Posts tagged ‘texas’

austin eats part 1

I went to Austin this past weekend just to get away. It was relaxing and I had a great time. I’ll have to post about it next time, but I’ve taken part of a wellness/health program at my Drs. office and for the first two weeks, I can only eat fruits and veggies. For a girl that loves meat and rice and chocolate, it’s been tough. Luckily, Austin is quite health conscious and I found great food while there.

First stop on Saturday was brunch at Eastside Cafe with my cousin and her husband. I hadn’t seen them in years and they said this place had yummy food and the freshest veggies. The restaurant is cozy, dainty, and the service was excellent. They grow their own veggies in the garden out back, which you can stroll around in while you wait for your table, and they raise their own chickens. I believe all their veggies served come straight from the garden. As you sit down, they bring out these mini cornbread muffins and oh how delicious they smelled.

I had a mixed greens salad with goat cheese and tossed in a rice wine vinaigrette. It tasted so different from what I’ve had before. It tasted so fresh. No photo, but everyone’s seen a salad before.  But, what I loved most was their roasted acorn squash with a soy ginger sauce.

Doesn’t that look awesome? I just took a fork, scraped the side, dipped a bit and took a bite. It was so tasty and I was in love. My cousin’s husband ordered a veggie burger, but my cousin ordered this artichoke manicotti, which is “Carrot pasta filled with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, pistachios, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese.  Topped with sun-dried tomato cream sauce and parmesan cheese.” I was jealous she got to eat that.

For the sake of a photo op, and because what kind of review is this without dessert? They were kind enough to eat this delicious cherry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. Aren’t they the sweetest? By the way, cherry cobblers and cherry pies are in my top 5 favorite desserts. I was brave and strong willed and did not falter. Behold.

As much as I wanted to take a bite of that, I couldn’t. Instead, I watched my cousin and her husband devour it. =( When I’m untubby and can eat that again, I’m coming back for sure. Haha! This is definitely a place to return to and Austinites, if you haven’t made it out to this place…GO!! They take reservations, prices are decent, and food is delicious.

– chelle

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May 21, 2010 at 2:40 am 1 comment

Fried Goodness at the Texas State Fair

tx1

A belated posting…

If your eating sentiments lean towards Templeton the Rat then the Texas State Fair is for you. A fair, is a veritable smorgasbord orgasbord orgasbord…

But woe to you who counts calories and attempts in infiltrate this epicurean fantasy world. Woe, I say! You are not wanted here, nor do you belong. As I’ve grown older I, like Remy in Ratatouille, have become more conscious of what I’m cramming in my cramhole. But once a year I revert to 12-year-old form. Back when I could have reduced logging camp cooks to tears for want of hash and flapjacks. That occasion is the Texas State Fair.

Now I have heard it said that other state fairs, specifically the Minnesota edition, are the best when it comes to the audacity and creativity of their fry cooks. Lies. In Texas, a fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich is considered standard fare (pun intended). This is the Fair that invented (or at least perfected) the corn dog. (More on this later) In Texas, it takes something really crazy to generate interest. Two years ago, someone found a way to fry Coca-Cola.

So every year on the occasion of the annual Texas-Oklahoma football game I endeavor to nomnom as many unusual fried delicacies as I can find. The reason why this post is so late is it takes me awhile to recover. It’s a great time, and the pre-game tension and post-game glories are as important a part of the rarified dining experience as the bubbling cauldrons of oil and the oozing grease.

cottonbowl

WARNING: What follows is not for the faint of stomach. Do not attempt this: you take your life into your hands.

The most exotic stuff can be found on the west side of the Cotton Bowl by agriculture exhibits (where you can view a pig with a nutsack the size of a deflated basketball, a sight to behold). As you might guess this is one of the highest traffic areas of the fair, but pleasantly also the area with the cheapest beer (another necessity). My first mission was the winner of the annual fried food contest: Chicken-Fried Bacon.

chickenfriedbacon

I was actually surprised this hadn’t happened earlier at the fair, it’s not exactly a new invention. The original iteration of the dish was created (like the Frankenstein monster) by Frank Sodolak, owner of Sodolak’s Orginal Country Inn in Snook, Texas, according the entertaining book Texas Curiosities by John Kelso. Solodok’s version is six double-breaded strips, deep-fried in oil, and served with a side of cream gravy. As Jayne Hurley, a senior nutritionist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is quoted in the book:

“I’ve never heard of anything worse. They’ve taken fat, they’ve double-coated it in fat, they’ve fried it in more fat, and they’ve served it with a side of fat.”

Yes’m, and God Bless Texas. As you can imagine, Sodolak’s has been a desired road-trip destination for some time for my friends and I, but I have never made it happen. By the by, for you confused Yankees, the term “chicken-fried” doesn’t mean there’s any chicken in the dish. Just like the famous chicken-fried steak -which was invented in Texas- it refers to the way it’s cooked: fried, like chicken. (Fun fact: CFS isn’t actually the state dish of Texas, chili is. It is the state dish of Oklahoma because they weren’t good enough to come up with anything good on their own. They had to borrow from us, just like when they’re searching for college football players. Yet another example how football explains America.)

So back to the CFB…someone either took the idea from Sodolak’s or came up with it on their own (a logical assumption in an environs given to pushing the fried envelope), and figured out a way to prepare it for mass consumption. Thus we have the Fried Food Fanatics’ Holiest of Holies.

Well I’ll be damned if after all that ballyhoo…it wasn’t good. It tasted like the flimsy, artificially enhanced bacon you would get in an elementary school cafeteria, coupled with fried-chicken skin from a third-rate chain. In other words, it tasted like grease, and not good grease. I blame quality of ingredients. CFB at the State Fair was definitely the Icarus of the trip. Hopefully when I finally do make it to Sodolak’s my faith will be rewarded.

So after that disappointment I needed a beer and some dessert. I needed….

fried-cookie-dough

FRIED COOKIE DOUGH!! Which was easily the winner of the day. The sharp chocolatiness of the hot fudge and the chocolate chips merged perfectly with the more robust flavor of the dough. In addition, the contrast between the crispiness of the fried shell and the still-creamy dough was a revelation. I will come back for more next year.

Then it was game time. Texas won 45-35, later finished with the same record as Oklahoma, yet got shutout of the Big 12 title game only to watch OU choke in a national championship game the Longhorns could have won. I digress, but this photograph of an artifact that I found under a bleacher gives a good indication of the kind of atmosphere one can expect.

jackdaniels

Back to the fray, it was time for a break. And by break, I mean a huge turkey leg, which was probably the best one I’ve ever had. Oh, and another Shiner.

turkey-leg

Incidentally, I’ve read that Shiner Bock, once popular in the Northeast, has suffered from a backlash due to the unpopularity of another well-known Texas export. This is unfortunate. My family has long been a Shiner fan and the brewery is only a 20-minute trip down Hwy 90 from our country house. If you don’t like the well-known bock, may I recommend Shiner Blonde (a pale lager which the Spoetzel Brewery has brewed continuously since 1909), Shiner Hefeweizen (an unpasteurized Bavarian wheat beer), or Shiner Black (a very dark brew due to its roasted malts). Besides, don’t hate on our beer. It’s not our fault, our beer laws are bass-ackwards.

Then it was time for Fried Smores, another winner in the annual contest.

fried-smores

As you can see from the picture, the smore (What’s a smore? A bar of chocolate and toasted marshmallow in a graham cracker sandwich so-called because you want “s’more”…you Philistine) is deep-fried and cut diagonally. It was interesting enough. The chewy, sticky and flavorful marshmallow paired curiously with the crispy crust. But the graham cracker flavor, so integral a part of the magical smore combination, was lost in the frying process. While the cookie dough was enhanced by the frying process, after eating the fried smore you couldn’t help but regret that it wasn’t just a regular smore.

While I was waiting in line for the fried smore, my cousin Grace came over with the most consistently great of fried deserts, fried Oreos.

fried-oreos

How best to describe the goodness? Like the fried twinkie (which wasn’t sampled on this trip), fried oreos may seem exotic but they’re at pretty much every Tom, Dick, and Harry fair out there. So when I’m on a mission for exotics I tend to overlook them. But they’re a lot like that basketball player on your team that isn’t a star and no one ever talks about but all the sudden you look down and they have 12 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Fried Oreos are a consistent triple-double threat. They’re like the Hakeem Olajuwon to the wow factor and raw power of the fried Twinkie’s Shaquille O’Neal.

I would pick Hakeem/fried Oreos every….single….time. The process of being coated in batter and fried has the same effect on the formerly crispy cookie as dunking it in milk. It’s soft but not soggy, and the chocolate has become almost gooey. I’ve always thought of powdered sugar as possessing a kind of ephemeral sweetness. On most fried desserts the sugar is a kind of unnecessary accoutrement, but on the fried Oreos it does its job perfectly, putting down a perfect base sugariness to the sweetness of the cookie and the batter. Good every time, and I managed to pick a few off of Grace.

My final dessert wasn’t part of the plan, but it hit me in the nostalgia so I had to try it. Fried Honey Bun.

fried-honey-bun

When I was a kid I would eat Honey Buns for breakfast every time I went to my Nana’s house. It was a flavor of my childhood, so I just had to have it fried. Unfortunately the results were predictable. There’s really no point in coating fried dough in fried dough. That’s just redundant. This dish could never figure out what it was doing. Plus the frozen Honey Bun really didn’t take well to frying, parts of it weren’t completely defrosted. Also all the powdered sugar served to do was to collide headlong with the honey and make it too sweet. Ah well, had to be done.

It was about time to go and my body was about to shut down from all the conspicuous consumption, but not before once more sampling the best (and most phallic) food the Fair has to offer…

corny-dog

A Fletcher’s Corny Dog. That’s “corny,” not “corn.” That would be like calling St. Peter’s Basilica “a church.” It’s not just a corn dog, it’s THE corn dog. It demands the “-y.” After you eat a corny dog, you really can’t enjoy corn dogs. They are as shadows, crude pencil drawings of the most beautiful work of art; the most transcendent concerto rendered into Muzak.

Not all corny dogs at the Fair carry the proud name of Fletchers, so take heed. The Fletcher family introduced their corny dogs at the State Fair in the late 30s. If they weren’t the first to look at a hot dog and say, “Needs to be covered in cornmeal and deep-fried,” then they certainly proved to be the best at it. They’re fried creations have proved successful enough to get the heiress to the Fletcher corny dog fortune kidnapped in December! That’s right. Some states have land barons, cattle barons, oil barons, and timber barons. Texas has all that plus corny dog barons. If that ain’t nouveau riche then I don’t know what is.

I don’t think I can really do it justice. However, a word of caution: Yes, there is a ketchup dispenser, but if you put anything but mustard on your corny dog a native Texan has the legal right to sock you in the face. It was in the original list of grievances that the Texan delegates listed in our Declaration of Independence from Mexico signed on March 2, 1836, at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

As always at the State Fair, there is one that got away. I couldn’t find fried guacamole. “I’ll be back next year,” I groaned to myself on the ride home, popping Tums like they were Pez, “if I don’t die right now.”

by Alex (who’ll get an avatar eventually)

February 28, 2009 at 7:10 am 4 comments

a friendly feast with korean bbq

I had dinner with Michael & Angela last Monday and they were like, so how do you feel about getting together once a week and each of us taking turns cooking dinner? Like it took much convincing, so of course I said sure! This week was my week, since I was “new” to the group.

Tonight’s menu was Korean BBQ (galbi), a simple soup with ground beef (since it was a bit cooler and soup is always good when the weather is like this), seaweed salad, and ultimate fudge brownies. Lots right? No worries. The only ones I made from scratch are the bbq and soup.

Korean BBQ: Marinating!

  • 4-6 strips of short ribs (can be found at most Asian grocery stores)
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 5 tbsp. water
  • 4 tbsp. Korean rice wine
  • 1 tbsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp. corn syrup
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. minced/grated ginger
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 gallon size ziploc bag (or tupperware that’s big enough to fit all your bbq)

Depending on how your ribs were cut, you might want to wash them thoroughly to make sure there aren’t any stray bone pieces from the rib. The worst thing is trying to eat your bbq and biting into bone fragments. No fun. Once the meat is cleaned off, you’ll want to use a meat tenderizer (this is what i have) to mash the meaty part down to about 1/8th of an inch. You definitely don’t want your bbq too thick. It grills better when it’s thinned out.

In a bowl, wisk the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, corn syrup, sugar, water, and sesame oil together. Place your meat in your ziploc bag or tupperware and pour in the marinade, making sure all the meat is covered. Refrigerate anywhere from 4 hours to overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, heat up your grill, shake off the excess marinade and toss it on the grill. For those who don’t have a grill, like myself, a panini press pan or any other stove top grill pan works just as well. You’ll want to cook it on each side about 5-7 minutes to give it a semi crunchy texture, yet it’s still so tender.

Served with seaweed salad, which I picked up at my local Korean grocery store (Super HMart, 1302 Blalock Rd.,Houston, TX 77055). I love this place really. They have tons of prepared kimchi, stewed potatoes, and other side dishes usually served with Korean bbq.

And here’s the soup. It was more experimental than anything and I won’t b e posting this recipe as I really threw alot of items together without measuring and I’d rather not give bad info on the recipe. I just wanted a simple soup with a flavorful broth and it worked! The basics though are garlic, onion, tomato, green beans, ground beef and water. Add salt, pepper, tamarind soup base seasoning, fish sauce or soy sauce (whatever makes you happy) to taste.

Oh and the brownies. Ghirardelli Ultimate Fudge Brownies are the awesomest. I don’t care if it’s not from scratch. These brownies are to die for.

It was a successful night. I’m exhausted and stuffed.

reina-sm –Chelle

November 18, 2008 at 5:53 am 4 comments

omuraisu!omurice!

I’ve been craving omurice since the other night when I was talking to a friend about it. Living in Houston, I haven’t found any places that serve omurice. It makes me sad, so if any Houstonites know where I can find some, please let me know. Anyways, I figured this would be a yummy Sunday morning breakfast!

What is omurice anyways? Basically it’s a sweeter fried rice topped with a not fully cooked egg omelette. A demi-glaze sauce is what usually tops the omurice, but I’ve seen many recipes just use ketchup. The sweetness of the fried rice is due to the use of ketchup rather than soy sauce, and it’s cooked in butter rather than oil. I also overcooked the egg because I was concentrating on flipping it over and making it look pretty. Most recipes I found called for chicken and mushrooms in the fried rice, but I only had chinese sausage. heh. And, I’ve come to the realization that I suck at making pretty omelettes. =(

Fried Rice:

  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 of an onion diced as mini as possible
  • 1/2 stick of chinese sausage (diced in cubes)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. ketchup (or enough to add color to the rice)

Omelette

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp. butter

Add about 2 tbsp. of water into the rice and using your hands, separate the rice. Place to the side. Place butter in pan on med-high heat and allow it to melt. Add the garlic and onions and sautee. Add in chinese sausage and let it cook. Add rice and sautee. Add the ketchup and mix well until all the rice is colored a light red/brown tint. Plate rice once cooked.

For the omelette, whisk the 2 eggs, salt, and pepper in a bowl. In the same pan you used for your fried rice, add the other tbsp. of butter and let it melt. Add in your whisked eggs and let cook. As it cooks, fold over the bottom half of the omelette and then the top half of the omelette, so it kind of looks like a burrito. Once outside layer looks cooked, remove from pan and flip the egg upside down on top of your plated rice.Top with ketchup or hot sauce or whatever you like on your eggs!

You’ll know your egg is perfect if you cut a line right down the middle of your egg and it kind of spreads out over your rice. Mine was overcooked, but it was still delicious. I am going to perfect this one of these days. It’s such a quick and simple dish too.

–chelle

November 2, 2008 at 4:10 pm 2 comments

amy’s ice creams

On the corner of Shepherd and 59 lies Amy’s Ice Creams (http://www.amysicecreams.com/). You’ll see the cow sitting atop the shop with neon red lights. This lovely ice cream shop has been there for years and I can say I’ve only been a handful of times because, until recently, I lived too far. Based in Austin, the location off of Shepherd is the only location in Houston. Thanks to Miss Emmarose’s mention of it in a comment, I craved it and managed to convince a friend to come with and buy me some this Saturday night. Thanks Joseph ^__^ I am now a happy camper.

There’s a variety of flavors to choose from and the menu will often change as all ice creams are home made. Now, while you can pick and choose your ice cream flavors and toppings, they have some ice cream concoctions that are already pre-set. One such example would be the Cookie Monster. Your choice of ice cream with 3 different types of cookies mixed in.

Amy’s carries non-fat non-sugar yogurts, smoothies, fruit ices, etc. I have yet to venture from the ice cream, but I’ve been told the fruit ices are pretty delicious. Well, I’m sure the guy making the Cookie Monster was wondering why in the world I was taking photos of him smushing cookies into ice cream, and if he ever reads this he’ll stop and say, “Ahhh…that’s why…”. Tonight, I decided on sweet cream ice cream, with bananas and topped with hot fudge. Why not get a banana split you say? Because Amy’s says I don’t have to be like everyone else and get a banana split. I can get it mushed. And Marie had the rose ice cream. It actually tasted quite rosy.

Amy’s is fun and the decor is bright and even has a brick wall where people have left there mark at Amy’s with their permanent markers. It makes me wonder why so many people walk around with markers in their possession. Go. Get some ice cream. Go to Amy’s. They’re open late on weekends. =D

–chelle

August 10, 2008 at 4:59 am 2 comments

spice up your life!

Thai Spice (http://www.thaispice.com) is a chain of Thai restaurants in the Houston area. I’ve been going for years and although some Thai aficionados may think differently, I still think Thai Spice has some of the best pad thai noodles. Ever. The good news is there’s now a Thai Spice in Katy, TX (1420 S. MASON RD.  SUITE# 170, KATY, TX.  77450). Yes, you’ve seen it driving down Mason Rd. wondering when it would finally open, and now it has.

My family and I went there tonight around 7pm and it was just packed. You walk in and you sense a very modern East Asian vibe. The walls are a dark, yet calming green, and my favorite part really is the ceiling.

It looked like a pinwheel that spanned the entire ceiling. Anyways, this Thais Spice is not buffet style like some of their other restaurants. It’s more like placing your order, having a seat, and some nice young person brings your food out to you. The staff was very helpful, and granted it was their first night, I commend them for doing a great job under stress. The owners were walking around all night trying to make sure everyone was happy.

On to the food. During lunch, you have the option of choosing from their standard menu, or going through the line kind of cafeteria style. They have an awesome lunch special for $5.50 which includes steamed rice, 3 entrees, and unlimited soup and tea. Tonight, my family and I ordered quite a bit. For appetizers, we had the Thai chicken wings and the tempura calamari. I can only vouch for the wings, and I can say they were fantastic. The wings had this sweet yet spicy sauce over them and it was just great.

For the main dishes, we ordered my favorite pad thai noodles (first picture). At our table we also had green curry with pork, garlic and black bean sauce with shrimp, calamari, and scallops, and we had an order of the crispy soft shell crab served over green curry sauce, broccoli, and eggplant.

If you are not a big curry fan or even a big Thai food fan, they had other dishes like chargrilled pork w/steamed rice and fried egg (it’s what i had and it was yum). There are plenty of appetizers, soups, and salads to choose from. Another plus is the service of beer and wine. And let us not forget the dessert. May I suggest Eva’s Chocolate Cake? It is a nicely sized multi-layered chocolate cake with a chocolate ganash icing. Yum.

So if you’re out in Katy and you’ve been wanting to give Thai food a chance or if you were just looking for a new place close by, here’s your chance!

–chelle

August 2, 2008 at 8:07 am 3 comments

the friday special @ empire cafe

Empire Cafe, located off of Westheimer & Dunlavy (Houston, TX) is a quaint little spot that I’ve loved going to for years.  It’s a great place to go on any given day, but especially great on a beautiful day, as they have plenty of outdoor seating. I enjoy going with friends and having a glass of wine with one of their decadent desserts (mmmm Italian creme cake). I behaved and did not get one that night. I know…For shame! I like that it’s within walking distance of the many boutique, thrift, and antique shops down Westheimer.

So this past Friday, my brother, sister and I hit up Empire because my brother wanted the Friday special. Friday special? I ask. See that delicious glazed salmon pictured above with asparagus and other veggies served over rice? That is the Friday special. My brother was kind enough to let us taste a bit of it. Absolutely delicious. The salmon was cooked just right and didn’t have that fishy taste salmon sometimes has.

I started backwards with this post, but my brother also ordered a mojito and I thought it looked pretty interesting. Mojitos are mojitos, but this was darned good. It wasn’t as strong, which I appreciated. I think for most people, you’re not there to get drunk. You’re there to enjoy the atmosphere and have a good drink on a lovely day.  I think next time, I’ll grab a mimosa.

And a meal with my family wouldn’t be complete without an appetizer. That night we had *dips of the world*. An appetizer with baked pita bread and three different dipping sauces; a spinach & artichoke dip, black bean dip, and a marinara sauce. Personally, that spinach & artichoke dip was my favorite. I ate most of it. heh =)

–Chelle

May 19, 2008 at 2:16 am 1 comment

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