On the Road Again: Pho District in Fort Worth

Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Hi hi hiiiiiiiiii!

fort worth restaurants pho district vietnamese food

I feel like it's been years since I wrote a blog post! ...when in actuality it's only been a week. But Christmas came (yay!) and Christmas went (boo.), and I ate an obscene amount of food (um, hey New Year Diet), and it felt like we were living in the tropics, and now I'm freezing my buns off, and so much has happened that, yes. It feels like it's been years.

But enough about me, how are you? How were/are your holidays going? Are you excited for 2016?!?!

fort worth restaurants pho district vietnamese food

So when we last chatted, I had recapped my recent [awesome, delicious] trip to Fort Worth. I mentioned that one restaurant we visited, Pho District, so totally took my breath away that it deserved it's very own post-which brings us to now!

Jon and I arrived in Fort Worth and immediately met up with my sister Emily for a late lunch of Vietnamese food at Pho District. Located in Fort Worth's super trendy and hopping West 7th Street area, the restaurant is in a fun part of town. Even though the open, large, contemporary restaurant wasn't too busy (it was 3:00 on a Friday afternoon), we decided to have a seat at the bar.

fort worth restaurants pho district vietnamese food sake

^ And, well, obviously.

Our bartender Gavin was super friendly and helpful with the menu. We started off with an order of the edamame.

fort worth restaurants pho district vietnamese food edamame

Not your regular old edamame, these pods were steamed and tossed in a spicy sea salt, which no doubt included some cayenne pepper. Definitely packing some serious heat, I thoroughly enjoyed this playful, well-presented version of edamame.

An entire section of the restaurant's menu is dedicated to vegan choices, which definitely earns them a gold star from me! For my next round of food, I ordered the mixed vegetable spring roll.

fort worth restaurants pho district vietnamese food spring roll

A bursting kaleidoscope of lettuce, asparagus, cucumber, tomatoes, and avocado was neatly stuffed inside soft pieces of rice paper. Served over a generous pool of thick, rich, velvety peanut sauce, the combination was lovely. The spring roll was light with a nice subtle crunch, and everything worked fantastically together.

But my favorite food of the day?

fort worth restaurants pho district vietnamese food kimchee fried rice

KIMCHEE. FRIED. RICE. (with a fried egg thrown on top for good measure, DEAR LORD).

Look at it! JUST LOOK AT IT. Actually, here's a video so you can get the full, beautiful #yolkporn effect (taken from my snapchat, username: newishcityHOU <~~(shameless plug)).

I seriously have not been able to stop thinking about this dish for the past couple of weeks. Tart, aromatic, lovely kimchee dazedly swirled in with beautifully fried jasmine rice and was topped off with long cuts of green onions. The yolk from the egg oozed sensuously throughout the dish, and the end result was insanely powerful. To say I loved this bowl of rice would be an understatement, and I absolutely will go back for the sole purpose of indulging in it again.

Jon was also equally impressed with Pho District and agreed that it was his favorite restaurant we visited in Fort Worth that weekend. The clean-lined, sharp-edged restaurant appeared to be simple, but the food was anything but. If you are visiting Fort Worth, and you are looking for standout Vietnamese food, I cannot recommend this spot enough. Pho District, I envision several more rendezvous(es?) with you in my future... See you next year!

fort worth restaurants pho district vietnamese food edamame spring roll

("See You Next Year" dad jokes never ever ever get old.)

Pho District Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vacation Days: Fort Worth, December 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015
It's the mooooost wonderful tiiiiime of the yeeeearrrr!

fort worth texas vacation travel food italian

Christmastime for me means spending time with family, eating lots of good food, relaxing, contemplating Christmas pop culture, and carrying on traditions. This year, Jon and I repeated a tradition from last year, by driving to Fort Worth to pick up my sister Emily for the holidays. It's a nice excuse to get away right before Christmas and not feel like there are a million things that need to get accomplished the weekend prior. Also, it's just plain fun!

Jon and I both took the day off on Friday, and we arrived in Fort Worth that afternoon. We met up with Emily (who had just come straight from the school where she works, decked out in the world's most fabulous bedazzled Christmas vest), for a late lunch at Pho District, a Vietnamese restaurant that serves INCREDIBLE food.

fort worth texas vacation travel food vietnamese

^ You probably didn't know something that cute existed. Now you know.

And lunch was SO amazing at this restaurant that I'm going to do a whole separate post on the experience! It earned it. So more on that later, folks!

That night, Jon and I joined Emily and her boyfriend Danny in downtown Fort Worth for dinner at an Italian restaurant called Vivo 53.

fort worth texas vacation travel food italian
fort worth texas vacation travel food brussels sprouts
fort worth texas vacation travel food burrata

We started off with the fried brussels sprouts and the burrata. The brussels sprouts were crispy and airy, and were made unique and enjoyable with the addition of salty capers. The burrata was soft, mild, and absolutely lovely when spread on some toasted crostini, and topped with olives and roasted vine tomatoes.

fort worth texas vacation travel food pizza
fort worth texas vacation travel food italian

For my main dish, I ordered the restaurant's roasted mushroom pizza. I did like it, though I found the mushrooms to be a bit overwhelming. If they had been sliced instead of whole, I think it would have come together better. The caramelized onions and oozy taleggio were awesome though, and the dough was wonderfully golden and crispy.

The next morning we raided our hotel's A+ continental breakfast.

fort worth texas vacation travel food breakfast

For lunch, we met up with Danny's awesome parents, Susie and Steve, at Fort Worth's Woodshed Smokehouse. This barbecue restaurant is enormous and has a lively giant patio, which we were able to sit on while enjoying the cool, sunny weather.

fort worth texas vacation travel food barbecue
fort worth texas vacation travel food potatoes

For our first round of food, we split the crispy potatoes, which were served with smoked garlic aioli and barbecue sauce. The crispy potatoes were - as the name implies - incredibly crispy and flaky. These were by no stretch healthy potatoes and were not pretending to be. They were hearty, slightly greasy, salty, and sinfully delicious when dipped in the creamy garlic aioli. Awesome!

fort worth texas vacation travel food lunch

As a vegetarian, when I go to barbecue restaurants, I sometimes find myself grasping at straws - Not so with Woodshed! For my main course of food I had crispy brussels sprouts (yes again, 'tis the season) and slow smoked cauliflower. The brussels sprouts were crunchy and tangy, having been marinated in a fermented lime vinaigrette. The cauliflower had a wonderful smokey flavor and swirled beautifully in a creamy, lemony, cheesy mornay. Not a bad meal, if I do say so myself!

That night, Emily and Danny hosted a tacky Christmas sweater at their apartment.

fort worth texas vacation travel food
fort worth texas vacation travel food
fort worth texas vacation travel food

This marked the first time I had played beer pong in probably 10 years (ignore the fact that I filled my solo cups up with water, because I'm the #LifeOfTheParty). Regardless, even though Jon and I were the oldest folks there by an average age gap of about 8 years, I am happy to report that old  lame. He and I hung in there until the bitter end! (2 am, to be exact. Which I don't think I'd seen in probably 15 years). We also played a "fun" game by Jelly Belly called Bean Boozled, which is really only fun if you get the good flavors and not things like barf and rotten eggs (Jon got those).

Before leaving Fort Worth the next day, Jon, Emily, Danny, and I fueled up with some tasty food at Fixture.

fort worth texas vacation travel lunch
fort worth texas vacation travel beets

We started off with the restaurant's Texas beet fries. Served with a spicy, delicious aoili and pepita chili mix, these hearty beets were unique, flavorful, and insanely good!

fort worth texas vacation travel sandwich

For my main course, I ordered the veggie sandwich, which was loaded with raw carrots, radishes, cucumber, tomatoes, an herb vinaigrette, hummus, and cilantro pesto. Served on wheat bread, this healthy meal was fresh, filling, and just what I needed after my indulgent weekend!

Every time I go to Fort Worth, I have a fantastic couple of days. It's a really neat town, with countless fun and unique restaurants and food options. No doubt I'll be back again soon!

fort worth texas vacation travel christmas


SaltAir Seafood Kitchen

Thursday, December 17, 2015
Houston, I can't stop snapping.

houston restaurants food saltair seafood

And no I don't mean snapping my fingers (though of course that's fun, too). I mean, snapchatting, because apparently 2012 called, and I have arrived. Truth be told, I have no idea what the hell I'm doing, but it's my newest addiction. So if you want to see some of the bizarre things I post throughout the day in Houston, my username is newishcityHOU!

houston restaurants food drinks martini saltair seafood

Last week (prior to my life-changing snapchat conversion) I joined some of my friends for dinner at SaltAir Seafood Kitchen, a new(ish) restaurant in Houston's Upper Kirby neighborhood. These friends (Kate, Danielle, Val, Jill, and Frances) are a group of incredible women I met through yoga, and we had quite the lovely evening together! AND I am happy to report that the restaurant and food were just as stellar.

First off, the restaurant has cocktail onions. If you know me at all, you know one of my life's quests is to locate restaurants/bars in Houston that have these garnishes. I was able to enjoy a stiff and sensational pre-dinner vodka martini with onions!

houston restaurants food olives saltair seafood

When ordering her martini, Kate asked if they had blue cheese-stuffed olives. Our super friendly and engaging server informed her that yes they did, and they were freshly stuffed at the restaurant every morning. Danielle and I became irrationally (okay, rationally.) excited about this, and he offered to bring us some of these awesome, salty, blue cheese-stuffed olives to nibble on.

houston restaurants food dinner saltair seafood

Our server explained that the food on the menu is primarily meant to be shared. So share we did!

To start, we ordered the scallop ceviche with shrimp chips<~~(most fun thing to say ever?), the vegetable tempura, and 1/2 a dozen oysters. Since I'm a vegetarian, and since ingesting mollusks might literally actually kill me<~~(most dramatic person ever?), I only tried the tempura during this round. Lightly battered and fried haricot verts, zucchini, asparagus, cauliflower, eggplant, and sea beans were served with a side of sweet and salty ponzu. The dish was light, pleasant, and bursting with flavor from the wide variety of vegetables included within. Loved it!

houston restaurants food salad saltair seafood

We then ordered the restaurant's iceburg salad, and asked for the SLAB of bacon (seriously, look at it!) to come on the side. I am definitely into iceburg salads, and I was definitely into this one. A huge hunk of iceburg lettuce was topped with robust blue cheese, crisp green onions, fresh avocado, and a light, yet creamy, green goddess dressing. The pleasantly tart dressing really stepped this salad's game up a notch, and it received high marks from all of us!

houston restaurants saltair food seafood carrots

Our server gave a glowing review of the carrots, so we took his word for it and ordered them. I'm not generally a major fan of cooked carrots, but I'm telling you, if cooked carrots always tasted like this, I certainly would be! The sweet, buttery (though I'm not even sure if butter was present), roasted carrots were topped with harissa, yogurt, and pistachios, which I believe were candied. Sweet, silky, smooth, and full of delightful textures, this was my favorite dish from the restaurant!

houston restaurants food radishes saltair seafood

The next round of food included several items from the vegetable portion of the menu, including radishes, zucchini, and potatoes.

My second favorite dish of the evening - the radishes - were absolutely lovely. Thinly sliced, crisp, raw radishes were included in the dish, which added a nice amount of texture, but the roasted radishes were what made this dish so incredible. Roasted in butter and sea salt, and topped with a radish top pesto, this unique dish was earthy, yet delicate. The flavor of the cooked radishes themselves was softened from the roasting process, and the pesto was a wonderful, flavorful addition to the dish.

houston restaurants food zucchini saltair seafood

Although not quite as innovative as the previous food items, the zucchini was also great. Charred and grilled, tender zucchini was topped with a crunchy, herby, squash blossom gremolata. This dish was also very well received by the group.

houston restaurants food potatoes saltair seafood

Come to think of it, every dish was well-received by our group of Houston food lovers! Like the potatoes: Small, whole, soft potatoes were doused in lemon and various herbs. They were plump, hearty, and thoroughly enjoyable!

Other various non-vegetarian items were ordered, and seriously, we all loved everything we ate. So of course we had to order a dessert four desserts.

houston restaurants food dessert saltair seafood

The restaurants' desserts that graced us with their presence were the lemon ice (angel food cake, white chocolate cream, lemon thyme meringue shards, lemon sorbet, limoncello snow), the milk chocolate mousse (mousse, chantilly, chocolate curls), the butterschotch pot de creme (butterscotch custard, chantilly, dulce de leche), and the peanut butter jelly.

All four were great and completely different from one another, but my personal favorite was the peanut butter jelly.

houston restaurants food cheesecake saltair seafood

On the plate was a slice of "cake" consisting of a peanut butter chocolate brownie (ugh, amazing) and vanilla cheesecake. It was drizzled with dulce de leche, a grape gel, and toasted peanut "crunch". The cake was creamy and had a wonderful contrast of flavor between the rich peanut butter chocolate brownie and the lightly sweet vanilla cheesecake. The grape gel provided a fun punch of fruitiness. What I found to be the real joy of this dish though, was the toasted rice and peanut crunch, which were these teeny, airy, peanut buttery, crunchy balls sprinkled on top. They added a delightful pop of flavor and texture!

If you're looking for a fancy night out at a Houston restaurant that serves beautifully crafted and unique food, look no further than SaltAir Seafood Kitchen. The elegant interior is open, airy, and dimly lit, and the service is friendly, knowledgeable, and inviting. Even as a vegetarian, I still had plenty of food options, all of which were sensational. While it's certainly not an inexpensive night out, it is sure to be a memorable one. SaltAir Seafood Kitchen is a wonderful addition to the Houston restaurant scene!

houston restaurants food dinner saltair seafood

Snaps to that, Houston.

SaltAir Seafood Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Holiday Cookie (C)Rumble

Friday, December 11, 2015
Christmas is just around the corner, which probably means you haven't had any cookies recently.

houtson christmas cookies bakeries food bloggers 01

jk lol, if I were a betting man (which I'm not since I'm a woman), I'd be willing to wager all the money in my wallet (about 23 cents to be exact, which really grinds my gears since I hate pennies with a fiery passion, but that's another story for another day) that you're in a drunken, dazed, constant loop of a holiday cookie coma.

So let's just keep on ridin' that train!

Last weekend, my friend Erika organized a Holiday Cookie (C)Rumble, in which Houston food bloggers got together to sample and rate holiday cookies made by awesome local bakers and bakeries. We had such a blast during our Houston Chocolate Chip Cookie (C)Rumble back in August, that we were super excited for this festive Round 2!

houtson christmas cookies bakeries food bloggers gingerbread 02

We asked local bakeries to donate a dozen of their best holiday treats to the tasting. The wonderful participating Houston-area bakeries and home bakers were:


Home Bakers:

As "Holiday Cookie" is an incredibly broad description, we had to break up the contest into six categories: Gingerbread, Sugar, Sandwich Cookies, Petite Fours, Regular/"Grandma's Holiday" Cookies, and Miscellaneous.

houtson christmas cookies bakeries food bloggers gingerbread 03

The panel of bubbly, smart, friendly, food-lovin' Houstonian judges included Erika, Isabel, Claire, Julie, Sarah, Judy, KylieJenna W., Abby, Megha, Morgan, ErinJenna Y, and yours truly.

Score cards were drawn up, plates were set out, milk was poured, Jenna Y. pumped out the Elvis holiday album (followed by 'NSYNC Christmas, requested by me of course), and we got to work!

houtson christmas cookies bakeries food bloggers gingerbread 04

The first round was the gingerbread round, and man was the competition stiff between nine entrants! The top three gingerbread cookies were:

1) Crave

2) Michael's Cookie Jar

3) Moeller's Bakery

My favorites came out as a tie between Last Course Gourmet (Crisp, sweet, and topped with sea salt for a perfect contrast) and Crave (popping with bright gingery flavor)!

Next up were the sugar cookies, and this was another intense round! Nine Houston bakeries went face-to-face for the best sugar cookie, and the top three were:

1) Tudor House Cookies

2) Crave

3) Butter Sugar Bake

My favorites ended up being a three-way tie between Michael's Cookie Jar (great lemony flavor), Butter Sugar Bake (light and subtly sweet), and Tudor House Cookies (sweet, soft, and lightly buttery)!

houtson christmas cookies bakeries food bloggers sandwich 06

Why yes, that's a discard bucket in the top left corner you see there. I may or may not have pelted Claire in the leg from across the table with one of my cookie discards at some point. Sorrrrry Claire.

The third round was the sandwich cookie round, and top three cookies were:

1) Last Course Gourmet

2) Rustika - jam cookie

3) Rustika - pizette

I did not try Last Course Gourmet's since it was not vegetarian (due to the marshmallow), but Kelly was so sweet that she made me a separate gingerbread cookie, which um see above?, I LOVED. My top ranking sandwich cookie was a tie between Rustika's nutella cookie and their jam cookie. Yum!

Let's take a break and have some wine, shall we?

houtson christmas cookies bakeries food bloggers wine 07

Isabel, aka my spirit animal, made mulled wine for the event. She and I peeled our lifeless cookie bodies off the floor for a brief moment to indulge in this wonderful concoction that tasted like Christmas.

Let's have a photo shoot by the pool, shall we?

houtson christmas cookies bakeries food bloggers wine 08

Seriously, can we just carry her around in our pockets at all times so she can crack us up with her hilarious wit and create delicious things for us always?

Okay, love sesh over, back to cookies.

The next round was the petite fours round, and I guess I was too wine distracted to take a picture of this round. (Also, I just googled petite fours, because I was like, "wtf is a petite four?" Yes, I am a food blogger. Yes, I would understand if you clicked on that red "x" in the top right-hand corner of your screen now.)

Anyhoo, the top three petite fours in Houston were:

1) Moeller's Bakery - white cake cookie

2) Dessert Gallery - peanut butter balls

3) Village Bakery - rum balls

This was an exceptionally sweet round, and lord knows I'm more of a savory person in general. However, my top pick for this round ended up being Dessert Gallery. Add in a little pb to cut through some of the sweetness, and I'm a happy camper!

houtson christmas cookies bakeries food bloggers 09

What round are we on?

(I think I started sobbing tears of joy/pain into a spit bucket of cookies at this point. And hey, you're so welcome for that wonderful visual!)

Next up in the Houston cookie challenge were the regular/"grandma's holiday" cookies. The top three contenders in this category were:

1) Ooh La La Dessert Boutique

2) Pondicheri - mesquite cookie

3) Michael's Cookie Jar

I went with the crowd on this one and picked Ooh La La as my favorite - The orange, cranberry, white chocolate cookie was wonderfully textured and flavored, and downright PHENOMENAL. This was actually tied with Last Course Gourmet's gingerbread cookie as my overall favorite cookie of the day!

houtson christmas cookies bakeries food bloggers 10

THE LAST ROUND (I'm dead. I died.) was the anything-goes-miscellaneous round! The winners were:

1) Pondicheri - chocolate meringue

2) Dessert Gallery - cookie bars

3) Yalla Sweets - thumbprints

I agreed with the masses here as well and gave top ratings to Pondicheri. Dacapo's light, nutty tea cookie also received high marks from me!

Whew! We did it! This was such a great event with a fantastic group of gals. It was wonderful to see the outstanding variety of awesome holiday cookies being offered at local Houston bakeries. You really have your pick of the litter here, depending on what you like. And EVERY bakery involved had something unique and special to offer. So save yourself the headache of baking yet ANOTHER batch of cookies for a ANOTHER holiday party, and support one of these fantastic, local Houston spots. You really cannot go wrong!

houtson christmas cookies bakeries food bloggers 11

Still [blissfully] full.
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