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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