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

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: Mars and Jupiter Shine Bright

This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on July 1, 9 pm CDT on July 15, and dusk on July 31.  To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom. The Summer Triangle is high in the east.  This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila.  Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to his left.  Leo, the Lion, sets in the west with Jupiter.  From the Big Dipper’s handle, ‘arc to Arcturus’ and ‘speed on to Spica’ in the southwest.  Mars and Saturn remain in the south at dusk.

This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on July 1, 9 pm CDT on July 15, and dusk on July 31. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.
The Summer Triangle is high in the east. This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila. Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to his left. Leo, the Lion, sets in the west with Jupiter. From the Big Dipper’s handle, ‘arc to Arcturus’ and ‘speed on to Spica’ in the southwest. Mars and Saturn remain in the south at dusk.

Jupiter is now in the west at dusk. It outshines all stars we ever see at night, so you can’t miss it.

Mars and Saturn are now in the south at dusk. As you watch them, Mars is to the right and is much brighter.

Although Mars continues to fade each night as Earth leaves it farther and farther behind, this month Mars still outshines all of the stars and even rivals Jupiter in brightness! By the end of the month, Mars begins to approach Saturn.

Venus is lost in the Sun’s glare and out of sight all month.

The Big Dipper is above the North Star, with its handle pointing up. From that handle, you can ‘arc to Arcturus’ and then ‘speed on to Spica’; those stars are in the west at dusk. Leo, the Lion, is also in the west at dusk.

Antares, brightest star of Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to its left. Saturn is right above Antares. The Summer Triangle has fully risen in the east. The stars of summer are here.

Moon Phases
Moon Phases in July 2016:

New July 4, 6:01 a.m.

1st Quarter July 11, 7:52 p.m.

Full July 19, 5:57 p.m.

Last Quarter July 26, 6:00 p.m.

At 11:00 am on Monday, July 4, Earth is at aphelion. This means that on this date Earth is as far from the Sun as it will get this year. But all of us can feel how hot and sticky it is outside now, compared to January, when Earth was at its closest. This is because the Earth’s orbit is almost a circle; the difference between closest and farthest distance from the Sun is small. Indeed, Earth is only 1.6% farther than average from the Sun on July 4. The effect of Earth’s 23.5 degree tilt easily dominates the tiny effect of Earth’s varying distance from the Sun.

Also on July 4, the Juno spacecraft enters Jupiter orbit. For just over a year and a half, Juno will execute 37 orbits of Jupiter before a controlled orbit into Jupiter in February 2018. The spacecraft is designed to explore the inner composition of Jupiter, giving more information about what’s far beneath the cloud layers we see.

On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer. As of now, however, George is closed while Brazos Bend State park dries out from yet another round of floods on the Brazos River. The park could reopen as early as July 12.

Clear Skies!

James G. Wooten
Planetarium Astronomer
Houston Museum of Natural Science

A Wedding Under The Planetarium Stars

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

If you would like to host at The Houston Museum of Natural Science please contact one of our event specialist at specialevents@hmns.org, or you can find more information at www.rentthemuseum.com.

Curious Late Nights at HMNS – The Mystery of Imperato’s Lost Tablet

Disclaimer: This fictional story was written by Julia Russell in Youth Education Programs.

Hello everyone,

My name is Julia, and it’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since I started my research as a graduate student at HMNS. It really seems like it was just yesterday…

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I’ve loved museums since I was a child. I was always fascinated by the huge and impressive collections museums were able to acquire. It’s a curiosity of mine that has never fully disappeared. Being a mini-museum connoisseur growing up, I had many of my own collections. I had the traditional stamp collection. I had the cumbersome rock collection. (Gathering new specimens for my collection probably wasn’t the highlight of our family vacations for my parents.) I eventually moved on to collecting books about my two favorite topics: sharks and dinosaurs. This also led to a lot of “excavations” in my backyard. I was fairly unsympathetic about destroying the landscape of our backyard when I was on a search to uncover the greatest dinosaur fossil ever found. I never actually found it, but I did triumphantly reassure my dad that the numerous holes in the backyard were in the name of science and discovery!

Eventually, I decided to study history and biology at the University of Fibonacci. Throughout my time as an undergraduate student, I tried to find career paths that would let me combine my dual interests in the humanities and the hard sciences. The one place I could bring these two passions together? A museum! In keeping with my childhood, I continued to marvel at the world’s museums and their Impressionist paintings, ancient Greek pottery, dazzling gems and minerals, mummies, fossils, and so much more. The one question that began to echo through my mind as I visited these institutions: why do we collect? What drives people to create collections? Is it human nature to collect? Since four years of undergraduate work wasn’t nearly enough time to satisfy these questions, I decided to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Noneya to explore the art of collecting a little further.

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To better understand why, I had to start with when. At what point in our history did we start collecting? If I could find a starting point, I had a better chance of understanding the why. As it turns out, the practice of collecting is as old as humans themselves. The concept of collecting in an effort to better understand the natural world around us seems to be an inherent part of our human nature. In all of my studies, there was one particular collection that struck me: the collection of Ferrante Imperato.

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Like most people, I’m intrigued by the unknown. I think that’s what draws me to Imperato and his collection. We don’t know much about this…apothecary? Or was he an alchemist? I decided to make Imperato and his cabinet of curiosities, a kind of precursor to the natural history museums of today, the focus of my graduate thesis. Enter HMNS.

I came to HMNS after hearing that they were bringing Ferrante Imperato’s collection over from Naples, Italy. They were going to have his actual collection. It was a researcher’s dream. I reached out to HMNS and began studying the numerous objects and texts left behind by Ferrante and his son, Francesco.  

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I combed through original texts and flexed my semi-fluent Italian language muscles. I was particularly entranced by Imperato’s Dell’Historia Naturale from 1599. This engraved text outlines Imperato’s natural history collection, making it one of the first texts to do so. While I was interested in the extensive catalog of his collection and his reasons for collecting, I couldn’t help but notice some strange references throughout his texts. The word tesoro appears several times in Imperato’s writings. Tesoro is the Italian word for “treasure.” Of course, since Ferrante Imperato was an enthusiastic collector, I assumed he was referring to his collection as a treasure. As an 8-year-old, I frequently boasted about my collections of “treasures” though my treasures mostly consisted of dirt clods from my backyard excavations that I had yet to “prep out” as I explained to my parents. However, as I continued to read Imperato’s texts, I came to realize he wasn’t referring to his entire collection as a “treasure.” He was referring to a single object, a tablet.

I’m a firm believer that Ferrante Imperato was an alchemist as well as an apothecary. In my quest to understand what drives people to collect, it seems that Imperato was determined to use his collection to find natural remedies for a variety of ailments. He also frequently discussed the transformation of matter, a concept near and dear to alchemists’ hearts. Could this tablet be part of Imperato’s work as an alchemist? And more importantly, could this object be in the very Cabinet of Curiosities I’m studying right now?

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While I love talking about my research and the topic of my thesis, as any graduate student does (seriously, I’ll talk about it for hours), I really wanted to write this guest blog to ask for help. I need to solve the mystery of this tablet. I don’t have much longer to work with the collection before my thesis is due and my time at HMNS is up! So here I am, reaching out to the HMNS community for help. Can you unlock the secrets and solve the riddles of Ferrante Imperato’s Cabinet of Curiosities before it’s too late?

If your group is interested in helping Julia solve the mystery of Imperato’s lost tablet, email education@hmns.org for more information on this special Curious Late Night program.