Taco Tuesdays: 2015 Houston Press Tacolandia

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
This post was done in partnership with the Houston Press, who provided me with my ticket to Tacolandia. I was not monetarily compensated for writing this article. All opinions are completely, 100% my own!

Thanksgiving is Thursday, so let's talk about tacos. You know, while we still can?

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I was excited and honored to have been a project partner of the 2015 Houston Press Inaugural Tacolandia, which took place in Buffalo Bayou Park a couple of weekends ago (I know, I'm way backed up on blog posts, BLAME THE HOLIDAYS.)!

Three hours devoted to sampling food (mainly tacos) from several Houston-area restaurants? Sign. me. up.

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The event was originally set for one of the crazy rainy Houston weekends in October and had to be rescheduled. Luckily, taco lovers are a serious bunch, and there was still a great turnout! I took my friend Sarah as my date, and we met up with our friend Renee and her boyfriend Bryan.

When we first walked in we were provided with a tray to put our tacos in, as well as a token to vote on our favorite taco/restaurant. For as many restaurants, people, and food as there were, I was incredibly impressed with how organized and clean everything was. The only downside for me was that being a vegetarian made my sampling experience a bit limited. Fortunately, I was still able to try some darn good food!

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While Los Tios didn't have a vegetarian taco, per se, they had a phenomenal assortment of toppings, like fresh guacamole, cotijo cheese, and warm queso, which made for a delicious vegetarian plate.

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Sweet Galeanna provided food in the form of mini cakes to cleanse the pallet a bit. I lost my mind over their corn bread cake with a cream cheese frosting!

As we strolled along, we were able to catch a wrestling match, as well as a concert by some very talented teenaged musicians. <~~(My first draft of that sentence ended with "as well as a concert by some very talented youngins", and then I punched myself in the face.)

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Doneraki provided a vegetarian taco with a corn and bean filling, and while it wasn't my favorite of the veg tacos, it was nice to have that option! Also, they had quite the impressive display:

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But my absolute favorite of all the Houston tacos in all the land was the tater tot taco from Tacos A Go Go.

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Sarah is basically a taco connoisseur, and she has been raving about the food at this restaurant for a while. So imagine my delight to not only see that they were at Tacolandia, but that they also offered a veg taco! A TATER TOT TACO, to be exact. This taco was so exceptional, no other taco stood a chance. I had mine dressed up with black beans, jalapeño, sour cream, salsa, and cheese, and I lost my flipping mind. It was soft, spicy, creamy, and absolutely outstanding! I may or may not have gone back for seconds......

And yes, they obviously won my vote!

The Houston Press Tacolandia was a great way to spend a fall afternoon in Houston. The weather was perfect, the setup was clean and simple, the views of the city were fantastic, the energy was lively and fun, the local restaurant turnout was great, and the food was exciting and delicious! Even though I wished more restaurants had offered vegetarian tacos, I was very pleased with what I had. It was definitely a great event, and I look forward to the next Tacolandia!

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t   a   c   o  .  t   u   e   s   d   a   y .

Mia Bella Trattoria

Friday, November 20, 2015
Want to see my new favorite thing in the world (besides Do Nothing Sundays and Do Fun Things Mondays)?

We bought a dog cam. 

Pictured above you'll see Newton (left) sitting on the only chair he's allowed on, staring down at Baxter (bottom right), who's laying on his blanket. Jon and I watched this scene in total fascination while we were out the other night. Newton stared at Baxter for about 10 minutes straight. 

My dog is such a creep.

And you see all of those bags on the couch? We place them there when we're gone in an effort to stop the dogs from getting up on it (I swear we aren't hoarders?).

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^ Now look at the top right corner. 

Glowing eyes. 


I suppose there are worse things than creepy demon dogs. Also, I have to give that guy credit for scaling the mountain of bags to get to the top edge of the couch. Baxter, I'm not even mad, that's impressive! <~~(name that movie)

And that's that! As I have no eloquent segue from dog cams, let's just dive right into food!

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Before seeing Billy Joel in concert (!!!!!!!!!!!!) at Houston's Toyota Center, my mom, dad, sister, and I had dinner at Mia Bella Trattoria, an Italian restaurant located within walking distance. I'd been there for brunch recently during a Texas Winos tour, and I was excited to see what their dinner scene was all about!

We started off with wine, OF COURSE.

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I split of bottle of Placido Chianti with my parents, and I adored the full, spicy red. 

For an appetizer we shared the insalata caprese - always a fan favorite with my family when it comes to eating Italian food.

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At first glance, the tomatoes didn't look very ripe, but once I bit into them, they were juicy, yet still subtle in taste. The herbs were spot on, the mozzarella was fresh, and the salad didn't require any extra seasoning. All in all, it was your standard caprese, and I definitely enjoyed it!

For my main course of food I ordered the linguine al funghi with gluten free noodles.

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This dish was outstanding. A creamy, yet not too heavy, garlicky pesto sauce swirled through smooth and textured shiitake, button, and portobello mushrooms. Perfectly acidic roasted red peppers cut through the earthiness of the sauce and mushrooms. Topped off with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, this pasta hit it out of the park. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

Then the four of us split some sort of Italian cake, which was pretty and fluffy and not very sweet (a good thing in my eyes).

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I am happy to report that downtown Houston's Mia Bella Trattoria is not merely a generic Italian restaurant. The great service (our server was attentive and incredibly sweet) and outstanding, hearty Italian food made our overall experience there fun and memorable. So make a reservation - Mia Bella Trattoria is the PERFECT restaurant to go to before catching a show or a game in downtown Houston!

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Carb it to me.

Mia Bella Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Media Preview at The Tuck Room

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
This post was done in partnership with Houston's The Tuck Room, who provided me with my food and drinks, free of charge. I was not monetarily compensated for writing this post. All opinions are completely, 100% my own!

My new favorite thing in the world is "Do Nothing Sundays."

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Sundays used to be sad. Sundays used to be Monday Eve (well, I suppose they still are). Sundays used to be the pits. But recently I've magically found myself with several Sundays in a row where I have had absolutely NOTHING scheduled, and they're my new favorite thing. Jon and I will sleep in(ish), watch movies, he'll watch football or play video games while I read or catch up on some shameless guilty pleasure tv, we'll cook food, we'll sleep, we'll drink wine, all while staying in our pjs and readying ourselves for the week ahead, one entire box of Cheez-Its at a time.<~~~Just kidding, I don't do that last part. (yes I do).

On the flip side, I've simultaneously stumbled upon "Do Fun Things Mondays." The antithesis of a Do Nothing Sunday, a Do Fun Things Monday is also magical. If you have fun things to do on Monday evening, you have all day to look forward to it, instead of focusing on the fact that it's Monday.

Case in point: Last week I was invited through the Houston Food Blogger Collective to attend a media preview of The Tuck Room, the new restaurant located inside of the new iPic Theater in Houston's new River Oaks District. This dazzling evening happened on - you guessed it - Monday!

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This was my first time in Houston's fancy, pristine, and beautiful River Oaks District. The iPic Theater matches this motif, and the company prides itself in offering "plush cinemas" that "indulge moviegoers in a new standard of affordable luxury." In Kimspeak: If you become a member (for free), you can have a great night out in Houston by purchasing a Premium Plus movie ticket for $18-$24 (depending on the day/time). This includes a reclining chair in a private two person section, a blanket, and popcorn. 

(is it weird that the blanket is the part that excites me most??)

AND you have the opportunity (movie or not) to dine in their wonderful restaurant, The Tuck Room. 

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When I first arrived, I was directed to the bar area (The "Upper Tuck"), where I tried no less than 10 drinks (don't worry, I sipped sparingly because although it was a Do Fun Things Monday, it was still of course... a Monday). There was a liquid nitrogen bottle service area, which can be enjoyed before or during a movie. This carte blanc service starts at $100 for a bottle of booze (which includes garnishments and fresh juice mixers).

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I opted for a moscow mule tuck ginger fizz, which was made with homemade ginger beer and house-infused melon sweet tea vodka. It was super light and refreshing!

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They also offer pre-made, fresh, bottled cocktails, which Adam Seger - iPic's Advanced Sommelier and Master Mixologiest - stated offers "instant gratification with craft cocktails." It's a less scary option for those who might be intimidated by the mixology scene. I tried the southern decadence, a sweet cocktail containing Magnolia tea.

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Even though I am a self-proclaimed margarita hater (I know, I live in Houston, how can this be.), my favorite cocktail was a shot of mango margarita with mezcal. Lined with cayenne pepper, the drink was sweet, sturdy, spicy, and offered a beautiful, multilayered tasting experience.

Appetizers were also passed around during the reception.

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Of the food offerings, the only vegetarian option was the croquette - a fried ball of sweet corn, smoked gouda, and honey mustard. This was a delightful bite of sweet/savory/crunchy/cheesy goodness!

Before taking a tour of the iPic theaters, we gathered around to hear from Adam and Chef Sherry Yard, Vice President of Culinary Direction at iPic. Touting an impressive background as a James Beard Award winner and Food Network regular (among several other noteworthy accomplishments), Chef Sherry gave us the rundown of the food lineup. Dining at Houston's The Tuck Room is not meant to be a fork and knife experience, but more a social, mix and match event between friends. The gourmet food aims to be exceptional enough in a standalone manner, that people will want to eat dinner at the restaurant whether they're seeing a movie or not.

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After viewing one of the theaters, we were directed to the cozy, arty, dimly lit, main dining area of the restaurant. I was lucky to sit with an awesome group of foodies - Sarah, Morgan, and Oscar and John Anthony.

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The first course of food, paired with a crisp François Montand brut rosé, consisted of spicy tuna hand rolls, lettuce cups with cod, chicken caesar bites, and panzanella.

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The panzanella was the only non-veg food option in this course, and I absolutely adored it. A layer of grilled fresh bread was topped with spinach, tomatoes, red onion, olives, feta, celery, and capers. Tossed with a light vinaigrette and served with a smear of pesto, the salad was pleasantly salty, lemony, and crispy. It tasted like an elevated, fancy Greek salad, and it was probably my favorite food offering of the evening!

The second course of food consisted of fish tacos, lobster rolls, pulled pork sandwiches, filet sliders, and French onion soup rings, paired with a Llano Estacado Mont Sec Texas High Plains sauvignon blanc.

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Everyone lost their minds over the sliders, that's worth noting. Of these plates, I was able to try the French onion soup rings. The side of French onion soup dip had a beef broth base, so just the rings for me! The rings themselves were so good on their own that I didn't feel like I was missing out. They had a beautiful light coating, which encapsulated the onions themselves, as well as melted Swiss cheese. The end result of this food marriage was a delicate, smooth, thick onion ring, and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

The third course (are you full? I'm full) of food was paired with a Messina Hof grenach-syrah-mourvedre, and consisted of shrimp, beef tenderloin, and chicken kabobs, as well as "fat fries".

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Made with white sweet potatoes and paired with a side of malt vinegar aioli, the fat fries were lovely. Thick and golden, the soft, sweet fries were downright mouthwatering when dipped in the foamy, buttery aoili.

Paired with a Messina Hof Texas port (are you drunk? I'm drunk), the restaurant's dessert course contained chocolate truffle-covered grapes, jelly filled doughnuts, and chocolate coconut doughnuts.

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The chocolate truffle-covered grapes were a unique and surprising little dessert. The bitter chocolate balanced nicely with the grape, which provided an exploding shot of sweetness as you bit in. The jelly doughnuts weren't too sweet, and also enjoyable. The shining star of this trio, however, was the chocolate coconut doughnut. Nutty and textured, the golden fried outer coating served as the perfect vessel for the gooey, rich chocolate swimming within. A topping of sweet cherries sent it over the edge!

I had an outstanding time at The Tuck Room in Houston. While I am excited to return and attend a movie at iPic, this will certainly not be a precursor to me going to enjoy some incredibly crafted food and drinks at the restaurant. The Tuck Room is an excellent addition to Houston's vibrant culinary restaurant scene. The care and detail that went into everything was evident, and I can't wait to return to this swanky Houston spot!

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See you there next Monday.

Wakefield Crowbar

Friday, November 13, 2015
In lieu of today being Friday the 13th, I'm going to share something scary (well, air quotes, "scary") that happened to me this week.

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Allow me to set the scene for you.

Jon and I were walking our dogs before bed one night. We cut through the Kroger parking lot so I could throw Newton's poop bag away in the trash (sorry. food blog), when all of a sudden I stopped dead in my tracks.

Kim: JON.
Jon: What?
(Jon walks over)
Jon: Yes?


Jon: Yep, that's a dead garden snake!
Jon: (laughing) Kim it's dead!
Jon: We have grass here!
Kim: It's fake grass!
Jon: ...excuse me?
Kim: We live in Houston! The country's 4th largest city! The grass here isn't REAL Jon!
Jon: That's... definitely not true. And we're surrounded by bayous, what do you expect?
Kim: So now I have to watch out for snakes when cutting through the Kroger parking lot??? I AM NEVER SLEEPING AGAIN.

No one is safe, people.

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Last week after playing kickball on one of Houston's (air quotes) "grass" patches, Jon and I headed over to Wakefield Crowbar in Oak Forest with some of our teammates for food and drinks. We ordered fried pickles, fried mozzarella, potato skins, and hummus & veggies to share with the table.

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In my running list of "Reasons to Live in Houston," I'd have to say fried pickles has had a consistent, snug spot in the top 10 (which used to be right next to fake grass of course, but that was during my blissfully ignorant previous state of existence). And these fried pickles surely did not disappoint. In chip form, these golden, Lonestar beer battered, fried beauties were more on the sour side, which was a welcoming change of pace. I was a big fan!

The fried mozzarella appetizer (sorry, the only picture I took was horrific, and it ended up on the cutting room floor) was also unique in that it came in the form of four large squares, instead of your usual sticks. The hearty squares were super crispy and filled to the brim with oozing mozzarella. The homemade marinara served alongside the squares was warm and not overpowering in flavor.

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I didn't go nuts over the potato skins, but then again my portion of them didn't have bacon, so yes this was basically my fault. Without the bacon to cut through, they were a little too heavy on the starch. They weren't bad - I certainly still ate some, but I probably shouldn't have messed with perfection! Lesson learned.

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The large portion of hummus, served with vegetables and warm, fluffy pita bread, was quite satisfying. The slightly tart hummus had a chunky texture (I love textured foods) and a surprising kick of heat towards the end of every bite. Nothing revolutionary, but it definitely differed from the norm and was well received by the table!

Wakefield Crowbar is a super laid back, spacious neighborhood bar. It also has volleyball courts out back, which can definitely make for a good time! I know I say it all the time, but Houston bars cannot afford to serve mediocre food since there are so many great options around, like Wakefield Crowbar. Wakefield Crowbar offers your standard pub fare at a reasonable price, and the food is of good quality, with a few unique twists thrown in!

Bonus: No (air quotes) "grass" pictured.

Wakefield Crowbar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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