Rum Pairing at The Union Kitchen

Friday, February 26, 2016
This post was done in partnership with Houston's The Union Kitchen, where I was provided with my food and drinks, free of charge. I was not monetarily compensated for writing this restaurant post. All opinions are completely, 100% my own!

Today I am asking you to channel your inner pirate.

rum and food pairing at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston

Because we arrrrrre going to talk about some rum, matey!

I'll stop.

(I won't.)

Last week, Jon and I were invited to try some new fun rum cocktails paired with fabulous food at The Union Kitchen in Houston's Memorial area. I had been to the restaurant's Memorial location once before to try their super refreshing fall garden-to-glass cocktails, as well as their Kingwood location a few years ago for dinner. I'm definitely a fan of this restaurant, and as a Houston Heights-area resident, I am happy to report that a new location is in the works out in my neck of the woods!

rum and food pairing at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston

If you eat up Houston food blogs and articles like I do (I 100% promise you that the "eat up" pun was not intended, and I am 100% happy that it happened), you've probably noticed the buzz surrounding the rum drinks at The Union Kitchen recently. My friend Renia talked about her experience at the restaurant a few weeks ago, and the Houston Press just reported on it. 

So you see, if everyone in Houston was trying it, I couldn't not try it as well!

complimentary bread at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston

Jon and I were escorted to a table inside the restaurant's elegant, yet laid back dining room. Soon after we were seated, we were greeted with food in the form of a fluffy light loaf of bread, served with course sea salt and butter.

Even though we were about to drink a whole lot of rum, our kind server Hector asked us if we would like to start with some wine. I told him thank you, but I'd pass.

wine at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston

Ha! As if.

So I enjoyed a glass of crisp, dry, refreshing Large Twins sangiovese rosé. It was lovely.

Then we were presented with our first rum drink of the evening, which was the restaurant's dry version of a mai tai. 

mai tais at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston

Craig, the General Manager, explained to us that this drink  - made with Mount Gay Black Barrel rum - was to serve as our pre-dinner palate cleanser. We also received a little Rum 101 from him - Did you know that rum can be pot-stilled, which gives it a more pungent aroma and strong taste, and it can also be column-stilled, which is a continuous distillation process that results in a smoother experience? Well, this batch of the restaurant's signature rum was developed with more column-stilling and less pot-stilling and came from a sweeter barrel. In addition to the rum, the mai tai was a concoction of orange juice, pineapple juice, passion fruit, mango, and pisa (a 3-nut liqueur comprised of hazelnut, pistachio, and almond). The resulting drink was sweet and subtly spicy. Drinking it brought me to a place of sunshine and palm trees and waves crashing in the distance.

Anyone want to get out of Houston for the weekend and go to the Caribbean with me?

To pair with our mai tais, our first round of food consisted of the restaurant's ahi tuna tostado for Jon, and a couscous salad for me.

ahi tuna tostado at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston
couscous and ahi tuna tostado at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston

Jon's ahi tuna was served over a layer of wonton crisps, and it was topped off with sesame seeds, pineapple, mango, and - according to him - a "zingy Asian-style sauce." I didn't eat any of this, but I can attest that it smelled heavenly. Jon could not stop gushing about how incredible it was.

I can attest, however, that my food (which was an off-menu item, made to fit my vegetarian diet) was wonderful. Perfectly cooked (al dente) pearl couscous was tossed with pico de gallo and lemon, and was topped with peanuts and a drizzling of pesto. There was just the faintest kiss of cilantro, and I actually found it quite lovely (it didn't have me running for the hills, an effect cilantro *occasionally* has on me). This soft-textured salad was light and absolutely exquisite. It shone on it's own, while simultaneously supporting the bursts of tropical flavors coming from the mai tai. They were a fantastic pair!

In addition to enjoying this combo in Houston, let's try it on the beaches of Bermuda, shall we?

Next up, we were able to imbibe in some rum and cokes, as well as sample the rum on its own.

rum and coke at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston

No, you're not drunk, that glass is just awesome.

(Maybe you're drunk. It's Friday. Let's catch the next flight out of Houston to Puerto Rico.)

Fun fact about Mount Gay rum: There is no added residual sugar! Many companies like to throw some extra sugar into their rums to sweeten things up, but not Mount Gay. It's complex enough on its own, with a maple-y smell and tasting notes of spice, roasted wood, and vanilla. The oldest rum on record, its origins date back to 1703 in Barbados. Jon was a big fan of it on its own because while it had the mouth feel of rum, the finish was akin to that of a bourbon (aka strong and fiery). For that reason, I preferred it a mixer added to it!

(like coke.)

Because of the heartiness of this rum, the result of it mixed with the coke was syrupy and full. It tasted very similar to a pure Mexican coke, and an added squeeze of lime brought out some playful nuances in the drink. It was certainly not your typical college-style rum and coke (...anyone?), but a much more genteel - yet approachable - cocktail!

Our food portion of this part of the pairing consisted of the restaurant's seafood pizza for Jon and an off-menu penna pasta with vegetables for me.

seafood pizza at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston
penne pasta with vegetables at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston

The pizza looked like something out of a dream. Topped with a garlic Cajun cream sauce, fusili, shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels, Jon described it as "peppery, spicy, and good."

My pasta was topped with fresh arugula and tossed with zucchini, carrots, and mushrooms in a butter white wine sauce. It was slightly sweet (I thought there might have been a hint of honey?), buttery, and had a good soft crunch from the arugula. The vegetables were tender, but not soggy, and the dish as a whole was earthy, yet light. A small dusting of parmesan was subtle and pleasant. I was definitely into this dish. It had a great combination of bitterness (arugula), saltiness (vegetables/pasta), and sweet (again, honey????). The rum and coke was a wonderful companion to my food in that it brought even more body and depth to the pasta!

And last but not least, our final round of food: desserts!

berries and cream at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston
bread pudding with vanilla custard at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston

To compliment my lighter fare, I was presented with berries and cream, a chef specialty. The blackberries and strawberries were mixed with black pepper and burnt sugar, and topped with a fluffy homemade whipped cream. The whole thing was capped off with a drizzling of - you guessed it - rum! The chef explained to us the process of burning sugar, which results in spicy, candied cinnamon-like pieces. The dessert was light, sweet, tart and incredibly spirited. The rum gave it some major oomph!

Jon was provided with the restaurant's bread pudding with vanilla custard. This was definitely a heartier dessert, and WOW. I could not stop eating it! The combo of soft, velvety bread pudding, silky vanilla custard, oozing chocolate sauce, sensational caramel, fresh berries, and mini chocolate chips was pure decadence. The chocolate chip surprises were my favorite part of this soul-warming, toe-tingling dessert! Oh yeah, and it was also topped off with rum. For good measure, you know?

The Union Kitchen is a local Houston restaurant that delivers exceptional food and - as I've recently learned - exceptional rum cocktails. Their passion for concocting well-executed drinks is evident at first sip. For a nice and delicious night out, I cannot recommend this restaurant enough. And definitely give the rum drinks a whirl!

rum and food pairing at The Union Kitchen, a restaurant in Houston

Arrrrrre you with me???

Shade, February 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Why no, this isn't my first visit to Shade, you shrewd minx, you.

Shade, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

But it's been a while since I've been to the Houston Heights restaurant, and I've only been for Happy Hour (which btw is great, and super affordable!), so I wanted to give a recap of my recent dinner there!

Jon and I decided to dine at Shade on the Saturday night before Valentine's Day because, a) he had never been there, and b) Shade wasn't forcing a Valentine's Day prix fixe-only food menu on us.

(If I want to eat at a beloved Houston restaurant on a "special occasion," I want to order the food that I know and love! But maybe that's just me? Okay, end of my little PSA.)

And lucky for us, while Shade did offer a Valentine's Day prix fixe menu, we had the freedom to select our food from the restaurant's regular menu. Because this is America.

burrata toast with brussels sprouts at Shade, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

First off, I started with what is definitely in the running for one of my favorite dishes in Houston this year: the burrata toast with crispy brussels sprouts, honey, and hazelnuts. I also think there were some caramelized onions thrown on there for good measure. Y'ALL this was so freaking unbelievable, I'm sitting here drooling thinking about it. The brussels were sweet, juicy, and lightly crisped. The burrata was smooth and mild, the hazelnuts offered an interesting layer of texture, and the toast was fresh and crunchy. The sum of all parts was absolutely phenomenal!

For my next round of food, I ordered the restaurant's shaved vegetables salad.

shaved vegetables salad at Shade, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

A beautiful array of shaved vegetables which included carrots, radishes, turnips, and onions were tossed with blue cheese, spiced walnuts, champagne dressing, and herbs. The fresh vegetables were crunchy and playful, and the champagne dressing was light and tangy. The healthy-sized chunks of blue cheese and the walnuts were a welcome addition and went perfectly with everything.

For my main course of food, I ordered the eggplant steak.

eggplant steak at Shade, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

Sliced and grilled eggplant was topped off with charred sweet peppers, calabrian chili, goat cheese sauce, and garlic chips. The presentation of this dish was gorgeous and once again very colorful. I did enjoy it, though I found the peppers to dominate the dish a bit. I didn't get to relish in the eggplant or the goat cheese sauce nearly as much as I would have liked. I love peppers, so this wasn't a major issue. I simply wanted to enjoy the other components just as much.

Jon ordered the snapper, and though it was a pretty tiny cut of fish, he said it was prepared incredibly well.

snapper at Shade, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

For dessert, Jon ordered the coconut cream pie with hazelnut crust, and I ordered the flourless chocolate mousse cake.

coconut cream pie at Shade, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

Jon went crazy over his pie, which was incredibly light, and not overly sweet. I preferred my chocolate mousse cake, topped with raspberry coulis and chocolate ganache. Incredibly rich and indulgent, it was one of those desserts you take your time oohing and ahhing over. I was a big fan!

From start to finish, Jon and I had a great time at Shade. The Houston Heights restaurant is open, airy, and minimal, yet incredibly cozy. The service is great, and the food is exceptional. Shade has been an established Houston restaurant for several years, and I am happy to report that their dishes are still carefully crafted, interesting, beautifully presented, and delicious!

flourless chocolate mousse cake at Shade, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

You want this cake, you saucy little devil, you.

Shade Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ka Sushi

Thursday, February 18, 2016
Is anyone else as happy as I am about being more than halfway through February?

ka sushi, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

I really do strive to live in the moment, carpe diem, and appreciate the time that I've been given and all that. I do, I swear.


I strive to do all of that while also plowing through the months of January and February like a bull in a china cabinet. I know it's been 80 degrees and sunny in Houston, I KNOW. But let me just say, I'm happy that March is almost here!

You know what else makes me happy?

a Happy Hour roll at ka sushi, a restaurant in Houston, Texas


Happy Hours, to be specific. And Houston has no shortage of exceptionally awesome food and drink HHs at local bars and restaurants!

Last week, Jon and I met up with our friends Dan and Heather at Ka Sushi, a new(ish) restaurant located in Houston's Heights neighborhood. They have a great Happy Hour from 5:00-6:30, which entails an exhaustive menu of food and drink specials. We were sure to arrive in time to enjoy a few HH items before delving into the dinner menu!

peach greentini at ka sushi, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

For drinks, I ordered a sake and a beer since it was Tuesday? (help.) And Heather ordered one of the restaurant's signature cocktails, the peach greentini. She was kind enough to offer me a sip of this concoction of ciroc peach, fruitlab jasmine liqueur, peaches, and mint. The drink was refreshing, frothy, light, sweet, and definitely peachy!

Jon can't go to a Japanese restaurant and not order edamame, so for our first round of food we ordered the spicy edamame from the Happy Hour menu.

spicy edamame at ka sushi, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

The spicy edamame dish lived up to it's name in that it packed some serious heat! The pods were sauteed and smothered in a smooth spicy chili oil, which gave them a more tender, soft feel. We definitely enjoyed this dish, and it definitely cleared out our sinuses!

Another food item we ordered from Ka's Happy Hour menu was a plate of shishito peppers (not pictured). Coated in a soy glaze and topped off with sesame seeds, the smokey, sometimes spicy, skewered peppers had a sweet finish. It was a very nice, simple combination of flavors.

My dining companions ordered some HH sushi as well and ate every bite! I think the remainder of the of food I'm about to discuss was ordered post-happy hour, but there may have been some crossover. Regardless, next up was the.....

brussels sprouts at ka sushi, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

Because if brussels sprouts are on a menu, I can't not order them.

Ka's brussels were marinated in balsamic vinegar and tossed with fried leeks. Heather was a big fan of these because they were on the crispier side. I appreciated the crunchy textures of the brussels with the leeks and fresh red cabbage, but I thought the flavor was a tad bland. I did enjoy them - because texturally, they really were awesome - however I would have appreciated a little more of a contrasting sweet element.

We then ordered the restaurant's tomorokoshi.

tomorokoshi at ka sushi, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

This beautifully presented ball of sweet corn with dashi cream and lime chili reminded me quite a bit of Mexican street corn. Once again I enjoyed the textures in this food item, but I wanted a little more from the flavors.

After that, I ordered the green tea soba noodles.

green tea soba noodles at ka sushi, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

This was by far one of the most unique dishes of the evening. Chilled green tea soba noodles (talk about an earthy, different taste!) were tossed with dashi soy and furikake (I explained to our server that I was a vegetarian and didn't eat fish, so I don't think there was any fish in it...) and topped with an oozing, ready-to-burst, poached egg. Once I broke the yolk and swirled everything together, the result was a fascinating flavor experience. At the time I knew I liked it, but I didn't realize how much I really appreciated it. However, days later I found myself haunted by this unusual (for me anyway) dish, and grateful to have tried it!

My favorite thing that I ate on that fine Houston evening was the miso eggplant.

miso eggplant at ka sushi, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

Ever-so-slightly-crispy eggplant medallions were lightly drizzled with a sweet miso glaze, and they were absolutely outstanding. The eggplant maintained a soft interior, which contrasted nicely with the crisped exterior. The presentation was beautiful and simple, and the end result was a wonderful marriage of just a couple of subtle flavors. I LOVED this dish.

Finally, I tried the restaurant's sweet potato roll.

sweet potato roll at ka sushi, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

This was probably my second favorite dish of the evening. Topped off with crispy sweet potato, the roll was a combination of red cabbage, ginger apple slaw, avocado, balsamic, kewpie mayo, and sesame seeds. Once again, I experienced a fantastic flavor combination between the slaw, the mayo, and the crispy potatoes. And once again, the flavors were subtle but interesting, and created a nice contrast against one another and ultimate union together.

Ka Sushi is a great new(ish) addition to the already awesome Houston Japanese restaurant scene. I was impressed with almost every item I tried that evening. While your standard dishes are available, the restaurant has several unique offerings that will take you outside of the box, even in an already diverse food city like Houston. To top it off, they offer a comprehensive and affordable food and drink Happy Hour menu. As a frequent Houston Happy Hour-er, I'm definitely a fan of that!

happy hour food at ka sushi, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

Hours of happiness.

Ka Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taco Tuesdays: Eight Row Flint

Tuesday, February 16, 2016
I'm stretching it a bit with the whole "Taco Tuesdays" title. Because this post is about 20% tacos and 80% whiskey.

Eight Row Flint - a bar in Houston, Texas

Isn't there a popular saying that goes "Weight loss is 20% tacos and 80% whiskey"? Yes, that's definitely it. So by my estimation, we are all doing juuuust fine on our New Year's food and weight loss resolutions!

I've now been to the Houston Heights bar Eight Row Flint three times for food and drinks since it opened - for the sake of research, you know - and I've gotta tell ya, the taco whiskey diet is absolutely everything it's cracked up to be.

drinks at Eight Row Flint - a bar in Houston, Texas
Snapchat: newishcityhou
I had been wildly anticipating the opening of this bar for a long time because the concept was dreamed up by the Coltivare folks (and if you know anything about me, you know that I am deeply in a borderline scary obsessed love with that place and it's incredible food).

When Jon and I went to Eight Row Flint for the first time in December, he ordered some bourbon, and I ordered the frozen Ava Crowder. I've had a non-frozen Ava Crowder at Coltivare several times (it's generally available, even if it isn't listed on the menu), so I was excited to try its icy counter part. The Ava Crowder contains bourbon, bitters, and sorghum syrup (and possibly some other ingredients?), and is garnished with booze-soaked cherries (the best kind). It's slightly sweet, incredibly boozy, and very hearty. The drunken cherries are syrupy and sensational. I absolutely love this drink, and was happy to discover that the frozen bar version tasted exactly like it's non-frozen restaurant version, only slushy!

food and drinks at Eight Row Flint - a bar in Houston, Texas

On that first visit, we of course had to order some food as well. A food truck stationed behind the bar produces chips, queso, salsa, and tacos. Jon went with the Braised 44 Farm beef cheek taco (above, left) and the Berkshire pork taco, while I opted for the brussels sprouts taco (above, right). Mine was simply outstanding. The smokey, caramel-y brussels were topped with a crema, radishes, charred onions, queso fresco, and cilantro. All of the ingredients and the corn tortilla itself were fresh and lively!

Eight Row Flint - a bar in Houston, Texas

On our second visit to the bar I ordered another frozen Ava Crowder, because life is too short to sip on drinks that make you anything other than totally blissed out of your mind.

drinks at Eight Row Flint - a bar in Houston, Texas

On that particular night, Jon and I were having a pre-dinner drink before meeting our friends Blake and Katie for dinner at North Italia in Houston's Galleria area. While at Eight Row Flint, we ended up pushing tables together with another couple, Christina and Clarke. We became instant friends with them, and a few weeks later met them for dinner at Coltivare!

Eight Row Flint. Bringing people together one taco at a time.

Jon decided to try a sampling of different bourbons that night. Our server was exceptionally frazzled (it was still pretty new, and incredibly busy, so we cut her some slack), but she did label the bourbons, which was incredibly helpful.

whiskey at Eight Row Flint - a bar in Houston, Texas

For food, we ordered the chips and queso.

(yes, I know we were about to go eat dinner.)

The white queso was different from the sharp, yellow queso we've grown accustomed to here in Houston, and it had a light, yet snappy, tart taste to it. Though I was not too crazy about the chips themselves (they were freshly made, but a bit tough to bite into), the queso was done very well.

chips and queso at Eight Row Flint - a bar in Houston, Texas

But I am sad to report that Christina texted me last week and said the Ava Crowder is no longer available at the bar, and cannot be ordered off-menu (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Listen, if anyone reading this is as upset about this as I am, we should probably start a Kickstarter campaign to bring it back. Is this a whole new level of obsession for me? (don't answer that).

Regardless, I still love the place.

Our third visit to Eight Row Flint was a couple of weekends ago when we took my sister Emily and my cousin-in-law Amber who was visiting Houston. We did not order any food, but I mustered up the nerve to try a bourbon barrel tasting. The whole process that Eight Row Flint uses to be able to pour these whiskeys directly from the barrel is totally fascinating, and I will  never be able to fully explain it nearly as well as this article written by Eric Sandler does (so you should definitely read it!).

whiskey at Eight Row Flint - a bar in Houston, Texas

That particular night, I was given a sampling of Jefferson's, Eagle Rare, and Knob Creek.

Let me preface this by saying, I am in no way, shape, or form a whiskey person. In any given normal situation I would not order a whiskey sampling. But since this sampling represents the very essence of what the bar at Eight Row Flint is about, I strongly felt that I had to give it whirl!

Of the three, the Jefferson's was my favorite, because it was the mildest. It was incredibly smooth, and had a butterscotch aroma.  Our server described it as the classic barrel whiskey

The Eagle Rare created a significant burn at first swallow, but smoothed out later with a honey finish. It had a nutty aroma. In my notes, I wrote, "rubbing alcohol," so yeah... it was strong.

The Knob Creek had the highest amount of rye, and had the most burn. It had a butter pecan smell to it, and was very, very strong. Since I'm such a ninny, Jon happily finished this one off for me!

whiskey at Eight Row Flint - a bar in Houston, Texas

Our incredibly bubbly and engaging server brought me two fancy ice cubes with giant tweezers to add to the Eagle Rare and Knob Creek. This took the edge off quite a bit, and for that I was super grateful.

While whiskey in its purest form may not be my total jam, Houston's Eight Row Flint is. Their simple, fun,delicious food pairs wonderfully with the vibrant, cool atmosphere and whiskey drinks. It is for sure one of my favorite new bars in Houston!

food and drinks at Eight Row Flint - a bar in Houston, Texas

The taco whiskey diet. It's a thing.

8-Row Flint Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Visiting Houston: February, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016
"Visting Houston"? Why, whatever do you mean, Kim? You are one of the fortunate ones who lives there!

buffalo bayou park in Houston, Texas

Welcome to the first edition of a new series in my blog! In "Visiting Houston" posts I will talk about where I take friends and family who are visiting Houston from out of town. Some of it will be about activities. Most of it will be about food and restaurants (#duhhhh). If you're ever wondering how to fill up an entire weekend with Houston shenanigans, then these posts are for you!

The inspiration for these posts came from this past weekend of fun with my awesome cousin-in-law Amber, who was in town from Chicago! Added bonus? We got to celebrate her 30th birthday with her on Sunday! So how did her weekend of visiting Houston go..........?


Amber's flight into Houston arrived on Friday, and I met up with her and my dad for lunch at Local Foods, one of my favorite restaurants to have lunch at. <~~(yes I know I ended that sentence with a preposition. But "one of my favorite restaurants with which to have lunch" just sounded super douche-y, k?)

Local Foods, a restaurant in Houston, Texas
veggie burger and vegan chili Local Foods, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

While their truffled egg salad sandwich is still my favorite thing on the menu, that day I opted for their veggie burger with a side of vegan chili, which are also excellent food options. That day, the crusts on my bread (I ordered whole wheat) was a little tougher than normal, but everything else was fantastic! Amber fell into deep love with the restaurant's chicken lemongrass soup.

Prior to dinner, the whole family (Amber, Dad, Mom, Jon, and Emily) had drinks at Local Pour, a bar/restaurant located in Houston's River Oaks shopping center.

(Jon also ordered us their bomb-diggity meat and cheese plate because he's a growing boy and forgot that we'd soon be scarfing down food from a PIZZA BASKET in a little bit).

drinks at Local Pour, a restaurant in Houston, Texas
meat and cheese plate at Local Pour, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

After drinks and apps, we walked over to the Italian restaurant La Griglia for dinner.

pizza basket at La Griglia, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

 ^ (Aforementioned pizza basket, aka heaven truly does exist).

vegetable risotto at La Griglia, a restaurant in Houston, Texas
dessert at La Griglia, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

I asked them if they could throw together some sort of off-menu vegetable risotto for me, and they happily obliged! It was quite tasty, and I certainly appreciated their great hospitality. After dinner, the restaurant's servers present you with a giant dessert tray, and we were like "ugh we can't we are so full from all of the food okay we'll order three."


Saturday morning Amber and I worked out for a little bit to offset all of the food I was forcing down her throat. After that, we decided Down House would be the perfect restaurant for brunch!

drinks at Down House, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

^ (Yes that's a chicken wing in Jon's bloody Mary on the right. Send help.)

biscuits at Down House, a restaurant in Houston, Texas
eggs benedict at Down House, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

We had the most buttery, flaky, dense biscuits in the world to start, with an intoxicating apple jam. Then I opted for the restaurant's eggs benedict (atop more of those heavenly buttermilk biscuits) with avocado instead of Canadian bacon. Our incredibly sweet server surprised Amber with a birthday treat of bourbon pecan ice cream (yes you read that correctly and probably died at the mere thought of it), paired with wonderfully warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookies (seriously, I'm submitting them into the next Cookie (C)rumble).

After brunch, we ventured over to Rice Village for a little bit, then walked the trails in Buffalo Bayou Park. And by "walked the trails in Buffalo Bayou Park," I mean, "watched dogs run around in the sunshine for about 30 minutes."

Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston, Texas

Dinner rolled around, and the whole family from Friday, plus Jon's mom, stepdad, and nephew joined us for the Best Mexican Food in Houston, aka El Tiempo on Washington Ave!

chips and queso at El Tiempo, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

We all indulged in the restaurant's spectacular chips and queso, and for my main course of food I ordered the vegetarian fajitas (something I'd discovered/fell in love with during my Whole 30). Amber - who had never been to Texas before (and therefore had never had real Tex-Mex) - was absolutely floored!

After dinner, Amber, Jon, Emily, and I enjoyed a nightcap at Eight Row Flint.

Eight Row Flint, a bar in Houston, Texas
At Eight Row Flint, a bar in Houston, Texas


On Sunday we decided to have a taco-off, starting with breakfast tacos at La Guadalupana.

breakfast tacos at La Guadalupana, a restaurant in Houston, Texas

These are easily my favorite breakfast tacos in all of Houston. I had a taco especial with no meat (eggs potatoes, onions, chile, and cheese) and a taco a la Mexicana with no meat (eggs, onions, jalapenos, and tomatoes), and both were fantastic. While these tacos are small, they are hella authentic and packed with flavor.

After that, we stopped by the taco truck Tacos Tierra Caliente, located outside of West Alabama Ice House in Houston's Upper Kirby area.

Tacos Tierra Caliente, a food truck in Houston, Texas
tacos from Tacos Tierra Caliente, a food truck in Houston, Texas

I figured their veggie taco would have cooked veggies, but it was all raw, so my taco was a bit disappointing. I need to go back and try one of their actual breakfast tacos to make a more accurate assessment. Jon, Emily, and Amber, on the other hand, all loved their meat-filled tacos, and declared Tierra Tacos Caliente the reigning champ!

Prior to coming into town, Amber had texted me, "Have you ever heard of a place called Crave Cupcakes"?

Whyyeswecangothereonyourbirthdayforcupcakesbecauseit'sabsolutely wonderful.

Crave Cupcakes, a bakery in Houston, Texas

After cupcakes, we went home, prepared food for a Super Bowl party appetizer contest (Jon won with his cacio e pepe mac and cheese!!!) and enjoyed the rest of the day with our friends.

It was a wonderful weekend, made awesome by getting to spend time with Amber and being able to show her some of my favorite places (and food) in Houston!

strawberry cupcake from Crave Cupcakes, a bakery in Houston, Texas

Who's hungry?
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