Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cupcakes for a Cure

Thanks go to Katharine of She Eats for alerting us to this:

Crave Cupcakes is donating 100% of proceeds from sales of their limited edition “CRAVE-ing a Cure” gift box to the Breast Center. The box features two strawberry, two dark chocolate, and two vanilla cupcakes (all adorned with sweet pink ribbons) and is available October 1-11. The box is ONLY available by placing orders – via phone or in person. Cupcakes are $19.50 per box.

What an amazing way to feed your sugar fix while supporting a *fabulous* cause. If you haven’t been to Crave (in Uptown Park), it’s well worth your time. Cupcakes are baked fresh daily, and leftovers are given to charity. And the taste? Decadently delicious.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Catalina Coffee

Looking for a *fabulous* place to caffeinate, lounge, and work? I ventured over to the new-ish Catalina Coffee on the Washington Corridor last week and was much impressed. The cortado (espresso with warm milk) brought me right back to my days in Argentina, and the apple pastry finds a regular spot in my dreams. Coffee options are varied and plentiful. Food options are limited, but the small selection certainly does the trick if you’re looking for a sweet snack. Service was fun and friendly. Gold star!

Catalina Coffee – 2201 Washington Avenue

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sawdust Pie

Greetings from Brenham, Texas! I’m currently seeking refuge (read: power) from the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Historic downtown Brenham is super cute and fun to explore, and yesterday we had lunch at a gem of a place called Must Be Heaven. The sandwiches there were great, but what *really* caught my eye was this sign:


Hmmm… Sawdust Pie, you say? I couldn’t resist. Originally from Kentucky, Sawdust pie is named for its ingredients (graham crackers, pecans, and coconut), which resemble gritty shavings pre-baking. Add sliced bananas and whipped topping, and the result is a light-rock symphony for your mouth. Not overly sweet; just smooth goodness.

They’re not too common ‘round these parts, but if ya happen to see one, I wouldn’t pass it up.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tempests and Flooding and Rain, Oh My!

Another day, another hurricane warning. Before they start lining the animals up 2x2, stock up on provisions at the Spec’s 5th annual Cheese and Wine Festival this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday – 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at their midtown location (2410 Smith Street). Free samples for all!

I don’t know if they sell batteries there, but rum *definitely* qualifies as a non-perishable.

Hurricane
2 ounces light rum
2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce grenadine or passion fruit syrup
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1 ounce sour mix or fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
Orange wedges (for garnish)

Mix all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker; shake to dissolve sugar. Add ice cubes to come halfway up the sides of 2 tall glasses. Divide the mixture between the glasses, garnish each with an orange wedge, and serve with a long straw.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Farmers Market Delight

Good news, locavores! There’s a new farmers market in town: The Montrose farmers market located on Westheimer in the La Strada parking lot. Cash in hand, I wandered over yesterday around 10:30, brazenly late for farmers market junkies, but right on time for sleep-deprived teachers.

While the market is still small, I was ecstatic to see more fresh produce stands out there – potatoes, tomatoes, squash, broccoli, mushrooms, and more. Don’t get me wrong – the prepared food and sundries are great – but I was glad to see a more equal ratio here. Fruit, veggies, soup mixes, honey, fresh soaps, baked goods, and more. The best part? The $2 vanilla-pluot lemonade I sipped while I strolled, browsed, and chatted. Booths inside La Strada featured the prepared foods: Quiches, breads, amazing scones, and the ubiquitous Indian food booth (where I procured several lunches for next week).

Afterwards I headed over to the Midtown farmers market at t’afia. Too bad the large box of persimmons had been picked over by the time I arrived. I breezed through quickly, and then found myself tempted by an Egg McMonica… A petit omelet with thin-sliced Niman Ranch ham atop a homemade biscuit, aptly named after t’afia’s queen bee – and local food icon – Monica Pope. Mmmm!

With the weather starting to cool down (fingers crossed…?), a farmers market trip is a great way to kick off your Saturday. The Houston markets, while generally tiny, are refreshingly down to earth. Here’s to their growth and prosperity!

Montrose Farmers Market - 322 Westheimer (at La Strada)
Midtown Farmers Market - 3701 Travis (at t’afia)

Local produce at the Montrose farmers market


Sip-n-stroll with a vanilla-pluot lemonade


The EggMcMonica breakfast sandwich at the Midtown farmers market

Friday, September 5, 2008

Beaver’s

This past Wednesday found ten of us retesting the waters at Monica Pope’s fancy-ish BBQ joint/icehouse Beaver’s. I, for one, was excited to check out the digs under new head chef, Jonathan Jones, freshly imported from the new Americas in the Woodlands. Jones was the founding chef at Max’s Wine Dive, which seems to foreshadow a great fit at the “upscale dive” that is Beaver’s.

The inside was crowded and we had a big group, so the deck suited us just fine. Cocktails for all and a jackpot of appetizers set my heart a flutter. Soon we were face to face with a cornucopia of dishes, and Jones’s revamped menu certainly outperformed… Here’s an overview:

- Corn Puppies – Polenta, cheese, and sweet corn hush puppies were moist with a dreamy consistency. An excellent variation.
- Stuffed Peperoncini Angels – Spicy peperoncinis, loaded with cream cheese and pork, then fried. Melty-delicious and great for sharing.
- Philly Mac & Cheese – More like a creamy pasta than old school mac-n-cheese. Too much cream and not enough cheese IMO.
- Sweet Potatoes – Roasted, fried, and served with a miso-mustard sauce. I love sweet potatoes, so was all over these.
- Chickpea Two Fry – Fried chickpeas, stir fried with broccoli and peppers. The chickpeas were soggy, making this my least favorite.
- Jon-Jon Noodles – Vermicelli noodles spiced up with a limey, sweet sauce. Tasty, but the Asian flavors seemed a little out of place.
- Spicy Lamb Wrap -- The spicy lamb is mixed with almonds and dried fruit, then served with bibb lettuce cups. Loved.
- Pibil-Roasted Half Chicken – Baked in an achiote-citrus marinade, which was a little overbearing. Not my favorite dish.
- Meatloaf – Bison and beef loaf, actually, with an incredible mushroom sauce… Perfect consistency. FANTASTIC.
- Smoked Beef Sandwich – Messy, Barbecue-y delight, served with coleslaw. Looks like a Sloppy Joe, and tastes even better.

Our service. Oh, our service. It was fairly nonexistent, which is a shame. Our server was incredibly nice, exceedingly helpful, and spot on with recommendations. I just wish we had seen more of her. Seems off kilter for a Monica Pope restaurant, so I’m going to chalk this one up to a busy and under-staffed evening.

Shining stars:
- Rosemary Gimlet: My new favorite summer drink
- Polenta hush puppies: Just a hint of sweetness
- Lamb wraps: Creative, well-presented, delicious
- Meatloaf: Upscale downhome goodness
- The space, in general – great for any size group

Crashed and burned:
- Service on the deck: Methinks it was an off night
- Chickpea salad: Fried chickpeas were not as imagined
- Roasted half chicken: The sauce was overpowering

Beaver’s - 2310 Decatur (at Sawyer) in the Heights

The Rosemary Gimlet, light and refreshing


The chickpea stir fry and sweet potato fries


Delicious lamb lettuce cups


Pibil-roasted half chicken

Thursday, September 4, 2008

El Rey Taqueria

I love Labor Day. Love. Love. Love. But what’s a hungry gal to do when all her favorite restaurants are closed?! Head on over to El Rey Taqueria at the corner of Shepherd and Washington, which was both open and packed. I’d heard so many great things about El Rey that I couldn’t wait to dive in, and I ordered a whole plethora of piƱatas for my own little Labor Day fiesta. Que buena!

The taco al pastor was decent. The beautifully cooked rotisserie chicken is implanted in a sturdy flour tortilla and topped with the usual fixin’s. The hot sauce is teeming with red flakes, though, and is not for the faint of heart. Keep away from children and yanks. My torta, sadly, was soggy and lackluster. I judge all tortas by the gold standard set forth by Taqueria del Sol, and unfortunately this one falls short. Sogginess aside, the “meat” of the sandwich was clumped in the middle = too-much-bread-not-enough-stuffing.

On the brighter side, the Mexican rice had plenty of flavor to go around (plus small chucks of rotisserie chicken), and the tortilla soup was dynamite. My favorite part of the meal, though, was the fresh cantaloupe juice, which had a lovely flavor and none of the sticky-sweetness that accompanies most fruit juices.

The die-hard patrons of El Rey call it “awesome” and “cheap,” though I found it to be neither. You can get better tacos for less right down the road at Guadalajara. And while it may not fit in my Taco Hall of Fame, I’ll certainly return for the soup.

Taqueria El Rey - 910 Shepherd at Washington