Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Taco Tuesdays: The Original Ninfa's on Navigation

I have a confession to make.


I was born and raised around these parts, and I've lived inside the loop for the past year, and my first visit to the Original Ninfa's on Navigation...was last Saturday.

*wince* I know! It's criminal!

But while we're on the subject of confessions, I have to confess that my latest addictions are kickboxing, Instagram (seriously, where had I been all this time?), photo editing apps, "House of Cards" (except after binge-watching it on Netflix, I finally got to the season 2 finale last night, and OH MY GOD, and what am I going to do with my life now??), these pancakes, and spending way too much time playing Candy Crush.


And if anyone can help me unlock the levels after 125, I'll be forever in your debt.

I am proud to say though, that I have now dined at the Original Ninfa's, and I absolutely loved it.


This past Saturday I went with a group of friends to this legendary Houston spot, and it was so beautiful out (Yeah, what must that be like, current 40 DEGREE HOUSTON WEATHER?) we opted to sit on their large patio. The wait time was 40 minutes, which was to be expected for a Saturday night. That was no problem, as we passed the time drinking margs and coronas at the El Tiempo next door.

Once we were seated we ordered the queso (duh) to start, which was hot and cheesy and goopy and pretty exceptional.


Side note: There are a couple of very daring/creepy/awesome cats lurking around your feet, so if you feel something furry brush up against your leg while you are indulging in aforementioned queso, don't think anything of it.


But back to the food.

I debated heavily on what to order for my main course. Do I go with my standard fajitas? That's always tricky since it would take a small act of God for anything to top my love of El Tiempo's Filet Fajitas. However, our bubbly server Gaby was telling me how wonderful the Ninfa's fajitas are.

Max's fajitas with diablo shrimp added

My new friend Max told me that he would put his life on recommending their Diablo Shrimp Soft Tacos though. The tacos are stuffed with a cabbage slaw and bacon-wrapped shrimp, with jack cheese in soft corn tortillas.


Um, yeah that'll do.

Y'all. These were amazing. AMAZING. The shrimp (shrimp? shrimps? platypusses?) were bursting with flavor, the bacon was, um, BACON (read: perfection), and the tangy slaw was delightful. These mighty little tacos were borderline delicate, due to the absolute precision that went into combining these harmonious flavors. Just fantastic.


My friend Megan and her boyfriend Jesse split a Crawfish Enchilada special that they were oohing and ahhing over. I gave them some of my tacos, and after tasting, they dubbed my plate the winner. Their enchiladas set the bar incredibly high, but they claim my tacos were in a class all of their own.

I can see now why the Original Ninfa's is such an institution. The enthusiastic staff, the lively atmosphere, and the exceptional food make it a really special place.

Oh, and I have another confession to make: I'm going to Dallas next weekend.

*wince* I know! It's traitorous! But I'm visiting my sister!


And you can bet I'll be instagramming the pants off of that trip.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Happy Hour at Shade

This post was supposed to be about the amazing brunch I had at Brick and Spoon with my lady friends Megan and Bo.


But someone (ME) accidentally deleted those photos from my phone, so....oh darn, now I get to go back!

And for now I'll talk about the great Happy Hour experience Megan and I had at Shade a few weeks ago!

First off, I made an earth-shattering discovery when I went there.

Back when I was a wee undergrad at the University of Miami and was visiting home during spring break one year (it's funny how all the Miami students leave Miami for spring break while all of the other young co-eds seem to flock there), I went to lunch with my mom and her co-worker somewhere in Houston. That was like, 42 years ago, so I clearly forgot where it was. But I remembered exactly what I ate (duh. mussels. pre-mollusk allergy, obvs.) and exactly what it looked like inside (beautiful, light, and airy).

Since I've moved back, every time my mom and I go shopping in Rice Village, I point out this one restaurant to her (couldn't tell you the name of it) and say "Mom! That's where you, Gail, and I ate one time when I was in college!" And then she proceeds to look at me like I have five heads, and says, "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. And I've never eaten there." This exact conversation has happened about seven times.

What is it that they say is the mark of a crazy person?

WELL.


A few weeks ago when I walked into Shade, located on the most adorable street you've ever seen in the Heights, the realization hit me like a ton of bricks: THIS is the place I had lunch at with my mom and Gail!

Of all the gin joints in all the world....

(Name that movie!)

But anyway. Y'all know I love a good Happy Hour.

Especially a lovely, super inexpensive Houston Happy Hour that allows you to sample multiple small plates with your friends--and Shade definitely fits the bill here!

After much deliberation and hashing it out with our server (these are major life decisions after all), we settled on ordering the Lamb Sliders, Goat Cheese Fritters, and Tempura Fried Broccolini from the Happy Hour menu, along with the Gruyere Macaroni and Cheese appetizer from the Dinner menu.


To be perfectly honest, I wasn't blown away by the Goat Cheese Fritters. They were fine, and definitely pretty little suckers, but probably my least favorite thing we ordered. I think it's because the goat cheese was a tad overpowering. When I first took a bite I described them as "fancy mozzarella cheese sticks...but with goat cheese." But I'd probably rather stick to the original.

Megan seemed to be more of a fan of them though!


The Gruyere Mac and Cheese, made with truffle oil, is - naturally - super indulgent. Again, not the best truffle mac I've ever had, but it's definitely worth a taste. It's super decadent and filling, and it is something I would have definitely appreciated more during those awful 20 degree spells we got (in Houston! I still can't get over that!) last winter.

Okay, now we're getting into the big leagues here. First of all, look at how artfully this plate of Lamb Sliders is done. So many colors! So many levels!


 I'm easily amazed.

The sliders come on brioche with tzatziki and chimichuri, and they are AWESOME. The lamb was incredibly tender, which contrasted nicely with the firm brioche, and the tzatziki packed a nice little punch. These munchies were gobbled up in no time. Seriously, the next time I go, I think I'll double (oh hell, triple) my order of these!


But the surprising winner of our Happy Hour samplings was the Tempura Fried Broccolini!

H
o
l
y

M
o
l
y

How? Why? Huh? I mean don't get me wrong, I enjoy me some broccoli/broccolini/things of the occoli variety, but this stuff was on a whole new level of wowzers. I don't know how they managed to make the outside so perfectly lightly crisped, while the inside stayed incredibly nice and tender, but it was done beautifully. Also, the sweet chili sauce that came with it?

Ugh, so good I died.

End result? Shade is a darling place with some fantastic Happy Hour food offerings. I am happy to be able to recommend another delightful, inexpensive Happy Hour spot in Houston!


(But I'm even happier to report that my mother no longer thinks I've *completely* lost my marbles).

Monday, April 7, 2014

Houston Astros Games and then a Little Extra Sumpin' Sumpin'

Why hello, April!


That photo is of me and my high school BFFL Erica before an Astros game. Based on the Reeboks I was wearing, you would justifiably think the year was 1984, but you would be mistaken as it was actually 2006 kids.

I'm not a sporty person, per se (my father learned that the hard way when he bought me my first baseball glove at age 7 and discovered I couldn't throw or catch to save my life, when he took me to play tennis at age 10 and witnessed me screaming every time the ball came near me, and when after being the tallest person in my class with a "promising" (it wasn't) career in basketball ahead of me, all of a sudden I stopped growing at age 12 and have been stunted somewhere between 5'4" and 5'5" ever since), but I do enjoy the act of attending sporting events. Especially, Astros games, Especially when they're good.

But beggars can't be choosers of course.

And although I couldn't have named you a current Astro before this weekend (I got my eye on you now, Altuve!), I can name you my all-time favorites from the past:

  1. Brad Ausmus (I mean I am a red-blooded American woman) 
  2. Lance Berkman (seriously, have you seen him hit a homer live? Magical.)
  3. And my all-time favorite pitcher Roy Oswalt.

So this weekend I went to Saturday's game against the Angels with my friends Lenny, Christy, and Caleb, and it was super extra special when, no Brad Ausmus was not there and did not declare his undying love to me, but yes I got to see Berkman and Oswalt retire their jerseys as Astros.


Pretty cool stuff.

After the ceremony, Christy and I decided to wander off and get some grub. I have yet to experience the infamous magic of Killen's Barbecue, so we stood in line for half an hour at the new Caswell's and Killen's Smokehouse stand in Minute Maid Park. Did the luscious barbecue baked potato I ordered justify the long wait?


You bet your cute little faces it did!

Funny story about this picture though.

I sat down in my seat, put the baker in my lap, leaned over to grab my phone out of my purse so I could take said picture, sat back up, and discovered that my entire upper lady bits were completely covered in barbecue sauce.

And I was wearing a light blue shirt.

And of course I was tempted to channel my inner Barney Stinson and take my friends up on their challenge of seeing how many dudes' numbers I could get while covered in barbecue sauce. However, after I finished eating that heavenly monster potato (look, a girl's got priorities), I went to the bathroom and performed soap and water surgery on my poor shirt. I came back to my seat, wearing a now soaking wet shirt mind you (I was totally that girl), but now barbecue-free, much to the disappointment of my friends.

A few innings later, and my shirt was totally dry. But then!

A fly ball suddenly popped over into our section and landed in someone's popcorn bucket five seats away from us. My now dry shirt became completely covered in beer as Christy flailed about trying to protect her face.


I must have smelled AMAZING.

After the game (Did we win, my parents asked me? I think we all know the answer to that question.), we walked to the downtown bars, which I actually had never been to. I eventually want to do individual posts about each of these bars when I've had a more, uh, clear experience with them, but I'll give a brief overview.

Our first stop was The Pastry War, and it was super adorable and super fun. Our last stop (well my last stop) was Captain Foxheart's (Bad News Bar), which 100% reminded me of a cool NYC Speakeasy. And side note, when we got in there Lenny asked me what my Twitter handle was, and I full on lied to his face and promptly told him it was @VodkaSoda (It's not. It's @kimmyog).

But the stop in between, Goro & Gun, just might be my new favorite bar in Houston, for three reasons:

1) This creepy awesome thing:


Is that a Pee Wee Herman puppet riding a taxidermed coyote? Yup, sure is.

2) These RIDICULOUS Brussels sprouts that are so good they'll melt your face off:


3) I asked the beyond friendly bartenders if they would play "Africa" by Toto over their sound system, and THEY DID, and I became that totally *ahem*sober girl with beer and remnants of barbecue on her shirt, dancing alone in the bar, fulfilling my every dream.

So long story long, Astros games are one of my favorite spring/summertime events to attend in Houston. You can get decent seats for not a whole lot, and now I've discovered that the after party downtown bar scene ROCKS. You should totally go!


I'll even let you borrow my lucky shirt.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy One (/Eleven) Year Anniversary Houston!

On March 31, 2013 I packed up my bags, bid NYC a final farewell, and returned home to my Texas motherland. So while I've *technically* lived in the greater Houston area for an accumulation of 11 years (because I was born here and did a large part of my growing up around these parts), I like to think of it as my 1 year anniversary since I had been away for 10 years.

That math may or may not add up. Go with it.

So, Happy (almost) 1 Year Anniversary Houston!!

To celebrate properly (with an homage to food, obvs.),  I have ranked my top 10 favorite Houston dishes I've had in the past year to reminisce/drool over and share with you all. So without further adieu here is my completely 100% biased opinion of my top 10 favorite dishes in Houston from the last 365 days.


Kim's Favorite Houston Dishes from the Past Year
 (dramatic large font absolutely necessary.)


#10: Butternut Squash Ravioli at Mr. Peeples (December 2013)


My friend Meredith and I went to Mr. Peeples for Happy Hour before seeing The Nutcracker, and it was the perfect pre-show spot. With a very decently priced Happy Hour menu, she and I were able to try a variety of small plates. The shining star of these dishes, in my opinion, was the Butternut Squash Ravioli. Savory! Sweet! Light! Hearty! Holy Moly Ravioli, it encompassed a whole slew of juxtaposing flavors and characteristics that made me exercise an obscene amount of restraint from licking the plate clean.

#9: Spinach and Artichoke Crostini at Oporto Wine Cafe (October 2013)


On my second friend date with my friend Megan (with whom I share a "bromance"), she introduced me to Oporto Wine Cafe's Happy Hour. Like Mr. Peeples, Oporto has a very inexpensive Happy Hour list. Unlike Mr. Peeples, there are about thirty different Happy Hour apps to choose from. Not even knowing where to begin, Megan said we absolutely had to get the Spinach and Aritichoke Crostini. Imagine the best spinach and artichoke dip you've ever had in your life but BETTER, put that dip onto a perfectly crispy crostini, add a dash of heaven, and that's what this is.

#8: Tots 'N Shots at Beavers (February 2014)


First off, I give Beaver's an A++ for creativity on this one. Tots 'N Shots, AKA green chile pimento cheese risotto "tots" with a bloody mary dipping sauce? Absolutely BRILLIANT. And not only are they brilliant, but the flavors are so interesting and delicious. When my best friend Courtney came from NYC to Houston for a visit, we shared this appetizer and fell completely in love. With the tots, not each other. Okay, maybe with each other. Tots have a way of igniting romance.

#7: Bread Service Appetizer at Roost (January 2014)


My bro Megan and I also went to Roost, where we not only experienced The Crazy Cauliflower Incident of My Life, but we also experienced the transcendence of their Bread Service Appetizer. Never quite the same, the bread of the day is served with three different butters and a cheese spread. For such a seemingly simple dish that would normally get overlooked, Roost sure has created a piece of art with this appetizer. There are so many delicious options and flavors involved in the Bread Service Appetizer, this is one dish you can't miss at Roost.

#6: Bangkok Fries at Boheme Cafe & Wine Bar (October 2013)


You know how leftover french fries are never good? Let's just say several days after eating lunch at Boheme with my mom, I was gorging on leftover Bangkok Fries from Boheme - cold and straight out of the container (how's that for a visual?) - for breakfast, several days after. AND THEY WERE JUST AS INCREDIBLE. The Bangkok Fries are trashed up, beautiful, they-shouldn't-be-good-but-dammit-if-they're-not-some-of-the-best-things-ever french fries. Filled with a smorgasbord of flavors (Sriracha! Minced pork! Crispy fried onions! Yellow curry mayo! Crushed sesame sticks! Cilantro! EXPLOSION!!!), they really are a force to be reckoned with. Absolutely phenomenal.

#5: Talleggio Florentine Pizza with Prosciutto at CRISP (July 2013)


And here we find ourselves in the Top 5! When my friend Lenny recommended CRISP to me over the summer, little did I know I was going to be literally dreaming about the Talleggio Florentine Pizza with prosciutto for months to come. This pizza is divine. Every bite was beyond pleasurable and utterly sensational. The taleggio cheese, creamy spinach, marinated artichoke, crispy onion, truffle oil, and prosciutto blended together in perfect harmony.

#4: Fillet Fajitas at El Tiempo (August 2013)


My friend Courtney claims that now that I've introduced her to the Fillet Fajitas at El Tiempo, all other fajitas have been ruined for her. And I wholeheartedly have to agree. The meat is so tender and perfect, you could eat it like a steak with a good glass of red wine. OR you could add their butter and Berry Sauce, load up your fixin's, wrap it in a fresh flour tortilla, and experience the most perfect fajita on God's green earth.

#3: Duck Salad at Brasil (July 2013)


Listen, I am absolutely not one to rave about a salad. In fact, the thought of having a salad as a whole meal annoys me. How sad for all parties involved, the eater and the eaten! But sometimes I go out on a limb and order a salad as an entree, and my whole world gets thrown out of orbit. Such is the case with the Duck Salad at Brasil. The tender duck is the main attraction, complimented perfectly by crisp red onions, creamy goat cheese, and tart blackberries. Every time I go back to Brasil I vow to try something new, but I always go back to this. I've sampled the dishes of friends and family there, but everything else pales in comparison. Light, yet indulgent, and absolutely perfect.

#2: Churrasco Steak at Américas (September 2013)


THIS STEAK, GAH. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The world-renowned Churrasco Steak at Américas is one phenomenal steak. I remember being completely dumbfounded as I cut through the steak with a butter knife. The Churraso steak is cooked in a chimichurri seasoning and is so juicy I want to cry just thinking about it! (But I won't for your sake).

#1: Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings at Underbelly (July 2013)


My numero uno dish was an absolute no-brainer. Everything about Underbelly's Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings is simply exquisite. They have the perfect amount of spice, the perfect amount of sweet, the perfect amount of savory, and the perfect amount of varying textures - The dumplings are soft with an ever-so-slightly crisped exterior and the goat is melt-in-your-mouth tender. This carefully executed, delicate, stunning dish provides the diner with a complete otherworldly experience. Simply astounding.

Because I love not only food, but Houston food so much, I've got a whole slew of honorable mentions! Here they are in chronological order of having eaten:


From Left to Right: Caramel popcorn pot de crème & fried pretzel at Underbelly, Texas Turkey Sandwich at Spec's, El Gallo Dip at El Gallo, Bacon Bacon Burger at Christian's Tailgate, Perry's Famous Pork Chop at Perry's Steakhouse.


From Left to Right: BLT and Brie Sandwich at Chatter's Cafe & Bistro, Truffle Mushroom Pizza at Boheme Cafe & Wine Bar, Farmer's Market Ceviche at Benjy's, Toasted Supreme Bagel with Lox Spread at Hot Bagel Shop, and Fried (Dancing) Cauliflower at Roost.

So there you have it folks! My Best of Houston list from the past year of being back. It's been such an adventure trying so many new flavors and visiting so many interesting places. Thank you to everyone who has been reading along!

Happy 1 Year Anniversary, Houston - Here's to many more!

*All photos edited in Pixlr & Photoshop.




Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Trip to the Suburbs: Christopher's in Humble

Prepare yourself for some super hipster photos.


Well, for me anyway. I'm playing with this new "Matte" action I installed on my Photoshop, and it's just so darn fun!

It's also so darn fitting for this post because this was the day I sat in traffic for 75 minutes to go to the eye doctor who I've been going to all my life (come on, you know you do it too with your dentists and hair dressers and psychics and whatnot), and ordered my new pair of super hipster glasses because my right eye has been literally the worst lately.

#hipstergram
That's my "hipster" face. I'm sorry you can't unsee that.

But I won THIS battle, Right Eye!

Since I was out in Humble, I asked my friend Melinda to meet me for dinner. We decided to meet at a pizza joint called Christopher's. I had only ever been to the Kingwood location a million years ago, which is called J. Christopher's, and I LOVED that place. The Humble one used to be called J. Christopher's as well (where did you go, J?!?!), but it is now under new ownership which you can read all about on their website.

Anywho, Melinda has a beautiful, exceptionally well-behaved two year old named Adele, who she brought along with her to our pizza night.

Here's a little story about how even though I babysat my way through grad school in New York, I still know absolutely nothing about children:

I walk into the restaurant before they get there, the host asks me how many we'll be, and I say "Three. Well, two and a baby. Actually she's not really a baby, she's a toddler." The host says, "So do you need a high chair?" Me: "Nahhh, we don't need a high chair."

Five minutes later, Melinda walks in with Adele and says to the host, "Hi, could we please have a high chair?"


Listen, she's a super advanced child! I was giving credit where credit was due.

Oh, but look at those bread sticks. And look at the BUTTER dripping off of them. I think their garlic bread sticks were my favorite thing I ate that night. Soft, fluffy, perfectly salty, and sinfully buttery. I couldn't stop shoveling them into my mouth! Poor Adele had to wrestle the eighth one out of the clutches of my fists and gently explain to me that I need help.

Told you she was advanced.


To start, I ordered a side Caesar salad with anchovies. Dear Christopher Without the J: Thank you for giving me the exact perfect amount of anchovies. Sometimes restaurants give you an overpowering amount. Sometimes they're so chintzy with them it makes me feel empty inside. But on this night, after having undergone the ever-dreaded blowing-air-into-my-eye procedure, followed by proving that I'm a complete moron when it comes to children, this Caesar salad was a ray of sunlight. Just perfect.

Oh my gosh, and guess what? I ordered a beer and it was free. As in, it cost nothing. Like, I paid zero dollars for it.

And I know you must be thinking that surely the bartender had gotten lost in my overly dilated pupils and rapidly twitching right eye so my drink was on the house, but surprisingly you would be mistaken.

They are just free, end of story. Something to do with liquor licenses. I'm so on board.

Big pizza, little human.
Unfortunately, I have to say the pizza was my least favorite part. But this is ENTIRELY my fault. You see, when I was younger, the only kind of pizza I ever ate was cheese pizza (that was after I got over my hatred of tomatoes and wouldn't eat any kind of pizza, which I still have trouble comprehending). So when I ordered pizza at Christopher's with a J in the past, it was always cheese, and it was always amazing. Nowadays I try to be all fancy with my pizza, so we ordered a large pizza, half cheese for the small adorable human and Melinda (who also happens to be a small adorable human), and half mushroom and onion for me. It was fine, but it really did throw off the whole thin crust, super crispy to the point of *almost* being burned but not, minimalist, delicious pizza that I remembered. I feel like the beauty of a thin crust Christopher pizza is in its simplicity. The simplicity of it allows the ingredients of cheese and sauce and super crispy crust to shine. I feel like my additives took away from all of that. So lesson learned: If you remember something being wonderful from years ago, DON'T DEVIATE.

Also, I saved the pizza. Uhh, I mean I saved Adele.

After I unintentionally convinced Melinda that she should never leave her child alone with me I saved her child's life from a pizza mishap.

Melinda went to pull off a slice.

Instead, she pulled off the entire pizza.

Which I saw slide off in slow motion towards the high chaired-lap of Adele.

I dove.

Stuck MY ENTIRE HAND into the pizza.

And saved the day.

But heroics aside, I really do cherish this little spot. It's very casual and comfortable, and everything is super delicious (get the thin crust CHEESE pizza) and incredibly inexpensive. I'm so glad I was able to experience it once again!


Hipstering OUT. *mic drop*

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The 2014 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

On my long list of  reasons I was excited to move back to H-Town a year ago, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo definitely ranked high. The list went something like this:
  1. Being close to my family. 
  2. Never seeing another snowflake for as long as I live, SO HELP ME GOD.
  3. Getting to live in a space that is greater than 380 square feet.
  4. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
The fried food covered, animal laden, sugar crashing event is SO MUCH FUN. The rodeo has it all: Awesome artwork from local kiddos, a massive carnival, fried butter (um, ew.), a wine garden (yes please), all sorts of animals (!!!!!!!!!!!!!), MUTTON BUSTIN' (just do yourself a favor and look it up and then be forever indebted to me), and bacon. wrapped. turkey legs.

If this isn't heaven, then I don't know what is.

So without further adieu, please join me as I reminisce through photos over the rip-roaring good time I had this year with my mom at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

My people were there! Side note: I need to run not walk to wherever this restaurant actually is in Houston.

Yeah that's a turkey leg wrapped in bacon. #dreamsdocometrue





Cow posing with a bucket, obvs.

My spirit animal.

#Bootstagram #sorryimnotsorry



Put padding on kid, strap kid to sheep, and watch the magic unfold. (Also, yes I'm 28 years old and I saw Selena Gomez in concert, what.)

I cannot wait to see what's in store for the 2015 rodeo!!

All photos were taken on my iPhone and were edited in Pixlr and Instagram.