My day at a Top Chef's house (plus, *two* giveaways)

My sister is a foodie. I'm not. I like food and I like to cook, but I'm not a "foodie". My sister and I shared the vegetables from a vegetable delivery service once. I gave most of them to her. I would scour the bag looking for a tomato or some okra or maybe even a cucumber. Would a cucumber be too much to ask? Instead of finding vegetables that are sold at grocery stores, I found things like dandelion greens. DANDELION GREENS. And broccoli rabe. (And, yes, I know it's pronounced "rob". Don't be so uppity.)

Because my sister loves the fancy food, she often finds restaurants for us to try. Not too long ago, she took us to a place called t'afia in Houston. This restaurant has a different menu every day because everything is super fresh and based on what is available from the farmers. The chef at the restaurant is Monica Pope, named top chef at the Houston Culinary Awards in 2009. She was also on Season 2 of Top Chef and placed 3rd out of 7 possible spots. She has also been featured in Gourmet, O: The Oprah Magazine, Bon Appetit, and Fortune. Monica Pope is only Texas woman to ever be named a Top 10 Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine. 

On top of all of that, she has also written a digital cookbook called Eat Where Your Food Lives.

And invited us to her house.

Okay, I exaggerate. We paid. But, we did eat at her house. My sister came across this event called "Outstanding In My Backyard", which is basically where you buy one of a select number of tickets, go to Monica Pope's house and eat with some strangers at a long table set up in her backyard.

This is the back of her house. I'm glad I wasn't the only one taking pictures.

She totally treated you like you were a friend of hers. We went inside to get the food like you might at a big Thanksgiving dinner.

We went to the first event, but she has these OIMBY picnics all throughout the summer. The food was very, very good. I wish I could remember the fancy names for the dishes, but it was basically some really good fried fish, green beans, mozzarella cheese and bread. I know if I ask my sister, she'll rattle off all of the dishes. I didn't take a picture of the food because I didn't have the presence of mind to take a picture of it before I shoved it all in my face.

Not sure what's going on with the picture quality there, is my sister and me. I do remember what the drink was called. It was a DIGESTIVO. I remember when I saw that on the menu, I thought "Digesti-what?" It didn't sound appetizing, but it was yummy. Verrrrry yummy. It had rum. And juices. And you could have as many as you wanted.

My poor sister, the one who coordinated the whole thang, got stung with a bee while we were there, though. Pobrecita. See...Monica (I'll just call her by her first name since I've been to her house and all) has bees in her backyard so that she can have super fresh honey. Would you expect anything less?

One of those little farts escaped and stung my sister right in her armpit as we were eating. In her armpit!! Thankfully, Monica is sort of like a medicine woman. They found some clay medicine stuff and patched it all in my sister's armpit. I took a picture of it, but I decided not to post it. I could just hear her say, "You put a picture of my armpit on your blog??" That clay in the pit really soothed things down fast.

Since Lisa coordinated the whole thing and is one of Monica's biggest fans, I took a picture of her with her.

And I took a picture of her tea tree.

Cool tree, huh?

I also took a picture of her table decorations. It took all I had not to take the little suckers out of there and act out a whole scene. It would've been like playing with super miniature Barbies.

It was definitely a cool experience. Since you couldn't be there, I thought of another way you could feel ALMOST like you were. I want to give one of you Monica Pope's digital cookbook, Eat Where Your Food Lives. It's from me to you. Monica Pope didn't give it to me to give it to you, though I bet she would have if I had asked. She's super nice like that.

So, that's the first giveaway. You can enter using this handy Rafflecopter feature below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The second giveaway is from Plum District, a deals site. This is also a Houston-related deal, which is why I'm sharing it today. They are offering an awesome package for the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  I hadn't heard of them before. Glad I know about them now! Right now on their website, you can get:
2 tickets to the Cockrell Butterfly Center for $9 (that's a $15 value) 
2 tickets to the Exhibit Hall for $15 (that's a $30 value)  
2 tickets to BOTH the Cockrell Butterfly Center and the Exhibit Hall for $20 (that's a $46 value)
You can buy up to eight packages of each AND they are transferrable, so you can pass them on as gifts. Today, though, Plum District is allowing me to give away...

4 tickets to the Exhibit Hall
4 tickets to the Cockrell Butterfly Center

(All will go to one person. It's a $92 value.)
I couldn't pass that up, right? You all look like you want to go look at the dinosaur bones at the museum and play with the butterflies, too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks, everyone!