July 6, 2022



Space City Weather’s Matt Lanza doesn’t eat all his hurricane snacks before landfall

5 min read

Welcome to How Houston Eats, a food-obsessed series that asks Houston personalities what, where and how they like to eat. Today, Chron speaks with Matt Lanza, meteorologist and managing editor of Space City Weather.

Lanza is a New Jersey native who graduated from Rutgers University in 2004 with a degree in meteorology. He and his wife, Denise, moved to Houston in 2012 for work and now have two small children. In 2015, Lanza and former Houston Chronicle reporter Eric Berger launched Space City Weather, which Houstonians look to for weather big and small, particularly when there’s a storm brewing in the Gulf.

Lanza dishes on his go-to hurricane snacks, restaurants in Houston and more.

Chron: First and foremost, what foods are in your hurricane stash?

Matt Lanza: I gotta have Sweet Cup Gelato, which thankfully they sell in pints. Our stash includes the usual staples: canned soup, mac and cheese for the boys. I started to add little popcorn cakes, because those make really fantastic snacks in the middle of whatever, and Kind breakfast bars.

The gelato is a great idea, but if you lose power don’t you have to eat it all before it melts?

I guess that’s the point, right? You know, you’re in a really stressful situation, you might as well start it off on a good note.

On that note, do you also eat all of your hurricane snacks before landfall even happens, or are you a well-adjusted human?

(Laughs.) Mostly well-adjusted, we try and do the right thing, save it for what it’s supposed to be used for. But every now and then things happen, so you have to replenish occasionally during the season.

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When you’re up in the wee hours of the morning reporting on a storm for Space City Weather, what are you snacking on?

Usually it’s a bowl of cereal. HEB has this cocoa granola with semisweet chocolate chunks in it. That’s a really nice little pick-me-up. But a lot of times, honestly, I have gum. I try not to stress eat as much as possible, so I’ll just chew gum in the meantime. Usually, that’s enough to get my mind off things and I can focus a little more.

When do you feel is the best time to go grocery shopping ahead of a weather event?

As far as humanly possible in advance, which is always a challenge when you’re forecasting these things. Partially, I guess that’s why I kind of like to give a little bit of notice: Hey, we’re watching this, it may not amount to anything, we don’t want to panic you, but head’s up. It’s almost a nod: Hey, go out and get a couple of cases of water or something like that.

What’s your go-to takeout spot in Houston when you’re feeling too lazy to cook at home?

That’s very often. Barnaby’s would almost be our default, if we just couldn’t figure out what we wanted to do. Almost anything you get there is good and they give you a lot of it. We love it. And I would say Fajitas A Go Go seems to be a bit of a staple now as well for us.

Do you have a favorite Houston restaurant for special occasions?

We try to spread it around. We’ve gone to Georgia James before. The original Carrabba’s on Kirby tends to be a spot that we’ll go to sometimes. We were kind of limiting our eating out during the pandemic.

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Do you have go-to weeknight dishes that your family eats often?

My wife generally tends to do the cooking, she’s really good at it and it’s almost like a hobby for her. One (dish) we call an Italian stir fry, usually red and orange peppers, zucchini and chicken tossed with some crushed tomatoes, with penne and a little olive oil. We’re both Italian, so you know, it works for us.

She makes an Asian variation of that: pea pods and green peppers, with cracked Tellicherry pepper. The fresh peppers are so good with brown rice as a base, and usually with beef. And then there are these maple-glazed pork chops with quinoa that I love, and we usually have that with green beans. Those are my three favorite things. I’m very lucky.

What is a food that you’ve only ever had in Houston?

I’m one of the least adventurous food people in the world. It’s kind of sad, really. I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten a little more mature I guess. I think the goat dumplings that Chris Shepherd makes are definitely something I would have never tried in a past life, that I tried here in Houston, just because everybody raves about them. They’re very, very good.

What food do you crave when Houston is having one of its oppressively humid days?

I guess on really really hot days, I would just want an Arnold Palmer, the icy lemonade. It’s just refreshing. And that does it for me.

If you could eat lightning, what do you think it would taste like?

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That is a phenomenal question. I suspect it would taste like super over-cooked popcorn. There’s popcorn that’s just burnt that tastes good, and then it goes too far. And (the lightning) would be going too far.

Over the years, are there any Houston restaurants or chefs you’ve seen help out the community after a really bad storm?

Obviously, the first one that comes to mind is Chris Shepherd. He’s done so much with his (Southern Smoke) charity, especially to help out food workers who end up in unfortunate circumstances.

What I think is really cool about the Houston food scene, it just seems like all these people love each other so much. It’s really cool to see how anybody can get anybody else to come out for something that has to do with a charity or a relief situation. And that’s really awesome to me, that everybody comes together and gets it. Because I think everybody that lives here understands what everyone goes through.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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