Noun 1. gastronome - a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink)bon vivant, epicure, epicurean, foodie, gourmetsensualist - a person who enjoys sensuality. Follow me on Twitter: @Aghastronome

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Flora: The Lois Adventure

Lois, Slightly Past Her Prime
I did hit the Houston Museum of Natural Science this past Saturday morning.  Early.  I arrived at 7:15 a.m. to hit the Will Call and pick up my tickets and pay for that day's parking in the HMNS garage.  Membership has its perks.  If you are not a member, it's ten bucks to park - members only pay five.  Picking up my tickets was a piece of cake and then I walked to the line.  The very long line for entrance to the Cockrell Butterfly Center.  My friend met me in the queue at 7:30 and we proceeded to wait, the lines were long, but, honestly it was not that bad.  

Lankford's Omelette
Admissions that early on Saturday were running about 15 minutes behind so, we gained entrance at 8:15 a.m., however, you still had to remain in line and slowly, but surely make it up the stairs to the bug exhibit.  We were behind a woman who seriously photographed every painted bug, mural and item of slight interest (read: anything that wasn't just plain wall) and I have to admit to whispering that it might be funny if her battery died before we got to Lois.  It did not. Which was a good thing. Once we snaked around the bug exhibit, pausing to eyeball a few hissing cockroaches, a brown recluse and the tarantula and then watch some "hatching" butterflies and quivering chrysalis, there she was.  Lois.  My floral affliction.  Her spadix was deflating and she was ever so barely funky.  She was still beautiful, now, she has collapsed upon herself - the spadix is slumped over, limp.  After rushing helter skelter, past Chacho the iguana, we beat a hasty retreat.  I purchased a t-shirt commemorating herself, and noted the time and the emptiness of my belly.  Food. Now. Hurry.

Landford Breakfast Taco
We arrived at Lankford Grocery shortly after nine and I can tell you (well, I would love to say it was stupid crowded, so that no one encroaches on my ability to walk right in and sit right down) that's the perfect time to arrive.  Coffee. Check. Water. Check.  We perused the menus and ordered:  two potato egg and cheese breakfast tacos for my friend and an omelette for me.  My omelette had choices...I chose all of the veggies (tomato, onion, mushroom and bell pepper), bacon, biscuit and grits.  Nothing at Lankford is "finely minced", the potatoes on the breakfast taco and all of my omelette veggies, rough chop.  I like this, it's homey and hearty and the chunks are not too large to be more than a mouthful.  We both had a bounty if cheese.  My bacon was perfectly crisp and abundant, the grits were smooth and buttery and the biscuit was almost creamy in texture.  Epic Breakfast Win!  Next time I make it to Lankford, the chilaquiles are on my radar.

The price is nice and they only accept cash.  Lankford brings the groceries, you are pretty guaranteed to leave full and happy.  After my big fat Lankford Grocery breakfast...I napped.  When attempting to dine here, timing is everything - we've mentioned that Triple D loud person, Guy Fieri.

Lankford Grocery
88 Dennis St
713.522.9555

Yup, still using the crackberry - for now.

Here is a link to my Lankford Grocery burger review from Houstonist, January, 2008.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flora: Lois the Corpse Flower

I have been to see her twice and then I had to leave town to attend my high school reunion.  I was just certain that, on account of I have the worst luck in the universe, she would bloom and be done while I was away.  Shocking, but, she waited and I now have an opportunity to see her!  I had a friend at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, waiting in line to buy tickets.  So, I get this text - "I am hearing I am in line for tickets at TWO FREAKING A.M.".  My response, let's go at, like, 7:00 a.m. and just go grubs, her stench will surpass our stench and then we can go have some breakfast.  I am a genius sometimes.

Almost a hundred bucks later, I have a shiny new Dual Membership to said museum and four tickets to see Lois.  Tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m.  We'll be queueing up early.  I'll take pictures with my trusty crackberry.


Memberships are rather affordable, if you use them.  Museums are cool places to see even cooler stuff.  Get yours today!  Stargazing nights?  Members-only jackets, er, I mean, previews?  What's not to love?

Lusty Italian: Sorrento Ristorante

As I mentioned earlier, I had a belated birthday dinner with my sister (you know, the favorite one) at Sorrento Ristorante on lower Westheimer.  Well, okay at 415 Westheimer to be precise.  It is a new establishment, in a new strip center - which rather vexes me, I like the old homes, the ramshackleness of it all.  Why, Feast is lovely, old and quaint and lovely - it's a happy place for me.  Okay, newness be damned, Sorrento is a beautifully apppointed establishment.  They have an incredible wine room which can be rented out for private parties, a granite bar for more casual diners, a piano sits between the bar and the dining room and the place just screams elegance.  Then I show up, nerdy-girl in a skirt unabashedly taking photos with my crackberry.  My sister is a delight, and she gladly helps out in the photography department with her iPhone, which takes a a superior inferior photo.  Here's where I renew my threat to buy a "big girl" camera, and make a mental note that reads:  "I know the photos will reign supreme, but, I think I'm going to be inflicting a large amount of needless embarrasment upon myself."  I manage to do this self-inflicted embarassment thing just fine and dandy without any additional props or electronic gear, unless karaoke is involved.  Sometimes, I wonder about me. 

Risotto Cheese Wheel
My Ya-Ya, who is one of the best good cooks ever, has told us about this amazing risotto in a cheese wheel at Sorrento.  I am now fixated on this and it has to be ordered, period.  We valet park around 6:30 p.m. and request a table for two.  My sister has dined here three times, she gets the same table every time.  This is not planned, it's just how things shake out.  Our waiter leaves us with a wine menu to bring glasses of water, of which there are three choices.  I'm tempted to say "tap", but I squelch my inner-smartass.  We order a bottle of wine and our waiter...you are not going to believe this, leaves us in peace, with our wine and without menus that we may converse freely without waitstaff hovering.  This is genius, this is brilliant and folks, THIS is what finer dining should truly be all about.  No rushing, no making me feel like the selfish meanie who prefers to be self-indulgent, unharried over a meal and some nice grape juice.  Digesting a bit at the table over polite conversation....not being rushed off without so much as a complimentary pink antacid chewable tablet for dessert.  Stephen was lovely, keeping an eye on his charges, and if you looked up at him - there he was "May I ...?"  Bring menus, get you more wine, recommend wine, show you our dessert menu.....amazing service.

Wild Mushroom Raviolo
Butternut Squash Ravioli
We shared a single serving of Wild Mushroom Risotto with White Truffle Oil, which is finished table side in a wheel of cheese.  Garnished with a couple of slices of truffle, this is just perfection.  The creamy, soft risotto and mushrooms are complimented with the warm, earthy flavor of truffle oil and the slight crunch of shaved truffle.  I had the Wild Mushroom and Sage Raviolo with Creminis and White Truffle Oil, while my sister had the Butternut Squash Ravioli with Julienne Zucchini, Sage Brown Butter and Lemon Zest.  Both were recommendations of our waiter, Stephen - who advised me against the Lobster Tortellini, which he felt did not always translate well from menu to plate for some patrons.  I think I will go back and try it, as I'm adventerous like that.  The Wild Mushroom and Sage Raviolo were luscious, freshly made pasta, well balanced flavors in a light truffle oil sauce.  The Butternut Squash Ravioli were wonderful and the brown butter and sage flavors set off the sweet creamy squash.  The pasta was made with squash as well, as the filling and pasta were indiscernable.  Both of our meals were excellent, however, I feel that the raviolo beat the ravioli though, hands down.

To finish our meal, we split the Chocolate Cannelloni with Chocolate Ganache and Toasted Pecans.  Chocolate and red wine, is there anything more lovely?  The plate was garnished with a house made truffle and a smattering of berries.  We shared the truffle, only because I ate my half before my sister could nab it.  Rich dark chocolate infused with toasted pecans encased in a freshly made chocolate canneloni. This was all hit and no miss.  We were so excited to see the chocolate, we forgot to snap a photo of it...

Bottom Line:  Sorrento Ristorante is well priced for the quality and the service is impeccable.  The piano is a wonderful touch and does not overpower conversation.  This is a wonderful location and atmosphere for a special dinner or a romantic first date.  If you are looking for excellent italian, it's not a special day and you have no romantic interest in your life, by all means, drop in to have dinner at the bar.

Sorrento Ristorante
415 Westheimer
713.527.0609

Reservations are not required, but I would recommend them.

Photos courtesy of my sistes's iPhone device.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Soft Shell Crab Alert: Pico's Mex-Mex

This is some seriously great gastronomic news.  If you like soft shell crabs, you absolutely must go to Pico's Mex-Mex, RIGHT NOW!  Pico's fixes some of the best soft shells I have ever tasted.  From fresh and live, right off of the plane, to lightly floured and pan-fried al mojo de ajo (in garlic and olive oil) they are perfect, succulent and juicy.

I do suggest you make tracks to Pico's quickly, as these luscious pretties will not last long.  The best soft shell crab in Houston, they are highly sought after, some customers request a special phone call when they are available.  Market price.

Pico's Mex-Mex
5941 Bellaire Blvd.
713.662.8383

P.S.  These guys make a very, very good margarita.

Brews News and Upcoming Events

St. Arnold Brewing Company, to be precise!  We love our local brewery and all of the beer-related goodness they provide.  This summer, the masters of the brew and producing a "Movable Yeast" series of beer!  First up, and debuting on August 16th, Weedwacker, a variation of Lawnmower brewed with Bavarian hefeweizen yeast.  Next, Altared Amber will premier in mid-November, and is made with Belgian Trappist yeast.  Bitter Belgian - Elissa IPA made with Belgian Trappist available in mid-February, 2011.  Lastly, Brown Bitte, Brown Ale made with Alt yeast will be released in mid-May, 2011 and close out the Movable Yeast series.  Mark your calendario, be sure to look for these special brews.

St Arnold Video Scavenger Hunt Pub Crawl: Midtown Edition:  Get the information here, and be sure to turn in your photographic proof by 11:59 pm this Sunday, if you have not already.

What's Up Tonight?: Miscellaneous Thursday

First and foremost, Lois - the elusive broad has finally decided to bloom.  I have been rather fixated on her, so, I may attempt to brave the crowds and see her.  If you see me, by all means, give me "cuts" in line.  Houston Museum of Natural Science: Admission?  $8 for non-members and $5 for members.


Buzz and the Blue Cats Jazz Trio plays The Chocolate Bar, 2521 University Blvd, Rice Village FREE!


Tuned to a Dead Channel, an Original Theater 42 Production opens tonight.  3414 LaBranch, Midtown-ish, Tickets are $10.   Original play by the award-winning poet, Andrew Kozma and directed by Erin Kidwell. 


James Perez' Seven Deadly Sins Art Exhibit - has moved from Cork Wine Bar to Roosevelt, located at 5219 Washington Avenue.  Free wine tasting from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, bonus people, free admission, free wine.  I will freely admit while some people prefer Washington Avenue, exclusively - I, for one, care less for it.  But, hey, that's just me, she who thinks what once was a cool strip of road is now entrenched in douchification.....given time, it'll change - look at Richmond Avenue.  FREE, please RSVP to mailto:jamesperezartist@gmail.com 



This is a new thing I will be hoping to post out most days.  I am open to suggestions, comments, scorn, harsh criticism, etc.  Please bear in mind, I do have to work...just saying.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What's Up Tonight?: Blaggard's @ House of Blues!

Houston's only stout Irish rock band, Blaggards will be taking the stage at 8:00 p.m. at the House of Blues for an early, all ages show.  Following Blaggards, Austin's Mysterious Ways.  Cost to attend?  Ten dollars, but WAIT, if you can scare up three peeps, admission is five bucks.  Buy a 4-pack of tickets online and get the deal of the century, or at least the deal of July 21st, 2010. 

This is my pick for what's fun to do tonight.  I have dinner/movie plans already made, so - there you have it.  But ya need to get out and see this show.  If you have not seen Blaggards, you must see Blaggards!  As I have been known to say of The Allen Oldies Band - this is about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.  That's a lot of fun, folks.  Just saying.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Terribly Tasty Tacos: El Rey

Today, I met a former co-worker, current customer and overall really decent friend for lunch.  He shot me an IM message "El Rey".....what do you say to that?  Um, "El Yes, when", that's what.  I have tiptoed, not in the tulips, but, around the smoking wagon.  I am back on said wagon today and determined, I tell you.  I have said my peace and counted to three.   Plus his really decent family has had tobacco (read: smoking) driven health issues, and the truth of the matter is that I have been rather hard-headed and dare I say stupid in not stopping this mess sooner.  But, it really does make me fussy and irritable, "it" being the quitting part.  Food gets me back to where I need to be, unfortunately (I think I'm going to fill out a little, just saying).  El Rey tacos are just delicious, consistently delicious.  My only flimsy complaint from this visit?  I was too hungry to point my crackberry at my plate and the carnitas were a touch dry, even with the sour cream I added.

I am a creature of habit, and I really need to break that habit too.  I understand that the Cuban Sandwiches are outrageously good.  I walk up to the counter, I stare at the menu...I peruse all of the options and the same words spill forth from my soup coolers....."I'll have the Three Amigos", and then I start making the tacos, carnitas on corn with sour cream (this one makes the order lady look at me funny), shrimp tempura on corn and a cuban taco on corn with beef add guacamole.  The rice and beans are servicable, todays beans were a touch salty.  The tacos are where it's at.  I could get by on three tacos without the additional carbs, but my brain won't allow it.  The rotisserie chickens look tasty too, but, I cannot get past the taco plate.  Maybe next time, since I will be nicotine free (so help me, I will).  Here's the full menu, for your perusal.

My other new habit?  Waking at 2:00 a.m. and not being able to fall back asleep.  At least I manage to keep my mitts out of the fridge, in the very wee hours of the morning.   And that's a "no" on the warm milk, regardless of what anyone says.  Tonight, I'm headed to Sorrento with my favorite sister (it's merely coincidental that I only have one sister) for a belated birthday dinner.  I'll have the crackberry, I'll share my grainy photos.  Later, I'll post on the best wings in Texas - which I happened to find in Kerrville, along with the best ever french fried potatoes.

El Rey Cuban & Mexican Cuisine
9742 Katy Freeway, D-100
832.358.8100
(behind the Five Guys Burgers & Fries)

More locations here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

If I Were a Cat, I'd be Orange and Fat



Props to http://www.icanhascheezburger.com/ for providing me with daily giggles.

Burger Love: Christian's Tailgate Midtown

This past Saturday I convinced a dear friend that we had to "drive Inside The Loop" for a burger.  Yes, I am sad, pathetic, the least of the cool - I reside approximately 3 miles outside Loop 610.  I am "OTL", or "GUD" (Geographically UnDesirable).  I know, I know - one day I might ought to remedy that, however, I hate the whole packing, moving, unpacking and the associated decrapping. Yes, I always hire a mover, 'cause I'm lazy like that.  Quite honestly, it takes me fifteen whole minutes to land in Midtown/Downtown/Montrose, unless there's been an accident or there are an inordinate number of jackasses on the road.

 Oh, yeah the burger part.  I decided that it has been entirely too long since I have been to Lankford Grocery.  I love their bacon cheeseburgers with mex-mex (a fried combination of jalapeno strips and onion strips).  Thanks to that loud-mouth, Guy Fieri, you cannot get near the place, unless you have some free time on a work day around 9:00 a.m.  I don't, unless I take vacation.

It's coming up on 1:00 p.m., I am hungry, I have quit smoking and this is not a happy combination.  This is tantamount to a recipe for disaster, or a total meltdown. Take my normal "I am fussy because I might be living off my own body fat" to a whole new dimension.  I am fussy to the second power.  I will not wait for an hour for a table so I can wait for another half hour to feed the worm.  Not this overgrown heifer, no way.  Ummmmm, yeah, Midtown is rife with morons, but, typically they are only out at night playing "human frogger" on Brazos or Bagby. Christian's Tailgate on Bagby @ Pierce it is. This is an off-shoot, if you will, of Christian's Totem on Washington at I-10.  Totem is my second favorite burger in Houston, and the Midtown location does the same burger on a newer grill so it is still damn good. 

I ordered the 1/3 pound burger with bacon, cheddar cheese and green chilis, drag it through the garden, and made it a basket with fries.  My friend had the bacon cheeseburger, and some of my fries (you get a massive portion of potatoes) and my sister had a plain burger as she is concerned about the size of her carcass, whatevs.  She had some of my fries too and we still left half the order in the basket, not kidding on the massive portion.  My burger was very thick, very juicy and nicely pink in the center. Combine that with softly melted cheddar and crisp thick bacon and I am almost in heaven.  It is the chilis that take me "there".  "There" is a warm and happy place.  Really.  These were  real green chilis with texture and a nice kick.  Not the soggy canned chilis that you make green rice with, the bland and virtually tasteless ones.  I saw seeds.  Per.Fect.Shun.  Now, when I see green chilis as an option, I will beg the question - "Why where do you get your chilis?".  If the answer has nothing to do with a tin can - go for it.

The only downside to the whole experience, other than the lack of parking spaces, was the buzzing hum of vuvuzelas on the very loud televisions.  Oh, and the half-naked waitresses who are either in training for that dream job at the Hooters, or freshly fired from there.  Girly girl here does not need to view half of your fake-baked breasticles (original or surgically enhanced) whilst gnoshing (the "g" is silent) on a burger.  Although, it does aid in promoting portion control and I could certainly use a good dose of that.  They have dollar beer on Monday, awesome.  They made Playboy's America's Ten Best Burgers? Shock.  Deliciousness, yes and I will return time and again for more burger action, but Ten Best?

Christian's Tailgate Bar & Grill (My number 3 burger, this ten seconds)
2000 Bagby St (at Pierce)
713.527.0261

Yeah, I got more grainy halfarsed crackberry photos to share....just squint, it'll be okay.  Squeaky here is really gonna buy a growed up camera.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fit to be Thai'd: Kanomwan

Kanomwan, located at 736 1/2 Telephone Road re-opened for business July 8th.  I went for dinner last night with a couple of friends.  I was saddened to learn in early June that the restaurant was closed due to the sudden loss of the owner, Houston's beloved "Thai Nazi".  I should think all patrons were told "Too hot for you" at least once, if not more often while he worked the front.  Although it's not the same experience without him, Kanomwan still brings it.  As an added bonus - it is BYOB (somehow, the HoustonPress completely overlooked it.  This is perhaps an anomaly?  They thought it was shut?).

We were three dainty ladies, armed with a bottle of each color wine.  In my book, there are two types of wine, one is red and the other one is not pink.  Yeah, I know, I am a "rose-ist"; I've had very nice rose wines - but they are as elusive to me as the bloom on Lois the Corpse Flower.  I have made two trips to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see that stinky girl in bloom; she will not bloom for me.  Had I not left my bottle of grape on the kitchen bar, we might have been rowdy by the end of the evening.

We ordered a large S1 (Tom Yum Goong), an H1 Beef (Pad Ka Pao), a PPK Chicken (Pad Prig King) and "the fried shrimp", or Goong Lard Prig.  First to arrive was the large vat of soup and an equally large bowl of rice.  The soup had a very respectable amount of shrimp  (or prawn, potato/potahto) and straw mushrooms in a very well balanced spicy/sour broth.  I have had Tom Yom Gai, made with chicken, coconut milk, lemongrass, yadda yadda at a lot of places, and it's often mentioned in reviews of Kanomwan.  That being said, I have a new love and its name is Tom, Tom Yum(my) Goong.  I am "Mare today, Goong tomorrow".  Ironically, Goong, I think, refers to "shrimp" and I'm, well, not a shrimp - I am crazy tall.  The other dish I fell in love with, ironically has "lard" in its name - the Goong Lard Prig, or fried shrimp.  They are about the size of 16-20 count shrimp, perhaps a touch larger and arrive in a delicate, crispy tempura-style batter.  The fried shrimp float on a pond of spicy-citrus sauce that is perfect for the delicate sweetness of the shrimp.  The crunch stays with these bad boys.  The hottest of the lot was the beef Pad Ka Pao, it bears a slight resemblance to taco meat, visually.  Otherwise, this dish marches to the beat of it's own drum.  I didn't find it to be "too hot", but, I don't mind breaking a capsaicin sweat.  The Chicken Pad Prig King consisted of thinly sliced white meat chicken in a red curry sauce with wee green beans.  Moderately hot, in my book, the crunch of the green beans set the dish off. 

Our cashier really made the evening, I was too charmed to ask for clarification, but, I believe he's family.  He was wonderfully polite, knew his way around the register, counting change and working the credit card machine.  I suspect he's under the age of 16, however, he was not unsupervised and he appeared to be working on homework in between customers.  I will be a regular fixture from here on out.  The last time I dined at Kanomwan, it was in the old location and the last stop on a bachelorette party.  You know, I recall it being very good, and I recall being told by the owner what I could have.  I have no recollection of being able to actually "read" the menu...but, in my defense I was a child of 29-ish.  Plus, we had a driver and one of those big honking passenger vans - I am not to be blamed for my behavior.

Next time, I won't forget the damned wine, although we had plenty.  I hope to be in similar company, if not the same.  After all, who orders Pad Thai out? Not one of us, that's who!  Make that at home!  Bring your sense of gastronomic adventure to Kanomwan, you're definitely in for a joy ride.

Kanomwan
736 1/2 Telephone Road
713.923.4236
Lunch:  11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. (Monday - Saturday)
Dinner: 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. (Tuesday - Saturday)
Closed on Sunday

P.S. (that sounds so, like 7th grade, p.p.s.)  The cost was extremely reasonable, as we spice girls  could not finish everything and tax, title and license totaled $17.95 per person, plus gratuity.  Not too shabby!
Photo captured by my crackberry - really, I am getting a "big girl" camera, really.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How Did I Get Here?

So, I started this up to continue to mutter, ramble and publish things of import to Houstonians.  It seems as though Houstonist has had it's proverbial plug pulled.  The last "live" day is this coming Friday, sadness.  So, here I am - addicted to writing and excited that I don't have to be "we", sort of.  It is said that safety is found in numbers.  I am alone and afraid on the interwebs.  However, if no one wants to read my crap, I can kill the blog and disappear into my cube farm.  The absolute horror.

Tonight I am going to Kanomwan, home of the best Thai in Houston.  I will be toting my crackberry device and plan to actually step-up and purchase a "big girl" camera.  Soon, you will see my fuzzy arse food photo and my first "bona fide" review.  Going forward, I will be the nerd in the punchbowl, to bastardize a phrase.  At dinner, photographing it.  Thankfully, I have nerdy glasses too, so, it's more expected of me.

I have also leapt off of a technological cliff and can be found on Twitter. @aghastronome.