Interviewby 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.
HMNS: 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
Written by Ashley Zalta, HMNS Special Events Manager
The Burke Baker Planetarium at The Houston Museum of Natural Science has been recently renovated, and is now the premiere planetarium in the galaxy. It’s the first and only True8K™ planetarium, offering an unprecedented 50,000,000 pixels of beautiful brightness, resolution and brilliance. We wanted to show off its versatility as one of the perfect backdrops as you say your vows. Recently, we hosted a contest to be the first to get married in our updated planetarium, and below is our winner Katie’s story.
HMNS: Congratulations on winning the contest. We are very excited to share your special day with you. How did you hear about the wedding contest? Katie:I receive emails from HMNS and follow the HMNS Facebook page. The first time I heard about the contest was through email, but I saw it again on the HMNS Facebook page a few days later.
HMNS:Do you remember your first time to the museum and/or planetarium? Katie: It would have been as a child, actually attending a meeting of the spelunker’s society that my father was a member of rather than visiting the museum. The meetings were held in the basement of HMNS on weekday evenings, and I had full access to that floor during the time. While the meetings were being conducted, I would visit the basement exhibits to entertain myself. It was far different from what you see today. I remember there was a stuffed bear in one part, some kind of machine (perhaps a cotton gin?) in the center of the basement, and an exhibit on the periodic table of elements. The periodic table was my favorite part.
HMNS: What is your favorite part/exhibit in the museum? Katie:Aside from the Planetarium, my favorite things are the Cockrell Butterfly Center, the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, and, of course, the gift shop!
HMNS: Have you seen a planetarium show since it reopened this March after renovations to become 8K? Katie: I haven’t but I can’t wait to visit! The email about this contest was the first I’d heard about the upgrades.
HMNS: What is your favorite planetarium show? Katie:I’ve seen several over the years, but my favorites explore the Big Bang Theory and the expansion of the universe. I tell people that I think my mind is too feeble to ever be able to fully grasp how the universe is continuing to expand, but I keep trying to understand it. As a teenager, I enjoyed the laser light shows set to Pink Floyd music.
HMNS: Have you ever been to an event at the museum? Katie: I have been to a couple of weddings at the museum and some HMNS Mixers & Elixers events. Also, both of my children attended summer camp at HMNS in their younger years.
HMNS: Getting back to your special day, where will your reception be? Katie:We will be serving a build-your-own street taco bar at El Big Bad downtown while a DJ plays 80’s dance tunes. We have put instructions on the reception card about how to get downtown via light rail from HMNS.
HMNS: How did you tell your fiancé you won? Katie:I had been up since 6 am checking emails on June 1. I remembered from the rules that I only had 24 hours to respond and confirm acceptance of the prize if I won, and I didn’t want to miss it if I did. So when I got the email, I took a screenshot of it and texted it to him immediately. He responded with, “Was there any doubt?” Both he and my friends could not imagine that there would be anybody else out there more desirous of a Planetarium wedding than I was.
HMNS: How does your fiancé feel about getting married at the museum? Katie:He’s excited about it because it makes me happy. He hasn’t seen the potential visuals yet, though. I think it’s going to be beyond anything he could have possibly imagined.
HMNS: What types of things will you be showing in the planetarium for your ceremony? Katie:This is a difficult question because there are so many possibilities! I am currently working with the museum to stage the show, but it will definitely include imagery from both outer space and places on Earth that are special to us. There might even be a bit of time travel involved, incorporating the slingshot around the sun that we all know from Star Trek IV.
HMNS: What do your children think about your getting married at the museum of natural science? Katie:My 11-year-old son thinks it is super cool that I won the contest, and has been texting the video to people. My 18-year-old daughter responded with, “I thought you said that if you ever got married again, you would just go to a Justice of the Peace.” I told her that was before I knew that the Planetarium was an option!
HMNS: We hear you are wearing a blue dress for your wedding, how did you come to choose a blue dress? Katie:I chose a blue dress before I knew I would be getting married at the Planetarium partially because I wanted something other than white for a second wedding, and partially because this particular color spoke to me as the most beautiful color I could find for my wedding. The fact that it is celestial blue makes it perfect not just for me, but for the wedding itself now.
HMNS: Will you have any flowers or other décor? Katie:The only flowers will be bouquets and boutonnieres. My décor will be the Planetarium visuals. I don’t think anything else is necessary.
HMNS: If someone asked you for your best advice on planning a wedding or event what would it be? Katie:A successful event requires good memories. These are achieved through fun times and visuals that remain in people’s minds long after the event has ended. In talking to people involved in weddings and events, I have been told to always focus on the ceremony itself and the surroundings for both the ceremony and reception to achieve this visual memory, rather than spending money on small details that are quickly forgotten or possibly never noticed. I couldn’t be luckier to have won a ceremony venue that achieves this so easily!
Written by Ashley Zalta, HMNS Special Events Manager
Nothing is more refreshing than the cool delight of eating ceviche on a hot summer’s eve. Here at HMNS, one of our exclusive caterers—Mélange—are experts on this summertime staple and have a few tips (and recipes!) to share.
Why can we eat ceviche raw? The fish is actually cooked by whatever acid (lime juice, lemon juice) you use to marinate! In a process called denaturation the structure of the protein unfolds and ceases to function as normal. With food, this is typically achieved through the application of heat, but acids, bases, and salts can also have the effect. Using an acid gives the fish its “cooked” look and feel but moist texture that we desire in food. It is important to cut the pieces in such a way that the acid can thoroughly denature the protein before it is “overcooked”.
How long does it have to sit before we can eat it? Ideally it should sit between 10-30 minutes depending on your taste. This gives the acid time to start developing the “cooked” look and feel but isn’t so long that the fish begins to get a chalky dry texture.
How long does it stay good for? (ie should a person save left overs) Ceviche really should be eaten right then and there for the best taste and texture. But I would say if properly cared and stored (on ice the whole time) it should be edible the next day.
What are your (Mélange) ‘must have’ ingredients in a ceviche? Lime, cilantro, olive oil, thinly sliced red onion, and of course fish! This is ceviche in it’s simplest form, the addition of tomato, jalapeno, green onion, and avocado add a nice vegetable sweetness and balance to the acidic marinade. Corn and green olives(these two ingredients go very well together) are also common additions, of course the star of the show is the fish so be sure that is the focus and that you get a nice cut of fish to use!
If different, what is your one creative specialty touch ingredient? A good quality Spanish smoked paprika lends a nice aroma and smokiness. Habanero with mango also makes a fine shrimp ceviche, just be sure to de-seed the habanero or you won’t soon forget that experience!
Snapper Ceviche 8 oz Fresh Snapper Filet 2 tbsp Rough Chopped Cilantro Leaves 1 tbsp Small Dice Red Onion (as small as possible) 1/2 cup Lime Juice (plus zest from 1 lime) 1/4 cup Orange Juice (plus zest from 1/2 and orange) 1 each Diced Roma Tomato 2 tbsp Olive Oil 1 tsp Spanish Smoked Paprika 1 Seeded and Diced Jalapeno Salt and Pepper to taste Yucca Chips
Slice Snapper into 1/8 inch planks. Cut those by 1 inch intervals.
Marinate snapper in the lime juice in the fridge for 14 minutes.
Drain snapper and toss with the rest of the ingredients, Serve in an ice cold glass bowl.
Prepare yucca chips by removing the tough brown outer layer of yucca. Using a mandolin slice yucca into 1/16 of an inch slices.
Fry at 350 F until golden brown and crispy, drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Serve next to the ceviche for scooping.
Shrimp Ceviche (with Corn, Olives, and Avocado) 8 oz. Shrimp Peeled and Deveined 1/4 cup Roasted Corn Kernels 1/4 cup Sliced Green Olives 1 tbsp Fine Diced Red Onion 2 tbsp Rough Chopped Cilantro 1/4 cup Diced Avocado 1/8 cup Lime Juice (plus 1 tsp lime zest) 1/8 cup Orange Juice (plus 1 tsp orange zest) 2 tbsp Olive Oil Salt and Pepper to taste 1 Jalapeno Fine Diced (only half seeded) tortilla chips
Poach shrimp in boiling water for 60 seconds and cool in an ice bath. The shrimp should have cooked almost all the way through.
Toss the shrimp with the remaining ingredients and let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes tossing every 10 minutes or so.
Serve in an ice cold glass bowl with your favorite tortilla or yucca chips
LaB 5555 launched Friday with the help of some 700 patrons who gathered to geek responsibly and boogie among bones for a paleontological party dubbed “Skin & Bones.” Each LaB 5555, held monthly from here on out, will feature a scientific theme with one hour of educational pre-party time, live music, local food truck fare, cash bars and more. For a full schedule, click here.