Happy One (/Eleven) Year Anniversary Houston!

Friday, March 28, 2014
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 Churrasco 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.

A Trip to the Suburbs: Christopher's in Humble

Thursday, March 27, 2014
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.

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*

The 2014 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
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.

Bingo Night in the Heights

Friday, March 21, 2014
Y'all. I'm going to Peru.

In a feverish fit of "I need to do something wild and independent and exciting and visit some more countries," I booked a solo trip to Peru for later in the year to visit Lima, Cusco, and hike Machu Picchu, followed by a jaunt over to Panama to play with my friend Esther who I haven't seen in a few years. We also might go to the rainforest because (even though I'm beyond deathly afraid of snakes and creepy crawly things), well why not?

So that's my big, crazy, what-the-hell-did-I-just-get-myself-into-but-I'm-so-excited-I-did, moment of the week!

Another what-the-hell-did-I-just-get-myself-into-but-I'm-so-excited-I-did moment I had in recent times involved...bingo.

I realize I may be a couple years late on the Bingo Night in the Heights gravy train, but better late then never to this wild party!

About a month ago my friend Megan asked me if I wanted to join her one night for bingo.

What she said: "Hey do you want to come to bingo night with me?"
What I heard: "Hey do you want to come with me to this bar that does bingo?"

What she actually said: "Hey do you want to come to bingo night with me?"

Actual bingo! At a bingo hall! And this thing is so popular, at max capacity of 700 they've been known to turn people away at the door!

This was like a dream come true for me.

I cannot stress just how FUN Bingo Night in the Heights is. Hosted every Thursday at the SPJST Lodge #88, this is one of the most fun experiences I've had in Houston. People literally of all ages pile in and hunker down for a couple of hours for a rip-roaring good time on the cheap.

Here are the important things to note:
  • BRING CASH - A regular set of bingo cards cost $5. Early Bird and Bonanza cards are a buck or two more. Dabers (just look it up: www.bingo-lingo.net, y'all.) sell for $1. And snacks and beer are available for purchase. I think a pitcher of beer was something ridiculously cheap, like $5.
  • Bring Food/Wine - Yes they serve food there, and while the money they make goes towards their lodge youth club, it all falls into the "ballpark snacks" category. So if you're feeling a little more hungry/ambitious, BYOFood. On my second trip to Bingo night we brought pizzas and chips and whatnot. Also, you can BYOWine since they do not serve it there. Yes please!
  • You cannot BYOWater or BYOSoda since they sell it there, so just a heads up!
  • I'm about to BYOMyself out the door in a second.
  • Doors open at 5:15. Do your best to get there as early as possible to stake out your spot. I've been getting there between 5:30-6:00. Apparently in the summer when the college kids (did I really just say "the college kids"? yikes.) are around people need to get there even earlier. Early Bird bingo starts at 7:00. Bingo bingo starts at 7:30.
  • If you yell "Corner!" really loud, people get annoyed. They might threaten to kick you out (I've never seen it actually happen). Which means I do it as much as possible. #yolo

This is seriously an ABSOLUTE blast.

Gather your friends, be prepared to meet new people, put on your game face, and check out the awesomeness that is Bingo Night in the Heights!!

^ And um, FYI.

Vacation Days: Las Vegas

Saturday, March 15, 2014
Last month I was able to go away for a weekend trip to Las Vegas to celebrate my friend Meredith's 30th birthday. In addition to participating in the standard Vegas activities of eating my weight in food and winning $37 at a roulette table (!!!!!!!!), we also drove to the Grand Canyon (a first for me!) and saw Becca, my talented friend from college, perform in "Rock of Ages" at the Venetian.

So without further adieu, here is our Vegas weekend of fun and food and sightseeing and laughter through photos!

Lake Mead

Joshua Trees

Illegal Photo #rebels
Love is all you need.

If you ever go to Mesa Grill, GET THIS - Goat Cheese Queso Fundido

#iphone #nofilter

All photos were taken on my iPhone and my Nikon D60 and were edited in Pixlr and Instagram.

Next vacations up: NYC in May, then Peru and Panama in September!!
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