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Houston Restaurant Week and lemonade

One of my favorite times of the year is Houston restaurant week – good food, good prices, and giving back to the community — what more could you ask for? Last night, i had the opportunity to try Indika, and I was truly impressed with the relaxing vibe and interesting yet not overwhelmingly complex selections.

I had the Chaat (Indian Street Food), Organic Chicken stuffed with Pistachio and Mango Chutney and the Ginger Chocolate tart w/ coffee ice cream (note: the Actual menu in restaurant is  slightly different than what is posted on the HRW website)

I had never had Indian food before, so this was a rather novel experience for me – but also relatively authentic according to more seasoned veterans of the cuisine.  The waitstaff was extemely accomodating and quick to make reccomendations – I will definately return as several menu items were quite appealing.

For more information on Houston Restaurant week visit http://www.houstonrestaurantweek.com/ – make reservations ahead of time!

On the note of Houston restaurant week, Daily Grill restaurants nationwide will donate all of its proceeds from lemonade sales on Friday, August 20 (National Lemonade Day) to a special nonprofit that was formed by a 4-year-old girl whose short life continues to make an impact. Daily Grill founder, President and CEO Bob Spivak hopes to double $5,000 typically generated in sales and donate 100% to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer.  Daily Grill’s fresh-squeezed, hand-shaken lemonade has been one of the restaurants’ signature items since 1988.

(ref: Frank Groff Inc)

For the full article, click here.

For more information, visit Daily Grill or Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

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Signature houston Restaurants Launch Summer Chef’s Series for a Unique Dining Experience

I recently found out that Vic & Anthony’s, Brenner’s Steakhouse / Brenner’s on the Bayou, Grotto, La Griglia, Pesce, Oceanaire and Willie G’s Seafood and Steak House are all part of the Signature Group that caters to discerning customers who know a merlot from a pinot noir.

On select Tuesday nights through August, this collection of restaurants will host a private and unique dining experience dubbed “Signature Chef’s Series.” Each award-winning Signature Group chef will host an extraordinary dinner featuring their own carefully crafted, exclusive menu of delectable specialties, along with their personal section of inspired wine pairings. Set in an intimate, tranquil atmosphere, each guest will be able to engage exclusively with the Chef and his team, ensuring a truly exceptional fine dining experience. Visit http://www.landrysrestaurants.com for complete menu and pricing information.

Brenner’s on the Bayou
Chef Grant Hunter
Tuesday, June 22
Reservations: 713-868-4444
Chef Series Menu Highlights: Smoked Duck Breast, Crisp Arctic Char Salad, Bacon Wrapped Buffalo Tenderloin, Texas Peach Cobbler

Grotto
Chef Ricky Cruz
Tuesday, June 29
Reservations: 713-622-3663
Chef Series Menu Highlights: Zuppa Di Piselli, Grilled Beef Medallions, Grilled Jumbo Shrimp Served Over Seafood Risotto With Shrimp Sauce, Sautéed Chilean Sea Bass, Spumoni Ice Cream

Willie G’s Seafood and Steak House
Chef Jose Parada
Tuesday, July 13
Reservations: 713-840-7190
Chef Series Menu Highlights: Lobster And Crab Remoulade Tower, Soft Shell Crab And Crawfish Lousianne, Beef Tenderloin Medallion With Wild Mushroom Corn And Foie Gras Ragout, Key Lime Pie And Croissant Bread Pudding

Brenner’s Steakhouse
Chef Scott Castell
Tuesday, July 20
Reservations: 713-465-2901
Chef Series Menu Highlights: Blackened Redfish Over Foie Gras Creamed Sweet Corn With Balsamic And Port Wine Reduction, Rack Of Rabbit Over Rabbit Confit Dressed With Sauce Piquant With Creole Potato, Parmesan And Olive Oil Puree And Rainbow Chard, Chocolate Sous Vide Cake With Texas Peach Sauce And Chantilly Cream

La Griglia
Chef Luis Rubio
Tuesday, July 27
Reservations: 713-526-4700
Chef Series Menu Highlights: Seared Diver Scallop, Short Rib Pansoti, Roasted Artichoke & Wild Arugula Salad, Roasted Venison Rack Chop, Fresh Strawberries In Aged Balsamic Syrup, Vanilla Bean Gelato & Almond Macaroons

Oceanaire
Chef Trevor White
Tuesday, August 3
Reservations: 832-487-8862
Chef Series Menu Highlights: Wild Alaskan Salmon “Carpaccio”, Charred Endive And Pea Tendril Salad, Chai Masala Australian Hiramasa, Grilled Chairman’s Reserve Filet Mignon, Artisan Cheese Plate

ABOUT LANDRY’S RESTAURANTS, INC.
Landry’s Restaurants, Inc., is one of the nation’s largest full service restaurant, hospitality and entertainment companies. Landry’s owns and operates more than 200 properties, including Landry’s Seafood House, The Crab House, Rainforest Cafe, Charley’s Crab, Willie G’s Seafood & Steak House, Oceanaire, The Chart House and Saltgrass Steak House. Landry’s also owns several icon developments, including Downtown Aquarium complexes in Houston and Denver, Kemah Boardwalk, a magnificent 50-acre, family-oriented themed entertainment destination and the Golden Nugget hotel-casino properties in Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nevada.

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The Grove

Rating: 7/10

I think the Grove really has a lot to offer from an ambiance perspective – the dining room is absolutely beautiful.  The decor is crisp, warm and modern and the feel is not stuffy at all. I think it’s a really nice spot for a date – especially if the Treehouse deck is open.  I haven’t had the chance to dine “al fresco” although I’d hoped to both times – it was closed on both occasions.

The food is by no means spectacular, but it’s also pretty good. Some menu items I have tried were fresh fish ceviche (tilapia), 4oz filet, and seared ahi tuna – all sufficiently tasty, just not the best I’ve had. I also sampled a couple signature cocktails – the cucumber rose and the ginger margarita – again, both decent.

I think the prices at the Grove might be worth it with great company and beautiful weather.    I would suggest to come for drinks and appetizers – nothing too heavy.  Next time I return,  it will be to try the Salumi outdoors.

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Stella Sola

Rating: 9/10

When I first started this blog, the main focus was finding cheap yet quality food to eat in Houston.  As you may have noticed, the tone has changed a bit — I have had the opportunity to eat places I could never afford on the reg.  I still very much quest for cheap and yummy places to eat but thought I would take some time to offer a commonfolk POV on what I think about the “fine dining” Houston has to offer — since I am by no means an aficionado.

That being said, I am in love with Stella Sola.  You can smell how brand new it is and it has a nice vibe with an interesting concept – Northern Italian with local/Texan influences (aka. Tuscan Texan)

I started with the Roasted Bone Marrow service, which is something I would have absolutely have never ever thought to order had I not read several reviews deeming it the best.  See picture at the bottom (I know it’s crap) – I could hear two neighboring tables inquire about the dish.  It was actually pretty tasty – the texture is a bit unusual, but the condiments served on the side really added some interesting flavors as a whole.

For my main, I had the Skirt Steak with Jalapeno Gnocci – very tasty.  I have to say fawned over this dish – the meat was prepared perfect and the gnocchi was fluffy and delicate. I ate every last bite.

For dessert, the fried risotto balls with honey ice cream – anything fried tastes good, but the honey ice cream was the star.  I didn’t even finish the risotto balls.

I will definitely be coming back!

Bone Marrow Service at Stella Sola

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Houston Wine Bars

One of my new favorite things to do is have a nice long dinner over a bottle (or 2… or 3) of wine and a beautiful cheese plate.  Maybe I’m a bit late to this scene, not sure, but I know most days of the week this is an ideal dinner situation dinner for me.  I am still learning about wines about wine and think I can finally tell the differences between some varietals, but I have a long way to go.  As far as cheese, I am still not warmed up to Bleu – I try and try but just haven’t developed the palette for it…. I’m not sure I ever will.

I have been around several of Houston’s Wine bars and sampled several cheese plates (among other small plate items) and here are some of my thoughts:

Sonoma – this was very highly recommended, yet not my favorite.  Located in Upper Kirby, Sonoma seems to have a lot of wine tasting events – which is great for a newcomer to the wine scene or for someone who enjoys variety.  After sharing a bottle of Oregon Pinot – I opted for a Red Flight of wine which was very interesting and informative.  The cheese plate; however, left something to be desired, I only enjoyed 1 of the 4 cheeses (Drunken Goat)  Ordered a couple small plates here too – smoked salmon (good) mac and cheese (eh).  Overall, the ambiance isn’t the best, but the prices seemed okay to me.

So VinoCame here looking for a late night meal just after the kitchen closed – after the bartender noticed I was visibly upset about the lack of food, he whipped up a cheese plate that was delicious! I was so impressed I vowed to return during regular kitchen hours and did so about a week later (consequently the same evening an event was taking place, but nonetheless…) and enjoyed a beautiful meal and New Zealand Pinot Noir which was offered at a wonderful price. I heart SoVino.

Max’s Wine Dive (revisited)Not your typical wine bar – (hello Fried Egg Sandwich!) but on my second trip, I was still impressed.  I tried to recreate the Fried egg sandwich at home before I even tried it here and my version didn’t touch Max’s.  Great wine prices, cool take on food items, and always – always crowded. If I can go on a less crowded night, I’ll be there.

Block 7 Wine Company (revisited) – Been here a handful of times now and I can’t say I’ve been disappointed.  I’ve noticed the markup is a little higher than at other wine bars that offer “market price” but I can’t say I’ve ever been disappointed with any wine I’ve tried. I particularly like the old warehouse feel /open or closed garage door aspects of Block 7 and this cheese plate is one of my favorites so far.  Last time, I had the grilled cheese which was still a bit greasy for my taste and the Block 7 Krack (not impressed at all).  I think I’ll stick to the wine and cheese.

PoscolI was very excited to go to Poscol because not only do I love cheese, I love charcuterie.  Rumor had it Poscol not only offers some great charcuterie, but also a lot of the meats are cured in house. Very cool. Our waiter was extremely well informed and eager to give suggestions, which I love! It always excites me to see the staff so excited about what they are serving. We had 5 meats and 3 cheeses (hard to choose favorite as they were all AMAZING – just take the waitstaff recommendations), the salted cod dip (very interesting but yummy) and risotto (I hear it was good). I read a review saying you could smell fumes from the dry cleaner next door. For me, not so much – but that might be because I sat probably the furthest away you could get from it. As for wines – I rely on other to make the pick but my companion was not so informed on Italian wines so our waiter stepped in and suggested some decent choices…not my favorite ever but still good- and nice prices.  I will def be back.

**I’ve also tried Catalan and Ibiza, but I categorize those as more a restaurant than a wine bar. For the record, our server at Mark’s did obsess a little over the wine selection at Ibiza.

Any suggestions for wine bars to try?

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Oh Hi.

I have taken an unannounced hiatus from blogging on the Houston food scene because I grew uninterested in new food conquests and, more importantly, was on a money saving spree – preventing me from trying certain restaurants that are a bit on the pricier side/that require a date.  Why bother?

In the meantime, I have tried quite a few places on my “cheap/not date” list which I will briefly cover below:

Chatter’s:

Rating: 9 (super prices, food and hummus!)

I have now been to Chatters about 5 or 6 times since I moved to my new apartment which is conveniently located across the street from this adorable little restaurant. This is going to be a staple for sure.  I cannot emphasize how delightful the Chicken salad is – its not too chunky or mayo-ey. Go Wednesday nights for half price bottles of wine. Skip the Pacific Rim Caesar Salad.

Max’s Wine Dive:

Rating: 9 (Great HH prices!!)

I made the mistake of going to Max’s while trying to diet.  Not only did I devour the Drunk Bread, but I proceeded to drink an entire bottle of Malbec.  Genius.  I love appetizer meals, which makes me partial to establishments such as Max’s.  Gotta say the Bocadillo burgers at Oporto’s far surpass the slider at Max’s but other than that, I can’t complain. We also predicted a huge wait (every time I pass Max’s it’s overflowing) but at 5:30, we were promptly seated and served.

We ordered:

Gator Bites – skip skip skip.  we just wanted to say we at alligator.

Max & Cheese – I liked it, others didn’t.  Depends on if you prefer Kraft or gourmet mac n cheese really.

Pan Borracho (drunk bread) – it is so good after 3 glasses of wine.

Sliders (buffalo meat) – skip these and get the Bocadillo’s at Oporto’s

Something else that involved fried jalapenos – yum

Aladdin’s:

Rating: 9 (I might skip the hummus here, a bit authentic.  Is that an insult?)

I recently decided Mediterranean was my fave food genre since I can no longer eat Asian (unless it’s by myself.) I have been to Aladdin’s before awhile ago per a friends recommendation, and this time I went for lunch.  At around $10 you get a heaping plate of freshly prepared meat and sides you choose cafeteria style (so many to choose from and 2 can easily share a plate).  While I am no connoisseur on what Mediterranean should taste like, I do know that I liked every drop of what I put in my mouth.  The potatoes!!! Spectacular. Eat there now.

Taco’s A G0 Go

Rating: 8 (great for cheap a la carte tacos)

Get a Barbacoa taco.  You’re welcome. Next time I’m going for breakfast.

Pros: cheap, quick, funky decor

Cons: hard to find parking (or in general), overrated dessert tacos

Goode’s Company BBQ

Rating: 4

Everything was dry, even the jalapeno cheese bread.  Good and cheap Houston BBQ – where are you? Don’t make me go to Hickory Inn!

Dolce Vita Pizzeria Enoteca

Rating: 10 (for the margherita pizza, anyways)

One of the “more expensive” places on the list, especially for a pizza place, but I couldn’t skip a place boasting “best pizza in Houston”  Thin crust: check. Wood-burning oven: check.  The margherita literally MELTED IN MY MOUTH. Twas amazing.  The “calabrese”, on the other hand, left something to be desired, but I believe that’s simply because my head expected it to be much more similar to pepperoni.  Yes, I eat Dominos pizza people.  I am not cultured enough for the “spicy salami”  One day… one day. The third pizza was the special – I believe it involved leeks and Italian sausage.  Everyone agreed this was not their favorite, but ate it anyways.

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DaCapo’s Pastry cafe

Rating: 5/10

Total Bill: around <$10 for a ham sandwich and fruity Caesar salad combo, cherry iced tea, and no dessert.

Hopefully the desserts are all the rage as they are said to be, but after having lunch, I must say as far as fare, I was left with something to be desired.

I’d been wanting to try this cafe in the Heights for a long time – it looks cute, sells tons of desserts, and has a menu that is what I’m all about: sandwiches.

Unfortunately, I could have made a better sandwich myself. Maybe this is the idea DaCapo’s is going for – a home type feel, like you’re eating in your own kitchen – I SWEAR my Mamaw has the same dishes the sandwich and salad I ordered were served in.

I had a ham sandwich and fruity Caesar salad. I also need not go into detail because they are exactly what you’d expect. Larz opted for the Chicken Salad and a cup of Italian Chicken noodle soup.

Meh.

Now as a Chicken Salad expert, Lauren couldn’t even eat the HALF of the sandwich she got. If that doesn’t say something, I don’t know what does. She would bathe in Chicken Salad if she could.

I will say 2 positive things about DaCapo’s…

1) The cherry Iced Tea was delicious and free refills

2) The Italian Chicken soup was extremely savory.
photo

All I have to say is that I won’t be back unless it’s for dessert and dessert only… soooory.

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