Saturday, August 29, 2009

"What if We Substituted Chicken for Bread..."


KFC has answered the question that no one has asked: "What if we substituted chicken for bread in a sandwich?"

The answer is KFC's Double Down, the latest innovation from the world's favorite purveyor of Fried Chicken. Undergoing test marketing in selected markets, the Double Down is two breaded and fried Original Recipe chicken fillets surrounding swiss cheese, pepper jack cheese, and pieces of bacon.

Fading Ambience

Ambience International Grill in the Woodlands appears to have closed. We're sorry to see them go.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tycer vs Gould: The Chronicle's Take

Maggie Galehouse at the Houston Chronicle has posted her take on Battle Ownership, the Tycer vs. Gould controversy at Gravitas.

Chefs' rift grows into a chasm

The story elaborates on the promises made, the SBA loan, and the attempted buyout.

Galehouse confirms the issue that we feel is at the heart of the controversy:

Gould came up with a new plan: to buy Gravitas from Tycer. He told Tycer what he was doing, found some financial backers willing to buy out the SBA loan and gave Tycer a letter of intent to take over the restaurant's financial obligations.

But Tycer felt low-balled. He said Gould's investors were "looking for someone frantic who wanted to be pulled out from underneath a boulder."

He counteroffered, and Gould's investors pulled out.

But as recently as July, he said, Tycer told him he still saw him as a partner.

That changed on Aug. 7 when Gould got a call from Tycer's wife. Annika Tycer, a management consultant who helps her husband with the business side of food, had been involved in the buyout negotiations. She told Gould that he was no longer considered a partner.


Our summary:

Something smells funny. If Tycer didn't want to be bought out, why did he enter into negotiations?

Here's the timeline as we see it:

  • Tycer negotiates with Gould.


  • Gould can't raise enough money in this economic climate.


  • Tycer feels lowballed, but still considers Gould a partner.


  • Then Tycer's wife comes in and tell him that he's not considered a partner.


  • Gould feels betrayed, and quits.



Maybe that's just business as usual in a Tycer establishment. But we think it stinks. Ethical firms don't promise a key employee equity and then yank it away because they get mad.

We stand by our position to avoid Tycer and his establishments; we can't support a restaurant with these sorts of business practices.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Gould / Tycer Controversy Continues - Tycer's Version of the Story

An anonymous commenter to this blog provided a link to Tycer's version of the story. Mike Ricetti, a contributor to the Examiner.com web site, apparently received a call from Tycer, who wanted to set the record straight.

It's a complex tale. Read it here.

The story provides many details: SBA loans, Gould's status as a non-citizen, Tycer's version of why Gould wants to leave, some negotiations with Gould, Tycer, and Tycer's McKinsey consultant wife, who is described as the "business head" of the couple.

The big question still remains: Why does Gould still not have his equity in Gravitas? Tycer's answer to that question was that he had "never been shown anything" that indicates Gould's citizenship status has changed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Houston Burger Chain Hierarchy


The best burgers in Houston are found in quirky, out-of-the-way joints that do their thing in their own unique way. But Houston is huge, and when you're in the mood for a burger, you often can't drive across miles of traffic to that perfect out-of-the-way spot.

The solution: A burger from a chain. Here in Houston we're fortunate enough to have some very good burgers from stores with multiple locations. But how do you decide which chains are craveworthy and which are only for emergency use?

We're here to help, with our Houston Burger Chain Hierarchy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jason Gould to leave Gravitas over dispute with Scott Tycer

UPDATE: An anonymous commenter posted a link to Tycer's version of the story.

Cleverley Stone broke a story on her radio show over the weekend that will probably infuriate a lot of Houston foodies.

Jason Gould, the Executive Chef at Gravitas, is leaving. And the reason isn't pretty.

"I was lead to believe that I was part owner, but I was not" Gould said. And he sounded genuinely hurt by this unfortunate surprise.

This story is just the latest in the drama surrounding Scott Tycer, the owner of Gravitas and Textile, and the enfant terrible of the Houston food scene.

Gifted in the kitchen, Tycer's reputation among those he works with is markedly less positive, with staff reportedly walking on eggshells waiting for Tycer's next outburst. But this takes things a step further, if Gould's allegations are correct.

Our Take:

In our opinion, misleading a key employee about his equity in a business goes beyond a breach of ethics. We don't have personal knowledge of what was said, but Tycer's reputation for abusing his staff doesn't make this allegation tough to believe.

Over the years, we went from being mildly amused by Tycer's antics to being put off by how he treated his staff. Every time we write about him we feel a growing sense of distaste for contributing in any small way to his success. But for us, this is the last straw. Jason Gould is a class act, and he is the heart and soul behind the success of Gravitas. He deserves far better than this.

Our Bottom Line: We won't be returning to any Tycer restaurants, and won't continue to cover them in this blog. Best of luck to the staff at these locations; you folks may have the toughest jobs in the Houston food scene.

Deluxe Angus Third Pounder - What Hath McD's Wrought?

McDonald's sells more burgers than any other company on the planet, and few outside of that organization would attribute this achievement to the quality of the food. It's a restaurant that foodies love to hate, representing everything bad about the prefab nature of fast food.

We'd heard through the grapevine that McDonald's had a new burger coming out that would change our minds about the company. We'd heard that before. (Anyone remember the Arch Deluxe? Big 'n' Tasty?")

So it was with very low expectations that we headed to the local McDonald's, a surprisingly attractive store located on Woodlands Parkway near Gosling. Nestled amidst the trees, it's far less jarring that the orgy of bright colors that marks most of the chain's locations. We ordered our Deluxe Angus Third Pounder (the cheese and bacon variant) and awaited its delivery.

We opened the now-familiar cardboard coffin, and gazed upon this new burger. First impressions were surprisingly good. It's large, veggies look fresh, and the cheese was melted and reasonably oozy. The single patty was thick and obviously machine formed.

Did it look like the marketing images? Of course not, but we've never seen any fast food burger that did.

Now what about the taste. We dug in, and were pleasantly surprised. The large, dense patty had a nice beefy flavor that wasn't overpowered by the condiments, and the veggies were nice and crisp, with a fresh taste. The onions deserve special mention; they were actual onion slices, not the chopped, processed Onion McNuggets that McDonald's puts on the rest of its burgers.

All in all we were pleasantly surprised by the burger. We've always considered McDonald's to be a distant last among the other big chains when it came to burgers, but now they've achieved parity; we think the Deluxe Angus Third Pounder is a comparable product to the deluxe burgers offered by other national fast food chains.

Now let's see McDonald's take that next step: A burger that can compete with Beck's Prime or SmashBurger. C'mon, Ronald. We're waiting.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rise and Dine to become Sunny Street Cafe

Rise and Dine, the breakfast and lunch chain that recently opened in the Woodlands, is reported to be changing its name to Sunny Street Cafe.

There was no indication that this review of our mediocre experience was a contributing factor.