Sunday, September 13, 2009


After a lazy day of football and laundry and leftover crabcakes for lunch, I decided to try something new for dinner. Inspired mainly by our visit to the glass wall last weekend, where we had Deviled agg and BLT sliders, and by the BELT - Bacon, egg salad, lettuce, tomato - that I saw listed on the menu on the wall at Carter and Cooley Deli on 19th St. in the Heights, I made an attempt at my own BELT.

Lucky for me, I finally boiled eggs properly, so that the yolks were cooked but not grey and overdone. With the yolks creamy, I was able to make a simple egg salad with just a little bit of dressing - 2 parts mayo (but a lot less than you think you should use), one part deli mustard, and then a chopped dill pickle and minced onion, salt and pepper. If I would have had some paprika, I would have added it to try to emulate the deviled egg BLT slider from Glass Wall. Then just fried up some bacon, sliced a tomato, and toasted my bread (in the oven - you are reading a subliminal Bed Bath and Beyond registry gift request - we need a toaster), and then assembled the sandwich. It was glorious. I need to experiment with ingredient placement on the sandwich to perfect it, but I went with ease of assembly for my first attempt. From bottom to top: toast, egg salad, bacon, lettuce, tomato, toast.

Get the flash player here:

Special thanks to Maw-Maw for the egg slicer - that made the egg salad really easy.

Crabcakes and Fennel-Apple Slaw

We wanted to cook something last night, didn't feel like like anything that was in my pantry, so Kimmy started suggesting a bunch of things, and we ended up deciding on crabcakes. I wanted to do something new as a side too, and I somehow came up with fennel and apple slaw - I think I've watched too many episodes of Top Chef. So I researched some recipes and mixed them together into my own creation in my mind like I usually do, and we went to the grocery store and bought everything.

I'll start with the slaw. I've never eaten fennel other than fennel seeds in italian sausage and stuff, but this worked out pretty well, so I'll probably think about it more often now. On its own, fennel has a mild black licorice taste, which is strange, but combining it with the apple and dressing calms that down and makes for an interesting taste. I sliced up the fennel bulb and a green apple into thin strips, then tossed it in salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil, with a little bit of the fennel tops - the wispy greens above the fennel bulb look and taste a little like fresh dill. I should have stopped there, but I wasn't sure, so I added a few more things. One recipe I saw called for celery seed, which I didn't have, but being the Chicago-style hot dog fiend that I am, I have celery salt, so I sprinkled just a bit of that in. I also thought it needed a little bit more acid, so I threw a few shakes of red wine vinegar in there. Like I said, in the end, I don't think it needed anything extra, because after sitting for a bit, the flavors came together, and I realized I should have stuck with the simple lemon, oil and fennel top dressing.

I've never made crabcakes before, but I felt like I had seen them made enough times before, so we gave it a shot. Started by sauteeing some onion and garlic, then mixing those in with mayonnaise, ritz cracker crumbs, green onion, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Then tossed in the crab and mixed them together. Kimmy formed the cakes and then we let them rest in the fridge to set while we worked on the slaw and everything else. After they rested, I coated the cakes in panko breadcrumbs and just fried them in a pan with a little bit of oilive oil. They stayed together surprisingly well, only the first one fell apart on me. The crabcakes were good, but I think if I made them again I'd try to do more in the crab mixture, maybe some bell pepper or just something completely different.

I also made a garlic "aioli" sauce for the crabcakes by mixing some raw pressed garlic and lemon juice into mayonnaise and sour cream, and tossed some of the fennel tops into that too. The sauce was good, but the raw garlic was pretty overpowering, so I might do a roasted garlic version instead if I did it again.

Get the flash player here:


Kimmy was in the mood for Italian food last weekend, and we wanted to try a new place, so we decided on Fratelli's, which is on 290 not far outside the loop and like Mangum. The restaurant was really empty, we didn't get there until a little before 9, but it was a weekend night, and it didn't seem like they were coming off a big rush, so I'm not sure how great theyre doing there, but I think we enjoyed it.

We ordered some mussels as an appetizer (forgot to take a picture, sorry), and really liked those. They were steamed in white wine, lemon, garlic, etc. which are the kinds of flavors we both seem to enjoy. Kimmy ordered Tagliatelle di Mare - seafood pasta. Unfortunately, it was basically the same thing as our mussels, except with pasta and some more seafood - squid, shrimp, but the sauce was exactly the same, so we were a little disappointed in that because we were expecting a creamier sauce or something. It probably would have been great if we hadn't eaten the whole bowl of mussels and sopped up the sauce with bread before it.

I ordered Saltimbocca, which Mario Batali (if your hair is red I don't think your name is allowed to end with a vowel) always seemed to be making whenever I would come across his show when it used to come on. I don't think I can count how many times I've heard him say "It mean's 'jump in mouth.'" This version was prosciutto and sage rolled up in veal and pan fried in lots of garlic and olive oil. I thought it was really good, even though the sage was a little overpowering. I ordered it with a side of fettucine alfredo, which had a really nice alfredo sauce, and that calmed the sage down a little bit when I ate them together.

Get the flash player here:

Chicken Cordon Bleu

I've made some stuffed or rolled chicken dishes before, and Kimmy and I had a mildly successful attempt at Waco's Buzzard Billy's "armadillo eggs" when she was in school at Baylor, but I've never tried to make Chicken Cordon Bleu. I realized I had all the ingredients, so we gave it a shot, and it was really not that difficult. Pounded out the chicken as thin as I could without tearing it (still tore it plenty), laid out swiss cheese and ham, rolled it up and coated it (flour, then egg wash, then seasoned panko breadcrumbs), then baked it at 350 for an hour.

The results were pretty good, we ate it with a boxed pasta side and caesar salad. It was a little salty, so I'll have to watch the seasoning next time. I don't think I considered that the ham and swiss would add plenty of saltiness. Also, the crust didn't brown too well in the oven, so I'll probably mess with cooking temperature next time I do something like this, or just break down and pan fry it first.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sopapilla Cheesecake

I was in the mood to bake but didn't feel like going to the store to get any ingredients. My sister made a sopapilla cheesecake tonight (found out via facebook status) so after hearing how she made it, I realized I already had all the ingredients for this! I only had half the amount but just double it if you want to make a bigger portion. It's very simple to make and not much can go wrong with it. Crescent rolls? Good. Cream cheese with sugar and vanilla? Good. Butter? Good. Sugar and cinnamon? Good.

1) half a crescent roll onto the bottom of a nonstick pan
2) mix 1 pkg. cream cheese, 1/2 c. sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and spread on top
3) top with rest of crescent roll
4) pour 1/4 c. of melted butter on top (was a lot of butter- could probably scale down but butter is good...)
5) sprinkle 1/4 c. sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon on top of butter
6) bake at 350 until done!

Should set after letting it cool long enough- or you can just eat it while it's gooey and it's still good!

Get the flash player here:

Taqueria Ruby aka "24 open taco"

I have always told Ryan that we are going to eat there one day and we would just keep forgetting to. So finally we went! Stopped by, picked up some taco for lunch, and headed back to my house. We got 2 of each: beef and pastor, and then one chicharron/pork skin, and one lengua/tongue.

Results: the tongue was the best one. Everything else was just ok. I was hoping that the pork skin would be a little bit crunchy... instead it was all mushy... well.. fat. If we went back (not sure when we would) we'd get a big order of lengua tacos!

Get the flash player here:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Glass Wall and Mam's House of Ice

Glass Wall is a restaurant on Studewood that we've been meaning to check out for a while because it's right near where I live. The place was relatively empty when we got there, but the only table we could get without a reservation was in the bar area, which was fine.

Their main menu is seasonal and had just recently changed to the fall menu. They also have a bar menu available all the time. We tried the beef carpaccio appetizer with fried oysters which was really good. Kimmy says carpaccio is one of her favorite dishes now. I really liked the roasted tomato with goat cheese that came with the carpaccio.

We didn't go for the ~$20 main courses on the main menu this time, since we were really just wanting to grab something for dinner. We chose some of the bar menu options instead, which were small portions, but still really good. We split the deviled egg/BLT sliders and short rib tacos. The sliders were tasty, a nice little sandwich with a good deviled egg and then just crumbled bacon, a little shredded lettuce, and small slice of tomato. Plenty of messiness from the egg, but really a refreshing sandwich. I might think about making a BELT sometime - bacon, egg salad, lettuce, tomato. We'll let you know how it goes. The tacos were really good too. Flavorful and moist meat with a good creamy sauce and queso. Served with a wedge of lime dipped in chili powder, which made a nice chili lime juice when you squeezed it, a nice touch.

The bar menu portions were small, but we were really satisfied for dinner. If you're looking for a place in the heights to grab a glass of wine and a little snack to go with it, I'd definitely recommend the bar menu. We'll let you know if we get a chance to go back for something from the regular menu besides the carpaccio.

Afterwards, we wanted to try a snow-cone place Kimmy had read about. It's called Mam's House of Ice, a little trailer located at 20th and Rutland in the Heights.
The ice was shaved really fine, which was great, but they overdid it on the syrup a little bit. Kimmy got Mango/Strawberry with condensed milk to try to imitate the Korean desserts she likes, and I tried Tiger's Blood, because it's what everyone else that was there was getting, and they didn't have the horchata flavor that I like at the place by Kimmy's house. The Tiger's Blood ended up being like a watermelon/cherry/coconut mix, which was ok, but I like my snow cones a little milder. We'll probably go back again because the ice was good, but probably ask them do go easy on the syrup.

Get the flash player here:

Auntie Pasto's

After finishing up at the clinic a few Tuesdays ago, Kelly & I were going to go out for dinner. We never made a decision where (because I didn't do it) and Kelly convinced Lauri to join us- and Lauri only joined us if Alastair, her husband, could join us too. So the four of us headed over to Auntie Pasto's (I thought was antipasta's) which was Lauri's suggestion. The food was really good here and the crazy conversation was better. Sorry you had to sit through it all Alastair! I'd go back there if I was in that area for dinner, but I probably wouldn't drive all the way over there for it.

Kelly & I got the Chicken Piccata- I am always a big fan of lemons and capers so adding that to chicken and pasta was good. The only thing I would say about this dish is that I thought the pasta would be plain pasta so that I can eat it with the sauce that came on the chicken... instead they put marinara sauce on it and it didn't go together as well. I'll have to remember to ask them not to do that next time.

Lauri got the black bean pasta - it looked really really good! It had onions, peppers, black beans, goat cheese, and chicken in a cream sauce over pasta. She seemed to enjoy it!

Alastair got the warm goat cheese salad and mussels in a white wine sauce. Honestly, everything looked good!

We even kept eating the warm bread they were bringing out too. It wasn't just that we were starving, the food was good too.

Get the flash player here:

Houston Restaurant Week- Polo's Signature

So for my birthday, the TPS girls (Stacy, Kati, & Claudia) took me out to eat. They said it was my choice, so after looking at the different restaurants on the list I picked Polo's Signature. It's a really nice place- definitely a place where you take your time to enjoy your meal because they are in noooooo rush to get you anything. I wasn't sure if it was bad or how it just is at that place- my guess is that's just how they do things there. First you get sat down, then wait a while to get a wine list, then wait a while to get some water, wait some more for some bread with herb butter and pate, then wait for the wine to come, and yup you guessed it wait some more for menus, etc etc etc. Anyways, the food was really good, the portions were big, and I would go back. If you missed out on trying places during Houston Restaurant Week, Polo's is still doing this fixed menu on Fridays & Saturdays so go check them out!

1st course-
Stacy, Claudia, and I got the salad. It had a slice of sashimi tuna, some crispy proscuitto, and good but way too much pepper caesar dressing (next time get it on the side or ask them to go easy on it).

Kati got the soup de jour. I can't remember what soup it was- Kati care to leave a comment?? It looked good though.

*surprise 2nd course*
Kiwi Lime sorbet- it was delicious! It really tasted like you were eating a kiwi. Refreshing and great!

3rd course-
I got the stripped bass- I was in the mood for some fish. The bass was good and topped with all this lump crab meat which only made it better. Under this mound of seafood was some mushroom risotto and on the side there was some tempura asparagus. I enjoyed it, but looking across the table at Claudia's and Stacy's dish made me a little jealous that I didn't take the surf and turf option instead.

Surf & Turf- I got to try a piece of Claudia's steak and it was good. Nothing fancy no additional flavors- just good cooked meat. They had a filet mignon, some lobster (I don't remember how much? 1/2?), some mashed potatoes and another side dish I think. The question when eating lobster is... what's the best part? Second question- do you save the best part for the end or eat it first? Claudia and Stacy both like the claw the best. Claudia ate hers first and enjoyed it. Stacy ate the rest of the lobster, enjoyed it, saved the claw for last, and then said the claw tasted like her grandma's closet which always smelled like moth balls. Not sure how only the claw part could taste like moth balls but I'll leave that up to Stacy to answer your questions about that!

Tuscan Chicken- Kati's dish. I don't think she cared too much for this and honestly when we tried it... we didn't either. Chicken isn't just a plain regular meat- it can be really really good if you cook it right. The flavors were just weird I think. We weren't sure where they were going with it and for some reason refused to bring her a proper cutting knife to eat the chicken with. I think we kept getting butter knives! Don't recommend the chicken but I would say try the other dishes.

4th course- dessert.
Kati, Claudia, and I ordered the Chocolate Mousse Cake with strawberries on top. Good chocolety cake with fresh strawberries- too full to finish it.

Stacy got the Key Lime English Trifle Martini- it tasted like key lime lol. I'm not the biggest key lime fan but I'm sure if you are then you'll like it too.

Sorry I didn't take any photos while we were there. Like I said above.. it's a place to relax and enjoy your food while you're there for an extended period of time haha.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Houston Restaurant Week - Masraff's

This place was great! Our second restaurant week try together - Kimmy will post about her other restuarant week experience later, which was in between Rainbow Lodge and Masraff's.

First, they had a really nice wine list, I tried an Australian pinot noir which was great, and I usually don't prefer red wines. The restaurant week menu was very nice, and we were able to make a last minute reservation and get in on a Friday night.

Here's what we ate:
1st -
Three Mushroom Ravioli with Truffle Oil and Lemon Sage - wow, this is usually an entree that they do, but they shrunk it into an appetizer for this menu. The sauce was great, very savory, but not overpowering the ravioli.

Garlic Seared Calamari with Oyster Mushrooms, Red Onion, Chinese Parsley with Soy Reduction - They tried to do an asian thing here, and the result was pretty good. The sauce was pretty sweet, but not annoyingly so like a lot of those chinese-takeout-type sweet sauces. The flavors came together really well and the calamari was cooked wonderfully.

2nd -
"Paella" Risotto with Diver Scallop, Prawns, Rock Shrimp and Texas Dry Sausage Stewed in Saffron Stock with Carnarolli Rice - interesting idea for a dish. I had wanted to get paella at another place that we had been eyeing the menu of that evening, so this worked out well for me. Just a twist on risotto giving it the paella flavors, but the risotto cooking method. The seafood and sausage were really good, and the saffron in the risotto was nice.

Pan Fired New York Strip Steak with Two Potato Lyonnaise, Port Wine Reduction and Pomme Frittes - Kimmy wanted a nice steak, and I think she got it. The port sauce was different, another sweet sauce, but it worked well.

3rd -
Warm Double Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Crème Anglaise - No report here - Kimmy ordered it, but we ended up getting the other two by mistake, I should have asked them to fix it, but we're not really complainers.

Warm Triple Berry Bread Pudding with White Chocolate, Blueberry Compote and
Cream Cheese Mousse - Disappointing after the Rainbow Lodge Croissant bread pudding, but I liked the berries a lot.

Butter Roasted Pear Crème Brulée and Whole Berry Sauce - Interesting dish. Roasted pear half, topped with a dome of creme brulee, with the classic bruleed top but in a dome shape - a nice twist I thought. - I accidentally deleted the picture from my phone, so this one isn't pictured, hopefully I explained it well enough.

Get the flash player here:

Houston Restaurant Week - Rainbow Lodge

We should have posted about Houston Restaurant Week before it happened to let people know about it, but we didn't think about it and were selfish and went out on our own.

During Houston restaurant week (actually 2 weeks - then extended an extra week), 84 restaurants, some of Houston's finest, offer a selected 3 course menu with a couple options for $35, which is a pretty good deal at a lot of these places, and $5 goes to benefit the Houston Food Bank. We saw it advertised and knew we'd have to hit at least one of them up. For Kimmy's birthday, we decided to go to Rainbow Lodge. We had heard good things before, and then recently found out that our friend's brother is the head chef there.

The menu looked really good., and we tried each of the two options for each course. Overall, the food was good, but I feel like they toned it down size wise and quality wise for restaurant week, which really goes against the spirit of the thing to me.

1st -
Barely Cooked Garden Tomato Bisque “Hot or Chilled” with panzanella salad & basil pistou - really nice, I ordered it chilled, Kimmy said she would have preferred it hot. It was like a really fresh creamy tomato sauce/soup, the little bit of panzanella bread salad was nicely dressed, and the basil pistou mixed with the soup made it even better.

Salad of Local Watermelon & Tomatoes with garden herbs & gelled white balsamic vinegar - Kimmy didn't care for this too much, the prosciutto was of course great, and I thought the gelled white balsamic was cool, but they didnt do much with the watermelon and tomato - can't blame them much for that though, they were really fresh and didnt need to be screwed with.

Charred Local Shrimp Laced with Espellete, garden peppers, chick peas & smoked ham bouillon - The shrimp was really tasty and well cooked, but the chick peas were the wrong texture for the dish. Nice flavors overall though.

Wild Boar Roasted on the Bone with purple mustard & spicy fermented cabbage - The boar was great, but the size of the dish was disappointing, it was only about 3 bites, when I hear boar I expect a man meal, haha. The purple mustard was interesting, haven't quite had a taste exactly like that before. The other disappointing thing was that the fermented cabbage that the boar sat on was really distracting. The cabbage was wayyy too acidic, and it blew out my tastebuds for the rest of the dish, while it lasted.

Coffee Crème Brûlée & Cardamom Madeleines - really stong coffee flavor and the texture was a little off, felt a little like coffee grounds, but I ate the whole thing, so I can't complain.

Rainbow Lodge’s Signature Croissant Bread Pudding with bourbon caramel & vanilla ice cream - WOW! AMAZING - one of the best desserts we've had. The description says it all I think.

Overall, we thought Rainbow Lodge's restaurant week offering was a little bit disappointing, but it was a nice experience nonetheless. The light was really dim in there and we didn't want to use a flash, so sorry for the dark pictures.

Get the flash player here:

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Kimmy and I both like King Ranch casserole, but we had never made it. The other night, we wanted to cook something easy, casseroles came to mind, and king ranch stood out to both of us. I looked up a recipe online, it looked pretty easy, so we headed to the store to get a few ingredients.

The process was really easy, but it does take a little bit of time. I think we decided it would be good to prepare the casserole ahead of time and save it for a lazy night to just toss in the oven.

First, we sweated some onion, garlic and bell pepper in butter, then added in chicken stock, cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, rotel tomatoes and green chiles, and a few spices - cumin, chili powder, dried oregano. Stirred to combine and then let all that simmer for a bit to come together.

While I was doing that Kimmy was shredding a whole rotisserie chicken from HEB - and we had to sneak a few pieces during that process. Note: Rotisserie chicken and some easy sides would make a good easy meal too.

Then, we layered - chicken, soup mixture, cheese, corn tortillas cut into strips, chicken, soup, cheese, tortillas, and some cheese on top. Threw it in the oven for a little under an hour, let it cool, and then dug in. It was great! Kimmy's dad liked it too, and we even gave some to the guys that were finishing up some work on the siding and gutters. I had it for lunch the next 3 days or so too.

Forgot to take pictures during the cooking and of the final product, but we got a couple of the layering process:

Get the flash player here:

Redfish Seafood Grill

A few weeks (maybe months now) ago, we went and saw the Cirque du Soleil show at the Berry Center. It was pretty entertaining, some of the acts were better than others, but it was interesting to see something like that in Cypress. Afterwards, my parents wanted to go out to eat, and we ended up at Redfish. We've been to the one on 249 a long while back, and they had pretty good sushi.

This one opened recently near the ever-booming Spring Cypress/Cypress Rosehill area, in a spot where a couple other restaurants have already come and gone.

We wanted some oysters, but they're out of season here and Redfish doesn't feel like getting them from somewhere else I guess, so we got some escargots instead. They pretty much take on the flavor of what you cook them in, in this case lots of garlic, herbs, and butter, which was pretty nice with some bread.

As you'll see, they have a pretty diverse menu, which I think is a good and bad thing, but everyone basically liked what they got I think.

Kimmy stuck with sushi, we dont remember exactly which roll it was, I think the crunchy roll. It was huge, with tempura shrimp, cream cheese, jalapeno, and a sweet sauce on top. She also got some miso soup.

I ordered blackened redfish with chipotle crabmeat sauce, which was really good. The sauce overpowered the fish quite a bit, but it was a really good sauce, could have put it on fish sticks and I would have enjoyed it just as much (maybe).

My mom ordered "Gratinee Salmon Carpaccio," which I think was neither gratineed (were there cheese and breadcrumbs on top mom?) nor carpaccio, but it was really good. Thinly sliced salmon (ok, that sounds like carpaccio, right) blazed under the broiler until the plate was unhandleable (ok, now not so much) in a lemon cream sauce with mushrooms and spinach. At any rate, after it cooled down a bit it was a great plate of food, I just don't agree much with 2/3 of their name for it.

My dad stuck with his guns and ordered a plate of fried shrimp and fries, completing our seafood trip around the world of Redfish's diverse menu. The shrimp were actually pretty solid with a nice crunchy breading.

Get the flash player here: