Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sweet & Savory (picture heavy)

Smoked Harrison Hog Farm Belly, homemade pickle, with homemade hoisin sauce on top of a fluffy steam bun by Eatsie Boys

I am super duper behind, so... instead of telling you stuff you probably don't care, I'll let you feast on the photos. I will label the pictures so you know what the heck you're looking at.

Just a quick note, this is a benefit for Lucky Dog Rescue, which Rebecca Masson from Fluff Bake Bar organized. It was good. Most people were there for the food, which makes me feel really bad because the couple next to me was there for the dog rescue. WHICH! I do care, but my tummy took over, what can I say?

Next is Clams Revival Salumi, Spring Leeks, Peas, and Rice by Ryan Pera of Revival Market

Then we have Smoked Pork Sopes, Chipotle Tomao Jam, Pickled Red Onions, Avocado Cojita Cheese by Jason Gould (formerly Gravitas, now Cyclone Anaya's)

Then we have Barely Buzzed Cheddar, Toasted Lavender Meringue, Nasturtium, and Chicory by Seth Siegl-Garnder from Kata Robata

The last of it, the far left was Pretzels, Chocolate, Beer, Mustard, Cream Cheese, Peanut by Philip Speer of Uchi & Uchiko

The middle is Rebecca Masson who did the organizing of the event and did the pistachio macaron w/ rhubarb ice cream with dried raspberry.

Not pictured (cuz I ate it before taking one) was the Tainori Ganache, Caraway, Buckwheet, Lemon & Carmel by Chris Leung of Bootsie's Heritage Cafe.

This definitely a great exposure of different food and different styles in one sitting. The only thing I didn't care for was the pretzel w/ beer, chocolate and mustard. I understand how at a bar, somehow those things come together, but on a lovely dessert plate, it was confusing to my taste buds.

Of course, you can catch all these great chefs at their natural settings be it movable or not. Watch out for the next event in October!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Macaron experient part 1

If you've ever tried to make macarons at home, you'd know that when you separate the egg whites from the yolk seems wasteful because let's face it, how many creme brulee' or hollandaise sauce can you make when you're already pre-occupied w/ the macarons.

I know I'm not the only one to think that there's got to be something in the market that accommodates this issue.
The problem is that, most of the egg whites only products are pasturized, which makes it hard, if not, impossible to whip up the egg whites, and create that perfect stiff peak (yes, insert jokes here).

Let me tell you how this is NOT easy to do w/ non-real egg whites. First of all, as I mentioned before because of the pasturized products, the closest one that comes to it is Eggology.

Then, whatever guidelines they have told you on the side of the container about how many tablespoon is equivalent to real egg whites is not true when it comes to this project.

I basically added 3 more tablespoon of it in compable to the real egg whites. Also, parked next to real egg whites, you'll soon realize the difference. I say this because when I pour out the egg whites and about to get the real ones, I was wondering how I can tell them apart. Well, you can. Look at the first picture, the clear one is the real one, the murky one is the Eggology.

The Eggology took longer to whip over all. It was a little longer to get it foamy before I can add the sugar in to whip it up. Also, when I finally got some-what of a stiff peak, it's not stiff all the way. I would not go as far to say you can't over whip this, but it'll take a little longer than real egg whites.

Of course, then the problem is, when you pipe them out they're runny and spread as they sit. I've got several stuck together, not pretty.

Once they came out of the oven... poor things, they are fragile as heck. They're cooked appropriately, not under cook, but when you tried to lift it, it crackles and even crumbled. Sad face!

Here's me attempting to make bunny shaped macs for Easter... poor thing only look onto one side because of the spread. I had piped over 40 and only these survived... what does that say?

I will tell you, though, the tasters all loved the taste. It does deliver that moisture you want when you bite into it. Unfortunately, it just didn't 'stand up' as you would hope for it to do. That's ok... we have another batch.

Monday, April 11, 2011

El Real -ly?!

So with so much hype and anticipation, I talked David into going to check out El Real with me. On a Sunday night, I must say the joing was jumping. We already intentionally get there after 8p but it was not any better. Luckily the wait was not long. I liked what they did to the space. If you have been around the Houston area long enough, at one point or another, you may have pass thru this awesome looking old theatre space that was home to Hollywood Video. You can tell once it was a glorious theatre and now well... it's a video store.

Now, you walk in, the space is clean and tidy, with a large screen and several smaller flat screen playing Spaghetti Western of some sort. It's kitchy but not really necessary. Although, for big games like NCAA or Super Bowl, I can see that it'll be a popular spot to be.

The team consisted of Bill Floyd, Bryan Caswell (of Reef, Stella Sola, and Little Bigs to fame) and author and food critic Rob Walsh. At first, the idea of having 2 very established restauranteur and famous chef that has 3 already great establishment plus a food critic seems to be a fool proof formula for a great restaurant.
Sadly, not sure if it was because we were there their 3rd week of operations or the team spread too thin, the food was nowhere to par. I understand it's not Pappa's or Ninfa's type of Tex Mex, but having eaten at Stella Sola, Reef, and Little Bigs, I would say those flavors are on par and exceed expectations. There are dishes from SS that made my tummy happy. However, with their Tex Mex spin it was more ordinary for the hype and the noise people made.

Usually, when I go to a place I've never been before, I ask the server what's their popular dish. I know they have their personal favorite, which they'll never tell you whatever dish is not good, right? But I was also hoping he'll sell me on a dish too. Basically, he said having the puffy taco can't lose. Fine, I'll try it. The other dish we ordered was the original enchilada plate.

Here's the thing, the puff taco is a novelty thing. I've never had a taco where the shell is like a clam shell. However, I also did not expect the ingredients inside would be dry. Out of the 3 options of chicken, pulled pork, or beef, I had the chicken and the pork. In the chicken, it was a layer of beans, a layer of pulled chicken, tons of lettuce, some tomato, and no sauce. Ok... maybe that's how it was intented to be eaten. Urm... it was dry dry dry. Then on to the pulled pork. I loved pulled pork by several restaurants in town, Little Bigs included, so I must say I have some preconceived notion going in. Well, it's more moist than the chicken, but it wasn't as flavorful as it can be. I would say, if there's a bare minimum, the meat was a notch less than that.

The original enchilada plate was ok. My favorite part of a plate like that, usually, is the sauce with the rice. Well, the sauce looked good, it looked like it has a good amount of cheese and mixing w/ the sauce, it looks great to go with anything. Sadly, that was a disappointment as well. The sauce wasn't as great as it looked. As a matter of fact, it was rather tasteless.

I've seen some review where people claimed that this is like the vintage/original Tex Mex. So, either they really think that, or places like Chuy's or Pappa's overinflate the taste so you keep going back. Either way, El Real doesn't strike any notes with me. Spoke with a friend who went on her own and she felt that the food was nothing to write home about either. The margarita was good, but the dessert (all 3 to choose from) was only so-so.

Like I said, maybe there are kinks they haven't worked out. But don't take my word for it. For try it for yourself and see what you think.

El Real Tex Mex
1201 Westheimer(at Yoakum)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Central Market w/ Hugo's Dessert Chef

So, back in February... yes, I'm that far behind. Back in Feb, a co-worker and I went to Central Market for a cooking class. Now, I've done a hands-on cooking class, and I felt that everything was timed well and while they have some confusion from time to time, having all the assisting chefs helps ease alot of stress. This time, is not a hands-on class. This time, it is with the dessert chef of Hugo's - Ruben Ortega. It was very neat because while he's shy, he also shined with his pastry skills. He took us dish after dish. The sight, the sound, and not to mention the smell of all the deliciousness. And yes, this was February when weather was cooler and it was primed chocolate making season. He was very candid, and any silly questions we had he was willing to answer. I think as a matter of fact, he was surprised how little questions to threw at him. I think on one hand, we were intimidated by someone who has all sorts of accolades, design desserts for 3 different Houston restaurants (all of which are institutions of Houston), and consult on other menus. Ruben had also studied w/ Chef Eddy Van Damme as well as the Culinary Inst of America. That said, he took us thru tips and tricks of his traits. Of course, one of them being using the finest ingrediants, which is not necessary accessible to everyone. But he did say that CM does carry alot of stuff he would use at his own personal kitchen. Of course, truly, having that connection to get the finest cocoa directly imported from Mexico does set them apart. By the way, ask when they are grinding the cocoa for the shop. They do that in house one day and make the sauces another. The aroma, as you can imagine must be scrumptious. Like I said, we went thru dessert upon dessert that night, I really appreciated him opening sharing pie crust tricks, cutting marshmallow tricks (which if you hadn't tried it already, it worked very well). We learned how to make creme fresh and pouch our pear. So, even though this is not hands on, it was a good experience where you get a free for all Q and A. Of course, not to mention all the food you get to sample. Check your local Central Market for cooking classes info: http://www.centralmarket.com/Cooking-School.aspx