Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just say yes............

if  someone asks you if you would like to go to Giacoma's Cibo e Vino!!!! Yes, is the correct word. No hesitation, just a simple YES!!! I have eaten there several times and loved it every time. The first time I went I had a salad and the diver scallop on polenta tappas. That was so good and not overly filling, so I splurged and had the hazelnut chocolate pudding (Gianduia). Be prepared to relive the diner scene from “When Harry Met Sally,” it is that good. Truly the proof is in pudding. The next time I went I had the "pork and beans (porchetta e fagioli )." Great dish, very filling, couldn't eat it all. I had started with a salad with their house-made Green Goddess dressing, a dressing you don't see very often in restaurants. It is fresh, with the tarragon flavor coming to the surface in the most subtle of ways. I love that dressing and would go there just for a salad. In proceeding visits I have had the spaghetti with Bolognese sauce (suburb), minestrone soup (rich flavors), and today I wanted to try their crostinis and a salad.

There is a choice of eight toppings, I chose the Tuscan Liver Pate, Poached Chicken and the tomato, garlic, tarragon, olive oil spread. I tried all three separately and then started mixing and matching them. Lovely. After, I finished I was thinking that I wanted something hot to drink, but not coffee or tea. I’m not sure what possessed me to ask, maybe it was the rain, but I was wanting some hot chocolate. Lynette Hawkins, the head chef and proprietress was standing by when I asked about hot chocolate. She said that they do not have hot chocolate, but she was pretty sure that she could melt some chocolate, add some milk, sugar and come up with some. 

And boy howdy, did she ever. It was delicious. I was amazed and pleased, that she was so willing to give the hot chocolate a go. 
The restaurant is modern retro, I would say. Comfortable, nice lighting and friendly.   

A good choice for lunch or dinner. Oh did I mention it was an Italian restaurant on Westheimer between Kirby and River Oaks Blvd. Try it, you’ll like it. Really.
 Giacomo's cibo e vino
3215 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77098
Giocomo's is named after Lynette's beloved yellow lab, who made an exit from the planet last year. There are pictures of Giocomo as you enter the front door. You can tell he was much loved and adored.

Monday, January 30, 2012

If you are ever in Topeka.....

Don't miss going to Bobo's Drive-In, where steakburgers, onion rings, apple pie (secret recipe) and homemade root beer reign supreme.

I don't remember the first time I went to Bobo's, I do remember the most recent, Topeka, September 2011, visiting my folks. Bobo's is always on the must do list. There is a dine-in section, small u-shaped counter and stools with a few booths and tables, but for the best Bobo experience it is the car hop that proves to be the most fun.  The menu is posted on several big boards outside.
The Menu

The Car Hop

You have to roll up your car window just a bit, to make sure the tray is properly secured.
My Dad at the wheel and the official food passer-outer, mom is in the passenger seat, I'm in the back seat, rubbing my hands together and salivating.
Bobo's is always the same, which is what I love about it, because it brings back good memories and serves up great burgers. The burgers are not big. One hand will easily hold them. It's not about size but quality. I always make sure to order the onion rings, because they are the best I've had anywhere. The root beer is made fresh at Bobo's and slurping good. I think though, what Bobo's is best known for is their Apple Pie. If I can't have one of my mom's, I want Bobo's. Many people have tried to get their recipe, but they are keeping a tight lid on that. You can have a slice with soft-serve ice cream after the burger, always a good choice, or you can get whole pie to go.
Bobo's Apple Pie

They can be fully cooked or uncooked, depending on when and how quickly or for what purpose you want to eat them. The crust is so flaky, the filling perfectly sublime. I always mean to bring one back to Houston with me, but they never leave the Shawnee County line.
A quick note about the Bobo's Root Beer. IBC is my favorite, this root beer is better than IBC's!!!!!

Bobo's Drive-In
2300 10th Street
Topeka, KS 66604

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quick note to self....

Nabi on Thursdays for Happy Hour. A must, the Ko burger, $5.00. It will not disappoint.  Make sure that you take a picture this time!!!!

1517 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77006

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I will follow my gastrointestinal tract anywhere.....

Today, it led me to an old familiar place. Epicure Cafe in River Oaks Shopping Center.  A favorite of mine.

Sometimes, with all the new places popping up, I forget about my favorites. It is as fresh, flavorful and comfortable now as the first day I walked in the place, 20 or so years ago. It is also twice the size. A few years ago, Kahn, the owner, took over the space next to his. If you look up at the ceiling you will see two different ceiling treatments. I like that about the place, not sure why, but I do. It's still not a large place, but is is roomy and airy. Art lines the walls. The art is for sale, all kinds of art from prints, paintings to photographs.

The bakery part of the cafe is the sparkling jewel in this eatery. There are two main cases, displaying cakes, cookies, breads, tarts. All beautifully prepared with heavenly flavors.

I remember talking to Kahn when La Madeliene moved into the RO Shopping Center. I asked him how he felt about that. As best as I can recall his answer went something like this.  "Great," he replied, "it will add to the foot traffic and bring new people into the area." I liked his answer. It seemed wise and forward thinking at the time and I think it showed confidence in his restaurant and his open minded community spirit.
This morning I had breakfast at Epicure. The Florentine Croissant, scrabbled eggs with ham and spinach.

The man sitting at the table next to me asked me "What is that? It looks really good. Do you want to trade?" His breakfast looked very tasty, but I opted to stay with my choice. It was good. Too much really for one person, but I put a pretty big dent in it. 
The Epicure Cafe is on the same side of the street as another favorite of mine, The River Oaks Theater. Sometimes, I start or end my movie going experience with a trip to Epicure. I get to mix two of my favorite things, movie and food. Oh my. I think I need to start exercising more!!!!!

Epicure Cafe
2005 West Gray Street
Houston, TX 77019

Friday, January 27, 2012

What to do with 100 pounds of sand.....

Make a patio and on a day like today, it is a welcomed addition. It is sunny, cool, low humidity, perfect for sitting outside. I live in a garage apartment with a small amount of property to play in. This patio is simple.

Get sand, put in on the ground, level it out as best you can, add concrete tiles, a chair and a table.

Instant patio. It has held up during drought and heavy rain. It makes me happy. Nothing fancy or complicated. I can meditate, read, write, give a yell out to a neighbor, have a nice cup of tea. It is just very pleasant.
I think the total cost for the sand and the concrete tiles was around $25. That's a bargin. I also got a workout while building it. My supplies came from my favorite hardware store, Southland Hardware. That place is packed full of helpful things for home and garden and there is always someone on hand to answer questions or guide you in the right direction.

Southland Hardware
1822 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77098

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The apple of my pie.....

This is an easy fun apple pie. Perfect for any occasion.

Praline Apple Pie
9” pie pan
4 qt. sauce pan

4 Med. Gala Apples
4 Med. Red Delicious Apples
1 T cinnamon
2 T sugar
2 T Land of Lakes butter
2 T flour
4   ¾ oz. Pecan Pralines (the fresher to better)
1 T of fresh lemon juice
1 pkg. Pie Crust (or make your own)

Step 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Step 2. Slice apples, put in large mixing bowl. Stir in cinnamon and sugars. Put to the side.

In a 9 inch pie plate, roll outone of the pie crust and put in the pie plate. Set aside.

Step 3. In a 4 qt. sauce pan melt 2 T butter on med. Heat. Once butter is melted add the pralines. Melt the pralines and blend into butter. Add the flour and blend. It should make a think paste. Add the lemon juice.

Step 4. Stir in slice apples. Keep the heat at med. Put the lid on the sauce pan. This allows the praline mixture to heat up after the apples are dumped in. Stir the mixture every 2 min. or so for about 15 mins. until the apples and the pralines are well blended.

Put apple mixture in the pie shell. Roll out the second sheet of pie crust on top of the apples. Crimp the two crusts together. Vent the top crust.

Place in the oven and let bake for 10 mins at 375. Turn down the oven to 350 and bake until crust is golden.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Raining.....The Bird and the Bear....

     It was pouring down rain earlier, something that we rejoice in these days in Houston, the rain. I headed down Montrose towards the Heights, there was a new restaurant I wanted to try, but at a big dip in the road, water was about three feet deep and with my windshield wipers on max, I decided not to push it, even though I have a small SUV, there was nothing urgent about the lunch other than it was noon and I was hungry, so why risk getting flooded. There are plenty of new places in Houston to try. I remebered that Ouisie's had opened a new place on Westheimer, so I made a U-y right before the deep water and headed in that direction. The Bird and the Bear, Ouisie's American Bistro is the place. I was able to get a parking spot near the door without the assistance of a Valet. That is unusual since there isn't much parking available. Chuy's is next door and The Bird and the Bear is in a small strip center with a CVS and another small shop. The heavy rain had discouraged some folks, I guess. All the better for me, great parking and no waiting for a table. Yippee!!!
I liked the inside. An eclectic mix of fancy and rustic. Chandiliers, a couple of well worn chairs and a painted topless table hang from the ceiling. The cafe curtains allow a lot of natural light into the bar and seating area. White table clothes and napkins cover the tables. The white wooden chairs are a shabby chic.  The kitchen is open with a wrap around bar.
     It took me a while to look over the menu. There was no rush and there was plenty to look at. Plenty that looked well worth another visit and taste.
On the table is crispy flat bread with a olive and olive oil dipping sauce. Really nice flavors.
I ordered the Lemon Garlic soup, the seafood paella, and a glass of Sanford Pinot Noir, the waiter had suggested a Chardonay, but I'm not much of a white wine fan, unless it has a fizz to it. The Pinot was a good alternative. The waiter came back out to tell me they were out of the Lemon Garlic Soup and suggested the New England Clam Chowder, the soup of the day. I didn't feel that it would go too great with the paella, so I asked for a house salad. That turned out to be a good choice. It was tossed in a lemon vinegarette dressing, which was light and flavorful.

The Seafood Paella was good. The snapper, shrimp and scallops were perfectly cooked, the clams and the mussels were a bit overcooked. The Saffron rice had great flavor, accompanied with red bell peppers, onions, English peas, although it was a bit heavy. Overall it was a very satisfying dish.

It was a lot of food, enough for dinner this evening.  Of course, I couldn't leave without trying the dessert. I'm glad I did. I had it with a cup of tea.

The tea is a good tea, The Mighty Leaf (organic). I had the Lemon Meringue with lemon curd and raspberry sauce on the inside. I'm normally not a big meringue fan, but this meringue was creamy and delicious.

This is a good sized dessert. Enough for two or three. I brought what I didn't eat  home along with the paella.

The Bird and The Bear on on Westheimer. Look for the black and white awning.

The Bird and The Bear, Ouisie's American Bistro
2810 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77098

This restaurant is a bit pricey (for me), but as a once-in-a-while place it was well worth the dollars.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The spoon, the bottle, the bubbles, not a wives tale...

My friend Taavi turned me on to this trick. I had opened a bottle of sparkling wine and at the end of the evening there was some left. I was planning on pouring it down the drain, when Taavi said "Wait, put a spoon it." "What?!!!" Taavi went on to tell me that a spoon put in the wine bottle will keep  the effervescence of the wine alive. That seemed too easy and bit naive on Taavi's part.  So being the little quasi researcher that I am, I went online to see what was up with this theory. I found two articles right away. There was one pro and one con. Here are the links for both.


Well, the two articles canceled each other out so,  I decided to conduct my own experiment. I had a left over bottle of Prosecco, Italian sparkling wine, and only a couple of glasses were poured from the bottle. What a waste to throw it down the drain, so I put a spoon in it and put it in the fridge overnight; 24 hours elapsed.
How silly I was to doubt Taavi. Here is the proof in living color!!! Bubbles and lots of them.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The magical world of movies and food.....

There are so many things that I like about food and movies, especially when it is a movie involving food, which usually has some mystery, sensuality, romance, redemption, transformation and joy.  Oh and love and magic, I see food and movies that way.
Here is a list of my favorite movies that have food slathered all over them.

"Babette's Feast" 1987 (Denmark)
The mother of all movie feasts.

"Like Water for Chocolate" 1992 (Mexico)
(Como aqua para chocolate-original title)
I happened to have read the book. The movie did a good job of adapting to the book and why not the writer of the book, wrote the screen play, Laura Esquivel.

"Big Night"  1996
Just pull out all the stops and see what happens.

"Woman on Top" 2000
A delightful enchantress

"Chocolate" 2000
Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall in that Chocolate Shop.

"Mostly Martha" or "Bella Martha" 2001 (Germany)
Food nurtures and love heals.

"No Reservations" 2007
This is the U.S. made version of Mostly Martha. I liked both of them.

"Julie & Julia" 2009
Blogging and cooking, okay, so I'm not an original, but man oh man does the food in this movie make you want to get out there and give cooking a try.

I am sure there are more, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pondicheri Cafe....

My friend Lisa suggested this cafe on Upper Kirby. To be honest I had not heard of it, but she raved about it, so I had to go. We met there on Thursday, it was early, so there wasn't much of a crowd.  I felt immediately comfortable. The waiter was attentive, helpful, but I never felt rushed, even as the restaurant started to get busier. I loved looking over the menu. There was so much to absorb. I'm not as familiar with Indian food, but I'm learning how valuable the food is for the health of the body. Many of the spices used are anti-cancer. The flavors are varied and rich. Pondicheri Cafe uses them to full advantage. However,  I got caught up in conversation, which is a good thing. Sharing a wonderful meal with a friend is the best way to spend an evening, but I did more talking than writing (and saying a lot of OMG this is so good), so I went back Saturday morning for breakfast to write. What struck me as I sat there, quietly, looking around the cafe, is how open it is, the kitchen, the seating area, the wide high windows. I also noticed the detail in the fabrics, the subtle colors; greens, blues, golds, grey on the chairs and booths, with a splash of magenta on the dividing curtain, the deep red ceramic tile on the kitchen pass through, the raw pale grey concrete pillars, the stainless steel pots hanging in the kitchen. The restaurant is modern and traditional, a nice fusion of style. I realized that these textures and colors was exactly what was going on inside my mouth as I ate the egg sandwich with keema beef.

The boldness of the keema beef, egg and green curry juxtaposed with the gentleness of the brioche bun did a balancing act on the roof of my mouth and my tongue, fusing the old and the new.  It was delightful.  This restaurant has delicious baked goods. I took a cranberry scone to go, ate it later in the day with a cup of tea, loved it. Pondicheri Cafe also uses food from many local farms in their kitchen. For instance, that egg on top of the keema beef came from B3 Ole Dad Farms, Weimer, TX. I plan on returning to explore this varied, wonderful menu further.

Ponticheri Cafe
(Upper Kirby)
2800 Kirby Drive
Houston, TX 77098
Breakfast everyday
Counter Service
Counter Service
Table service
Happy Hour

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Soup's on.....

I love soup. I love to make soup. Here is my recipe for Leek and Sweet Potato Soup. As always it is up for interpretation. That is what is so lovely about soups, you can take a recipe,  add to it, change it or exactly follow it. I looked at a couple of different recipes and added what I wanted to mine. The chicken broth I used in this recipe, I made. I feel I have more control over the outcome/flavor of the soup when I make my own broth. This soup is creamy, filling and of course, I think,  pretty tasty.

Sweet Potato and Leek Soup
6 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
3 leeks (thinly sliced, thoroughly rinsed, they seem to shelter a lot of dirt folded in their leaves)
3 medium sweet potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 medium white potato (peeled and diced)
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Bessemer spice blend (got this at Whole Foods in the bulk spice area)
2 teaspoon salt
2 sprigs fresh Thyme
2 Bay Leaves (I used fresh)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (finely chopped)

While doing the prep for the vegetables I have the chicken broth heating on the stove in a large pan.
Chop, slice and dice the potatoes, leeks, ginger

Melt butter in a skillet add the leeks. Sautee the leeks until they are soft.

Put leeks, potatoes, Ginger, spices, salt, Thyme, Bay Leaves in the chicken broth.
Bring to a boil.
Once the mixture comes to a full boil, turn the heat down and cover the pot, let simmer for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.
When the potatoes are cooked, run the mixture through the food processor, removing the Bay Leaves. Do this in a 4 to 5 step process. Transfer the processed soup to a bowl.

Once all the soup is processed, put it back in the large pot to keep warm.
Serves 4 to 6

Friday, January 20, 2012

An Avocado, An Egg and a pot of Honey walk into a bar.....

 The bartender says, "What can I get ya?"
"Help," they all three yell!!!
"What's the problem?"
"We're being pursued by a woman with dry fly-away hair."
"Is that all?" says the bartender.
"That's enough!!!!"

If you catch up with these three, grab them. They make a wonderful mask for hair and face. I ought to know, I'm the lady with the dry fly-away hair. This is a very simple and inexpensive way to get moisture back into your hair and skin.  All you need is a mixing bowl, mixer, 1 ripe avocado, 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of honey.
The avocado
Add the egg
The honey
Mix it up. You can also use a food processor, blender or a wooden spoon.
Make it as smooth as you can.
Pile it on your hair and then your face. Leave it on for 1/2 hour to 45 mins.
After the allotted time, hop in the shower and rinse it off.  Make sure that you get it all rinsed out. This mask makes my skin feel smooth and my hair manageable.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A crepe's tale, Westheimer at Taft......

I parked my car and walked up to the red and white awning. Full menu on the chalkboard. John is the crepe master and a very pleasant fellow indeed!!! This is where you will find some very fine crepes.

John pours on the batter. The exact right amount.
 Spreads it all around.
 It bubbles up nicely and then he flips it.
 Putting on the Strawberries and Nutella!!!
Strawberries are from Froberg Farm in Alvin, TX. Now that's local!!!

He folds it up into a nice triangle so all the insides will stay inside and puts it in a paper cone with foil wrapped on the outside of that. It keeps the heat in and allows the Nutella to melt all over inside. Yum!
And voila! a Houston Crepe.
I told John that the last time that I had had a crepe prepared on the street was in Paris. He said that is what prompted his boss to open the sidewalk creperie, a honeymoon in Paris and crepes for sale on the sidewalk.
These crepes are huge, so very fresh and wonderful. Tres bien, Oui?
The Melange Creperie is on Westheimer at Taft and on Wednesday at the Downtown City Hall Farmer's Market.
Monday, Thursday and Friday 7am to 1pm
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday (Downtown) 11am to 2 pm
Saturday & Sunday 10am to 2pm
This is a cash and carry kind of place.