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All things food

not your typical spanish fare either

5555 Washington Ave., Ste. A
Houston, TX 77007

4/5 big beefy bone marrows

In continuing our attempt to relive our honeymoon gastronomically, John decided to take me out on a spontaneous dinner date. We’ve heard two of our friends claim this place to be in their top five, so naturally, we gave it a try. Since half of our honeymoon was in Barcelona, which is part of Catalonia, I was looking forward to reminiscing over some familiar foods. We arrived right before the dinner rush at about 6:45 and were not turned away nor did we have to wait despite our lack of a reservation. (We were, however, seated near the back at a table with wrinkly linens. But this didn’t bother us–we were there for the food.)

The menu is extensive, and everything sounded delicious albeit unfamiliar–there was no mac ‘n cheese in Barcelona as far as I could recall. Our waiter could not recommend any particular dish, saying “everything’s great.” Thanks for the help, buddy.

We ended up ordering three appetizers and one main dish to share. The plates were brought out one by one; we were not presented with the next until we were done with the previous. This aided in a slow dining pace which I enjoyed because it allowed for full concentration on one dish at a time. Our entire dinner conversation consisted of how the food looked and tasted–we felt like true critics.

The first plate was crab croquettes ($12) with a lemon zest sauce dribbled over it. A croquette is a small deep-fried little ball of goodness usually containing some variation of protein (meat or seafood), vegetables, dairy (cheese, eggs, etc.), and herbs. It is wrapped in bread crumbs before frying. Croquettes, which come from the word meaning “to crunch” in French, are originally from France but have since popped up all over the world. At Catalan, we oiriginally ordered pork croquettes but were told they had just been placed on the menu that night and were not ready. John and I exchanged glances. It didn’t seem very professional to print things on the menu only to disappoint your customers. Nevertheless, thinking back to the chicken croquettes I had at Paco Merlago (more on this later), I knew I wanted croquettes.

Crab croquettes

Crab croquettes with lemon zest

The croquettes were tasty but nothing to rave about. We thought it would be better if there was more lump crabmeat inside and less of the creamy filling. The lemon zest sauce added an interesting citrus twist to the flavor, but call me old-fashioned because I think I prefer a traditional croquette. I do commend the chef for trying something different. If it’s any consolation, I am not much of a fan of anything with lemon flavor, e.g. candy, cookies, pies.
The next dish was the bone marrow ($14) which is spread on a slice of toast and topped with a pickled onion. This was my first time to ever have bone marrow, and I must say, this dish blew me away. It tasted even better than foie gras. There is something delightfully rich about each bite. The marrow was salty, and its marriage to the pickled onion was perfect. John and I could not stop swooning over this dish.
Bone marrow

Awesome bone marrow with pickled onion on toast

Our last of the appetizers was the seared foie gras ($18) which was dressed in a blueberry jelly. John enjoyed the salty and sweet complexity (probably a testament to his love of PBJs), but I found the jelly too sweet. I like to taste foie gras for its fatty, substantial essence, and so to add anything that overpowers the foie gras usually results in disappointment for me.
Foie gras

Foie gras with blueberry sauce

Finally, our entree arrived: Bryan’s farm-raised fried chicken with redneck mac ‘n cheese and watermelon pickles ($24). I always judge fried chicken on its battered skin, and this fried chicken was pretty damn good. It tasted of a lot of herbs, and I like that (I like KFC’s original recipe, what can I say?). Even the white meat was fairly juicy. Redneck cheese, we were told, is a particular cheese from Texas. It tastes like a sharp cheddar to me, but not too pungent. It made the mac ‘n cheese taste like home cookin’ with a gourmet kick. I tried a bite of the watermelon pickles just to try it. It wasn’t too tart and tasted refreshing, but because John is much more of a watermelon and pickle fan than me, I gave him all of it. I’m sure he was glad to have more to himself.

Fried chicken

Our main dish: gourmet Southern comfort food

John had a $12 glass of cabernet sauvignon, and after tax and tip, we ended up spending an even $100. Don’t get us wrong–we are typically cheapos, and this was much higher than we were expecting to pay for a Friday night dinner, but we are still newlyweds and still splurging on our dates. But I do think $100 for 3 appetizers and a shared entree with only one glass of wine is pretty high. Catalan is great, but for that price, we still prefer Mark’s. But because of the heavenly bone marrow and I give it four out of five big beefy bone marrows.

Disclaimer: I know the photos posted on this entire blog are sub-par, but for what it’s worth, either I (a blind person) am taking the photo, or we’re using an iPhone and not a nice camera. So please excuse the mess. I’m sure you can understand the Blind Cook’s blog won’t be the most visually appealing.

french provencal mixed with texas home cookin’

Mockingbird Bistro
1985 Welch St.
Houston, TX 77019

4/5 truffle fries

American kobe burger with foie gras and truffle fries

Chilean sea bass with vegetables

Our July Supper Club was spent at this quaint bistro in the eclectic Montrose neighborhood. I picked the spot because I’d heard of the name in passing before and happened to see them on the summer sale where $25 coupons were going for $2. (Per my previous Chick-Fil-A post, you know I’m a sucker for discounts.)

Before ordering, a small plate of beef carpaccio was set on our table. “From the chef,” the waiter said. It was like nibbling on a little bit of heaven and did its job of whetting our appetites.

We decided to skip additional appetizers and go straight to the entrees. Two of us ordered the American Kobe beef burger with foie gras and truffle fries. Another two ordered the fish special which was Chilean sea bass with vegetables. And I ordered the meat special which was a beef filet in red wine sauce with vegetables.

Those who had the burger said it maybe one of the best burgers they’d ever had. The foie gras accompaniment apparently made all the difference. The truffle fries came with what seemed like a aioli sauce, or at least that perfectly spiced mayo condiment that the French love dipping their potatoes in. Those that ordered the sea bass claimed it was cooked just right: tender and juicy. As for my filet, I very much enjoyed the first several bites but found it slightly oversalted after that. I suspect it was in the sauce. Regardless, I mopped up my plate and then just downed two glasses of water.

For dessert, we all shared the torte and bread pudding. A torte is a cake made mostly of eggs, sugar, and ground nuts instead of flour. Both were delicious.

None of us had leftovers which meant: a) the portions were perfectly well thought out, and b) the food was delicious enough that we finished it all. The bistro itself was small in size, a marking of a true European bistro. This is no surprise considering Executive Chef and owner John Sheely has spent much of his career cooking up food from the likes of the French Riviera. At Mockingbird, he combines his Texas roots with Provencal fare in his French-American comfort foods. Since its opening in 2002, Mockingbird Bistro has had numerous accolades and rave reviews. I’m following suit.

The restaurant does, however, have a reputation for slow service, but it wasn’t until we waited for our check that it became apparent. But in their defense, the computer had trouble applying the coupon to a split check. (Hrm?) I give this place 4 out of 5 truffle fries and would definitely return.

$2 thursdays at luby’s

If you read about me, you would know that I don’t believe good eats always equate with expensive eats. This is why I’m not ashamed to put it out there that I love Luby’s! I recall the days of girlhood when my immigrant parents, who had no idea how to roast a Thanksgiving turkey, would order our holiday meals from Luby’s. And during the other times of the year, my mom would take me to the cafeteria after either my piano lesson or a long day of shopping. I would always get the Lu Ann Platter (a half portion entree served with two vegetables and a bread of choice) with fried chicken, corn, and either mashed potatoes or mac ‘n cheese, the dinner roll with extra butter, an iced tea which I drowned with ten packs of sugar, and (if my tooth was feeling extra sweet) a serving of strawberry Jell-o. Back then, the Lu Ann Platter ran us only a few dollars, but prices have since gone up. That’s why I appreciate the $2 Thursdays at Luby’s where you can get a chicken fried steak or a fried fish for just two singles. You can bet I’m going to round up my fellow Luby’s fan club friends one of these upcoming Thursdays and relive the magic of cafeteria childhood.

And here’s an interesting tidbit: The Lu Ann Platter is the inspiration for the same named character on “King of the Hill,” a redneck TV show created by Mike Judge which was based on real people he knew while he lived in Texas. Judge is also known for making “Beavis and Butt-Head” and the Office Space movie. On “King of the Hill,” Lu Ann Platter is Hank and Peggy’s niece who moved in with the family after her mother stabbed her father with a fork, and their trailer was capsized. The late Brittany Murphy played Lu Ann’s voice for several seasons. At first, I couldn’t stand the show because it stereotyped Texans–I’ve had more than one person ask me if Texans were like that–but after watching a few episodes, I found myself laughing aloud. Give it a try some time. They’re syndicated on FOX; check out the showtimes here.

didn’t get to try everything on your houston restaurant week list?

There are rumors that many of the participating restaurants have decided to extend their HRW menus until Labor day (September 6). Originally, HRW was scheduled to end tomorrow, August 21, but now we get the chance to try out even more restaurants. Personally, I’m not sure if I can handle any more of the dents in our wallets. We did, however, get to try four of the venues (reviews to come). Some were great, some terrible. At least we know some of the money is going to a good cause.

So as I type this, it hasn’t been confirmed on the official HRW website yet. But can anyone say for sure if some venues are indeed extending the HRW?

$1 coffee & tea smoothie at jamba juice

There is something about Jamba Juice that increases my willingness to part with multiple dollars for an un-fancy orange juice. Maybe they slip something into my drinks. Or what about that matcha green tea smoothie? Yum.

But today, let’s try something different. For today only, you can get coffee and tea smoothies at $1 a pop. No coupon needed; just go right up to the counter and order.

Thanks to Heari (a.k.a. love.sewn) for the tip. Keep ‘em com’in’, guys.

rvfc better than kfc?


To eat or not to eat?

I came across a Twitter feed yesterday that said a San Francisco chef created RVFC–red velvet fried chicken. It’s exactly what it sounds like: chicken dipped in red velvet cake batter, tossed in red velvet crumbs, and then deep fried. The fact that this super- healthy combo exists does not surprise me. What surprised me is that it was invented in San Francisco and not Houston.

And because no red velvet ccupcake is complete without cream cheese frosting, this RVFC is served with a side of cream cheese infused garlic mashed potatoes. You can order up a plate of RVFC at American Cupcake. As crazy as it sounds, I bet it’s pretty delicious. How can you go wrong combining two of the best flavors: the savory saltiness of fried chicken and the sweet glory of red velvet? I would try this in a heartbeat and then head over to the hospital for an angioplasty. How about you?

buy 1 chipotle now, get 1 free chipotle later

In the land of gargantuan burritos, Chipotle wins the taste test hands down. I think it’s better than some of their competitors (here’s a hint: they rhyme with “Treebirds” and “Tission Turrito”). Some say it’s the corn, others say it’s the marinade in the meat. Whatever it is, I can’t believe it’s a company owned by McDonald’s. Who knew that red-haired clown could whip up such a mean burrito?

Today and tomorrow, if you purchase a burrito or burrito bowl from Chipotle and save the receipt, you can redeem it this weekend for the same order. Here’s the coupon. Thanks to Joanna again for her cheap eat finds.

free chick-fil-a at memorial city mall

Who says nothing good in life is free? With today’s economy, we want all the free stuff we can get.

Here is a coupon to get a free Chick-Fil-A spicy sandwich at Memorial City Mall on I-10 and Gessner.

Chick-Fil-A has got to be my favorite fast food joint. I always get the #1 with a lemonade. Those chicken sandwiches are so succulent. And those waffle fries provide the right crunch. Yum! My tummy is churning just writing about it.

Thanks to Joanna for sending me this. Now hurry–the coupon expires toward the end of August.

houston restaurant week 2010

It’s that time of year again. Every August, Houston celebrates Restaurant Week, which inevitably has practically turned into Restaurant Month. Starting this Sunday, August 1, participating restaurants will offer a three-course dinner for only $35 per person and donate $5 from each dinner to the Houston Food Bank. This is a great way to dine at restaurants you’ve been meaning to try at what is often a fraction of the regular menu prices all the while contributing to a good cause. Something new that HRW is doing this year is also offering a two-course lunch for $20 and donating $3 of each lunch to the Food Bank. This will be only the third year I’m taking advantage of the HRW opportunities, but I’ve always enjoyed the experience. Last year, I went to Brenner’s Steakhouse, and the year before, Del Frisco’s. Not sure what I’ll try this year, but you can bet I’ll blog about it. To view participating restaurants, click here. HRW is only going on until August 21 so gather your friends and make reservations soon.

the cheapest beers in houston

6100 Main St.
Houston, TX 77005
5/5 pints

I love dive bars, smart people, and cheap drinks. I got all three at Valhalla, a hole-in-the-wall bar located in an old chemistry building on the Rice University campus. We only happened upon this place thanks to a friend of ours who is a Rice alumnus. There is practically no free parking, but it seems the thing to do is just park alongside the road and leave your hazards on. We were skeptical at first but saw several other cars with their headlights blinking, so we decided why not? When in Rice…

In Scandinavian mythology, Valhalla–old Norse for “hall of the slain”–is a majestic hall in Asgard ruled by the god Odin. Inside isn’t majestic, but instead feels like a cozy bunker with its windowless walls and cavernous ceiling. Music just depends on whose iPod happens to be hooked up to the speakers at the moment; Bob Marley, Cat Stevens, and the Cure all got a chance at the airwaves during our visit. The crowd consists of mostly graduate students–there are probably more intelligent conversations per capita at Valhalla than any other bar in Houston. But despite all its charm, the best thing about Valhalla has got to be the prices.

We had one soda (that’s me–you didn’t think I’d be drinking so soon after chemo, did you?) and five beers (and I’m talking none of that Michelob Light bullshit, but rather Guinness, microbrewed (512), locally brewed St. Arnold’s kind of stuff) for–get this–$12. You can’t beat those prices.

The beer is cheap because it’s a non-profit bar; bartenders are all voluntary students, and the money goes back into Rice grad programs. There are tables outside in case the weather’s nice, but funny thing is Valhalla isn’t open Saturday nights when perhaps the peak of weekly drinking happens. So if you don’t mind the odd hours, the skimpy parking, and the lack of hard liquor on the menu, Valhalla is an awesome neighborhood bar that’s definitely off the beaten path. I give this place five out of five pints.

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