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Hill Country Restaurants, ya'll

I just visited from Houston for the first time last weekend. If you like German food The Auslander is several very tasty schnitzels and wursts served with sauerkraut and red cabbage that have much more balanced acidity than the typical American version. They also have a beer garden. That area is known for some of the best peaches in the state and the season is early this year so be sure to stop at one of the road stands on 290. There are several local wineries in Fredericksburg. I preferred the larger selection at Water 2 Wine over the Fredericksburg Winery. There are several others on 290 that I didn't get the chance to try. If you enjoy hiking you should go to Enchanted Rock early in the morning or at sunset as well. The lavender is late this year, but it should be in bloom by next month. Hummingbird Farms on 290 sells lavender body wash made with locally grown aloe and essential lavender oil.

May 31, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

Da Marco's or Catalan? {HOU}

Looking forward to meeting you at Feast. I agree with your assessment of Catalan being the better choice over Ibiza since they are the same owners and Catalan's menu seems more consistent with the Spanish theme. You can see my Catalan review on this list. Da Marco is on my list of places to try. I've heard very good things about their sweetbreads and the truffled pasta. Porchetta with a truly young pig produces a cracky skin that is often made into a popular street-food panini in Italy. Black truffles may be getting rarer since climate change is making the region drier and truffles are very sensitive to drought. I've heard that there has been a dramatic decline in yield in the last five years.

May 30, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

[Houston] Catalan - quick review

Catalan's Spanish inspired menu led me to start with a glass of sherry and a complementary plate of the traditional accompaniments - manchego cheese, olives, sardines, and oil cured almonds. I never knew that I liked sardines until I had these. My wife ordered the crab croquettes which were also tasty. She also wisely selected the garlic shrimp seared in butter and chiles. I've heard the praises sung for Catalan's pork belly from several people so I had to try it myself. I've had a a fattier cut of belly from a hog finished on the whey byproduct from cheese-making like they do in Italty before that was braised in a pot liquor with five spice powder and the result was totally creamy. Catalan's was of a meatier cut - very much like a great pork rib.

I shared a dinner plate of the lamb quartet. I ordered the T bone and the rib chop medium rare and both were perfect. The rib chop had a great crispy crust around the edges that forced me to pick it up and gnaw the last tasty morsels. I was not as impressed with the sweetbread. It was chewy and didn't have a lot of flavor, in contrast to the one I had at Brasserie Max and Julie which was delicate with an amazing umami succulence. I hope to compare the sweetbreads at Da Marco's which was touted as the best in town in the Houston Chronicle. I think that the chef increased the portion of the barley pilaf because they knew I was sharing with my wife. They don't know that my wife eats almost nothing so I was overwhelmed by the portion and the dark reduction coating the barley grains. It didn't help that I misunderstood one of the wines to be a pinot when in fact it was a white wine. So the wine was totally lost in this course. I had to order a substantial red to cut through the palate fatigue and get out of the rough. Next time I've been told to consult with Antonio, the sommelier. I would have liked to have tried some Spanish wines and not much was available by the glass. I had just listened to the Splendid Table podcast about the wines of Galicia and Biertzo and had hoped to try some. Sadly my wife is not much of a wine drinker and I can't drink a bottle on my own. They have a nice selection of dessert and fortified wines of various production methods, several of which I have not tried. I did try a glass of the Lillypilly botrytized wine and enjoyed its orange overtones.

We told our waiter it was our anniversary which resulted in the appearance of a pile of cotton candy in a giant martini glass with a sparkler on top. I don't eat cotton candy so it looked nice but didn't get eaten. We ordered the chef playground option (which we were told was the only dessert that got ordered that night). It was a chocolate soda (very good), chocolate panna cotta (one of my favorite desserts) and a lava cake with chocolate ice cream. I think that I would have liked a fruit sorbet of strawberry or raspberry to contrast
the other chocolate flavors rather than the upscale brownie with ice cream. Plus all the dairy in the dessert course left me feeling overfull. I think I would probably stick
to the small plates next time and I would have had the perfect portion. Overall, I think Catalan merited the praises I've received.

May 22, 2008
Herithoth in Houston

What to do in Houston? (not the obvious?)

Sounds good to me! It's a progressive dinner.
I heard about a place in Chinatown that does soup dumplings Fu Fu Cafe 9889 Bellaire Blvd., 713-981-8818 that was reviewed in Houston Press

At Phoenicia Foods you must try the various types of feta cheese and get the Turkish roasted pistachios. Their lamb shank is my idea of a grocery store prepared dinner.

May 22, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

[Houston] Best Of List

Hugo's New Year's Brunch was pretty amazing. I don't think I've had such interesting Mexican food and a pretty good value at $38 since that was all I ate that day.

Funny that almost every one of your choices is a place that my foodie sense has told me would be good but I haven't managed to dine there yet.

I've eaten at Mai's and what I had didn't wow me. What dishes are your favorite there?

Is snapper ala plancha related to the plank roasted salmon of Ivar's Salmon house in Seattle?

I will have to try Kahn's and Kenny & Ziggy's. I wish I knew where I could find a good bialy in Houston. I used to get one with ham and a egg cooked in the middle - it wasn't kosher.

Dim sum at Fung's would be a great HoustonCH outing.

May 22, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

Downtown Houston Must Go

Houston downtown is not known as the site of the best dining in town. There is mostly restaurants providing lunch for the office workers during the week. You may want to consider taking the train or a short cab ride to some of the best places in the Montrose neighborhood.
The few places downtown that I know to recommend are the following:

If you like Italian try Perbacco 700 Milam St Houston, TX 77002 (713) 224-2422. Their olive oil is really complex. I enjoyed their veal marsala and the seafood ravioli. They are willing to make the dish to your specifications if you wish.

I've read good things about Irma's but haven't eaten there. It's good for lunch weekdays. Supposed to be authentic Mexican but not a cheap lunch.
22 Chenevert St off Franklin Houston TX 77002 713.222.0767

Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel has an Italian brunch on Sundays.
1300 Lamar St Houston TX 77010 713.650.1300

May 22, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

[Houston] Best Of List

I thought it might be fun to get a debate going over the best restaurants in Houston by cuisine category. I'm leaving off the New American restaurants since it's hard to limit down to one or two. I'll start by posting in the categories where I have a clear favorite. Please enlighten me if I've missed a gem (especially in an unusual ethnic cuisine like Fillapino, Indonesian, Russian, Tibetan, Afghan, etc.).

Belgian - Cafe Montrose Westheimer
German - Charivari 2521 Bagby
Greek - Niko Niko's Greek 2520 Montrose Blvd
Mediterranean - Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine 912 Westheimer Road
Ethiopian - Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant 9400 Richmond Ave
Persian - Kasra Persian Grill 9741 Westheimer Rd
Indian - (southern) Pavani Madras Cuisine 10554 Southwest Fwy or (northern) The Bombay Brasserie 2414 University Blvd or (royal style) Khazzane Fine Dining 5711 Hillcroft St.
Thai - Nidda Thai Westheimer
Malaysian - Malay Bistro 8282 Bellaire Blvd
Jewish deli - Katz’s Deli and Bar 616 Westheimer Rd
breakfast - House of Pies 3112 Kirby Dr or Avalon Diner 2417 Westheimer Rd
tea - Te House of Tea 1927 Fairview St
bubble tea - Teahouse Tapioca & Tea
pastries - Andre's Pastry Shop and Cafe 2515 River Oaks Blvd
dessert - The Chocolate Bar 1835 W Alabama St
gelato - Paciugo Italian Gelato & Caffe 5172-A Buffalo Speedway
Sunday brunch - Baba Yega Restaurant 2607 Grant St
Tex Mex - Chuy’s Restaurant 2706 Westheimer
Creole - Brennan’s of Houston 3300 Smith St.
Cajun - Crescent City Beignets 3260 Westheimer Rd
English Pub - Red Lion Pub 2316 S Shepherd Dr

Here's the categories I don't have a sufficient sample size to decide the best yet but here are my current favorites:

Spanish/tapas - Mi Luna Tapas Restaurant & Bar 2441 University Blvd
Mexican - (upscale) Hugo's 1602 Westheimer Rd or (cheaper) La Mexicana 1018 Fairview St
Cuban - Latina Café - 1972 Fairview St.
Brazilian - Fogo de Chao Churrascaria 8250 Westheimer Rd
Italian - Perbacco Cucina Caprese 700 Milam St
French - Brasserie Max & Julie 4315 Montrose
Korean - Tofu Village Bellaire Blvd
Japanese - Azuma Sushi & Robata Bar-Rice Village 5600 Kirby Dr Ste 5
Vietnamese - Vietopia Vietnamese Cuisine 5176 Buffalo Speedway
Chinese - Kam's Fine Chinese Cuisine 4500 Montrose Blvd Ste C
pizza - (want to try Dolce Vita Pizzeria Enoteca 500 Westheimer Rd
)seafood - Pesce Kirby Dr. (want to try Reef)
coffee - still looking for someplace that roasts beans from single locations and sells them within five days of roasting them served by funky baristas alongside great pastries and fruit pies (this one in Seattle is my all-time fave and 3 Cups roastery in Chapel Hill, NC is another

May 18, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

Where to take out-of-country guests in Houston

I went on Mother's Day and the service was not so great. I can make better shrimp and grits at home (of course Bill Neal is from Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, NC where I learned to cook it). The mini biscuits and the smoked salmon appetizer were pretty tasty though.

May 18, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

[HOU] Going to try Beaver's this weekend. Anyone gone yet?

I sent you an email from my gmail account that shouldn't bounce. Have you eaten at Thelma's BBQ on 1020 Live Oak? Her brisket, rib, chicken, and sausage sandwiches were mentioned on "Sandwiches You'll Like" on PBS last night. The meats are pretty substantial and Thelma says the bread is really to sop up the sauce. BTW, the quail at T'afia was terrific a few weeks ago. The quail at Teala's the next night was not nearly as good.

May 18, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

[HOU] Going to try Beaver's this weekend. Anyone gone yet?

I went to Beaver's looking for NC style pork shoulder. I prefer pork BBQ to beef although the brisket was moist when I had it at the Saturday market at T'afia. I tried the sampler platter and thought that the brisket was dry (although it was a later Sunday night dinner) and the pork shoulder was chopped and not pulled. They had NC BBQ sauce though and the sausage was really tasty. Their butterscotch cake was not what I expected. It was like a German cake I had at Charivari with many thin layers of cake alternating with icing. They serve it as a small square which is just enough not to overwhelm with sweetness. I'd be willing to join you and danhole to try it again in the future.

May 13, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

Hugo's (aka Mole Heaven)

I went to their buffet for New Year's (I thought about this since they had a Mother's Day brunch on Sunday). You can get a great sampling of their dishes for $39. I thought that their tamale fillings were great and the alkaline tang was not as prominent as in some preparations I've seen. I liked that the hot chocolate was served in a wooden cask. It made it taste like it was oaked. I liked that the dishes all had distinctive Mexican flavors without necessarily being overly spicy also.

May 13, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

[Houston] Report - Rudi Lechners

I've had a similar experience with their buffet. I think maybe I'll try them again from the menu. You should try Old Heidelburg. The portions are smaller but the quality of their German sampler platter was better than the Rudi's buffet.

May 13, 2008
Herithoth in Texas

Good Bakery in HOUSTON

The best pastry shop in Houston is in River Oaks - Andre's, but they don't bake bread. I've liked the bread at Central Market the best in the area so far. Have you tried Kraftsmen Bakery on Montrose? I think they supply sandwich breads to several restaurants.

May 02, 2008
Herithoth in Houston

Brotherhood of the Roasting Chain

I saw a posting for a food organization called the Confrerie de la Chaine Rotisseurs (Brotherhood of the Roasting Chain)that did a special dinner at Pao Lim a few years ago? My impression is that they are a part professional chef, part gourmet group. Anyone know anything more about them? One of my friends is planning to start culinary school in a year or so. I figure it could be a good opportunity for him to network for his career and for us to have an excuse to eat some good food. The whole thing reminded me of one of the societies that Peter Mayle described in his books that frog legs or tasted wine as part of a town festival. Here's a link describing some of their events:
Are there any other foodie clubs in the Triangle?

Gourmet popsicles in Durham

My wife and I went there this afternoon and she picked several excellent ones. I prefer the creamy varieties over the agua ones. The creamy strawberry (a regular) was really good but the surprise temporary flavor that blew me away was chocolate rosemary. The rosemary flavor was strong but nice. It reminded me of several of the upscale chocolate bars that I've tried at Three Cups and Southern Season in Chapel Hill (like ones with green cardamom seeds). I had a tea from steeped rosemary with honey - rosemaryade - that was similar. I've had success with drizzling grapefruit with honey warmed and infused with rosemary.

Deviled egg variations ? Favorites for fruit salads? Suggestions please!

For my recent wedding the caterers did deviled eggs with wasabi and topped with a thin slice of seared salmon. I believe they coated the salmon with sesame seeds before searing and slicing them to top the eggs. You can also top them with two long blades of chives for plating.

For fruit salads, consider adding some candied ginger to the fruit the night before to improve the flavor of whatever fruit you select. I also especially like fresh figs in fruit salad because they have a unique flavor and interesting look when halved.

Jun 25, 2006
Herithoth in Home Cooking