Vacation Days: San Antonio, August 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015
Last month I went away for a long weekend to San Antonio to attend the wedding of a close family friend. I managed to get some major food time in, so of course I'd like to share it with you all!

First order of business:

I arrived just in time for lunch, so my parents and I went straight to The Esquire Tavern on the River Walk. This historic tavern opened in 1933 to celebrate the end of Prohibition. It's divey inside, yet swanky, with puffy booths, exposed concrete walls, and taxidermed animals scattered throughout. Because we are Ogonoskys, the three of us started off with martinis, which to be honest weren't the greatest. Apparently the vermouth they use comes sweetened, so if you don't ask for UNsweetened vermouth, you get the sweetened kind by default, which I'm not used to (nor a fan of). I still drank mine, but would have preferred it unsweetened.

The food though, was much better! We started off with the tacos con papas: MASHED POTATOES (omg.), chili coleslaw, and salsa verde inside three crispy taco shells. Yes, they were absolutely as incredible and sinful as they sound! For my entree I ordered the grilled pimento cheese sandwich with avocado, and it was pretty good - Incredibly melty and gooey, which hit the spot. The chili salt fries weren't my favorite fries ever, but they were a unique departure from the norm.

The wedding was at the St. Anthony Hotel, which is also where we stayed. And it was lovely.

Our first night there I had dinner with my parents and friends Lindsey and Caleb at Citrus, located on the River Walk in the Valencia Hotel. While the food was extremely good, we were a little confused to find that the ONLY option we had for dinner was to dine off of their San Antonio Restaurant Weeks menu, which was a set of family style dishes. When we made our reservations, we were not informed of this. This was a little disconcerting since we had a high maintenance vegetarian in our group (me. I'm talking about me.), and sharing plates from a small [meat heavy] menu can be tricky. Fortunately it did all work out, and everything I ate (Texas watermelon salad, crispy tofu and vegetables in a Thai basil lemongrass broth, a side of sauteed vegetables, and assorted ice cream) was wonderful. Especially the tofu with vegetables - It was creamy, thick, zingy, indulgent, and lovely!

My parents have decided to build a house to retire in out in New Braunfels, so we (my parents, my sister Emily, and Emily's boyfriend Danny) spent Saturday morning looking at their beautiful land, followed by a trip to the super cool, historic Pearl District for lunch at Boiler House. We started off with a burrata appetizer. The toast served with it was smokey, fluffy, and exceptionally good, but the burrata itself - while tasty - was comical in that there hardly was any! The toast to burrata ratio was absurd. We were technically there for brunch, and since there weren't really any veg-friendly savory entrees, I pieced together a meal of their zucchini, quinoa, and golden raisins side dish, as well as the young beets, feta, oregano, and olive oil plate. Both were playful and flavorful, and served as a great, light lunch to have before the wedding. Overall it was a decent meal, but I'd probably try a different restaurant out next time.

I didn't take pics at the wedding because I was obviously cutting a rug on the dance for the whole time.

The next morning my parents and I had breakfast at the St. Anthony on their lovely, airy, enclosed patio before heading back home!

While none of the meals I had completely blew my socks off as a whole, Esquire Tavern's tacos con papas and Citrus' crispy tofu and vegetables were total rockstar dishes and far and away the major standouts of the trip!

Until next time, San Antonio/NewBraunfels/Hill Country!

(Next month. I'll be there next month.)

Whole 30 Veggie Burgers [Vegetarian, Gluten Free, and Legume Free]

Thursday, September 3, 2015
Since I'm terrible at making my own food look good and then in turn taking pretty pictures of it, we are going to make this brief.

^ Like, what even is that?

I had a dream Tuesday night that I drank wine on day two of my Vegetarian Whole 30. As in...I couldn't even last TWO DAYS without wine. What are you trying to tell me subconscious self? Well, I am proud to report that I am at the start of Day Three, and I have had zero drops of wine! Take THAT Dream Kim!

(Also, what does it say about me that I find going without wine for three days - well two days and a morning technically - a major feat to be proud of?)

Anyway, I made Whole30-qualified, vegetarian, gluten-free, legume-free veggie burgers Tuesday, and while they were absolutely as high maintenance as they sound (this is where pre-planned meal prepping comes into play, folks), they were delicious! I topped them off with a quick, way-too-basic-but-still-great guacamole (it's essentially the standard weeknight guac I have in my arsenal) and paired them with Will's Yam Fries (gah, ADORE) and steamed broccoli with ghee.


I'm a huge weeknight veggie burger fan in general. They're great because you can pop them in the freezer, save 'em for a later date, and thaw for a quick meal at any point. Also, confession time, when I made my guacamole for the patties this time around, I think I used garlic salt instead of garlic powder + salt. Well yesterday I looked at the ingredients of the garlic salt and it said "garlic, salt, and calcium searate." I have searched the web high and low to see if calcium searate is Whole 30 approved and have found nothing. So I may have already violated the program? Oops? From here on out I'll be doing the powder + salt combo to be safe, which I've done in the past, and it is totally fine!

As for the patties themselves, it's tricky trying to get them to solidify without the use of beans, which is why I created a mushroom, carrot, egg "paste." It still came out a little soft in the center, but if carefully charred around the surface, you'll get a patty. In hindsight, I think adding some boiled smashed potatoes to the patty would have created the bean effect I was looking for. I'll probably try this out next time, and report back to you! Regardless, the flavor of the patties is A+, and they definitely serve as a solid addition to any Vegetarian Whole 30!

Whole 30 Veggie Burgers [Vegetarian, Gluten Free, and Legume Free]


(Makes 4 patties + Guacamole topping)

Patty Ingredients:
  • 3 carrots, peeled chopped
  • 4 oz of mushrooms (about 5 small - I used baby bellas)
  • 3/4 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3/4 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 Tbsp. cumin seeds, crushed with the flat edge of a knife
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • sea salt + pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. full fat canned coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 C. almond flour

Guacamole ingredients:
  • 2 medium sized avocados
  • 2-4 lemon wedges (up to you!)
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • pinch of chili powder
  • sea salt to taste

Veggie Burger Instructions:

1) Place mushrooms and carrots into a small pot and add water to cover (mushrooms will float). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

2) While mushroom and carrots are simmering, whisk egg and spices together.

3) Drain mushrooms and carrots, and place in food processor. Pour in egg/spice mixture, olive oil, and coconut milk. Process until it forms a slightly lumpy paste.

4) Pour almond flour into a large bowl and combine with paste mixture and remaining vegetables. Form into 4 patties and place on a plate. Put plate in refrigerator or freezer for 10-20 minutes to solidify patties a bit.

5) Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a skillet (I use a Misto sprayer filled with olive oil). Once heated, place patties on skillet and cook covered over medium heat, roughly 5 minutes per side, or until firm and lightly charred.

Guacamole Instructions:

1) Mash avocados with a fork.

2) Squeeze lemon wedges onto avocados, and add the spices. Combine.

Top veggie burger patties with guacamole and enjoy!



I swear it tastes good.

Houston Restaurant Weeks: Alamo Drafthouse

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Let's torture myself a bit and talk about all of the sinfully yummy stuff I had at Alamo Drafthouse recently, while trying my hardest to eat all of the well-behaved, healthy stuff during my Veg Whole 30, now shall we?

On Monday night, my mother and I dined off of the Alamo Drafthouse HRW menu, while attending a showing of the latest Mission: Impossible at their Vintage Park location.

Sidenote, Jon was originally supposed to join me, but he had to stay late at work that day, which is why I had previously gotten tickets for Mission: Impossible. If I had known my mother would be joining me, I probably would have chosen something... different. Something more my speed.

Though confession #1, even though I think Tom Cruise is certifiable, he makes entertaining movies.

And confession #2, I really really really enjoyed this movie.

I never knew Vintage Park existed, and it's super cute. It reminds me of a bigger, more approachable Uptown Park. Alamo Drafthouse is nestled smack dab in the middle of this charming little center!

And even if you don't live close to one of the Alamo Drafthouse locations in town (I don't), I strongly urge you to make the drive and check one out, especially before Restaurant Weeks ends!

Because it's a total steal: For $35 you get a 3-course meal, a movie screening, and a ticket to a future movie. AND $5 of your meal goes to the Houston Food Bank! No lie, this is probably the best deal going on during Houston Restaurant Weeks.

At Alamo Drafthouse, servers bring you food and bevvies (alcoholic or non) during the movie. That said, DO NOT sit in the wrong seat at the beginning when you place your order (seats are assigned), realize it after the fact, then move to the correct seat. This will undoubtedly throw the whole system off and confuse all of the servers. Regardless, they will still more than likely be totally sweet and accommodating and figure it out. Not that I did this ...

(.................)

Okay confession #3, I'm a total rebel and took pictures during a movie showing, step OFF me.

And confession #4, I'm not that big of a rebel because in consideration of the people in the packed house around me I kept my flash off, which left me with TERRIBLE photos.

You're welcome.

So I'm slapping an old-timey filter on these and calling it a day!

First off, my mom ordered the bottomless popcorn as her starter. We couldn't even finish the GIANT bowl, so "bottomless" was not necessary. That said, it was great. This freshly-made popcorn with "real melted butter" was good, standard movie theater popcorn on its own. But smattered with its accompanied side of herb parmesan? Wowzers. It was fragrant, almost peppery, and gave the popcorn an extra, welcoming oomph!

I started off with the charred corn salsa, and this was my least favorite course. The salsa was a little bland, and texturally it seemed like more of a side dish - It did not have enough of a liquid-y, acidic tomato base, so I was essentially dipping tortilla chips into corn and black beans. It wasn't bad, and it certainly was better than your usual movie theater fare, but I was hoping for something more (especially after having tried the tasty popcorn!).

For my main course I ordered the spaghetti squash pomodoro.

Here's where I really have to hand it to Alamo Drafthouse. As a vegetarian, it's more difficult than I would expect to find HRW menus that have veg-friendly options. And when I do find those menus, the entree is more often than not a default, uninspired pasta.

Well, Alamo Drafthouse's vegetarian entree is one of the more creative ones I've seen - spaghetti squash topped with a pomodoro sauce, portobello mushrooms, and scallions. No, they weren't reinventing the wheel here, but they very easily could have boiled regular old spaghetti in a pot and called it a day. Especially given that this is a movie theater we're talking about here.

And in terms of quality, the entree itself wasn't too shabby. I loved how the "noodles" were crisped around the edges, and the light sauce was given a playful boost from the added mushrooms and scallions. It could have perhaps used a few added herbs, but overall I was pleased with it!

Okay, so my dessert picture just looked like ink blots wrapped in a sneeze, so the kind people at Alamo Drafthouse sent me a picture of their boozy desserts. My "Adult Shake of Choice" was an Irish coffee shake, and I could not. put it. down. Creamy, and rich, and sweet, and nutty, I fell in total love with this shake! And hello, alcohol in a dessert? As in, I also got an alcoholic drink included in my HRW order? Sign me up!

You really can't go wrong with the Houston Restaurant Weeks menu at Alamo Drafthouse. The value of what you're getting is incredible, and the food is a definite step up from the usual fake-butter, fake-cheese infested items served at regular movie theaters. I can confidently say that my experience there was awesome!

Mission accepted.

This post was done in partnership with Alamo Drafthouse, but all opinions are completely 100% my own!

My Vegetarian Whole 30: The Prelude

Monday, August 31, 2015
I'm drinking the kool-aid.

Well, technically I'm not drinking the kool-aid since kool-aid is super processed and is made up of high fructose stuff and not at all Whole 30 compliant, but details.

(also, please ignore my horrific manicure.)

It has recently come to my attention that I like food. A lot. I don't know if you know this.

I suppose I always have.

(that picture above was taken two weeks ago, btw.)

And on the opposite end of the spectrum I also like being healthy. Sometimes those two things don't always align, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case of course.

So in an effort to do a sort of body and life reset, and after hearing more and more about Whole 30, I decided to try it during the month of September! Well, a vegetarian version.

Yes, I realize the bread in this picture makes the meal not Whole 30. It was the closest thing I had in my aresenal.

Now before the paleo gods come at me with pitchforks, I KNOW that a vegetarian Whole 30 is not a true Whole 30. And I've read the schpeel about how if your reasoning for being a vegetarian is to be healthy, it's illogical because you can still be healthy/er while eating meat. But my reasons for being a vegetarian don't really have much to do with being healthy at all (because, duh potato chips). They're more personal belief based, which is why I'm not all of a sudden going to start eating meat to complete the Whole 30 program.

Which sidenote, I never realized until I became a vegetarian how deeply personal the question "Why are you a vegetarian?" is. If I don't know the person who's asking me very well, I usually default to the [untrue] answer of "to be healthier" or mumble something [essentially true, but surface-level] about yoga and my dog having a personality which makes me feel guilty about eating meat. If only people knew what a little a-hole my dog can be....

I feel like I've been eating a lot of not-so-great-for-me things lately (summer indulgences anyone?), which in turn has left me feeling a little sluggish and less confident.

Which brings us here!

For the next month I'll talk about my meals, my exercise routine, and the highs and lows of it all. I'll try to eat out every now and then to see if it can be done without just nibbling on lettuce and olive oil. I'll maybe even share new recipes. I'll discuss my own tips, and I'll gladly welcome any of yours! Maybe I'll post before and after pictures. (MAYBE.)

So on the eve of my first Vegetarian Whole 30, I'd like to identify ahead of time where I anticipate my difficulties will lie:

1) Not being able to eat potato chips, cheese, or beans of any kind. Potato chips are my #1 vice, I pop cheese like candy, and beans are one of my main sources of protein. Fortunately I do eat eggs, so I will still be able to rely on them for animal protein during my Whole 30. And fun fact, so many vegetables contain more protein than you realize! (The second most personal question people ask vegetarians is "HOW ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH PROTEIN?!?!" I promise you, I'm getting more than enough from all of the fingernails I eat and incense I inhale, but thank you for your concern.)

KIDDING.

2) Not being able to drink wine when I eat out or cook. Since I won't be eating out as much though, hopefully the first part won't be too difficult. BUT I will be cooking a lot, and cooking and wine are pretty synonymous in my mind. It's okay though, I'll just sip my water. *SOB*

3) Not being able to weigh myself or count my calories. So confession time, I totally do that thing you're not supposed to do and weigh myself every morning. I also totally do that thing you probably shouldn't do and count my calories during the week. I don't know, I certainly see how these practices have the potential to drive people insane, but they really don't make me feel nuts. More than anything it all just keeps me in check. Like, "Hey there scale, I'm not a huge fan of that number, let's tone it down a bit and be more mindful of our eating today now shall we?" or "Scale, you are looking awesome today, now time for all of the potato chips!"

I know. You talk to your scale too. You get me.

4) Meal prep. To be honest, I'm actually pretty okay at meal prepping. However, in researching and planning my meals for the Whole 30 program, I have realized that this is going to be a whole new ballgame. I need to commit the entire afternoon (or quite potentially even the full day) every Sunday to meal prepping for the week if I hope to survive. These days my lunches consist of throwing a can of soup in my purse, and that ain't gonna fly.

5) Not being able to eat at Coltivare. I don't even want to talk about this. Next.

6) Saying no to awesome food events. I've recently met several awesome Houston foodies and have gotten to attend some freaking amazing events around town. I think the thing to focus on here is that this is only 30 days. One month. 1/12 of a year. It will be okay if I miss a few things. OR attend things but choose to eat at home prior to going or afterwards. I think this will also be a great exercise in time management and finding a nice work/life/home/foodie balance! (because sometimes often, I am not so good at this.)

So yes, the majority of my blog posts in September are going to be focused on my Vegetarian Whole 30 journey (I've still got a few dangling posts in the hopper from August). This is something I would like to do for my health, AND something I would like to share with all of you! Again, I invite you to join me in the conversation, and I welcome any words of wisdom you may have. I also promise to be completely honest, while still keeping a sense of humor (because lord knows I'm incapable of being serious ever). And if for some reason, this just isn't healthy for me - which I don't anticipate because of everything I've read - I will immediately stop.

Here's a little story about that: When I was 22 I did that dumb lemon juice cayenne pepper diet. It might be one of the dumbest things ever and one of the dumbest things I've ever done (if you are a lemon juice diet advocate, apologies). Basically all you consume is a concoction of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup or something, plus detox tea in the morning. I wanted to do it for 10 days, but I only lasted 3. This is because on the third day I just completely stopped consuming anything instead of drinking the juice because I would rather not eat than ingest another ounce of that horrible stuff. And then it hit me like a lightbulb: "Huh. This is really dumb." So if I have one of those moments (which again, is unlikely since I know already that I love all of the foods I'll be eating) I will stop immediately! Being unhealthy sort of defeats the purpose of all of this, you know?

Thanks so much again for following along! Here's to good times, good food, and good health!

Just... please don't bring up potato chips.

The Great Cookie C(Rumble)

Friday, August 28, 2015
It's Friday! You made it! You deserve a cookie!

...or twenty.

(thousand.)

(twenty thousand.)

If any of you regularly follow the local food bloggers, you may have seen that there was a super fun get-together involving chocolate chip cookies last weekend. A group of Houston bloggers did a blind sampling of twenty different chocolate chip cookies from around town, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of it! Organized by my idol-turned-awesome-friend Erika, and hosted by Ashley Rose and Jared in their beautiful studio, the sugar-fueled event was a total blast!

The bakeries and restaurants that participated in the c(rumble) were Ooh La La, Mongoose Versus Cobra, Weights + Measures, The Chocolate Bar, New York Bagels, Fluff Bake Bar, Barnaby's, French Gourmet Bakery, Petite Sweets, Brown Bag Deli, Tout Suite, Michael's Cookie Jar, Common Bond, Pondicheri, Red Dessert Dive, Smoosh, Siphon Coffee, Tiny Boxwoods, Tiff's Treats, and Revival Market.

Several of these awesome places donated a bunch of their cookies to the cause, including French Gourmet Bakery, the bakery whose chocolate chip cookies I've been devouring for quite some time now and my "entry" in the c(rumble)! (Shoutout to Morgan who picked their cookies up since I wasn't able to!)

After overdosing on chocolate chip cookies, our votes (based on Flavor, Appearance, Texture, and Chocolate) were tallied (in an impressively record-quick amount of time by Erin, might I add). The top five rated cookies were:

1) Tiny Boxwoods

2) Common Bond

3) Michael's Cookie Jar

4) Brown Bag Deli

5) Red Dessert Dive

My personal top five were as followed (there was a four-way tie for second place because I love everything apparently, and no I'm not surprised):

1) Michael's Cookie Jar

2) French Gourmet Bakery

2) Ooh La La

2) Tiny Boxwoods

2) Common Bond

That being said, all twenty cookies were unique and lovely and delicious in their own way, and I would gladly order them all at different times, depending on what kind of mood (i.e., super chocolatey mood, not so sweet mood, gooey mood, salty mood...you get me) I was in!

The cookie monsters in attendance were Erika (The Pancake Princess), Ashley Rose and Jared (Sugar & Cloth), Lisa (Maple and Love), Isabel (www.tastemade.com/@isabelissimaa), Claire (The Petite Professional), Julie (Aces of Taste), Lauren (How to Eat, R.D.), Jenna (www.instagram.com/starvingfoodist/), Abby (ShopGirl Blog), Megha (www.instagram.com/hotpinkhouston/), Morgan (The Foodie Chef), and Erin (Tidbits). If you have a chance, go pay their sites a visit - They are all super awesome!! Not only are their sites and contributions to the Houston food scene awesome, this is a warm, friendly, inclusive group of people. One thing I've learned from the many food events I've attended in Houston is that no one is a stranger!

And thank you again to all of the bakeries and restaurants who contributed to this wonderful shindig! They each bring a unique and exciting flavor to the Houston food scene. I recommend every one of them!

(though maybe not all in one sitting because #CookieComas are a real thing people.)

All of the cookies.   a l l.   o f.   t h e m.
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