Sunday, July 18, 2010

posts to come

There are more posts coming, we have just been procrastinating posting and enjoying our summer. This is more of a reminder for Ryan & me.

Reviews pending:

* Feast
* Stella Sola brunch
* Petrol Station
* Cancun/Excellence Resort summary
* Zelko Bistro brunch
* Vieng Thai
* Ceviche Throwdown (tomorrow)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yale Street Grill & Gifts

I have been wanting to try out this small place in the heights for some time. I have read about it before and seen it when we have been out and about. It use to be a pharmacy store back in the 1920s. It has the old diner feel to it when you come in. The seats in the booths have all sorts of rips and cracks in the leather because it has been there so long. They have counter where you can sit and order, or lots of tables and booths too. A bigger party was in the back and about to put their order in, our waitress was kind enough to rush in our order so we wouldn't get stuck behind all the others. Nothing fancy here but cheap good food. Specials written on a chalkboard, a pitcher full of syrup, and a small antique shop on the other side of the store. I loved this place. History, antiques, and simple food all in one place. I of course want to try various places for brunch because there are so many options out there, but at the same time I think this would be a great place to become a regular at. It has that sort of small town diner/neighborhood feel to it that I find comforting. The next time we're going to venture out for brunch, I am going to have a hard time deciding to try the new or stick with the old.

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Rosemary Chicken

This is long overdue.. but I tried a simple recipe I found online for rosemary chicken. I like simple recipes and the photos someone posted about it looked really good. However, this was a bit too simple and needed to be spiced up (of course I left that part to Ryan). I don't remember where I got the recipe from, one of the random food blogs I look at from time to time. It basically involved heating oil in a pan, adding garlic, onions, rosemary, asparagus, salt, pepper, lemon, cooked pasta, and cut up chicken. Quick and easy to cook but not enough flavor right after you cook it. I think we added a whole bunch of parmesan cheese to it too. When I had the leftovers for lunch, the rosemary was very strong, had a lot more flavor, but still not that great. Good try, but not one we'd add into the dinner rotation.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Peli Peli by Marisa

Hi! Kimmy and Ryan asked if I would guest blog our food adventure here it goes!

My husband and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary few weeks ago at Peli Peli! And it was so much fun and delicious! After ordering the Bacon wrapped chicken, Peli Peli Prawns, Drakensburg Ribs, and the Sticky Toffee pudding, we just couldn't resist inviting Kimmy and Ryan for a double date here soon! So we all ventured out to Vintage Park, anew development just off of 249 and Louetta. It has lots of restaurants and cute shops! Peli Peli is named after the peli peli chili found in South Africa. Many of the dishes have this mild chili in their flavoring. The restaurant has this huge Acacia tree in the middle of it with lights imitating the colors from sunrise to sunset. Also around the restaurant are listed the 12 tribes of Israel, jtust something cool to talk about or ask the waiter about. It's really pretty inside and sets the mood the the delicious food you're about to eat.

For starters we had the bacon wrapped chicken and the sliced flat iron steak. The bacon wrapped chicken was good on it's own, but they serve it with a guava dipping sauce that makes it that much better! The flat iron steak was so so so tender! It was delicious! (and I think my favorite food item of the night!)

I ordered the Etouffee Chicken Portuguese. It was served on African rice with bread (I can't remember the kind of bread it was...) The chicken had a spice to it and overall it was good. But I probably wouldn't order it again! I mean it was alright, but not as good as when I ordered the ribs like last time. My hubs, Bryson, took the waitress's advice and ordered the Filet Mignon. Now this isn't your ordinary filet mignon. The filet is served on top of a deep fried bun with a mushroom sauce on top. And Chef Paul recommends that each bite must have all three things on it! It was really tasty. The bun added a buttery crunch to the meat taste. He also had the carrot bredie (mashed carrots and potatoes mixed), very good mix that I would not of thought of and couscous extravaganza! Kimmy had the #1 recommended item at Peli Peli, Chilean Sea Bass. I was surprised at how flavorful and tasty it was! I think I had a little bit of food envy at this point! Very very good! Ryan ordered the Safari Steak. This had a good bbq taste to it. It was served with a mushroom sauce on top to add the the flavors!

Overall it was fun to enjoy this place for the second time with friends. I think this restaurant is a great place for a date or a fun new restaurant to try with friends! I will definitely be back again! Hope you will try Peli Peli someday.

Thanks for letting me guest blog! It was my first time to blog about food, maybe I'll do a few food reviews on my blog one day :)

-Marisa Owen

*p.s. I (Kimmy) am trying not to use the automated function on my camera. So, it now takes me forever to take photos that do not turn out great but here they are. THANKS FOR THE GUEST POST MARISA!

We stopped by Treat! before going home to get some cupcakes. I do like all of these cupcakes places popping up, but I guess I'm not too adventurous with my cupcake choices. Most places, I only like the carrot cake ones. This time was no different. Didn't care for the pink lemonade (Ryan liked it), but really enjoyed the 24 Karat. Cute shop- probably would stop in again if I was ever in that area.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hubcap Grill

Kimmy had been wanting to try this place for burgers for a while, but it's only open for lunch, so we had to remember about it on the weekend, and I had just about decided that Stanton's City Bites had my favorite burger in Houston.

Hubcap's Frito Pie burger definitely stands up next to Stanton's in my mind though. I think they have to be #1 and #2 for me, but I cant decide which is which. I think I'm still giving the edge to Stanton's, because Kimmy's bacon cheeseburger (which should be the standard burger used for comparison purposes) at Hubcap was great, but not as great at Stanton's in my eyes.

The Frito Pie burger is definitely something else though. It's got fritos, really good chili, cheese, grilled onions, and jalapenos, which after a sitting for a few minutes in the styrofoam take-out container which you try to figure out how to pick up the burger, sort of meld all into one top of the burger. Then, as you eat it, some of the fritos fall out, so you get a free frito pie dessert with your burger as well.

I wouldn't worry too much about fries at Hubcap. We tried them, but they were just ok, and weren't salted quite right. But if you like sweet potato fries or want to give them a try, they've got those too.

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Yelapa Playa Mexicana

Kimmy isn't in the mood for Mexican food as often as most Houstonians seem to be, but I think we're discovering that a Mexican restaurant needs to have something different than all the others to stand out and make it worth visiting. Yelapa definitely has a few different somethings.

First, no automatic chips and salsa, which was fine by us (though we went ahead and ordered some anyway). Instead, they serve a little bar mix with pepitas and these crunchy corn (maybe?) wheel shaped chips. Something different. Yelapa has a pretty nice cocktail menu, even with some non-alcoholic cocktails. I debated on getting a michelada, because I love micheladas and theirs sounded... wait for it... a little different than most. Instead, I ordered the "Don Jalapeno," which had tequila, lime, lots of jalapeno, and maybe some cilantro or something. It reminded me of the spicy jalapeno margarita we had at Tesar's, but a little stiffer, and the herby taste was nice too. Kimmy tried the "Ginger Kicker" - limeade with ginger and mint, but it had maybe a little too much "kicker" to it for us.

We had heard good things about their cebiches, but decided on campechana with crab, scallops, and shrimp instead. The waiter recommended it. It was good, but I think we should have gone with a cebiche. The tomatoey campechana was a nice alternative to the usual chips and salsa though.

It was tough choosing entrees, there were quite a few things that piqued our interest. Kimmy wanted the lamb sopes (Something different.), but they were out of lamb, se we decided to switch to beef (not noticing that the beef is served with a ghost pepper sauce). The sauce was a little too spicy for Kimmy - perfect for me though. :D The beef was really tender, perfectly cooked, so we were happy with the sopes, even though they didnt have lamb that day. I ordered the pork tacos, which is a pretty common order for me, either carnitas or al pastor. These were closer to al pastor, but the tacos were topped with pineapple and goat cheese. Something different. Excellent tacos. The little bit of goat cheese was just enough to balance out the sweetness of the pineapple and went better than you would think on a pork taco.

The prices were a little higher than most Mexican places, but it was well worth it, and there was plenty left over, perfect for my lunch the next day.

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Sparkle Burger

Sparkle Burger is #1 on Jonathan's list for best burger in Houston. It's a tiny little blue stand behing old Chinatown, not too far from where our wedding reception was actually.
The burgers are huge, at least 1/2 lb, probably more. Kimmy got a bacon cheesebuger, and I decided to try the chili cheeseburger. The burgers are good, but because the meat is so big, something that I need in a burger just kind of gets lost. I'm not sure what it is, but the balance is just thrown off or something. Still a great burger, but it probably barely cracks my top 5 for Houston burgers. You'll have to ask Jonathan why it's his #1 (Jonathan - leave a comment to defend Sparkle if you want).
One thing that's pretty great about Sparkle are the shakes, but that may just be that anything that cold tastes that much better when you decide on the first really hot day of the year in Houston to go to a burger stand that you have to stand outside and wait for your food at. And you do have to wait, it takes a little while for your order to get from the happiest order taker you can imagine, to the sweatiest cook in the back, and then for the food to come back out the little sliding window. Maybe the wait is what makes it worth it.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Carrot Cupcakes

Now on to the thing I do well.. BAKING. As much as I enjoy baking, there aren't enough people to eat them. Ryan doesn't eat sweets that often and I like baking the goods rather than eating them. Every time I bake something, it normally sticks around for over a week... Maybe I should scale back the recipes or start packing them and giving them away as random gifts. Nobody turns down homemade baked goods right?

Sometimes when I get bored, I like to look at various food blogs or websites. One website that I enjoy browsing is Taste Spotting. Warning: do not go to the website if you are extremely hungry. It has tons of pictures of food and desserts. When you click on a picture it takes you to where they found it and normally a recipe. By browsing through this website, I found a recipe for homemade carrot cupcakes with spiced cream cheese frosting. The cake part of it looked a lot darker than what I normally pictured carrot cake to be, but it also looked so good I had to give it a try.

These turned out sooo good! Very moist, the spiced cream cheese frosting was the perfect thing to go with the cake. The cake isn't very sweet so controlling the amount of frosting to go with it is good for those who don't care that much for sweets or for the opposite. If you get bored and need some ideas to cook or bake- check out tastespotting. This carrot cupcake recipe I found from there is a keeper.


To continue the idea of trying to make Vietnamese dishes, Ryan and I wanted to try to make Pho. I researched various blogs to see if there was a recipe that I thought sounded right and we both agreed on one that I found. Went back to 99 Ranch Market to buy all of the ingredients on a Thursday evening and was set on cooking it for Friday dinner. After buying all of the stuff and looking at the recipe again... I realized I wouldn't make it home in time to start cooking it and have it ready for Friday dinner. This was suppose to be my project to take on, but because the broth has to cook for so long Ryan had to do all the cooking since he gets home earlier on Fridays.

I'd share the recipe with yall, but I sort of want to keep it to ourselves. There are a ton of recipes out there for you to follow, but this one turned out really well. I think one thing we need to remember is to get more meaty bones. The bones I bought this time were too clean. We needed more meat on them to add to the broth. Ryan said the charring of the onion and ginger as well as the beef that goes into the broth are very important so just remember that if you want to try it on your own.

We had some friends come over and our families too. It was nice to have all sorts of people over and to have a meal with everyone. Always makes it more homey to have it full of people and good food. So thanks to everyone who came over and tried our first attempt at making Pho! We're going to have to double the recipe next time so that we have enough for more!!

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Thit Kho

In an attempt to learn how to make Vietnamese dishes and knowing that I often fail at them, I found a short cut! I think that 99 Ranch Market is such a fun place to grocery shop. I love getting things from their bakery, ordering lunch or dinner from their cafeteria area, and just looking at all the stuff they have there. Their BBQ/roasted plate is seriously one of the best deals! Ryan and I order a togo box of roasted duck, pig, and ribs with white rice for just $5.99. It is such a tasty and easy dinner that I can pick up on the way home from work. While wandering around the store one day, I came upon a braising sauce. One commonly made dish in my house was Thit Kho or caramelized braised pork with hard boiled eggs. Getting the caramel sauce to cook right or getting the right texture/thickness/color was always hard for me to do in my past attempts. I was excited to find this sauce that would make it very easy for me.

Instead of cooking sugar and water, other spices/sauces, and coconut juice together- all I had to do was brown the pork and add the sauce. The flavoring and color was there... but the texture/thickness wasn't. Although it did come out better than my other attempts in the past, there is still something not right about it. Not sure if trying to tweak it on my own will make it better or worse, but at least I gave it a shot!

Les Givral's

Ryan and I have been interested in going to the farmers market at T'afia for a while now. When Saturday normally comes around, we are either too tired to do anything but rest or we just forget about it. We finally got up early enough and we finally remembered the market to actually go one day. The market was cute. Had a few booths outside and a few inside that had some nice products. I think I was most interested in the Indian cuisine stuff they had and the fresh baked breads.

Anyways, while driving down there and circling around finding a place to park, we drove by Les Givral's. Ryan had read about this place and said that he heard they have good Banh Mi's/Vietnamese sandwiches there. After leaving the market empty handed, I said we should go there for lunch. We circled around again trying to remember where we saw it. Found it and had a decent lunch.

I thought it would just be a sandwich shop, but they actually have a bunch of Vietnamese dishes on their menu. Not sure how they are... but that surprised me. I ordered the normal dac biet/combination sandwich and Ryan wanted to try the BBQ pork with pate & char-grilled chicken. I saw a guy sipping on a big cup of cafe su da (iced coffee with condensed milk) so we ordered one for the each of us. You order everything at the counter and they call out your number when your food it ready.

The dac biet sandwich was lacking something. Not enough pate or mayo butter... the bread was really crunchy and not real soft. I didn't enjoy it too much. On the other hand, Ryan enjoyed both of his! The bbq pork with pate and the chicken had really good flavor on them. The buns seemed softer on his than on mine. As you can tell, I think having the right kind of bun/bread is important on any sandwich. I think out of the sandwiches we tried, I liked the char-grilled chicken the best. I don't think I'm too interested in returning to order their sandwiches, but I might be interested in trying their noodles with the chicken. The cafe su da was just as I though it would be, good but STRONG. It was too much for me to drink so Ryan ended up finishing mine and his. Overall, not a bad place to try out, but I'd rather go somewhere else for my sandwiches.

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Citrus Chicken

Sorry for the delay. We are slacking on our postings again. We do have a few we need to post.

I would not call myself a cook. I do enjoy baking but cooking never seems to turn out right for me. Normally whatever I try to cook just turns out... edible. This one came out in between. It was a really easy recipe to follow but it really needed more flavor because it came out too bland. I got the idea by watching 5 ingredient Fix from the food network. Seemed easy enough so I didn't think I could mess it up too badly. Followed it as the recipe said off the food network website, they turned out ok... I'll let the chef in the house doctor it up next time. If you want a good base for your chicken you can use this. The chicken did turn out juicy though so at least that worked out!

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stella Sola

Our list of restaurants to try is still growing faster than we can afford to visit them (especially after I came across this list of the Top 10 restaurants in the Heights, but we were able to cross another one off the other night. We visited Stella Sola before it opened for the Oyster Throwdown, but hadn't made it over there to eat, despite hearing many good things about it, including the chef Justin Bayse getting nominated for a James Beard award less than 6 months after the restaurant opened.

At the oyster throwdown I had tried the Santos Cruz, a citrus/rosemary/balsamic/tequila drink concocted by Bobby Heugel from Anvil as he was showcasing the drink menu he designed for Stella Sola. I tried it again this time, and it was still good, but not quite as good as the ones I remembered from a few months before, they probably take a few shortcuts that Bobby wouldn't take with his own drink.

Suprisingly, our selections from the menu really mirrored what we had eaten at Reef a couple months ago. We were underwhelmed by our experience at Reef, so maybe we were trying to make a few comparisons between Brian Caswell's two restuarants. Based on our experiences, Stella Sola definitely shined brighter. Here's what we ate:

Flounder Crudo: Wow. REALLY good dish. Even better than the snapper carpaccio that was the only real highlight of our visit to Reef. The waiter said that the had recently changed the dish, including apparently switching it from Amberjack to Flounder, but I can't imagine that the original one could be much better than the one we tried. The fish was marinated in citrus and served delicately with a little bit of salty caviar, chiles, some vegetation, and a really delicious mayonnaise-y type sauce that we ate to quickly for me to be able to figure it out.

Scallop and Rock Shrimp risotto: Kimmy was a little bit let down because she was expecting some larger seared scallops instead of little bay scallops cooked in with the risotto, but it wasn't a bad dish. The rice was a little undercooked for a risotto, and the sauce was too rich to enjoy int he portion that was served, but the flavors were pretty nice.

Roasted Grouper: This is where I realized that I was hoping Stella Sola could make up for the Reef disappointment. I tried a similar dish at Reef and the fish was way overcooked, but this time it was absolutely perfect. Nicely seasoned and just barely cooked through, so that the fish just melted in my mouth. It was served with some celery pesto (VERY good, I wish there had been a little more of it on the plate), a little bit of sunchoke puree (a new taste for me but they least interesting thing on the plate), some braised chard, and some really tasty mushrooms. I managed to make a few perfect bites with just the right proportions of everything on the fork, and that's when everything really shined through. A really thoughtful dish.

Caramel Turtle Affogato: VERY rich dessert, tons of candied pecans in between scoops of saleted caramel gelato (really interesting flavor, a little bit of saltiness in a very sweet ice cream) topped with espresso chocolate. Kimmy loved the chocolate, I loved the gelato, the pecans were good but there was just too much of everything for us to make a respectable dent in it.

There's still so much more on the menu that I need to try, so we will definitely be back. The chef's specialty is curing meats - charcuterie, and he showcases that on the menu with a "Meat Market plate," a selection of presumably these sausages hanging to cure next to the endless rows of wine bottles. I'd also like to try their Bone Marrow service, and some of the non-seafood main courses, but that will all have to wait until next time. If anyone else wants to go, I'd definitely be up for a return visit.

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Table 7

Ryan's parents came out to have dinner with us one night and we decided to try out Table 7 which is a new restaurant that opened on Durham near Branch Water Tavern (another one on our list). We heard about Table 7 because the head chef, Shanon Haley, went to high school with us and I saw her post about it on Facebook. When we pulled up and entered the restaurant... it was completely empty. Not really what you want to see when you go in somewhere unless you come at some random time, but we got a table anyways and started reading over the menu. The restaurant itself it very nice and it had a separate part for the bar. The people working were all very nice and friendly and we had a good dinner. I guess there hasn't been a lot of publicity about the place because the environment and food was good so we were a bit surprised to find it so empty. When we were there, I think two other tables came in. Hopefully more people start coming around.

To start off with, we had the complimentary focaccia. We all ordered something different and shared. The portions were big, more than enough. We couldn't finish all the dishes we had. We had the BBQ duck pizza, blackened mahi tostada, kobe beef burger, the seared ahi tuna burger, and a side of the parmesan Basil polenta. I would recommend the blackened mahi tostada again. The burgers came with steak fries which I tend to dip in ranch. However, they do not have ranch here. Instead, the waitress brought out various things for me to dip my fries in. Sorry I don't remember what they were but I remember rotating through all of them because I liked them all. Good place to go to share your food with others.

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Listening to the Southbound Food radio show a couple months ago I won a $200 credit at Tesar's, a new-ish restaurant in the Woodlands. After a few tries, we got together enough people to go and made the trek up there to try it. The credit was supposed to be for a "Burgers and Beers" party, but after we ate and drank, we found out that the drinks couldn't be comped (at least not without the owner there, which is who I had communicated with), so we struggled to make it to the full $200 value, but we definitely had our fill and enjoyed it for the most part.

The Drinks:
They had a small, but nice, beer selection, and Dan, Erik, and I tried some familiar favorites and some new brews, but the drink that really caught me was their jalapeno margarita. I'm really enjoying drinks with a little spice for some reason now, and this one was no exception.

The Burgers:
The Burgers at Tesar's are what has gotten them some recognition in the Chronicle and Houston Press. We thought they were pretty good, but not worth the price or the trip to the Woodlands. We tried "The Magic" burger, which is a bacon & cheddar burger served on an English muffin, and the "Tail End" which has braised pork mixed in with the grass-fed beef, and is topped with green tomato chutney and braised collard greens. The tail end was my favorite of the two. It was really moist, and collard greens make everything better. Eric also ordered some peach-glazed foie gras sliders, which were good, but one or two bites was about all that anyone could handle. Very rich.

The other stuff:
Onion rings were ok, fries came with 3 different seasonings, I liked the chili powder one the best. Kimmy tried the lobster roll, which we expected to have nice pieces of lobster, but instead was more like a lobster salad, not bad though. I also tried an oyster po-boy, because it's hard to pass up fried oysters on a menu, but it was hard to enjoy with everything else we had to eat. Erik seemed to enjoy his Kobe hot dog. But really, I think the best thing we ordered (other than the jalapeno margarita) was the lobster flatbread. I can't remember all the details of it, but it was basically a thin, crispy crusted lobster pizza with tomatoes and herbs.

The desserts:
The waitress told us we still had a ways to go to reach our $200 credit, so even though we were stuffed we got a piece of chocolate torte (not bad - nice contrasting textures, creamy mousse and a flaky crust - Kimmy took a couple more to go), and a few of their ice cream tasting plates - 9 small scoops of different ice creams and sorbets. We figured all of them out but one (or did we eventually decide it was butterscotch?). Jonathan would have said most of them just tasted like vanilla.

Overall, it was a fun lunch, thankfully I'm one of apparently about 10 people who listen to the radio show and was able to win it.

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Mockingbird Bistro

For Valentine's day (yes we are behind on our updates), Ryan and I had dinner at Mockingbird Bistro. We have been wanting to try this restaurant out for a while since we saw them at the Bivalve throwdown and tried some of their food there. For some reason I thought Mockingbird was a lot further away from where we live than it really was. The place is nice and dimly lit inside. We ordered an appetizer and had two entrees. Ryan had some wine with dinner. We had the Veal Sweetbreads to start off with and it was our first time having sweetbreads. I have got to say, this was wonderful. It came with "cippolini onions and crisp pancetta with whole grain mustard sauce." I saw some other appetizers that came out for different tables and the portions were fairly large. Ours had about two or three pieces of sweetbread but it was delicious. So soft and just so much flavor. I'm not one for explaining how good things taste but if I'm in another good restaurant and see sweetbreads on the menu again I will probably order it.

For the main entrees, I had the steak frites. Fries were nothing special-just fries like any other place, but the steak was well cooked and the crimini, shitake and oyster mushrooms were very nice with it. Nothing too out of the ordinary for steak and fries which is just what I happen to want at the time. Ryan ordered the grilled veal T-bone. It came with green asparagus risotto (that I kept stealing bites of), tomato gratin, jumbo lump crab and béarnaise. Their take on the béarnaise was great. It tasted so familiar yet we couldn't figure out what it was at the time but were enjoying it. Sorry for the awful pictures... as I did mention above, it was very dimly lit and I had being in a nice restaurant and then randomly have a bright flash while I take pictures of my food. It was a nice valentine's dinner and I'm glad we can scratch off another place we have been wanting to try. Still many more places to go to...

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Huynh Restaurant

We have been trying to find a good Vietnamese place near our house without having to travel down to Bellaire. The closest Vietnamese we have near our house right now is Pagoda (please don't ever go there) and Vietnam Kitchen (which will have to do if I'm not willing to travel). We read a lot about Huynh Restaurant behind the convention center, real close to where Ryan and I had our wedding reception. From the reviews that we have read, a lot of great positive things were being reported so we decided to check it out.

It is run by the same family that had Pho Huynh but closed that location and opened this restaurant. The family immigrated from Hue and the restaurant is really nice inside with a more modern feel. They were still making updates when we were there because one of the owners was outside painting bricks. It did look nice. Ryan and I orderd: Cha Gio (egg rolls), Banh Uot Thit Nuong (soft spring rolls with chargrilled pork), and two Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup).

The Cha gio was good- been a while since we have gone so I can't really remember what to say about it now. I do remember that the Banh uot thit nuong was tasty! When we go back, I would order this again. Not slimy rice paper as some can be and nice char on the pork. It was just good. They make their own noodles, so I'm sure this has a big part in why it was so good. The Bun bo hue sure was spicy. I know it is suppose to be but wooo... it was a bit too spicy for me. I did manage to finish as much as I could of it. After one quick sip of the broth when it came out, Ryan instantly tried to tell me it would be too spicy for me. He enjoyed it though. Warning to those who would like to try it: they will ask you if you want pigs feet and the coagulated blood in it. Sure I can see the faces you are making as you read that, but you don't know until you try it- take a polite bite. When I eat bun bo hue, I love having the huge chunks of coagulated blood and the pigs feet are good. Overall, I would say that we both enjoyed Huynh's and would definitely come back. I'm ready to try other things on the menu.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Boiling Crab

Sorry guys- Ryan and I are lagging on the food updates. February has been a busy month and I think March is going to go by even faster. This post is one that we should have done at the beginning of Feb. but we just forgot!

So crawfish season is upon us. I am so excited and once people started posting pictures of the crawfish they were eating on facebook... I just had to get some. Ryan and I posted about Hank's crawfish before and that was a good place to eat when I was taking Lexi to the dog park. However, I don't live out in Cypress anymore and didn't know where to go close to the Heights. Tried searching online for places and just didn't really trust or want to trust some of the spots out here (shuck daddy's, mardi gras grill, the rajun cajun, etc). Decided it was about time I listened to others recommendations to try The Boiling Crab. We drove all the way out there and it was worth it. Had to wait for at table but I was craving crawfish so much that any wait was worth it at the time.

It's a small place that kind of reminded me of joe's crab shack inside. When you sit down, they bring a big piece of white butcher paper on the table. They also brought out a small container with salt and pepper and a whole bunch of limes which was great because that's what I like dipping my crawfish in. Not all places do that and I just end up shaking salt and pepper from the small shakers on the table for a good while. We ordered a fried oyster basket and some crawfish. Honestly, I don't remember much about the oyster basket because I was really only interested in the crawfish. From what I do remember about the basket is that I enjoyed the fries. I always enjoy fries. Anyways- back to the good stuff! The crawfish can be ordered in different flavors. Ryan and I went with "The Whole She-bang" which mixed in all of the flavors they had (rajun cajun, lemon butter, and garlic butter). You could also pick how spicy you wanted your crawfish to be. I went with mild and Ryan went with medium. It was so good!! It definitely satisfied my craving for crawfish. It also came with a piece of corn that was very sweet and buttery. Too bad it is too far away- otherwise I would be stopping by more often. Just writing about it now makes me want some more crawfish. Might have to make another trip out there sometime soon...

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Che Thai

January 22nd... two years since my mom has passed away and most of the time I go about my life pretending and trying to think that things are ok. Every now and then (and always at the most random times) it hits me really hard that she's gone and it always hits me really hard on this particular day. I thought I could make it through a whole day at work, and I almost didn't. It was hard, and I might be thinking about keeping this day open from now on.

Anyways, the family was gathering together at my dad's house to pray for my mom and all eat together. My dad said that he was going to cook everything that night and that no one was allowed to cook because he felt like he had to do it for her. He cooked Bo Kho (beef stew) and Bun Rieu (tomato based soup with seafood/tofu). It was pretty good too and he was very proud of his dishes. I wanted to bring something, but knew that 1) he didn't want me to and 2) I normally don't really cook. I enjoy baking.. but I don't know what the heck I'm doing when it comes down to cooking.

I thought a lot about what I could do and I decided to go for Che Thai. My mom was known for her ches (Vietnamese desserts). She made the best- hands down. Anyone in my family would agree to that. My mom was one of those great cooks that could never really pass down recipes because she never had any. I wish I had recipes for any particular che or all of them. One that I liked a lot was her Che Thai. It has coconut cream/milk with different kinds of fruit in it. I used logans, jackfruit, toddy palm seeds, and water chestnuts covered in tapioca. I used a recipe I found online and it didn't turn out so bad. The liquid/base for it all was a bit watered down and it wasn't as sweet as it could have been. Overall though, I would say it was a successful first try. Made me feel good to try something that my mom does so well and to have it on the night that we were all gathering for her. I think I might be trying out some other che recipes to see if I can try to remember more from her/of her.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010


So we went to Reef for Erik's birthday. After reading and hearing so many great reviews, seeing chef Brian Caswell at the Oyster Throwdown, hearing him on Southbound Food every week, and drooling over the menu online, we had really high hopes/expectations. Usually when that happens, you end up disappointed, and we couldn't help but feel that way after the meal. We had fun hanging out with some old acquaintances we don't usually see, enjoyed the ambiance of the place, and some of the dishes were really good, but a few little things really left us questioning all the reasons for those high expectations.

What we liked:
- Snapper Carpaccio with grapefruit agra dolce (recipe): really good, simple dish, but the flavors were "perfectly balanced." I hate it when people say that, but they were - the grapefruit agra dolce (grapefruit, vinegar, sugar) evened out the raw fattiness of the snapper. And the smoky grilled bread on the side was a solid touch too.
- Mussels steamed in Shiner Bock with Ancho chile: Nice twist on mussels, maybe to heavy on the ancho chile for some people, but I really liked it. Makes we want to go to Stella Sola even more than I already did to try the Lone Star steamed version with salsa verde.
- The bottom half of our two fish dishes: The polenta under Kimmy's scallops was nice, and the collard greens and "potlikker jus" under my grouper were absolutely delicous.

What didn't live up:
- Kimmy's (and 4 other people at the table) scallops tasted like ash. They were cooked well, the texture was right, but the grill just must have been way too smoky or something. Not sure anyone enjoyed those as much as they could have.
- My grouper was overcooked. I understand it's a firm fish, but it doesn't need to be that dry. I would have rather just had a hunk of cornbread to soak up the collard green jus.
- 30 page wine list: seriously?
- Sliders: How can they put the same boring sliders they serve at Little Bigs on this menu for twice the price? The bun was still way too dense.

Maybe we fell for the hype a little too much. It was good, but not that good, and definitely not up to the level of the bill we were paying. Or maybe it was just an off night, it was really busy, not that that should be an excuse. But apparently the rave reviews are still coming in, even from New York. <-- Nice write up on Reef, Stella Sola (right down the street, will go soon), Beavers! (though somehow only mentions Monica Pope and not Jonathan Jones), Textile (that'd be nice, but at $85 for the smaller tasting menu it might have to wait for a really special occasion), and Block 7 Wine Co (heard good things).

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Oh My! Pocket Pies

January 23 was apparently National Pie Day, so Oh My! Pocket Pies set up their truck on 19th street and gave away free mini dessert pocket pies. They do savory pies as well, so Kimmy and I decided to stop by for lunch. We were among the first few people there, and they were still getting set up, but it's a good thing we were there early, because a line started forming behind us and ended up wrapping over to the building next door. We tried 3 of their savory pies: salisbury steak (really good), twice baked potato (meh), and chicken chile relleno (thumbs up from me but not Kimmy's favorite), and two of their free mini dessert ones - s'more and strawberry. The pies were pretty good - just think homemade (and actually edible) hot pockets. They sell them for $3 each, and 2 would probably make for a good lunch. Their truck also serves burgers, shrimp burgers, and a few other pies that we didn't try, including a shepherd's pie one (wasn't on the menu so we didn't know they had it until after we ordered) and a shrimp one that they weren't serving that day.

If I happen to see their truck around sometime I'll definitely stop by again. Apparently they're usually parked in the Kim Hung Mall parking lot on St. Emanuel - just down the street from where our wedding reception was.

And where do you get compostable plastic cups from?? I understand trying to be green, but turning plants into clear drinking devices seems like a sign of the apocalypse to me. Science....

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The Grove

We've been wanting to go check out one of the Houston farmer's markets for a while now. The two main ones are usually already closed by the time we got up and ready to move on a Saturday morning after a long week, but a couple Sundays ago we decided to go check out the one at Discovery Green. It didn't turn out to be much of a farmer's market - more like an outdoor craft show with a couple baskets of vegetables - but we did try a crepe after lunch from one of the tents, and that was really great.

Anyway, for lunch/brunch, we ate at the restaurant right there at Discovery Green - The Grove. The place is really cool - huge, somewhat open kitchen, really modern and natural decor, nice almonds to start the meal, and just slightly overpriced food. Kimmy was in the mood for brunch, so she ordered Eggs benedict, which were really good - nice thick bacon and the eggs were poached well - a classic.

I went with the Fried oyster BLT. A little lettuce and tomato, homemade tartar sauce, that same thick cut bacon, and a mound of fried oysters about 2 deep over the whole sandwich - amazing. I guess I've never had oysters and bacon before, but it definitely took me back to the smell of oysters fried in bacon fat we experienced at the Bivalve Throwdown a few moths ago. There was a disappointingly large portion of cold marinated black-eyed peas on the plate. They tasted really good, I just didn't need a gross of them.

Honestly though, the best part of the meal for me was my drink. They make a "clear and spicy" bloody mary there that doesn't compare with any I've ever had. It's made with tomato water. I don't like gimmicks, and this might seem like one, but tomato water is officially off my gimmick list. It has all the flavor of tomato but without any of the color or texture of the usual tomato juice. They use chipotle vodka, which adds some spice - in addition to the raw jalapeno and cherry tomato skewer sitting on the rim of the glass. And then it's topped with a few drops of basil oil that float on the top and just add more of a fresh taste. Seriously amazing drink - I'd like to go try some of their other cocktails sometime too.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Brownies (again)

So after the (I don't want to go to the grocery store but I will see what comes out of it anyways) brownies I tried last time... I decided to give the recipe Marisa recommended to me out. I still have a box of brownie mix in the pantry but sometimes I just want a richer and gooier brownie that I just crave for. I think this recipe worked out well. Thanks for the recommendation Marisa! I did undercook it just a little bit, but that just made them more gooey and I liked it. The boys (Summer street boys, Ryan, and Ryan's dad) all seemed to enjoy them too. I took some pictures along the way but I forgot to take a photo of the final product. We used the new easy vanilla icing on them and they were delicious!!

Feel free to try it out sometime yourself: Here

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kata Robata and Dessert Gallery

We've been wanting to try this Japanese "fusion" place since the Oyster Throwdown. They were one of the first ones to cook their entries at the throwdown, and we were still eating at the time, so we missed them, but we had heard and read good things, including them being called one of the Chronicle's food critic's best new restaurants of 2009. There was a high end Vietnamese place at this location (Kirby @ Richmond) before that I had wanted to try, but apparently it wasn't working out so the owners switched it to Japanese. I'm getting a little tired of all the sushi/hibachi places that are opening up, but this place is very different and pretty special.

The sushi chef at Kata Robata is apparently one of the best in Houston - supposedly the only person in Houston qualified to prepare fugu (blowfish), which is poisonous if prepared improperly. They have really fresh seafood, put uni (sea urchin roe) on top of anything like it's as common as lemon wedges, and will even serve actual wasabi (at a little extra cost) instead of the usual fake horseradish and mustard mix that's served everywhere else.

Not only is the sushi good, but they have a chef in the kitchen who prepares some really inventive dishes. For people who don't like seafood, there's plenty of pork and beef to be found. Checking out their specials on twitter since we've been has really made me want to go back, especially since we know how fresh their food is and the precision they use in putting everything together.

Ok, here's what we actually ate - we tried to get a nice selection of the variety of the whole menu:

- Tiger eye roll: good, simple roll. It's usually on my list at other sushi places, so it was good for comparison purposes. This one was really lightly fried on the outside so the cream cheese was just slightly warmed, but the salmon was still cool.

- Chopped scallops: mixed with a little spicy marinate and served on top of rice in a little nori pouch. The scallops were very fresh and creamy.

- Yellowtail nigiri: Kimmy doesn't usually go for much of the raw fish, but she's coming around, and this definitely helped push that along. the yellowtail was so fresh and tender that it just melted. Probably could have gone for some more, but we had more stuff coming.

- Uni and King crab spoons: crab topped with a generous bit of sea urchin roe and black caviar, with a sweet/savory dashi vinaigrette. Really delicious bites that leave their flavors to stay on your mind for a while.

- Kakuni pork belly: the pork belly is braised for 10 hours, so it's really tender, and the sauce around it was another sweet/savory broth. I really like the pork with a bit of the mustard that lined the plate - made me wish I had realized the mustard was there sooner, but there was a lot going on on that plate and it was dark in there. The thing that brought the whole dish together though was the super-buttery spinach at the bottom. The butter in the spinach mixed with the sweetness of the sauce around it was really tasty.

- Sizzling Seafood Yakisoba: To be honest, I just ordered a noodle dish because I wanted something to fill me up after all the little plates we were ordering, but this was really good on its own too. The shrimp and squid were perfectly cooked, with a little char on the bottom from the cast iron plate they were served on. And the chef got me again with the sweet/savory thing in the sauce that dressed the noodles. VERY good dish for what I was expecting to be a filler.

We were pretty stuffed after all that, but we noticed the Dessert Gallery next door. I'm not usually one for desserts, but Kimmy was curious to see if they had the pumpkin cheesecake there that she had read about. Sure enough they did, so we went ahead and got a slice, along with a 28 cent cup of super rich hot chocolate since it was 28 degrees outside - a temperature based special they had going on all weekend. Both were very good, the best part of the cheesecake for me was the thin bottom crust which actually tasted and felt like the top of a creme brulee.

Overall, Kimmy and I had a great evening out and really enjoyed the food - not bad at all for a last minute decision on a Friday night.

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Captain Tom's

Captain Tom's, the boat looking place on 1960 is the ONLY place to go in Houston for oysters and micheladas. Ok, maybe not the ONLY place, but it's certainly one of the best. And we've heard the same thing from plenty of people who didn't grow up in Cypress, so it's not because of any kind of Northwest Houston bias or anything, not that we have any. Everything is good here. We usually split a dozen oysters (or two) and their seafood platter, which has fried everything (I like the stuffed crab the best). When it's cold, I like to get a cup of gumbo. Their gumbo is a really good "middle of the road" style. I say that because I tend to like a really dark gumbo, but many people don't, so I can appreciate the best of the lighter side too, and the gumbo at Captain Tom's is one that probably everyone would like.

The oysters are always $4.95/dozen, and they are best when the water is coldest, so when we went before our wedding in December around the time it snowed, they were some of the fattest and sweetest we've had.

If you're not familiar with micheladas, it's a beer cocktail made with whatever beer you want - it's not that important - and a sauce whose ingredients can vary, but the basics are lime juice, hot sauce, and soy or worcestershire sauce. At Captain Tom's, they'll toss a raw oyster in there for you too. One of my favorite beverages, and it goes perfectly with their oysters and seafood, which is why at least half the people there at any give time will be drinking one. We didn't take a picture of it specifically, but you can see it behind our tray of oysters in the last picture below.

The most amazing part of this place is the atmosphere, slanted floor, and the servers/bartenders/oyster guys. The same guys have been there for YEARS, and they can shuck 3 dozen oysters, dish out 2 bowls of gumbo, pour 5 micheladas, serve 4 platters of seafood from the ladies at the fryers, all while they're taking your order. Then, when you go to the register to pay, they have some kind of one word check system with the cashier to verify that what you say you ordered is right. One of our favorite places to go when we're already on that side of town, but it's probably worth the trip out there just for a late night oyster fix.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Guest Post

Dear friends,

Since Ryan and I didn't get to really try the food from our wedding, I'd like for someone to email me their review on the food that evening. I want to post a few of guest posts from that day along with any food pictures if you have any!


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Failed Brownies...

I haven't baked anything since Thanksgiving and wanted to bake some brownies. I really wanted some warm, rich, and gooey ones. Instead I tried a recipe even though I didn't have enough flour (I really wanted to bake without going to the store) and it doesn't look right at all.... I followed the recipe (minus the small amount of flour I thought I had enough of) but the amount of vanilla it said was so over powering. I have never thrown away a whole batch of something that I have baked before because normally at least some part of it is good or edible.... but this was not. Rolled it up into a nice log while it was still warm (cleaned up nicely) and threw it away. No photos of this one folks. I'm sure there will be other disasters to share.

33cent hot chocolate and buying a brownie from Dessert Gallery looks really good right about now.... Their special on hot chocolate/tea/coffee is still going until Sunday so go get some very rich good hot chocolate for a steal while you can!

Garden Grove- Disney Swan DisneyWorld

So we didn't take any pictures of our food while we were on vacation except for this one lunch at Garden Grove. You can also chose to have breakfast with some characters here too if you reserve it ahead of time. We went at an off time so the place was really empty. Surprisingly, the food still took a while to make it to our table. The entertaining thing while we were waiting was this older couple that were seated at the table right next to ours. Apparently, they have been eating here often because all the waitresses knew who they were and the old man kept hard candies in his pocket. He handed each waitress a piece of candy and they all chatted about their lives. Ryan and I tried eaves-dropping while eating the bread and butter they brought out. Ryan had braised spare ribs with fingerling potatoes and winter vegetables. I had a sort of Ruben haha. I am not the biggest sauerkraut fan so I had the dressing and sauerkraut on the side to add as I pleased. Of course when Ryan finish my food he puts it all back on. Anyways, the food was pretty good and they had some interesting things on their menu. Better than the food they have in the parks at least. Then again, I think McDonalds is better than the food in the park. I would try the restaurants at the various resorts next time instead of eating in the park- Garden Grove might be one of them again.

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*warning: this post may not be very interesting or sound so nice because Ryan is watching Jersy Shore and I find it distracting and just really... dumb! haha.


Stanton's is a burger place that Ryan and I have been meaning to try out for a long time. Especially since he lived right down the street from it off of Summer Street. It is very easy to pass this place up if you don't know where it is which is why we forget about it so often. Ryan knew how much I wanted to try this place with him and he went without me one day with Jonathan! (I did go to Straits without him so I guess we're even). We both grabbed some lunch there soon after. When we came in, we saw that it was a small convenience store, with an old sofa to wait on while they cook your food, an old computer monitor displaying a slideshow of their food, paper menus, and a regular chatting up with the owner at the check out area. We ordered our food, sat on the old couch, and watched this guy dressed in all sorts of drags holding onto a small radio playing who knows what come in to grab a beer and then sit outside to drink it. Got our food, headed back to our house, and enjoyed it! So much food for the price. The burger was huge and really worth the $3.99. I wouldn't call it the BEST burger we've had but it was good. I'd recommend it.

Find another review of this place here.

Other Burger joints I'd like to try: Hubcap, Sparkle, and Lankford. Ryan has already been to the last two. Maybe he'll post about them.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

TP Banh Bao

When Ryan and I were running errands down in Bellaire for our wedding, we had some time before I had one of my dress fittings. I was huuunnngggrryy but didn't want to eat too much before I tried on my dress. I wanted to find a place that sold some Banh baos or small soft steamed bun filled with typically a hard boiled egg, pork, chinese sausage, mushrooms, etc. Ryan googled for a small banh bao place and stumbled upon TP Banh Bao in the Hong Kong mall. Great! It was in between where we were and where we needed to be so we stopped by. We tried the regular "combo" banh baos- both steamed and fried and then tried a seafood fried one. It was the perfect snack. The fried ones were a little crispy on the outside but still soft inside. We need to try the bbq pork one next time. We'll be back at some point in time. Great thing to grab and walk around Hong Kong Mall if you're there.

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