Food Cramming: Cru, Field and Tides, iPic and Tasting Room

The past weekend was one of nicest I’ve had in a while. I was able to do my  favorite “weekend job” of partaking (and reviewing) Houston’s vibrant foodie scene. I could do this all my life, but it can barely pay for the wine that I drink.  Day job to the rescue!!!

We wanted to jumpstart the weekend with wine-tasting. I had an invite at 13Celsius, but the driver/husband didn’t want to drive all the way to Downtown, so I had to cancel. We went to Beckrew Wine House instead. When we got there, they just opened. There was a big fan on the floor, an attempt to cool the room while the AC was cranking up. For my non-Houston readers, this is a big no-no. AC in Houston heat is  a necessity. You. Just. Can’t. And yeah, wine while sweating through your make-up? Not cool. I wanted to rush out but D wanted to stay and be polite, so we ordered a glass of wine each and some bruschetta then fled.

We decided to go to Cru WIne Bar instead.

Bubbles flight
Bubblies paired well with Lobster and Shrimp Dumplings
Prosciutto and Fig Pizza
Filet Mignon! Guess who ordered this? Paired well with Cote du Rhone

By Saturday, we were right on schedule. I was asked to write on an old-but-new foodie thing — chilaquiles. It is a traditional Mexican dish that has fried tortillas with green or red salsa poured over it. There is always some sort of meat on the side, usually pulled chicken. This has been popping up in social media, usually as a brunch entree. I chose to go to Field and Tides Restaurant up in the Heights. Nothing like the Heights to keep up with the young and the trendy foodies…

This is off-the-menu. For critiquing only. I had the sauce on the side because I didn’t want it drenching the egg. Instead of pulled chicken, it had pulled pork. Absolutely amazing!
D had Tomato and Crab stack. It’s actually fried green tomatoes, really good.
Fried Oysters and Brussel Sprouts. The brussels were a surprise delight. Crispy fried with really good chili honey glaze

We did our usual trek to Trader Joe’s to forage the foods we will never get in our neck of the woods. Why, oh, why, can’t they open close to Sienna???

We picked up Beans  so we can use our newly minted membership cards at iPic to watch Guardians of the Galaxy. Ipic is a movie theater with plush seating and gourmet foods.

The reclining seats were definitely great

Gourmet food? I wouldn’t go that far. All the fried things we ordered came in cold. D had a great filet mignon slider, though.

The drinks pretty much made up for all the food transgressions. Meet my Lookbetternaked margarita. D said  that his Bordeaux was pretty good too.

When we got home, we opened more than a week’s worth of all snail mail (because you know, we’re cool…not!) and found out we had a letter from our new HOA saying that our gate shows signs of rust and needs to be repainted. We had ten days to do it or face a fine. Tenth day is on Monday. WTF.

At the crack of dawn of Sunday, we went to Lowe’s to get all we needed to paint over the rust. There’s no way we can get someone to come in on a Sunday and do the job so we just have to MacGyver it. And MacGyver we did. We finished before 10am for less than $30. We felt that a reward was in order so we booked a table in Tasting Room.

Loved my Sauternes flight! I will not divulge how much it cost. let’s just say that it was like drinking a very good dry-aged steak…from Japan…!
Here’s my wild mushroom pizza
My only dessert for this week —caramel bread pudding.

It’s the start of the week now, the dreaded Monday. It’s pouring like crazy. Clinic is slow so I’m finding time to post this all and thank all those I needed to for all the yummy things I had this week. I should really strive harder to have more weekends like that. But for now, back to the day job….

 

 

 

Mother’s Days

Most women relish the idea of breakfast in bed during Mother’s Day. I don’t. The mere thought of what transpired in my kitchen to produce a mediocre waffle, coffee and orange juice makes me cringe. My favorite peeps — Beans and D— know me well enough that I would probably just wolf down the food as fast as I can so I can go clean up the crime scene in the kitchen that they left behind. So we just skip this warm and touching tradition and hop over to do the things I like best—eating and shopping.

This year, I totally forgot when Mother’s Day was. So i picked up a shift at work for this weekend in anticipation of my upcoming vacation for which I have accumulated a grand total of ZERO in terms of paid-time-off. Since I can’t do backsies once I’ve sign up to work, I had no choice but to celebrate it starting a week before while we were at Fredericksburg.

Began the day with my mimosa flight at the Herb Garden.
At Baron’s Creek with my favorite port
At Alexander’s Vineyard with another favorite, Sauterne

By noon, Beans was finally up and joined us. We were going to get some boots for me but the selection wasn’t very good, so we went home and I took a nap. Yes, napping is a way of celebration for me. I love napping. And I love it even more if no one disturbs me to tell me that the puppy peed out of the pee pad. So they left me alone.

After a restful nap, it was time to get some dinner. We drove over to Kerrville to dine in 1011 Bistro.

This is gorgeous restaurant sitting right next to Guadalupe River.
I just realized I haven’t done a review on this restaurant. Would have to do one next time. I have a better one coming up.

By Wednesday, I still don’t have any Mother’s Day present. It’s time to go to my mother ship—Houston Galleria. It was also a good time to check-out the Michelin star restaurant that my friend from Houston Chronicle was writing about—  Yauatcha.

Yauatcha earned one Michelin star last 2005 from their Hawaii restaurant. Technically, the one here in Houston is not starred. But since none of the restaurant here are, this is the closest to the real deal. As a foodie, it is a travesty that I have not eaten at a Michelin starred restaurant. That will soon change when I go to San Francisco next month.

I started out with Hakka—
Belvedere vodka, junmai sake, lychee, lime, coconut, passion fruit

There’s a whole bunch of dim sum. They are a lot tinier that what you would normally get. on the flip-side, portions are diet-friendly.

Sticky rice in lotus leaf
with chicken and egg yolk
Har gau–
prawn and bamboo shoot. Not kidding about the prawn. It’s a big-ass prawn
Scallop shui mai

In my experience, a true measure of a good Chinese restaurant is on how they cook duck.

Crispy Duck shredded tableside.
Home-made pancakes on the side! Yum.
D had the Seared Red Fish.
For dessert – Chocolate pebble
Alto el sol single plantation chocolate, brownie, caramelized white chocolate

My verdict—-ugh, so difficult to be honest. I’ve had better. This statement should be taken in a context that I am an Asian whose had an entire lifetime of eating the real deal. If this were a fusion restaurant, I would see it differently. But the dishes we ordered were hard-core Cantonese dishes, so I really have to say, I’ve had better.

Unlike most of the negative reviews I read about this place, I will not balk on price. I hate it when people do that. Their menu and their prices are online. If you find it pricey, don’t go then complain about it. Given their location, brand and decor, I think it’s priced appropriately. The service could use an improvement. I don’t get all the hype that this place generated and I don’t really see how the Michelin was garnered, but should I be shopping at the Galleria and feel like getting some dim sum , I would definitely be back.

Went to Galleria for my present. LV didn’t have my shoe size so it had to be ordered from New York. D, however, found his own present. As of press time, my shoes have not been delivered yet…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The (3rd) Best Burger in Texas

In this Yelp-driven world we live in, a business with 4.5 stars out of 250 reviews, is no easy feat. A lot of businesses would kill for that, I know mine would….(ok, not “kill” but more like “go out of one’s mind), to get those stats. When I read about Alamo Springs Cafe being the third best burger in Texas, I was dubious. Not that I doubt the credibility of the writer, coz we all know that food writers are the pillars of integrity (cough-cough!). But when I searched for the reviews, there it was. Four point five stars in Yelp and Google, on over 400plus reviews! For a restaurant that is so laid-back it doesn’t even have a website, that is pretty cool.

It has a hole-in-the-wall vibe, it will never win awards in design. But there’s award-winning smell of the burgers all the way from the parking lot.
I recruited a highly qualified individual to help me review this burger—my teenager!!!
We started with this roasted garlic with goat cheese tostini. 
This is the burger in question. Is it pretty? No. Is it the third best burger i’ve had in Texas. Hell to the YES!

This is the kind of burger that I would make if I decided to make a burger. I am still on a diet  (I ate only 1/4 of this— I declared today my cheat day for the sake of this effing blog). I weighed myself yesterday so I know that it would be a loooooong while before I make these kind of dishes. But if I did, it would be like this — made of the best meat available, best blue cheese I could get my hands on, cooked in medium-rare perfection, and tucked in the middle of the best buns which I would probably bake from scratch. Thank God, this place is just about ten miles from Fredericksburg. Just thinking about the amount of labor that would go into making this, makes me want to crawl back to bed and sleep off my burger craving.

And just for kicks, they have the Jefe’s Challenge. It is a sight to behold.
This is how the challenge works.
Onion rings for sides.
My favorite kind of fries—crusty fries!

Alamo Hills Spring Cafe embodies the thought of food being done right. While most of the food they offer are not healthy by nature (fried avocados—enough said), it is cooked in such a way that it justifies an indulgence. They also have an honor system in their drinks wherein you can just grab anything off the counter from soda, beer to wine, and just declare it as you pay for your bill. It’s a wonderful touch! It is definitely not a fast-food even if the offerings are similar to that of Whataburger or MacDonald’s. Here’s what’s hanging in one of their walls:

If you ever get in my neck of the woods, this is a fun try. It is in the middle of nowhere but the drive is wonderfully scenic. That plus a big, juicy burger, it is worth the trip!

 

Welcome To My Kitchen

As you’ve probably seen on my Facebook posts, I am now a proud mom of four adorable puppies. For the longest time, we always maintained two. But as I unwittingly followed Facebook feeds of Pomeranian breeders, I instantly gained access to adorable puppies looking for a forever home. Truffle is a puppy Pom that I got from North Carolina and Tofu is a year old Pom from Russia. He was imported by a breeder here and was meant to be a show dog until his teeth started overcrowding, which, I was informed was a big no-no in AKC standards.

Isn’t Tofu the fluffiest thing in four legs???

Anyhooo…How do these furry babies equate into my present kitchen?  The first two pups, Cookie and Mochi, always hang around in the kitchen. They know very well that when I cook, scraps of food fall to the floor, so they’re always on a look-out. Naturally, when the two newer ones joined us, they caught on to that as well. So I now have four dogs, yipping at my heels every time I cook. Oh joy!

I once saw a video of a Pom breeder and it was a scene in her kitchen where she had almost a dozen fluff balls running around. I thought that was the coolest thing! I only have eight more to go to have my dream kitchen. Ha!!!

These are my kitchen buddies. Three smiling Poms and one Yorkie wishing he was an only puppy.

Enough of my puppy insanity…. Let’s get cooking! I am on week 3 of my low-carb cooking. I’ve been having lettuce/cabbage, fruits and sashimi. Surprisingly, it’s almost painless. I have discovered a slew of flavored vinegars and spices which jazz up the dish without bringing on the calories. I am, however, close to being sick of raw salmon and tuna (let’s not even go on how expensive those are ).

Innovation is the mother of necessity — said by some philosopher who was tired of paying $29/pound of sashimi-grade tuna.  So I will whip up the next best thing — lean turkey. Here is my Cilantro-Lime Turkey Wrap.

Get a pound of the leanest ground turkey you can find. Saute lightly. It will look like it’s one huge stretchy piece, but be patient, it will break apart as it starts to cook. As it breaks apart, add salt and pepper.
Add Lime Ponzu sauce, about 3 tablespoons.

It will look soup-y and you will feel like you’re doing it all wrong. Don’t despair, it WILL dry up. As it dries, it will concentrate the flavor of lime. This is really needed because when you work with super-lean meats, the low amount of fat makes it difficult to hold flavor. Hence, you need to cook in the flavor.

When dry and broken-up add freshly cut cilantro, about 2 teaspoons.
Wrap in cabbage and lunch is ready!!!

Check-out my folded plate. Got it for $12 at Home Goods. So pretty! It makes up for the atrocity of my wrap. I still haven’t figured out how to separate cabbage leaves without tearing, so I always end up with odd pieces that make it difficult to wrap well.

If you can stand to lose a pound or two, this is a good dish. Very flavorful, calorie-friendly, cooks fast and uses only one pan! In my book, it can’t get any better than that.

 

Bosscat Kitchen and Libations

Dining with wine is always delicious. I soon found out that dining with hard liquor is even more so! This liquor-themed restaurant located in River Oaks district is very impressive, considering that it just opened 12 days ago. Many of their dishes are cooked with whiskey and bourbon. Its original location is in Newport Beach and judging by the way things look and run, they were pretty much a success there too.

D is in whiskey heaven. We were told that the restaurant boasts more than 300 bottles of whiskey from all over the world
He can literally live and die here….
I had Kentucky mule made of Larceny Bourbon and D had a 38 Special which was made of Bulleit Bourbon
We started with Bourbon Chicken Flatbread. I forgot to take a picture up-close…I got so flustered with the delicious drink we had…
For my entree, I had CAJUN BRICK CHICKEN —Pasture-raised chicken, crispy skin, Charleston gold heirloom dirty rice. The rice is really good, spicy without being over-powering
D had CAROLINA BARBECUE SALMON
Faroe Islands salmon, Carolina barbecue mustard, butter bean succotash.
For sides, we had SWEET POTATO MAC + CHEESE
Smoked ham chips.

There’s only two kinds of dessert,  so naturally, we ordered both…

CHOCOLATE BOURBON POT DE CREME
RED VELVET CHURROS — I bit into it to show the yummy red color inside. I really love this. Such a nice twist from the a dessert classic

Everything was good. All the liquor, both drank and eaten, did not make me drunk! This is why I really love dining out. There is so much to learn and discover. It’s the start of Spring Break so there’s a lot more dining adventures in the works. Can’t wait!!!

 

 

 

World Championship Barbecue

I’ve been a Texas gal close to ten years and the I’ve been living the phrase “everything is bigger in Texas” (my waistline attests to this).  Cheesy as it may sound, it really is true. We live life here in the superlatives which is not really a good thing at all times, but seldom are things done half-scale. The World Championship Barbecue Cook-off is the biggest, baddest contest,  drawing both local and international competitors. The wait-list just to compete is 4 years. All this is set on no less than the huge Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo which attracts more than 2million visitors each year.

We got our cowboy gear on! There’s a lot of walking to be done, and these boots are up to it!
This is the tent that we got the invites to
Each contestant has a tent which is roughly 4 times this size, my camera can’t pan the entire room.

The counters you see are the bars (open bar!). Because of the scale and magnitude of this competition, contestants have sponsors, and sponsors get invites to the event. And that is the only way to get into these tents, by invitation. No tickets are for sale. I was told there’s a black market for this with invites selling for more than a hundred bucks per invite. Seriously? What kind of appetite does it take to eat a hundred dollars worth of barbecue?

The open bar features a lot of local liquor. Particularly loved Tito’s Vodka. I can’t count how many trips I made to this bar.
This is one big-ass hog. The tent can dish out three of these each night. It tastes nowhere like the Filipino lechon that I’m used too.
Here are the other goodies –brisket, potato salad, barbecue chicken, mac n cheese, corn. As much as you can, all night long. Oh my…
What’s a party without the band?  I guess I got so food-logged that night, I totally forgot the name of the band

Outside the tents, festivities (and more food) abound. There is something for everyone (except the vegetarians…)

Everything fried. If it fits in the frying pan, we fry ’em and serve ’em…
More carnival food treats
What a night!

That was quite an experience. For once the weather was great and so ideal for all the walking. Unfortunately, when we got back, Beans had a fever (flu!), so we did not go back the following night. Just as well because it rained all day. Will definitely make plans for the rodeo and carnival just so I can feature all the fried goodies. Ahhh…the life of a foodie….

 

 

 

 

Healthy Eats

As I promised in my latest Facebook post, I was going to make poke at home. Poke (pronounced as po-kay)is a raw fish salad in Hawaiian cuisine. I remember having this  10plus years ago in Honolulu. I was not a big fan of raw fish then. I was also 20 pounds lighter and can don a swimsuit without fear, so safe to say, a lot of things  have changed since then. I love sashimi, so the thought of mixing it with great fruits and veggies plus a savory sauce makes it very enticing.

We went to North Shore Poke Company. This is a restaurant which started at Huntington Beach and they now have branches in Cerritos, Costa Mesa, and most recently, H-town!

An order of poke would first have a base of rice or veggies. You will then pick a choice of raw fish  (salmon or ahi tuna) or octopus. Extras would comprise of mango, avocado, masago, crab, crispy garlic, ginger ,sweet onion. This would all be topped by a savory sauce. There’s a variety of sauces to choose from, depending on the restaurant.

My bowl – brown rice, salmon,mango, masago, blue crab, sweet onion and Ponzu sauce
D’s bowl- brown rice, ahi tuna, pickled ginger, masago, Wasabi Shoyu Sauce

I knew I had to have more of this so I vowed to make some at home for dinner. And also for Beans who was still asleep when we left. We stopped by at Nippon Daido grocery to pick up some sashimi grade salmon and pink snapper. This is my version:

Base is wild rice and some lettuce. Fish is a mix of salmon and pink snapper. I added mangoes and avocado. For the sauce i mixed ponzu and sesame oil. Ah-mazing!

This has really been a wonderful day, food-wise and weather-wise. We ate this outdoors where we recently just cut the grass. I love the smell of freshly-cut grass. It smells so clean. For dessert, we had the cream puff pastry I picked up from the Japanese grocery store. Since the North Shore didn’t serve alcohol, we thought we’d just drink at home. It’s a weekend and it’s past 5 and the weather is awesome, it would be a crime not to…

 

 

Bateaux Mouches – Dinner Cruise in River Seine

If I had to choose only one dining cruise in my lifetime, I would definitely choose this cruise. A close second would be the one in San Francisco Bay, but the food is not nearly as good as this one in Paris, although the scenery is gorgeous as well.

We took this a couple of years back. D and I wanted to do a spring get-away to France and I’ve visited it often enough to know that as lovely as that country is, if not for Disney, there really is nothing much to do for the kids. Luckily, my sister was spending her break in her house in South Padre and didn’t mind if I left Beans with her. I don’t tell her often enough, but I’ve always appreciated her generosity and support for my travel adventures.

We booked our tour here and picked the prestige dinner cruise. It promised a romantic dinner and entertainment.
I love how the French are so upfront in their dress code. They enforce a formal dress code and will have no qualms to turn anyone away wearing jeans. I actually saw it happen.
And because this is France, wine was served as soon as we got seated. This is just in pre-departure area. Great start!
This is the interior of the cruise boat. It starts at pre-twilight. It’s timed perfectly so that you get to take in the sights both in daylight and at night with all the twinkling grandeur.Paris is, after all, the City of Lights.
In the boat, they wasted no time to open our first bottle of bubbly–Petit Chablis, La Chablisienne
Salut! The French really know how to start a celebration. No, I am not pregnant. It’s how the dress is cut. I have thrown it away.
Live music started as we enjoyed our drink. Music selection was classical- very appropriate for the setting
Appetizer – Duck foie gras and Smoked and cured duck breast, salad of winter vegetables.
Also served with our second bottle of wine, this time, a red.
My entree– Filet of veal, parsnip puree, seasoned gravy
D’s entree-Smoked salmon, Swedish flatbread (tunnbröd), sour cream and chives
Another bottle for dessert. Desserts were Homemade chocolate lava cake, thick custard cream and Coffee mousse dome

After all the food, we ventured out as it was already twilight.

The views at this time of the day is amazing. This is taken by my trusty iPhone, unedited
The City of Lights behind me
Beautiful pic to end the magical night.

This is where we disembarked from the boat. Nothing beat being welcomed back in land with the Eiffel Tower all lit up. It took us forever to get  a cab back to the hotel. This was pre-Uber era, although I doubt if Uber would have made a difference. This city is so crowded. We were walking for almost an hour trying to find a cab, which was good because we had a few thousand calories to burn. But for my high heels? Not so much….My advise for foodies on adventure tours? Loose clothes, comfy shoes and whole lot of appetite. Paris is delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roux Pour

In life, the best laid plans are sometimes trumped by the magic of serendipity. This is one of those of moments. We were not planning on having a heavy brunch because we are still reeling from all the food from last night’s Fort Bend Care charity dinner.  But while hunting for gourmet spices in Home Goods (yes, they have quite a selection), we saw some Cajun spices. Just like that, D and I got a craving for same New Orleans cooking. As we were out in the parking lot, we saw  Roux Pour and I remembered my friend Cheryl saying that they just started serving brunch on Sundays.

As we were approaching the restaurant, a car pulled out so we instantly got a parking spot. For those unfamiliar with Sugar Land Town Center, it is an awesome place (it has my spiritual place, Sephora), but parking is such a b—ch, so off-putting. Finding a spot is like finding a four-leaf-clover!

A live band started playing as soon as we entered. I love dining with live music. And just when I thought all the start were aligning, I read the menu and saw “Bottomless Mimosa”. This is gonna be a great day!!!

Roux Pour specializes in New Orleans cuisine. On Sundays like today, they have Jazz brunch. The sound, the sight and the smell all spell party! So festive!

This is their array of entrees. In  the adjacent room is the soup/gumbo section, as well as the omelet, dessert and prime rib section.

D is really a dear when it comes to these things. He diligently shuttles back and forth to get me food because he knows I really hate getting up once I’m seated for a meal. He is also nice enough not to overstuff my plate. Notice how he has a firm grasp on plate real estate. He knows how to arrange the food so the flavors don’t overlap.

My first plate —crawfish mac n cheese, shrimp bisque, prime rib, jambalaya and half a dozen oysters
My second plate—more shrimp bisque, boiled shrimps and God-knows how many oysters. I am shameless at this point. The oysters were good!!! It paired well with my third glass of mimosa.
I really wasn’t sure if I had room for dessert. But the white chocolate cake and the cinnamon banana smelled really good. I had these two while D had cheesecake.

We decided to eat really slow and just enjoy the jazz band. Pretty soon, I was sneezing incessantly, signaling that I am already full. That was some brunch! I’m really happy that we tried this place. There are still many things on their menu that they didn’t serve for brunch that I wanted to try. I will definitely be back for that.

 

 

Righting a Wrong

Vallone’s is D’s favorite steak restaurant in Houston. So when he got the news about his promotion, it was not a surprise that he chose to celebrate it here. As luck would have it, I also got an email from their management that they have finished their renovation and it would be nice if we came in to check it out. I had no doubt that this is a good choice to celebrate another milestone in D’s career.

The last time I was here, I was on this crazy diet that made me order fish in this amazing steak place. What was I thinking??? All throughout our meal, I kept reaching over to get a piece of D’s steak. He did not like that. So for sure, this time, I won’t make the same mistake. I will definitely have a steak!

This is what the renovation was all about. In place of the big window overlooking the streets, a wall was built with an amazing light wall fixture made of different kinds of lightbulbs.
Cabernet and Strawberry Basil Hickey—off to a good start!
This is a smoked salmon pizza—crust is actually crispy potato strips and the sauce is chive creme fraiche
This is me righting a wrong—I had a 55 day dry aged rib-eye
D, of course, had filet mignon
Predictably, I ordered truffle mac n cheese because it was on the menu. We ended up taking home 3/4 of this because the steaks were quite hefty.
Dessert is midnight cake —a dark Belgian chocolate cake.

Renovated or not, Vallone’s continues to impress. It never bother me that the old windows actually overlooked the crowded streets. I guess, the new look now has improved the ambience a thousand fold. Food quality and service is still impeccable.

D is a very hardworking man and this promotion is well-deserved. True, we don’t usually wait for a reason to have great steak. But having a reason to celebrate takes the guilt away from the binge. Sure, sure. Whatever makes us sleep at night, right?