Monday, April 30, 2012

Alice's Tea Cup

So one of the request Mom had was to do tea when we're in NY. I searched, I swear.  The first ones came to mind for tea in NY as an out-of-town person would be the Russian Tea Room, Palm Court in the Plaza Hotel. While those are definitely a once in a lifetime experience, we also don't want to be tied down by reservations.

I had found two places that does tea in a casual manner: once was Tea and Sympathy, ran by UK ex-pats.  The other would be Alice's Tea Cup. With a name like that, how can you not want to go in?
You can see that even their menu is Alice in Wonderland themed.  From the funky colors on the wall, to pictures, to quotes painted into the background, everything plays up the tea party. If you ever pay attention, the plates and cups none of them match, which is very Alice of them.  It's very neat, and they have 3 locations, which was convenient for our shopping mission.

They have a food menu with the tea set, and a separate menu just for tea.  The variety they provide is amazing.  I was so overwhelmed that I let our friendly server as our guide.  She helped us narrow down what our mood is good for what.  She suggested Roobios Red Fruit, and a great decision that was.  It is sweet naturally and bring out flavor of our scones.
The tea set, as you can see is more than enough food for two.  They had us picked 3 scones, 2 types of sandwiches, and a dessert.  Can I tell you that on paper it may not sounds like alot, but in reality, it's alot of bread and sugar.
Here's the scone plate. We were able to select 3 types of scones, which are: Chocolate Banana (better than slice bread), Buttermilk Vanilla (their most popular), and Blueberry scone.  First of all, the chocolate banana is not just chocolate chips with random bit of banana in there.  They actually put chocolate chunks and half a banana (ok, maybe a quarter) in there to bake.  So, when you bit into it, you get a real bite of banana, not just a faint taste, or worst flavor or essence of it.  The buttermilk one is very dense, more than I'm used to.  Almost made me regret not getting the pumpkin one.  The blueberry one I knew we can't go wrong, and indeed we were right.
For our sandwiches, we had Watercress Cucumber and Egg Salad.  I just felt that you have to have cucumber sandwiches just to say that you have tea.  The egg salad is really because we haven't had that in years and something to just reminiscence.  Just for kicks, nothing uber special.

For dessert, we were given assorted cookies, and our choice for our dessert was chocolate mousse.  In case you haven't been keeping count, basically, we had bread and bread and left zero room for cookies or the mousse, and unwillingly, we designed our menu to be super dense with flour.  So, even though each of these dishes are super yummy, we just planned it all wrong.

So my tip to you: before you go, check out their menu online, and have an idea of what the selections are.  Plan lightly and not overwhelm yourself.  OR, skip lunch or skip dinner, and you can fully appreciate this meal.  As it should, since the Brits have tea around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, so that they can have dinner at 9pm.  Either way, play accordingly.

Alice's Tea Cup (Chapter II)
156 E. 64th Street
(between Lex & 3rd)
New York, NY 10021
reservation is nice, but not necessary

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dean & Deluca

So after much walking around in the City, a nice place to sit down is a MUST. I've always loved Dean and Deluca. If you ever get to go to the original store in SOHO, it's a real treat, they have their nice cheese section, flowers, prepared food, wine. And their pastry, oh my gosh. I'm getting excited just thinking about it.
Lucky for us, they have tons of locations around the city, and it's exactly what we needed for our tired feet. Right by the Time Square transit, it's at the back from the hub bub.

Their selections of pastry is amazing. They have a sushi bar and definitely a coffee bar. YUM! They also have a fridge of quick grab to-go stuff.

Which is where I found these cute macarons. They also have a few selections at the counter. At this location, they have macarons from Macaron Cafe. And it is a lavender honey macaron. Amazingly, you can smell the lavender and the honey plays second fiddle to the aroma. Every bite was flavorful, definitely a nice treat for a busy walking afternoon.

Dean and Deluca
Time Square Location
620 8th Ave, B.
New York, NY

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chelsea's Market

For any foodie and tourist alike, Chelsea Marketis a must! Not only isMorimotois there. It's also home of alot of goodies. There is an Italian Supermarket, which has the best Prosciutto Expert in their butcher area from Italy that loves photography and camera (another story later). Super nice import everything at Chelsea Market Baskets.
They have fun cookies from Eleni's, super playful cookies good for any party. Also, don't forget Fat Witch Brownies, they are well known in alot of places like Oprah and on Food Network. Oh and yes, Food Network and MLB office in that building too.
Here's a macaron tree at Ruthy's

And they have some neat cakes too.

They have shops that serve soup in bread bowl, crepe, gelato, coffee, thai. They have food you can casually eat at the chairs and tables they have provided in the hallway, or there are couple formal sit down places as well. Occasionally you will find pop-up sample sales too.

Chelsea Market
75 9th Ave (between 15th & 16th Street)
New York, NY 10011

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cha Chan Tang

If you remember the last time I was in NY, I was totally thrilled to have found this place. Cha Chan Tang NY was a nice little hole in the wall that puts a new spin on old Hong Kong favorites. The ironic thing is that these aren't any fancy dishes, it's really like variation of fried rice and Chinese dishes that are Westernized.

An example of a spin on the old favorite is the milk tea. They put the milk tea in a milk jug and put it in a pail with ice. The spin is that, the traditional way, which they do serve, but as you know with any iced drinks, if you nurse your drink the ice will water down your drink. This way you can enjoy all of your milk tea as it's intended. The treat was that they actually use the net (aka hose) to brew the tea, which is really the proper way of making it.
Here we have fried rice with salty dried fish with cubed chicken. Personally, I like it with more salty fish. I know, the faint thought of dried fish disgust alot of people, but truly, you don't even see it, and it's full of flavor.
Here's another Hong Kong favorite. It's actually more of a street fare that brought back childhood memories. These are fish balls (laugh here) with curry sauce. I will say that the taste wasn't as full as I remembered. I'm not sure if it's because the street vendor has these soaked in the curry sauce for a long time versus these are cooked then have the curry sauce poured on top. Maybe the marinating did the trick, but the taste is not close enough. Trust me, I'm not complaining, just the sheer fact that I got to have some is such a treat that I can forget about the details... yum!

Now, don't get discouraged if you get there and there's a wait. There's a wait anytime they are open, breakfast/lunch/or dinner. Sometimes with a smaller party is a quick incentive for a table, but usually expect at least a 15-20 minutes wait. But trust me, it's worth it.

Cha Chan Tang
45 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ruggle's Green

So for a rainy day what else is better than some good o' mac and cheese and a side of mashed sweet potato.
The mashed sweet potato is pretty good, but it has a crust of bread crumb on top. I would say it's a bit more cream than I am used to. The crust bit was a nice touch, nice and crunchy.
In case you don't know, they serve gluten free noodle for those who are allergic. They do have normal pasta too, but why not give that a try? They use quinoa noodles, and it's pretty close to normal pasta texture. The mac and cheese has 5 types of cheese. It has Swiss, mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar, and fontina cheese. To be honest, I can't tell what fontina cheese tasted like, but with the combination with all of them worked for me. It's cheesy for sure. Not as cheesy as the ones I've had at BRC, but at a stromy night, that will do.

Ruggles Green
(River Oaks)
2311 W. Alabama
Houston, TX 77098
you can always call for a take out, actually that's the best way when the parking lot is packed and you don't feel like parking down the street in the neighborhood. Don't forget to get dessert!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lola's - dinner

For a quick dinner, we hopped over to Lola's for dinner.

Not sure if it's because we went there towards closing, or things has changed since the last I was there. This visit in particular wasn't as fulfilling as it once was.

This round, I had the Aloha Chicken without buns with a side of 3 cheese mac. Well, the sauce looked good and tasted good. Too bad the chicken was dried. So even though there's a slice of Swiss cheese to balanced things out, you can't revive a dried chicken.

The mac and cheese is also another disappointment. I'm not sure if it's because I've been spoiled by BRC and Max's Wine Dive, and my taste became more particular or it was really that bad. But even though the name said there's 3 cheese, I can see one and tasted none. Talk about disappointing, since I was drooling looking forward to it. Just felt like I wasted calories. :(

I've had decent experience of their fries and other sandwiches, hope that was a fluke.

Lola's Diner (Heights)
1102 Yale St.
Houston , TX

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dominique Ansel Bakery

So, when I was looking at the macaron map for NY, one of the notable bakery was Dominique Ansel in Soho. It is on Spring Street which is near alot of cool boutiques. Just look for the yellow awning.

They definitely have a wide array of macarons, viennoiserie, cakes, tarts, cookies. But don't be fooled, they also serve breakfast and lunch.

How lovely is this Pistachio Religieuse. I've never seen that before and out of all the yummy cakes and tarts in front of me, this one draw my attention. It's essentially a mini cream puff on top of a bigger cream puff but decorated with pistachio icing and decorated with mini salted pistachios and cream on the side.

If you go to their site, it might be intimidating to see a shotgun style salon as the bakery. But as you go towards the back, you'll see a greenhouse type sitting around where you have a direct view of the pastry chefs making your delectable goodies, and they do have a few tables on the outside, so you can enjoy the weather and watch kids playing in the park.

I know I trekked all the way here and didn't even have a macaron, but they just got too much good stuff in that pastry case and then some, just can't have them all. Tab it for next trip.

Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Spring Street
between Sullivan & Thompson in SOHO
New York, NY 10012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Houston Sushi Club

Honestly, I've heard of Houston Sushi Club a few years back, as introduced to me by my friend Angie. At the time, they have monthly events and the club wasn't as big as it is now. Currently, the club has over 3700 members, the membership is free. You get to sign up for event that fits for you, and for a set price, you get a prix fixe meal.
For our event, it took place in Ginza Japanese Restaurant on San Felipe. Honestly, I haven't been here for at least a decade. Not because of anything hideous, just not in my normal area of dining.
This is Carl, he's the mastermind behind Houston Sushi Club. You can read all about him here. He really learn all that he can about the topic of Sushi and the Japanese culture. Suppose they go hand-in-hand. The club even have groups that travels to Japan annually.
A rare treat, Carl brought us a rare bottle of sake that even the Consul-General of Japan got wind that Carl had access to the bottles that had offered to take them off his hands. Luckily, he kept it for us. The sake is very unique in that it gave off the floral/citrus type aroma, but when you drink it, it has no taste and goes down smooth. Trust me, if you have couple cups of these, you'll the effect, but to go with dinner, a little goes a long way.

We were treated with edamame, gyoza, and shumai. To our starter rolls. We were treated with spicy salmon, which is full of meat and spicier than I'm used to.To something very Texan: like the Crawfish Roll. They had tempura-ed the crawfish and added avocado and lettuce into a roll. Nice and clean way to eat crawfish.

Finally, our entree: assorted sushi from clam to escolar to salmon. As we were enjoying our sushi, Carl entertained us by having a friendly game of sushi trivia. Alot of his questions came from the movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which he helped brought to the Houston market. If you haven't watched that movie yet, they are still playing it at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston till April 22nd.

The movie, while has alot of sushi porn, it is also a story about how to put everything you have into one thing and do it well, appreciate it for what it is and be the best at it. Jiro's life was difficult but worked his way to be appointed by the Emperor as the best sushi chef in the country and the oldest recipient of prestigious Michelin award, this movie makes you realize that you haven't had sushi as it is intended. And that we definitely take what we have for granted.
Last piece of sushi was our sushi challenge. At first glance, it looks like salmon. For you sushi connoisseur, you may think the same too. Look at the marbling and color. But nay, my friends, nay. We were giving a choice of Hokkaido Salmon, Alaskan Char, or Norwegian Trout. It does not have a strong taste like salmon, I've never had char or trout. So it was a shot in the dark for me.

Turns out, it was a piece of trout. How funny that we really eat with our eyes first, and already made up our minds for us.

Last but not least, green tea ice cream to top off the evening.

If you're interested in events like these, join the Sushi Club. It cost you nothing to join. The only thing is you have to watch out when Carl will be announcing upcoming events and be fast about signing up. Events will tell you per person's cost, that usually means he had already arranged with the restaurant to cut you a very good deal that brings alot of food that stuff you silly. Usually it does include appetizer, main course, and a dessert. Of course, you're welcome to buy your own alcohol, they welcome separate checks. As a matter of fact, bring cash to these events to expedite your bill.

Ginza Japanese Restaurant
5868 San Felipe Street,
Houston, TX 77057
(713) 785-0332

Houston Sushi Club
or friend them on Facebook

Jiro Dreams of Sushi runs thru April 22nd. at

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jerry Built

So David has been passing by Jerry Built and have been meaning to try it. I will say, this place is very nice and thought a bit highly of itself. So much so that they have a valet out front. It's curious, because it's like having valet outside of Fuddruckers or worst yet, McDonald's. So strange. I will say this, it is pretty inside, and they do play on the farm to table bit. They do use the local ingredients and use no hormon beef. Their seasoning is good, but if you asked them for no bun, beware, this is what you'll end up with.Well, I did ask for no bun, just didn't realized that they'll put it in a styrofoam bow instead of a plate. I'll take a paper plate.

For the rest of it, the fries are pretty good, I wish they'd be a bit crispier and not so mushy. They do have milkshake that looked enticing, but I'm very much partial to Smashburger's shake. The neat thing Jerry Built has is one of the newer model of coke dispenser. I know you must think I'm crazy to brag about a coke machine, but this is one of the new models that on the front end is nifty and high tech, where you can use their touch screen to get your soda. But on the back end, it helps tally up the user count, and how it can help the place market better in the future. You can catch that segment on CNBC, yes total nerd talk here.

Jerry Built
you can easily miss the building, but not the big bull
3501W. Holcombe Blvd
Houston, Texas 77025

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sushi Wabi

For my birthday, my friend took me to Sushi Wabi. I haven't heard about it, and I'm always up for trying new things.
For appetizer, we ordered fried calamari. It is basically tempura-ed calamari w/ ponza sauce. It's a bit chew-ier than I like, but it's not bad.
The next one that was recommended by our server was the Black Pepper Beef. It's a bit spicier than I like, can't even finish it.
Baked Mussels. It's no different than the ones I've had at Tokyohana.
Butter Ika, whole squid. It's actually much better than the Fried Calamari. I guess I like them grilled than fried.
Here's the highlight of the evening: scallop sashimi. My friend had to called ahead of time and reserved them. They are very fresh, which was to my surprise. Not to mention, the presentation was awesome.
Baked Scallop. I know, talk about having a compare and contrast. Amazingly, the presentation was much nicer on the scallop sashimi, but the baked ones taste much better.
Here's a nice presentation of sashimi. You have salmon, white tuna, and uni.
Look how fresh they are, and the lovely presentation in a rose shaped.
Last but not least, is Fried Ice Cream. It usually is drizzled with chocolate sauce. But this one is really ice cream inside. I only had a small bite, but it's fully battered and too doughy.

Overall, the owner does try to deliver fresh and it is get the job done, but some of the dishes were over shot. I liked that they go above and beyond with presentation, but I think I will wait to try the sushi before I make a verdict.

Sushi Wabi

3953 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77027


Monday, April 16, 2012


Been meaning to check out the Downhouse for some time now. Located in the heart of the shopping district, it is only one street over from 19th Street.
Heard alot of stories about the place. From: they have great brunches, to the twitter debacle (Google that one), to great drinks, and great food.
Sunday special is Sour Sunday, any drinks that are sour are at a discount. They also have a daily beer list on the board, so there's no shy of any alcohol in this place.
I had a vodka, lime and bitters. I forgot the name of it now, but they are quite generous with the alcohol. That said, they are located at the 'dry' part of Heights, so before you can drink, you need to join their 'private club'. It doesn't cost anything to join, just that you have to be part of the club member in order to partake the alcohol they have to offer.
For my meal, I ordered the traditional Belgian food of mussles and pomme frites.
They give you the mayo and ketchup combo. While I've never been a mayo person, this combo worked out surperbly for me. I'm not sure if they have their secret ingrident in the mayo or on the fries, but I'm addicted to those suckers. Plus, that's one of the best drinking finger food ever.

while reservation is not necessary, you may have to wait for a table. Best time to go, Sunday nights.
1801 Yale St.
Houston, TX 77008