Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Te, House of Tea

So I had a private lesson on Saturday, figured I'll meet up at a local tea shop instead of coffee shop. I actually knew one of the owners, Connie from way back. Turns out, she was a dance studen of mine back in the day when I used to teach at SSQQ. What united me and Connie was that I attended a local dance event at Te, and small world as this is, there she was. I haven't been to Te to dance but go there to grab a quick hibiscus tea to go. They do have a pretty full menu and I've been eyeing on their crepe for quite sometime. Finally, for my lesson, I have a chance to go there and enjoy my crepe.

Here's the thing about crepes. I am a very loyal fan of Melange Creperie. Buffalo Sean had taken great care of me, and I in return try to go there whenever I can. He incorporate anything from cliche' to creative, even friends who had tried his crepes (not knowing my loyalty) even said that we should try to do a Iron Chef challenge and give him some secret ingredients and see what creative crepe he'll come up with. Needless to say, I am a big fan of crepe and going in with a very critical eye on that item.

When it comes to House of Te's crepe, it can go both ways... One, the crepe itself is structrually perfect. No holes and it's a perfect look to it. The other, unfortunately, was the taste - or lack thereof it. I was sold on the Farmers Market Brunch Special, which consisted of their finding from the weekends farmers market. That day's special was kale and sausage. Alright, didn't sound bad at all, I eat both of those. What I didn't realized was that there was no sauce to go w/ the combo. So, it was literally, crepe, meat, kale.

I don't know how familiar you are w/ kale. By itself, cooked, it draws the bitter taste to the greens. So, when you have nothing to compliement it, it's just that, bitter. Luckily, there were some sausage to offset that to help my taste buds, but since they probably put like 5 pieces of tiny sausage, those were few and far between. That aside, the brunch combo comes w/ a pot of tea, I got my usual hibiscus. Here's my tip to you all, this is something Mag South in Austin does, is to put hibiscus tea w/ your favorite lime soda to give it a pip. But since the flower itself is pretty flavorful, it helped offset the bitter from the kale some.

Not to mention, I had to wait over 30 mins for my crepe. In their defense, it was lunch time, people were ordering less time-consuming items as mine, such as sandwiches and salads. I had to walk up to Connie and asked if they had forgotten about me. *sigh* I hate to do that, because it makes me look like I'm not patience, but when it has been 30 mins, I also felt like you have forgotten me in the corner and turns out, I was right. My order got lost in the shuffle.

So while I treasure this neighborhood gem, between the lack of parking and the forgotten order, I'm not sure if I would recommend this to anybody. But, I have heard good stuff about their noodle soup, so maybe I'll give them a try on that. They are pretty active in terms of partnering up with artist and dancers in the community. They host the Saturday night dance with the Swing Dancers, I believe Friday is with the Tango Dancers. Wednesday night they host a movie night and I know a crochet group hangs out there as well. Maybe I'll try again at night, but for now, it's a thumbs down for me.

Te' House of Tea
BYOB - they charge a corking fee
1927 Fairview Street,
Houston, TX 77019
(713) 522-8868 ‎

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oh My Pocket Pie!

When I used to work at Sew Crafty, I often walk past the food truck of Oh My Pocket Pies!. And on my last day of the craft shop, the owner (Sarah) came back to the store with joy, and tons of pies to share.

What had happened was, since that was our last day, the OMPP peeps gave us a few pies to try and threw in a couple of salads too. Thank you!!!! You made a ton of crafty girls happy on that sad day of shop closing.

Anyway, it really is empanadas. If you've ever live close to a Hispanic area, you must know about the empanadas. It's little fried dumplings, but bigger, like a pie size. However, the folks at OMPP kick it up a notch. All their suppliers are Texas locals, which seems to be very much on trend w/ alot of the restaurants and food truck around town. Not to mention, they add their own little twist too.

In the picture is the Cuban. Let me tell you, I don't speak Spanish, but it's bueno! It's nice and gooey, but the flavor really hits you. We also tried the Twiced Baked Potato, Butternut Squash, and Chicken Renello. YUM! Don't worry, we cut all the pies in 1/2 for sampling sake. We're not that greedy!

What they don't tell you is that there are these secret special sauce that really brings out the flavor, not to mention cool down the pie some for immediate consumption. =D I forgot what I had, I think I just mixed and match the sauces just because I can. But, I dipped and dipped and I think I wanted to get a straw and drink it straight... ok, maybe not that much, but it was good.

If that seems to be too much fried food for you, they also have burger and salads on the menu. But from what I understand, the salad is more of a side salad size. That said, I had some of a mixed salad w/ oil & vinegar and it was yummy!

Go check them out, most of the time they are parked on 19th street by Ashland between buildings. But either follow them on twitter or check their site for the most updated info.

Oh My Pocket Pies!
Wed - Sat in the Heights
11am - 3pm (or later)
339 West 19th Street, 77008

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ruggles Grill

For my birthday, I decided to go to Ruggles the original location. I would say that I haven't been there since pre-renovation. At least over 8 years that I remembered...

Ruggles, to me, is always a classy place and it's definitely a special occasion place. I picked it for my birthday not only to revisite after all these years and to check out how it has changed. Also to re-live the fancy-ness of the place. To drink in the atmosphere.

To my surprise, the magic was not really there for me anymore. I'm not sure if it's because of where we sat, which faces the door directly and also a back room away from everyone else. Or if it's because the place seems tighter than it used to be. For a Thursday night, albeit it was a party night, it was not as lively as one of the other Ruggles locations.

Food is still good. Not great, I actually love the Ruggles Green and Ruggles Bakery better for the price you pay. It wasn't as great of grilled food as I remembered it. I'm not sure if the tired-ness of the building or the segregation from the crowd that gave me that feeling. But both Bakery & Green seems to be livelier and more excited about the food.

That said, as I mentioned, food is still good. I had the pork chops, which is really 2 large chop steaks with a lot of seasonal vegetables. That's where the redemption comes in. The chops were a tad dry, but the potato au gratin and the mashed sweet potato were great. The asparagus and green beans were grilled to perfection. I know, it's absolutely silly to describe vegetable that way, but it's true.

Anyway, the place is still for the fancy even the decor seems tired. Their staff is still friendly and attentive. I do intend to give it another go, just to make sure I still feel the same. Of course, it does help that I got a gift certificate to return (bday gift from a friend). We'll try again and see.

Ruggles Grill
903 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77006

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy St. Patty's Day - a tad late

So, for St. Patrick's Day, I did a batch of green macaron. This is a part of a special experiment. But before I tell you what it was, I want to tell you why this batch is special.

For this batch, I made it w/ a tbsp of matcha green tea, and the middle was with a dark chocolate. The ganache also had a special secret ingredient. I put a tsp of wasabi. When I gave it to people to try, most of them did not notice the wasabi at all. To those who detected it, said that it was so subtle that they didn't know until I said something.
I have tasted it several times myself, and truly, you can't taste it at all. Mainly because the chocolate I used was so dark, that by the time I added cream, it was still pretty dark. So, that's what most people tasted.

The other parts of the experiment was to learn how to pipe better and different shaped than circle. Don't get me wrong, circle is still cute and classic, but the clover was my attempts.

The last part of the experiment was to use Eggology egg white instead of natural eggs. Here's my take on that. I did the measurement recommended by the packaging, however with that is too little. So little that my whisk from my KitchenAid didn't even touch it. Otherwise, it does whip up like egg whites do. At first, to me, that's great, because then I don't have to waste all the egg yolks. But, it just acts funny, no matter how hard I whip them it won't stiff up. Also, when I tried to fold in the almond meal/icing sugar mixture, it got runny instead of magma-like, so that's not going to work. Guess I'm back to natural eggs... and better get me some egg yolk recipes too.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Brunch at Benjy's

Here's the thing about brunching at Benjy's, there is no Saturday brunch at the Washington location, only the Rice Village location has both Saturday and Sunday brunch. C'mon, we want those diced potatoes on Saturday too!!!

Anyway, friend and I went to blow a gift certificate that I got. Might as well get something yummy. I had the Crabcake Sandwich, which I thought was interesting where they have a 63degree egg. What is that exactly? Well, I supposed it's cooked to that temperature... it's like a not quite done fried egg... still runny and googly, but the egg white isn't cooked all the way. No biggie, the food is yummy all the same. I will say that the hollandaise does put me to the top with a very filling feeling. Talked about stuffed!

As if that's not good enough, my girlfriend and I decided that we'll split a apply granola with ice cream dessert... like I said I had a gift cert to blow. Both girls were very happy about that decision.

I will say that people underestimated the popularity of the restaurant, given that they've been in Houston for a long time, pretty much an institution, but if you want a table the time you want it, it's always best to make a reservation. I knew of the case, and often see people standing on the outside waiting for a table or having to sit at the bar. People! This is a seen or be seen kinda place, even during Saturday brunch. Know it, and call ahead!

Benjy's (Rice Village)
2424 Dunstan
Houston, TX
713-522-7602 (reservation is always recommended)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sur La Table - French Pastry Class

Just so you don't think that all I do is eat, I also take a good amount of cooking classes. Ok, actually, more like baking classes. You get to take the class, make something yummy, and get to eat it at the end. This time I went to Sur La Table.

I signed up for the French Pastry class, and I love the teacher, Courtney Goff. She is a pastry chef for Intercontinental Hotel at one point and also travelled all over to teach people and make these awesome food.
What else I love about this teacher is that she understands for us doing this at home with a home kitchen, we don't get any fancy stuff like they do in a professional kitchen, so she is more thoughtful in giving us tips to do these awesome pastries at home. The other thing I like about my teacher is that she did compare and contrast with different type of pate a choux dough, so we get the experience and understand why we did what we did in order to yield results.

So, for this class, it's basically all of my favorite pastries in one spot. We did palmier two ways. One was sweet with the store bought dough, and the other was savory w/ prosciutto and feta. Both are very good, but the difference on the dough truly makes a difference. The store bought dough baked thin and tidy. But the homemade dough is more flavorful, especially with the amount of butter that's in the dough.

The other thing we did was profiteroles. If you've never had any profiterole, it's not just your normal cream puff pastry. It's dainty, and can have its own personality. The best one I've been to would be at Jeannine's Bistro. And while you're making that, it's just a small change to make eclairs. The cream for eclairs is sweeter than the cream in profiterole, but if you were to combine the two, which a couple of us did and then went crazy from there... it's way fun and yummy!
The last thing we didn't spent too much time on, was the pouched pear on top of a cracker. It's also made w/ the pate a choux dough, but it's baked w/ a weight on top of it to achieve the thick cracker look. Frankly, I'm not too excited about that. I've seen pouched pear done in a very nice and easy way that I like better. Plus, by the time we get to that point, I'm all sugared out and I can take it or leave it at that point.
Overall, it's fun to go to these hands on classes w/ Sur La Table, the only thing is that anything leftover in class they go to the staff at the store. In the past, they would allow students to buy containers or bring their own and take them home. But, they recently stopped that practice. So, if you think you get to take some leftovers home, fuggetaboutit. I think it mainly has to to do w/ Health Code and laws. Basically because they are not a full kitchen and is not licensed to sell food, so for them to do that would be a violation. I'm not sure how that's different than Well Done because we were allowed to take some leftovers home. So, who knows. Either way, you should go check it out. They offer a pretty wide array of classes, from couples night to kids and teens cooking classes.
Sur La Table
1996 West Gray
Houston, Texas 77019
tel: 713-533-0959

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Raspberry-Pomergranate Macaron

Ooh ooh, macaron! Oui Oui! Did you know that come March 20th, it's Jour du Macaron. Too bad I don't live in Paris, otherwise, you know I'll go from shop to shop just to have some macs. Actually, NYC has their own version of Macaron Day. And again, too bad I'm not in NY at this time. Boo!
Well, my friend Angie wanted to learn how to make macaron, and I'm dying to use up the raspberry - pomergranted jam, so that's a perfect excuse.

I had done all the prep ahead of time. Just that I've done it so many times that, it's easier if I spread out the prep than try to do them all at the same time. Obviously, the egg white part has to be prep ahead of time, but I sifted the flour a few days ahead of time.

When she got to my place, I really put her to work. We whipped our eggs, folded our flour, piped our macs. Look, look, no cracks!!! I think the trick is definitely use 3 egg whites, one one cup of sugar and flour tant pour tant. Look how beautiful they look?!

The center, we did a chocolate ganache mixed in w/ the raspberry-pomergranted jam. It wasn't too runny, it was 4oz of chocolate, to 1/2 cup of cream w/ butter. It was goooooood! Definitely came out moist and nice on the outside. I recommend you doing it at least once.