Category Archives: Not Cooking at Home

New Life, New Kitchen and HONKIN' TOMATOES

Do you remember the post I wrote about starting a new year and writing more often?

AH HA. HA. HA. HA.

Almost eight months have passed since my last post here.

A lot can happen in eight months.

Some people change jobs
move across the country
buy a house
sell a house
start a family…

I did not do one of these things.

I did all of them.

Let’s give credit where credit is due:
my husband helped.

Since I last wrote
we found out were expecting our first child
only two days after we discovered we would be moving across the country for Husband’s residency.

Husband graduated from medical school
(and I may have resembled a puffer-fish I was so proud),
we secured a contract on our house in Houston in three days,
we found a house in Pennsylvania in two days,
and finished up all the miscellaneous projects around the old house
some big, some small.

WE ALSO TOOK A VACATION IN THERE.
Somewhere.
It seems like it was a very long time ago.

The major project we finished before we sold our house was the kitchen.

Before:

Continue reading New Life, New Kitchen and HONKIN' TOMATOES

Our Garden Grows Quite Well, Thank You

I haven’t been cooking very much lately. Instead we’ve been working on growing.

Growing our garden

and remodeling the garden.

Last year we had down newspaper and straw in the walkways:

It looked fine at the beginning of the season, but after rain and a hot summer we were left with slimy, half-decomposed strands that slipped around underfoot. We decided this year to upgrade to something that would be more welcoming to bare feet and multiple visits in the garden a day.

Trevor dug out about 4 inches of dirt, laid crushed stone, and is in the process of laying flagstones.

Tiny is fully supportive of our decision and decided to help every step of the way.

With all of Tiny’s help, the garden walkways started to take shape.

The rock pile dwindled

and on this rainy Saturday the garden looks like this:

We need more crushed stone and more flagstones, obviously. River stones will go in between the flagstones and we’re ready for Tiny to undo our work every day by transporting the small stones around the yard. But that’s a baby’s duty. We will try to keep him corralled to the garden when he’s interested in playing with rocks so we’re not constantly picking up small stones out of the grass.

Our seedlings are growing and growing

but not quite fast enough for my liking. I had hoped they’d be twice this size by now since we’re planning to plant them in only a few weeks. Last year we bought plants and put them in the garden but Trevor wanted to start them all from seed ourself this year.

Even if our seedlings are a little small and slow, our strawberries are quietly promising us berries in a few weeks.

While I’m not cooking much lately, we are growing and growing. By the time the garden slows down for the fall we’ll have a new sprout of our own.

Since he was such a big help with the flagstones, we’ll have to talk Tiny into helping with midnight feedings. He can warm up a bottle for his sibling, right?

Things I Did This Year and Didn't Write About

All day long I go around writing in my head.

I construct grand entries
witty one liners
things that happened I want to remember
or I take a million photos of something to document later.

Then the kitchen needs cleaning
the dogs keep bringing me their toys to play fetch
hair needs washing
and I fall asleep, exhausted and feeling behind,
again.

At least, that’s how I feel
until December rolls around.

December holds the key to self-redemption in the Blog Universe.

I can dump everything I wanted to write about
(but was too busy throwing slobbery, dirty Kongs around for our dogs to get to)
in a grand ‘look back’ entry
and no one will think twice about it.

In fact
people may hope that January will see a turn around the bend
and that I’ll post more often.

It’s nice in my head you know.
Lots of puppies and dandelions.
No alarm clocks, either.

Without further ado/procrastination
I present to you the things I did this year and didn’t write about:

Continue reading Things I Did This Year and Didn't Write About

Eatin' Some Food in Bahstan – Fancy Pants Edition

Last weekend Husband had a conference in Boston
and I went with.

I grew up in Massachusetts
and figured it would be fun to rent a car and drive past my old houses
especially since the foliage was supposed to be pretty in those parts of the state.

I’m a sucker for red, yellow, and orange leaves
and those just don’t happen in Houston.

We were to leave on Friday morning and stay through Monday evening.

It almost worked out that way.

We missed our flight on Friday.
Well.
They wouldnt let us board the plane
but that’s not the point of this entry.

I am watching my mailbox for vouchers though
because you better believe got all up in Continental’s business after having to deal with the GATE GUARDIAN IN RED
and customer service
WHICH WAS NOT SO CUSTOMER SERVICEABLE.

::huffs and puffs::

Onwards.

We spent most of our Friday sulking in IAH
and arrived in Boston too late to really do anything.

It was about to start raining
and to top it all off
I thought my eardrum ruptured on landing.

Luckily this turned out not to be the case
but it still hurt tremendously
and I couldnt hear out of it for about ten hours.

I concluded that the only way the day could get better
was to end it
so I went to sleep while Husband frolicked at the first night of his conference.

The next day
it was still raining
Hub went back to the conference
and I was left to figure out what to do.

With all the rain
I decided that renting a car was not going to happen.

Getting around in Boston proper was a little crazy
and I wasnt comfortable driving around on unfamiliar highways in a rental car
especially in the downpour.

Instead I picked up from where I left off on researching Boston restaurants
and decided to try Marliave.

I made reservations on Opentable.com
and commented that I would like to do a three course meal
chef’s choice
with the only restriction being no seafood.

I don’t like seafood.
I’ve tried and tried to like it
but it all tastes disgusting to me.

I’ve had fresh seafood of all types
and no matter how hard I try to fall in love with it
it always tastes like something at the bottom of a freshwater fish tank to me.

Say what you will
but thats how I roll.

I made reservations for 1:30p
and when I got there
the hostess didn’t seem to be aware of my reservation.

The hostess asked where I would like to sit
either upstairs or downstairs
and I chose upstairs for the light.

In the upstairs dining room
there were only two other tables with patrons
both of which were paying their checks.

The server came by and introduced herself and asked if I’d like a drink or anything to start with.

I guess no one was aware of my reservation or request.
I asked if I could do a three course meal
chefs choice
(sans seafood)
and she looked a little confused.

Like… appetizer, main, dessert?
“Yes, that would be great.”
Ok, let me go check with the chef.

She came back a few moments later
and by that time the two other tables were gone.

The chef says that’s no problem.

So it began.

Standard nibble delivered to all tables.

Bread panfried in olive oil
with olive oil
and olives.

It was a bit olive-y
if I do say so myself.

1st course:

Duck rilletes with brioche toast and apples.

I thought the rilletes were a little muddy tasting on their own
but when put together with the apples and mustard or brined items
they were quite good.

The caperberry was best with the duck however,
and I would have been happy for a few more of those on the plate.

2nd course:

‘Hand-stuffed’ ravioli in roasted tomato sauce.

I could tell the ravioli were made earlier in the day
because the edges were a little tough
but the tomato sauce and filling were outstanding.

I thought this was my main course at first
and was a little bummed that they forgot about the wine pairing
but it dawned on me halfway through
that this was the pasta course
and this was going to be a four-course meal.

I began to pace myself accordingly.

Sure enough
the server cleared my plate
and set down a big steak knife and new fork.


iPhone photo, sorry

3rd course:

Pancetta wrapped stuffed rabbit loin with leg, whipped potatoes and mushrooms

The only downside of this dish was that the salt in the pancetta
took away some of the thunder from the rabbit loin.
It was just a little too much.

The wine that was paired with the entree was
(at least what the sever said)
a 1994 California Cabernet.

I can’t find that on their wine menu
so the world may never know.

I am not a huge wine drinker
but enjoy a glass when it is paired properly with food
and such was the case at this meal.

4th course:

Pumpkin pie with cranberry relish

The pumpkin pie was straight out of the fridge
and I like mine better.

The cranberry relish was very good though.

I appreciated the fact that the chef let the tartness of the berries play a role in the dessert
instead of trying to make the whole thing sweet sweet sweet.

After I managed to eat almost all of the dessert
I asked for the check.

Between the time the server cleared my plate and brought me the bill
Chef Scott Herritt came out to see what I thought of the meal.

I was struck by the fact
that he was wearing a perfectly starched and unwrinkled blue shirt
and all I could think was that he kept that in a closet somewhere
specifically for occasions when some random chick comes in alone
and orders a massive lunch.

SOMETHING’S UP AND REQUIRES FORMAL ATTIRE.

He spent only a few moments at the table
(literally. Like five seconds)
but I remarked upon the cranberry relish
and also that I loved the caperberry with the duck rilletes.

He looked at me warily and smiled,
said he was glad I liked it and thanked me for coming in.

When I got the bill
I saw they comped me one course
which was nice
and fair
since I only asked for three.

During the meal
I wasn’t sure if I needed to say something
“Scuse me, am I supposed to be getting four courses? I only asked for three… BUT DON’T TAKE IT AWAY! I LOVE THESE RAVIOLI!”
or leave it be
and I opted for the latter
waiting to see how they would handle it.

That being said
I was something between touched and flattered
that the chef would want to share his work with someone that walked in and said
“give me what you think is best.”

That or he thought I was a restaurant critic
and was trying to ply me with as much excellent food as I could eat.

I’ll take it either way
thank you very much
because it was quite delicious.

Marliave
10 Bosworth St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02113
ph. 617.422.0004

Not-so-fancy-pants edition of eating in Beantown to follow.

Saturday Night at Brisa

(Cross-posted on the Houston Chowhounds board because I know a fair amount of people picked up those Restaurant.com gift certificates.)

On Saturday night my husband and I finally decided to give Brisa a try. They have plastered more menus on our car windshield than we can count and Restaurant.com had a listing for them on their site. Taking advantage of the opportunity, we purchased a $25.00 gift certificate to the restaurant at a discount.

We arrived at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night. There were seven tables occupied out of about 25 (not counting bar seating, where I swear I saw a tumbleweed roll through), mostly two tops. You could see into the kitchen beyond some glass and everyone was standing around back there, unoccupied. In short, the restaurant was not busy at all.

When we arrived, the hostess passed the menu onto our server, and we were instructed to sit anywhere we wanted. We sat ourselves and wanting to avoid any problems when presented the bill, I asked if we could use the Restaurant.com gift certificate towards alcoholic drinks. Our server, I believe his name was Ronny, said he would check with his manager. He returned a few moments later saying “I have some bad news. The manager said we don’t take these.” I asked him to bring the manager over, wondering why the manager didn’t advise us of this himself. Daniel arrived at our table and reiterated that he could not accept the gift certificate. I asked why and he launched into a story that changed a few times. He repeated several times that it was out of his hands and that the owners were having problems with Restaurant.com. He said that they “cancelled their agreement with Restaurant.com six months ago” which I found hard to believe since the restaurant has only been open since May (that would be four months for anyone counting). Then towards the end of the conversation he said that they had been having problems with Restaurant.com for ‘a while now’ and then ‘a month’ popped up somewhere in there too. He also seemed to imply that we bought the certificate a while ago and were now just trying to honor it. I drew his attention to the date printed on the certificate and also told him that they were about to get inundated with these certificates due to the big sale Restaurant.com had on them.

He asked us if there was anything he could do to which my husband, irritated after listening to an ever changing story, retorted that he could honor the gift certificate we bought just last week. Daniel said he could offer us a free appetizer or dessert and at that point I thanked him, but said politely that we would leave. It had the feeling of a bait and switch operation, especially since Daniel’s story kept changing the longer we talked to him. I’m sure it truly was out of his hands, but the whole thing just seemed shady. I didn’t want to patronize a place where I felt that we were being taken advantage of or not being told the whole truth, even if it was ‘the public’s version’ of the whole truth.

At that point Daniel said he would honor the gift certificate and he apologized profusely for all the problems. He said he would still give us an appetizer or dessert for free. We thanked him and set about to ordering our meal.

We asked our server for chips and salsa (to which he replied: ‘we only bring it out if you ask, and you just asked… so… I’ll bring it out’ Uh, thanks!)

For an appetizer we got the cheese ‘tortilla’ stuffed with beef. Husband enjoyed this but I found the cheese wrapping kind of tough. The skirt/flank steak was tender and well seasoned though. The guacamole perched on top of lettuce was tasty too.

For an entree I got the chile relleno and Husband got the Gulf red snapper fillet, recommended by our server.

(Chile picture did not turn out)

Fish:

Husband enjoyed his fish and said the sauce on top of it was quite good. However, the beef in the poblano chile was terrible. It tasted old and was loaded with lard (I think?) that tasted almost rancid. The upside was that all the sauces/salsas were delicious, especially their tomatillo sauce and what I think was an ancho sauce on my plate– the server didn’t know, said he thought it was a chipotle sauce but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. Beans and rice were unremarkable.

When the bill came, Daniel came back out with a business card and explained that he couldn’t offer us our free appetizer because that would reduce the total bill below $50, which is what we had to spend in order to use the certificate. He presented the business card to us with a handwritten note that our next app/dessert would be comped for us when we returned. We thanked him and didn’t complain because that was what the fine print said on the coupon, but goodness. You’d think he would try to focus more on making our visit NOW good than our next one…?

Given the hassle it was to use our certificate, the attitude of the manager, and the hit or miss entrees, we won’t be returning any time soon. Our server was spot on and wonderful, but I need more than a nice server to get me back to a restaurant. The same goes for chips and salsa. I think the only reason our gift certificate was even honored was because it was a graveyard there that night. Better to have $25 come through the door (plus tip) than nothing at all I guess. Too bad it won’t be coming back.

Houston Chowhounds' Pork Belly Throwdown

On August 14, 2009 the Houston Chowhounds got porked. Twelve chefs from the Houston area came together to find out who could take a slab of pork belly and transform it into further greatness.

The challenge for Chowhounds (besides eating all that pork) was to turn out the best pot of beans.

The event was held at Catalan and the crowds came out.

Some dressed to turn a head, others wearing wife beaters that said ‘I [heart] pork belly.’

All types make for a happy event
especially when the food is outstanding.

The top three choices from the judges for pork belly:
Cody Vasek of Voice with pork four ways
Randy Evans of Brennan’s with a pork torta
and Manubu Horiuchi and Jean-Phillipe Gaston of Kata Robata with pork three ways.

See, us Chowhounds know how to have fun. Four ways and three ways are what its all about.

On the beans side
Karen Rittinger took home first place for Fabada Asturiada.

Some pictures from the event:

Red velvet cupcakes from Jody Stevens.

These were great, and I’m not even a huge cake eater.
(Making them is another story.)
Jody also does vegan and gluten free cakes and is a lovely, lovely person.

My plate. The salad was great.
(Seriously!)
From Cullen’s I believe.

Dessert from Chez Roux.

Inside Catalan.

Contestants being their beany selves.

Tasty bread and snackables.

Like I said; we know how to have fun.
Sometimes this means getting a little dirty.

Winning beans.
Loved the presentation.

Judges and some luckly Chowhounds who secured a spot next to the judges’ table for leftovers.

You need good wine to go with pork belly and beans
and good wine there was.

Next throwdown involves oysters prepared by the professional chefs.

I’m lobbing for #okra for the Chowhound side
although there are a few haters out there who might swing the vote.

I’ll keep you posted.