Dear Foodies,

Iím thrilled that my Wednesday food column has been such a success with our devoted Town Crier readers. And how did I come to that conclusion? Well, letís take Elaine and Frank Birkhead from Pharr. They were my first fans (Thatís what my husband called them.). They sent me a letter telling me how much they enjoyed reading my column and were kind enough to attach an article from the New York Times Magazine (my favorite) that read: Is Le Fooding, the French culinary movement, more than a feeling? By Adam Gopnik. Merci my friends.

Iíve also seen how thankful the owners of the restaurants Iíve written about have been. For example, Rosie from ďJust Between FriendsĒ called me and said someone had booked a tea party at her place because they had read the article I wrote about her charming place. As you know, we have the Valley Town Crier website and all you have to do is go under columnists and youíll see me, Madame Gourmand. Iíve had several people rate the articles Iíve written or comment about their food experiences. I appreciate it!

Many people have been curious as to how I decide where to go when I want to satisfy my cravings. Thereís no rhyme or reason why I choose any restaurant in particular. I must admit I am an extremist. I either choose a fine dining establishment or a hole in the wall ďMom and PopísĒ kind of place. Iíve also had local foodies recommend restaurants or mention other places in the surrounding area ó Iím always up for a new adventure!

So how do the restaurateurs know Iím visiting? Well, there have been times that Iíve come announced but, when the restaurant is busy I hate to bother the managers. Then again, itís pretty obvious that Iím taking notes at the table and thatís a big giveaway to the waiter/waitress. So far, I have not had to write a negative review ó yet. And I donít really consider myself a critic; I consider myself a storyteller. I would like to think that I have put the spotlight on the local restaurants Iíve written about so far.

So why do I write about restaurants in other cities? If you are a devoted foodie like myself, then you must understand the importance of a food guide or a magazine review on a certain restaurant when youíre at your destination. We all want to eat at a restaurant that comes highly recommended and Iím always up for suggestions. I make sure to write about places that are landmarks or have a dish that was made by the Godís.

A good friend of mine Maria Jose Lacher read the article on the Gristmill in Greene, Texas. She had already gone there with her husband and what they had ordered was so, so ó then after reading about the juicy and succulent ribs we devoured and that to-die-for chocolate chip pecan pie ó she said they had to go back and give them one more try. Recently, Mari Rodriguez introduced me to Beth Brown (diehard foodie) who happens to be a devoted reader of my column and I had to say ó ďLetís do LunchĒ!

Back in May of this year, my dear friend Andrea Rodriguez, director of sales for the Embassy Suites Hotel in McAllen, invited me on a FAM (familiarity) Tour. For the most part, the local media, front desk staff and sales directors from various hotels along with McAllen Chamber of Commerce representatives attend these particular tours.

Andrea who has been working in the hotel industry for many years came up with a brilliant idea that Iím sure will attract more visitors to our Downtown Historical District. The idea is to have these groups of people hop on a van and visit the new venues downtown. Andrea knows how crucial it is for the front desk staff to be informed and knowledgeable about making recommendations (eating/nightlife). To be honest with you, there is nothing better than having a concierge at a hotel because they are trained to promote their city in the most professional manner and cater to all your needs (making dinner reservations, buy tickets for you, etc.). Why not McAllen?

The day I happened to be invited, we visited Barcelona, El Divino, Cine El Rey, Lumen and The Boiler Room Cigar Bar. The owners gave an introduction speech and handed out complimentary drinks and appetizers so we could savor and see what sets them apart from the rest. How many times have you had someone ask you, ďWhat place would you recommend for lunch or dinner?Ē Tourists visiting McAllen and who stay at any hotel/motel will be given a flyer with discount coupons (establishments located in our downtown district) as a perk and the front desk staff/bellman will properly inform our travelers about the different restaurant choices we offer when it comes to international cuisine.

Please stay tuned for more of my restaurant reviews next week! In a way, I feel as if Iím feeding the fever of foodism, ultimately turning on susceptible taste buds to what will become a contagion. Again, I would like to give a special thanks to my Boss Dennis Wade for this grandiose opportunity. My whole life has been leading up to this unforeseen, unimaginable moment as the ó Food Critic.

Cordially,

Madame Gourmand