Posts tagged ‘travel’
It’s Houston Restaurant Week!!! One of the reasons I love that my birthday is in August. hehe. For those not familiar with Houston Restaurant Week (HRW), it started in 2009 as a week long event where Houston restaurants offered their usually snazzy and pricey meals for a fixed price of $35.00. Each meal has your choice of appetizer, main entree, and dessert! And, for each meal sold, $5 will be donated to the Houston Food Bank. As I mentioned earlier, it started as a week long event, but it was so popular that it actually went on for 3 weeks.
This year, HRW runs from August 1-21. There are over 100 restaurants participating, so if you’re from Houston and haven’t been yet, you’ve still got time! It’s also for a good cause, so you’re doing your part for our community. So, as of today, I’ve eaten at two restaurants. I’m hitting up one more tomorrow, and probably a couple more before it ends next week. Keep in mind that HRW is reservation only. If you go to the site, reservations are easily made with OpenTable.
Tonight, however, I write to you about Ray’s Grill in Fulshear, TX which is right outside of the Katy/Richmond area. Most of you folks who live in the loop would never think to venture out that far, but I promise you, it is worth the trip. It is one of those hidden gems that you would never really know of unless someone told you. So, here I am, telling you.
The restaurant is quaint, but modern. There’s even a private room called The Maple Room at the back of the restaurant. The kitchen is open for all to see. The dimmed lights and live jazz band provided for a mellow ambiance. The staff was extremely friendly and we were seated promptly at one of the high tables viewing the kitchen. So my sister and I went on a Thursday night, which also happened to be Wine Tasting Night! I went in for food, and got to sample wine as well =) That makes for a happy Chelle!
**Note: I apologize for the low quality photos. I took them with my blackberry, and for you blackberry users, you know the photo quality is not up to par**
My sister was kind enough to give me her share as she is not the wine drinker. hehe. We were also first served their bread and cheese spread? I question it because we couldn’t decide if it was cheese or butter. That’s just how smooth it was and whatever herb/spice they put in it…yum. So, if someone from Ray’s is reading this, I’d really like you to know that the cheese(butter) spread is the bomb.com. But for HRW, their menu choices are listed here: http://www.raysgrill.com/wp-content/uploads/Menu-HRW2010.jpg
While my sister opted for the New England style seafood chowder, I decided on the jumbo lump crab cakes with a lemon butter sauce. They were delicious. I was nice and shared one with my sister, but I still remember the taste. See, the problem I find at some restaurants is that the crabcakes have too much “cake” and not enough crab. The breading with Ray’s crabcakes were perfect. The crab meat was fresh and it was just so rich and full of flavor. And that lemon butter was heavenly. YUM. I did also have a few spoonfuls of the seafood chowder. So tasty! Even tastier when you dip your bread in it. hehehe.
Doesn’t that look lovely? That my friends is the NY Strip Steak over a bed of french fries, topped with their barbecue sauce. My steak was properly cooked at medium well, flavorful and juicy. I usually find bbq sauce to be too tangy for my tastebuds, but Ray’s bbq sauce was just right. It was a great balance of sweet & tangy. My only complaint is that I wish there was a little more bbq sauce ^_^ The fries were fantastic. Sure, they’re just fries you think, but I love how crispy yet soggy they were. My favorite kind. ❤
And so we moved on to dessert. I honestly did not think I’d be able to eat any more food, but I had to be a soldier and go forth with my sweet treat. I present to you beignets with coffee ice cream. On my first bite, I cut off a piece of the most sugared beignet, took a spoonful of the coffee ice cream and had my first bite of delicious. There’s really no other way to describe it than that. The beignet wasn’t too heavy and the coffee ice cream had great flavor and wasn’t too rich. If I remember correctly, I ate maybe half of it. One serving is definitely enough for two, maybe even three if you’re in a sharing mood, but I guarantee you will fight for that ice cream.
Ray’s Grill also has Sunday brunch from 10:30-2:00. It’s a $20 buffet and I’ve been told by several people that it is excellent and not your typical brunch fare. I’ll be taking the family out there one of these Sundays. I appreciate the fact they are reservation only. My family is fairly big now. When we go somewhere and reservations are not allowed, it’s a pretty long wait to seat 7 people. We don’t have the patience for that when we’re hungry.
Thank you Ray’s for a fabulous dinner. I’ve already told my friends about you and I’m sure we’ll be back, because I’m dying to try that fried macaroni & cheese with lobster and white truffle. ^_^
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.
From April 17th-21st, I was in San Francisco for the very first time. My sister and I decided to take a sister trip and so we did. I call it a food tour, because honestly, we mostly ate. We saw the sights as well, but food played a large part of our trip. This will probably be a full 4 day series of all the yums we had. We arrived at 11am. Checked in by noon. Hopped on a cable car and started our “day”.
Our first stop for the day was Fisherman’s Wharf. We were complete tourists this time around, and we were okay with that. The weather was beautiful. Sunny, cool breeze, and not too hot. A friend of mine suggested we find Boudin Bakery (http://www.boudinbakery.com/) and get some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. It was indeed a treat. I’ll probably say this over and over, but the seafood in SF tasted so fresh. The clam chowder was rich in flavor, and the ingredients were well cooked, and the bread was fabulous. It’s also fun to see the bakers making cute animal shaped sourdough breads.
And what meal would be complete without dessert? Lucky for us, Ghirardelli Square was close by. We made our way uphill to Ghirardelli Square (http://www.ghirardellisq.com/ghirardellisq/), which has been there since the late 1800’s. My sister and I opted for hot fudge sundaes. She had the brownie hot fudge sundae with dark chocolate syrup, while I had the original hot fudge sundae with milk chocolate syrup. I promise it tasted as delicious as it looks. Three scoops of vanilla ice cream, with three pumps of hot fudge, topped with whipped cream and a brownie.
After our tasty treat and a tiring trip back to the hotel, we took a mini break. We stayed at Hotel Nikko (http://www.hotelnikkosf.com/) in Union Square, and let me tell everyone. What a wonderful place to stay. The staff was friendly and extremely helpful with directions and suggestions. The room was gigantic and the bathroom even more so. The beds were cozy and the pillows were fluffy. Nap time was an awesome time. I can’t even say I missed my bed because this was much nicer. Hah. The hotel sports a full service spa, indoor pool, a Japanese fusion restaurant called ANZU, which we didn’t get a chance to eat at, but it’s a pretty good spot according to yelp.
Luckily, Union Square has tons of restaurants. It’s a more touristy spot, with all sorts of shops and malls around the corner, but it was definitely a good place to stay. So after an hour of rest, we ventured out to the surrounding areas and tried to get some shopping in. Shops close early in SF. 8pm on a Friday? That’s just not normal to me. Anyways, we decided we needed to eat again. And, walking back to the hotel, we spotted a sushi joint called Hana Zen (http://www.hanazenrestaurant.com/) and decided to give it a try.
My sister is the sushi fanatic, and she got her usual salmon nigiri and hamachi roll, but that night they were serving otooro, which is fatty tuna belly. Apparently, it’s a delicacy to have and it’s seasonal so you can’t get it just anywhere or any time of year. Other places we went to didn’t have it available. Anyways, the waiter convinced her to try it, and she did. She was soooooo happy because it was so amazingly good that she paid for dinner that night. Hah. I, on the other hand, had the steak terriyaki. I’m somewhat of a steak terriyaki snob and only have 2, now 3, places where I love it. I like meat medium well to well done, and usually when it’s cooked that long, the meat is tough and hard to chew. Well, the meat here was grilled, tender and juicy and it was topped with an excellent terriyaki sauce that wasn’t too tangy or too sweet. Veggies on the side along with steamed rice. It was delicious.
That my friends, concludes day 1. It may not have seemed like much, but it was definitely plenty. We knew the next day was going to be an early day, so we basically called it a night and hopped into our comfy beds. Day 2 is going to be fun filled with pictures from the Cherry Blossom Festival.
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!
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 =)
Duck confit risotto –
Pan-fried scallops –
sweet raisin vinaigrette and cauliflower
and cumin velouté
Best-end of Herdwick lamb
and tapenade jus
shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts
with lemongrass foam
No, not a bar of chocolate, but a bar for chocolate. I first visited The Chocolate Bar ( 1835 W Alabama St., Houston, TX 77098) a few years ago when a friend of mine mentioned it to me. Since that one time, I have absolutely loved the place and take anyone who hasn’t been there yet. So, when an out of town friend told me she liked chocolate, I thought what better place to go than The Chocolate Bar.
This place has its own chocolate shop adjacent to the “bar” area where you can find an assortment of chocolates, from seasonal designs to your chocolate covered bon bons. But, I must say my favorite area is the bar area. The walls are a bold purple, adorned with candy inspired movie type posters and randomly placed disco balls hanging from the ceiling. There’s plenty of seating, although it doesn’t seem like plenty on a busy Friday night.
So since we were full from dinner, we decided to share a slice of cake. Do you see how gigantic that happy slice of heaven is? Do you see the bottle of milk behind it? You’ll surely need it to get through your decadent dessert. We decided on a slice of Uncle Darryll’s chocolate cake. This moist, 4 layer chocolate cake had the richest, yet lightest chocolate filling. It was covered with what seems like a chocolate ganache and then topped with toffee bits. It was fantastic. Between the two of us, we still couldn’t finish it.
Besides their different varieties of cakes, they also serve their own home made ice cream. I’ve had it in the past, and I think the one I’ve deemed my favorite is the one with white and dark chocolate bits in it. It was just all sorts of yum, and if it wasn’t so chilly, I probably would have had some tonight. I have yet to try everything on their menu, but one of these days I will. There is also fresh brewed coffee and a killer hot chocolate. The staff has always been friendly and helpful and my trips have always been pleasant. I believe the desserts are moderately and reasonably priced, anywhere from $6.95 and $9.95, for the portion of cake/pie you get. Others may disagree, but I have no problem throwing down for some good old chocolate cake.
The Chocolate Bar is a place “Where every hour is happy hour” (yups, that’s their motto). It truly is. Sitting there and enjoying good chocolatey desserts and good company makes a cold Friday night feel remarkably warm.