a’Bouzy

Champagne-fueled concept. Have you heard of anything more enticing? I couldn’t wait for this weekend to try this place. Shawn Virene, one of the guys behind another awesome restaurant that we frequent –  Brasserrie 19, founded this gem. It boasts of more than 1000 wines on the list and 250+ of sparkling wines. With this nugget of info, me, Dave and our livers were set to go.

I ordered this a’Bouzy Mule while waiting for D to order wine. It takes him a long time to pick wines. To be fair, he did have a thousand to go through.
This is his winner. I know little about wines but I know enough that you cannot go wrong with a 2009 Bordeaux.
Tuna Watermelon Sashimi—Ahi Tuna, spicy soy caviar, watermelon,
avocado mousse
Baked Oysters —
Tomato, onion, pesto, parmesan, bacon, aromatic rock salt
Seared Diver Scallops–
Baja diver scallops, shrimp, clams, braised Swiss chard,reduced seafood broth, basil lemon oil, grilled bread
Prime Tenderloin Filet–
Prime beef center cut Filet Mignon, horseradish mashed
potato, green bean medley
Chocolate Creme Brûlée
This is my winner—Vintage Port!!!

The restaurant lived up to the hype. It was already very crowded when we left. The noise level, was kinda high. All the champagne being popped certainly made the atmosphere very festive. We realized as we left that we had three different kinds of booze and none was champagne….Clearly we need to go back!!!

The food was really good. I was already expecting that because of our really good experiences at Brasserrie 19. The drinks really floored us, though. So many good selections and really affordable. As we got home, D already looked at the wine list online that knew what bottle he was going to try next!

a’Bouzy , 2300 WESTHEIMER HOUSTON, TX

 

Rise n°2 Salon de Soufflé and Wine bar

I had a wonderful start to my Sunday as we tried this great restaurant offering the most quirky and delicious soufflés. This is the first environmentally conscious salon de soufflé that I’ve been to, utilizing renewable cork flooring, using drinking glasses made from recycled wine bottles.
 The “serviettes” or napkins are one-of-a-kind antique linen, made from pre-industry flax and hand-embroidered with family initials. All of the flatware is an eclectic mix of antique silver plate utensils from France.

This is the greeting I had as I sat on our reserved table. This is for the second anniversary of my blog. Aint that sweet?
This bread cutter is the bomb. It’s available for sale. Naturally, we bought one for home.
Marshmallow Soup! It is actually tomato bisque with goat cheese marshmallow and pesto sauce drizzle.
Soupe a L’Oignon Gratinée–onion soup.
D had Bordeaux vs. California Reds. A very interesting mix. The winner? Bordeaux (of course)
Truffle Infused Mushroom
As you get to the middle, the smell of truffle assaults your senses in the most amazing way.
I had the crabmeat soufflé
Look how dense it is, yet it is still light as air.
My dessert flight — Moscato (Piedmont), Suterne (2011), 20year old Tawny port, and and amazing Spanish dessert wine that I really have to read up on because it has become my favorite thing.
For dessert, Bananas Foster Souffle

As we paid the bill, we were already planning on what to get the next time we come here. That’s how good it was. Presentation was excellent, ingredients were topnotch and fresh, service was impeccable and execution was above par. Those are my 4 criteria for a good restaurant and Rise no 2 got it all.

 

Rise n°2 Salon de Soufflé and Wine bar, 1700 Post Oak Blvd #290, Houston

 

Roka Akor – Houston

This is another great year for my blog. Although recipes for my cooking has gone down quite considerably, I’ve had a lot of entries from my restaurant adventures. I have actually done a lot of cooking lately but I simply don’t have the time to write. I know I should just really simplify my text and let the pictures speak for themselves. But if that were the case then all i need is just Facebook, the way everyone else does it. So I will take this extra step because, writing, although time-consuming, is a delight in itself.

I chose this restaurant because I wanted D to try the real deal Kobe beef; the one that is certified, with serial number and everything. I have lived in Japan and I cannot say enough about how they obsess over the quality of their Kobe and the measures they take to protect its quality. When Roka Akor opened, a co-food-blogger told me that this restaurant flies their Kobe from Japan. You pay through the nose (it is sold by ounce) but for the real experience, it is still cheaper than flying all the way to Japan. This is my rationalization after  picking up that tab today.

We started off with sashimi. So yummy and pretty.
So here it is. Certified Japanese Kobe Beef. True steak perfection.
D is one happy camper. He has officially reached steak nirvana.
A5 Wagyu FIlet
Madagascan Jumbo Tiger Prawn with Yuzu Kosho Chili
FYI, wine selection isn’t a slouch. This is a really good Bordeaux.
Vahrona chocolate molten cake- the filling is almond caramel.
I’m a sucker for presentation. Cappuccino was meh but the cups are cute.

This was definitely a wonderful dinner. Totally worth the splurge. When you think that the alternative is flying all the way to Tokyo and have to deal with jet lag and their teeny tiny hotel rooms….this was a steal. I don’t know how long I’ll keep telling myself this, but whatever makes me sleep at night, right?

Roka Akor 2929 Weslayan St., Houston

The Progress – San Francisco, CA

Fueled by the success of the first true Michelin experience at Bouchon (faux first is Yauatcha-the Houston one I ate at is not starred, only the London branch is), I instantly booked my night for the The Progress. I soon realized the truth in what some chefs have been claiming about these stars…it is extremely subjective.

This is located in downtown SF and for some reason, no valet. It was our lucky night because somehow, we found a spot within the block. My Manolos breathed a sigh of relief. The restaurant is pretty. The design was clever to make what a typical SF dig would be, cramped, seem spacious.

The ordering style is unique, and if you have an open mind, could be interesting. For a fixed price, you get to choose 4 entrees. Each would be shared family-style. The way the waitress explained it was the first 2 should be chosen on the “light” section (veggies) and the next 2 from the “heavy” section (meats).

Prior to serving the entrees, there were a few things “for the table” aka appetizers. We were given three of these appetizers, which I thought was fairly generous.

first – seven pepper cracker with ciccioli
second – sour beer bread with fermented cabbage butter
third – roasted baby carrots with pickled plum mayo

Then we were on to the entree. The timing of these dishes being served were impeccable. Not a lot of wait time.

Haas Avocado and Manchego wedge with dried summer pepper, lime, pomegranate syrup romesco

This chose a great avocado for this dish. It reminds of the avocado we have in the Philippines, more sweet than savory but still very firm.

spiced beef & marrow dumplings shiitake mushrooms, lettuces, ginger & lemongrass vinaigrette

I cannot imagine putting the marrow into the dumpling wrap, but somehow that feat was achieved in this dish.

Wild morel mushroom cavatelli with goat gouda and nettle cream

Now this is where the “star” was achieved. Morel mushrooms are a gourmet’s delight. There are apparently people who have to  “hunt” for it and takes a lot of skill because it is elusive. It tastes very meaty and earthy and most importantly, for something so packed with flavor, has only 20 calories per cup. This dish probably has 1/4 cup,  so….5 calories for the win!!!

steamed local black cod enokis, sprouted beans & lentils, sweet onion-dashi vinaigrette
For my drink, I had The Remedy

Overall, this was not a bad dining experience. Although it is a far cry from Bouchon, if you have to compare. The dishes were really creative and the ingredients, superb. The presentation is a bit dated, for lack of a better word. I love Japanese clay ware but the same kind of plate was used throughout the courses, a variety of shapes/colors would have been better. The thing I disliked most was the way the tables were so close to each other. See how the next diner was so close to me. I overheard her entire tale of Match.com misadventures…

The Progress, 1525 Fillmore Street
San Francisco CA 94115

 

 

Madera – Menlo Park, California

Madera is a Michelin star restaurant in Sand Hill Road (Menlo Park)—a venture-capital office park—near Woodside, home to many tech billionaires. Surrounded by three of the wealthiest zip codes in the country, this is where techies toast as they successfully convinced us that our life would not be complete if we don’t have the latest iPhones in our hands.

You can tell from their wine book (not list), that they do take their celebrations seriously. Because you know…poverty is loss of options…so they say.

The wine choices are dizzying. Definitely brimming with options.
D had JANASSE, Rhone Blend, Cotes du Rhone Reserve, I had  Salty Dog: tito’s vodka, giffard elderflower, grapefruit . You can count on me to order the most ghetto-sounding drink in a wine book filled with French words…FYI, it was delicious!!!

I love how this bread was presented, take note of the butter that’s melted in the middle.
Chef’s offering – Pannacotta with tarragon cream and onion blossom. 
Appetizer -Fromage blanc, apricots, brown butter, saffron, golden beets

 

Liberty farms duck, cherries, daikon, rhubarb, honey, ginger
Dessert – CALIFORNIA CHERRY–maple almond cake, amaretto foam, almond tofu, elderflower cherry sorbet
my favorite dessert drink –Chateau Doisy-Daëne, Barsac,
Sauternes, 2009–this is heavenly!!!
…and a fancy cappuccino for D!!!

This was a lot of food. I’ve never been in a restaurant where I felt I had to order so much. But everything was exceptional so it was hard to resist. Presentation, as you can tell from the pictures, definitely above par. Great service in these kind of establishments, are a given. From the valet, to the sommelier, waitstaff and the incessant rounding of the manager, everyone worked to get us a great dining experience. This restaurant definitely deserves its star.

2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025

 

Bouchon – Yountville, California

I have been watching this documentary in Netflix about international foodies. The term foodie has been used so loosely these days, it seems like anyone who dines out once a week calls himself  that. But these people really take the term to heart. There was this guy who was able to dine on ALL three-star Michelin restaurants. There’s a hundred something of those in the world, so that really made a grand adventure! Naturally, I got jealous.

Dining in Michelin starred-restaurants is not cheap. It’s also time-consuming as it entails hopping on planes because as I mentioned, it spans the whole world. This bring up a conundrum because I have to keep a day-job to bankroll this adventure, and said day-job needs my physical self to work well enough to get paid (telemedicine developers!!! you need to chop-chop and get this technology going already). So I will have to make do with dining to as many Michelin starred places when I travel.

Bouchon is a Michelin starred restaurant in Napa Valley (Yountville). I really wanted a to go to French Laundry but the availability was too close to our flight sked, I didn’t want to risk it. Michelin 101: book in advance!!!

I had Elderflower Mimosa and D had Bordeaux–Chateau Margaux, Margaux 1995

My mimosa was absolutely delightful, I had to ask how it was made—it’s a mix of Prosecco and Elderflower liqueur (exact brand is St. Germaine—don’t ask me how i found out, let’s just say it involved some unauthorized snooping around in their bar).

Terrine de Jambon Persille – braised ham hock terrine with parsley, cornichons and celery root salad
D had Soupe à l’Oignon
caramelized sweet onions with beef jus, country bread & Comté cheese
Steak Frites – pan-seared flat iron steak, caramelized shallots & maître d’hôtel butter, served with French fries

Don’t leave this place without trying the Pomme Frites. It is truffled but not from the usual truffle oil. It has actual truffle shavings! The smell is so heavenly. If Jo Malone would create a perfume remotely close this, I will be buying it!

Coq au Vin – chicken leg braised in red wine with potato puree, bacon lardons, button mushrooms and pearl onions

This is actually my second choice. I wanted to try the duck but it wasn’t available this season. Like all good restaurants, they change/rotate their menu entrees from time to time.

Ile Flotante – poached meringue with creme anglaise and hazelnut praline

This is light as air, well balanced by the crispy praline. Its of those dishes that individually, they’re not exceptional, but collectively, it’s a bomb.

This is a chocolate confection made of several layers of cake and chocolate mouse, topped with super smooth ganache. I’m sure it has fancy name, it just escapes me at the moment.
This was definitely a lovely meal. Service was impeccable. And believe it or not, reasonably priced.

Bouchon, 6534 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

 

 

 

 

Crustacean – San Francisco, California

Like my other favorites in the Bay Area, this restaurant holds a lot of good memories. I took Beans here when he was 3 years old. He did not care much for seafood so I fed him at home. While in the restaurant, the waiters were kind enough to get him some brownies for him to munch on while we were eating. But instead of eating it, he decided to break it  in crumbs and scatter it all over the chairs and floor. The huge clean-up necessitated a generous tip, far more than what those stupid brownies were worth….

The Roast Crab– an entire dungeness crab roasted to perfection with garlic and spices.

This has been my bench-mark on how a crab needs to be cooked. High quality crab seasoned to perfection. Worth ruining your manicure for.

When it comes to crabs, I DO NOT SHARE. So D, and to have his own.

Drunken Crab an entire dungeness crab simmered in a broth of three wines,
cracked black pepper and scallion

This is what he got. Which is almost as good as my order. That thing was cooked in thre kinds of wine, what could go wrong?

An’s Garlic Noodles egg noodles infused with An’s famous garlic sauce

I strongly advised against sharing this too.

What a nice, non-crabsharing couple we make!!!

Crustacean San Francisco
1475 Polk St San Francisco, CA 94109

 

 

 

Spinnaker – Sausalito, California

I have so many good memories associated with food. That’s why I became a food blogger. For some reason, I selectively remember places and events with the food I ate with the experience. Classic example: I cannot name a single pagoda that I have been to in Thailand but I can tell you the specific street corner that sells the most amazing skewered chicken in the country (possibly the world).

Going back to Spinnaker invokes these memories. This is my favorite brunch place in Sausalito. D and I used to take Beans here back when he was just about 5 years old. He loved looking at the kayakers passing under the restaurant. This was also the place where D proudly boasted that he was able to get Beans to eat fish for the first time. The fact that the said fish got puked out in D’s brand news Mercedes later on, makes that memory even more precious.

This is me, Beans,  and my mom, circa 2008
This is me and Beans, 9 years after!!!

When doing reservations, always try to get a table with a view. In Europe, most restaurants would have you pay extra for that. In the US, all you have to do is ask…
Specialty margarita and D with his Syrah, Dumol, Russian River 2012
My favorite—BOUILLABAISSE
Prawn, scallop, clams, mussels & fresh fish in a rich broth. I have tried (unsuccessfully) to make this at home, I can never make the broth to carry that much flavor. I need a better recipe, or just keep coming here.
D had SALMON FILET STUFFED
WITH MUSHROOMS
Portobello, Shiitake & Crimini mushrooms in a shellfish & cream Besciamella
Beans had QUESADILLA WITH CRAB, SHRIMP & FRESH BASIL
Served with tomato-cilantro salsa
& French fries
Dessert – Bread Pudding Cake
With a tunnel of Rich Custard … Served with an Old Fashioned Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Butter Sauce. So you know me by now, the best thing about this is the whiskey sauce.

Our favorite dessert here was cherries jubilee. We were informed that they have stopped making it due to some fire hazard decree. For crying out loud. Now I remember why I left California…. hehe.

It was great to revisit our old haunts.Even better to note that not much has changed, food-wise. Quality is always consistent. Progress requires change. But there’s nothing like familiarity that anchors you down to your history and in this fast-changing world, we need that.

 

 

 

 

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…