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

Friday, August 8, 2014

The El Cantina: A First Impression

The El Cantina has finally opened!  Housed in an old (1940's) gas station across White Oak from Little Woodrow's.  Something of note about me - I don't just dart out the first day a restaurant opens.  IF you do, and you expect to be smitten and gobsmacked by your experience, you're new.  Very. New.  I was one of the first crew of unfortunates to open a Mexican restaurant in the small town from whence I came - it was abysmal, at best.  With the passage of time, things improved.

Same thing for The El, I've read a couple of first reports and I can honestly refute a few criticisms, as of this past Wednesday.  First, the chips and salsa were top notch.  Fresh, lightly salted chips and warm salsa - not super hot from peppers, but nicely complex.  The queso still needs a little work.  It was mostly cheese and a bit too thick (implication here - not enough tomato/green chile business).  There's a very fine consistency line with queso - it must be fluid but not runny, thick enough to cling to a chip, yet not viscous.  It's not difficult to work out and we mentioned it to the waitress.

The menu is very small - which is also very smart for a new restaurant.  Master the basics, then expand.  I would have picked a chalupa over the chimichanga on a small menu.  I am a fool for some compuestos.  I digress...oops.  All of us ordered the same thing - the perfect standard combination.  One crispy taco, one cheese enchilada, rice and refried beans.  The taco was the super star, on a freshly fried shell with hot, well spiced ground meat, cold crispy vegetables and a shred of cheese.  The rice was above average and the refries were pretty good (I just ask they not over salt, which they didn't - happy me).  The enchilada needs an little assist, from a salamander.  The plate was room temperature to cold, so the enchilada was immediately cold.  Two words every waitperson in a Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant should say, or must say.  "Hot Plate!"  The El needs to plate the enchi, salamander it real good, drop on the rice and beans and finish with the taco.  Another suggestion, the sauce on the enchilada was thick and chipotle-y (I made that up).  Suggest they keep that one and add a standard brown gravy, or a light red chile gravy (yes, like the canned enchilada sauce, just better and made in house, like much of the menu).

When you go, ask for Taylor - she's a fantastic waitress.  Get the "skinny margarita" which is really a normal, properly made margarita without the nasty sweet and sour mix crap.  Give them a try, they ditched the valet parking.  Note to The El:  If I see valet parking I will go elsewhere, you cannot sling a deceased feline in that area without hitting a good Mexican joint.  So, don't let pretense step on your sensibilities and cost you business.  I will be back for more.  It's close, it's very cool - I really want them to make it.

The El Cantina Superior

602 Studewood
Houston, TX 77007
832.203.5180

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Happy Hour Musings: Warehouse Bar & Chill

It's sleek, it's sassy...it's NEW!  It's the Warehouse Bar & Chill.  We tried it out...it needs some work and has loads and scads and bunches of promise.  Okay, I personally want this joint to survive.  It's close to home, it's in a location that begs for what it has to offer and yet...there is a huge amount of room for improvement.  A group of us, around 7 or 8 went one evening to nibble and have happy hour on the patio.  I was last to arrive - I asked the hostess if they had service on the patio, yes.  I joined my group and asked, "Do we have service?  Do I get my own beer?" Answered:  "We have this guy, who...where did he...? I have not seen him in a long time, you may need to just go to the bar." So I did just that.  The bartender couldn't break my bill.  It may have been a hundy, to be fair.  The bar is stupid cool - right down to the gorgeous and not super comfy chairs.  It's a beautiful clean, retro-modern atmosphere.  It really screams out "Get your yuppy ass in here and order up a craft beer!  Dogs welcome on patio!  We love hipster douchebags (no PBR, thanks)."  The draught selection is decent, but, it's a load of selections from a couple of breweries for the most part.  There are NO bottled "As Seen On TV Beers" except Miller Lite.  At least none that my friends ordered, when the high ABV heavy craft beers needed a rest (Coors Light, Bud Light).

The service, our waiter made an appearance and reiterated he would take care of us.  We had to have the bus boy go find him.  It's not a huge deal - really.  New place, new servers...groove being located (I hope).  The food was good, the chicken livers were "okay", the burger, fries and fried cheese curds, were "holy wow" delicious.  Honestly, I'll be going back to try more of their fare and to see if the service is inching toward greatness.  Again, the waiter was nice, polite, fairly efficient just sometimes hard to find.

The patio really, really, really needs a cool shade affixed to block the blazing inferno that is, the setting sun.  There are fans on the patio, not ample for the heat - but, fans.  Shade and the current number of fans will make it more tolerable for happy hour patrons, and their doggies.

Price point for what you get - on point.  What you get for what you pay is fair and reasonable.  Especially those cheese curd crack things - I need some more, stat.

Bottom Line, at this juncture:

Go see them, order food and make some beer selection observances.  The owners are good peeps. They need a good solid shot at pleasing you, John and Susie Que Public.  Give them that shot!

Warehouse Bar & Chill 
3333 W 11th St, Houston, TX 77008
(713) 802-2445

Real Ale Event @ Cottonwood

Swing by Cottonwood for a Real Ale Brewing "Buy the Beer, Keep the Glass" event involving 18th Anniversary Gose...it's a limited edition and so is the commemorative glass.  TONIGHT 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM.  As an added bonus, the Real Ale Rep will be on hand to ask questions, dazzle you with her beer acumen and make sure you get your glass of  goodness.  Whilst you imbibe, please be sure to order up something to eat - pretty sure you won't be disappointed (that's sarcasm).

Label for I8th Anniversary Gose

Gose is a rarely brewed regional specialty beer from Northern Germany. A slightly sour ale, it is known for its use of coriander and a unique saltiness that is derived from the local water source. Our first batch of Gose was brewed on a 7 bbl system with our friends at Odell Brewing Company. The recipe is the same now as it was then: a high percentage of malted wheat, acidulated malt to lower pH and impart a subtle sour character, with fresh ground coriander and crystal salt to finish the boil. As a twist on the original German brews, whole limes were pureed and added to the beer after fermentation. The result is a delightfully tart and most refreshing tipple, a perfect beer for a Texas celebration. Thank you to our friends in Colorado for sharing in this creation; thank you to our friends here at home for enjoying it with us after 18 years. 
Cottonwood Houston
3422 N Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77018
(713) 802-0410

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Faith Shaken: Houston News Source Reports...

SONIC as one of the best places to buy breakfast all day.   Yes, Sonic Drive-ins, home of the foot long chili cheese coney, the gi-huge-ic chain.  Really?  No mention of the Bellaire Coffee Shop?  The New York Coffee Shop?  Any other breakfast-all-day diner-like establishment.  Sonic to round out the list.

It saddens me, very deeply, that someone got paid for that.  Yeah, I don't write so much - but, I don't earn my living here (or I would live in a van, down by the river).

WTG Chronicle!!  Now, to see how many of the listed places are no longer in business, my second favorite thing to do.  Since they fact-check the Chomical like a mutha-scratcha.

Here's the article, see for your ownself.