About Guest Contributor

From distinguished lecturers to scientific scholars to visiting curators to volunteers to leaders in their respective fields, we often invite guest authors to contribute content to our blog. You'll find a wealth of information written by these fascinating individuals as we seek to expand your level of knowledge with every post.

Expand Your Knowledge and Your Palate this National Caviar Day!

by A Fare Extraordinaire

Happy National Caviar Day! Caviar is one of our favorite items to add to your menu to bring an extra touch of elegance to any event. In honor of National Caviar Day, we would love to share some fun facts, recipe tips and secret tricks to our favorite menu item!

When most people think caviar, they think of the traditional caviar display possibly seen at their grandmother’s house on Christmas morning. Caviar on ice, warm blinis, crème fraiche, red onions and hard boiled eggs all presented in silver bowls with small mother-of-pearl spoons. While this always creates a beautifully traditional display, HMNS loves to think outside the box and add our modern take on things for functions, parties and more.

PASSED HORS D’OEUVRES

One way to modernize your caviar experience is to create a fun passed hors d’oeuvres option with your caviar bite. Passed hors d’oeuvres are a great way to get your crowd mingling. We have two takes on our caviar passed hors d’oeuvre:

Caviar Blini

Corn and Caviar Blini: Warm blini topped with caviar and crème fraiche. Garnished with chives.

Ingredients:

1 cup of All-Purpose flour                                           

1 cup of cornmeal

2 teaspoons of salt

1 tablespoon of sugar

2 eggs

1 cup of yogurt

2 cups of creamed corn, pureed

1 cup of butter, melted

Procedure:

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the butter, and blend in the Vitamix.

Emulsify the blend in the butter.

Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Cook small cakes on a griddle or cast iron pan.

Top cooked blini with lemon crème fraiche, caviar and minced chives.


Caviar Chip

“Fare-ly Sweet” Chips and Caviar: A Fare Extraordinaire brand sweet potato chips topped with lemon crème fraiche and caviar. Garnished with chives.

Ingredients:

A Fare Extraordinaire Signature sweet potato chips

Lemon crème fraiche

Minced chives

Caviar of choice

Procedure:

Assemble as desired. Use photo as serving suggestion.


SWEET TREATS

Chocolate Caviar Tart

Who says caviar is limited to savory bites? Another unique and creative way to incorporate caviar into your menu is through your dessert! Caviar has been trending in the pastry world, and we would love to share one of our new favorite desserts with you. Our Chocolate Caviar Tart will make your mouth water! Our pastry department has been working to perfect the art of chocolate caviar for this fun-filled tart.


CAVIAR FACTS

As simple and small as caviar may seem, there are many origins and differentiations. The more you learn about caviar, the more interesting and enjoyable it becomes to eat. Caviar, in the most basic explanation, is a salt-cured fish egg originating from a sturgeon fish. 

sturgeon

There are four types of caviar: Beluga, Starlet, Ossetra and Sevruga. The rarest of these four is the Beluga. These sturgeons are located in the Caspian Sea between Europe and Asia. At A Fare Extraordinaire, we prefer to use the roe from Ossetra Sturgeon. This caviar is the most prized and expensive next to the Beluga. The Ossetra Sturgeon range from 50 to 400 pounds and live up to 50 years in age. The Ossetra caviar ranges in color from deep brown to golden. The lighter colors are more sought after because they are the richest in flavor.

We hope that these recipe tricks, sweet treats and fun facts have helped broaden your caviar knowledge and helped you in celebrating National Caviar Day!

Editor’s Note: A Fare Extraordinaire is a luxury full-service event and catering company servicing the greater Houston area, and a partner of the Houston Museum of Natural Science Special Events team.

Archie Spends ‘A Day in the Life’ of a Museum Volunteer

By Jennifer Gerbode, HMNS Volunteer Coordinator

Hi everyone, it’s Archie the Wandering T. rex! I recently had some downtime in-between travels, so I decided to go on a small adventure of my own right here at home. The museum is always a busy and popular place! Between all the tours, the cool members events, and special exhibits, we need a lot of hands to make sure everything goes smoothly. Thankfully, we have a great group of people that do just that!

HMNS volunteers give their time to the museum and share their love of science and learning with the public. Anyone can be a volunteer, provided you are at least 18 years old and can commit to 40 volunteer hours per year. The volunteers tell me this is really easy to do; a couple hours every other week will do it.

Vol Office Door

Since it is summer, the Volunteer Office might seem quiet, but that doesn’t mean volunteers aren’t busy! Year-round, volunteers give guided tours to visitors of all ages in the permanent and special exhibit halls—and even take museum-related presentations out into the community via the Docents-to-Go program. During the school year, they also help with the HISD 4th grade program and the Early Investigations program geared for Kindergarten – 3rd grade.

Before Tour of HoA

I got to hear a few quick talking points about Hall of Americas before a tour began.

Once any morning tours and activities are over, it’s time for a quick lunch break! I sat down with some of the volunteers as they poured over exhibit halls notes and shared anecdotes about their time on the floor (Don’t worry! Some of these stories will be shared in a future blog, so stay tuned!)

After lunch, I decided to tag along as one of the volunteers grabbed a special key and went to open up a touch cart. As the name implies, touch carts are filled with touchable items that pertain to the exhibit where the cart is located. Most of the exhibits have at least one touch cart, while a few popular halls have more —The Morian Hall of Paleontology has six! To work a touch cart, volunteers don’t have to be an expert on the entire hall; they only need to know a few key facts about one or two intriguing items in the cart.

We ended up talking about mummification in the Hall of Ancient Egypt at a cart the volunteers lovingly call “Himself.” They call it Himself because, according to Royal Decree, the King was always referred to as ‘Himself.’ Since the cart is in the shape of an anthropoid (or human-shaped) coffin with both hands crossed in front (the sign of a king), the name is most appropriate.

Fun at Himself

Uh… shabtis? A little help?

After we spent some time at the “Himself” touch cart, my volunteer friend suggested I check out one of the demonstration stations scattered through the exhibits. These volunteer-run stations show science in action and allow for a little more hands-on approach. For mad scientists, the Chemistry demo area is the perfect place to talk about reactions (while playing with fire). For those with a passion for sparkly gems and their creation, the Rock Star gem polishing station is situated right inside Fabergé: From a Snowflake to an Iceberg. What better place to demonstrate what a facet or a cabochon is?

Rock Star Station

While it’s not an everyday event, volunteers also help prepare and run the craft tables at the many member events throughout the year. I was able to hang out with Ben, a frequent volunteer at craft events, as we showed off a few crafts being prepared from upcoming and past special events.

Archie and Ben

Before I knew it, I had spent the whole day with the volunteers! Not all volunteers spend a full day at the museum—and no one participates in, or knows, everything. Volunteers get to pick and choose what to do based on their schedule and interests. The one thing that all volunteers share though is a passion for learning, and a desire to share knowledge with others.

Interested in becoming a volunteer at HMNS? Check out the Volunteer page on the HMNS website for more information opportunities at HMNS’ three locations, requirements, and application instructions. Interviews will open for new applicants beginning July 18, with the first school-year orientations scheduled for late August.

Until my next exotic adventure… see you in the halls!

Shadow Archie

Meet Our Exclusive Event Caterers: French Gourmet Bakery

Interview by Ashley Zalta, HMNS Special Events Manager

Everyone always says the secret ingredients to the best recipes is the love put into them. We dove a little deeper into one of our exclusive caterers French Gourmet Bakery, to see what makes their family run business so delicious. Check out their suggestions for your next visit.

FGBHMNS: Who makes up your family French Gourmet Bakery Team?
Patrice Ramain- Our Pastry Chef
Mary Ramain-Operations Director
Lauren Ramain Montgomery-General Manager

HMNS: When did FGB open?
We opened in 1973 in the West Gray shopping center.

HMNS: How did you get the idea to start FGB?
My father, Patrice Ramain, studied to be a pastry chef in France and obtained his masters in pastries and baking bread from the Grand Moulin de Paris. He was recruited by a bakery owner here in Houston. Shortly after, he met my mother, Mary Ramain, and they decided to open their own bakery, in 1973.

HMNS: What is each of your favorite items?
Patrice-Almond Croissant
Mary- Eclairs
Lauren- Ebony & Ivory mousse cake

HMNS: Do you make your breads and pastries each day?
Yes, we bake all of our products fresh daily

HMNS: How early do you have to arrive to start making them?
Our baker arrives at 3am

What is the hardest item to make?
Mousse cakes

HMNS: What is your most popular breakfast item?
Ham & Swiss Croissants or Cinnamon Pecan Rolls

HMNS: What is your most popular sandwich?
Chicken Salad (house-made) sandwich on Croissant

HMNS: What is your most popular dessert?
Chocolate Thumbprint, our signature cookie

HMNS: What item should people try that they probably haven’t?
Quiche- we make Ham & Swiss, Spinach & Swiss or Bacon & Swiss

HMNS: What makes your bakery unique from others?
I would say our authentic French products and commitment to great customer service. We use only the highest quality ingredients, we make everything from scratch and bake fresh daily.

HMNS: What types of events can you cater?
Corporate Meetings, Service Awards, Launch Parties, Bridal & Baby Showers, Birthday Parties Anniversaries, etc.

HMNS: Anything else you would like people to know about your bakery?
We offer a nice variety of both American and French style baked goods

Let us make your next event truly unforgettable—from sophisticated and dramatic to out-of-this-world, our distinctive venues offer beautiful settings beyond compare. Learn more at rentthemuseum.org

Summer Grilling Museum Style

Summer Grilling party 101 as done by the professionals! Take your summer grilling to the next level, learn what dishes are our exclusive Museum caterer’s favorites, and how they do it!

Skinny Pinchada
Recipe by City Kitchen
“Perfect amount of nuttiness to balance out the sweet!”

pinchada-pin

 

Grilled Watermelon Salad
Café Natalie
“This is our favorite summer dish as grilling the watermelon caramelizes the sugar providing a sweet, yet refreshing snack for any Summer BBQ.”

watermelon-salad

Grilled Caesar Salad
Abuso
“It’s the new summer trend we are really excited about”

grilled ceasar salad
Dressing (Or use your favorite brand Caesar Dressing)

  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (found near the tuna fish in the supermarket)
  •  2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I like the brand Maille)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
  2. Add the mayonnaise, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper and whisk until well combined.
  3. Taste and adjust to your preferred flavor. The dressing will keep well in the fridge for a little under a week.

Salad

  • One large head of Romaine, sliced in half
  • 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  •  A liberal pinch of salt and pepper
  •  ½ Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
    Croutons
  • 1 or 2 pieces of your favorite baguette or white sandwich bread
  • Lightly oil, s&p, grill to desired doneness.
  1. Preheat your grill to high heat. The hotter the grill, the better the lettuce will caramelize.
  2. Rub each side of the Romaine with the EVOO and sprinkle with Salt and Pepper
  3. Once your grill is ready, carefully place your romaine on it.
  4. Flip after 45 seconds to a minute. The lettuce should be dark brown with a nice char. Do not burn or wilt.
  5. Chop lettuce and toss with croutons, cheese and dressing.

Croutons

  1. Lightly oil your bread and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill bread on both sides to desired doneness
  3. Crumble or cut to desired size

Feel free to customize your salad with some fresh touches, such as diced tomatoes, corn, avocado, or even grilled chicken. Once you’ve grilled your first head of romaine, we guarantee you’ll make this salad again and again!

ribeye

Bone-In Ribeye
A Fare Extraordinaire
“The perfect way to get your family and friends together for a summer soiree”

chef

Executive Chef, Ryan Bouillet

The most important thing to know about grilling your steak is that there are lots of methods to the madness. If you are new to grilling, keep practicing, and eventually you will find your grilling, seasoning and temperature method of preference. Regardless of your experience, a steak grill out is the perfect way to get your family and friends together for a summer soiree.

The Grill: The first step to grilling the perfect ribeye is deciding on your preferred cooking method. We prefer a good old fashioned charcoal grill, but for you new-time grillers it might be easier to start with the gas grill. Both methods will cook your steak perfectly, but there are pros and cons to each method.

 

CHARCOAL GRILL

45 Minute Start Time
More Complicated to Master
Intense Flavoring from Charcoal and Wood Chips Infused into Meat

 

GAS GRILL

20 Minute Start Time
Easier and More User Friendly
Minimal Flavor, For Cooking Purposes Only

 

Seasoning: Set your meat out right as you’re lighting the grill or turning the grill on. If you allow your meat to sit out and come to room temperature, this will help in the cooking your steak faster. Once your grill is ready, season your meat with salt and pepper. We prefer to use Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper on our steaks. Some people also prefer to use olive oil to give their meat extra tenderness and moisture.

Grilling: We prefer diamond grill marks for the perfect grilling effect. Place your steak on the grill at a 45 degree angle for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, rotate your steak to 90 degrees for another 2 minutes. Once you have totaled to 4 minutes on one side, flip your steak over and repeat the 45 degree and 90 degree for another 4 minutes, totaling to 8 full minutes on the grill. There are many ways to tell if your steak is to the correct temperature. The most accurate way is to read the temperature of the meat. Your doneness will increase by 5 degrees.

 

TEMPERATURE DONENESS

125 Degrees: Rare
130 Degrees: Medium Rare
135 Degrees: Medium
140 Degrees: Medium Well

 

Cook Time: Your meat temperature is a personal preference. For most steaks, we prefer a nice medium rare. However, for Ribeyes, we have a personal preference of medium. Bone-In Ribeyes are a much fattier cut of meat. Cooking the ribeye a little longer, to medium, will allow the fat to render and avoids any gristle.

Resting: Once your meat is off the grill, it is very important to let it rest before cutting into it. If you do not allow enough resting time, then most of the juices will run, creating dryness in your steak. We recommend a resting time that equals half the cooking time. If you cook your steak for 8 minutes, then let it rest for 4 minutes.

skewers 1

Grilled Strawberry Shortcake Skewers
Mélange

(Recipe makes 4 skewers)

  • 1/2 pound angel food cake
  • 12 strawberries
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp good quality vanilla zest of 1 lemon

These can be made ahead of time and grilled just before dessert.

1. dip
2. strawberries
3. cake
4. grill and serve!

Directions:

  1. Whipped cream dip – Mix together the heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Beat until soft/medium peaks form. Caution – don’t let it go too long or it will turn into butter.
  2. Prepare the strawberries – Remove the hulls. You can do this with a paring knife the traditional way, or you can even use a regular straw. Push the straw up through the bottom of the strawberry.

    Melt some strawberry preserves in a small bowl. Dip the strawberries into the melted strawberry preserves. Use a fork to get them out and “drain” them as you go.

  3. Prepare the angel food cubes – Cut your angel food cake into cubes. You want them to be roughly the same size as the strawberries, and the same size as each other. If some are really large and some small, the smaller ones won’t touch the grill. Size and uniformity does matter in this one.

    Now just put them together. I am using these double skewers. If you are using singles, use two at a time. Hold them slightly apart while threading the food onto them. This will keep the fruit and cake from swiveling around.

  4. Grill and serve – When you are ready to grill them, brush the cake with melted butter on each side. The butter will help to prevent the cake from sticking, and it will also help form that lovely crust. Grill the kabobs on a medium grill or grill pan about 4 minutes per side. You should see some really nice grill marks on the cake. The berries will also get a slight char on them. Serve hot with the lemon scented whipped cream dip.

skewers 2