, talking to friends, talking about wine, and, as part of a little friendly competition, you can win the ultimate prize, more wine!

“I had heard about Wine Club Death Match and thought it sounded really fun,” Ellen explains. “I started playing with a few friends in our little New York City apartments, back in 2007 or so. We liked the idea that we could entertain ourselves without having to go out all the time. Plus, if you weren’t too discerning, which we were not, or if your friends had good taste in wine, you could grow a decent wine collection pretty quickly.”

Here's how it works:

  • Every person who comes to the party is asked to bring two bottles of the same wine that fit the night’s theme (more info on that below) and the night’s price point (e.g., each bottle must be under $25).
  • When each guest arrives, one bottle is immediately stored out of sight, and the second bottle is put in a paper bag and labeled A through Z (or however you want to distinguish the covered bottles from each other).
  • As the party goes on, guests taste each wine (responsibly) and keep their own notes about which bottle they like the best.
  • Once everyone has tasted — or the tasting portion of the party is over — everyone votes for their favorite bottle. The host takes the ballots and tallies them up for the big reveal.
  • The person who brought the bottle that gets the most votes is crowned winner of Wine Club Death Match and wins the entire stash of the second bottles that have been stored away. If you have 10 people at the party participating in WCDM, the winner takes home 10 bottles of wine. Not too shabby!
  • Spend the rest of the party lobbying the winner to give you your favorite bottle (or two) as a consolation prize.

We’ve played with our friends a few times, and it’s a fun, unique way to bring a little extra excitement to a party or gathering. It’s an automatic conversation starter. Plus, there’s a lot of strategy involved. If you’re fighting to the death (or, in this case, fighting for all the wine), you’ll need to have a game plan to take home all the spoils.

A few of my favorite themes:

  • Region + Grape/Varietal or color + Price Point is always a good theme (Oregon Pinot Noir under $30, South American reds under $27, French rosé under $20, Spanish Cava under $25, or my least favorite option— Gewürztraminer from anywhere in the world at any price point—not my favorite varietal)
  • Wine from a region you didn’t know made wine.
  • Wines mentioned in music lyrics
  • Wines from a vineyard named for a person

The beauty of this game is that it’s flexible. Want to pair the tasting wines with a specific dish and make it a more hearty affair? Go for it! Want to go all champagne and deal with the consequences later? Do it! Want to tell everyone to bring magnums? Why not? Want to bring the concept to more of a dinner party atmosphere? Cool. Have fun with it, and learn something.

Let me make a few suggestions to optimize your Wine Club Death March:

  • For WCDM to operate most optimally, the sweet spot is 8-12 guests. If you live in a city like NYC, you must consider how you are transporting all the wine home. For example, 12 bottles on a subway is tough. Luckily, 12 bottles in a Houston Uber is much more doable.
  • That being said, make WCDM yours! If you want a bigger party, go for it – you can have two winners, or be creative about how to divvy up the winnings and how to make sure everyone can taste the wines.
  • Set the price point based on your guests. If your guests are bigger spenders who want to bulk up their cellars, you can have a higher price point. But I think everyone would love a solid stash of $20-$30 wines.
  • Go heavy on the apps. Even small tastes of wine can add up.
  • The wines for WCDM are for tasting, not imbibing during the party, so have other drinks available – especially if you have guests who aren’t participating in the competition.
  • Water should be plentiful, and ride shares are a must.

Let me know how this works out for you. Invite me!

-----

Contact our Wine Guy via email at chris@chrisshepherdconcepts.com.

Chris Shepherd won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014. He recently parted ways with Underbelly Hospitality, a restaurant group that currently operates four Houston restaurants: Wild Oats, GJ Tavern, Underbelly Burger, and Georgia James. The Southern Smoke Foundation, a non-profit he co-founded with his wife Lindsey Brown, has distributed more than $10 million to hospitality workers in crisis through its Emergency Relief Fund.