Thursday, September 30, 2010

What Ales You?

Monthly Feature
Wayne and Leah give us the skinny on beer.

Greetings Mighty Rib readers. We will be writing writing a once monthly take on beer. Some months we will focus on multiple types of beers in one review i.e. lager, ale, stout and other months we will do one or multiple beers from a region. At times we will offer our opinion on a possible pairing the reviwed beverage with a specific meal.

For this entry we will focus on something simple, available in every store across America.

Miller High Life

Overall Taste: The huge American brewers are famous for producing large amounts of a product for a large consuming audience and Miller High Life is definitely one of those beers. Overall, Miller High Life taste is commonplace, similar to those of Coors Light and Bud Light. Non-offensive might be the best way to describe Miller High Life's taste. Definitely not skunky and with little or no poor after taste. While surely not the most ringing of endorsements, it surely doesn't dispel MHL as a choice, surely we would all want something simple now and then?

Meal Pairing: Miller High Life, the Champagne of Beers, an American Legend, a hallmark of Milwaukee, would go well with many many things. I can imagine this beer being very enjoyable amongst a wily group of Packers Tailgaters in the Lambeau Field parking lot, being used as lubricant to stuff down a Bratwurst with sauerkraut. I can also imagine a Pittsburgh steel worker, after the whistle blows, in a small neighborhood tavern enjoying a Miller High Life with Beer Nuts and pretzels, helping ease off the grime and industrial dust from a hard 12 hour shift. The Miller High Life could also be enjoyed around the chuckwagon with a meal of beans and beefsteak after a long day in the American West rustling dogeys. A MHL, would also go perfect in the Sunny Souther Cali sun with a nice chilidog at Chavez Ravine enjoying a saturday afternoon Dodgers game. It's my assertion that Miller High Life is an american symbol that is easily enjoyed by all, along with a standard meal. While some beer afficionados scoff at the large (former) american brewers products lacking taste and originality, I think that they are just fine for a good drink with a simple meal.

Summary: Miller High Life, while not the most tasty beer available is definitely a symbol of American progress and while taken excusive of other more exotic or micro brews it is a perfectly acceptable beer for many meals and situations. Doesn't have a heavy taste that makes you feel too full and leaves little or non bitter after taste.

He Said, She Said

Monthly Feature
It's the end of the month...and guess what's due...another He Said, She Said for Carrie and me. Here’s how it works:
  • We went to the same Houston-area restaurant at different times.
  • It's our first time eating at the restaurant.
  • We read no previous reviews.
  • We write our reviews separately.
  • Once written, the reviews are not changed.


250 W. 19th Street
Houston, TX 77008

He Said Atmosphere: (5) Star
Ever been to a day spa? Shade has that exact same feel to it. Calm colors throughout, with a beautifully simple décor. Last month's restaurant felt like I was sitting next to a septic tank. At Shade, it was just the opposite. Very clean. A smallish, granite countertop bar sits towards the front of the restaurant. Ironically, the enormous rectangular windows looking out to 19th Street were my favorite part of Shade's atmosphere.

She Said
Atmosphere: (4.5) Stars
The pale green exterior and simple signage is carried through to the interior design of Shade. Dark tables, mostly for groups of four, with white linens litter the dining area. The front of the restaurant has a beautiful “bar” area. Large pendulum lights with shades hang throughout creating a calm, romantic atmosphere.

He Said
Menu Selection: (4) Stars
I went for lunch, and I guess the selection could have been bigger...but it certainly didn't bother me. There was a good number of salads and sandwiches.

She Said Menu Selection: (3.5) Stars
Shade offers a seasonal menu, resulting in a smaller selection. 6 appetizer selections, several salads and soups, and 10 entrees, ranging from a vegetable plate to several types of fish to beef tenderloin. Good wine list and, as an added bonus, they offered Saint Arnold’s Amber for the hubby.

He Said Taste: (5) Stars
Just based on what I ate, Shade is one of my favorite new restaurants (new to me). The food was a complete reflection of the establishment...clean, simple, and good. I ordered the BLT. They cheated a little bit by including fresh mozzarella, but is this really a bad thing? It wasn' fact, it was perfection. The thick cut wheat bread was buttery and toasted ...and VERY fresh. This sandwich was a complete work of art. The bacon had that perfect crisp, the lettuce did it's job, and the heirloom tomatoes were tangy goodness. The sandwich was a decent size as well. It came with a side of napa cabbage slaw and one devilled egg. Note to management...ditch the egg and double up on the slaw. That was some of the best slaw EVER...creamy, just a little sweet, and the red onions and napa cabbage were awesome together.

She Said Taste: (4.5) Stars
One word…delicious! I had the ahi and Warren ordered the lamb. “They” say you eat with your eyes first, and if this is the case, the ahi had me at hello. Beautiful presentation with a tempura shrimp served atop of a bed of colorful stir-fried vegetables (carrots, mushrooms, red onion, scallions) and the ahi perched on a crispy square of jasmine rice. The tuna and the shrimp were both perfectly cooked and combined well with the sweet soy glaze and spicy harissa sauce that were drizzled across the plate. The spicy veggies were cooked well with a little crunch left in them. And, that little rice cake I mentioned? SO good. How can plain old rice made into a cake and crisped on the outside taste so yummy? I don’t know, but it was! The lamb, also well cooked if a tad under seasoned, fanned out on a bed of minted pearl couscous with peas, topped with house-made lamb sausage. The couscous paired well with the lamb, and since I’m not much of a sausage eater, I’ll just have to take Warren’s word for it that it was good. We took an order of coconut cream pie home for dessert. A hazelnut shortbread crust topped with a coconut filling, a huge mound of whipped cream, and toasted coconut…how could it be bad? The crust was amazing and makes me want to try making my own version. My only complaint is that I could have used more coconut filling and less whipped cream, as I would have liked for more coconut-y goodness. The fact that I polished the rest of it off at 6am should tell you how I felt about it.

He Said Service: (5) Stars
The host, in our brief encounter, greeted me like we were longtime friends (and not in a weird a good way). I thought my waitress was very attentive and my food came out in less than ten minutes. I asked her about the name Shade (paraphrasing)...”It's Houston, you need some Shade.” Right you are my good lady.

She Said Service: (2.5) Stars
To begin, the service was slow (hence our taking dessert to go before our child had a meltdown). While we were seated immediately and served water, our waiter took quite a while with our drink order. After ordering drinks, he turned and walked away, even though we were ready to order our entrees at the same time (we had had plenty of time with the menu!) We were not told of the soup specials and the waiter delivered another table’s appetizers to us. All in all, it left a little something to be desired.

He Said
Pricing: (4) Stars
My iced tea and sandwich plate came to about $14 before tip. For that price, it better be perfect...and it was!

She Said Pricing: (4) Stars
On the pricier side, but after eating, I consider it well worth it. Although we skipped appetizers, the portions being delivered around us were quite generous, as were our entrees. Appetizers $8-$15, Entrees $20-$30, Desserts $8.

He Said Overall Opinion: (5) Stars
I think this is my first five-star restaurant since Carrie and I have been doing this. I know my sample size was limited (I went solo for lunch), but I honestly couldn't find one flaw with my experience. Maybe the egg, but it's not like it was just wasn't the slaw. Great place! I will definitely go back for lunch and doubt!

She Said Overall Opinion: (4.5) Stars
This was one of the best meals I’d eaten out in a while. The bold flavors and beautiful presentation of my ahi far made up for any transgressions in service. And, honestly, the slow service probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much if we didn’t have the kid with us. We’ll definitely be making another trip to Shade without him…I’d like another date with that tuna.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Mighty Give

I don't normally do this sort of thing, but I wanted to use the blog as a platform to do some good this holiday season. Specifically, through the efforts of The Houston Food Bank, I thought we could do our small part in helping end hunger. Please go online and make a donation if you can. If you live in another city and would prefer to utilize your local food bank, please do. All I ask is that if you make a donation, please drop me a quick email at so I can tabulate our cumulative dollar amount. Thanks so much.

Restaurant Review: Chicago

Sushi Para II

The Background: My cousin Joanna found this place for me. It's located in her neighborhood and came highly recommended. I had another sushi restaurant in mind, but she convinced me to give Sushi Para II a try. My family knows food. When they speak, you listen.

The Scene: There's a few Sushi Para's around town, but Sushi Para II in the Lincoln Park area is where we dined. Although Joanna was adament we go, she was less than enthused about the prospects of me posting a review on the blog. Why? Because Sushi Para is a neighborhood secret...a hidden gem if you will. I assured her that my Chicago readership sits at about four her secret was safe with me.

The Food: Wow! I went to a lot of places in Chicago. When you take into account the price and quality of food, Sushi Para II topped my list. This is the first time in my life I am writing “sushi” and “inexpensive” in the same sentence. I had my doubts when Joanna stated it was an “All You Can Eat” establishment. I pictured one of those feeding troughs of cheap sushi on the side of a Chinese food buffet. Anything but. For $20pp you can select (about 60 items) from a variety of rolls, tempuras, and individual pieces. Everything is made-to-order and all the fish was super fresh and tasty. I ordered an individual piece of eel and octupus. No complaints. Some of the rolls that stood out included the Spider Roll, Christmas Roll (tuna and avocado), and Crazy Tuna Roll (pepper tuna and avocado) Tops for me was the Mountain Roll. How does avocado, cucumber, tuna and a spicy chef's sauce sound?

The Verdict: If you're in the Chicago area, have taste buds on your tongue, and half a brain in your'll give Sushi Para II a shot. If you're disappointed, there's a defect in your personality. The atmosphere won't win any awards, but the sushi and service are excellent.
2256 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614

Unique Randomness

My random thoughts...brought to you once a week! This week...a view from Second City:
  • Is every person in the Greater Chicago Area issued gear from The North Face? That little logo on the upper right corner of the back annoys the sh*t out of me. Not sure why, it just does.
  • I wore my super sweet Mario Williams' jersey on Sunday. On my morning walk, I passed an older gentleman sporting some Colts' gear. I was able to hold my head up high and look him straight in the eye. No words were exchanged, but I could see the respect. That was the first time I've ever been proud to be a Texans' fan. Things would be different from now on. They were promptly embarrassed by the Cowboys two hours later. Oh well, it was a nice two hours.
  • In Chicago, they have TEAM sports bars. Like..."Hey I'm heading to the Michigan State bar or Iowa bar or LSU bar.” You get the picture. And they're neighborhood bars. In Houston, we just have boring sports bars like Wings N More.
  • Speaking of my visit to a Chicago sports bar...I randomly ran into someone I know. What are the odds...4,000,000 to 1?
  • And finally, speaking of sports bars AND odds...some dude asked me if I thought the Texans would beat the Cowboys (just before kickoff). I told him, “Look at my super sweet Mario Williams' jersey. What do you think?” He said okay and promptly put $500 on the Texans. Oops.
  • Have you ever walked two miles for coffee? I have...only because it was labeled “The Best in the World”. It wasn't, but it was d@mn good coffee.
  • I'm really sick of the word “flight” as it pertains to the food and beverage industry. It's just a cool, hip way of saying “sampler platter”.
  • Just Plain Random: If you're a clothing designer for Gap, do you get bored?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Restaurant Review: Cleveland

Sorry...a Mighty Good Recipe will be back next week. We're sticking with a Midwest restaurant review. This time we're headed to Cleveland. Thanks Scott and Rachel for sending this in!

Pier W

Our Review: Pier W is our special occasion restaurant. We don’t go here too often as it is a little pricey, but in Cleveland, that’s still not as bad as other cities in this country. First of all, Pier W is an architectural feat – it is like a boat but above water. It juts out over Lake Erie, looking east towards Cleveland, the walls almost entirely glass windows. More importantly, the food is beautiful and tasty. Pier W specializes in seafood and deserves its reputation as the best seafood in Cleveland. I highly recommend the salmon – I have never been let down by this cedar plank grilling yummi-ness. The service is always spectacular and the wait staff clearly knows their products and are willing to help accommodate all of their guests. The Sunday brunch is the largest selection of food I’ve almost ever seen in one place. Upon entering, every guest is served a glass of champagne or a mimosa… that’s always a hit for me! The only problem with Pier W is its location. It is a little hard to get to and a bit outside of the city (if you’re just visiting and don’t have a car). Now we just need something good to happen so we have an excuse to go there again….

12700 Lake Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44107
(216) 228-2250

Voted Best Seafood in Cleveland
Voted Best Brunch in Ohio
Great view of the city of Cleveland and Lake Erie
Live music
5 star

Monday, September 27, 2010

Restaurant Review: Moline, IL

See...I told you this week would be Midwest heavy. Check this place out. Thanks so much to my friend Amy for sending this review in!


The Background: Lago's (as the locals call it) is technically a candy store. They have been in business in Moline, IL for more than 100 years and are still family owned. Seriously, THE. BEST. CHOCOLATE. I. HAVE. EVER. TASTED. They have been in the same old building in downtown Moline since 1918 (they have another location in the Village of East Davenport). It has the tiny hexagonal tiles on the floor, about a dozen mahogany booths with little blue Tiffany lamps and a big long candy display counter opposite a soda fountain with counter seating.

The Food: You have to love a place where the menu is mostly made up of various sundaes made with homemade hot fudge, soda made with syrup at a fountain, etc. There is a tiny little 1/4 of a page of the menu that has the non-ice cream type food. They have 2 soups every day, except in fall and winter when they have chili every day and one soup. Their chili is great - very mild with lots of tomatoes and peppers and some beans. But the really good stuff are the sandwiches. And it's not fancy sandwiches, just really dang good ones. They have a Ruben, but I am not a Ruben person, so I have never tried it. What they do have is very good homemade rye bread. It is a light rye with no seeds and a very mild flavor.

My Usual: Lago's is the first and only place where I have ever had a meal that I could order as "the usual." But Shelia, the waitress, knows me and knows that I LOVE tuna salad on toasted homemade rye with lettuce and tomato. I don't know how they do it, but Lago's gets good tomatoes year round. Sheila also knows what kind of day I've had at work if I order a sundae or a scoop of ice cream when I am done with my sandwich.

The Exception: I do not get my usual if they have tomato soup. If the soup of the day is tomato soup, I get a cup of that and a grilled cheese on that same homemade rye bread. I know, seems a little silly to pay money to have someone else make you a grilled cheese sandwich, but this is the best grilled cheese ever. Magnificent. Our office has been freezing and that is exactly what I had for lunch on Wednesday (photo attached). That, and I bought a caramel apple to share with the boyfriend later. The caramel is of course homemade and really frikkin good.

Other Things to Know: At Easter they do these big chocolate eggs that are like a shell around individually wrapped truffles. At Valentine's Day, they have about 700 different styles of heart shaped boxes to choose from. You can buy a loaf of their homemade rye bread, sliced and it makes amazing turkey sandwiches with leftover Thanksgiving turkey. My favorite items from the candy counter are dark chocolate pecan dainties or dark chocolate covered caramels (same caramel that's on the apples in the fall).

Restaurant Review: Chicago

You'll get a restaurant review every Monday.

Al's Beef

The Background: With all this Italian Beef talk of late, I felt almost obligated to give one a try. And I did...and it was good ...very good. KShil of the Houston Press (I just gave someone I don't know a nickname) is a big fan of the authentic Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich. And I'm a fan of her work. She recently went to Al's Beef. Guess where I was headed? As Eugene Levy's character Dr. Pearl said in Waiting for Guffman, "People say, you must have been the class clown. And I say, No, I wasn't. But I sat next to the class clown, and I studied him." Translation: Listen to the experts.

The Scene: There are a few locations around town...we hit the one on Ontario Street. It was d@mn near closing time, so we couldn't dawdle. The place was small...maybe ten, two-seat tables in the joint. As you walk through the door, you're greeted by the counter guy. I'm sure if you don't know immediately what you want, you're labeled as a tourist. Guilty as charged. It didn't matter...traffic was slow and the guy was super friendly.

The Food: We went with two #5's. This included a drink, fries, and a traditional Italian Beef Sandwich. Given the time of night, I wasn't too keen on getting the the beef and sausage combo. The thought of lodging a link down me was non too appealing. The traditional was all shaved beef, topped with sweet peppers, on a soft roll...then dipped in juice.

The Price: Each combo meal came to around $7. Very reasonable.

The Verdict: I'm so glad I tried this Chicago classic. The shaved meat was tender and obviously very juicy. And the sweet peppers were a perfect compliment. Sara loved the fact, she went back to the counter and order some more. I've never seen her do this, but it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside that she was finally catching up to my fat-ass ways.

169 W. Ontario
Chicago, IL

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tip Jar

Sundays are dedicated to giving you a tip...take it or leave it!

The Butcher

Find a good butcher. That's my tip for the week. It makes a difference. Trust me. This is easier said than done, but they are out there. The cuts of meat are better, the quality of meat is better, the entire process is just better. In Houston, I think it's very difficult to beat B & W Meat Company. Their prices are very reasonable and I've never been disappointed with any purchase. Test it out. Go and just get a pound of ground beef...something simple. Tell me their ground beef doesn't taste better than a grocery store's. Find a good meat market where you live and try it out.

B & W Meat Co.
4801 N. Shepherd

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Natalie the Nomad

Monthly Feature
Natalie kicks off a great week of featuring Midwest eateries on the blog.

Marion's Piazza

The Background: This time around I decided to go to a place that holds a significant meaning to our family. Marion's is a place we would congregate after soccer games, swim meets, or for a quick congratulatory meal. The restaurant is in a diner-like setting, with tons of room and natural lighting. You can tell that this place hasn't been re-decorated since the since it opened in the 60's, but it works and to be honest I don't think I want it to change. The walls are littered with photos of famous celebrities eating at Marions, as well as newspaper clippings praising the piazza. They also have 5 huge fridge fulls of any kind of beer you can imagine, and a big room dedicated to arcade games.

The Food: I debated on ordering something out of the norm, but decided to keep my 15 year streak going with the mushroom pepperoni pizza. Ordering a small is definitely enough for one person, unless that one person is REALLY hungry and decides to finish her entire pizza and take bites of others'... The crust is the same with all the pizzas; thin, crunchy and dusted with cornmeal. Naturally, this would make a true-blue Chicago pizza fan keel over in disgust but I promise you, this stuff is GOOD. Piping hot from the oven, your pizza arrives, baked to perfection. Ooey-gooey cheese, crunchy crust, one-bite size square portions, and toppings so fresh and decadent you want to order 5 more pizzas to go.

While Marion's also offers subs, sandwiches, pasta dishes and [gasp!!!] salads, it would be a crime to have anything but pizza. I have heard from hungry sources that their subs are just as good as the pizza; their salads huge, and the pasta dishes 'run of the mill'. Again, hungry sources, because you can bet that I am not changing my mind anytime soon.

The Price: Between three adults and a courageous one-year-old, pizzas and sodas combined cost a cool $35. Not bad, considering we brought some home.

Fun Fact: Every year, all of the Marion's locations go 'retro' and have everything on their menu slammed back to the 1965 price. A small, deliciously amazing pizza for 80 cents??! I would make myself sick. The lines are ridiculous though, so be forewarned.
multiple locations throughout Dayton area

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back to Basics

Fridays are dedicated to the beginner cook.

Chocolate Sauce

I made a chocolate sauce for the first time last week. I thought it was important to highlight on the blog because it was tasty, versatile, and EASY! Just follow the few short steps in the link above, and you'll always have a solid chocolate sauce recipe in your back pocket. This stuff goes good on most desserts (and any solid, tangible object for that matter). I always thought making a chocolate sauce would be a little more complicated than this. It's not. I even threw in a little dark rum to mix it up a bit.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Check This Out!

I don't usually post random things like this, but I just couldn't resist. I stumbled upon this food blog last night. With the subject of bacon at center stage this week, the timing just couldn't be better. Hope you enjoy!

Things I'd rather do than chew on a bacon flavored gumball:

Happy Hour

Get ready for the weekend with a Thursday Happy Hour!

Vodka Gummy Bears

I am so appreciative when readers send suggestions on things to try out. My cousin Casey forwarded this drink recipe a few weeks back. I was very intrigued. Vodka gummy bears seemed like a good idea. I think ten years ago (maybe more) vodka gummy bears would have been a good idea. I’m 33…vodka gummy bears are not a good idea. In fact, I’m absolutely, positively sure that the one vodka gummy bear I put in my mouth this evening will be the last vodka gummy bear I ever consume. A few adjectives that describe the experience: vile, disgusting, hideous, and liver-numbing. Imagine taking a shot of straight vodka, shaped like a mini-bear. Yeah...don't be fooled by the super cute picture above. Vodka gummy bears will knock you on your arss.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Unique Randomness

My random thoughts...brought to you once a week!
  • Brett Myers, starting pitcher for the Houston Astros, is quietly putting together an unbelievable season. But every time I watch him pitch I just can’t take my eyes off his absolutely hideous facial hair. It’s frightening.
  • I watched Boardwalk Empire. I thought it was good, not great. But what show is great right from the start? Not many. I may give it a few episodes.
  • My favorite Will Ferrell line…from Step Brothers: “I have a belly full of white dog crap in me, and now you lay this sh*t on me?” I love that movie.
  • I know this isn’t exactly new, but have you seen the Shake Weight yet? Just google it. My job as a teacher prohibits me from making any further comments about this product.
  • Panera…my goodness…stop running out of my Cinnamon Crunch bagels. That’s like going to McDonald’s and they don’t have fries.
  • I know it’s still popular, but I honestly don’t know one person who still watches Survivor.
  • I’d rather watch Paula Dean cook naked than sit through an episode of Dancing with the Stars.
  • Gotta love those Texans right now. Andre Johnson is a beast.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mighty Good Recipe

It's Tuesday...time for a Mighty Good Recipe!

Turkey Sloppy Joes

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 onion (chopped)
4 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large zucchini (chopped)
1 cup chili sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 green bell pepper (chopped)

1. Brown the ground turkey with 1 Tspn of olive oil. Drain fat and set meat aside. Add remaining oil to skillet and toss in onion, zucchini, and bell pepper. Cook over medium heat until soft.
2. Add salt and pepper, garlic, and oregano to the mixture. Cook for one minute. Add cheese, chili sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to the pan. Bring to boil. Remove from heat and serve on bun.

Why so Mighty? This is a unique take on a classic dish. I love the original version of a Sloppy Joe, but this one is much healthier and still manages to keep the flavor. The zucchini is hidden and the chili sauce adds a sweet and tangy taste to the entire mixture.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Houston Restaurant Review: Lucky Pot

Mondays are dedicated to bringing you a Houston restaurant review or one from around the country. Keeping it local this week with a visit to Lucky Pot.

The Background:
I'm a sucker for dumplings. I love them, and am always in search of the next great spot for consumption. My favorite place to go in Houston is Lai Lai Dumpling House. But after perusing Robb Walsh's Top 100 List again, I figured it was time to give Lucky Pot in Chinatown a shot.

The Scene: Lucky Pot is small (about ten tables), but with high ceilings and plenty of white paint, the place feels a lot bigger than a typical hole-in-the-wall. LP is very clean and the service is fast and attentive.

The Food: Well, obviously I ordered the Lamb Dumplings (steamed). For some strange reason my order did not look like Robb's. Imagine that. No worries...the taste made up for the lack of presentation. Never before have I eaten a dumpling that needed no dipping sauce. The lamb filling was super juicy and well seasoned. The wrapper was thick and held together nicely. We also ordered some Beef Fried Rice, Tofu with Napa Cabbage, and Lamb Noodle Soup. The soup wasn't my style, but there's no denying the awesomeness of the lamb chunks in it. Some of the best meat I've ever had anywhere.

The Verdict: I love dining in Chinatown. It's hard to find a bad spot, and Lucky Pot is no different. My dumpling heart still lies with Lai Lai, but Lucky Pot hasn't seen the last of me.

9888 Bellaire

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dinner Club: Bacon Bonanza

Monthly Feature
Each month...six friends get together for great food and good times! Check out the recipes and rundown.

The Shooks hosted and made the appetizers and entree. The Jaegers brought over tasty beverages, and the Shalins were in charge of dessert. The theme was Bacon Bonanza. Here's how it broke down:


Bacon Wrapped Pineapple

Cayenne Candied Bacon

Avocado BLT

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Main Course:
Bacon, Chicken* and Tomato Pasta
*Chicken was an extra the recipe didn't call for

Vanilla Ice Cream with Caramelized Bacon and Sensational Chocolate Sauce

PDT's Bacon-Infused Old Fashioned

The Rundown: My arteries feel violated. Even the bourbon cocktail was infused with bacon fat. I honestly don't even want to look at bacon for a good two weeks...maybe longer. I particularly enjoyed the Cayenne Candied Bacon. Thick cuts of bacon, super sweet, with a nice, slow burn at the end. Everything was great, and even the crumbled bacon bits worked well in the dessert.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On the Menu

The Monthly Feature contributing writers have been awesome. Here's a quick look at some recent entries and what's to come:

September 2010
What's Been Served...

Vegetarian View: Molly gives Yelapa a glowing endorsement.

On The Menu...
Dinner Club: This month's theme is Bacon Bonanza. Take a look back at August.

He Said, She Said: Carrie and I head to Shade. Hope it turns out better than this.

Natalie the Nomad: Where will she go next? What interesting food will she try now? Tough to beat Pasha.

Calorie Worthy: Andrea is up to her lists again. Have you made the pesto yet?

Higher Learning: Bryan's last entry upped the blog's cooking IQ about 30 points.

The Junkie: Melissa wasn't too fond of this Jack in the Crack delight.

He Said, They Said: Mike had this to say about Sam's. What Houston Press restaurant will he hit now?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back to Basics

Fridays are dedicated to the beginner cooks.

Pan Frying Fish

I'll let the great Alton Brown guide you this week. The link offers a wonderful recipe, but more importantly, please pay close attention to his frying technique. It's brilliant and EASY! I tried it the other night with a nice piece of rainbow trout. Feel free to leave out the capers. I love capers but didn't have any on hand. I also fried up a couple extra fillets and had one the next day for lunch on a sandwich. The only negative about frying fish in the house is the lingering smell. Have a good candle on stand-by. You'll need it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Happy Hour

Get ready for the weekend with a Thursday Happy Hour!

Midori Illusion

Guess which web site I snagged this drink recipe from? Summer is drawing to an end...and I figured you could sneak in a cool, refreshing drink like this one. I'm not big into drinks like this (even if I were, probably wouldn't admit it). But it has a subtle citrus taste, and the vibrant green color is nice to look at. And there goes that pesky maraschino cherry again. I am determined to get through that d@mn bottle of cherries.

Next week: Spiked Gummy Bears (need five days of prep time)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Unique Randomness

My random thoughts...brought to you once a week.

I apologize in advance for the general fecal-theme of this week’s entry…just kind of fell that way.
  • Product Placement: Go-Gurt This kid yogurt has the most annoying name. I hate it. Also, it sounds like a bad case of diarrhea. “Hey, how was your weekend?” “Not too good, had a terrible bout of the go-gurts.”
  • I saw a car the other day that was covered in bird sh*t. I’m talking about 80% of the car. Don’t really know how the person could drive. It looked like an armada of birds unloaded on it.
  • In the news: A rig carrying human waste was involved in a major accident the other day in Houston. The article I read finished with this: “no human waste spilled on the road”. Think I would have led with that.
  • In the news: An Oklahoma woman was run over and killed by her riding lawnmower. There’s a million ways to go, but I can’t think of a worse one.
  • Watched Crazy Heart last weekend. Great movie, very depressing, but awesome movie. Great soundtrack as well. Nobody does a bowling alley scene better than Jeff Bridges. I think it should be a requirement for all his movies.
  • My wife Sara had a McD’s french fry craving. While waiting in the drive-thru, I happened to notice a new menu item…Angus Snack Wrap. At first glance, I thought it was a turd wrapped in a tortilla. Maybe it was.
  • The Texans could not have made me happier Sunday.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mighty Good Recipe

It’s Tuesday…time for a Mighty Good Recipe!

Creamy Southwestern Pasta

This recipe is pure genius. I found it on a great food blog and made it for the family last week. Everyone loved it...including both kids. I substituted ground beef, only because I needed to use some. This recipe is easy and very healthy. The black beans provided a wonderful texture for the dish and all the ingredients blended together quite well. This is a perfect “night before” recipe. Make it on a Sunday so all you’ll have to do is pop it in the oven on Monday. I see myself making this one a few times a month. This is also a great recipe to incorporate new vegetables for kids. Veggies like zucchini, broccoli, and spinach would work well.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Restaurant Review: Houston

Mondays are dedicated to bringing you a Houston restaurant review or one from around the country. Keeping it local this week.

Leonard's Famous Burgers

The Background: A visit to Leonard’s Famous Burgers represented one of my top moments in food blogging. Not quite sure how I found this place on the net, but I did. Since reading Albert’s blog on a daily basis, burgers have been on the brain. I was looking forward to my trip to Leonard’s, but forgot to get the address. I went back to the computer and this time ran across Robb Walsh’s Top 100 list. Guess who was on it? Away I went.

The Scene: I’m not going to sugarcoat this one…the drive to Leonard’s won’t be showing up anytime soon on the Travel Channel. It’s in a rough area, and the structure itself is nothing more than a shack. But I loved it. You park and walk up. A voice from through the screened ordering window asked me what I wanted to eat. I had a feeling this was Leonard.

The Food: I ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger Combo. It came with fries and a soda. The patty was fresh and topped with salty, crispy bacon. All the standard fixings were there: mayo, mustard, lettuce, pickles and tomatoes. The soft-on-the-outside-and-perfectly-toasted-on-the-inside bun brought the whole thing together. Although the burger was super juicy and moist, it held its form. It never fell apart or got sloppy on me. The fries were soft, greasy, thick, and peppery…in short, awesome! For around $7, I couldn’t ask for more.

The Verdict: When my order was ready, I went back to the window and had a little chat with Leonard. I thanked him for making what I knew was going to be a great burger. I was right. In fact, it was the best burger I’ve eaten in Houston. But getting to meet Leonard was even better.

1913 W.Little York
Hours: Quote from Leonard…”I’m here from 9 til 9, every day.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tip Jar

I'll give out a tip every Sunday...take it or leave it!

Cutting Peppers

Ever wonder the best, most efficient way to cut a pepper without getting all those little white seeds everywhere? Take the pepper and position it vertically (with the stem facing up). Take a sharp knife...starting next to the stem base, cut downward (curving away from the seeds). Cut all the way to the base of the pepper. Rotate pepper and repeat process. After a few rotations, you should be left with the stem, which holds on to the seeds. Efficient cutting and no mess!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Vegetarian View

Monthly Feature
Molly gives us a peek at a restaurant through the eyes of a vegetarian.

Yelapa Playa Mexicana

Vegetarian Selection: (2) Stars
Out of a robust two-page menu, Yelapa Playa Mexicana only had two vegetarian entrées and five appetizers. Big thumbs down I say. Vegans, I don’t even think there is anything here for you. Go across the parking lot to Hobbit Café for a friendlier animal free selection. I believe all of Yelapa Playa Mexicana’s cocktails are meat free…does that count?

Ordered Dish: (5) Stars
I was so enamored with my food that I am willing to completely forgive Yelapa Playa Mexicana for their sparse vegetarian selection. There, I said it.

My before dinner cocktail was a peach mojito. The muddled mint and sweet peach blended perfectly. The mint stayed well at the top of the glass with the ice, while I quickly slurped the peachy-minty goodness with a straw. This was a great start to my variety less meal.

For the appetizer I ordered “The Real Guacamole” and “The Actual Pico De Gallo.” WOW! I have never in my life eaten such unique and flavorful guac or pico before. The guacamole was not mashed up but served very chunky with mango, black olives and fennel. It was the most gourmet guac that has ever touched my lips. The pico was also chunky, hearty and had ingredients like pineapple and cilantro. These two appetizers blew my mind. When the server first brought them out, I started to correct him because I thought he had the wrong table. Guac and pico are supposed to be mushy yet tasty, not vibrant and bursting with unique flavors.

The vegetable quesadilla was my choice for the entrée. It too was delicious and unusual. Even though it was only between the vegetable quesadillas or vegetable tacos, I was not let down. The cheese on the quesadilla was a different kind of cheese, one that I could not exactly put my finger on but I know I’ve had before. The vegetables in the quesadilla were uncommon too. They were squash blooms, pea leaves and a spicy lime aioli. All yummy.

Healthy Rating: (2) Stars
My cheese and vegetable quesadillas were not healthy at all – but neither was my luscious peach mojito. All I can take away from this dinner was that I got a lot of calcium, protein and some vegetables in for the day. Several laps around Memorial Park and days of eating like a rabbit were the only things that could negate this meal. But it was so good I don’t care.

Overall Opinion: (5) Stars
The service was A+. Our waiter Al was super informative and professional - actually all of the employees were very friendly and helpful. Parking is a bother but they have valet (complimentary I believe). The restaurant’s theme is Pacific coast-inspired Mexican and the food and décor accurately represent this. I gave Yelapa Playa Mexicana five stars even though they did not have a large vegetarian selection because it has been a very long time that a restaurant has swept me off my feet. The limited variety of meat-free foods that I did eat there were superb. Beware though; Yelapa Playa Mexicana is on the expensive side. We dined with a gift card so our ending bill was not that bad. Everything was very tropical and I felt like I was on vacation eating here. For a moment I thought I was in Key West, but then I stepped outside and was greeted by Richmond Avenue. Nope, still in Houston.
2303 Richmond Avenue
Houston, TX 77098

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to Basics

Fridays are dedicated to the beginner cook.

Hollandaise Sauce

A few years ago I took a cooking class at Great class and instructor! One of the things we learned from Chara was how to make an authentic Hollandaise sauce. I always thought it was difficult, but guess what? It’s EASY!

I lost her recipe, but I think it was close to this (I do it this way and it turns out well):

2 sticks of butter (throw in freezer for a few minutes)
2 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice
8 egg yolks
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Take butter out of the freezer and dice into small cubes. Set aside.
2. Take a small pot and add the yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisk well.
3. Take a larger pot and fill half-way with water. Bring water to a nice, rolling boil.
4. Hold the smaller pot (with the yolks, etc) over the boiling water. You’ve created a double boiler.
5. Whisk in 2 cubes of butter at a time. Don’t add any butter before the previous cubes have melted.
6. Continue to whisk until all cubes are melted.
7. Serve immediately.

If your sauce breaks, dump it…don’t try to save it. If you sense it’s about to break, move it a little further away from the boiling water. Hollandaise sauce traditionally goes with Eggs Benedict (shown above) and over vegetables such as asparagus.

Please note that Hollandaise sauce, also known as Fat Man’s Gravy, is extremely harmful to your health. Jamming sticks of butter into your arteries is never a good thing…well, almost never. Please don’t make this stuff more than twice a year.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy Hour

Get ready for the weekend with a Thursday Happy Hour!

Note: Scroll down the link to find this recipe.

I love just about everything associated with Kona. This drink is no different. The Konalicious is a very simple, three-ingredient cocktail perfect for slow sipping. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m doing as I write this. The coffee and coconut flavors balance themselves out nicely. The cinnamon topping ties it all together. The Trader Vic’s Coffee Liqueur is essential, but any coconut rum will do. Cut the recipe in half for a perfect nightcap.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Unique Randomness

My random thoughts…brought to you once a week.
  • Tribute to the Little Man on Wakefield: I see this little dude every morning on my daughter’s daycare drop off. He walks down Wakefield Street. His destination…unknown. He’s probably in his 80’s, wears one of those 1920’s hats, and has a finely manicured mustache. Every time I pass him, he makes me think of the Dos Equis guy. I think at one time the little man that walks down Wakefield was the coolest man on the planet.
  • You know I’m not big on chain places. But d@mn if I couldn’t eat a Panera Cinnamon Crunch Bagel every morning for the rest of my life.
  • Football Alert! If you hate it, skip this part. If you’re not from Houston, you probably want to skip this part. I love the Texans. They disappoint me every single year, but who cares? These are my five main concerns going into the year:
1. QB situation: This is an easy one. Schaub will get hurt. It’s not a matter of if but when. Their backup QB situation is a mess. Orlovsky looks like he’s about to wet himself every time he throws and Leinart is just not good.
2. Young Corners:
Not many people are talking about this, but it’s a big concern for me. I’d feel a lot better with DRob back there.

3. Running Backs:
All aboard the Arian Foster bandwagon…just one problem, he’s never played a full season. That means in all likelihood he’ll either get hurt or run out of gas. I predict Slaton is done. Think the Texans wish they would have given Thomas Jones two million for this year?

4. Kubiak’s Coaching:
Nice man, but way below average in clock management and quick, in-game decisions. Will cost the team 1-2 wins.

5. Weaker Cushing:
Allegedly Brian Cushing took steroids. I remember when another top LB got busted (Merriman). He never was the same. I’m not saying this will happen with Cushing, but it does warrant keeping an eye on.

  • Gym Membership: D-Bags Notice I made it plural. D-Bags workout in pairs…never alone. D-Bags are distant cousins of the Prancer. D-Bags are in their early 20’s, chiseled, and sleeveless. They have college degrees, but are still dumber than a post. The D-Bags’ vocabulary revolves around using the f-word at least four times in every sentence. D-Bags are easily identified by the jug of “Red Drank” they haul around. This “Red Drank” helps D-Bags’ muscles grow. I had the pleasure of lifting weights next to D-Bags the other day. Lucky me.
  • Facebook Folly of the Week: Picture Woman You know that expression “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, what about 1000 pictures? Picture Woman takes 1000 pics of her weekend va-ca to the Hill Country, and posts every single one on Facebook. I’m all for posting beautiful pics on Facebook. I don’t enjoy ten consecutive pics of Picture Woman flashing the peace sign at me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mighty Good Recipe

It's Tuesday...time for a Mighty Good Recipe!

Chicken Marsala

It’s always good to have a Chicken Marsala recipe in the arsenal. I figure this one is just as good as the next. I’ve made it a few times through the years and have never been disappointed. I switched it up a bit this time around and substituted seasoned panko for flour. I found it was probably better to stick with the flour. Either way, it tastes great. You can’t go wrong with a side of mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. This is a safe, solid meal to make for family or guests. It contains solid, flavorful ingredients that aren’t too overpowering.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Restaurant Review: Phoenix

I'll do a restaurant review on Mondays. Most of the time it will be a place in Houston. This week it's Phoenix.

Chompie's (several locations in the Phoenix area)

The Background: If you’re a loyal follower of the blog, you know I started it off several months ago with my “Top 20 Favorite Places to Eat”. Chompie’s was #6 on my list. My brother and I first discovered Chompie’s on a Spring Training baseball vacation to the Phoenix area back in 2002. Three years later, we were back in Phoenix for baseball…this time with a few more friends. Guess where we ate three times? Fast forward to 2010…family vacation to Sedona. We flew into Phoenix. Pretty simple process: 1. Get off plane. 2. Rent mid-size car. 3. Head to Chompie’s.

The Scene: My favorite of the four Chompie’s locations is the one in Tempe...just outside the Arizona State campus. Chompie’s is an authentic, NY-style, Jewish deli. And when I say authentic…I mean it. My dad is from New York. I spent most of my childhood summers in New York. Chompie’s is the real deal. I walked through the door and it was just as I had remembered. You’re greeted by a full bakery of bready goodness…black/white cookies, Everything bagels, rye breads, etc. I glanced at the register, only to find a poster with a very recognizable figure. Yup, Man v. Food had just been here in July to take part in the Jewish Slider Challenge. My little restaurant was “all grows up”.

The Menu: Let’s dispatch with the formalities…every single menu item was sent down from heaven, so nothing is bad. You can order anything at any time, but you may need a good twenty minutes to read through the selections. Corned beef, pastrami, matzo ball soup, potato pancakes, burgers…just about any food you can think of. It was breakfast time so I went with a Steak Skillet. Time meant nothing to Sara…she went with the Reuben Sandwich. I gave her a funny look for ordering a Reuben at 9:30 a.m., but it only motivated me to order one of those Jewish Sliders.

The Taste: Awesome! The skillet and Jewish Slider were perfection. What is a Jewish Slider, you may ask…soft roll, tender brisket, potato pancake, and dipping gravy. I snuck a bite of the Reuben. Sara and I both agreed it was one of the best things we had ever eaten.

The Verdict: There are two restaurants in the country I’d jump on a plane for…Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City and Chompie’s in Phoenix.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tip Jar

I'll give out a quick tip every Sunday...take it or leave it!

Iced Coffee

You made a big pot of coffee in the morning and were able to put down most of it. Several hours later you go to clean out the pot. Wait! Don't throw that remaining stale, muddy 1/2 cup out. Pour it in a glass, add 1/4 cup milk, ice, and a pinch of sugar substitute. Hello coffee-flavored Yoohoo. It provides a little boost and tastes so good. Plus you're not being wasteful.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Test Kitchen

I'll try out a new recipe every'll see the good and bad of it!

London Broil I

Description: Imagine the look of flank steak with the tenderness of prime rib. That's what this London Broil recipe was like. Check out this picture! How do you think it turned out?

Recipe Difficulty (Scale of 1-10) 1
You probably know my style by now....I go for easy recipes that make a nice presentation. All I had to do was toss the ingredients in a Ziplock, marinate the meat overnight, and throw on the grill. About 11 minutes on each side and let rest. Slice against the grain and get ready for the juiciest, most tender piece of meat.

Results: Awesome
At first, it seemed I had bombed on the London Broil. When I took it off the grill, I had concern it was overcooked. Just the was perfect. When grilling London Broil, always err on the side of rare. Overcooking it is a sin.

Will I make it again? Yes
This recipe has Sunday football written all over it. It's a huge piece of meat (that's what she said) and can feed a lot of people. I am also guessing the rare, bloody nature of it will be a real crowd pleaser. The marinade is simple and provides a nice taste to the meat.

Note: London Broil is not a cut of meat, but it will be labeled as such in most grocery stores. It's fairly inexpensive.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Back to Basics

Fridays are dedicated to the beginner cooks.

Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet potato fries are gaining in popularity. I usually just buy a monster frozen bag at Costco to be done with it. Sometimes, however, I make the real thing. Why? Because it’s still easy!

Peel and slice four sweet potatoes into preferred fry size. Throw them into a big bowl and toss with some kosher salt, a little pepper, a little brown sugar, and some canola oil. Line a baking sheet with foil and toss the potatoes on it. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake for 45 minutes. If you want them crispy…take out, flip fries and bake for another 20 minutes. As you can see, these aren’t crispy. It really just depends on what mood you’re in.

***PLEASE NOTE*** I don’t usually eat fries alongside four perfect drops of ketchup. I promise this was strictly done for blog aesthetics. If you ever see me eating fries like this, you have my permission to punch me in the face.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Happy Hour

Get ready for the weekend with a Thursday Happy Hour!

Guava Delight
Serves 2

--6 oz. Jumex Guava Nectar (juice box found in international section)
--3 oz orange juice
--3 oz. vodka
--3 oz. Licor 43
--Dash of grenadine

News flash…the Guava Delight is of my own doing. This concoction turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. And I do. Several years ago on a trip to Hawaii, I had my first experience with guava juice. We spent a few hours at a guava plantation (since closed) and it’s been my favorite juice ever since. Very underrated. This is a solid drink, and surprisingly not too sweet.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Unique Randomness

My random thoughts…brought to you once a week!
  • Why are 9 out of 10 deli-counter workers complete morons? On top of that, they’re insanely slow and always pissed off. Is the deli like the wasteland for grocery store employees? I wouldn’t trust most of those people with a mop, much less handling finely cured meats alongside a slicer.
  • Keeping with grocery stores…try this little experiment the next time you’re about to check-out. Spot two lines…go to the line that looks like it will take longer. I bet you’ll be finished before the other one. Try it.
  • We rented Hot Tub Time Machine. Ummm, I spent a $1.08 for it and still felt like I got robbed. I love comedies. I love stupid, silly comedies. Hot Tub got the stupid part down, but without the laughter. John Cusak should be ashamed. Best Cusak film: Better Off Dead. Most Underrated Cusak Film: The Sure Thing. Worst Cusak film: Con-Air.
  • Foods Getting Smaller Alert: Reese’s Cups now have the circumference of a quarter. This is not a good thing. My little one likes Nutri Grain Bars ( I can’t stand them). My goodness they’ve shrunk through the years.
  • Facebook Folly of the Week: The Weight Watcher I don’t care that you’re on a diet. No one does. I sure as heck don’t need a daily synopsis of your rabbit food. Does this look familiar? “Hey everyone, today I had an English muffin for breakfast, a Lite Hot Pocket for lunch, and for dinner I drank six glasses of water.” Great…let me know how that diarrhea is treating you.
  • Gym Membership: Slippery When Wet Hate to get all gender specific on this one, but Slippery When Wet is always a dude. SWW does thirty minutes on the treadmill and then hits the weight machines. One small problem…dipsh*t doesn’t bring a towel with him. As much as all these other gym people annoy me, SWW is the worst. I want to punch SWW. Me and my germaphobe ways don’t like SWW. Please stop marking your territory with sweat secretion.