Titans Triumph Against Bills in Blowout Win

By Terrance Turner

Tonight — after 16 days — the Tennessee Titans returned to play, on a rare Tuesday night football game. (According to CBS, this is only the second time in 70 years that a game has been played on Tuesday night.) The unusual date came after a series of delays and reschedules. The Titans’ match with the Buffalo Bills had to be postponed twice after an outbreak of COVID-19.

The Tennessean says the reason for the delay was a flurry of positive COVID-19 tests for Titans team members — 20 of them, including 10 players and 10 team personnel. The Titans were forced to close their facility. Later two more tests were positive. But then the outbreak exploded: eight positive tests included five team personnel and three players: defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, long snapper Beau Brinkley and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson.” The facility was again shut down until the following Saturday. 

The NFL said on Wednesday, Sept. 30 that the Titans-Bills game would be moved to either Monday or Tuesday. That would’ve placed it at around Oct. 6. But another player tested positive on Oct. 1, per the Tennessean, and the next day, two more Titans players — wide receivers Adam Humphries and Cam Batson — tested positive. That brought the total number of infected players since Sept. 24 to eight. The NFL began to investigate the team’s handling of the pandemic. The Titans-Bills game that had been scheduled for Sunday was rescheduled for Tuesday night.

And after all that, the Tennessee Titans shined. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another, and running back Derrick Henry

The team jumped out to an early 7-0 lead when quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw to AJ Brown. But after a Bills TD, Titans running back Derrick Henry scored a rushing touchdown to make it 14-7. Then, on the next drive, he stiff-armed Bills cornerback Josh Norman, knocking him to the ground:

The scores just kept coming for the Titans. Later in the second half, Tannehill dashed into the end zone for the touchdown, making it 21-10. Then, just as the Bills were trying to put together a drive, quarterback Josh Allen was intercepted by Titans corner Malcolm Butler. After the catch, Butler was pursued by a Bills defender, but he somehow got away. Butler spun out of a tackle, stumbled on the turf, put his hand on the field to steady himself, scrambled to his feet, and then took off:

It was a 68-yard return, according to the CBS announcers. It was a crucial play that would mark a turning point in the game. The Titans cashed in on that costly interception when Tannehill hit Jonnu Smith for the touchdown.

In the second half, Derrick Henry helped power the Titans offense. Henry barreled through defenders, sometimes stiff-arming them, to gain yards. CBS announcers pointed out that Henry is hard to tackle, at 6’3 and 250 lbs. The Titans were up 28-16. On the drive, Henry had several rushes, and Tannehill turned on the jets with a 20-yard run.

The Titans got to 1st and goal. Henry ran in for the TD, his second of the night. Titans player Derek Long knocked out the ball on a Bills punt return. Titans got the ball and decided to go for broke. Tannehill ran sideways and tossed the ball to Jonnu Smith for the touchdown! Call goes under review; commentators were conflicted on a “really close” call. Did Tannehill go over the line of scrimmage? Would the touchdown count?

“After review, the ruling on the field stands,” the ref announced. “Touchdown.”

Jonnu Smith added another touchdown later in the fourth quarter to seal the win. The Titans won in a blowout, 42-16, to remain undefeated.

The President and First Lady Have Coronavirus.

Featured

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 1, 2020 (UPDATED Oct. 2)

The President of the United States has tested positive for COVID-19. He announced just before midnight that both he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive:

This development poses a risk not only to the president’s reelection campaign, but also to his health. He is a 74-year-old-man of considerable girth; older Americans are more likely to face complications from COVID-19. Houston affiliate ABC 13 cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in writing that “people in the 65-74 age range face a five times greater risk of hospitalization and a 90 times greater risk of death from Covid-19 compared to young adults between the ages of 18-29.”

Excess weight is also likely to cause complications from the virus; CNN reported in June that Trump weighed 244 pounds and is 6 feet 3 inches tall. “That gives him a body mass index of 30.5, making him technically, if mildly, obese,” ABC 13 added. Obesity triples the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19, according to the CDC. These factors would appear to place the president in particular peril.

Accordingly, his schedule has been adjusted. According to the New York Times, “The White House did not say how long Mr. Trump would have to remain isolated, but it canceled his plans to fly to Florida for a campaign rally on Friday, stripping his public schedule for the day of everything except a midday telephone call ‘on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors’.” If the president remains in quarantine for the recommended 14 days, he would have to miss a second debate with Joe Biden, scheduled for Oct. 15.

Hope Hicks — one of the president’s closest advisers — tested positive for COVID-19 last night. Hicks flew with the President on Air Force One, both to and from the debate on Tuesday night. Then she flew to Minnesota with him on Wednesday for a rally (!). Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs delivered the news last night:

According to the Associated Press, Hicks began having symptoms while on the plane ride home on Wednesday. “Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota Wednesday evening, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was quarantined away from others on the plane and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday,” wrote Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin in their AP column.

The president and first lady entered quarantine within hours. Trump tweeted last night that he and First Lady Melania Trump were awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. “In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process,” he wrote on Twitter. “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” Trump said during a call-in interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last night. “I just went for a test, and we’ll see what happens.”

Now we know what happened. The President has tested positive.

It is a stunning reversal for a man who routinely downplayed the severity of the pandemic. Jokingly referring to it as the “Kung Flu”, Trump blamed China for the virus. He mocked people for wearing masks (he did that just yesterday, the New York Times says). And he once claimed that it would disappear, “like a miracle”, from our shores.

The question now is how the president (and first lady) became infected. If the president’s exposure to COVID-19 was days ago, a positive test is still possible in the future. “If it was even five days ago, and he tests negative now, he still may end up testing positive tomorrow,” said Dr. Leana Wen. “And so this is why that quarantine period is so important,” she explained on “CNN Tonight” last night. The program aired footage of Hope Hicks and other advisers boarding the plane Marine One

During the broadcast, host Don Lemon pointed out that no one in the group was six feet apart OR wearing masks. Hicks was reportedly maskless during her flights with the president. White House spokesman Judd Deere stated that the White House will “incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for COVID-19 “to the greatest extent possible”. But nobody on Marine One was wearing masks.

Interestingly, both Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence have tested negative, per CNBC. “As has been routine for months, Vice President Pence is tested for COVID-19 every day,” said Devin O’Malley, the vice president’s press secretary, in a tweet. “Vice President Pence remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery,” he said.

UPDATE: Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, have both tested negative for the coronavirus. ABC News announced the news in a “Breaking News” update roughly an hour ago; the news has been confirmed by MSNBC.

UPDATE (5:10 pm, Oct. 2): The president is now being flown to Walter Reed Medical Center. He will be flown there aboard his Marine One helicopter, which is standard procedure (according to CNN). “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. 

The New York Times quoted two sources who said the president has been experiencing a low-grade fever, nasal congestion, and a cough. His doctor issued a memo, cited by the Times, that said Mr. Trump remains “fatigued but in good spirits”. The memo also revealed that Trump is receiving an experimental drug — an antibody cocktail developed by the biotech company Regeneron.

The president just boarded Marine One, according to NBC News.

UPDATE (10/5/2020): The President has left the hospital and returned to the White House. According to the Associated Press, “Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, “I feel good.” After putting the mask in his pocket, Trump “gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.” Just yesterday, Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s doctor, said that he was still contagious and not “fully out of the woods” yet. But here he is, back at the White House.

This is a developing story. Please watch this space for further updates.

Houston Restaurant Weeks Extended Through Sept. 30

By Terrance Turner

Sept. 1, 2020

News broke yesterday that Houston Restaurant Weeks has been extended through the end of the month. It typically runs from Aug. 1 through Sept. 7, but this year it has been extended through Sept. 30. The annual fundraiser allows people to order from top-shelf local restaurants and donate to a worthy cause.

Cleverley Stone
Food journalist Cleverley Stone with a box from the Houston Food Bank. (Photo by Evin Thayer.)

Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) was founded by Cleverley Stone, who hosted a food radio talk show on Houston’s CBS 650 AM (KIKK-AM). According to the HRW website, “The Cleverley Food Talk Radio Show” became the longest-running on CBS 650, running for over 13 years. Stone also worked as a food service contributor to Fox 26 Morning News, beginning in 2008. Stone founded HRW in 2003 as a fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank — the largest food bank in the United States (per its website).

Stone died at 68 in May from uterine cancer. Her final wish was that HRW continue in perpetuity in her name, per the Houston Chronicle. Her daughter Katie Stone now chairs the event, and she remembers that her mother felt compassion for those suffering from hunger. “She was really driven by stories she would hear in Houston about people not having enough to eat,” Katie Stone recalls. That drive helped make HRW the largest annual fundraiser of its kind.

This year, the event will look different, due to COVID-19. But it is arguably more vital than ever. “This year’s Houston Restaurant Weeks is probably the most important year that we’ve ever seen,” Stone told ABC 13. The HRW fundraiser has raised over $16 million for the Houston Food Bank, which distributes food to those in need. This takes on new significance in the wake of Hurricane Laura, which hit Louisiana hard last week. According to KPRC, the Houston Food Bank has sent trucks of water, cleaning supplies, and ready-to-eat food to a Second Harvest Food Bank in Vinton, Louisiana.

A map of the 18 SE Texas counties the HFD serves. (Photo courtesy of houstonfoodbank.org.)

The Houston Food Bank serves 18 counties in southeast Texas, including Harris, Liberty, Chambers, Brazoria, Fort Bend, and Austin. (It also provides food for localized food banks in Montgomery and Galveston counties, which in turn provide it for their residents.) Founded in 1982, the Houston Food Bank distributes fresh produce, meat and nonperishables and prepares nutritious hot meals for kids. According to houstonfoodbank.org, the charity distributed 104 million meals in 2019. It does so via a network of 1,500 community partners, including schools, shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries.

One of those pantries is in the mostly black Trinity Gardens neighborhood. Chef Jonny Rhodes, who grew up in Trinity Gardens, called the area a “food desert” in a Houston Chronicle article in Oct. 2019. The article also defined nearby neighborhood Kashmere Gardens as a “food desert” — a low-income area where residents struggle to find healthy, affordable food. In 2010, the USDA reported that 18 million Americans live in food deserts — places more than a mile from a supermarket in urban/suburban areas and more than 10 miles in rural areas.

One food pantry helping to bridge that gap is in Trinity Gardens First Baptist Church, which shares its name with the surrounding neighborhood. On one Saturday morning per month, food is delivered and distributed. The pantry is headed by Sis. Barbara Brown, who has worked with the Houston Food Bank (HFD) since 2010. She says the Houston Food Bank is essential for the pantry’s operation.

“The Food Bank is 100% of where we get our food,” Brown says via phone. She adds that the pantry is not easy to maintain. “I have to take classes; I have to do online meetings,” she says. “We come in; we have to get inspections.” With the start of the pandemic, trainings and meetings have moved offline. And now, workers and volunteers must deliver food to people’s cars in order to minimize contact.

Mrs. Brown also mentions that she has to have paperwork in multiple languages — and serve people from multiple locales. “We get people from Pasadena and La Porte,” she says, “and we cannot turn people away.” She estimates that the pantry serves around 125 people each month (not counting the pantry’s volunteers, who are often allowed to take home leftover food items.)

Those that come will be given mostly non-perishable food — canned corn and green beans, walnuts, cereal, boxed spaghetti. But the Houston Food Bank truck also delivers some perishables: gallons of milk, bags of ham, even some eggs. And last month, Brown says, fresh vegetables were added to the mix: “We gave out eggs and meat, onions and bell peppers.”

Pantries like these benefit directly from the HFD — and indirectly from the HRW fundraiser. Typically, restaurants would donate $3–$7 from each meal sold to the Food Bank. But with so many restaurants struggling due to COVID-19, this year they will donate $1 per meal. Each dollar can provide three meals for those in need.

For the first time, diners can order using pickup, takeout, or delivery options. Some restaurants allow walk-in orders. According to the website, brunches and lunches each cost $20. Dinners cost either $35 or $45 (for a four-course meal). The featured restaurants are located in Harris, Galveston, and Montgomery counties. (Please call or visit the website of each chosen restaurant to verify dates and times for meal service. Be sure to mention that you would like the HRW special menu.) For more information about HRW’s participating restaurants, please visit https://houstonrestaurantweeks.com. To donate or volunteer with the Houston Food Bank, visit https://www.houstonfoodbank.org.

UPDATE (Sept. 16-19): With just two weeks left until the end of HRW, I decided to do a quick overview of notable brunch and lunch spots in the area. Given the comparatively low cost of these menus (just $20), I’m presenting those options first. (Dinner is another story — literally; I’ll cover the $35-$45 dinner spots in another post.) Only some of the over 100 HRW participants offer brunch, but I did manage to find some participating restaurants in various areas.

If you’re in the downtown area, you could start with Hearsay Market Square (218 Travis St.). Hearsay serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am until 3 pm. Menu options for the first course include deviled eggs with candied jalapeno and bacon. The second course offers choices like fried chicken & waffles and bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp with grits.

In Midtown, Nuksy’s Table (1926 W. Dallas St.) only serves brunch on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm, per its website. On the bright side, Nuksy’s also serves up plantain beignets with each meal. (They’re deep-fried, with caramel rum sauce — or chocolate bourbon sauce — and berries.) The entrees include crab cake eggs benedict (lumped crabmeat, poached egg, and hollandaise sauce, with sautéed spinach and kettle chips). The breakfast platter has bacon, pork sausage, eggs, and hash browns. Nuksy’s “Shrimp and Orange Corn Grits” include seasoned Gulf shrimp “with Cajun gumbo gravy, served over orange corn grits”. Nuksy’s beverages include mimosas in classic, strawberry, mango,
and raspberry flavors

Also in Midtown, Brennan’s (3300 Smith Street) is offering up an extensive HRW brunch menu. Brunch is served Thursday through Saturday, from 11:00 am-2:00 pm; on Sundays, it lasts from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. Famous for its “Creole Jazz Brunch” on Sundays — featuring live jazz for those dining in — the restaurant is also known for its top-rated food.

The “Texas Shrimp and Grits” at Brennan’s Houston.
(Photo courtesy of the Houston Press.)

This year, Brennan’s is doing a hybrid menu for both lunch and brunch. Items include chicken & andouille gumbo and “snapping turtle soup” (!) for the first course. Another option is “Brennan’s Salad” (field greens, grape tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, Brioche croutons with red wine & ripped herb vinaigrette). The second course features “Texas Shrimp and Grits” (goat cheese stone ground grits, roasted sweet peppers, and “chippewa sauce”). In honor of Cleverley Stone, Brennan’s has a vegetarian option they call “The Cleverley”: a summer squash enchilada with tomatillo & hatch pepper salsa, plus lime “crema”. The crema is made with 1 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup heavy cream, the grated zest and juice of 1 lime, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, according to foodnetwork.com.)

In Montrose, Napoli’s Wine Cafe (4601 Washington Ave) offers a varied three-course brunch menu. For the first, there’s fried calamari and a “brochette board”. Choose three from:

  • fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil
  • cheese, bacon, arugula and tomato
  • smoked salmon cheese and capers
  • almond hummus and fresh tomato
Sassy Italian Ricotta Pancakes at Napoli’s Wine Cafe. (Photo from YouTube.)

But that’s just the first course. Napoli’s offers lobster bisque, soup and salad for the second. But the third course is where things get really interesting. Options include “Sassy Italian Ricotta Pancakes”, topped with maple syrup, banana slices, strawberries, walnuts, a dollop of whole milk ricotta cheese, and whipped cream. Or you could try the “Texas Breakfast Sandwich” (eggs, roasted tomato, fresh mozzarella, avocado, lamb bacon and roasted jalapeños, with pesto sauce served on biologiques loaf bread). The “Brioche French Toast” comprises freshly baked brioche topped with vanilla custard, banana slices, strawberries and walnuts. Alternatively, there’s “Napoli’s Breakfast” (“two poached eggs served over sautéed spinach, potatoes, onions and mushrooms, topped with hollandaise sauce served on a toasted biologiques loaf bread.”).

In the Galleria area, 51Fifteen Cuisine and Cocktails (5175 Westheimer Road) delivers an array of brunch selections. The first course serves up items like garbanzo soup and chopped wedge salad; the second course delivers braised short ribs benedict (two poached eggs on english muffin, hollandaise sauce, braised short ribs, asparagus, sliced tomatoes). Also included in the 2nd course is a 6-oz. New York strip steak and eggs combo.

Also, note the fairly self-explanatory “3 Jumbo Blackened Shrimp Omelet Avocado Toast”, which is topped with arugula, young manchego cheese, tomatoes, and light lemon beurre blanc. (According to Wikipedia, “Beurre blanc—literally translated from French as “white butter”—is a hot emulsified butter sauce made with a reduction of vinegar and/or white wine (normally Muscadet) and grey shallots into which, softened, whole butter is whisked in off the heat to prevent separation.” You learn something new every day.) Editor’s note: 51Fifteen, according to its website, is part of the Landmark Houston Hospitality Group, which also owns Hearsay Lounge.

In the Heights, Harold’s Restaurant (350 W. 19th St., Suite C) also offers guests beignets, like Nuksy’s. And like Brennan’s, it too has a vegetarian tribute dish for Cleverley Stone: “Cleverley’s Quinoa and Chickpea Salad”. The salad is “plant-based and dairy-free with quinoa, chickpeas, cucumber, red bell peppers, onions, lemon garlic vinaigrette”, according to its HRW menu. More conventionally, Harold’s features the “HRW Big Dang Breakfast”: two eggs, cooked any style, roasted potatoes, bacon, homemade biscuit and house-made jam.

Bon appetit!

 

Houston Restaurant Weeks Extended Through Sept. 30

By Terrance Turner

Sept. 1, 2020

News broke yesterday that Houston Restaurant Weeks has been extended through the end of the month. It typically runs from Aug. 1 through Sept. 7, but this year it has been extended through Sept. 30. The annual fundraiser allows people to order from top-shelf local restaurants and donate to a worthy cause.

Cleverley Stone
Food journalist Cleverley Stone with a box from the Houston Food Bank. (Photo by Evin Thayer.)

Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) was founded by Cleverley Stone, who hosted a food radio talk show on Houston’s CBS 650 AM (KIKK-AM). According to the HRW website, “The Cleverley Food Talk Radio Show” became the longest-running on CBS 650, running for over 13 years. Stone also worked as a food service contributor to Fox 26 Morning News, beginning in 2008. Stone founded HRW in 2003 as a fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank — the largest food bank in the United States (per its website).

Stone died at 68 in May from uterine cancer. Her final wish was that HRW continue in perpetuity in her name, per the Houston Chronicle. Her daughter Katie Stone now chairs the event, and she remembers that her mother felt compassion for those suffering from hunger. “She was really driven by stories she would hear in Houston about people not having enough to eat,” Katie Stone recalls. That drive helped make HRW the largest annual fundraiser of its kind.

This year, the event will look different, due to COVID-19. But it is arguably more vital than ever. “This year’s Houston Restaurant Weeks is probably the most important year that we’ve ever seen,” Stone told ABC 13. The HRW fundraiser has raised over $16 million for the Houston Food Bank, which distributes food to those in need. This takes on new significance in the wake of Hurricane Laura, which hit Louisiana hard last week. According to KPRC, the Houston Food Bank has sent trucks of water, cleaning supplies, and ready-to-eat food to a Second Harvest Food Bank in Vinton, Louisiana.

A map of the 18 SE Texas counties the HFD serves. (Photo courtesy of houstonfoodbank.org.)

The Houston Food Bank serves 18 counties in southeast Texas, including Harris, Liberty, Chambers, Brazoria, Fort Bend, and Austin. (It also provides food for localized food banks in Montgomery and Galveston counties, which in turn provide it for their residents.) Founded in 1982, the Houston Food Bank distributes fresh produce, meat and nonperishables and prepares nutritious hot meals for kids. According to houstonfoodbank.org, the charity distributed 104 million meals in 2019. It does so via a network of 1,500 community partners, including schools, shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries.

One of those pantries is in the mostly black Trinity Gardens neighborhood. Chef Jonny Rhodes, who grew up in Trinity Gardens, called the area a “food desert” in a Houston Chronicle article in Oct. 2019. The article also defined nearby neighborhood Kashmere Gardens as a “food desert” — a low-income area where residents struggle to find healthy, affordable food. In 2010, the USDA reported that 18 million Americans live in food deserts — places more than a mile from a supermarket in urban/suburban areas and more than 10 miles in rural areas.

One food pantry helping to bridge that gap is in Trinity Gardens First Baptist Church, which shares its name with the surrounding neighborhood. On one Saturday morning per month, food is delivered and distributed. The pantry is headed by Sis. Barbara Brown, who has worked with the Houston Food Bank (HFD) since 2010. She says the Houston Food Bank is essential for the pantry’s operation.

“The Food Bank is 100% of where we get our food,” Brown says via phone. She adds that the pantry is not easy to maintain. “I have to take classes; I have to do online meetings,” she says. “We come in; we have to get inspections.” With the start of the pandemic, trainings and meetings have moved offline. And now, workers and volunteers must deliver food to people’s cars in order to minimize contact.

Mrs. Brown also mentions that she has to have paperwork in multiple languages — and serve people from multiple locales. “We get people from Pasadena and La Porte,” she says, “and we cannot turn people away.” She estimates that the pantry serves around 125 people each month (not counting the pantry’s volunteers, who are often allowed to take home leftover food items.)

Those that come will be given mostly non-perishable food — canned corn and green beans, walnuts, cereal, boxed spaghetti. But the Houston Food Bank truck also delivers some perishables: gallons of milk, bags of ham, even some eggs. And last month, Brown says, fresh vegetables were added to the mix: “We gave out eggs and meat, onions and bell peppers.”

Pantries like these benefit directly from the HFD — and indirectly from the HRW fundraiser. Typically, restaurants would donate $3–$7 from each meal sold to the Food Bank. But with so many restaurants struggling due to COVID-19, this year they will donate $1 per meal. Each dollar can provide three meals for those in need.

For the first time, diners can order using pickup, takeout, or delivery options. Some restaurants allow walk-in orders. According to the website, brunches and lunches each cost $20. Dinners cost either $35 or $45 (for a four-course meal). The featured restaurants are located in Harris, Galveston, and Montgomery counties. (Please call or visit the website of each chosen restaurant to verify dates and times for meal service. Be sure to mention that you would like the HRW special menu.) For more information about HRW’s participating restaurants, please visit https://houstonrestaurantweeks.com. To donate or volunteer with the Houston Food Bank, visit https://www.houstonfoodbank.org.

UPDATE (Sept. 16-19): With just two weeks left until the end of HRW, I decided to do a quick overview of notable brunch and lunch spots in the area. Given the comparatively low cost of these menus (just $20), I’m presenting those options first. (Dinner is another story — literally; I’ll cover the $35-$45 dinner spots in another post.) Only some of the over 100 HRW participants offer brunch, but I did manage to find some participating restaurants in various areas.

If you’re in the downtown area, you could start with Hearsay Market Square (218 Travis St.). Hearsay serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am until 3 pm. Menu options for the first course include deviled eggs with candied jalapeno and bacon. The second course offers choices like fried chicken & waffles and bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp with grits.

In Midtown, Nuksy’s Table (1926 W. Dallas St.) only serves brunch on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm, per its website. On the bright side, Nuksy’s also serves up plantain beignets with each meal. (They’re deep-fried, with caramel rum sauce — or chocolate bourbon sauce — and berries.) The entrees include crab cake eggs benedict (lumped crabmeat, poached egg, and hollandaise sauce, with sautéed spinach and kettle chips). The breakfast platter has bacon, pork sausage, eggs, and hash browns. Nuksy’s “Shrimp and Orange Corn Grits” include seasoned Gulf shrimp “with Cajun gumbo gravy, served over orange corn grits”. Nuksy’s beverages include mimosas in classic, strawberry, mango,
and raspberry flavors

Also in Midtown, Brennan’s (3300 Smith Street) is offering up an extensive HRW brunch menu. Brunch is served Thursday through Saturday, from 11:00 am-2:00 pm; on Sundays, it lasts from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. Famous for its “Creole Jazz Brunch” on Sundays — featuring live jazz for those dining in — the restaurant is also known for its top-rated food.

Texas Shrimp & Grits - Photo
The “Texas Shrimp and Grits” at Brennan’s Houston. (Photo courtesy of Brennan’s website.)

This year, Brennan’s is doing a hybrid menu for both lunch and brunch. Items include chicken & andouille gumbo and “snapping turtle soup” (!) for the first course. Another option is “Brennan’s Salad” (field greens, grape tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, Brioche croutons with red wine & ripped herb vinaigrette).

The second course features “Texas Shrimp and Grits” (goat cheese stone ground grits, roasted sweet peppers, and “chippewa sauce”). In honor of Cleverley Stone, Brennan’s has a vegetarian option they call “The Cleverley”: a summer squash enchilada with tomatillo & hatch pepper salsa, plus lime “crema”. The crema is made with 1 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup heavy cream, the grated zest and juice of 1 lime, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, according to foodnetwork.com.)

In Montrose, Napoli’s Wine Cafe (4601 Washington Ave) offers a varied three-course brunch menu. For the first, there’s fried calamari and a “brochette board”. Choose three from:

  • fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil
  • cheese, bacon, arugula and tomato
  • smoked salmon cheese and capers
  • almond hummus and fresh tomato
See the source image
The “Sassy Italian Ricotta Pancakes” at Napoli’s Wine Cafe.
(Photo courtesy of YouTube.)

But that’s just the first course. Napoli’s offers lobster bisque, soup and salad for the second. But the third course is where things get really interesting. Options include “Sassy Italian Ricotta Pancakes”, topped with maple syrup, banana slices, strawberries, walnuts, a dollop of whole milk ricotta cheese, and whipped cream. Or you could try the “Texas Breakfast Sandwich” (eggs, roasted tomato, fresh mozzarella, avocado, lamb bacon and roasted jalapeños, with pesto sauce served on biologiques loaf bread). The “Brioche French Toast” comprises freshly baked brioche topped with vanilla custard, banana slices, strawberries and walnuts. Alternatively, there’s “Napoli’s Breakfast” (“two poached eggs served over sautéed spinach, potatoes, onions and mushrooms, topped with hollandaise sauce served on a toasted biologiques loaf bread.”).

In the Galleria area, 51Fifteen Cuisine and Cocktails (5175 Westheimer Road) delivers an array of brunch selections. The first course serves up items like garbanzo soup and chopped wedge salad; the second course delivers braised short ribs benedict (two poached eggs on english muffin, hollandaise sauce, braised short ribs, asparagus, sliced tomatoes). Also included in the 2nd course is a 6-oz. New York strip steak and eggs combo.

Also, note the fairly self-explanatory “3 Jumbo Blackened Shrimp Omelet Avocado Toast”, which is topped with arugula, young manchego cheese, tomatoes, and light lemon beurre blanc. (According to Wikipedia, “Beurre blanc—literally translated from French as “white butter”—is a hot emulsified butter sauce made with a reduction of vinegar and/or white wine (normally Muscadet) and grey shallots into which, softened, whole butter is whisked in off the heat to prevent separation.” You learn something new every day.) Editor’s note: 51Fifteen, according to its website, is part of the Landmark Houston Hospitality Group, which also owns Hearsay Lounge.

In the Heights, Harold’s Restaurant (350 W. 19th St., Suite C) also offers guests beignets, like Nuksy’s. And like Brennan’s, it too has a vegetarian tribute dish for Cleverley Stone: “Cleverley’s Quinoa and Chickpea Salad”. The salad is “plant-based and dairy-free with quinoa, chickpeas, cucumber, red bell peppers, onions, lemon garlic vinaigrette”, according to its HRW menu. More conventionally, Harold’s features the “HRW Big Dang Breakfast”: two eggs, cooked any style, roasted potatoes, bacon, homemade biscuit and house-made jam.

Bon appetit!

 

As COVID Cases Soar, HISD Announces New Guidelines

By Terrance Turner

HISD Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan during a press conference on July 15. (Photo via Twitter.)

July 15, 2020

Today, HISD unveiled its new guidelines for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidelines were announced at a press conference by HISD Superintendent Grenita Lathan this afternoon. Lathan stressed that the coronavirus has affected her personally as a wife, mother, and leader of HISD. “I’ve had many sleepless nights, even up until this morning, wrestling with this decision,” she said. Still, Lathan delivered a lucid and measured presentation of the news. She said that due to the rise of coronavirus cases in Texas — including dramatic rises in hospitalizations — this school year will be different.

The new HISD school year begins on Sept. 8. There will be only virtual learning until October 16. Then, on Monday, Oct. 19, face-to-face instruction will begin. Children will be able to return to school and be taught by live instructors. However, parents will have the choice to opt out of face-to-face instruction and have their children continue learning online at home. Teachers would deliver instruction via the Internet, computer software, or both.

The first semester of virtual learning runs from Sept. 8 to Jan. 29. Parents have until Aug. 24 to decide whether they want their child to do virtual learning for the entire semester. (Research director Michael van Beek says that in one form of virtual learning, teachers and students communicate via media like online video, online forums, e-mail and instant messaging. Other forms strictly deliver lessons via software.)

The news comes after a dramatic spike in new COVID-19 cases in Texas. Today, there were 10,457 positive cases reported in Texas — down slightly from yesterday’s one-day high of 10,791. (That number beat Tuesday’s record of 10,745.) There were also a record number of deaths today — 129, up from yesterday’s single-day of 110. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 numbered 10,457 today. There were 14 more yesterday (10,471 total). Though hospitalizations in Texas have plateaued after Tuesday’s record high of 10,569, they remain a trouble spot. The number of Texans in the hospital with coronavirus passed 10,000 on July 10 and has remained above that threshold every day this week.

The toll is getting heavier. In San Antonio, refrigerated trucks are being used because there’s not enough space in the local morgues. In Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, only 10% of hospital beds are available, according to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. (He says that “schools will not be opening at full speed in August” and that local guidelines could be ordered as soon as next week.)

In Houston, COVID-19 patients account for 45% of ICU beds. While hospitalization numbers seem to have stabilized, less than 10% of ICU beds in the state are available, per Austin affiliate KVUE. The ABC affiliate cited data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, revealing that only 949 ICU beds were available as of Tuesday. 

In a reflection of this uncertainty, HISD announced back-to-school guidelines yesterday that allowed for virtual learning. That will likely be a relief for teachers still uneasy about returning to the classroom. The Houston Independent School District said a recent survey showed only 14% of teachers said they felt safe returning to campus. 

Texas Hits New Record Highs in COVID Cases, Hospitalizations, Deaths

Graph of daily COVID-19 cases since June 30. (Graph by Terrance Turner, made with Google Slides)

By Terrance Turner

Today was Texas’ deadliest day ever for the coronavirus.

Today, the state reported 60 new deaths from the virus — and a startling rise in new positive cases. The 10,026 new cases are the most since July 4, when there were roughly 8,260 cases. It is the first time that COVID-19 cases in Texas have topped 10,000 in a single day. The 60 new deaths are also a record high.

Also hitting record highs is the number of hospitalizations in Texas. According to Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace, 9,286 people are in Texas hospitals with coronavirus. That’s up 588 since just yesterday. Hospitalizations have risen 42% since last Tuesday, and COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas are up 515% since Memorial Day.

Somehow, Texas is still reporting 1,148 available hospital beds. But CBS News quoted Austin Mayor Steve Adler today as saying that hospitals risk becoming “overwhelmed” in the next 7-10 days. In fact, Austin hit Stage 5 today, meaning that conditions there qualify for a citywide lockdown. The daily hospitalization rate has hit 74, according to editor Matt Largey.

In Houston, officials said hospitals are exceeding base capacity in intensive care units. Houston is located within Harris County, which consistently leads the state in COVID-19 cases. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday to discuss the pandemic. “What we need right now is to do what works, which is a stay-home order,” Hidalgo said. “We don’t have time for incrementalism.” Hidalgo, whose county has seen the most coronavirus cases of any county in Texas, said she needed to take further action: “I need the authority to issue an enforceable stay home order. That is the only way we are going to stop ping-ponging between open and closed.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lashed out in an interview with Beaumont television station KFDM today. He criticized “county judges or mayors who are asking for more authority to take action or to really shut things down completely back into lockdown mode that really force Texans into poverty.” The governor added: “They need to show up, enforce the law as it is before they’re given any further authority. They ask for more and more, but they do absolutely nothing.”

Former presidential candidate and Texas Senator Beto O’Rourke took note of the fray. His response was simple and characteristically blunt:

All of this comes as the Texas Education Agency is announcing guidelines for back-to-school procedures. Today, the TEA announced that students should be able to return to school for the 2020-21 school year. Their guidelines include the following:

  • Daily on-campus learning will be available to all parents who would like their students to learn in school each day.
  • In addition, all parents will have the option to choose remote learning for their children, initially, or at any point that year.
  • Parents who choose remote instruction for their children may be asked to commit to remote instruction for a full grading period (e.g. six or nine weeks).
  • But parents will not have to make that commitment more than two weeks in advance (that way, they can make a decision based on the latest public health information).
  • Schools can phase in on-campus learning.
  • Schools will also conduct screenings (i.e. temperature checks) on every child who attends.

UPDATE (July 8): Today was the deadliest day to date in Texas. 98 deaths from coronavirus were reported by the Texas DSHS. Today’s 9,610 lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations are also a new record high (again). 9,979 new positive cases of the virus were also reported today — down only slightly from the 10,000 cases yesterday.

The rise in coronavirus cases has led to the cancellation of a Texas GOP convention. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner instructed the Houston First Corporation to cancel the event, which was supposed to take place in Houston next week. The planned venue was the George R. Brown Convention Center. Asked why he waited so long to make the request, Turner said he hoped the Texas Republican Party would do so on its own.

“No one wanted this to even appear to be political,” Turner said at a press conference today. “This is a political convention, and the last thing you want to do in the midst of a pandemic is to politicize or make it seem like you are going out of your way to close the door.”

UPDATE (July 9): 105 new deaths from COVID-19 were reported today. The state of Texas added another 9,782 new positive cases of the virus. Hospitalizations currently number 9,689 in Texas. Those lab-confirmed hospitalizations now take up 16.7% of Texas’ hospital beds, per the Texas Tribune. The positivity rate, which had hovered around 13% at one point, is now 15.6%. According to the Texas Dept. of State Health Services, there are now 2,918 total fatalities from COVID-19 in the state. There are now 230,346 total cases in Texas.

Harris County reported 495 cases and 7 deaths. That leaves the county with a total of 40,000 cases (which leads the state) and 411 deaths, per the Texas Tribune. The City of Houston reports 412 new cases and 5 new deaths — all of them either black or Hispanic patients, according to ABC 13 Houston. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned today in a press conference that the next 14 days will be critical if the virus is to be brought under control.

As Texas COVID Hits New Highs, Gov. Abbott Issues Mask Order

Image: Mike Pence
Photo from NBC News.

By Terrance Turner

July 1, 2020

The Texas Department of Safety and Health Services reported 8,076 new cases of COVID-19 today. That’s an all-time high for single-day cases. There were 57 deaths — the highest one-day total since May 14. According to KTRK, 6,904 hospitalizations were reported in the state of Texas. That’s also a record.

UPDATE (July 2):

The Texas Medical Center is now converting other beds into ICU beds because they have hit 100% capacity. They have now entered “Phase 2” of their ICU surge. That means they have 373 beds available, per KTRK. The TMC will certainly need those beds if today’s hospitalization numbers are any indicator.

Today, 7,915 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Texas. There are 44 new deaths. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have hit a new record high: there were 7,382 lab-confirmed hospitalizations today, up 56% from last Thursday. According to Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace, the number of coronavirus hospitalizations is up 389% since Memorial Day.

The dramatic spike forced Gov. Greg Abbott to take action. Today, the governor of Texas issued an executive order “requiring all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public places in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions.” Those exceptions include people who are eating, exercising, or driving alone. (Or driving with passengers from one’s own household.)

Those under 10 years of age are also exempted from the order. So are those who have medical conditions that prevent masks. Or those who are voting. Or assisting a voter. Or giving a speech via broadcast or to an audience. Or anyone swimming in a pool…or a lake, or “similar body of water”. Or “any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship”, per the order.

The governor’s press release noted that the governor is giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people. Under the order, people cannot be in groups larger than ten and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others. (That, too, though, includes exceptions.) Penalties entail a verbal warning (for the first offense) and a $250 fine for the second.

The Associated Press reported today that the mask order takes effect Friday. As of Thursday, 176 of the state’s 254 counties had reported more 20 or more confirmed COVID-19 cases; those counties include most of the state’s population. 

Texas Bars Close After Historic Rise in COVID-19 Cases

Image
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo updated Harris County’s threat level to RED amid rising coronavirus numbers. (Photo via Twitter: @LinaHidalgoTX)

By Terrance Turner

June 26, 2020 (Updated June 27)

It’s happy hour somewhere — just not in Texas.

Bars across the state closed at noon today after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order mandating their closure. Restaurants are also affected under the new order, with their capacity lowered from 75% to 50% starting Monday. The move comes in response to a striking surge in cases of coronavirus throughout the state. Texas has topped 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day for four consecutive days.

The state of Texas reported 5,707 new cases of COVID-19 today, along with 28 new deaths. Both numbers are down from yesterday’s record highs. But hospitalizations continue to be a problem. Today, a reported 5,102 Texans are in the hospital with lab-confirmed COVID-19 — yet another all-time high. That is particularly worrisome given yesterday’s news that 100% of ICU beds in the Texas Medical Center are full.

Texas reported another 5,996 cases of COVID-19 yesterday, with 47 deaths. On June 24, Texas reported 5,551 cases of COVID-19, according to Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace. On June 23, the state of Texas had 5,489 new cases of COVID-19, according to the Texas Medical Center. 28 deaths were reported. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the state now has a total of approximately 137,600 cases. (An estimated 76,000 Texans have recovered.)

As usual, the highest numbers are in Dallas and Harris counties. Dallas County reported back-to-back record highs of 496 cases Friday and 561 on Saturday. (Total numbers hover currently around 19,000.) Harris County continues to lead the state in cases, reporting 1,231 on Thursday and 1,238 on Friday. Its total number of cases is now over 28,000. Judge Lina Hidalgo announced a “threat level” of red today, indicating the most severe level of danger from COVID-19 in the county.

“Whichever angle you look at it from, our situation is far worse today than when we issued the first stay-home order in Harris County, and when the state issued their first stay-home order,” Hidalgo said at a Friday press conference. She encouraged residents to stay home unless they need to go to the grocery store for food and medicine. Hidalgo also urged them to cancel or avoid any gatherings, whether indoors or outside.

Gov. Abbott responded to the rise in cases today with an executive order. “All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at 12:00 pm today,” the order reads. “Restaurants may remain open for dine-in service, but at a capacity not to exceed 50%” beginning Monday, June 29.

In an interview with WFAA, Abbott admitted to having regrets about his reopening process. “If I could’ve done anything differently,” he said, “it would’ve been to delay the opening of bars. The opening of bars, if I recall correctly, was around the Memorial Day time period. And in hindsight, that should’ve been delayed. Especially now, knowing how rapidly coronavirus could spread in the bar setting.”

Texas’ Coronavirus Cases Hit New High (AGAIN)

By Terrance Turner

June 25, 2020

Texas reported another 5,996 cases of COVID-19 today. That’s a new record, and the 47 deaths reported today are the most in five weeks. As if that weren’t enough, the state is also reporting a record 4,739 lab-confirmed hospitalizations from coronavirus. This news comes as the Texas Medical Center today said 100% of its ICU beds are full. (About 30% of those beds are held by patients with COVID-19.) The hospital can convert other beds to ICU status, but that may or may not be enough: hospitalizations are up by 350 since yesterday.

The number of daily cases has surpassed 5,000 for the third straight day. On June 24, Texas reported 5,551 cases of COVID-19, according to Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace. That same day, the Texas Medical Center — the largest medical center in the world — hit crisis mode. 97% of hospital beds in the Medical Center’s intensive care unit (ICU) were reported as full. At roughly the same time yesterday, news broke that Trump is ending federal funding for coronavirus testing at the end of this month. (WHY?!?)

On June 23, the state of Texas had 5,489 new cases of COVID-19, according to the Texas Medical Center. 28 deaths were reported. As of June 23, there have been 120,370 total cases in Texas state, and 2,220 Texans had died. Today, of course, those numbers have already increased dramatically.

The Texas Tribune uses data from the Texas Department of State Health Services to track the number of daily positive tests. Today, the Tribune revealed that some 32,066 positive cases have emerged in Texas over just the past week. Predictably, Harris County and Dallas County have seen the largest number of both positive cases and deaths. They’ve led the state in those categories for months.

But cases and deaths aren’t the only categories in which there’s cause for alarm. Texas Governor Greg Abbott often cites the positive testing rate and hospitalization rate in Texas to justify reopening Texas. Gov. Abbott has spoken encouragingly about them in press conferences, and he’s even displayed charts of the numbers. Admittedly, both metrics were relatively low. At least at first. From April to June, the hospitalization rate held steady below 2,000. But beginning around June 10, the cases began to climb. Within days, they broke 3,000, according to the Tribune. Today, the number of hospitalizations reached a new high of 4,092.

After weeks of rising numbers, the reality of the situation seems to have finally hit Gov. Greg Abbott. In an interview with KBTX News, he urged Texans to stay home. “Because the spread is so rampant right now, there is never a reason for you to have to leave your home unless you do need to go out,” he said. “The safest place for you is at your home.”

Yet when he was asked whether he’d consider another lockdown, Abbott said that was a “last option”. Why? And the president said today that he was in favor of “slowing down” testing. WHY? Cases in several states are beginning to surge, and in Texas, the situation has gotten dire: Texas Children’s Hospital is now accepting adults because of a lack of hospital bed capacity.

In response to this stunning rise, Gov. Abbott has authored an executive order banning elective surgeries in Harris, Dallas, Travis, and Bexar counties. To his credit, he also moved to limit the spread among children. The governor’s office also is working with the Texas Department of State Health Services to create stricter safety standards for child care centers during the pandemic, according to the Texas Medical Center’s website.

Gov. Abbott even ordered a “pause” on reopening Texas. In a statement, he said: “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.” But returning to a lockdown is apparently out of the question: “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” he said.

Given the rapid, continuous pace at which Texas reopened and the governor’s refusal to resume lockdown, frustrations with his leadership are growing. Earlier this week, ABC 13 reported that 16,000 users on Twitter had called for Abbott to resign. Today, local station CW 39 conducted a Twitter poll on Abbott’s leadership. The results speak for themselves:

Texas COVID Cases Reach New High (Again)

Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference on Tuesday.

By Terrance Turner

Today, 2,622 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Texas. It’s the highest one-day total the state has ever had. According to the Texas Department of Safety and Health Services, an additional 1,476 cases “were previously diagnosed among Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates, but that had not been reported by local health departments.” (Why?)

That makes for a total of 4,098 positive cases of COVID-19 since yesterday. Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace wrote today that Texas is also reporting 46 deaths. That’s the most since May 20. Total deaths from coronavirus in Texas now number over 2,000.

For five consecutive days, hospitalizations for COVID-19 have reached all-time highs, with each day topping the day before. Today, Texas reported 2,518 patients are in hospitals with lab-confirmed coronavirus. That’s a leap of 192 since yesterday and up 67% (!!!) since Memorial Day. Wallace delivered the news earlier today on Twitter:

From Twitter.

As usual, Harris County and Dallas County continue to lead the state in cases. They total 17,282 and 14,537, respectively, at press time. (Data from the Texas DSHS is preliminary and is subject to change.) Thankfully, there are still roughly 15,000 available hospital beds and around 1700 ICU beds, according to The Hill. But hospitalizations in Texas for COVID-19 have risen for six straight days and broken records for five.

Texas reported 2,518 patients with positive coronavirus tests who are hospitalized today. That is a record high. This graph shows the number of current hospitalizations has been trending up in recent days.
Courtesy of the Texas Tribune.

Dallas County reported 306 new COVID-19 cases and 8 deaths today, according to the Dallas Morning News. Hospitalizations are also increasing. (Speaking of hospitalizations, there’s been a shooting at the Dallas Galleria Mall. At least one person has been shot. Dallas police spokeswoman Melinda Gutierrez told CNN that the suspect is still at large, but added: “This is not an active shooter.”)

All of this is happening as Texas continues to reopen. Restaurants were allowed to open at 75% capacity last week, and on Friday, amusement parks will be allowed to open at 50% capacity — just like nearly every other business in Texas. Phase 3 of reopening began on June 3, a month after Phase 1 commenced on May 1.

But a growing trend is emerging in data: infections are rising among people under 30. Per the Texas Tribune, more 20-to-29-year-olds make up 24% of all cases and 8.3% of the hospitalizations in Travis County and the city of Austin. At a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said that in Lubbock County and Cameron County, a majority of new cases are in people under 30.

He suggested that the results were related to Memorial Day celebrations or bars, that “certain counties where a majority of the people who are testing positive … are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bar-type settings.” (Does he mean the very bars that he ordered to reopen on May 22?)

“It’s hard to tell exactly where those people contracted COVID,” Abbott said. “All we know is that because these people are testing positive at a higher rate who are age 30 and under, it informs us about certain strategies to take to make sure that we are able to reduce the number of people testing positive.”

One strategy that he won’t be using is ordering face masks. The mayors of Austin, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, along with five other cities, sent Abbott a letter yesterday. They’re asking him to let these mayors require the use of face masks in their respective cities. But the governor rebuffed their requests. (His executive order bars Texas cities from issuing fines or jail time to those who violate the mask requirement.)