Sunday, June 29, 2008

Grasshoppers at Hugo's

Hugo's and the Gay Pride Parade, Again

For the second year in a row, my wife, 74-year old mother, and 9-year old daughter went to Hugo's on the night of the Gay Pride Parade.

Once again, Mayor Bill White ate at Hugo's before the parade. Once again, he left early to lead the parade.

Once again, my daughter left with several pounds of mardi gras beads.

This year, it struck me how conservative the parade has become. Apart from a few men in underwear, most of the parade is dominated by floats or cars advertising politicians, corporations (Chase, BP, Chevron), and at least 6 or 7 churches.

My family loved the parade. But for me the real excitement was on Hugo's menu.

Eating some bugs

Hugo's is serving grasshoppers:

This appetizer, called chapulines, consists of a bowl of pan-sauteed grasshoppers with chipolte salsa, guacamole, and blue tortillas.

I have had grasshoppers before, but under different circumstances.

At boy scout camp in Central Texas. I signed up for the Wilderness Survival merit badge. We had to spend a night in the wild without equipment and forage for food. The only thing we found to eat were grasshoppers.

I cooked a few grasshoppers on a fire that started without matches. Without spices, the grasshoppers had a grassy, vegetal taste and a crunchy texture.

The grasshoppers served at Hugo's are not pretty. It is hard to escape the fact that they really do look like bugs: But Hugo's grasshoppers are much better than the ones I cooked at camp. They are thoroughly spiced and served with some sauteed onions and cilantro. I did not detect any of the grassy flavor of the grasshoppers of my childhood.

Still, the texture of the crunchy exoskeletons may be hard for some people to take. Fortunately for the squeamish, Hugo's serves enough guacamole and salsa that you can wrap everything in a tortilla and almost forget you are eating bugs.

Some people will order this dish because they have been watching too much Andrew Zimmern. I confess that I have some of the same food machismo.

But the value of this dish goes beyond its exotica. Hugo's grasshoppers taste very good.

Other foods

Squash blossoms are in season. So Hugo's kitchen is serving its annual squash blossom menu, including stuffed squash blossoms:

My favorite dish at Hugo's is a simple one -- Callo de Hacha, pan seared scallops served over sweet corn bread:

Houston is lucky to have Mexican food as creative and as good as Hugo's.


Misha said...

I ordered the grasshoppers last year and I thought they were absolutely terrible. I have a feeling they were a bit over-roasted, because they tasted of charred, chile-flavored wood chips.

Are they really worth ordering again?

Anonymous said...

"Food machismo." Heh. :)

I really need to get over there and try both the squash blossoms and the grasshoppers. But I have to echo Misha's question: would you order them again?

anonymouseater said...

I really would order them again. To me, these had no flavor of charring or wood chips. They had a peppery, vinegary flavor.

But Misha, if you did not like them the first time, my guess is that you would not like them now.

Cisco said...

callo de acha is my favorite as well. I LOVE IT.

My girlfriend doesn't like HUGO's much because she's not big on sauces(READ FLAVOR :)). I try to take my mom at least once a month to hugos to get her away from the taquerias and try a different type of mexican food. She loves it there but she's used to the prices at taquerias and almost has a "QUE?" feeling when she sees the bill. But that's mom ;)

I have also tried to grasshoppers and i have and will order them again. I tried taking a few to my dad but they don't travel well. They turned a bit too soggy.

Love this place too bad the only person willing to go wit me doesn't want me to go that often :( hehe

Cisco said...

btw, i tried the squash blossom quesadillas but i didn't care for them much so i haven't tried any of their squash blossom meals. The stuffed squash blossom looks good tho....

Last week i had the soft shell crab. It was good but callo de acha... yummmy!

Rubiao said...

The first time I had chapulines was at the market in Oaxaca. Women walk around with straw baskets overflowing with millions of the little guys. I was sitting at one of the amazing food stalls one morning enjoying a hot chocolate with sweet bread and a chapulines lady asked me if I would like to try them. So I took one and threw it into my mouth. She laughed at me and gave me a proper try, a handful. The strange part was, if a handful was just a taste, what quantity was she selling? Either way, they were fried with chiles, a red color, crunchy, and not bad. People eat them like sunflower seeds down there, after a while they melt in your mouth (mostly).

I have some photos of the grasshopper section of the market, a few women with giant straw baskets piled about 4 feet high with chapulines.

tinyhands said...

That 3-course meal sounds perfect, exactly what I'd order. Good to know.

cynthiamonster said...

Yay! Squash blossom season at Hugo's!

I also had fried grasshoppers in a Oaxaca market once. I liked them ok but was kind of turned off by a strange fish taste that seemed wrong, probably from the oil they were fried in. I tried them at Hugo's last year and definitely did not like them. They were super dry, even with the sauce. The one's in Oaxaca weren't that great but they definitely weren't dry. I'm thinking the secret to good grasshoppers is frying them lots of (non-fishy)oil for not too long.

zorra said...

DH and I dearly love Hugo's. We were there last month--weren't up for the grasshoppers, but as usual everything we had was delish. I loved the duck in red mole so much,the server spontaneously brought me a little container of the mole to take home. Apart from anything and everything with their mole, my favorite there is the pork tamale, which isn't always on the menu.

Jim Smith said...

Due to your note, if I'm ever in Houston visiting, I hope to eat at Hugo's. I just finished a thought about grasshoppers versus shrimp for supper.