Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Brunchin' at Down House and Birthdays

This will be my last post as a 28-year old.

My birthday is next week, and I'm going to be in a remote location out on the open seas (that's actually true). And while the thought of having no cell phone and internet for a few days gives me a minor panic attack, I actually think it's entirely fitting and quite the contemplative way to have a birthday. So you won't be hearing from me again for about two weeks!

I thought about getting all prolific (as much as my almost 29 years of "worldy" experience will allow) and creating some sort of list about all of the things I learned in my 28th year (Do lots of yoga, lean on your friends, it's okay to physically remove yourself from uncomfortable situations, travel all the time despite any obscenities your bank account shouts at you, don't start watching House of Cards unless you hope to see the sun at any point during a 2-week span, etc.), but I'll spare you all. It's been a year of ups, downs, twists, and turns, and I sure have learned a lot!

But more importantly? I've eaten a lot.

(And *ahem* drank a lot)

I'm finally wrapping up my little segment here on the June weekend where my mom and I ate all of the things in Houston. Our final stop was at Down House in the Heights for brunch. DH is a popular brunch spot, so if you go (and you should!), plan to wait for a little bit. We certainly didn't mind, as we grabbed a couple of bloodies from the bar and stood out front in the suffocating warm Houston air!

When I lived in NYC, out of habit I would always order my bloodies extra spicy. After moving back to Houston I learned very quickly that ordering a bloody mary "extra spicy" may actually kill you. So I ordered the Down House brunch bloody as is, and whoa nelly. If I had added the "extra spicy" addendum I would have had to have been hospitalized ("would have had to have been"? I'm dizzy now). Those bloodies are NO JOKE (but delish).

And despite the excruciating mild heat and adorable new world Darwinian interior, my mom and I opted to sit outside.

If you've endured six New York winters in recent years, when given the option you choose to be outside for all of the days always forever and ever amen.

I'm 78% sure this cocktail was called the Might as Well (seriously, who gave this girl a food blog?). It was super light, refreshing, and citrusy and was by far my favorite drink that I ordered.

For my meal I decided on the gouda sandwich. I added an egg and - at the recommendation of my server - avocado, and asked for it on sour dough instead of rye.

Superb. Excellent. Outstanding. The melted gouda was so creamy and ethereal, it went perfectly with the tender avocado and egg. And the fries were wonderfully salty and crispy. SO GOOD.

My mom ordered this, and I think if I decided to go back to eating non-veg this would be my first meal.


I also I ordered this dark rum drink. But I'm sorry I have no idea what it was called as things were a little murky at that point...

Apparently, I've actually learned nothing in the past almost 29 years of my life.

But hey, as long as I can eat amazing food and drink amazing drinks at awesome places like Down House with the people I love, I'm one happy camper!

Peace out 28.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vacation Days: Los Angeles

I may or may not have googled "How do you spell Las Angelos" prior to typing in that title....


I used to be a snarky New Yorker who hated Elle Ayyyee even though she had only visited once 17 years ago (SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO?! Am I actually old enough to be saying things like "The last time I was there was 17 YEARS AGO"?! Yes. Yes I am.).

And FYI that trip was magical because it was right after a little unknown film called, oh, TITANIC came out, and on that trip I MET THE OLD LADY FROM TITANIC (Gloria Stewart, may she rest in peace) AND SHE WAS WONDERFUL AND SHE HELD MY HANDS AND SMELLED LIKE LAVENDER.

So even though my prior trip (ahem, 17 years ago) was magical and wonderful and everything my naive tween self could have ever dreamed of (minus the obvious exclusion of none other than the future Mr. Leonardo DiOgonosky), I still was all, "I'm a New Yorker now. I love New York. If I love New York, I couldn't possibly love Lars Arngerlars."

But now I'm back to being an optimistic doe-eyed southern gal, and gosh darn it if I didn't fall in love with the city of angels this past 4th of July weekend. I mean, how could you not? Those beaches! That weather! The beautiful sky that's essentially covered in one giant hazy orange Instagram filter which may or may not actually be pollution even though the number of Priuses per capita there is through the roof!

So without further adieu, my pictures! (and no I did not meet Leo, but I sort of met Halle Berry in that she walked by and was the most beautiful person I've ever seen in my life, she smiled at me, and I gaped at her like a baboon. classic kim.)

There's a really embarrassing story behind this Coffee Bean coffee. But sorry you only get one per blog, and I already handed you Halle Berry on a silver platter. Here's a hint: I unabashedly full-on put my mouth on a stranger's coffee that looked absolutely NOTHING like mine and caused a huge scene. Okay so I told you.

Seriously, that sky is stupid and I want to have its babies.

Never a shortage of veggie burgers!

It's brilliant. I'm not even mad.

With my best friend's little brother, who is my de facto little brother, who I love to pieces

It was so dark this photo would have never happened had I not been surrounded by 72 film geeks, I mean STUDS. But seriously, how adorable are they?
Photo Credit: Eric Lombart

All photos (except for Eric's!) were taken with my iPhone and edited in VSCO cam and Pixlr (except for the #nofilter one, obvs).

Upcoming trips: NYC in a couple of weeks, Peru and Panama in September, and NYC again in October for my friend LJ's wedding!!

Laos Anjelas you are one helluva town.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mockingbird Bistro

Full disclosure I'm going to be largely MIA during the month of July.

Is it actually July already?

First up, I'm going to Los Angeles this weekend to visit friends and drown in the splendor of the west coast. I'll also be out of town a while for work, and for my friend L.J.'s bachelor party in NYC.

I seriously can't sit still, and you can bet your sweet face I'll be Instagramming all of it like there's no tomorrow!

But while I'm still here with you for the moment and not sipping on airplane martinis, FOOD.

We ended up at Mockingbird Bistro on accident.

Continuing where we last left off on my gluttonous June weekend with my mother....

For weeks prior, she and I had been planning a nice dinner at Oxheart. According to Oxheart's website, we could not make a June reservation until June 1. My mother neurotically checked back on the website about 72 times during the last week of May just to be sure. At 10:00 pm on May 31, she checked again, only to find that reservations had opened, and there was nothing available for the night we were wanting to go.

We were none too pleased, but hopefully this was a one-time fluke. I still definitely want to go there sometime!

Bummed but not deterred, we did some research and made reservations for Mockingbird Bistro, which is located in a charming old strip within walking distance from where we were staying.

Much like the exterior, the interior is also very charming. The inside is much more massive than you would expect. The large rooms are dimly lit and contemporary-looking, with contrasting Renaissance-style lighting fixtures hanging from the ceilings.

Mockingbird's menu doesn't really offer anything in the way of vegetarian entrees, but I was able to piecemeal a sizable (and outstanding!) dinner together from sides and apps (something I'm starting to get used to when eating out veg).

I started off with the organic beet salad, which was lovely.

Loaded with red beets, orange beets, arugula, blue cheese, and white balsamic foam, this salad was light, sweet, savory, and indulgent. It was a perfectly executed little starter.

Next up, for my main course, I ordered the truffle parmesan pommes frites, and the asparagus risotto.

You guys know how unabashedly obsessed I am with truffle. These fries were great, but--dare I say it?--a little heavy-handed on the truffle. I know! I can't believe I'm saying that either! It wasn't to the point of me not wanting to eat them because, obviously. But these fries would have been top of the charts good had they scaled it back on the truffle a *tad*. Otherwise, they were perfectly crispy, salty, and topped with just the right amount of parmesan.

The asparagus risotto is not actually a singular offering on the menu, but I spotted it as an accompaniment to one of the entrees.

And mah lord.

You guys, this was so good, and rich, and creamy, and filling. The asparagus taste was not overpowering at all, and the dish was absolutely perfect. I couldn't stop "oohing" and "ahhing" over this one. I cannot recommend it enough.

By time we left on that Saturday night the place was PACKED, and rightly so. My mom and I left fully satisfied and happy about our unplanned dinner at Mockingbird Bistro.

I love a good accident.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tony Mandola's

 "Vegetarians actually can live really good lives!"

That was said by my adorable mother after (sort of) eating veg with me one night at Tony Mandola's.

I had driven by Tony Mandola's on Waugh probably 752 times before that day, but had absolutely no idea what it was. With its grandiose exterior and lack of obvious signage, I had always thought it was a club or an event space or some sort of secret society where the members can only wear long capes and drink out of 5,000 year old chalices (omg sign me up).

Fortunately, my mother had been to Tony Mandola's before, and because she loves it so much, we started out our June weekend of eating our way through Houston there.

Even though we were there during Happy Hour, we started off with the Fried Green Tomatoes appetizer from the regular menu (asking for the shrimp on the side).

Here's the part where I tell you that before I could get a picture, as the server was standing there, my mother dove into a tomato and started spreading the remoulade on it (see the top right tomato). I subtly tried to ask her with my eyes if she could please wait so I could take a picture, and she said out loud and not with her eyes, "Oh! That's right! You have to take a picture!" She turned to the server and said, "You see, she has a food blog!" This is the part where I not so subtly tried to tell her with my eyes, "Moooommmmm!!" and she said out loud again, "Whoops! Was I not supposed to say that? They're not supposed to know that, right?!"

Coincidentally, the General Manager was over not long after, chatting with us. But he was super nice and explained that he was new there, and he was brought in to help introduce new wines as well as help bring in more crowds.

It was actually nice getting to talk to him, and I was glad to hear about their new publicity effort. Because even though the food was amazing, there weren't that many people there for a Friday after work.

((Maybe if they started distributing long capes at the door....))

We then were debating between ordering a side of rice and beans off of the main menu, or the Happy Hour rice and beans. My mom said the Happy Hour offering was ginormous, so we opted for the smaller (though come to find out, more expensive) side of rice and beans.

Which was awesome.

It only had one hunk of sausage in it, so it was easy for me to pick around it. And sweet mother of pearl was it tasty-rich, hearty, filling, and full of character.

Then we ordered the linguini primavera to share, tossed in garlic and olive oil with fresh vegetables. And it was stupidly good. First of all, you could tell the pasta was made in-house, and that it was done with super high quality ingredients. But it was also colorful, and lovely, and light, and complex, and bursting with a million different flavors! Wonderful.

Also it came with a little side salad which included some artichoke and olives. A+!

But the thing we ordered that absolutely sent me through the roof was...

...the garlic bread!

(It doesn't take much.)

But y'all. This garlic bread was PERFECT. Super crunchy on the outside, buttery garlic clouds on the inside. I'm embarrassed to say this, but my mom had one little slice and I DEVOURED the rest.

Oh just shut up and kiss me already.

I'm so glad I got to enjoy Happy Hour (well, really the only HH item we ordered was the wine. which was good, hello) with my mom at Tony Mandola's. If the weather is nice, I definitely recommend sitting on the beautiful patio, but the inside is large and open as well. And the food is good. REALLY stinkin' good.

Capes mandatory.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Taco Tuesdays: Torchy's Tacos

Can't everything just be wrapped in a tortilla?

Two weekends ago while my dad and sister Emily were off celebrating her 22nd birthday in Vegas, my mom and I decided to have a girls weekend out on the town. This included Happy Hour at Tony Mandola's, lunch at Bowl Cafe, dinner at Mockingbird Bistro, brunch at Down House, catching the play "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" at the Alley, and breakfast one morning at Torchy's Tacos on Shepherd.

In other news I can't hear you over my clogged arteries and failing liver.

But we had such a great weekend! And Torchy's was ahh-mazing as per uszh. I've been to this Texas chain several times before, but this time I came equipped to take photos and write about it.

The tacos are loaded so completely with several pieces of heaven, that one is plenty for me. But we decided to be adventurous and ordered three for the two of us to sample. Each one was darn good in its own way (fresh tortillas ugh I love you), and you really cannot go wrong with any of these, but I will rank them for you in order of Favorite to Most Favorite to Most Most Favorite.

3. Fried Avocado

Hand-battered fresh avocados fried and served with vegetarian refried beans, topped with pico, lettuce, & cheese. Served with poblano sauce on a corn tortilla.

Yeah, that'll do.

The main star of this taco, the fried avocado, was delicate and sensational, and the poblano sauce gave it a wonderfully spicy kick. It's my number three because the avocado - although perfectly cooked - was a tad overwhelming. A little less avocado, and a little more of the accoutrements would have probably balanced it better. But still incredibly good.

2. #5 Breakfast Taco

Potato, (pinto or black) bean & cheese. Served with your choice of fresh tortilla and choice of sauce.

This one was almost a tie with my number one. WOW. First of all, if you put a potato in anything (and I do mean anything), there's pretty much no way I'm not going to love it. We added green chiles to this, and it was ridiculous. The combination of the potatoes, beans, cheese, and green chiles might be the most genius thing to happen to food since fluffernutter sandwiches.

1. Dirty Sanchez

Scrambled eggs with a fried poblano chile, guacamole, escabeche carrots and shredded cheese. Served with Poblano Sauce on a fresh flour tortilla.

Y'ALL. I cannot pinpoint an exact reason why this one landed the number one spot, but please believe it's incredible. Was it the eggs? (Neither of the other tacos had eggs) Was it the spicy fried poblano chile or the poblano sauce? The guac? The carrots? The cheese? So many different textures and flavors created one of the most perfect breakfast tacos I've ever had. If you go, this is my number one recommendation. So grab a fork and dig in, as you discover new exciting flavor combinations with every bite of the Dirty Sanchez!

Torchy's is a beloved Texas chain, and it's become a regular weekend breakfast spot for me. That particular morning, we sat on the patio, which was quiet and breezy. There's also plenty of seating inside for those hot Houston summer days. You can't go wrong with the creative tacos at Torchy's, and it's the perfect weekend morning treat!

A taco a day keeps the doctor away.