Thursday, June 30, 2011

Azuma - Sugarland

To be honest, I haven't properly sit down for dinner at Azuma for a long while. Since they have a location across the street from work, if I do end up going there, it's usually to go. Plus, they know this crowd aside from date night, people don't ask for the delicate, neat appetizers. We are either too busy getting drunk during Happy Hour, or just having a quick bite before a show.

So when friends suggested to go to Azuma in Sugarland, that was definitely an experience. First of all, we don't usually hang out down in that part of town. The other is that, the decor looks interesting and definitely worth checking out just for that.

We ordered the beef appetizer, which is cool because you are given a very hot rock or maybe it's an iron. And you cook your meat on top. Our server advised that it's best to put them in the shape of a triangle and then put the butter inside the triangle, so when it melts, it will disburst into all directions.

I think the grade of the beef cooked in butter really made the taste. Of course, having the sight and sound right in front of you helps enhance the experience too.
I just ordered some nigiri just for tastes. I was really there for the lobster roll, which has tempura lobster which was the real main attraction for me. It's not crispy in the middle, you can taste the meat, but not too strong. I'm a sucker for any lobster roll anyway.
Our server was super attentive. He noticed that David uses gluten free soy sauce and automatically offer more. And every presentation, even though it's just sushi, he made sure from the time it was delivered to the time the plate leaves the table nothing is missed. I definitely appreciate that.

Azuma - Sugarland
15830 Southwest Freeway
Suite 100
Sugarland, TX 77478

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


So our friends C&L came back from South of France and totally missed it. One night they suggest get together and check out this hip spot. Mind you, out of the four of us, none of us are hip enough to go to a hip joint like Philippe. Don't get me wrong, not that we're hip, that's just not our usual go-to spots.

The decor of the restaurant is definitely catered to the yuppie crowd, wait, I think I'm in that category. Food wasn't as grand as I made it up to be in my head, but the presentation was flawless.

For appetizer, we shared the froi gras, and it was not gamey or liver-y. It tasted like a very freshly made pate'.
For entree, I had gotten the Strewn Lamb. It was very filling and the couscouse was delicatable. Apparently, there's pumpkin taste in there, but I didn't tasted that. I did taste the apricot and dates in the couscous.

For dessert, the photo above is the Grand Marnier crepe souffle. Since I know how to make it, the mystery was out for me.
For my dessert, it was an off the menu item. That is a lavender creme brulee with fried banana. It just looked like a deconstructed creme brulee. It does have a scoop of ice cream on top. And a cookie at the bottom with foam on the side. The banana was likely crisped, nothing too fancy or heavy.

Overall, the service was nice and as expected. The crowd is mixed even though the decor indicated that this is to cater to the hip crowd. I think if you enjoy good food, you will enjoy it here. The price overall is not outrageous for the food you get. I wouldn't mind if they give me less food, sounds crazy, but true. Good cuisine.

Philippe's Restaurant
1800 Post Oak Blvd.
Houston, TX 77056
Reservations strongly recommended

Monday, June 27, 2011

Making more macarons

The macaron craze had hit our little circle of friends. One set of friends went to Cannes and came back raved about macaron, and the next thing you know it sparked another set of friends who went to Paris back in Winter reminiscing about their macaron adventure in Paris.

One thing led to another, they were inspired to make macaron. I, a macaron lover, was a tad hestiant, because it's more work than this perfect little cookie led on. These yummy delicious cookies, takes a longer prep time than a novice baker would expect.
I had to explained to them about the aged egg whites, and how to sift the flour and sugar first. After all, I think the trick lies in the fact that the egg whites led to perfect meringue. Then all the gear that helped along the way, not to mention the piping... yep, that takes practice. We went with a basic, no frills ganache recipe, and just did a dark chocolate and a durian flavor with white chocolate. (yes, you read correctly, durian)
I am happy to report that the Mad About Macaron recipe proportion did the trick. I used to do the TNT portion for my base, but the MAM portion has proven to work with different egg whites proportions couple times that I've tried. I am also thankful that my friend's oven was very reliable and did a good job.

One thing we learned, when we dab some water to 'flatten' the peak after piping. Watch how much water is on the cookie, because in the oven, it bubbles and looks like the cookie grew another head.

Give that a shot!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Here we are at Sweet, admiring the macarons.

Patty says they are "nice and soft".

Location:Town And Country Way,Houston,United States


Honestly, I think Toyama is the most overlooked, most understated restaurant situated at the best part of town. Located on Westheimer between Alabama and Shepherd. Of course, the challenge is that there are at least 4 restaurants that serves sushi that I can think of within a 3 miles radius.

Toyama is owned by the same owner that opened Osaka down on Westheimer & Montrose and another location on Holcomb and Stella Link. How you can tell is that when you sit down they immediate dazzle you with tons of freebies.

The first time I went there, I was sitting at the sushi bar. After I placed my order, they brought out a crispy fried yummy goodness (I think it's a stuffed bell pepper). And couple pieces of sushi du jour (see above). But because I was sitting there by myself, the sushi chef took pity and served me some pickled salad of sort. Not to mention, when I was paying my bill, they offered me ice cream w/ a slice of fried banana (the banana is not available at the other Osaka locations).

When I returned w/ family, they still served the crispy yummy-ness, the pieces of sushi and ice cream. So I now learned that when I order to take those into account. The first time, I ordered and ordered because my eyes were bigger than my stomach already, and on top of them serving their complimentary goodies, someone had to roll me out of there.
What I have here is an Osaka Roll for you to drool over. It is crab and mango rolled inside with eel and avocado on the outside. The mango was not so strong that you can't taste the other flavor. But seeing that it has eel and obviously eel sauce to follow, you know it'll be sweet already, so mango flavor got lost there a bit, but it's not all lost.

The other times I order their Lobster Tuna roll which was fresh. I've tried the Houston Roll too, which was spicy because I forgot it has jalapeno in it. Philly Roll you can tell the salmon is fresh. Like I said, understated by the masses. Similar items are served at both Osaka locations, and definitely have the complimentary items for sure!

2802 S. Shepherd Dr.
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 528-8528

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Not too long ago, Groupon was doing a deal with Quattro. I am frankly very surprise because for a high class place like Quattro inside Four Seasons Hotel would do a deal w/ the masses. Honestly, I can understand from the stand point that 'normal' people don't make their way downtown, little to say go to a fancy high class hotel just to go eat there.

Anyway, we thought we'd make a night out of it. Here's the thing about the Groupon or the like for this restaurant. It doesn't matter almost any deal they offer is not going to help w/ the bill. Their price is high and not that they don't deserve it, but I don't feel like I'm getting the most bang for my buck.

I ordered the Anatra, which was roasted duck breast with this sweet and sour sauce. The plating was pretty, the orange slice is actually crispy. The duck has a bit of that crunchy on the sides too. Just wish that the breast was a tad bigger. Figured that I should get a side of veggie just to add a dose of healthy in there somewhere.
I ended up ordering a tiramisu for dessert, and sadly, that wasn't the best dessert I've ever had there. I've had a great creme brulee' there and I'd much recommend that. That bill, my friend teased that my 2 shirley temple was the same price as his Gin Tonic. Yeah, we find that ironic too.

We always tip the total amount of the original tab even if we redeem one of the coupons. In this case, the $30 deal didn't really make a dent. My recommendation, go to Quattro for what it is: a good Italian food w/ innovative cooking style to fuse alot of flavors together. If you wait for one of these coupon deals it's not worth your while. Just save up some dough and go and enjoy it, all 3 courses of it. Or for cheaper version, check out their wine tasting events, weekend brunch, or happy hour.

Quattro (inside Four Seasons Hotel)
1300 Lamar Street
Houston, TX 77010
Reservations is recommended (go on OpenTable and earn points)
They also validate parking

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Eatsie Boys

If you ever decide to do your own food crawl on a Saturday. Westheimer is a great place to be. You can start w/ Melange for some crepe down on Taft. Make your way past Montrose, and head up to Agora and hang w/ the Eatsie Boys.

The deal is pretty sweet, you place your order, pay. You can grab a drink and a seat in Agora (in the A/C), and when your food is done, the boys will bring it to ya. How cool is that? You don't have to stand out there in the heat.

Alright, let's talk food. I had the No Sleep Til Philly, it is essentially thinly sliced ribeye (yum), cheese whiz, onion, chives, on a baguette. The combination of the ingredients came together nicely. Do I need to ingest anything w/ cheese whiz? Probably no, but it sure was good.

The only thing I have 'issue' on, was the baguette, it was too thick and didn't allow a good soaking of that cheese and grease into the bread, which is usually what made it so great. Come to find out they use Slow Dough, which I was just ranting about that yesterday.

Anyhoo, I've tried the Pork Snuggie and Pork Revere from them before. I would definitely recommend the Snuggie any chance I get. They do serve Frank the Preztel when they work the tents at the downtown City Hall Farmers Market on Wednesday. If you want to catch the market better go soon, they are taking a summer break starting June 29th and will not resume until after Labor Day. Also be on the look out for Truck #2 which will be an ice cream truck... can't wait!

Eatsie Boys (food truck)
Go to their site, follow them on FB & Twitter to locate them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Revival Market

A friend from Austin came down to visit and since I had Wurst dog in Austin, I thought it'd be a good idea to take him to Revival Market.

If you've ever been there, it's like a mini farmers market in a store front situation w/ a wide array of meat and spices all from local vendors. As a matter of fact, that is their business model. To provide everything from local vendors, from meat to cleaning products.

That is actually a very good idea because I was watching this YouTube piece from the agriculture ministry of Japan, it resonate the idea that people should eat from their own environment because that is how it was done before and people have less allergies and illnesses which some led to diseases that are hard to treat, thus drive up the medical cost of the country.

The other principle on the-eat-local concept is that we used to get our food from farms, and now everything is machanized, what kind of process have you food been thru before it reach you? This way, from trusted source, get the supplies direct, cut out the middle man, and just go back to the theory of plain good food.

Alright, about the hot dogs, they were Revival Dogs. Here's my thing on the hot dogs. The sausage was awesome, you can taste the good meat that goes into the casing. The bread however left very little for desire.

It was made with Slow Dough. And the thing strange here is that for a loaf of their challah bread, while it's $8, it's great for sandwiches. Their pretzel bread used in the Revival Dog does nothing for the dog. The bread didn't soak up the little greasy bits most hot dogs do. And I'm not comparing it w/ the street vendors in LA. But the bread is just simply too thick to draw out the taste of the sausage.

The sides that goes w/ it is interesting. They offer you pork rind to go w/ the dog, and while the crunchy-ness does help add flavor; for me, that's just a novelty. The ginger slaw is to die for. It's light and not over-empowering by the ginger. As a matter of fact, I would recommend anybody to get this for your summer picnic of party. It's too good not to share. The other was the mixed vegetable. They were all pickled and the batch I got was super fresh and super sour. So much so that it has a kick that kicked my pants from Revival to 19th Street. So unless you're down with that type of flavor. Think twice before going for that.

Is it better than Wurst? No. If they replace the bun and try again, I'm sure that is a battle of the greats. For now, I think I'll keep looking. I would, however, go back for the sausage for home bbq. No thanks on the bun.

Revival Market
550 Heights Boulevard
Houston, TX 77007
(713) 880-8463

Original House of Pancake

About twice a year, we drive up to see Dad, either for brithday/Father's Day/we still remember you type visits. Or Xmas/Chinese New Year/My Birthday/I'm getting a present type visit. We only make it up to Dallas about twice a year. It's a shame too because we've decided that Dallas has better chains than we do in Houston. I mean, think about it. Steak n' Shake, Taco Bueno, and now In and Out burger. Yes, that's our junk food heaven.

The other thing they have that we don't. The Original Pancake House, it's OPH not IHOP. And boy talk about difference in qualities. Their speciality, which has been featured on TV many times is the Dutch Baby. I've never had one because from what I understand it's big enough to share with at least 4-6 people. So, needless to say, haven't had that kind of opportunity.

Either way, it is a great diner type place. And weekend mornings are sure to have a line for a table. I got the peach crepe, wen the easy route. The lovely thing about it is that instead of the French style, you can tell there are eggs on the outside too. They wrapped the peaches inside the crepes, and powdered sugar up a storm, and top more fruit on top of it. It was delish! The juice from the fruit blend w/ sugar and the crepe so well that you don't need any extra syrup to top off the flavor.

Original Pancake House (there are 6 locations in Dallas, and one in Austin)
2301 N. Central Expwy.,
Suite 156
Plano, Texas 75075

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

El Meson

One of our favorite venue in the Rice Village is the El Meson. I think I only go there for the plantain, they make the best plantain around town. But when I sit down, I am reminded how much great food this place has to offier.

I often go between Carne Guisada or Carne Asada (pictured above), or there are times I mix and match with Tapas and make it up as a meal.

El Meson is really an institution for the Rice Village, that place has been at that location for a long time which is really a cornerstone for the entire place. The funky painting and the owner's family photo of their trip of Spain really brings a comfortable feeling. Nothing too fancy or stuffy, it's quirky just like everybody's family.

The Carne Asada was grilled meat with a side of rice and of course a side of plantain. The meat was grilled with garlic and you see little bits of it on the meat too. That brings out the flavor and kick. It also come with a side of beans and a side salad. Honestly, as big of an appetite as I do, that's just too much food because as these Spanish restaurants often offer, chips and salsa. Stuffed!

If you ever in the mood for stew type dish, try the Carne Guisada. It's a nice and warm your tummy (umm... maybe in the winter). But aside from that, their tapas are worth trying... sharing or not. I often get the Tortilla Espanola (it is a cold potato omelet), and the Pinchos with the lime. That's pork tenderloin w/ the lime and amazingly it's not over-empowering the taste buds.

El Meson
2425 University Blvd.
Houston, Texas 77005
Tel. (713) 522-9306

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cafe 101

Often times I bug David to go to Cafe 101 with me. I'm addicted to their fried cod fish for some reason. I think the atmosphere helps too. This is like Sushi Raku where you eat the atmosphere. Except, this place, aside from the modern decor, part of the atmosphere are cute young Asian girls in short skirts. Yep, that's part of their schtick. Not cutesy like Royal T in LA, but in a very Flying Saucer kinda way.

On to the menus... like most restaurants they give you 2 menus, one is for drinks and one is for food. You will find that the drink menu is much larger with more variety than the food menu. Although, nowadays they are catching on both. And these drinks are not the alcoholic variety, they're smoothie, fruit juice, and spins on those and yes, they do have bubble tea too.

The food menu has tons of stuff, from sushi to traditional Chinese dishes, to random things that people had forgotten but loved from their home t0wn, wherever that maybe. They have hotpot, soup, noodles, even omlette.

The one above is the beef and bak choy, it's very no frills type of dish, but the sauce is addictive. Each of the larger dish like that comes w/ a bowl of rice, an eggroll, a side of vegetable (range from kimchi to sauteed or seasoned veggies) and a small 'dessert' of some sort. Sometimes they give you mi-low, some times it's pudding, so that's varies.

Just their snacks are good enough to make it into a meal. And they catered to parties large and small just fine.

Cafe 101
9889 Bellaire Blvd #101
Houston, TX 77036

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sushi Raku

Ok, back to normal food!

One of the restaurants that has been showing up on Groupon, LivingSocial, Grouby, MyDailyDeals is sushi raku. It's so easy to take advantage of their deals for good food places. I'd do it again and again.

The thing about Sushi Raku is that you felt like you're eating the decor. Of course, not phyiscally, but it's more like their reason to charge you more because of their decoration instead of their food.

What we found was funny is that every time we get there, inevitably, the hostess will ask if we have a reservation. We take one quick survey, there are plenty empty seats to be had. So, that made her statement with little to no power at all. Although, side bar here: if you are a member of Open Table, it is a good way to rack up some points.

I had the Dragon tea (above) and it's definitely much like a fruit punch but with alot of kick. It's definitely a grown up drink. The beauty of it is that they're consistent every time they make the drink, it's only after drink # 2 that you realize you're drunk. Haha.

I had the dragon roll, and it was pretty good. I think some of it was spicy, and that can be lessened, but I do encourage all date or non-date people to sit at the bar. Our service was excellent sitting right in front of the sushi chef, and they made sure we got what we need even waved down someone to help. So, for that I'll definitely go back.

Sushi Raku
3201 Louisiana Street
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 526-8885

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Frank's Chop House

Apologies for the horrible photos, but I swear it does not reflect on the taste of the food themselves... Will work on that better next round.

So the hub wanted to go to Frank's for dinner. I've heard of it, driven by it, never thought of stopping, just didn't grab me like some other chophouses do.

That said, the food tells a whole different story. I had ordered a cheese souffle, it was a parmesan cheese souffle paired w/ arugula with a parmesan chip at the bottom of the souffle. The dressing was a thin vinegarette, so it paired up nicely and lightly.

For the entree, I ordered a 6oz filet and it came w/ mashed potatoes, mushroom, and horseradish cream. The filet was good, not the best filet I've ever had, instead of mashed potatoes I took the up charge and replaced it w/ au gratin (hence the picture above). The horseradish was too zingy, did nothing for me.
Here's my thing about this place, it's very much targeted for more matured audience. I think a bunch of teenager going to prom happen to find an opening for a fancy dinner and they were the youngest in the restaurants, but otherwise, I dare say that my husband and I were the youngest next to those kids.

I also didn't know that Frank the owner was there, and he was promoting his homegrown tomatoes. Apparently, that's quite a popular hit w/ the regulars, because almost everyone stopped by the table and purchase them pound after pound. I am surprised at this because right across the street is Rice Epicurean and catty corner is Central Market, so those tomatoes must be special.

The other fact I didn't know was that Frank the owner also owns Crapittos, Cucina Italian down the street on Midlane and Westheimer. I'm more incline to try that place as the setting is more catered to business crowds in the Galleria area, versus Frank was catering to older generations in the neighborhood.

Frank's Chophouse
3736 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77027

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My macarons

So, after all those classes, I was inspired to do a batch myself. As you know, in the past, I had various success, well, at least the ones I showed you anyway. So, in hope of not making too many failed ones, I divided up my egg whites into 2 batch and went to town.

My mom recently went to a lavender farm an hour or so outside of Houston. And she brought back culinary lavender for me. She thought I was supposed to crush them and blend it into the cookie shells. I thought it was a good decoration on top of the cookies.

Anyway, the cookies came out nicely. The color didn't get to the point I liked, I had put in a bunch of purple gel, but after baking it, not only was it burnt a tad, it looks like salmon color... too strange. Guess I needed more.

The other thing too is that I went away from the recipes from the 2 classes. I know, defeat the purpose of taking those classes, but it's not true. I learned the difference of using an all powdered sugar method and got new flavor recipes.

I used the Mad About Macaron recipe. The proportion between almond meal and powdered sugar is different and I think that worked out pretty well.
For the chocolate, I substituted 2/3rd of the almond meal w/ cocoa powder, and it taste and looks like it's supposed to. And as I learned from SLT, cocoa powder absorb some of the moisture, so while it does take a little longer to form a 'skin' on top, it does bake better than a plain almond meal based cookie.

Also, w/ the puree idea I got from WDCC, I went to the store hoping to find some pre-made puree. And instead, I was delighted to find Central Market has pre-made caramel and puree ready for purchase. You can find them at the pre-made cake section. I guess that's a nice garnish to have when you serve your cake.

So I mashed up chocolate w/ caramel (no salt), and I matched the lavender w/ Nutella, because I'm lazy to find another one. Although, I supposed I could've melted some white chocolate and put some raspberry puree w/ them. Next time!

Unfortunately, I think the next time would have to be Fall as Houston get more and more moisture and heat, which are enemies of macaronnage. I am going to play w/ the Italian style of making mac, we'll see how that goes. ;)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Macaron Class - SurLaTable

So, as the macaron week goes, here's my review for the class taken at Sur La Table.

First of all, disclaimer, I have had lessons from Sur La Table before, as a matter of fact the same teacher. And I like the teacher alot. She has alot of skills in French cooking/baking, and she has also worked w/ big name restaurants and internationally known hotel chains. So, needless to say, in terms of experience, she has plenty. And her skills are working skills that is definitely in use in the practical world instead of the theory/school world.

That said, I've had another macaron class from her and this store before. I find that tips were very helpful. Overall, I would say, I was never disappoint in this class. I know that the teacher not only has working knowledge, she herself had made these on a regular basis to know how to troubleshoot problems.
Luckily, not alot of problems to be had. Lesson still covered the basic principles of making this type of finicky cookies, and she made it looked effortless. Also helpful that every question I asked (usually are issued I've encountered and failed), she was able to offer good ways to either counter-act or troubleshoot. I love that!
The next question, naturally is of course, why would you take another class if you've already done it? It's the same teacher, same place, what is there to learn that you don't already found out from your failure attempts. Well, of course, I want the different recipes. I will say that I've worked so much to just make the shell perfect that I often forget the filling. Of course, I was too lazy too, that doesn't help. So, learning new recipes to keep things fresh. And the other reason is of course I can ask all the questions I want.
This class we made Banana Custard Cream mac, Hazelnut shell with praline buttercream, pistachio with chocolate ganache, and chocolate w/ salted caramel. Of course, after learning that I can buy the caramel premade at Central Market, I'm not very motivated to do it the long way. It's definitely a good to know, but chances of me making that at home is slim. It takes alot of skill on that one, and maybe I'll cheat for the time being.

The class is so well received that they often have to have a wait list to sign up, and for that reason, they are adding new classes and also bringing back their 2nd in the series. I highly recommend taking a class.

Sur La Table

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Macaron Class - Well Done Cooking

This week is going to be more or less Macaron week, so please don't kill me. Hee, hee... it's just an obessession, I swear we'll go back to normal food next week. So, as a Macaron week goes, I'll review couple of classes I've taken, and couple of attempts I've made as a compare and contrast type piece.

I have been begging Kat at Well Done cooking to do a macaron class for quite sometime. I think the catalyst of her finally doing a class is from their trip to Paris. They went to Pierre Herme's and got some awesome macarons, and I think from then on, they were sold!

While they thought a class like that no one would sign up for it, they had a full house. So, all of my nagging paid off. We ended up making 3 types of macs. We did the Raspberry, Chocolate, and passionfruit.

Here's the thing about a class like this: I've 'taught' my friends before (and I use that word loosely), and there's alot of prep work even before they arrive. Just having made these cookies several times, I know. You have to aged the eggwhites, the receipes we used in class were based on Pierre Herme's book, and they asked for 2/3 aged and 1/3 new egg whites. You have to sift all the powdered suger and almond meal. It's kinda deceiving to tell students how easy it is.

That said, having done this several times on my own, I do appreciate additional tips and tricks from a trained pastry chef than having to go thru the trials and tribulations. At one point, Kat, knowing that I've done this, even asked if I was learning anything.

I will say this, taking a class from a cooking school is always nice. Someone already done the prep work, and someone is cleaning up after you. But just to prove that all macarons are created equal, our team's 1st batch came out beautifully, 2nd batch totally flatten out, and 3rd batch came out fair.

What I learned that I didn't know:

You can use all powdered sugar as opposed to part powdered sugar and part granulated sugar. (In case you don't know, we use the granulated sugar to help whip the egg whites)

Sipat does make it turn out better, although I'm not entirely sold just yet. This is as opposed to using parchment paper. But if you do end up using parchment paper, I find that the Pampered Chef ones are pretty good. (Disclaimer: I am not a hostess/demostrator/sales person for them, it is really good for making macarons.)

You can buy puree instead of having to make it yourself.

How to make inverted sugar, so you don't have to buy corn syrup.

Of course, learning how to plate them is pretty cool too!
What I find they can improve on:

Asking only experienced bakers to sign up is helpful, but not sure how you can control that.

Having another teacher to help w/ this delicate cookie would be great. While not much about the mixing techniques were discussed, I think that's why our second batch fell flat because some of the ladies didn't understand that this is meringue, and if you squish them while you're mixing the batter w/ the egg white, you do take something out of that mix.

Have more troubleshooting tips would be cool. There were so many ways to screw up macarons that it's deceiving to lead the students to think that it's so easy to do at home. There are so many factors that can ruin a good batch.

I think just having more experience teaching this would help too... so have more classes. Ok, that one is for selfish reason, but still true.

Well Done Cooking