Texas Renaissance Festival

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Sometimes you just gotta give in to the weird(ly fantastic).

After a having had a particularly un-fun week, I ventured outside the loop with my friend Meredith to attend the Texas Renaissance Festival. She and I had both never been, so we decided to check it out (and hopefully make the end of my week better)!

The grounds were huge and very pretty, lined with cute outdoor shops, counter service restaurants, rides, and games. And filled with people in costume. We were not in costume, and we'd often wonder if the people who approached us were Ren Fest workers or attendees. Either way, they all appeared to be having a blast! And we, too, were really enjoying ourselves.

We attended a joust:

(Go Team Germany).

We got horribly, embarrassingly lost in a maze:

And we also got married!

Just kidding, they don't allow that in Texas YET, but if they did, we could have. There is a wedding chapel in the middle of the Renaissance Festival grounds, and it is actually very beautiful. The ultimate themed wedding, my friends.

The real highlight of the day was attending the Ded Bob Sho. The comedic performance consisted of a masked man operating a talking skeleton named Bob. Bob spouted hilarious and borderline inappropriate jokes, heckled the audience, and had everyone laughing and cheering for him throughout its entirety. Definitely worth checking out (but probably not with children).

The other highlight was the turkey leg. Er. Mer. Gerd. The only time I think I've ever had a turkey leg was in high school at a Medieval Times. But I don't really remember, so it probably wasn't nearly as good as this one. This one was Ahhhhmazing. Meredith said it was the best turkey leg she ever had. Whatever it was smoked in gave it so much flavor. Absolutely mouthwatering.

Do I think I'll ever go back? Probably not, but I'm glad I checked it out. I had a great time being silly and escaping reality for a little while with my friend. It definitely brightened up my week!

If you decide to go, I definitely recommend going earlier on in the run, probably in October. It was freezing this weekend, and there really are not any indoor spaces to warm up your cold tootsies if need be.

Also, be sure to get there early in the day to avoid parking a mile away. Fortunately we did, so no issues there. There is an option of paying $10 for premier parking, but I personally would want to avoid that at all costs!

And if you happen to run into a Russian gypsy while you're walking around, take the time to talk to him. He may be an actor, he may be an attendee, he may be a legit 16th century wandering gypsy transported in time. Whoever he is, he's HI-Larious.

Succumbing to the Ramen Craze: Lunch at Soma

Thursday, November 21, 2013
Remember last week when it was really cold outside?

No, I mean it. Like, really cold? As in, lows in the 30s?

I know it's hard to grasp, given that today's high is 80, but try your darnedest.

And side note: Can you even believe next week is Thanksgiving?! WHAT?? Time, you are one crazy motha'.

But back to the cold.

In the midst of experiencing the arctic tundra side of the temperamental Houston fall weather spectrum last week, I was in search of something that would warm my insides. Jason and I decided to meet up for lunch and test out the recent ramen trend at Soma on Washington.

Soma is super nice inside. It's dimly lit, pretty, and massive. Actually, I was a bit taken aback by the interior, as the exterior is sort of odd. It's located in a strip that's trying its best to harken back to the Art Deco era of style. I was pleasantly surprised when I set foot inside the large oasis.

Determined to dive headfirst into this ramen trend and never look back, Jason and I both ordered the Soma Ramen.

Now. I love things that are trashed up with a mod podge of completely different ingredients and treasures. The surprises can be endless! I also adore soup (I realize that's a strange thing to say). So for all intents and purposes, I should have fallen in love with this ginormous bowl of ramen. But I didn't. I did love several of the different components of it, and I can see how people do fall in love with it, so I am going to try to pick it apart as objectively as possible.

First of all, the broth/seaweed base was divine. It was probably my favorite aspect of the soup. Salty, slightly tart, and simply delicious! I also loved the egg in there. The pork belly, while not my favorite pork belly (Le Cellier in EPCOT still reigns supreme), added a nice new layer of flavor. Mushrooms? Check. Noodles? Check. The fish cake however? That was the first time I ever ate a fish cake, and I was a bit turned off by its rubbery consistency.

So while the majority of the main ingredients in the ramen were very tasty, it didn't all quite come together for me. I liked it, but I didn't love it. And I don't think this is due to the way Soma executed it; I think it's because I just may not be a ramen person.

You know what I did love though? This:

Fresh and beautifully presented, the salmon sushi was phenomenal.

I definitely foresee a second visit to Soma where I'll indulge in more of their sushi offerings! And I do think that if you're a ramen person, this is a good place to go for it.

But seriously, Thanksgiving. Next week. I can't even believe it, but turkey/green bean casserole/canned cranberry sauce/mashed potatoes/stuffing/pumpkin pie get in my belly NOW, sorry I'm not sorry. 

Happy Hour at RDG + Bar Annie

Thursday, November 14, 2013
I realize it's been almost a week since my last post, but this is what my life has been like lately:

When you try to think of the most stressful and chaotic thing ever, isn't that what comes to mind for you too?

And no, it's not 1997, why do you ask?

(For the record, I lost that game.)

Okay my life hasn't really been that stressful and chaotic (frantic Minesweeper games aside), it's just been super duper busy with work, marathon training (yeah. that's a thing I'm doing.), and getting ready for MY TRIP TO VEGAS THIS WEEKEND. All good things!

Last week I met up with my gal pals Megan and Tamira for Happy Hour at RDG + Bar Annie. And much like other shfancy spots such as Haven, Americas, and Triniti (blog on that to come!), this upscale restaurant offers a mean, awesomely priced Happy Hour menu.

And until I randomly stumble into a large unsuspecting sum of money, this is how I plan to eat my way through all of the high dollar Houston hot spots with no shame whatsoever!

Located on Post Oak near the Gallaria, RDG + Bar Annie is a beautiful, chic, two-story restaurant nestled in BLVD Place. Oh, and there's free self-parking in the back.

RDG + Bar Annie, I love you already, even if your name is a mouthful.

The first two appetizers we ordered were the BBQ Brisket Taquitos and the Lime & Black Pepper Potato Chips with Smoked Cheddar Bacon Dip. And these were by far the two best things we had. But don't make me choose a favorite of the two because that would be like choosing my favorite child (although we did end up getting a SECOND order of the Taquitos, so I'll let you draw your own conclusions...)

The BBQ Brisket Taquitos were AMAZING. I feel like this type of dish often has the potential to end up dry or a little bland, but the inside of the taquitos were moist - without being soggy - and beyond flavorful. Just phenomenal.

If you know me at all, you'll know that I am a savory over sweets person. If given the option of cookies or potato chips, I will down that entire bag of Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Salt & Vinegar Cheeps (the deluxe size) quicker than you can say "RDG + Bar Annie" (Which, admittedly, make take a little while, so bad example)!

Therefore, when I saw CHIPS with a blue CHEESE dip (you know my love for any and all cheeses), I was sold. And man, did they deliver. These chips were utter perfection. Gah, I wish I had a bottomless bowl of them at my desk in my office to nosh on all day every day.

For our next appetizer, Tamira ordered the Fried Chicken Mignonettes, which Megan aptly named "The Fancy Chicken Fingers." Also delicious. They were crispy and light, and the Blue Cheese dipping sauce complemented them very well.

We then asked our waiter what he recommended, and he advised us to order the Handcut Ceviche. 

Now. We loved our waiter and thought he was great. But this was our least favorite of the offerings. While it was still good, don't get me wrong (I mean, we ate all of it), the Ceviche really just tasted like a sweet salsa with chips. It was fine, but it didn't stand out or send us through the roof like the other dishes did.

The last thing we ordered (ahem, besides the second helping of taquitos...) was the Artichoke & Spinach Dip, which is something you really can never go wrong with. And this one did not disappoint. It was super creamy, hearty, and lip-smackingly good!

The trendy vibe, reasonably-priced Happy Hour, great service, and AMAZING food make this a definite go-to Houston spot. I can see what all the hubbub is about.

I spy spinach dip with a side of BBQ Brisket Taquitos...
See you when I get back from Vegas! And as a bonus, name that movie:

"Tigers love pepper. They hate cinnamon." 

Mom's Birthday Brunch at Saint Genevieve

Friday, November 8, 2013
Last weekend was my mom's birthday!

I love birthdays! She loves birthdays! It was an awesome weekend! For her birthday dinner, she cooked us (something I can totally get on board with) a ridiculously amazing ToDieFor paella. For morning-after birthday brunch, we made reservations for the much raved about Saint Genevieve, located in the stunning Kirby West Ave complex.

The atmosphere of Saint Genevieve is completely swankified (That's totally something one of the students at Shiz would say in Wicked. No, I don't secretly believe my life is one giant musical, why do you ask?). Super cool and chic. Definitely a sit-by-the-window-and-sip-on-a-martini-while-holding-a-cigar-and-listening-to-a-live-pianist-play-old-sinatra-standards type of place.

"So, what's the most swankified place in town?" 
"That would be the Ozdust Ballroom." 
"Sounds perfect!" 

Okay, I'll stop.

The real draw of brunch at Saint Genevieve, in my humblest of opinions, is the BLOODY MARY BAR.

And it far and away exceeded my expectations. No it was not unlimited (Point for you New York City brunches) but they give you two drinks worth of vodka in a pint glass and let you loose to go play amongst the various different mixes, garnishes (Um hello, BACON in my bloody), and fresh spices. Oh and spicy cheese cubes, YES THAT'S A THING.

Bloody Mary bar, you have my heart.

Participating in the $9 Bloody Mary bar was a no-brainer for me. The food was more of a struggle. You see, my normal staple is an Eggs Benedict of some sort, but I wasn't feeling their Crabcake Benedict (which my sister ordered) that day for whatever reason. I was debating between the Hand-Crafted Beef Burger (which Jason and my Dad ordered), the Local Produced Salmon Gravlax (which my mom ordered), and the Breakfast Quesadilla (which my sister's boyfriend Danny ordered).

You can understand my dilemma. So naturally, I ordered the Egg White and Goat Cheese Frittata.

I always have such high expectations for frittatas. The promise of what they hold inside - in this case, goat cheese and TRUFFLE OIL - is often deliciously tempting and exciting. But they always seem to fall short of that promise and turn out to be something I could throw together myself in a few minutes. Even this truffle oil and goat cheese version had no vivacity whatsoever. It just tasted like a plain egg white omelet with a few mushrooms, a spattering of goat cheese here and there, and a salad thrown on top.

I do not blame Saint Genevieve for this. I blame Frittatas for giving me false hope. Perhaps I don't fully grasp the essence of the frittata. Perhaps I'm looking too deeply into this. Moreover, I blame my complete inability to form a sentence when I see the word "truffle." Sometimes my tunnel vision for shamelessly wanting All Of The Truffle backfires on me. Sometimes. Lesson learned!

It's okay though, because my mom and Jason could not eat all of their meals, so I got to eat quite a bit of theirs! And they were AWESOME. Totally made up for my mediocre frittata.

The Local Produced Salmon Gravlax (bagel and lox), was so fresh and so flavorful, I couldn't even stand it. The bagel was super fluffy, and the salmon tasted like it just came out of the water. It was one of the better bagel and lox dishes I've had, and it was beautifully done.

My mom also ordered a side of their Sweet Potato Hash, which was quite tasty. Not a life-changing sweet potato experience, but a nice departure from regular old brunch hash browns.

Oh and the BURGER. Really delicious. Again, it just tasted FRESH. It's definitely not a burger of the greasy spoon variety, but if you're looking for a flavorful (I mean, it's topped with "Bloody Mary Green Chili Pepper Cheese" for cryin' out loud!), gourmet burger, this is definitely a standout. It also came with delicious crispy fries and an adorable, refreshing, baby michelada. If I could do that brunch over again, this is probably what I would order. Incredibly tasty.

So although my frittata left me wanting more, the Bloody Mary Bar, Local Produced Salmon Gravlax, and Hand-Crafted Beef Burger were delicious shining stars that made the whole experience worthwhile (And the stellar company I was amongst, OB-viously). The Bloody Mary Bar alone will have me running back to Saint Genevieve's for brunch. And knowing what I now know, I will make smarter food-ordering decisions next time!

Dancing through liiiiiiiife, Swaying and sweeping, And always keeping coooooooool......

Giving NYC a Run for their Money: Hot Bagel Shop

Thursday, November 7, 2013
When I lived in New York one of my every morning once-a-month indulgences was a toasted everything bagel with lox spread.

And it was just. heaven.

There's seriously nothing that can possibly completely describe the perfect combination of fluffiness/crispiness of those bagels and the freshness of the prepared cream cheese mixed with smoked lox.

Excuse me while I have a moment here.

About a year ago I came home for a visit, and my super hip Montrose-living parents swore up and down that the nearby Hot Bagel Shop was as close to the real deal as you could get.

Really? I mean, do they even know what "lox spread" is? Doubtful. Skeptical, I drove over to the store to see what this was all about.

And I immediately felt at Bagel Home.

An unassuming little shop (Just like NYC!), the place was crammed with people (Just like NYC!), and the busy workers made no time for small talk (Helloooo New York!). And and AAAAND, most importantly:

They had lox spread.

If you are like me in that you adore stinky fish spread on your stinky bagels (resulting in The Greatest Breath of All Time), you'll know that this is not a common sight to see in Houston, Texas.

Since then, I have been back several times, and I have to agree with my hipster parents: This is as close to the real deal as you're going to get around here. The lox spread is divine, and the bagels are almost completely comparable to a New York bagel. Fluffy, crispy, and totally flavorful.

Oh also, they have kolaches (I mean, this IS Texas after all).

Just note: The place is cash-only if your order is under $5 (I mean, JUST LIKE New York...), and it has been known to get line-out-the-door crowded on the weekends.

But go! It's so worth it!

However, if your boyfriend is bizarre and doesn't like bagels (WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN.), don't ask them if they have breakfast tacos. That would be so rude, and I would never do such a thing! 

Taco Tuesdays: Chuy's in River Oaks

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
You may or may not recall that a few weeks ago Jason and I attempted to have dinner on a Friday night at the Chuy's on Westheimer in River Oaks, only to circle the crowded parking lot three times looking for a vacant spot, shake our fists in the air for this incredible injustice befallen upon us, and head on over to El Real.

This time we were prepared. This time we said, "What has become of us? In New York we would have never let a crowded parking lot deter us! And why is that?! Because we walked everywhere."

That's right - We put on our best tennies and walked to Chuy's last Friday night.


So Un-Houston of us. And I only almost got hit by a car two [and a half] times, so I'd say it was a success!

In addition to the success of our treacherous walking expedition (In all actuality it was maybe .024 miles, so don't listen to a word of my nonsense), I would say our dining experience at Chuy's was also a success!

First off, I have to say the chips and salsa were the real star of the meal. Seriously some of the best chips and salsa I've had so far in town. The salsa was SOFRESH, tangy, and delicious. The chips also came with a green sauce of some sort, and MAH GOODNESS. I seriously took that sauce and drizzled it all over my fajitas. (And maybe a little bit on my margarita...don't judge me...)

My margarita!

Isn't that pretty? I'm still a weirdo who isn't crazy about margaritas, yet I always seem to order them because I guess I always hope for them to knock my socks off. I ordered a strawberry marg, and it was as good as any margarita I've ever had. I just think maybe what I'm really looking for is a strawberry daiquiri. Which is so not the same.

See? It's not you, it's me Margarita.

So if you like margaritas, you'll like this one. Jason said so.

And my fajitas:

For my entree I ordered the fajitas, and they were pretty standard (Read: Awesome). The Fillet Fajitas at El Tiempo still reign supreme (seriously, GET THEM AND NEVER LOOK BACK.), but the ones at Chuy's were definitely good. I was glad I ordered them.

Jason got this combination. I'm not really sure what it was (Beef taco? Cheese enchilada? Mexican smooshy goodness? Yes.), but he seemed to really enjoy it!

For a popular chain with locations in places like Florida and even Virginia, Chuy's is a much-beloved Tex-Mex stop for Houstonians. It's definitely worth a visit and won't break the bank.

Just, if you walk, please promise me you'll look both ways before crossing the street. Pedestrians seem to confuse Houston drivers.
> Back to Top