Houston, we have problem: super-sized plates and menus that keep oil barons’ secrets

Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser speaks at the annual CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, Texas, US. (Reuters)
Updated 10 March 2018
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Houston, we have problem: super-sized plates and menus that keep oil barons’ secrets

HOUSTON: In my desperate search for any sign of a rapprochement between the Arabs and the Texans, I went back to the place where — apparently — it all happened: The Grove restaurant and bar on Lamar Street, right opposite the Hilton Americas venue of the CERAWeek conference by IHS Markit.
It was at The Grove last Tuesday night that a dinner took place between representatives of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and executives from some of the leading US shale oil companies.
That meeting — between the two big adversaries of the oil world — was heralded by such mystery and intrigue that there would surely have been evidence, or witnesses, to the dark deals that had been done there.
If skulduggery had actually taken place, by Thursday all the signs had evaporated, and all that was left at the Grove was a busy, buzzy Bayou City night, and the lovely Ashley, who served me and my friend at the glass-topped bar.
“Is it just the two of y’all,” asked Ashley when we arrived. I assured her that indeed we’all were just two, and sat down to look at the menu.
I could not help wondering: What did the oil peacemakers have to eat? Maybe Mohammed Barkindo, the general secretary of OPEC, who had extended the invitation to the shale men for the second successive year, had gone for the “local catch ceviche (served raw)” with a side of “cauliflower koshary (V GF avail)”?
Perhaps Tim Dove, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources and the leader of the shale men, had selected the “cowboy ribeye 18oz” with a side of “Gulf shrimp and grits? Whichever, I would never know, because Ashley had not been working that night, and anyway all the big power-broking dinners took place in the more discreet banqueting facilities of the first floor.
So we just sat down to a simple Houston supper. Neither I, nor my friend, were especially hungry, so we went for what The Grove calls “small plates”. I ordered “blue crab mac and cheese,” while my friend asked for “Jefferson County fried rice.” And some bread and butter as starters.
This is Texas, of course, so you expect everything to be just a little bigger than anywhere else in the US, and therefore in the whole world, but when the bread arrived I knew we were facing a serious challenge. It was a whole, huge loaf, with a small churn of butter beside it, and it would have fed a deprived family for many days.
Then arrived the “small plates.” Mine was comparatively modest in size but you just knew it held latent filling power. After only the first couple of mouthfuls, I knew I would be defeated, but would enjoy being vanquished.
My friend’s dish was aptly named, because I swear the plate itself was the size of Jefferson County. Marinated beef, fried egg, broccoli, baby bok choy, chile (sic) oil and peanuts all wrestled with each other for space on the enormous dish.
My friend joked that it was like a socio-demographic map of the southwestern part of the US, charted out in food. Being from that part of the world herself, she would know.
I got two-thirds of the way through mine, my friend did rather better with hers. We slumped into a post-prandial glow before we said goodbye to Ashley and headed out into the night, all happy, sated and contented. (I don’t know why the English use the phrase “fed up” as a pejorative.)
I wondered if that’s how Barkindo and Dove felt as they left The Grove a couple of nights before? If so, there must be a big friendly transaction coming any time soon.


US Energy Secretary discussed Iran sanctions with Iraqi officials

Updated 9 min 13 sec ago
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US Energy Secretary discussed Iran sanctions with Iraqi officials

  • Perry spoke at a Baghdad hotel where he was attending a US chamber of commerce event alongside Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban
  • The United States has restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry as well as its banking and transport industry

BAGHDAD: US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Tuesday he had discussed his country’s sanctions against Iran with Iraqi energy officials and signalled an intention to step up US private sector investment in Iraq.
Perry spoke at a Baghdad hotel where he was attending a US chamber of commerce event alongside Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban.
The United States has restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry as well as its banking and transport industry.
Baghdad, an ally of both Washington and Tehran, is seeking US approval to allow it to import Iranian gas for its power stations.
Iraqi officials say they need more time to find an alternative source than a 45-day waiver granted to it by the United States.
“Sanctions were mentioned in meetings this morning,” Perry said without providing details.
He added that his attendance was sending a strong message of US commitment to Iraq’s economy and energy sector and that he recognized the challenges faced by Iraq’s government when it comes to rebuilding oil infrastructure destroyed during the war against Daesh militants.
“This is a different administration that will move with speed to develop an energy sector that best serves the citizens of Iraq,” Perry said of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s new government.