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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