Posted tagged ‘houston’

Community Project with the Aids Foundation of Houston

June 14, 2010

Copy of my recent blog post for Noah’s Kitchen

This past Sunday we had the opportunity to work with some very awesome kids via theAids Foundation of Houston as part of their Universal Teen Leadership Forum. The goal for the Universal Teen Leadership program is to assist participants in transitioning from adolescence to adulthood as self-reliant, successful, informed individuals. Many of the kids we worked with are graduates of Camp HOPE, which began in 1996 and is the first summer camp designed specifically for children ages 7-15 with HIV/AIDS in Texas.

Sunday’s community outreach program with these kids was part of their curriculum that dealt with giving. They were able to accomplish that by making and distributing meals to the homeless is three areas in downtown Houston. It was hope that by accomplishing this mission, the children would not only feel empowered to help themselves and others, but also see life from the perspective that the glass is half full, never half empty, and can always have meaning.

Thank you to Courtenay Siegfried and Mark Cohen of AF Houston for bringing these awesome and kind-hearted kids out to work with Amber, Candace, Denise, and myself. I hope the work we did together had as much of an impact on them as it did with us. I know their courage certainly resonated with me and I will take our shared experience through for a lifetime.

Below is the video I made of what we were able to accomplish on Sunday.

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May 29th Community Outreach Project a Success!

June 3, 2010

Several of our ninjas at DNC Worlwide have been  involved with charity efforts around Houston recently with the non-profit, Noah’s Kitchen. Working with them has really been inspiring. Looking back, I can’t believe that we’ve been involved in distributing over a thousand meals to Houston’s homeless population in the span of just a few short months. I’m very proud of Gustavo, Eddie, Kim, Ricardo, Angela, and Ashley for being an example to our entire network in joining me for those efforts.

This past weekend, DNC Worldwide was able to expand goodwill in Houston furthermore by working with Rich & Barry at thecagedoor.net. Together with some local businesses, we were able to organize a Houston MMA Community Outreach Project with some of Houston’s toughest fighters giving back to the community.

Please read the event wrap-up on thecagedoor.net.

There are some additional videos and outtakes from this event on my YouTube Channel as well.

Press Release – Houston MMA Community Giving Back

May 18, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Houston MMA Community Giving Back

Houston, TX – May 18, 2010 –TheCageDoor.net, in conjunction with DNC Worldwide Network, will be teaming up with Houston area Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters for a local community outreach project here in Houston on May 29, 2010. 

Eight fighters (pro and amateur) have volunteered their time to team up and work together for the purpose of providing meals to the underprivileged in several areas of Houston. Many of these fighters have either already fought each other, or will be fighting each other in upcoming events.

“Often times in MMA, especially in the local scene, competitive fighters and fans can get caught up in gym rivalries and cage battles. The fighters who are helping us out with this initiative are showing the rest of the city that it’s ok to battle in the cage then work together outside of it,” said Richard Burmaster, co-owner of TheCageDoor.net.

The fighters will be meeting at the Mezzanine Lounge at 10:30am to begin making lunches. Once the meals are made and packed, they will then split up into teams and canvass Houston to distribute the food to the homeless population.

Barry Laminack, Co-Owner of TheCageDoor.net said, “When Rich (Burmaster) and I started the site, we said that we wanted to be a positive force in the Houston MMA scene. We feel now is the time to follow through with that, so we’ve partnered up with Mike Calimbas of DNC Worldwide and put this effort together. Oftentimes, the negative perception of Mixed Martial Arts and the fighters involved are that of thuggish and violent individuals, when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Many of the fighters that have volunteered for this effort are some of the nicest and kindest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

This pilot program will lay the ground work in the near future for a much broader and farther-reaching community involvement effort from the Houston MMA scene. TheCageDoor.net is already in the planning stages to combine efforts and work with the community (both local and MMA) in coordinating and promoting volunteer efforts for the real non-profit charities that do this type of good day-in and day-out. Fighters, fans, gym owners and everyone interested in giving back will have a chance to work with designated local charities.

“It is our hope that this combined effort between fighters who compete against one another, and train at different gyms, will set an example. What we want this to be is a catalyst for the entirety of the MMA community to get involved in their local communities. Fighters, fans, and everyone involved can make a difference. It’s about increasing awareness. Good people can really do great things if they put their minds to it.” said Mike Calimbas of DNC Worldwide.

The media is welcome and encouraged to come out and cover what is sure to be the first of many positive efforts from TheCageDoor.net and the MMA community as a whole. Please join us on May 29, 2010 from 10:30am until 2:30pm at the Mezzanine Lounge (www.mezzaninelounge.com), located at 2200 Southwest Freeway, Suite 150. The fighters as well as the event coordinators will be available for photos and to answer questions before, during and after the event.

About TheCageDoor.net

TheCageDoor.net is a Houston based website dedicated to covering the Houston MMA scene. The site was started in October of 2009 by Richard Burmaster and Barry Laminack and has experienced tremendous growth since its inception. The site, located on the web at http://www.thecagedoor.net, provides a mix of Houston MMA news, local fighter interviews, pre and post event coverage, live event updates, fighter blogs, a Houston focused MMA forum and a comprehensive Houston area gym and fighter database.

About DNC Worldwide

DNC Worldwide is a networking group for individuals dedicated to building a brighter future. We are made up of motivated, energetic professionals who aspire to be future leaders within our respective professions AND communities. We accomplish this by encouraging members to get involved and make a difference by becoming active participants in the professional, civic, and social aspects of their networks. Please visit www.dncworlwide.com for more information.

Contact: Barry Laminack
e-mail: barry@thecagedoor.net
phone: 832.545.4419
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Volunteering with Noah’s Kitchen – Video Diary

May 16, 2010

Hello Houston!

Gustavo and I went out to volunteer for Noah’s Kitchen again today. Last time I helped out with this awesome charity, I was honored to write the guest blog for their website. This time, I wanted to take awareness for this great charity one step further so I recorded a video of today’s volunteer experience. I made this for those of you out there that may be curious about philanthropy and helping out with your local communities. It only takes a little effort to get out and make a difference!

Support your local community and grow together! – Mike Calimbas

Leave the Fork at Home – Review of Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine in Houston

April 25, 2010

Do you order the same item off the menu every time you go out to eat?

I can’t do that. To me that would be like paying my $12.50 for a ticket to watch a movie I’ve already seen a second time… and a third… and a fourth… and so on.

And thus when it comes to restaurant dining, I like to mix it up once in awhile. Try something new and adventurous, maybe something I’ve never had before, and oftentimes something entirely too dangerous and death-defying.

Last week, Megan and I decided to embark off our culinary beaten path and dine on a recommendation by Katharine Shilcutt of the Houston Press, who recommended Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine here in Houston. We figured since Katherine is such an unabashed foodie and raved about this place, it might be an excellent opportunity to try something new.

Ethiopian Food – A Background on Culture and Customs

How much do you know about the country of Ethiopia? Before I give you my take on the dining experience at Blue Nile, let me give you some background information on country and culture.

As a country, Ethiopia has been an independent nation since ancient times, their roots dating back well-over a millennia to 10th century BC.  It’s also one of the oldest sites on record of human existence and may be the point where homo sapiens first ventures forth from Africa into the middle east and the rest of the world. That’s right boys and girls, this place is truly the cradle of life.

In Ethiopian dining custom, meals are typically serves on a large platter around which family and guests gather. These platters, usually composed of weaved baskets, are lined with a pancake-like bread called injera, which is made with an Ethiopian grain called teff, which is recognized as one of the smallest grains the world.

Ethiopians do not use dining utensils. Pieces of injera are torn off with the right hand and used to scoop up food, much like naan and tortillas. In Ethiopian custom, it’s considered rude to use the left hand when dining. And when you’re full, expect to be urged to take more food. Providing an abundance of food is a sign of hospitality.

The Experience at Blue Nile

As I mentioned previously, we had no knowledge of Ethiopian dining custom nor any familiarity with Ethiopian cuisine before we went to Blue Nile last week. They could seriously have served me chicken enchiladas and I would have been none the wiser.

Blue Nile’s location is fairly low-key. They are in a fairly nondescript strip mall on Richmond Avenue in between Gessner & Fondren. The strip mall itself looks sketchy but the interior of Blue Nile’s dining room is well-decorated and clean. The staff at provided prompt and polite service. We were sat quickly and the waitress came by quickly to take our order. Though the place was not full at 8pm on a Thursday night, it was not empty either. Just right in terms of ambiance for a quiet dinner.

What we ate.

  • Doulet – (An Ethiopian delicacy – minced lamb tripe, lamb liver and lean top round meat (Beef) sautéed with spiced butter, mitmita (Hot pepper) and herbs. Served lebleb or raw.)
  • Doro Wot – (Chicken, in Ethiopian traditional way, cooked in berbere, onion, specially spiced butter and spices.)
  • Tej – A Sweet honey-wine. It is often homemade and is of varying strengths, ranging from the very sweet and almost non-alcoholic “birz”, to the stronger and less sweet true tej.

The injera that came with our platter was definitely new to me. I was hesitant at first because the texture and look of injera is very spongy and I didn’t know what to make of it. But once I realized  the lack of silverware at the table, I knew where this was going. I quickly tore off a piece and scooped up some meaty goodness. To my surprise, I enjoyed the injera more than I thought I would, and it made the meal, in its entirety, feel very filling.

As far as our entrees, everything was very, very spicy! It reminded me much of spicy Indian food. I liked the texture and taste of the lamb on the doulet but the liberal addition of jalapenos was a mixed-bag for me. It seemed to overpower the other components of the dish. The best part of the doro wot is the flavoring of the stew, which was a spicy red-pepper sauce. I also thought the whole egg thrown in was pretty neat. I was unimpressed by the portion of chicken in this dish though. I expected to get way more than one chicken drumstick in this entree for my $12. Next time maybe they can tell me this chicken leg was certified 100% organic free-range poultry. That would help cheap me feel more at ease with this order.

As far as the honey wine, we loved it! We were surprised to find out from our waitress that it is entirely homemade. Tej was definitely unlike any drink we’ve had previously and has a very unique taste and after-taste.

Conclusion

As a cultural learning experience, I’m glad we got to try Ethiopian cuisine at Blue Nile. It was definitely new and eye-opening. Dining with our hands was unexpected but cool. I wish they provided table-side hand washing (I read about this custom after the fact) because that would been good in this type of environment but what can you do.

I bet most vegetarians would love this place as that part of the menu seems to be a strong suit. I’d definitely recommend Blue Nile for that regard and would try the vegetarian combo myself next time. The dishes we did order this time around were good. Like I said, Ethiopian food definitely reminds me a little of spicy Indian food. My only complaint is that portion-wise, it filled us up, but still a little light for the price on dishes such as the doro wot.

All in all, Blue Nile was a unique dining experience and I’m glad I tried Ethiopian for the first time. Seek out this place for yourself and chalk it all up to cultural discovery.

Paying It Forward With Noah’s Kitchen – An Interview with Founder Amber Rodriguez

April 16, 2010

I’m here with Amber Rodriguez, Founder and Executive Director of Noah’s Kitchen, a non-profit organization providing nourishment, nutritional education, and other assistance to the under-privileged in Houston. We’re going to talk briefly about Noah’s Kitchen, their mission, and giving back to the local community.

Mike: Hi Amber. I met you last week downtown via Candice Kizer, who introduced me to Noah’s Kitchen via Twitter. She mentioned volunteering to feed the homeless with you guys so I decided to join in on a whim. I’ve volunteered previously but this was my first time for this cause. Truth be told, I was genuinely touched that we were able to succeed in helping so many underprivileged people in such a short amount of time. (business lunch hour)

Amber: Aw, thanks Mike! We were so glad to have you with us and appreciate all the positivity you have been sending our way. =)

Mike: I’m sure our readers and the community at-large here in Houston would like to know a little bit more about Noah’s Kitchen. How did you get started?

Amber: Actually, I got laid off this past September. I had to file for unemployment and wanted to make the best of my free time, with my son. We volunteered for the WM Superfeast and started getting involved with Charity Chicks of Houston. Noah loved being part of something good. I started talking to various people about ideas (I’ve always loved to cook) and before I knew it, it went flying!

Mike: What motivates you to champion this cause of feeding the needy?

Amber: I honestly can’t pinpoint it. For years I have picked up an extra meal at the drive-thru to give to someone holding a sign, declaring their hunger. I know their pride has been pushed aside for their need and that must be so difficult to go through.  It always makes me so sad. I don’t care how someone got there and what they are or are not doing to help themselves. They could be someone’s mother… someone’s father… And always someone’s Child. I don’t have money to give but if I can help make somebody’s day just a little easier by feeding them, I will.

Mike: My family and I briefly stopped by last Sunday for the Viva Houston Party you invited us to. To my surprise, you were front and center volunteering and playing host for that event, which helped launch the new community mural downtown. You seem to be very involved with these types of events locally, and I’ve seen the hash tag on Twitter – #SLGT. (Support Local, Grow Together). Our network here in the DNC family shares that exact mantra – good people & organizations helping one another. Are you always involved in these types of local events?

Amber: It was very nice to see you, your girlfriend, and handsome little guy make it out to the event. If I can be a part of something good and much bigger than myself – I want in! =)  Houston is an AMAZING community. It’s pretty simple actually. If we support our neighbors – it’s near impossible to fail. As the always awesome JR Cohen says, “It’s not about me- it’s about how I can help YOU.” We are so glad to have you guys be part of us – It’s wonderful people such as yourself that are helping us grow.

Mike: How is the local community chipping in getting the word out about Noah’s Kitchen?

Amber: Gosh. It started over Twitter and truly, word of mouth is the best form of advertisement. Amber Roussel and Mark Austin are doing amazing things for us right now. They are participating in the Fiesta movement and have pledged a car to Noah’s Kitchen if they win. They are participating in FUN missions which bring together the community and showcase a lot of local talent and businesses. During the missions they are raising awareness for us, volunteers, and donations to help keep us running. We have so much love for them!    Are there any other local causes here in Houston that you personally want people to rally behind? I honestly can’t narrow that down. I’m a firm supporter in SLGT and there are so many causes that they support. I look to them to know where I need to be. 

Mike: We’re taking up too much of your time here so just a few more questions….You have a meet-up scheduled for this coming Sunday at Coffegroundz. Can you give us some details on that and volunteering for Noah’s Kitchen in general?

Amber: Absolutely. We get together and make sandwiches and put together bags with an ‘affordable’ nutritious meal including a beverage too. (As we grow we’d like the meals to be hot and completely balanced.)  We then go out in ‘safety teams’ to distribute the food to the less fortunate. Everyone has fun and it seems like we are always getting new ideas on how to grow through these gatherings.  The ‘food’ dates are listed on our facebook events page. I’m currently working on adding events to our calendar so that we can have Noah’s kitchen Teams go in the community and volunteer at other various charitable events.  Mark and Amber set up a way for people to pledge hours to volunteer here, as well.

Mike: How can others help in the future if they can’t make it Sunday?

Amber: No contribution is ever too small. Whether it be an idea, time, food, or monetary (we really DO need wal-mart/pre-loaded shopping cards to purchase food) every donation is GREATLY appreciated. If anyone would like to contact us we can be found all over Houston and here:

www.noahskitchen.org;
www.twitter.com/noahs_kitchen;
www.facebook.com/noahskitchen

Mike: Thanks for your time Amber.

Amber: See you soon! Thank you so much for taking the time to find out more about us. I look forward to working with you again soon, too!  Cheers and #SLGT!!!

Review: Well Done Cooking Classes in Houston

February 1, 2010

For those of you in Houston that have aspirations for food beyond just constantly eating it, I have the most wonderful recommendation for you guys. Megan and I had the pleasure of trying our very first cooking class last Friday and I have to admit I left very impressed and surprised at what a good time it was.

 
What I Thought It Would Be Like
 

Prior to our “Dinner in Tuscany” class at Well Done Cooking  last week, I had no idea what to expect. I’m no stranger to restaurant life having spent time waiting tables and bartending for several years while slacking my way through college. I’ve even read Anthony Bourdain’s famed book, “Kitchen Confidential,” and admit that I have a perhaps disillusioned idea of believing I know what it’s like working in a busy kitchen. I even experiment in my own semi-regularly, looking up recipes and recreating my own versions to varying degrees of success. But I still had no idea what to expect going to an actual-hands on class for the first time!

My vague interpretation of what this experience would be like hovered between two ends of the spectrum.

On one-hand, I thought of Megan. After all, the main reason I ordered these classes was as a birthday present since she’d always wanted to try one of these. And hence, if she was happy, I would be too. For this, I imagined that would include some hands-on transfer of knowledge on cooking and then eating the fruits of our labor. The end.

On the other hand, I feared this experience would be like losing my Y-chromosome as I withered away in a corner, drinking my way to oblivion. Maybe watching a cross between something like this clip from “Julie & Julia” live and my college accounting classes. Very boring, no fun at all.

 
What It’s Actually Like
 

After stopping by our local liquor store to pick up a bottle of wine (they encourage that), we arrived at Well Done Cooking at the same time as a few other couples. The class only had 10 people total so it had a very intimate feel. It was actually very easy to socialize the entire time without losing any of what was being taught or said.

We picked the ‘Dinner in Tuscany’ class which meant we would be cooking the following:

Appetizer: Seasonal Minestrone Soup and Crusty Bread

Entrée: Roast Pork with Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Brown Butter, and Herbs

Dessert: Classic Espresso Drenched Tiramisu

Chef Celeste and Kathryn were knowledgeable and informative on the why’s and how’s of making everything on our menu. The class was very hands-on and every participant was a part of everything that was being prepared. My favorite part was rolling the Gnocchi. I truly did not know that making pasta was that easy. Nor did I know that Tiramisu was actually made with Lady Fingers. I think I could recreate that as well. And I’ve already got the Roast Pork marinated for this evening so I did in fact learn a lot that I took away from the class.

I even learned some interesting tidbits about my kitchen and Houston in general. For example, did you know that most microwaves, post -1993, take stainless steel containers with no problem? I didn’t either and have yet to try it but that was neat to find out. Also, we talked about the merits of buying fresh, local ingredients and where to get them. I never thought to buy spices in the shops around Little India (Hillcroft/59) but apparently, that’s an excellent area to get every spice short of saffron/vanilla bean  at a reasonable price. Phoenicia Deli on Westheimer apparently is too. And if you want to try some great tiramisu, try Lemon Tree, a small Peruvian restaurant in the Memorial area.

In short, the experience we had at the cooking class was very, very enjoyable.  We learned how to cook some neat dishes and had some good conversation with some interesting people. We even left a little tipsy from our bottle of wine and our bellies fully satisfied with some great food that we cooked for ourselves. Overall, a great date night for us but I’d highly recommend this to anyone who’s even remotely interested in learning more about cooking. Good times!

 
About Well Done Cooking
 

Located just off US59 & Weslayan in the Highland Village area of Houston, Well Done Cooking has served to provide Houston residents with culinary classes since June of last year. Well Done Cooking, offers classes on all types of cuisines, all of which are listed on their online schedule. They offer public and private classes and class sizes are kept small and intimate by design, which makes booking ahead a necessity since classes fill up pretty fast.

The purveyor of Well Done Cooking, Chef Celeste Terrell, a native of Louisiana, graduated from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Massachusetts in 2004. Upon graduation, she worked for “Sel de la Terre,” a French Provisional restaurant in Boston prior to travelling abroad and living/cooking in France for a year. It was then that she decided to go share her talents and teach others how to cook in Boston. Now, four years later, Chef Terrell continues to pursue the fruits of her passion with Well Done Cooking here in Houston, TX. Celeste is ServSafe certified, a member of Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of New England and the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

Chef Celeste and Well Done Cooking were recently selected to host a class for the TLC series, “The Little Couple” this past November. Here’s the clip from television that was on air recently.